There has been volumes written about the pros and cons of revolvers vs. semi automatic pistols so I'm going to focus this post on a more practical application of the two: the "Stuff & Go Gun".
Stuff & go means exactly as it sounds. It refers to the need to occasionally be able to quickly & easily grab a gun, stuff it in your pants and go. This need can arise at anytime in any clothing you might be wearing at the time. I can't count how many times I've needed to do this to: take the dog out, run to the grocery store for creamer so my wife can enjoy a cup of coffee, grab Waffle House to bring home for breakfast (like this morning), or going out to eat after working out at the gym. At these times I'm not in my typical work week clothing which dictates belted pants and a tucked in shirt, but in a t-shirt and shorts or sweatpants. Although, for me it's not an everyday carry method it is a definite need if I want to be armed at all times.
Some of you are going to ask, "Why not pocket carry?". The simple answer is that in order to pocket carry you must first have a pocket. The beauty of S&G is that all you need (clothing-wise) is a waistband and some kind of shirt which if you're going out in public you're most likely going to have. This, of course, doesn't take into account dresses (which my wife is glad I don't wear).
The requirements for a firearm to be a S&G gun may vary from person to person based on hand size, recoil sensitivity, body type and caliber preference. The fundamental characteristics will typically be small size & light weight to maximize comfort & concealment ability. The guns I am going to use in this comparison I've found to meet all of these requirements (after a little tweaking). The semi-auto is a Kahr PM9. The PM9 is uniquely suited for concealed carry because of it's amazing measurements and weight for a subcompact 9mm with 6+1 capacity. The revolver is a Charter Arms Undercover .38 special in double action only (DAO). This Undercover isn't the lightest offering by CA, but the extra ounces translate into less recoil & better control when shooting +P ammo.
Here's a direct comparison by the numbers:
-----------------Kahr PM9------Charter Arms Undercover .38
Carry Weight-----20.8 oz-----------------19.2 oz
Caliber------------9mm------------------.38 spl +P
Note: Carry weight takes into account everything needed to carry the gun in S&G condition. That means loaded with whatever carry grips or holster needed.
As you can see the semi's smaller in every dimension, but the revolver's lighter and in true revolver fashion because of it's rounded shape the extra tenths of an inch don't inhibit it's concealability. Neither of these guns comes out of the box ready for S&G carry since on the standard gun there's nothing to keep it from sliding down the waistband. Here's how I solved that problem and also what I added to aid in shooting comfort.
The RevolverDecades ago a company came up with an innovative idea to enable a revolver to be carried inside the waistband without a standard holster so it won't slide down. The Barami Corporation created the Barami Hip Grips that use a "right grip panel that has an "extension" that flares away from the gun slightly, creating a surface that when inserted inside the waistband (trousers, shorts, skirts, etc.) it hooks over it" (taken straight from their website). It's a very convenient way to carry as you never have to tote around the extra weight or bulk of a holster. The downside to the hip grips are that it does replace the comfortable factory grips. They don't add any extra height or length. Because they are so minimal there's not much to get a solid grip so I added another innovation from decades ago, the Tyler T-grip. The T-grip is a simple attachment to the front strap of the grip that allows more for your fingers to hold onto. They are made for many different size revolvers so I got one designed for a larger revolver then trimmed off the bottom and then coated the whole thing in PlastiDip spray to give it a slightly rubbery feel.
The Semi Automatic
Some of you may see this picture and wonder why I choose to use a holster with this gun instead of going with something similar to the Barami Hip Grip such as the Covert Carrier. The reason I feel like a holster is necessary with this gun is because of how light the Kahr's trigger is at a little over 6 lbs. Although the pull is longer than any single action trigger it is noticeably shorter than that of the revolver. Because of both of these facts I don't feel comfortable carrying it without the trigger covered hence the holster. The holster is a homemade kydex one I pieced together from a previous holster I'd made. I integrated the clip into the holster to make it as thin as possible and it works. The clip works to stay attached to the waistband by catching it on the draw. The waistband must be fairly snug for it to work properly, but I don't like my shorts sagging so that's not an issue. For added comfort I added a Pearce Grip Extension to the magazine bottom which allows my whole hand to wrap around the grip.
They both look just like this when concealed so I'm just showing one picture.
The semi auto
As you can see concealment with either is great. The semi does have more grip to hide with the finger extension. On the draw the semi wins out because it's grip is more accessible and the kydex holster gives it a smooth release. The revolver has the disadvantage dealing with the width of the cylinder. In comfort the revolver bests the semi because there's less of it at the muzzle end, but the semi doesn't cause any pain. It is just more noticeable. The semi has the capacity advantage (7 vs. 5). The revolver has the weight advantage being 1.6 ounces lighter. In shooting they are both natural pointers. The semi gives better accuracy at distance though the revolver isn't too shabby. Of course, the revolver has less chance of jamming.
Each has it's pluses and minuses, but both can do the job of Stuff & Go and do it very well.