When we think of revolvers, we automatically start seeing images of gunmen in the wild west shooting up saloons and putting down bad guys. The revolver is a quintessential part of American gun history, and it holds a special place in our hearts.
Unfortunately, many people believe that revolvers are quickly turning into a novelty item with little potential practical use, and it’s a crying shame.
Despite the growing sentiment that revolvers should be relegated to collectors and old movies, there are plenty of good reasons to keep these guns in your regular carry rotation. Furthermore, there’s a strong argument to support the notion that these guns will NEVER be outdated like some people say.
You might be surprised to hear that, but give us a chance to tell you why.
Off the Grid News tells us more:
Revolvers are here to stay, despite the fact that they hold a limited number of rounds and are slower to reload when compared to semiautomatic handguns. Does that mean that you need a six-shooter in your handgun battery?
For more than a century revolvers were the de facto “go-to” handgun for civilians, soldiers and peace officers. They remained in service after the introduction and adoption of the semiautomatic pistol, and their decline has only been over the past two to three decades.
Manufacturers continue to produce revolvers, and it seems that every time we try to write them off as obsolete, that a new model comes forth.
What is it about the revolver that still endears it to so many shooters?
For many shooters, revolvers hearken back to a simpler time. Whether it is from watching Western-themed movies or police dramas set from the 1940s through the late 1980s, the revolver played a dominant role from the taming of the frontier through the end of the Reagan era.
Many new revolvers coming to market are designed for period re-enactors who need to replicate arms from the Civil War, through the Old West up through the Roaring 20s.
As a student of history, the author can certainly appreciate revolvers from this standpoint.
There was a time when revolvers held the advantages of simplicity and reliability. The modern semiautomatic pistol has finally come into its own in this regard, but for many years they were denigrated as being “fussy with ammo types,” “prone to malfunction” and – heaven forbid — the “need to be maintained and cleaned.”
There is a lot to be said for any firearm that can be left loaded for long periods of time, remain reliable, have no worries about automatic ejection of spent casings before firing another round and no reliance on external safeties.
Many new semiautomatic pistols have this same advantage, but it is one thing that cannot be taken away from the revolver.
Apart from the reenactor revolvers, there are two other classes of revolver that shooters want to see. The first of these are the small, compact revolvers that can easily slide into a pocket holster and be carried comfortably all day.
The J-Frame Smith & Wesson revolvers and the mini revolvers from companies such as North American Arms make for outstanding concealed carry or backup guns to a primary defensive handgun.
Some revolvers with concealed or shrouded hammers can be fired from inside a pocket; not even the best compact 380 can manage that.
The other type of revolvers that shooters seem to want is the Magnum caliber revolver. Beyond 357 Magnum, 41 Magnum and 44 Magnum, there is an entirely new class emerging in the 454 Casull, 460 S&W and 500 S&W cartridges.
These large caliber wheel guns have all but replaced the various single shot and bolt-action pistols chambered in rifle cartridges for handgun hunting due to similar and sometimes superior ballistics — not to mention their ease of use when compared to the bolt action “mini rifle handguns.”
Semiautomatic handguns in these calibers need to be overbuilt in order to handle the pressures and the slides made much heavier.
Even with some modern auto pistol rounds (like the 10mm fired through a 6-inch Glock 40), the power factor is at the lower end of the power scale when compared to the revolver cartridge it is trying to emulate.
For a hunting handgun, the revolver is still king.
Regardless of the type of revolver, the hallmark of a wheel gun is its simplicity and shorter learning curve. We learned how to shoot on semiautomatic pistols, and when we started as an instructor we were convinced we could teach all our students the same way.
For some shooters, though, the revolver has a quicker learning curve. It may be they are distracted by ejecting brass, have difficulty with slide manipulation or are enamored by the superior grip characteristics of a classic Colt or Smith. If part of your goal is to introduce new people to the shooting sports, a spare 38 Special revolver can help a newcomer who might otherwise give up.
