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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Is it really that hard to shoot with a pistol?

Anonymous Mc Cartneyfan: It's not that. Rifles have longer ranges than pistols because they have long, relatively skinny barrels. Once the bullet escapes the long skinny barrel of a rifle, inertia will keep it going on the general path the barrel tunnel started it on. Pistols have shorter and stubbier barrels; instead of accuracy at a long range, they give more damage, or more controlled damage, at the ranges where they are accurate.

Eric DVH: The major difference between rifles and pistols is that the ammunition rifles use is bigger, most particularly, rifle ammunition has far more propellent. Bigger ammo means more energy, and more energy means better accuracy over long range (among numerous other benefits.) You can obviously get the same effect with a pistol by loading rifle ammo, though this obviously results in much greater recoil. Fancy exhaust systems can delay kickback or spread it out over time, but the only way a normal gun can actually eliminate kick is to make the gun heavier or better brace it against something (like the shooter's body.) Rifles do both of these things, and as a result they can be used with more energetic ammo than a pistol while having little or no additional recoil.

The shorter barrels of pistols, like their light weight and (typical) lack of stocks/grips/mounts, reduce damage at all ranges. Pistols make these sacrifices purely for convenience and maneuverability.

RS 14:
  • The sight radius on a pistol is much smaller than on a long gun. What this means is that a small displacement of the sights off the desired aim-point has a much greater effect on the direction of the barrel than it would on a rifle.
  • A rifle has much better support. It is stabilized by the off hand and the shoulder, as well as, to a lesser extent, the dominant hand and cheek. A pistol is shot with one or two hands supporting it relatively far from the body.
  • Rifle sights also tend to be more accurate. The sights on pistols are usually constructed so they will not snag on clothing when drawn, and are relatively bulky, to be rapidly acquired. Contrast the front sight of a Lee Enfield or a Mauser 98K with the sights of a typical Glock. This is not even considering that rifles will often be fitted with more sophisticated optics, e.g. Reflex or Telescopic sights.
  • Rifle rounds also tend to have far superior external ballistics. A typical 9x19mm Parabellum pistol might propel a relatively short bullet at 300-400m/s. A typical 7.62x51mm NATO rifle might fire a long, boat-tailed bullet of a comparable weight at 800m/s or so. This means that the rifle bullet will drop less, per unit of distance. It should also slow less rapidly.
(This greater velocity is the result of both a greater quantity of propellant and of the longer barrel permitting a longer period of acceleration).