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Old November 22, 2019, 01:50 AM   #1
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DA Revolver vs. 1911A1 Reliability

I ran across this statement and it got me thinking, ….

Quote:
I know this borders on heresy, but a good quality semiauto is more reliable than a revolver. A double-action revolver has far more moving parts than a 1911A1.
Specifically, about the "far more moving parts" so I'm asking how you folks would count them.

Counting every part that moves or is moved during the loading, unloading and firing of the pistol, including springs, a friend got 19 for an pre lock S&W K frame and 21 for a gun with the internal lock.

Counting a GI 1911A1, I get 25, counting springs but not pins. And I might have missed one...

The way I see it, 19 is not way more than 25.

SO, what would you folks count, sticking with a DA revolver and the 1911A1?

Please don't tell me how many parts your GLock has, or your Colt SAA, that's not the question. Do you think a DA revolver has "far more moving parts than a 1911A1"?

I don't. What do you think?

We've talked reliability of revolver vs semi to death many time, but this is a specific question about specific guns DA revolver (any) and 1911A1, and the statement of the semi being more reliable due to fewer moving parts.

I say bunk. What do you say?
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Old November 22, 2019, 02:36 AM   #2
Radny97
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DA Revolver vs. 1911A1 Reliability

It’s not about more or less moving parts, it’s about the actions those moving parts must perform and what can go wrong when doing so.
Revolvers can fail in a few ways. The worst is getting debris or powder buildup under the ejector star. This will lock up the gun completely. I had this happen once during the last stage of a 330 round count competition using an older dirtier powder. You can also get lead shavings or lead buildup in the cylinder gap. This usually causes a big increase in the trigger pull weight, but does not cause a total failure. I’ve had this happen a few times with a 22 revolver with very tight tolerances and more than 1000 rounds shot without cleaning. Also, the gun can go out of time due to lots of wear. This is very rare with any modern revolver. In fact, all of these problems are very rare. Revolvers can also have light strikes but the causes for these are similar to a semiauto, so i don’t see this issue being different between the two styles of guns.
Semiautos, including 1911a1s fail more frequently, particularly certain brands or designs. Failure to feed, failure to eject are so common they have their own acronym or nickname (FTF and FTE or stovepipe respectively). Those failures don’t have to do with the number of moving parts, but rather with the actions those moving parts have to do (ie, move slightly differently sized and configured rounds of ammo into the firing position). The issue doesn’t have much to do with the number of moving parts at all.

Edit for one additional thought:
Over the years i have owned and do own more than 25 different revolvers. I shoot thousands of rounds per year from revolvers. I’ve only had one stoppage (described above, it was a model 627) and two other guns have developed some heavy trigger pulls due to lead build up and had to be cleaned (both GP100s). I’ve never had a gun go out of time.
I have owned and do own more than 15 semi-autos of various brands and designs, including the most reputable and reliable brands. Every single one of them has had failures. Every single one. My best performing semiauto has had three failures total (FTFs) and some have had more than fifty. If the particular gun is clean, slide rails lightly lubricated and I’m shooting high quality round nose ammo, failures tend to be really rare. But still, i don’t have to list those kinds of caveats when talking revolvers. Revolvers run more reliably regardless of cleanliness or how crappy the ammo is. Facts are facts.

Last edited by Radny97; November 22, 2019 at 09:47 AM.
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Old November 22, 2019, 06:29 AM   #3
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I've been shooting a lot of revolvers and a lot of semi auto pistols over the last 35+ years and in my experience, the failure rate is not that much different between them. The biggest difference is how you rectify the failure. Revolver, most of the time you're done and go home and take care of it. Semi Auto lock the slide back,drop the mag, clear the action, reload and you're good to go 99% of the time. I've only had one instance where I couldn't put my 1911 back into action. That was with the 22TCM barrel, the round was just plane stuck in the barrel and had to be knocked out with a cleaning Rod. RIA replaced the barrel and it's been perfect so far since I got it back.
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Old November 22, 2019, 08:13 AM   #4
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So many different experiences... I have had a Ruger Security Six, 4" stainless since the mid 80s. I bought it used as it is a "pre-warning" model made in the 70s. I know the previous owner shot it quite a lot and IMO, kind of abused it by rapid firing full power .357 loads a lot. I have shot it often during my ownership, though mostly midrange reloads.

The revolver is modular in design and somewhat simpler than S&W revolvers. Still, a revolver is a revolver. I have had zero problems with this gun. I have kept it clean and disassemble it occasionally. No failures ever.

