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Old August 17, 2013, 09:00 PM   #1
UpstateNYHunter
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Difference between a handgun and pistol?

I was looking at antique firearms and checked laws on them, it seems very confusing, here is what i found regarding small arms. "a license is required to possess, collect and carry antique pistols. The licensing statute defines an antique pistol as: any single shot, muzzle loading pistol with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system manufactured in or before l898, which is not designed for using rim-fire or conventional center-fire fixed ammunition; and any replica if such replica is not designed or redesigned for using rim-fire or conventional center-fire fixed ammunition, or uses rim-fire or conventional center-fire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade. To the extent that an “antique pistol” is not also an “antique firearm,” a license would be required for lawful possession.

NY Law has interpreted this to mean antique rifles, shotguns, handguns, and replicas thereof, are generally exempt from the above restrictions and can be bought and possessed without a permit. (Persons who shoot muzzle-loading handguns must be properly licensed.) However, to fall within the exemption, antique handguns must be unloaded and possessed without the materials required for loading."...... So whats the difference between a pistol and a handgun? Any answers are appreciate.
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Old August 17, 2013, 09:31 PM   #2
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New York State issues Pistol Permits, not handgun permits. In their legal language, any handgun is a pistol. The wording you are referring to is about the right to purchase an antique pistol (again, a handgun) and not need a permit to own it as long as it's never loaded and you don't have the components available to load it. You cannot carry the gun loaded just because it's an antique and you didn't need a permit to acquire it. If you do load it and don't have a permit, you are breaking the law. It's not complicated so don't read too much into it.
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Old August 18, 2013, 09:19 AM   #3
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As far as I've ever been concerned, pistol and handgun are the same thing. Technically a pistol is a type of handgun where the barrel and chamber are fixed together. So, most revolvers are not pistols. All handguns are defined by the ATF as a firearm designed to be fired with one hand.

I don't know if this makes any difference to the point, and correct me if anyone speaks Spanish and knows different, but the word "pistola" means handgun OR pistol and has been a word in use since handguns were invented, and presumably before they ever had separate chambers like a modern revolver. So how this was later changed to the current definition, I couldn't say.
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Old August 18, 2013, 11:30 AM   #4
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This subject comes up every so often, and sometimes sparks great debate, but some things are clear after years of arguments...

First, whom ever writes the definition, decides what it means...and..

Second, what ever definition is written into, and accepted as law becomes the legal definition (no matter if it makes sense, or not!)

Common usage may, or may not match the legal definition, and common usage often changes, over time.

The term "pistol" seems to come from the region of Pistoia, Italy, where handguns were either first made, or first noticed in use, several hundred years ago. Up until the early 1800s, the terms pistol and handgun (along with other slang terms) were completely interchangeable in common use. And every gun had its chamber integral with the barrel.

Note that Sam Colt's first handgun was patented as a "revolving pistol".

ALL revolvers are pistols, and always have been. I don't know when the idea took hold that revolvers are not pistols (because they have chambers separate from the barrel), but it apparently has. And those who take their understanding of terms only from modern (and online) dictionaries are often not getting full, or fully accurate information, particularly when referring to terms used in a technical field. They define terms as found in common usage, and common usage is not always (and now days seems to be seldom) technically correct. (look at the various definitions of assault weapon, for a good example of this, a term created only 20 years ago, and misapplied, even by its creators, from day one!)

Revolvers ARE pistols, because they are handguns. ALL handguns are pistols. They are a subset, like break action, bolt action, lever action (yes rare but there have been some) and the common semiautomatic pistol.

To me, defining a pistol one way and a revolver another is simply a foolish language game. Always sounded to me like a BS definition made up so someone wouldn't lose an argument.

this is just my opinion, and worth what you paid for it. But I never have (and never will) accept the idea that a revolver is NOT a pistol. IT is, always was, its just a pistol with a certain mechanical feature that puts it in its own sub genre.
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Old August 19, 2013, 07:42 AM   #5
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I was checking an online dealer yesterday and he has categories for: pistols; handguns and revolvers. I didn't take time to check them all out. Silly argument really.
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Old August 19, 2013, 07:49 PM   #6
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The manufacturers seem to have their own terms of art:

Long gun: rifle or shotgun;

Handgun: revolver or pistol (for semiautomatic).

Makes sense to me in differentiation.

