Are Pistols & Handguns the Same?

In a broad sense, a handgun is any type of gun that can safely and effectively be used when held in a single hand. However, both hands can still be used for proper stance and added stability and accuracy. A pistol also fits this more basic definition, so it’s not technically wrong to refer to a pistol as a handgun. However, there are some key differences between a handgun and a pistol. The firearms education professionals from LTC Austin, a premier provider of online Austin LTC training, explain the distinction below.

A Handgun Includes Multiple Types of Handheld Firearms

Developed in the 10th century, Chinese fire lances are widely considered to be the first type of gun. Handguns as we know them today came along about five centuries later, although the actual origin of this approach to gun design is unknown.

Today, the handgun category includes:

• Single-action revolvers
• Double-action revolvers
• Semi-automatic handguns
• Single-shot and break-action handguns

Because of the broad definition associated with the term “handgun,” you could be holding a revolver or a pistol and still be holding a handgun. As mentioned above, a pistol does fit into this category.

A Pistol Is a Specific Type of Handgun

A pistol, according to the traditional definition of the word, is a type of handgun with only one chamber. However, a revolver is considered a type of pistol with more than one chamber. There are also semi-automatic pistols capable of firing multiple shots in rapid succession. The Glock line is one of the better-known examples of semi-automatic pistols.

Like handguns, pistols come in a variety of shapes and sizes. But if you stick to a more traditional definition, a pistol has chambers that don’t move, and a revolver has chambers that “revolve,” or move. Therefore, a pistol is a specific type of handgun with features that differentiate it from other types of handguns. Ultimately, the way the chamber functions is what really sets a pistol apart from other types of handguns.

The Final Call

The best way to break down the difference between a handgun and a pistol is to go from broader to more specific. If you start with the broadest possible term, the category “guns” includes handguns, pistols, rifles, and any other type of firearm. When you shift to “handgun,” rifles and other long guns are excluded, and you have firearms primarily designed to be held in a single hand. When you narrow things down to “pistol,” you have a specific type of handgun with characteristics that set it apart from other types of handguns.

The Importance of Knowing Handgun Specifics

It may seem like splitting hairs to define pistols in a more specific way than handguns. However, knowing the features that make handguns unique means you’ll be in a better position to:

• Know what type of handgun you’re comfortable owning and using
• Understand the basic capabilities of the different types of handguns
• Correctly use and maintain the type of handgun you own and use 

Whether you buy and carry a handgun for self-defense, hunting, competition, or another purpose, make sure you have the proper training to use and care for it safely. You can rely on the firearms education pros from LTC Austin for the highest-quality training available. If you’re looking for safety training or you want to take a top-notch Austin LTC class online, call us today at 512-766-3039.