I have owned the following 1911s; Colt 1991A1, Springfield 1911A1 Mil-Spec, Colt LW Commander all in .45. I still have the later two....The Springfield is the most reliable but all have failed in some way FTE, FTF, etc. But I attribute this failure rate to magazines either not suited to the weapon, poor quality, out of spec, etc. and not the pistol itself. Once I found magazines that the pistols "liked" there are no or very few failures.

You do not have to worry about magazines with a revolver. A magazine, as the internals of a magazine move, can probably be considered one of the moving parts of an auto-pistol that is most likely to cause problems.
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Old November 22, 2019, 12:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
A double-action revolver has far more moving parts than a 1911A1.
Well that statement is not true.

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Old November 22, 2019, 01:08 PM   #6
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It's more about ammo than the number of parts. The number of parts really has nothing to do with reliability.
"...FTE, FTF, etc..." Nearly all of that is ammo related in one way or another. Feeding issues can be mag related though.
"...but not pins..." Try and fire any firearm without 'em. snicker.
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Old November 22, 2019, 01:25 PM   #7
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From what I have seen, an auto is somewhat more likely to malfunction but can usually be corrected by hand in short order. When a revolver fails, it is likely to require tools and a time out.
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Old November 22, 2019, 01:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
A magazine, as the internals of a magazine move,
I count the magazine as 3 moving parts. The follower, the spring, and the magazine body.

Remember I'm counting everything that moves or is moved during loading and unloading as well as the actual firing cycle. And face it, the magazine IS a necessary part of a semi auto. The magazine is moved in and out of the gun during loading and reloading, therefore it is a "moving part" in the operation of the gun.

Likewise the cylinder latch of a DA revolver. It is operated (moved) during loading and unloading therefore it is also a moving part. And, like a magazine body, though it doesn't move during the firing cycle it does move during the operational cycle of the pistol and if it fails, your pistol is no longer operational.


Quote:
I've been shooting a lot of revolvers and a lot of semi auto pistols over the last 35+ years and in my experience, the failure rate is not that much different between them.
I've been shooting pistols since the late 60s, and my experience is different from yours, in that I found semi autos fail (of some kind) several times the rate that revolvers fail. No where near "about the same" failure rate.

The almost constant difference (there are exceptions) is that, USUALLY when a semi auto fails it can be cleared and returned to operability fairly rapidly, and often in the field and when a revolver fails its pretty much done until someone can do shop work on it. Usually.

SO far, about everyone I know or have talked to who has more than just a casual experience with both agrees that revolvers fail far less often than semis, but when they do fail they are more difficult to return to operation.

I am interested in hearing anyone's experience that is different from this, and why. And specifically DA revolvers and the 1911A1.

Yes, I'm expecting "amens" from the choir I'm preaching to, but I am listening for the sceptic or dissenter's voice, and why they feel differently.

Quote:
"...but not pins..." Try and fire any firearm without 'em. snicker.
I'm counting moving parts, including firing pins, but not pins that do not move and are only points of rotation for other parts. see your snicker and raise you a peanut butter cup!
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Old November 22, 2019, 03:01 PM   #9
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Yes, my experience is no difference in reliabilty but older revolvers-Colt, S&W-require more tools and for lack of a better term, are less "modular" in their design and require a greater understanding of how they work. I recall J. B. Wood writing that the professionals have often found polishing the internal face of slide plates of revolver improves reliability, makes for a smoother trigger pull. A few years ago my Colt Mark IV locked up, I was able to disassemble it almost to the bare frame, clean it thoroughly with only a gunsmith screwdriver set.
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Old November 22, 2019, 04:18 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 44 AMP View Post
I count the magazine as 3 moving parts. The follower, the spring, and the magazine body.

Remember I'm counting everything that moves or is moved during loading and unloading as well as the actual firing cycle. And face it, the magazine IS a necessary part of a semi auto. The magazine is moved in and out of the gun during loading and reloading, therefore it is a "moving part" in the operation of the gun.

Likewise the cylinder latch of a DA revolver. It is operated (moved) during loading and unloading therefore it is also a moving part. And, like a magazine body, though it doesn't move during the firing cycle it does move during the operational cycle of the pistol and if it fails, your pistol is no longer operational.




I've been shooting pistols since the late 60s, and my experience is different from yours, in that I found semi autos fail (of some kind) several times the rate that revolvers fail. No where near "about the same" failure rate.

The almost constant difference (there are exceptions) is that, USUALLY when a semi auto fails it can be cleared and returned to operability fairly rapidly, and often in the field and when a revolver fails its pretty much done until someone can do shop work on it. Usually.