Marketers may add a few "sizzle" words like 'Home Defense"
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Old August 19, 2013, 08:26 PM   #7
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I agree that both revolvers and semi-autos are pistols. However, IIRC, the BATF requires manufacturers to designate handguns as either revolvers or pistols (semi-auto). They may also have an "other" label. This may be the genesis of why some folks to think pistols only includes semi-autos.
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Old August 20, 2013, 06:41 AM   #8
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a handgun is a pistol. a pistol is a handgun. If its not a handgun or pistol, its a rifle, shotgun, carbine. or sbr.

to qoute the queens english, since the first matchlock was built. a pistol is a handgun. only since 1900 has pistol meant a semi automatic.

twas easier to print semi automatic pistol then semi automatic handgun.
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Old August 20, 2013, 08:38 AM   #9
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A handgun is any firearm designed to be held and fired with the hands and not supported by the shoulder.

The traditional definition of a pistol is a handgun with 1 chamber. This would include various single shots and semi-autos. The early revolvers were known as revolving pistols if you go back and look at the advertisements of the day.

Over the years guns with multiple cylinders that rotated were usually known as revolvers and single chamber guns pistols. The terms have been interchanged so much that today most people consider any handgun, even revolvers to be pistols. I prefer to use separate terms to describe revolvers and single chamber handguns, and use that terminology. But I no longer get upset with folks who choose to use the term pistol to mean any handgun.

Quote:
only since 1900 has pistol meant a semi automatic.
You have to go back a lot farther than that. The debate began in the early 1800's when the first revolvers were made. They were looking for terms to separate the new revolvers from older single shots.
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Old August 20, 2013, 01:37 PM   #10
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In my neck of the woods, knowledgeable folks refer to revolvers or pistols(all other handguns- semi auto, single shot, repeating manual actions). Course there's all the slang-shooter, popper, banger-which means basically nothing.
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Old August 20, 2013, 01:57 PM   #11
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The difference between a handgun and a pistol? None as far as I know. I have noticed lately it is becoming popular to call a semi-auto handgun a "pistol" and a revolving handgun is separated by specifically calling it a "revolver". This irritates me to no end. Unfortunately it seems to be the wave of future terminology, just like calling a box magazine a "clip". Yes we avid shooters know better but the general populace don't know or care. Does a DA revolver become a "semi-revolver" since you don't have to cock the hammer? Who knows? Someday we may hear someone say, "I just topped off the clip in my semi-revolver"! I just hope I don't live that long.

Just to prove that there is no difference I would like to quote one of my favorite movies...
"You gonna pull those pistols or whistle dixie?"
If Clint Eastwood can call a revolver a pistol, then so can I.
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Old August 20, 2013, 09:55 PM   #12
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Oh well,

Clearly all revolvers, pistols, single shot pistols, fully auto pistols. etc. are handguns as distinct from carbines, rifles and shot guns.

But...

Quote:
The difference between a handgun and a pistol? None as far as I know. I have noticed lately it is becoming popular to call a semi-auto handgun a "pistol" and a revolving handgun is separated by specifically calling it a "revolver". This irritates me to no end.
Oh well...

WHB Smith's classic appeared in 1946. the Nonte books in the 1970s, etc. So it ain't lately that folks have differentiated between semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. Unless for some of us 70 years is "lately".



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Old August 20, 2013, 10:13 PM   #13
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pistol=revolver/autoloader
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Old August 20, 2013, 11:13 PM   #14
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Terms are synonymous IHMO. In British books they usually use revolver for semiauto.
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Old August 21, 2013, 12:47 AM   #15
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For the life of me, I don't understand why some people spend so much effort making simple things difficult.

Revolvers are pistols, but apparently not everyone realizes this. SO, to be inclusive, we have been saying "pistols & revolvers" for a long time. Its a common practice. Yes, we list revolver separately, it is a specific kind of pistol. Why some people have decided that because we name it separately that it must not be a pistol is beyond me.

Nobody thinks that a convertible isn't a car. Its just a special kind of car, because of its features. A revolver is just a pistol (or handgun, if you prefer) with a special feature that makes it uniquely identifiable (the revolving cylinder). That's all. That's it.

What possible line of argument can you make that a revolver is NOT a pistol? Just because we don't commonly refer to it as a pistol, preferring the more descriptive term revolver doesn't mean it isn't a pistol.

