When is a pistol not a pistol?

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

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)

Chinese Hand cannon (from Wikipedia)
Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

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2 of 6 comments
  • GetGunInCanada GetGunInCanada on Nov 24, 2009

    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 Guest on Aug 13, 2014

    "from early matchlocks" ...

    How about from early "pistala", the 14th century Czech firearm that gave pistol its name?