Handguns are more often considered self-defense weapons for use under 50 yards. Handgun cartridges are much more limited in their energy capacity than rifle cartridges. Many handgun cartridges are optimized for best performance from shorter barrels than typically found in rifles. In comparison to rifles, handguns are smaller, lighter, and easier to carry. Typical action types for handguns are; revolving cylinder, single shot and semi-automatic.
Hand cannons are the biggest, loudest, most powerful handguns in the shooting world today, firing cartridges from the famous .44 Remington Magnum up to the mammoth .50 caliber BMG, used mostly for big-game hunting purposes.
Revolvers And History:
Black powder revolvers were developed using the flintlock ignition system but were far from satisfactory. The small charge of loose priming powder used in the flintlock ignition system had to be prevented from falling out as the cylinder revolved, this problem was never adequately solved.
It wasn't until the percussion cap was perfected that a reliable revolver could be used effectively. The percussion cap, snugly fit on the nipple of a cylinder and the nipple was fitted directly behind the powder charge in the cylinder creating a near perfect in-line ignition system, the cap would not fall off when the cylinder was rotated or held in any position.
Other improvements like rifled barrels made revolvers and other pistols accurate and very effective to a range of 50 to 75 yards, depending on the caliber and projectile used.
When the Civil War broke out, there were at least 60 pistol manufacturers in the United States most of which were located in the New England states, with Colt, Remington, and Smith & Wesson dominating the market.
Both Colt and Remington were in business during the early and mid 1800's and by 1847, the Colt six shot revolver had already been adopted for military use by mounted troops. During the Civil War, the U.S. Government purchased 373,077 percussion pistols.