I simply like revolvers, for many of the reasons cited above. My Colt SAA is a piece of history at more than 115 years old, and a Colt Detective Special conceals easier in the summer months than a Glock 19. Additionally, my S&W 500 can drop an elk at 50 yards.
Now that you’ve heard the case for revolvers, what do you think? Was that enough to sell you, or are you still skeptical? Maybe you’re already a faithful revolver fan. No matter your inclination, give us your thoughts in the comments.
I agree. I carry a Colt Python as my duty weapon as an Elmore County Alabama constable.
How about ease of shooting & loading one-handed, compared to any auto I know of? With either hand?
While I taught myself how to cock a 1911A with one hand it’s not easy… and if one hand was iniured it’d be more problematic
Carried my Python on duty for more than 20 years. Never had a misfire or a jammed round. Gave it away after I retired and I still miss it.
Yes, it only held 6 rounds and it was slow to be reloaded compared to the 1911 I also owned, but I never had to quickly reload it except at the range.
If one is in an extended shoot out, there is never enough rounds. Only had one need to use it and two rounds was all it took to permanently end the issue.
My first handgun was a Ruger Security Six. I sold it to a smoke jumper friend who I thought needed a powerful reliable gun when he went into the back country. We still have an older .38 Special we keep in the house in a strategic spot ‘just in case.’ I am looking for another .357 revolver now.
I bought a 380 to qualify fort a concealed weapon license. I tried to shoot it my finger could not pull the trigger. My instructor let me use his 9mm and I out shot everyone including the men. I’m thinking I’ll buy a revolver with a concealed hammer so I can keep it in my specially made purse. Suggestioms?
I’ve got a colt .357 that I had sent to me in Vietnam in 1966. Revolvers do have a place and with some of the new stuff can be reloaded very quickly.
Have always Love Revolvers. That is all I have ever owned. Sure, you only have 6 shots, but a Good Shot should not need more.
I agree – I have semi-auto handguns (and, where available, carbines in a matching caliber – and/or even using the same mags as the pistol), but the range of available calibers and the necessary limits on the power of rounds fired from a semi-auto seriously reduces their utility. Let’s face it, next to even a .38, a .40 cal. sounds “weak” and a 9mm sounds absolutely “limp”. Consequently, my “go to gun” for traipsing in the woods is my trusty .357 cal. revolver, loaded with 158 grain XTP rounds – more than adequate to handle cougar and black bear, the most likely encounters I would have out here. Sure, a 9mm might do the job, but there’s a confidence factor in the .357 Mag that the semi-auto lacks (and attempts to create semi-autos in heavy duty, revolver loads, most specifically, the “Desert Eagle” .357 Mag, .44 Mag, or .50 AE are prone to all kinds of malfunctions; by contrast, when I pull the trigger on a revolver, I’m pretty much guaranteed a suitable result). And unlike carbines firing semi-auto pistol loads, I can seriously up the power of the loads I carry in my matching, wheel gun caliber carbine (when I back up my .357 wheel gun with a Henry Big Boy, I put 180 grain, hard cast “bear loads” in the carbine, a sure discouragement to aggressive critters which won’t take “no” for an answer). There are lots of good things to be said for semi-autos, but unless and until they can reliably handle the loads I regularly put through even the least capable of my revolvers, they will be a poor second choice for security in the wild.
My first revolver was a H & R 9 shot 22. My other revolver is a Taurus 357 with a ported barrel. I still have both and so the them regularly.
I’m an old retired cop… My first job was in a little town with a two man police force. I was issued an old military surplus Colt .38 Special that I carried until I could afford my own Ruger Security Six in .357. That wheel gun was my constant companion until I was appointed Chief of Police in a very tough town that had not had any effective law enforcement for many years. Officer involved shootings were fairly common so the .357 was traded in on a new Ruger RedHawk in .44 Mag. It was usually stuffed full of Winchester Silvertips in .44 Special, with one speed loader full of full house magnums for serious social work. My back up was a J-Frame .38 Special and thank God I never needed it. After a couple years of turning the department around, I went to work for a much larger department that required us to carry semi-autos, so the Gold Cup came out of the safe and became my primary duty weapon for many years. Even though it is a beautiful pistol, I always missed my old revolvers. Even now, with my choice of many different pistols in .380, 9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP I find myself grabbing my wheel guns for a day at the range. I love my old single action Rugers in .22, .357, .41Mag and .45 Colt. These are the handguns I’m teaching my grandkids to shoot before they’ll ever touch a semi-auto. So you see, this old copper will never give up my revolvers. When I pick one up, I can feel all of my own history come alive and all those old stories once again remind me of my life spent serving my community.
