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Old November 27, 2004, 09:41 PM   #1
Jelly
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Can Auto-Pistols Be Reliable As Revolvers?

Having spent a fair amount of time recently learning about auto-pistols, I've come to the quick conclusion that no matter the design (Glock, 1911, etc...), and although they have several advantages, not a one of them can touch a revolvers inherent reliability when being used as a civilian personal defense weapon.

How do you feel?

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Old November 27, 2004, 10:03 PM   #2
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You haven't shot enough revolvers, in enough circumstances.

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Old November 27, 2004, 10:09 PM   #3
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I guess you've never had bullets back out of the cartridge and hang up a revolver then.

Although I've had a fair number of lemon semi-autos, I've also had a fair number of lemon revolvers.

Modern designs (or modern refinements of great old designs) in semi or revolver form all seem equally reliable to me. The thing I've noticed is that if you get a FTF or FTE in a semi, you are likely to be able to do something and proceed. If something goes wrong with the revolver, you're really stuck.
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Old November 27, 2004, 10:21 PM   #4
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I'm feeling fine, thank you!

Yes, a good quality autopistol can be as reliable as a revolver. That is to say that it will only fail to function when something finally breaks--just as is true with a revolver.

The biggest difference is that an autopistol is less tolerant of poor quality ammunition.
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Old November 27, 2004, 11:59 PM   #5
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Yes, revolvers can malfunction.

The difference is, I can recollect every single time in the last 18 years that a revolver has gone tango uniform on me on the firing line, and wouldn't need the fingers of both hands to count them. I've had a couple more malfs than that out of autochuckers, I'm pretty sure. I'm guessing, because I lost count of those a long time ago.

Now, a good auto could possibly go many thousands of rounds without a malf, but that is generally expected of a wheelie, and not considered especially notable. When's the last time you switched to a new carry load in your 642 and ran two hundred of them through to check for feed reliability? In an Airweight gun, you fire all but one round of a cylinder, and check that last round's OAL against an exemplar still in the box, and as long as it ain't longer, you're golden.
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Old November 28, 2004, 12:11 AM   #6
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Hmmmm? I have broken and butchered many a revolver. S&Ws, Colts, Hawes, H&Rs, IJs and a few imports. I mainly have had malfunctions from Ruger semi-autos. I really cannot think of a single firearm that has ALWAYS been 100% for me. The Colt Single Action Army and clones can still remain functional even if broken. I guess there is no "perfect" weapon. I don't let it bother me. I carry a BUG and the manufacturers will make more. I CCW a Browning Hi-Power in 9MM. If I didn't trust it, I could get a club.
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Old November 28, 2004, 12:35 AM   #7
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Personally I feel revolvers are more reliable as a rule. The problem is that when a revolver does malfunction it is usually a big problem that is likely to take the gun out of action. Semi Autos seem to have a higher frequency of malfunctions but tend to be much easier to put back into action with a TAP RACK BANG or similar drill.

I personally have never seen a revolver go, Tango Uniform, as stated. I have several semi autos that have never malfunctioned in thousands of rounds though.

They are all machines. Take the best of care of all of them because Mr. Murphy is always riding shotgun.

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Old November 28, 2004, 12:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
They are all machines. Take the best of care of all of them because Mr. Murphy is always riding shotgun.
AMEN to that Brother!