SO far, about everyone I know or have talked to who has more than just a casual experience with both agrees that revolvers fail far less often than semis, but when they do fail they are more difficult to return to operation.

I am interested in hearing anyone's experience that is different from this, and why. And specifically DA revolvers and the 1911A1.

Yes, I'm expecting "amens" from the choir I'm preaching to, but I am listening for the sceptic or dissenter's voice, and why they feel differently.



I'm counting moving parts, including firing pins, but not pins that do not move and are only points of rotation for other parts. see your snicker and raise you a peanut butter cup!
Do you count the plunger tube (contains spring and plungers), slide stop, barrel bushing/recoil spring plug and extractor as moving parts? Revolvers don't have these parts although there is a star extractor in most revolvers, it is a totally different system of extracting empties.

The plunger tube of a Colt 1991A1 I had came un-staked when the pistol was almost brand new! This happened when I removed the grip panel on the side where the plunger tube is located.

BTW, don't lose the magazine, especially if you have only one on you at the time. I still believe that the magazine, especially in regards to the 1911, is the most important moving part affecting reliability.
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Old November 22, 2019, 04:25 PM   #11
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Reliability and durability aren't quite the same. Most semi's win for durability over DA revolvers. Reliability is a little closer.

In my personal experience a revolver is more reliable than a 1911. But I've never found a 1911 reliable enough for me to trust one for more than a range gun.

But today's quality modern semi's are more reliable and durable in actual use than revolvers. Over the years I've had more revolvers fail to function than modern semi's.

A revolver is less susceptible to poor quality ammo and years ago that was a concern with semi auto pistols. But the quality of the ammo has now reached the point where this is a non-issue.

Kept in a nightstand, and kept clean a revolver can be counted on to be very reliable for the cylinder in the gun. When it comes time to reload then things change. And if carried in harsh outdoor conditions and actually used in the field semi's can take more use and abuse. Semis have proven to be far more reliable and durable for military use.

It isn't necessarily the number of parts on a revolver, but the fact that a large number of those parts are exposed and require close tolerances to function. Most of the semi's moving parts are enclosed making it harder for dirt and debris to enter gum things up. Getting rid of the exposed hammer is a huge step toward better reliability with striker fired pistols.
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Old November 22, 2019, 05:27 PM   #12
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I do need to amend my previous post to include this caveat about semi auto pistols. Once you have magazines that function properly and are properly maintained, their failure rate is comparable to revolvers. If the mags are messed up you will have nothing but failures and headaches. But I consider making sure you have functional mags a basic requirement and not necessarily an inherrant trait that happens to every gun.
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Old November 22, 2019, 06:54 PM   #13
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I have many revolvers and have never had an issue with reliability with any of them. In some trial and error, looking for the most powerful ammo I could fire reliably and reload immediately, I had problems with casings sticking in one revolver. But that was all part learning what will work or not work. If someone doesn't figure out what works or not beforehand, that is no fault of the revolver.

I trust revolvers more than semi autos but I still carry, 90% of the time, a glock 26 or 19.
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Old November 22, 2019, 07:05 PM   #14
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The number of parts in an un-named da revolver has nothing to do with it's reliability vs. a particular 1911.

Just as a semi with a hammer vs. a striker fired gun is not a feature or determinant of reliability. It isn't the hammer or the striker that makes a semi more or less reliable. In fact neither is a stress point or a common point of failure. It's other aspects of the build.

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Old November 22, 2019, 07:40 PM   #15
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Modern autos are designed-around to avoid the kind of things that require careful craftsmanship and attention to detail with 1911's and revolvers. If it has to work without intervention for 10,000 rounds, the 1911 or revolver is going to take a lot of attention to detail.

I'm around revolvers quite a bit. The most common problem I see is the ejector rod coming backed out enough to make it so the cylinder cannot be opened by hand. It can be fixed with loctite. The rod can be tightened with some nylon-jaw pliers rather than just finger-tight. It can be checked regularly. Or it can just be forgotten until it locks up the cylinder.

The second most common problem I see is the screw that holds the crane in the frame loosens and backs out enough that the crane can fall out and drop the cylinder. These screws normally have the hardened thread locker on them from the factory. Loctite can help keep it in place. The screw should be checked for tightness reguarly.

I have seen debris like jacket shavings clog up the cylinder gap and make revolving the cylinder hard. If this happens, you can try to power through it with a heavy trigger pull but you can bend the hand that way. If it's practice and not combat, it's better to push the cylinder open and clear the crud. This is ultimately caused by a problem with the cartridge or the timing on the revolver is off. Revolvers need the timing checked regularly, but probably less often than a 1911 needs a new recoil spring, and the frequency at which the timing needs to be adjusted is far, far less than that.