I own a number of semi automatic pistols and they are all very good quality firearms. Colt, Sig Sauer, and Walther. If I bet my life on any of them it is the .357 Colt Python I keep in my bedroom. Simple, always reliable, NO BULLSHIT!
After 20+ years in local L.E. I am now a Sheep Dog and carrying what I like, a revolver in .38+P. I have had them all, 1911’s, Glocks and an assortment of wheel guns and I have always chosen a revolver when the option was mine. BTW-“Constable”, bravo on the Colt Python. I carried one in Louisiana as a deputy sheriff.
I own a number of quality semi-automatic pistols. Colt, Sig Sauer and Walther. The one I depend on to protect myself and my family, the one in my bedroom is a Colt Python .357 Magnum. No bells and whistles, no bullshit, just total reliability you can bet your life on.
I own 3 revolvers including an older model Colt 32-20, my first pistol was a Ruger Security six in 357 mag. I also own a Taurus tracker in 44 mag it is just plain fun to shoot but ammo is pricey.
I too have a Colt 32-20. where do you get your ammunition for it these days? I bought it and it’s in spectacular condition and I’m almost afraid to shoot it as in such great shape however when I pass it to my son I would like to pass along some ammunition
Both Midway USA and Sportsmans Guide list some ammo and reloading equipment for the 32-20. I am sure you could find it at some of the other mail order suppliers such as Brownells, Cheaper than Dirt, Natchez shooting supplies and others as well.
My Taurus Judge shoots a variety of 410s and a 45 long. 1st shot to home invaders is a rushed shot of 65-#6 pellets to the face, then the next guy get a defender, the 3rd gets 3- 000 buck, then a tight group of 4 copper buck, & if needed a semi-jacketed 45 long that can go through a door to get him.
most people in America the first gun they had ever seen was probably a revolver. I love revolvers and you are right about the learning curve hold a semi-automatic the wrong way and you hurt your thumb don’t get your pinky out of the way when you lock the magazine in place you end up with a blood blister on your pinky. having said all that I still carry a semi-automatic. but my backup is a 357 Magnum Ruger LCR and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 44 Magnum is the largest I’ve ever shot in a revolver but I do so want to try a 454 Casull. maybe one of these days. Really great article. I recommend a revolver to anyone who is a beginner at shooting male or female and like always when you start a new shooter a starter mount on a 22. The first guy I ever fired was my dad’s 9 shot 22 snub nose revolver. I forget who made it but it was a Dandy.
sorry about the typos I was using voice to text and of course I didn’t proofread it.
You neglected to mention that reloaders do not have to search for the fired casings.
Of course I played with my little Colt detective special or j frame cap guns and we all had Colt SAAs, but my first real handgun was a Walther blowback pistol. I learned to shoot a semi auto before a revolver and never looked back. At one point over the years, I picked up a 3″ j frame but I never liked shooting it, and having 5 rounds instead of 8 or 10 made no sense. When I got my ccw permit about a year and a half ago, I decided on a Beretta 92. Unquestionable reliability and 16 rounds of my favorite 9mm. But it’s a big beast.
I’m pretty old school in most things but I never considered a revolver. Until recently. I began shopping for a used revolver, something retro for fun. A buddy came over and he loved my j frame. I started to play with it more. .38s are fun.