However, Keep in mind that the revos are purely mechanical and don't rely on the pressure of the fiered cartridge to cycle. Hot or mild they usually dont care unless the bullets start pulling from their cases, or have been dropped and went out of time, or bent the crane really bad.
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Old November 28, 2004, 01:13 AM   #9
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Most modern semi's are sealed (for the most part) from the elements and foreign matter whereas a revolver's star (the thing on the back of the cylinder) is exposed. If the star develops a buildup of crud or dirt it can (and frequently does) cause the action to bind. This requires a good scrubbing to return the gun to functionality.
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Old November 28, 2004, 01:46 AM   #10
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Absolutely! I started off with revolvers. They can and do have the cylinders lock-up for various reasons from time to time. Take that from experience. I have Sigs, Berettas, and other guns that have never once failed to feed, fire, and extract. Sigs seem especially reliable. Honestly never had one fail. Can they? Sure just like a revolver they are machines. If their is any secret to auto pistols being reliable I would say they are as follows:
1.) Must be a proven design that is known for reliability (Sig, Beretta, and so on).
2.) Only use good factory ammunition designed for the gun.
3.) Keep it cleaned and well lubed! That one should be repeated twice.
4.) Replace your springs at regular intervals, including mag springs.
These things have kept my auto's going. As good as any revolver and better than some.
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Old November 28, 2004, 02:03 AM   #11
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If you like, you could just buy a S&W 610 or a 625 or a 325 in 45 ACP. The best of both worlds.
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Old November 28, 2004, 03:50 AM   #12
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Wheel guns go down.
Just not as often.
Problem is when one goes down,,,it really goes down.

It's the rare wheelie stoppage that can be cleared with one hand or in a hurry.
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Old November 28, 2004, 05:22 AM   #13
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Quote:
Semi Autos seem to have a higher frequency of malfunctions but tend to be much easier to put back into action with a TAP RACK BANG or similar drill.
So, a TAP RACK BANG is much easier than just pulling the trigger again?
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Old November 28, 2004, 06:21 AM   #14
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Two revolvers. If you really like autos, an auto and a revolver.
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Old November 28, 2004, 06:46 AM   #15
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I like the way you think, Model520
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Old November 28, 2004, 07:40 AM   #16
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Revolvers can be unreliable as well.

I think the difference is that you can clean and load a revolver, put it in a drawer, and expect it to still go bang years later if the trigger is pulled. If you put it through one of the semi-auto's torture tests, mud, grit, being run over by a Bradley, etc.. the chances may actually be less reliability than a semi-auto. Since the cylinder rotates prior to firing on trigger/finger pressure only, if the cylinder sticks due to mud, a pebble, or whatever, you are fighting with a club.

Actually, no gun can get better than 100% reliability. If your semi-auto has been 100% in the last thousand rounds, if you maintain it well, and use the same ammo, it should be a non-issue. I think the revolver's "reliability" is touted as a reason to carry/use revolvers by revolver guys to justify their choice. The fact is, some mechanical designs need to be used (or at least maintained during long periods of non-use) to stay functional. British sports cars are like that and so are most semi-auto handguns. Revolvers, by design, do not need as much maintenance during non-use.
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Old November 28, 2004, 07:57 AM   #17
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This question was answered in the early 1900's during the US military tests. The old guard military officers had a faithful devotion to the revolvers and a fear of technology. The early crude models of semi-automatics put the highly developed revolvers to shame and then eclipsed them as a military weapon.

Since that time there has been very little advancement in the technology of the revolver and quite a bit of advancement in the engineering of the semi-auto pistol.

It's an old question with old answers.
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Old November 28, 2004, 08:17 AM   #18
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I believe there is a great deal of experience and wisdom in the posts to this thread. My experience supports the following conclusions:

a) There are two fundamental failure modes for handguns: firearms malfunctions and ammunition failures.
b) Autoloaders are more prone to mechanical breakdowns than are revolvers (although I certainly agree that several top-quality semiautomatics are VERY reliable, the fact is, with MANY thousand rounds fired from S&Ws and Rugers, I have NEVER had a firearms-related revolver failure -- which simply is not the case for my Sigs, Glocks, H&Ks, Colts, Kimbers, Springfields, and CZs).
c) However, those mechanical malfunctions that occur in revolvers are frequently much more difficult and time-consuming to rectify.
d) Ammunition failures, while occurring with similar frequency regardless of the “platform type”, are far easier to overcome in revolvers (fire the next round as contrasted to “tap - rack - bang” (or any other clearing/reloading method).

