The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > Hogan's Alley > Handguns: General Handgun Forum

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old February 8, 2012, 10:10 PM   #1
Red Dog
Senior Member
Join Date: November 28, 2010
Posts: 217
Revolver vs Semi-Auto

Is the recoil less in an auto vs a revolver? Assuming same bullets are used, I'm wondering if the process of loading a new round reduces the felt recoil.
Red Dog is offline  
Old February 8, 2012, 10:15 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: September 22, 2011
Location: central Ohio
Posts: 135
igousigloo is offline  
Old February 8, 2012, 10:18 PM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: July 5, 2007
Posts: 463
Some say yes, some say no - felt recoil is very subjective. I'm a revolver nut, and I personally don't like the feeling of the slide movement. It's distracting enough, I can't separate it from recoil.

It's just hard to compare. My S&W 625 shoots 45ACP, and I don't feel it any worse than a 1911. But the slide thing drives me nuts .

Sent from my Ally using Tapatalk
jephthai is offline  
Old February 8, 2012, 11:50 PM   #4
Junior member
Join Date: March 18, 2009
Posts: 572
The reload doesn't reduce the recoil. That happens as the slide starts to move forward, stripping the next round off the top of the magazine. The forward movement actually helps bring the pistol back into alignment with the target.

The recoil reduction happens as energy is bled off by the barrel unlocking and starting rearward. The recoil spring stiffens, further reducing the felt recoil.

The revolver has some energy bled off by the amount of gas escaping through the cylinder gap, reducing somewhat, the velocity going forward. However, the revolver moves all the recoil energy back along the bore axis, and causing the recoil to be felt more.

But, you have to add in conditions like distance of the bore above the hand, the design of the stocks, and the shooter's grip on the stocks.

So, the final answer is: It depends.
pendennis is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 12:15 AM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: December 12, 2010
Location: Incline Village, NV
Posts: 535
Yes, a pistol will produce less felt recoil assuming same load, same weight gun and same barrel length (I'm sure I've forgotten a few things). I have a number of revolvers and pistols in the same caliber and of reasonable close physical parameters so while this is a little subjective it's not entirely.

BUT, felt recoil is but one of many factors that affects who controllable a gun is. How it fits my hand is more important for me. I find my 1911s more controllable and more enjoyable to shoot than my revolvers in .45acp, even the the revolvers have high quality recoil tamer grips. That's because the design of the guns is so very different, and the 1911 is a near-perfect fit to my hand.
mes227 is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 12:38 AM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: December 11, 2011
Posts: 230
All else being equal recoil is exactly the same.
All else being equal felt recoil should be lower on a Semi-Auto because the felt recoil is spread over a longer period thanks to some of it not being experienced until the bolt stops and then starts moving forward again.

There is another factor too though. When you fire a handgun the recoil effectively pushes the front of the gun upwards. If you have a proper grip your hands naturally resists this motion. The amount of strength you apply to do so is typically the same regardless of other factors. However, the further back your hand is from the mass of the gun the less efficiently your strength is applied to resisting the upward motion of the barrel... Kind of like how you can hold up a heavy pole all day if you grip it in the center, but only for a minute or two if you hold one end.

With a revolver your hand is behind the mass of the gun. With a Semi-Auto your hand is further forward and closer to the center of mass. So with a Semi-Auto you resist upward recoil more efficiently and that can make the shooting experience more comfortable for many people.
arentol is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 05:55 AM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: August 4, 2010
Posts: 820
It's not a big deal unless you look for it when you shoot. Don't exclude revolver choices because you think they're going to kick more.
hardworker is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 10:09 AM   #8
Senior Member
Join Date: June 1, 2007
Location: Shawnee, KS
Posts: 1,093
If you measured them in a machine rest there would be less felt recoil energy in the pistol but that doesn't mean it would be more comfortable to shoot. The way the grip fits your hand is what determines how you will feel the recoil and how comfortable and controllable it is for you. Pistols tend to push the recoil straight back into your hand but the springs being compressed as the slide move rearward softens the recoil. Revolver grips with their rounded back tend to let the muzzle rise more from recoil which results in less energy being felt straight back into your hand.

With a revolver it is possible to get a grip with a lot more rubber between your hand and the firearm frame to absorb recoil than you can with a pistol.

Essentially the difference between them will come down to how the recoil feels rather than the amount of recoil. Which will you prefer? There is no way to tell unless you try them.