Well, I couldn’t find any used revolvers but a search turned up the Rock Island Colt detective special. I read a few reviews and heard all kinds of good things. American Rifleman raved about it. I broke down and ordered an M200, 4″ 6 shooter. It’s simple and reliable. It’s smooth. And it feels great. Just order a set of Pachmayr grips for a Colt D frame. Now it’s my daily carry with 3 speed strips in my pocket. It hides much better in my waistband. I love being a revolver guy now. I still have my rotation but the six gun is my go to now.
Had a instructor (renewal of carry permit) that used a dummy semi auto and walked around, saying TAP and RACK, tap the mag and rack the slide. tap and rack, tap and rack! an older gentilman behind me finally said “You don’t have to do that shit with a wheel gun” !!!!!
And did I mention that factory magazines for the 92 can be found for about $25. Others might be more. My Beretta 71 Jaguar in .22 costs me $100 for a factory magazine. $35 for the cheap aftermarket ones. But speed strips for a .38 are $5 or $6 bucks. I’ve found them 2 for a dollar.
2 for ten dollars. Don’t you hate autocorrect?
When I became a cop in 1969 with my 1st uniform allowance I purchased a Colt 38 Detective Special of about the 1935 era for a back up & off duty…I still have it & it’s my favorite CCW weapon.
I carry a Springfield xds45. away from home.
In the home my first goto is the Taurus 7 round 357 mag. Revolver.
At night, in the dark, it is a no brainer reliable weapon. And with 7rounds, it will be all over in
I prefer the old revolvers. I have hunted with a S W 357 and always bring my deer and elk home. Can’t do that with a flat gun no matter the caliber.
Welcome Caleb to the Proper Perspective, finally! I’m glad you’ve finally seen the light. For my part, I almost enjoyed shooting a little Sig .380 not long ago…
You missed a point. I am going on 80 years old and no longer have the strength to cock a pistol I have gone back to revolvers for that reason.
I have numerous revolvers as well as semi-autos and as far as reliability the wheel gun is hard to beat
While semi’s HAVE improved in their adaptability and function, the revolver is still ahead in that department. They are still much less “fussy” about what ammo they WILL shoot. For that reason, and the inherent superior strength of the revolver’s design, I would still strongly advise the survivalist to possess at least one revolver. If it’s chambered in the same round as your semi-auto, and quite a few are, so much the better.
I had a little 380 Auto for my wife. She never liked it. The main complaint was that the slide was too small for her to grip, to charge it. She said “I just want to put the bullets in it, and shoot it.” She picked up a Ruger, light weight, in 38 special, and she loves it. It’s the old story of, it has to be comfortable to carry. That little 38 revolver in her pocket is worth 10 times as much as a 44 mag, out in the car!
I liked all the comments thus far but some of the more important issues were never talked about! That being some of the more glaring issues regarding pistols.
#1 revolvers never have what is called stove pipe issues whereby the spent/ fired cartridge does not clear the gun resulting in a jam!
#2) I’ve seen on different sites that one should NEVER leave the magazines loaded for extended periods of time as the spring will have a tendency to weaken
and not put the next round up to enter the chamber properly Ergo stove piping of the fired round!
#3) I’ve also have read that one should NEVER have the same bullet at the top of the magazine! One should ALWAYS rotate the bullets and never have the same one
as the number one bullet because of push back of the bullet into the casing causing much higher internal pressure! Also in that regards another article stated that
continual using the same round as the first bullet, because of the slam- bam into the chamber sometimes dislodges the internal primer loose and one ends up
with a dud!! Just what one needs at a critical time, a dud! Semiautomatic rifles also suffer from this! The push back of the bullet into the case and dislodged primers!
As much as I would like an AR-15 or better yet an AR-10 chambered in the .308 cal. they all suffer from the spring, push back and primer issues!
About the only good thing with semiautomatic pistols/ rifles are the much higher capacity magazines and ease of reloading but like several people pointed out a well placed shot and one probably doesn’t need the extra rounds anyhow unless one is in a “major” shootout!!
