Wow. Such a big area to cover.
there are three basic kinds of handguns: Revolvers, Semi-autos, and
Single-Shot. Yes, I know that there are some others such as two-shot
Derringers, but those are the main three.
OK, starting with the oldest and most basic type: the single-shot pistol.
[as an aside, i use the terms "pistol" and "handgun" interchangeably and I include revolvers in this group]
single-shot pistol only carries ammunition for one shot at a time.
After shooting it, the pistol must be reloaded. Modern single-shot
pistols are mainly used for hunting or competition target shooting such
as in The Olympics. They use modern ammunition and they are easy and
fast to reload. They can be chambered for just about any pistol and
most rifle cartridges and can be extremely accurate.
Let's continue with revolvers.
in the 1830s almost all firearms were of the single-shot variety. There
were a few double-barrelled guns and a few that used more than two
barrels. The majority were of the "shoot it once and then reload it"
kind. About this time one Samuel Colt had a great idea that became the
revolver as we know it. Until the mid-1860s it was, for the most part,
still loaded with loose powder and round lead balls. The "modern age"
of the revolver began in 1873 with the introduction of the Colt
Single-Action Army Revolver. This is the revolver made famous in so
many Western movies (even on movies set before 1873 -- go figure). The
Colt Single-Action Army (SAA) used the then-new self-contained brass
cartridges, though they still used the old blackpowder. One step at a
Varieties of this revolver are still made today. You must cock
the hammer back before each shot. There is no safety mechanism that
prevents the gun from firing, nor is any needed.
The next big development in the world of the
revolver was the Double-Action mechanism that allowed the revolver to
be fired with only a (long) pull of the trigger. Pulling the trigger
both cocked the hammer and rotated a new chamber into alignment with
the barrel before allowing the hammer to fall firing the weapon. Hence
the "Double-Action" name. Almost all Double-Action revolvers could be
fired as a Single-Action revolver if so desired.
well gets us up to the present day in terms of revolver technology.
Revolvers are still viable firearms and they can usually be chambered
for higher-powered cartridges than are available in Semi-Autos.
Did I say "Semi-Autos" in that last paragraph?
that's what's next. Handguns that automatically reload themselves after
firing a shot. In the firearms world these are called "self-loading"
pistols or "semi-automatic" pistols. The term "automatic" as applied to
firearms almost always means that the arm in question is capable of
firing more than one shot with each pull of the trigger. These are real
machine guns. That's not a problem. Machine guns can be fun to shoot,
but that's not what I am discussing right now.
long suspected that the energy released when a firearm was fired could
be used to prepare the gun for firing the next shot. That should speed
up the process of firing multiple shots and was seen as desirable.
of the early work in this area was done by the Germans. The first truly
practical semi-automatic pistol was introduced in 1896 by Paul Mauser.
There were earlier semi-autos but none of them were very practical. The
model C-96 Mauser pistol quickly gathered the nickname "Broomhandle"
due to the shape of the grip.
This C-96 Mauser from my collection was made in 1914. Photo by author
C-96 fired a .30 calibre (7.63mm) bottlenecked cartridge that was very
high-powered for the day. This pistol gathered a lot of admirers and
users, including one Winston Churchill. It holds 10 rounds of
ammunition in the magazine and reloads quickly if the proper stripper
clips are used.
Photo by author
the same time in another part of Germany another fellow was improving
on the earlier Bergmann-Bayard pistol. By 1900 he had it pretty well
worked out. Georg Luger's design looked something like this:
This is a 1970s-era Luger made by Mauser with the 6-inch barrel. From my own collection. Photo by author
Luger had succeeded in making the semi-automatic pistol convenient to
carry and reload. Like almost all modern semi-autos it loads via a
removable magazine housed within the grip of the pistol. By 1908 Herr
Luger -- at the request of the German Army -- had developed for his
pistol the 9mm Parabellum cartridge which is still one of the most
popular in use today. The pistol held eight rounds in its magazine.
this same time a fellow out in Utah by the name of John M. Browning was
working on his own designs. Those designs culminated in 1911 with the
Colt Government Model pistol which is almost always just called "the
1911" -- at least by Americans. This was a very effective and practical
pistol indeed. It fired the big ".45 Automatic Colt Pistol" cartridge
-- usually stated as the .45 ACP -- and it held 7 rounds in its
from the internet. I owned one once. It didn't feel right in my hand
and the sights were tiny. I traded it for a Browning High-Power (aka:
That pretty much brings us up to the present barring an
awful lot of plastic-framed guns and Double-Action-Only guns which have
very long and heavy trigger pulls for the most part.
do I have and like? Well, the Mauser C-96 and the Luger above are both
among my favourites, though not particularly practical for home defense
or daily (concealed) carry. My choice for these purposes is
usually a CZ-75 or a clone from the Italian maker Tanfoglio.
Here's a brief list of some of my favourites. Links will be added as the pages are written.
Colt 2nd model Dragoon
CZ-75 and clones
Mitchell Citation II (a clone of the old Hi-Standard Citation)
Browning P-35 (aka: "Hi-Power")
Taurus PT-92 (close clone of the Beretta model 92)
brief note about 1911s and Glocks. I have owned both. They just weren't
"right" for me. The 1911 was uncomfortable and difficult for me to shoot
accurately. The Glock 27 was a very reliable gun; it was very accurate;
I shot it very well -- but it just didn't "feel right" to me. Both the
trigger and the plastic frame just didn't "work" for me. Other folks
love them. I won't say anything against them. There are plenty of other
people who write in praise of 1911s and Glocks; I shall leave that to