If I had a choice between shooting 100 rounds of .380 out of my Kel-tec P-3AT or shooting 100 rounds of .357 out of my SP101 I'd take the SP101 every time. The narrow frame of the P-3AT means the recoil is concentrated into a small surface area on my hand where the larger (and thick rubber) grip on the SP101 disburses it over a larger area and is more comfortable.
Wuchak is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 01:34 PM   #9
Senior Member
Join Date: February 23, 2005
Posts: 12,897
The recoil formula consists of weight of the gun, velocity of the bullet and the weight of the any 2 guns weighing the same ( in a semi-auto and a revolver), shooting the same round...will give you exactly the same amount of recoil...

But in a fixed breech gun a'll feel its full effect.

In a gun like a semi-auto ...the action of the barrel unlocking, the slide moving, the springs, etc ...will all reduce felt recoil.

I don't find the recoil in a revolver with a caliber like a 9mm, .357 mag or .45 acp ....above a reasonable limit.../ it is, what it is .../ and I do shoot the same calibers in a number of different semi-autos.

Weight of the gun, to me, is the most significant factor / and I tend to like heavier guns - both in semi-autos and in revolvers. Shooting a heavy bullet, high velocity out of a light gun rarely fun.
BigJimP is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 04:05 PM   #10
Red Dog
Senior Member
Join Date: November 28, 2010
Posts: 217
I'm surprised about the responses. I thought 'yes' would be an overwhelming

Pulling the trigger starts the cylinder to rotate making another round available
which plays no part in damping the recoil. However an underpowered round in a semi won't work the action. Maybe I'm missing something here but it seems like since part of the energy is being used to work the action the recoil should be less.

I do understand that shape and weight plays a part also....
Red Dog is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 09:27 PM   #11
44 AMP
Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
Posts: 17,256
since part of the energy is being used to work the action the recoil should be less.
True, part of the energy is being used to work the action, BUT, ALL the energy is still there. Part of it is doing something in an auto pistol, on its way back to your hand & wrist, but its still all there.

Because it is spread out (time wise) you feel it less, but its still all there.

Newton's 3rd law (equal and opposite force) means launching x weight at abc speed generates a given amount of recoil. Pistol or revolver, the force is the same when fired. The differences in weight, height of bore axis over grip, shape of the grip, and the rate of recoil impulse transfer make a difference in what you feel when you shoot. The energy a semi uses to unlock, push bak the slide, compress the spring, etc, still all transfers to your hand, it doesn't just vanish into thin air, it just gets to your hand after it does the work, compared to the revolver (or single shot) where all the energy arrives at the same time.

Now, we aren't talking about much of a difference in time, not enough to notice with merely human senses (or at least my human senses), and we generally perceive the more "spread out" recoil as less recoil.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
44 AMP is offline  
Old February 9, 2012, 09:48 PM   #12
Senior Member
Join Date: February 22, 2008
Posts: 4,092
The recoil and movement characteristics of a revolver and a semi auto are not the same.

Before you fire a revolver,the cyinder turns and locks,which can offset the target point in as many directions as the cylinder turned and then locked,if you are not experienced at firing a revolver.

Then the hammer drops which can cause the gun to drop low to target.

The gun fires,then depending on the power of the round and the weight of the revolver can mean either little or (in the case of very light revolvers and powerful rounds) a heck of alot of recoil.

The semi auto has all of it's movement in a single plane-up and down relative to the shooter.

Press the trigger and depending on whether the trigger travel is long and/or heavily weighted-the targeting can move up and down(or to the side the trigger finger is attached to the shooters hand).

When the trigger releases the firing pin or striker and the gun fires-the primary movement of the gun is up and down.

The blast when the semi fires starts the recoil moment but it's the slide that continues it and determines just how bad the recoil will be.

The recoil of the round is actually partially used up in the operation of the slide but it is the rearward movement of the slide and how fast it stops the imparts the recoil to the shooter.

Alot of people that cannot shoot revolvers well can shoot heavier 9mm's well because the 9mm's have all their movement in one plain relative to the shooters hand and because the operational recoil of the gun is used up and marginalized by the large size of the semi auto.

A revolver requires some real training to shoot well double action.

As far as recoil goes,it really depends on the weight of the gun the cartridge is fired from.

In the case of some lighter smaller semi autos,some have outstanding designs that can help minimize recoil (some also use porting too).

Revolvers can have porting but usually much less frequently then semi autos and usually depend on the shooter training to minimize any recoil shooting error.

I think revolvers therefore have more recoil in all directions then a semi auto shooting the same power/weight cartridge and require the shooter to train more to offset that characteristic.