I have a 40 cal. Glock 23 pistol, which I love but NEVER leave the mag fully loaded. My next purchase will be a wheel gun/ revolver with a 7 shot capacity in the .357 cal.
as in most of them one can shoot the .38 specials!! One can leave them fully loaded forever and not have to worry about a weakened spring or dislodged primer!! Maybe I’m a little overboard on the spring issue but it only stands to reason! The place I purchased my Glock from said that isn’t an issue with Glock’s. Well I don’t want to find out the hard way! Real easy to clean by the way!!
For those who either have or love pistols please heed the above 3 warnings if you don’t already!! The article I read about the dislodged primers said that some police people
found out about it during a critical time and had to cycle the slide to get a “LIVE” round into the chamber!! It also stated that many officers when clearing their weapon just put the previously chambered round right back in the top of the mag. It also stated that should you do it more then 2/ 3 times that round should be put in a box of ammo designated for the range as a dud there is of little consequence! I’m no gun guru but I do a lot of reading. Don’t get me wrong I love my Glock but am well aware of the drawbacks of pistols!!
My wife and I both have a revolver bedroom gun, 10′ from our bed in our walk-in closet. Wife has a 38 special and mine is a S&W 357 magnum. Practice routinely to shoot accurately. Be prepared and Practice, Practice and more Practice.
While I would certainly not dispute the reliability that PROPERLY MAINTAINED wheelguns enjoy, I have fired literally thousands of rounds through my AR-15 and have NEVER had a bullet push back into the case or have a primer dislodge. And I have fired my reloads, factory ammo, and military issue as well as military surplus ammo. I also have put at least 2000 rounds of various kinds through my Colt Gold Cup in .45 auto and have NEVER had a malfunction. If you buy a quality weapon, clean it properly, oil it very well with a quality lubricant, you should not have any problems–even in the jungle. When I was in Vietnam, I never had a CAR-15 or a 45 auto malfunction either, except for the time we got a bad lot of 5.56 ammo or when my extractor broke in the middle of a firefight. That was really disconcerting, but it was not an ammo issue. For the past year I have been putting an M&P 45 through its paces. What a joy to shoot. Everything I have already said applies to this pistol as well. In fact, I liked it so much, I got an M&P 40 to use as a carry gun. I don’t know where some of these people get their terminal ballistics information, but a properly loaded 40 will penetrate 9 layers of denim and then create a vicious wound channel 10-12 inches long (Liberty 40 cal). Just so you know, Liberty also makes a 45 auto round that exits the barrel at 1900+ feet per second. Who’s the guy who said that semi-auto pistol rounds are “wimpy?” And with hardball the 40 cal will definitely penetrate a wall and kill the bad guy behind it. Don’t believe me? Let’s try it with you behind the wall.
Oh and by the way, ever had a revolver whose cylinder got out of timing? The first time you generally notice this malfunction is when you can’t pull the trigger. Oops! And for the guy whose primers magically pop out of his rounds, recoil is recoil pal, whether it’s in a semi-auto or in a revolver. I have fired at least 10,000 rounds of various kinds and calibers (probably more) during my lifetime. I’m 68 and am a competitive shooter and have never had a firearm malfunction not attributable to a broken part or faulty ammo. And while I was in Vietnam, my magazines were loaded all the time, except for the brief amount of time it took to clean them and I never had a problem.
And last but not least, my M&P 40 is less than 1″ thick up top, the grip being just a bit larger. Tell me what revolver that fires this cartridge, or one with similar terminal ballistics, is this thin. Don’t bother, there isn’t one. And this little guy carries 7+1. So that BS being shoveled above me here about revolvers being more concealable than semi-autos is just that–BS.
Don’t get me wrong, revolvers have a legitimate place in our arsenals. But before you disparage the semi-auto pistol or rifle, be sure your facts are facts and not something you or some other “expert” just conjured up in your mind. My granddaughter said I should always end my emails with LOL (Lots of Love), so LOL y’all and happy shooting..
I agree! You’d enjoy my articles that I actually wrote:
My wife and I both love our 38 revolvers! Easy to load, shoot and then reload the spent brass with the cast bullets I make at home. Been doing it for over 35 years. For EDC it’s Critical Defense, and the 38 IS our EDC.
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