Types of Pistols: revolver and semi-automatic

One of the most common characteristics of a Hostile Environment is not the aggressive nature of people around you, but the haphazard emptying of various weapons.

Often, the local populations express their grief or glee by firing bullets into the air, into the ground or at any object whether moving or not.  This puts you in the firing line and you need to understand how to survive a shot because dodging a bullet is not a realistic option.

Before understanding how to treat a gunshot wound, you need to understand the types of pistols that you might face in a Hostile Environment.

The most common gun you will experience is a pistol – either a revolver or an automatic. On our H..EA.T. courses, we teach attendees that you should only carry a pistol in a concealed mode and when wearing plain clothes.  The locals are not concerned about being seen with a weapon nor give a toss about sartorial elegance, and the reality is that pistols are easy to buy and are often the preferred weapon of choice by rebels or insurgents at the beginning of any insurrection.

Subsequently the rebels or rioters upgrade their weaponry to rifles, sub-machine guns and machine guns, but your first brush with an armed local will probably involve a pistol.  To help you recognize the weapon and its limitations, herewith some information about the two models of pistols you could face.

Pistols are manufactured in two models:

  • –  the revolver
  • –  the automatic


Whilst they both fire the same caliber of ammunition, and deliver a relatively strong hitting power, the main trade-off between the two is that the revolver never jams and the automatic rarely jams.  But, the automatic (actually semi-automatic, as it fires once each time the trigger is squeezed and reloads for the next shot), has a higher rate of fire.

Revolvers are either single-action or double-action in their use.  During the 1860s and 1880s in the United States, the cowboys fanned their pistols by hand in order to force the hammer back and cot the weapon to bring the next round and chamber the next line for firing.  Fanning means that the trigger is constantly depressed and the hammer is quickly pulled back and released to archive a higher rate of fire.

Double-action revolvers use the energy from squeezing the trigger to bring the hammer back and turn the chamber to bring the next round into live.  a double-action revolver can be fired quickly and with one hand, although inaccuracy can be a problem.

The automatic pistol has to be cot by pulling back a top slide and releasing it to feed a first round into the chamber.

After squeezing the trigger, the pistol fires and the recoil pushes back the top slide to pick another round for the magazine  feed it into the chamber and wait for the next shot.  As an automatic has a higher rate of fire than a revolver, it also can hold nearly 15 rounds in its magazine.

The popular Beretta and ZK 9mm automatics hold 13 rounds, whereas the Colt45 only hold 7 rounds.

The reason behind this was that in 1910 the US Army wrote specifications for a reliable pistol “which would stop a charging horse in a close range”.

Hopefully, in a Hostile Environment, the locals will not be equipped with Colt 45 although  given the opportunity, you should run away faster than a charging horse.

During our H.E.A.T. courses, we spend an entire afternoon at the Glencaim shooting range in Cape Town.  A qualified gun maker and a Firearm instructor will teach you how to fire a wide range of arms: shotguns, pistols, rifles (AK47) and machine guns.