Of course, if you define pistol differently than I do, you can argue anything you want. If you accept the definition that a pistol must have a chamber integral with the barrel in order to be a pistol, fine. I don't.

I define it thusly: Pistol = handgun. (period) Any handgun. ALL handguns.

Look at Colt's patent, its for a revolving pistol. We just don't append the word pistol after revolver in common usage. Note that we also often don't say semiautomatic before pistol in common usage, either. Neither one changes what they are, they're all pistols to me.
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Old August 21, 2013, 06:31 AM   #16
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Yeah! What 44 AMP said! :-)
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Old August 21, 2013, 09:20 AM   #17
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The word "pistol" had been in use long before the first semi-auto was ever invented. It meant any gun fired without a shoulder stock, usually capable of being fired with one hand.

If you look at old writings, you rarely see the word "handgun" used. That was a PC term that became popular in the 1970's.
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Old August 25, 2013, 04:59 PM   #18
tipoc
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Quote:

If you look at old writings, you rarely see the word "handgun" used. That was a PC term that became popular in the 1970's.
In the pic below you'll notice a few books, among them...

From 1939 Col. Charles Askin, Jr.'s "The Art of Handgun Shooting"
From 1958 Jeff Cooper's "The Complete Book of Modern Handgunning"



In this pic you can see the "Pistol Shooters Book" by Askins from 1953 which discusses revolvers, pistols and airguns.

You can see Chic Gaylord's "Handgunners Guide" from 1960

The classic Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting by McGivern my edition from 1938, Section one of which is titled "Pistols, Revolvers, and the Law" where he makes a clear distinction between pistols and revolvers.



So some may need to rethink the concept that the term "handgun" is one from the 1970s and is "politically correct". It is an old term, quite old.

At one time every handgun was a muzzle loading flintlock pistol and folks called them pistols. Then some trouble maker developed the revolver and folks had to speak about pistols and revolvers and the good folk got confused. Then some other no-goods developed double action revolvers and further tongue twisted some folk. "Is it a pistol?, a revolver? or what" a bit later came the self loaders and the old protectors of prop speak and politically correct jargon lost their minds. "They are all still pistols people! Speak right or go home". Oh well, technology, time and language march on.

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Old August 25, 2013, 05:13 PM   #19
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Prior to about 1950, the term "pistol" was in common use for a gun designed to be aimed and fired with one hand, or what we now call "handgun". Laws and documents written before that time usually referred to "pistol", to include revolvers and pistols. Then some purists began to insist that the term "pistol" applied (or should apply) only to semi-auto pistols, repeating pistols, and single shot pistols, with the term defined as a gun designed to be held in one hand, and having a single chamber. Revolvers, these folks insisted, were not pistols (by their definition) and the term pistol did not include revolvers. Even a few lawyers got into the act, claiming that their clients could not be convicted of carrying a "pistol" since the defendant was carrying a revolver.

As a result some legal definitions were changed, and the term "handgun" was adopted to include both pistols and revolvers, in other words to take the place of the previous term "pistol". It was nonsense then, and it is still nonsense, a petty argument not unlike the silly ranting about the terms "silencer" and "suppressor".

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Old August 25, 2013, 06:26 PM   #20
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I always thought them to be synonymous.
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Old August 27, 2013, 08:57 AM   #21
skoro
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Difference between a handgun and pistol?

There is no difference.

Just like all dogs are canines, all pistols are handguns.
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Old August 27, 2013, 01:19 PM   #22
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I agree with 44AMP.


Quote:
The debate began in the early 1800's when the first revolvers were made.
The first revolvers were made looooong before the early 1800's. Over 200yrs prior.
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Old August 27, 2013, 05:24 PM   #23
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I also agree with 44 AMP. A "revolver" is a revolving pistol. A semi-automatic is either a "semi-automatic pistol" or (as in earlier parlance) an "auto-loading pistol."
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Old August 28, 2013, 06:02 PM   #24
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"A horse is a horse. Of course, of course"

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Old August 28, 2013, 09:03 PM   #25
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I don't know about New York but cap and balls come into California in essence as not being firearms. As they don't fire fixed cartridges. (If not converted.)
I guess New York is different and a few other states are different.
So here anybody can own cap and ball, long or short.
I notice op posted once and never returned.
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