When is a pistol not a pistol?

James has written an interesting post discussing the modern trend of not calling a revolver a pistol. Technically any handgun is a pistol from the early matchlocks to single shot handguns to autoloaders.

I personally use the following terminology:

A revolver: revolver
A single-shot: pistol
A Derringer: Derringer
An Autoloader: pistol (unless it is also a revolver. I would call that an automatic revolver)
A Matchlock: pistol
A fully-automatic handgun: machine pistol (if it was specifically designed to he held like a pistol, otherwise it is a submachine gun)
A handheld cannon: handheld cannon, hand cannon or Handgonne

The futuristic looking Mateba Auto Revolver (from Wikipedia)

800Px-Yuan Chinese Gun
Chinese Hand cannon (from Wikipedia)

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Thank you kindly for the link!


  • jdun1911

    I should have bought a Mateba from CDNN 8 years ago for around $600 IIRC. I still have the old pdf catalog on my HD. What a shame.

    I don’t think they are in production anymore or no one is importing them to the USA.

    • Is that all they were going for back then? Wow. Used Mateba’s are $1500-2000+ now!

  • jdun1911

    I really wanted that auto Revolver tho. Just didn’t have the money in my firearms collecting budget at that time. By the time I did CDNN sold them all. A damn shame.

    The old CDNN online pdf catalog format has price listed. The newer ones doesn’t. You have to call them. The paper catalog that they sent to my home has the price listed tho. Weird.

    I’ll send you the old CDNN pdf catalogs via email, Steve.

    Latest catalog.

  • The Mateba patents expired December 15th 2007. That means anyone could put one into production now. Of course there may be a design (style not mode of operation) patent on it still, I think those last longer.

    Anyways the problem is nobody wants a new one. They only want them as a curiosity. They didn’t want them when they were new the first time. They’re heavy and have limited capacity.

    I wouldn’t buy one, and I’m a sucker for “novel” firearms. I’d probably buy a used one though.

  • Guest