Getting stuff like empty shells caught under the ejector star will jam things up for a moment, but it can be cleared quickly. The problem can get worse if there are loose cartridges in the star or chambers that you need because a speedloader already dropped its load. I prefer moon clips because the ammunition stays together as a package. There is no reason for powder fouling to interfere with the star. That's just filthy ammo that should not be used. I've seen a lot of revolver shooters that shoot dirty crap. I can shoot a 500 rounds through my stainless gun and not see more than a little copper gilding. Shoot the black sooty garbage that sheds powder skeletons if you want jams.

If you want to shoot high-pressure loads, you'll want very clean chambers. Nickel-plated brass ejects easier. You can also have the chambers honed. Avoid Titanium cylinders which never eject tight cases smoothly. I've had Titanium cylinders cut the heads off cases because they stick when fired and the pressure blows the head back. The cut case stuck in the chamber won't allow a fully-loaded moon clip to chamber. It's easier to clear the cartridge that won't drop in from a speedloader, but I think Titanium cylinders should be reserved for low-pressure ammo or better yet, competition rather than carry.

I've used a wide variety of revolver grips that interfered with ejection. You would be wrong to assume that a grip maker has designed their grip to function. There are more grips out there that don't work than there are that do. The relief for the ejected shells must be cut so shells can come all the way out and drop clear of the gun. For reliable ejection, the ejector rod should also be long enough. Even the longest rods are too short to push 357 cases all the way out. They depend on the inertia of the shells as they're accelerated by a swift hit of the rod. But compact revolvers may have even shorter rods that do a very poor job of ejection.

Last edited by labnoti; November 22, 2019 at 07:48 PM.
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Old November 22, 2019, 10:23 PM   #16
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Quote:
Do you count the plunger tube (contains spring and plungers), slide stop, barrel bushing/recoil spring plug and extractor as moving parts?
I did not count the plunger tube as a moving part. I did count the 2 plungers and the spring. I did count the slide stop, and barrel bushing, though I did not count the recoil spring plug. Nor did I count the barrel link pin, or the firing pin stop. though perhaps I should have.

Quote:
But today's quality modern semi's are more reliable and durable in actual use than revolvers.
Unless the modern quality modern semi auto you are referring to is a 1911A1 it is irrelevant to the question which is DA revolver vs 1911A1, specifically to either confirm or debunk this statement.

Quote:
A double-action revolver has far more moving parts than a 1911A1.
and its implication that a DA revolver is less reliable than a 1911A1 because it has "far more" moving parts.

So far, it appears the 1911A1 has more moving parts, and most of us feel a DA revolver is more reliable, generally. Don't get me wrong, I love the 1911A1, and I have carried it and would carry one of MINE with complete confidence, but they are not less prone to malfunctions than quality DA revolvers. The malfunctions are generally minor in nature and usually easily cleared or fixed, but they DO happen more often than malfunctions of DA revolvers.

Do keep in mind there is a reason that "Tap, rack Bang" drills are part of the standard training for semis 1911A1 included. There isn't anything like that (that I know of) for DA revolvers. Sure maybe its because when a revolver chokes your usually done, or perhaps, just perhaps, because it happens so rarely people don't worry much about it?
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Old November 22, 2019, 11:07 PM   #17
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Like most have already said, it ain't about the number of parts.

I've been shooting semi autos and revolvers for 30 years. If you experience a failure with a revolver, you're probably done shooting that particular firearm until you've had a chance to spend some time working on it. With semis, the "fix" is usually a rack-tap-bang or something similar.

Biggest design difference between the two types of firearms is fitment. Take a typical Glock, for example. mix up the parts of 3 guns in a bucket, you'll still come out with 3 functional weapons at the end of the day. Try to do that with a revolver and god help you.
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Old November 23, 2019, 12:04 AM   #18
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I have more revolvers than I have semis. Over 50 plus years I've had 2 malfunctions with revolvers, the ejector rod backed out of a K22 and trash got under the extractor of a 586 revolver. Now to the semis, MK II Ruger, several failure to fires, 9mm 1911, failure to extract several times. 2 High Standard pistols, a bunch of failure to feed, only one magazine of 4 is close to being reliable. The 22 pistols have to be kept clean around the rear of the bbl. and the bolt/slide faces or I get mis-fires out the kazoo. Kimber, Ruger CMD, 2 Colt 1911s, occasional failure to feed. A Taurus .40 cal, gaurantee 1or2 failure to feed every 100 rounds. Beretta 92FS fail to load first round using slide stop.
My experience is that the semi is way more likely to malfunction than a revolver. Fact.
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Old November 23, 2019, 08:40 AM   #19
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I think if you maintain things and use proper/good ammo, they are about equal in function and reliability.

