A pistol is a handgun, more specifically one with the chamber integral to its gun barrel, though in common usage the two terms are often used interchangeably. The English word was introduced in ca. 1570 – when early handguns were produced in Europe and is derived from the Middle French pistolet (ca. 1550), meaning a small gun or knife. In colloquial usage, the word "pistol" is often used to describe any types of handgun, inclusive of revolvers (which have a single barrel and a separate cylinder housing multiple chambers) and the pocket-sized derringers (which are often multi-barrelled).
The most common type of pistol used in the contemporary era is the semi-automatic pistol, while the older single-shot and manual repeating pistols are now rarely seen and used primarily for nostalgic hunting and historical reenactment, and the fully automatic machine pistols are uncommon in civilian usage due to generally poor recoil-controllability and strict laws and regulations governing their manufacture and sale.