Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A pistol or handgun is a usually small, projectile weapon, normally fired with one hand. Thus either a revolver or a semiautomatic pistol meant for personal use (used by one person) in short-range action. In the 15th century the term pistol was used for small knives and daggers which could be concealed in a person's clothing. By the 18th century the term came to be used exclusively to refer to small firearms, or additionally, and more recently, similar devices designed for the aimed discharge of projectiles by the force of gas pressure stored by other than chemical means ("air pistol"). Although all handguns are generally referred to as pistols, many people restrict the term "pistol" to single chamber handguns, such as semiautomatic or single shot pistols, as opposed to multi-chambered revolvers or multibarreled derringers, and use handgun for the broader category.
They are used mainly by police officers, military commissioned officers, and civilians who want a compact self-defense weapon. Revolvers tend to be somewhat more common in the latter role while semiautomatic pistols are issued to police and military personnel.
Before use, locate the safety, learn how to safe the gun, remove all cartridges from the gun, and reload it. Learn how the "sight picture" of the sights should look, and have the sights adjusted for accuracy (by a recommended gunsmith if they appear unadjustable). Revolvers usually do not have a safety. Some automatic pistols (see below) have several.
Practice with the gun until these motions can all be performed properly by muscle memory during the first shot of the day.
Wear hearing and eye protection, and follow gun safety rules at all times, and the range safety rules and laws of your area.
Move the safety to off. Using both hands, raise the pistol to eye level, lining up the sights with the dominant eye to make the specified sight-picture. Be sure to hold the pistol tightly, but not so tightly that it trembles. Using the ball of the finger, pull the trigger straight back in a controlled way, and have a goal to fire as the sight picture drifts over the point of aim. When aimed properly, the center of a gun's sight picture will drift in small circles, with the edge of the circle vertically passing through the point of aim. The firing should be a surprise. Do not close either eye, let the barrel rise, or move after or because of firing. Immediately repeat the motions needed to fire again. When done, move the safety to on. Before storing the gun, unload it.
Two hands reduce tremble and movement more than twice as much. The classic shooting error is to jerk the trigger or gun as a result or in anticipation of discharge. Many people naturally want to hook the trigger with the first joint of the trigger finger, which pulls the aim to one side. Strength training can reduce the width of the circle of tremble.
Pick a gun which points well, and practice offhand fire. Prepare as for aimed fire, if time permits. Focus on a point of aim, but do not think about the position of the gun. Aim for the largest part of the target, and shoot until the gun is empty. In ranges above 10m, always use aimed fire, which is far more effective.
Always clean the gun immediately after use, and periodically. Store it well, service it periodically, and follow gun safety practices to secure it from unauthorized use. Guns rust, and many bullets use corrosive primers. For most users, pistols are safety equipment.
Pistols are an emergency self-defense weapon, for use when nothing else is available. If a shooter has a choice, any long-arm is more effective. Almost all long-arms have higher-energy ammunition, heavier bullets and better accuracy, both absolute (how accurate the gun is independent of the user) and practical (how easy it is to shoot the gun accurately).
For inexperienced or panicking shooters, the most reliable shot is the center of the torso, which has many essential organs. The usual fight-stopper is to shoot for the head, but this is far more risky. Many authorities therefore recommend shooting two in the chest, one in the head, and repeat until the enemy stops moving in response to hits.
Ballistics and elementary physics easily show that a gun has no "stopping power." If it did, the recoil would break the shooter's wrists. The only practical way to immediately incapacitate an opponent is to shoot them in the brainstem (a very difficult target), or in the long bones of the legs (also very difficult). Torso shots are relatively easy, but even a heart-shot enemy can take as long as twenty seconds to lose enough blood pressure to faint. Head shots are difficult in part because the skull can deflect the bullet. See internal ballistics and terminal ballistics.
There are no extremely-experienced pistol fighters. Most pistol fights are at such short ranges, and so dangerous that participants are wounded or killed very quickly if either side is at all skilled. Most pistol fights are surprise encounters under 10m of range. Most policemen fight less than two such fights in a thirty-year career, and most police fire three bullets or less per gun fight. Due to the stress and difficult conditions under which gunfights occur, it is not uncommon for dozens of rounds to be expended with no hits.
Pistols and gun control
Unlike rifles and shotguns, which are used for hunting, pest control, and sometimes livestock destruction, pistols (except in very rare circumstances) are useful only for competitions or for shooting at people (for self-defence or otherwise). They can also be easily concealed on a person - a trait that is particularly useful for committing crimes, and handguns are indeed widely used in gun crimes. For these reasons, handguns have been a particular focus of gun control advocates, and in many jurisdictions their ownership is much more heavily regulated than long arms.
Opponents of gun control sometimes argue that wide legal ownership of pistols, including the right to carry them concealed, will actually deter crime rather than increase it.
See the main gun control article for more details on this debate.
Varieties of pistol
Nowadays there are three main varieties of pistol: "automatic" self-loading pistols, and revolvers, being by far the two most common types, followed distantly by single-shot hunting or target pistols. Pedantically, the chamber wherein a pistol's charge is ignited, is fixed in relationship to its barrel—thus the term technically excludes revolvers, although in colloquial usage this distinction is often ignored, and revolvers are quite commonly, albeit informally, referred to as "pistols".
Revolvers feed ammunition via the rotation of a cartridge-charged cylinder, in which each cartridge is contained in its own ignition chamber, sequentially brought into alignment with the weapon's barrel by a mechanism linked to the weapon's trigger (double-action), or its hammer (single-action). These nominally cylindrical chambers, usually numbering six, are bored through the cylinder so that their axes are parallel to the cylinder's axis of rotation; thus, as the cylinder rotates, the chambers revolve about the cylinder's axis.
"Automatic" pistols use the recoil or gas energy of each round to cycle the action, extract the spent case, and load the next cartridge. Automatic pistols are more accurately semi automatic, in that each pull of the trigger fires a single bullet; however, there are a number of fully-automatic pistols such as the Glock 18 and later models of the Mauser C96. Single-shot pistols are loaded manually via the breech, either from a small magazine or by hand.
Other related info
The term may be derived from the French pistole (or pistolet), which, in turn, comes from the Czech pistala (flute or pipe, referring to the shape of a Hussite firearm). Other suggestions have been made—that it comes from city of Pistoia, Italy, where perhaps a manufacturer was one Camillio Vettelli in the 1540s; or that early pistols were carried by cavalry in holsters hung from the pommel (or pistallo in medieval French) of a horse's saddle.
- Mateba's official site (in English and Italian)
- A site about the Mateba Unica model 6 autorevolver
- Walther P1 disassembled with Pictures
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