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Terminology question: Are Handgun and Pistol synonymous?

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Old 01-31-2013, 04:13 AM   #11
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The term pistol was synonymous with handgun for many hundreds of years. Recently some folks have felt the need to change the definition. Normally "pistol" refers to a semi-auto or single chambered handgun. Revolver is pretty self explanatory. Then there are multiple fixed chamber handguns like derringers with 2 barrels and the old COP 4 barreled .357 Magnum handgun. WHat to call those?

I generally try to refer to semi-autos as pistols and revolvers as revolvers. I do not get too upset when others use pistol to describe a geneeric handgun.

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Old 01-31-2013, 06:53 AM   #12
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I see my G20 as a pistol, my Ruger Super RedHawk as a revolver, and both as handguns.

If it don't revolve, it is a pistol. Pistol is a little more generic, and could include all handguns, but revolver, always means revolver. As I see it. Then again, I am comfortable calling magazines, clips, so what do I know. Lol

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Old 01-31-2013, 10:47 AM   #13
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Boy, this is even more fun than the magazine/clip discussions!
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:05 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Vincine View Post
Boy, this is even more fun than the magazine/clip discussions!
You are a very bad person bringing that up.
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:29 PM   #15
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I have a pistol handgun ;-p
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:32 PM   #16
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My take/how I use it and will continue to:

Yes, they are synonymous.

Any gun that can be handheld and shot without the need of any other appendages or assistance to do so accurately and repetitively, until emptied, is both a handgun and pistol. They are interchangeable in use and application across the categories of semiautomatic and revolver.

Same goes for the clip/mag thing & receiver/grip/handle.

There's simply WAYYYY too much specific nomenclature and designations in the gun world for me. I mean seriously, back strap? There's no strap there at all, it's a narrow end of the handle. If there's a separate, removable part then it deserves a name, otherwise it's just a section of the frame. I'm going to start calling them bumpers.

That's it, I'm going to start referring to parts of the gun as the car parts they most resemble, just to make a point of how ridiculous it all is. Lol
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:10 PM   #17
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There is a difference between a barrel and
cylindrical device with a coil-like internal pattern used for projectile stablization.
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Old 01-31-2013, 08:14 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Sniper03 View Post

You will probably get a number of different individual definitions and designations. But I use the following terms in the following way to specify.

A Handgun can be any of the guns that is normally shot being held and shot with solely the hands. So Pistol, Revolver, Derringer and others would fall into this General Category of Handgun for me.

Then there are Pistols (Which some have always used as I use the general term Handgun.

To Me:
A "Pistol" designation equates to a Semi-Auto Handgun
A "Revolver" designation equates to a Revolver (Cylinder) Handgun
A Single Shot designation to me equates to a Single Shot Handgun
A Derringer is a Derringer still a Handgun

That way when someone advises me about any of the above there is no doubt which one they are speaking about. If I have any doubts I will ask them. Are you speaking of a Semi Auto Pistol or a Cylinder Type Revolver so on and so on.
If they were to use the general handgun designation it could be any of the above. Some phrase it's as a general pistol term which if so who knows what type handgun they are talking about without asking for details.
This is only my way of speaking about the Handgun classifications.

This is how I look at it but I have caught myself using pistol for handgun a couple times.
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Old 02-01-2013, 04:34 AM   #19
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Well, thanks all for sharing your thoughts. It sounds like there are reasons other than habit (e.g., ATF form terminology) for trying to split revolvers from the term pistol. My curiosity is satisfied, and I guess I'll stick with handgun for the generic term instead of pistol.

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