Difference between a handgun and pistol?

Discussion in 'Legal and Activism' started by samser, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. samser

    samser New Member

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    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.
     
  2. JW357

    JW357 New Member

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    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.
     

  3. rjd3282

    rjd3282 New Member

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

    Gatoragn Active Member

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    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.
     
  5. JackieBrown13

    JackieBrown13 New Member

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    I was under the impression handgun=pistol. All revolvers are pistols, but not all pistols are revolvers.
     
  6. JW357

    JW357 New Member

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

    vincent New Member

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    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...
     
  8. nitestalker

    nitestalker New Member

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    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. :)
     
  9. trip286

    trip286 New Member

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    This^^^
    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.
     
  10. robocop10mm

    robocop10mm Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    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.
     
  11. BillM

    BillM Active Member Supporter

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    Keep digging on the laws. Somewhere---maybe far far away statute number-wise, it will be defined.
     
  12. jigs-n-fixture

    jigs-n-fixture Well-Known Member Lifetime Supporter

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    A pistol is a handgun in which the chamber is integral to the barrel. Single barrels are pistols. A pepper box revolver where the barrels and cylinder are integrated is a pistol. Most modern revolvers are not. Modern semiautomatics are pistols.
     
  13. nitestalker

    nitestalker New Member

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    If only it were that simple. There are more names for handguns than manure. :eek:
     
  14. Jpyle

    Jpyle New Member

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    Most laws simply distinguish handguns from long guns and are moot on pistols vs revolvers although some specifically refer to pistols, e.g. PA issues a License to Conceal a Pistol, LTCP which is meant to not allow the concealment or carrying of a longarm but would allow a revolver. So as stated, best to check the specific laws of the state and how law enforcement interprets and enforces the law. Legislative intent means little when a LEO is placing you under arrest.
     
  15. therewolf

    therewolf New Member

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    What would you call a handgun you load an en-bloc clip into?

    I want one of those.
     
  16. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    Traditionally you are exactly right. Unfortunately we have a bunch of lazy people that just won't type out semi-auto or auto-loading, so they have misappropriated the term pistol to mean anything capable of firing multiple rounds that doesn't have a revolving cylinder. I'm constantly correcting my posts so I don't get in trouble with the mall ninja crowd.

    Do you want to have some real fun with them? Call your range time 'combat training'. It really get their knickers in a knot.
     
  17. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    I don't know about that. My Mom can be pretty creative when she's angry.
     
  18. WebleyFosbery38

    WebleyFosbery38 New Member

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    Laws that contain less than specific universal descriptions suck. My Moniker, Webley Fosbery 38 was labeled by the manufacturer as a 38 Automatic, stamped right on the side of the weapon. No, it didnt spit all 8 bullets out with one pull of the trigger. It was automatically cycled and the hammer cocked by a very cool recoil assisted mechanism instead of using the strength of ones finger to do it. What Coronal Fosbery called Automatic in 1902 and what lawmakers describe today are only useful in the context of the times we speak of. The descriptor "Hand Gun" has very little useful context in the year 2013, only means hands are advisable for the operator of the gun and nothing else (Fingers are implied but not specified).

    Defining things instead of actions always gets us in trouble. The word handgun originated from the days when almost all guns were shoulder fired long-guns. Handgun just meant what it said, you could fire it without propping it against your shoulder just by holding it in your hands (today, a Longun modified with a Pistol Grip can be illegal according to where you live, no hybrids!!!). I dont know why laws are filled with so many subjective terms, likely because those writing them have very little Idea WTF they are writing laws about and Lawyers get paid billions to talk around them!

    Hand gun is a colloquialism that isnt very descriptive in this day and age, generally most guns really need a hand to be fired unless they are on a drone. Descriptions that dont represent an actual physical property that can be attributed only to them are less than useful, was Mr. Scotts Phaser a Handgun? Wheel, Bolt action or Lever Action Gun, Breach or Muzzle Loader Guns, Magazine pr Cylinder fed Gun all are descriptive of some specific attribute to a Gun you could be describing or regulating (if your not a real 2a supporter), even those arent exact, their are some pretty freaky guns that have been made in the last 200 years that have more than one of those attributes, more hybrids.

    At the end of the day, laws need to reflect things that are universal in understanding to all the people, not just understood to mean X by this group or that organization. We on FTF can describe things to each other pretty easily cause mostly the language of guns is something we all understand, dont try the same discussion with an airhead liberal that doesnt know the diff between a Glock and a Rock, its just a waste of time...
     
  19. JW357

    JW357 New Member

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    Come on, there IS no difference between a Glock and a rock...
     
  20. JW357

    JW357 New Member

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    Better yet...

    All Glocks are rocks, but not all rocks are Glocks.