The Best Debate – Pistol vs Handgun

Are you confused about the difference between a pistol vs handgun? If so, you’re not alone! The terms are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they have distinct differences. In this article, we will explore the distinctions between pistols and handguns, and what makes them different. We’ll look at features, definitions, and the history of both to get a full understanding of the two weapons. Read on to learn more about the differences between pistols and handguns.

What is a Pistol

The debate of a pistol vs handgun has gone on for decades. A pistol is a type of handgun, typically a small and lightweight firearm designed for self-defense, target shooting, and other recreational activities. Pistols usually have a shorter barrel and a shorter overall length than other types of handguns. They are designed to be held in one hand and fired with the other.

Pistols typically have a grip frame and a barrel with a single chamber and one or more barrels. The barrel is usually rifled, meaning that it has a spiral groove cut into the inside of the barrel to help impart spin to projectiles fired from it, making them more accurate. Pistols also have a trigger and a safety to prevent accidental firing.

The most common type of pistol is a semi-automatic, which uses a magazine to store cartridges and has a slide that moves back and forth with each shot fired. Other types of pistols include revolvers, which use a rotating cylinder to hold cartridges, and single-shot pistols, which are loaded with a single cartridge each time they are fired.

Most pistols are made of materials such as steel or aluminum, while some are made of polymers and other plastics. Pistols are typically designed with an ergonomic grip to make them comfortable to hold and shoot. Additionally, many pistols have features such as adjustable sights, Picatinny rails for attaching accessories, and interchangeable magazines for quick reloading.

What is a Handgun

A handgun is a type of firearm that is designed to be held and operated with one hand. They are typically small and lightweight, making them easy to conceal and carry. Handguns are most commonly used for self-defense, hunting, target shooting, and in military and law enforcement applications. There are slight differences in a pistol vs handgun.

The most common type of handgun is the semi-automatic pistol. They are typically small and lightweight and usually have a small magazine that holds six to twenty rounds of ammunition. Semi-automatic pistols can be single action (SA) or double action (DA). SA handguns require a trigger pull each time a round is fired, while DA handguns have a longer, heavier trigger pull that both cocks and fires the gun.

There are different categories of handguns when you start to dive deeper into what defines a pistol vs handgun. Revolvers are another type of handgun. They are typically larger and heavier than semi-automatic pistols and have a cylinder that holds five to six rounds of ammunition. They are single action only, meaning that each time the trigger is pulled it cocks and fires the gun.

Handguns are usually made of steel, aluminum, or polymer materials. They can be chambered in a variety of calibers, from small .22 LR rounds to large .50 AE rounds. Common handgun sizes include compact, full-size, and subcompact.

Handguns are easy to use and maintain, making them popular with many shooters. They are relatively safe to use when handled properly and are an excellent choice for self-defense, target shooting, and hunting.

Pros Pistol vs Handgun

Pistol vs Handgun is a debate that has been happening for quite some time now. Both guns have their own advantages and disadvantages and it really depends on the user and their needs to decide which one is better for them.

The pros of pistols and handguns are numerous.

They are relatively easy to use and maintain. Pistols and handguns are relatively simple weapons to learn how to use and maintain. They require less training and practice than other firearms, making them a great choice for those who don’t have a lot of experience with firearms.

They are small and lightweight. Pistols and handguns are typically smaller than other firearms, making them easier to carry and conceal. This makes them a great choice for those who are looking for a concealed carry weapon.

They are easy to store. Pistols and handguns are small enough to fit in a drawer or closet, making them a great choice for those who want a firearm for home defense but don’t have a lot of space to store it.

They are relatively inexpensive. Pistols and handguns are typically more affordable than other firearms, making them a great option for those on a budget.

They have strong stopping power. Pistols and handguns typically have a higher rate of stopping power than other firearms, making them a great choice for defense.

Cons Pistol vs Handgun

One of the biggest cons of a pistol vs handgun is the size and weight. Handguns are typically much larger and heavier than pistols, meaning they can be more difficult to handle and maneuver. Additionally, handguns generally have a longer barrel, meaning they tend to be more accurate when firing at a distance.

Another con is the cost. Handguns are often more expensive than pistols due to their larger size and weight. For many shooters, the cost can be a deterrent when it comes to choosing a firearm.

Finally, handguns tend to be more difficult to operate and maintain than pistols. Due to their larger size and weight, handguns require more regular maintenance to ensure they remain in top condition. Additionally, handguns require more skill and practice to use effectively. This means they may not be the best choice for novice shooters.

Should You Choose a Pistol or Handgun?

When deciding whether to choose a pistol vs handgun, there are several factors to consider. A pistol is typically smaller and lighter than a handgun, making it easier to conceal and carry. Pistols also tend to have lower recoil, making them easier to shoot for those with limited experience. Many pistols are semi-automatic, allowing for rapid firing of multiple rounds without having to reload after each shot. Handguns, on the other hand, are larger and heavier, making them more difficult to conceal. However, they typically have more stopping power than pistols and are better suited for defensive situations. Handguns also tend to have higher capacity magazines, which allow for more shots before needing to reload.

Ultimately, the choice between a pistol and handgun depends on the intended use. For self-defense or home protection, a handgun may be the most appropriate choice, as it offers greater stopping power and higher capacity. However, for target shooting or recreational purposes, a pistol may be better suited due to its lighter weight and lower recoil. Additionally, some states have restrictions on the type of gun that can be carried, so it is important to understand the local laws before making a purchase.


In conclusion, pistols and handguns are two terms which are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different types of firearms. Handguns are typically smaller firearms designed for self-defense, while pistols are larger and more powerful firearms designed for hunting or military use. The main difference between the two is size, with pistols being much larger than handguns.

Ultimately, both of these firearms have their own unique functions and should be used accordingly. Also read our post about using a handgun or shotgun for home defense.