All this said – and for normal uses, NOT for intense combat service on the battlefield – I believe a top-quality revolver is more reliable than its semiautomatic counterpart. However, BOTH CAN BE EXTREMELY RELIABLE, enough to literally bet your life on their performance.
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Old November 28, 2004, 08:32 AM   #19
juliet charley
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Of course, I can't think of any episodes like the following involving revolvers:
Quote:
Officer Clark arrived less then four minutes after the alarm button was pushed. As he entered the store, the suspects opened fire on him, striking him in the shoulder. He returned fire but his service weapon jammed after he fired the first shot. As he called for assistance, one of the suspects shot him in the head execution style. The suspects then executed the female store clerk before fleeing. The three suspects were apprehended the following day.
Beyond sheer mechanical reliability, I've never heard of a revolver malfunctioning due to "limp wristing"--which is always a distinct possibility when forced to shoot weak-handed, at unusual angle/body posture, or when shooting after taking bullet.

While there is no indication that "limp-wristing" was a factor in the incident cited above, I am aware of at least one stoppage a G17 (which is probably the least susceptible limp-wristing of the Glock models) directly attributed to limp wristing after the officer was shot. There is a lot to be said for "six for sure."
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Old November 28, 2004, 08:41 AM   #20
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juliet charley,

If Officer Clark's ejector rod had backed out, the story would have read differently how? I know we both understand that anecdotal evidence, especially of the emotional variety, doesn't necessarily help one's case.

Look, anybody who says revolvers fail in normal operation as much as, or more than, semiautos needs to shoot more (or is exaggerating for the purpose of some ulterior motive,) because it just ain't so, but anybody who says revolvers don't malfunction, or "can be cleared by pulling the trigger again" is in the same boat.
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Old November 28, 2004, 09:50 AM   #21
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I love revolvers. I've fired them for 25+ years and haven't had one failure that wasn't ammunition related. And I'll be the first to state that some of them haven't been in the most 'mechanically sound' state possible. I mean, I cut my teeth on an old Colt .22 with a barrel that was bent a half inch to the left. It took me 10 years to learn how to shoot straight!

That said, I have an automatic with me for about 12 to 16 hours of the day.

Looking at them from a standpoint of pure probability, a revolver has fewer moving parts. Fewer moving parts in a design mean that there are fewer moving parts that can possibly malfunction.
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Old November 28, 2004, 09:55 AM   #22
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I would say that a properly maintained modern handgun will work when called upon, regardless of type.
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Old November 28, 2004, 10:12 AM   #23
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GoSlash27,

I'd say you're probably right. (...and just in case you're not, well, that's why I carry a spare. )
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Old November 28, 2004, 01:25 PM   #24
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Quote:
If Officer Clark's ejector rod had backed out, the story would have read differently how? I know we both understand that anecdotal evidence, especially of the emotional variety, doesn't necessarily help one's case.
It was not as much a judgement as an observation, Tamara. I just stated that I was unaware of similar incidents where a LEOs injury of death could be traced directly to a weapon failure involving a revolver. There have been several documented cases of LEOs being injured/killed due to an autoloader malfunctioning.

(Besides, the thrust of my post was failures due to limp-wristing involving shooting with the weak-hand and/or when injured and/or from awkward angles or body positions. Have you ever limp wristed a revolver?)
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Old November 28, 2004, 04:27 PM   #25
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I have to note (with some amusement) how lopsided a comparison this is. If we all went to the store right now you would have the choice of 20 brands of autos (with usually three of four completely different types per brand), and only the 3 surviving brands of DA revolvers sold in US. Of the those three, two use almost identical lockwork for their products (S&W and Taurus) and Ruger uses about the same setup in all of their DA line.


I submit that if we picked the top two reliable auto designs and compared them to these two revolver designs, there would be little difference. Or we could compare all the autos to all the revolvers - and I know people don't want to use all the Rexios, Astras, H&Rs, High Standards, Colts, Dan Wessons and Charters as comparisons for reliable operation.

There are more than a few people out there who have NEVER had their higher end auto fail on them. Same with the revolver fans, yet at the last plate match I attended I saw both a S&W 625 and 642 fail to fire due to dirt inside the lockwork - neither was an ammo problem.

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Quote:
So, a TAP RACK BANG is much easier than just pulling the trigger again?
No, but it is easier than getting a jammed cylinder freed. That was the point.
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