Problems caused by ammo are more of an issue than the guns, and that goes for both of them. Use good, quality ammo, and I doubt you will have much if any trouble with either.

Lack of cleaning/maintenance is more of an issue with the revolvers, or at least they seem more sensitive to it.

The autos seem to be a lot less sensitive.

Generally too, if and when there is the odd stoppage, the autos are usually right back in business pretty quick. The revolvers, not so much.
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Old November 23, 2019, 10:52 AM   #20
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If the supposition is allowed to specify a "good" semi-auto or revolver, perhaps some thought should be given to the quality of ammo?

Let's say the two types of firearms are in the same caliber shooting the same ammo. The strengths/weakness of each action type would show with varying levels of ammo quality. Bubba's Remanufactured Boolits with insufficient powder would choke a semi-auto frequently. The revolver would shine in comparison.

It can happen: I never had a problem with Winchester White Box until about 6 months ago I had a box where the case mouths of 8 rounds of 9mm were crimped along with the projectile. This caused the round to slide forward enough in the chamber that the first firing pin strike was weak. Some went off after a few strikes (I shouldn't have tried but I did) and a couple just wouldn't. I forgot where I put them, they were interesting to see.

Could the quality of ammo have improved since way back when? Perhaps being less dependent on sufficient powder charges to an extent, or less dependent upon successful reciprocation of the slide had a big advantage that was more apparent back in the day.

Last edited by dyl; November 24, 2019 at 02:57 PM.
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Old November 23, 2019, 11:45 AM   #21
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Old November 23, 2019, 03:00 PM   #22
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I wince because as soon as I press "post,' I'm going to have to hide. But here goes:

I think this is a pointless discussion. Putting aside design and manufacturing defect, all handguns can "fail.". Most of the time, the probability of failure will be dominated by the diligence of the owner or operator with respect to inspection, cleaning and routine maintenance of his handgun. And, in my opinion, this is equally true of revolvers and auto pistols.

I could add a couple of observations. In my experience, most of the stoppages of revolvers take longer to clear and require skills and tools of a higher level than some auto failures. But I regard this observation to be irrelevant, since proper maintenance should drastically reduce to probability of failure in the first place.

In theory, hammer fired handguns, whether revolver or pistol, should be more susceptible of environmental stoppages, because of the potential for debris to occupy the lane through which the hammer must fall for the weapon to fire. Tests (done by others than me) have illustrated such failures repeatedly. This implies that a striker-fired pistol should be more immune to environmental stoppages, but the same tests have revealed the propensity of striker-fired pistols to succumb, either through hydrolock or slide rail impedance.

I could go on, but the bottom line is this: take proper care of your weapon and it will fire on demand. Revolver or pistol.
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Old November 23, 2019, 08:11 PM   #23
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Though there may be a small difference in the number of moving parts, I don't find that to be a significant factor in reliability of the handguns. I shoot the 1911 and revolvers (single and double action) a similar amount. I occasionally experience stoppages with all of them, though I seem to have somewhat fewer with single action revolvers.

DA revolver cylinders occasionally bind due to debris, and extraction of multiple cases at the same time can be difficult as well, especially if debris or unburned powder granules are present. Split cases can also make extraction difficult.

FTF or FTEs occur on the 1911 occasionally. Debris and powder granules don't seem to affect the 1911 much. Split cases seem to eject in most instances. And the FTFs and FTEs are often quickly overcome or cleared.

I really enjoy revolvers, but I'll take a 1911 over a DA revolver if daily carry (especially open carry) in a dirty environment are SOP.
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Old November 24, 2019, 01:25 PM   #24
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Metallurgy and the robustness of parts counts for more than numbers, IMHO. The Colt 1892 and 1894-like so many first generation designs-were rather flimsy and did not hold up well.
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Old November 24, 2019, 10:52 PM   #25
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I've never had an ejector break on a revolver. Never had the bottom fall out of a magazine on a revolver (3 times with semis). Never had a double feed with a revolver. Never had a jam with a factory load with a revolver. Never had a revolver throw the empty in my face. Nope, folks, the revolver is more reliable than the semi. I do have a couple semis that haven't malfunctioned so far but they will. It's nature of the beast.
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