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samser 08-17-2013 03:05 PM

Difference between a handgun and pistol?
I was looking at antique firearms and checked laws on them, it seems very confusing, here is what i found regarding small arms. "a license is required to possess, collect and carry antique pistols. The licensing statute defines an antique pistol as: any single shot, muzzle loading pistol with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system manufactured in or before l898, which is not designed for using rim-fire or conventional center-fire fixed ammunition; and any replica if such replica is not designed or redesigned for using rim-fire or conventional center-fire fixed ammunition, or uses rim-fire or conventional center-fire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade. To the extent that an “antique pistol” is not also an “antique firearm,” a license would be required for lawful possession.

NY Law has interpreted this to mean antique rifles, shotguns, handguns, and replicas thereof, are generally exempt from the above restrictions and can be bought and possessed without a permit. (Persons who shoot muzzle-loading handguns must be properly licensed.) However, to fall within the exemption, antique handguns must be unloaded and possessed without the materials required for loading."...... So whats the difference between a pistol and a handgun? Any answers are appreciate.

JW357 08-17-2013 05:29 PM

Oh geeze. I have no idea. People tend to generically call any handgun a pistol. In my own mind, a pistol is a semi-auto. A revolver is not a pistol. To me, handgun is the generic term.

But none of what I think matters in terms of how the NY law is written or interpreted.

rjd3282 08-18-2013 03:07 AM

People were calling their handguns/revolvers pistols way before semi autos were invented.

Gatoragn 08-18-2013 03:14 AM

When I took took my CC class, at the range the RSO asked if anyone would be shooting a pistol. I raised my hand and he put me on the far right of the line so my brass would not distract the revolver shooters.

JackieBrown13 08-18-2013 03:18 AM

I was under the impression handgun=pistol. All revolvers are pistols, but not all pistols are revolvers.

JW357 08-18-2013 03:23 AM


Originally Posted by JackieBrown13 (Post 1338875)
I was under the impression handgun=pistol. All revolvers are pistols, but not all pistols are revolvers.

Could be. I figured that was a common misconception. I could be wrong of course. Its happened before.

vincent 08-18-2013 03:41 AM

Traditionally, a pistol is taken to mean semi-auto but I've seen old Colt and S+W ads selling revolvers in which they were advertised as pistols...

I don't know that there's any set in stone differentiation between the terms...:confused:

For me, pistol=semi-auto, revolver/wheelgun is well, a revolver/wheelgun and both are handguns...

As far as a legal interpretation...that's anybody's guess...

nitestalker 08-18-2013 03:56 AM

Not really the first hand held weapons were refereed to as Pistols. It is believed the name came from the name of large coin called a Pezola. The coin was the size of the bore of the early guns. Historically single shot flint locks were called dueling pistols traveling pistols etc. By the 1890s the semi-automatics came into play. There was then 2 primary types of hand held arms. The unofficial division was cylinder loaded arms were revolvers and magazine arms were pistols. Oops! Single shots are still called pistols.:) All of these weapons together revolvers and pistols are generally referred to as handguns. :)

trip286 08-18-2013 04:07 AM


Originally Posted by JW357 (Post 1338279)

But none of what I think matters in terms of how the NY law is written or interpreted.

As far as I'm concerned, handgun and pistol are completely interchangeable, with pistol being the historically accurate name for any firearm capable of being held and accurately used (for the most part) with one hand.

I believe the term "handgun" began to gain steam with people writing laws.

Now people sometimes argue the matter, and say a pistol refers to semi autos, or handguns refer to semis... wrong. The term "pistol", if one wants to get most accurate, would be a single shot black powder weapon that takes loose powder and a projectile that's separate.

For laymen, in my opinion, the terms are infinitely interchangeable, unless you intend to speak of a particular action type, then you would use, "revolver, semi auto, bp revolver, single action, double action" etc.

But legalese is a language all its own. To really get into what's meant and what's intended in law language, you need to talk to a lawyer who specializes in that area.

robocop10mm 08-18-2013 04:09 AM

The use of some terms evolves with time. While "pistol" is a correct synonym for handgun, many people refer to self loading handguns as pistols and revolvers as, well, revolvers. Many who get wrapped around the axle about the terminology neglect to take into consideration things like single shot "pistols" like muzzle loaders and T/C Contenders.

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