Which with training,can be done fairly easily.
B.N.Real is offline  
Old February 12, 2012, 08:14 PM   #13
Senior Member
Join Date: February 26, 2001
Posts: 691
B.N. Real, excellent post!
The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed -- where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once." -- Justice Alex Kozinski, US 9th Circuit Court, 2003
4thHorseman is offline  
Old February 12, 2012, 09:11 PM   #14
Senior Member
Join Date: March 20, 2007
Location: "Undisclosed Bunker"
Posts: 1,463
No universal answer to the recoil question relative to revolver vs. semi. It's entirely subjective so your opinion is as good as anyone elses.

A similar question I hear is which is quicker to reload, revolver or semi? Most people immediately reply that semi mag changes are quicker hands-down, but have you ever seen a profecient revolver guy use speed loaders? Bottom line is your question has no 'empirical' answer.

NRA Life Member
“A free people be armed..."
George Washington
PT-92 is offline  
Old February 14, 2012, 11:55 AM   #15
Senior Member
Join Date: January 22, 2005
Location: Kentucky
Posts: 2,432
Comparing a 1911 to a S&W M-25, both in .45 ACP I'd say it's somewhat different with a couple of caveats. In my experience, the 1911 does not soak up the recoil, as say a gas operated rifle would eg. the M1 Garand. It divides it into stages.

With the 1911, you get the initial slap as the cartridge fires, then, a split second later, another jolt as the slide hits the aft stop, then a third as it slams forward chambering a new round. It feels to me like a double slap in reality, with the slide's banging around felt as a single impulse. With full house loads in a 1911, the gun feels like it's coming apart in your hand...which is more or less what's happening.

With a revolver, shooting the same wt bullets from a gun that weighs the same, it's one slap of recoil and you're done with it. The difference is, and its important, the grip angles, their size & shape, and distance below bore line, all affect felt recoil.

For me it's easier to get back on the sights and on target with a 1911, than with a revolver. However, if you're shooting double-action, the act of pulling that 8-10 lb. double-action trigger, in and of itself, helps to pull the gun back down on target. Elmer Keith had a good explanation of that phenomena in his chapter on trick shooting, specifically multiple targets in aerial work, in the book, "Sixguns".

HTH's Rod
Cherish our flag, honor it, defend what it stands for or get the hell out. Our Freedoms are not free, they've been paid for many times over by heros in uniform. Far better men than I, died that we could be FREE.

USAF FAC, 5th Spl Forces, An Loc, lll Corps, RVN, 69-70, Vietnam Vet '69-'73
rodfac is offline  
Old February 14, 2012, 04:09 PM   #16
Senior Member
Join Date: December 11, 2011
Posts: 230
Originally Posted by B.N.Real
Before you fire a revolver,the cyinder turns and locks,which can offset the target point in as many directions as the cylinder turned and then locked,if you are not experienced at firing a revolver.
This doesn't happen with any of my revolvers.

Also, neither this nor anything else that affects your point of aim before the round is actually fired are in any way definable as "recoil".
arentol is offline  
Old February 14, 2012, 04:27 PM   #17
Join Date: July 8, 2011
Posts: 16
As someone who has shot both over 40 years I would say that it has more to do with the caliber and shape and size of the grips rather than whether it is a revolver or auto. I carry an 11.5 oz. .357 magnum that hurt at first and I like recoil and the bigger the better. However, a little experiementation with different grips solved the problem. Not fun to shoot but at least I can put down down range quickly and accurately with no loss of skin.

I also find that J-frame grips which are rounded like part of a circle tend to roll the grip in your hand while an auto will put the recoil straight back into your hand. Different feel and whether one seems worse than the other depends on who you ask.
GunByte is offline  
Old February 14, 2012, 05:01 PM   #18
Senior Member
Join Date: December 16, 2005
Location: Northeast TX
Posts: 1,171
Weight of the firearm has more to do with felt recoil than anything, then type of grip and comfortability. I've had various revolvers in 45acp and 9mm.
bluetopper is offline  
Old February 14, 2012, 06:28 PM   #19
Senior Member
Join Date: July 20, 2005
Location: Indiana
Posts: 10,169
Felt recoil is extremely subjective and influenced by a variety of factors besides action type. Because only a few cartridges are commonly chambered in both revolvers and semi-automatics, the comparison between them is often one of apples-to-oranges.

Even if you had a semi-automatic and a revolver of equal weight, both chambered for the same cartridge, and both firing the same ammunition, factors such as the fit of the grip to your hand, the bore axis of the guns, and which gun you fired first (how much recoil you've already had to endure) would likely influence your perception.
Smith, and Wesson, and Me. -H. Callahan
Well waddaya know, one buwwet weft! -E. Fudd
All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. -J. Caesar
Webleymkv is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:00 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2017 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.08628 seconds with 7 queries