I occasionally carry a Smith & Wesson 686 revolver (not shown) loaded with 135 gr. Hornady Critical Duty .357 Magnum cartridges. The Smith’s a heavy old thing that delivers a significant punch. And it looks so good. In fact, I reckon a 686 with a 4″ barrel is the quintessential handgun. But there are good reasons not to carry a 686 or any other revolver . . .

1. Revolvers don’t hold enough rounds

Perceived wisdom says most gunfights are a three-fer: three yards, three seconds, three rounds. If that held true for every defensive gun use, a five-shot snub-nosed revolver would be perfectly adequate for armed self-defense. In fact, you’d end up with two extra rounds!

Well, there’s no trustworthy data supporting the 3/3/3 assertion. And even if we accept this ballistic shibboleth, are you ready to bet your life that your gunfight will be like “most” gunfights? ‘Cause most revolvers hold six rounds. Given the chances of missing and/or encountering multiple attackers, that’s not a lot of ammo.

A proper semi-automatic handgun carries at least 12 rounds. What do I mean by proper semi-automatic handgun? A semi-automatic handgun that carries at least 12 rounds. My math skills are virtually non-existent, but I reckon that’s double the capacity of a six-shooter.

Now it’s true that many gun owners schlep diminutive semi-automatic firearms that stow seven rounds (six plus one in the chamber). And some states curtail residents’ gun rights by limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds. That’s not a whole lot of extra capacity. But . . .

2. You can’t reload a revolver

What? Sure you can! You can carry a speed loader and reload your revolver with another five or six rounds (count ’em, five or six). Or can you? As the Rabbi reminds us, the definition of an optimist is a revolver owner with a speedloader — ’cause it sure ain’t an easy thing to do when you’re under fire.

Not easy unless your name is Massad Ayoob and/or you’re willing to train hard at the skill of fast revolver reloading. And assuming you’re willing to carry the extra ammo. If you are, you’d be better advised to carry a semi-automatic pistol. The semi’s ammunition magazines are slimmer. While initially complicated and daunting, the reloading process is easier and thus faster. Much faster.

Is it the difference between life and death? It could be. Why take that risk? Especially when . . .

3. Revolver triggers are difficult to master

Controlling a revolver’s double-action trigger is not an impossible skill to master. In fact, learning to do so makes the wheelgun’s double-action trigger an excellent reason to own and practice with a revolver. If you can control a heavy double-action trigger — and they’re all heavy — a semi-automatic’s trigger will be a doddle.

While I’m at it, many people consider the revolver’s heavy double-action trigger an ideal safety feature. You shouldn’t, but you can rest your finger on the trigger without torching-off a round. As, unfortunately, many people do.

But when all’s said and done, the semi’s trigger is lighter and easier to control than a revolver’s. As your trigger press is one of, if not the most important variable when it comes to accuracy, more people are more accurate with a semi-automatic handgun than a revolver.

That said, many/most revolvers have an external hammer. You can cock the hammer and fire the gun in single-action — which gives you just as light a trigger press as a semi-automatic.

If you’re willing to master the revolver’s double-action trigger or fire it in single action mode when push comes to shove . . . you still face the issues of capacity and reloading efficiency.

As always, any gun is better than no gun. If you like your revolver, keep your revolver! But if you do carry a revolver, practice the trigger press ad infinitum (dry firing does your gun no harm) and carry spare ammo.

152 Responses to Top Three Reasons Not to Carry a Revolver

  1. If you carry a semi-auto, you’ll never get a chance to use the line “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five?” like Dirty Harry.

    Really, that’s all reason you need to carry a revolver.

  2. Needing a gun to defend oneself is unusual enough, that when you start adding in additional factors like using your gun to defend yourself against multiple attackers, needing more than a couple of rounds to stop the fight, etc., you’re starting to get into the realm of “damned unlikely”. I wear my seatbelt for the unlikely event that I get into a wreck, and I carry a J-frame in the unlikely event I need to use deadly force to defend myself. I don’t wear a helmet when I drive a car because it’s damned unlikely I’ll be in an accident where I need more than my seatbelt and airbag to keep me in one piece, and I usually don’t carry more than my 5 shot revolver because it’s damned unlikely I’ll ever need it, let alone more. Wanna carry a G17 and a couple spare mags? Go for it. Who cares. I practice and am proficient with my revolver and I’ve never felt under-armed with five rounds of .38.

    • Is it really that unlikely you’ll face more than one attacker? with 6 shots you can handle 2 attackers, 3 if you are lucky. Most violent criminals today seem to work in pairs or trios from the reports I’ve been reading. Even assuming that a revolver is enough for that, what if you happen to run into a group of wonderful social justice warriors that wish to peacefully re educate you over your Trump bumper sticker?

      • It’s really unlikely you’ll have to fight off any attackers at all, is more my point. Even less likely that it will be more than one. And it’s also very unlikely their buddy will stick around after you start ventilating the first one. So yeah, it’s really unlikely you’ll need to fight off multiple attackers with a gun. Very, very unlikely.

      • Multiple attackers is common, but from what I have observed in every single video I have seen, which is a considerable with YouTube and with Brazil being featured, in every incident where there are multiple perpetrators and a good guy with a gun starts shooting at one, the rest scatter like scared rodents.

      • Yes, it is very unlikely, unless you are in a war. If you are attacked by 20 large men, and explode the head of the closest one, you cannot react fast enough to draw a bead on the next closest before all have knelt at the altar of the nearest cathedral or flat evaporated. Unless you are in a line of work which should have you carrying select-fire. In 50 years all over the world, I have never needed to shoot one attacker, yet you wish to imagine a need to shoot dozens? Operate that operation, dude!

      • If you get 3 attackers, and you pull a gun on them, one of two things is going to happen. Either they will retreat, before you get a chance to shoot anyone, or maybe after the first shots – at which point it’s no longer self defense, and you’ll have to stop firing. Or they will try to swarm you, in which case you won’t have the time to shoot more than 5-6 rounds anyway before you’re incapable of shooting.

    • I’m 51 years young. I’ve been on the wrong side at the wrong time of many cities. Atlanta, New Orleans, Seattle, Detroit, San Francisco, to name a few. These were the days before I owned a gun. I never felt afraid. I never thought about getting mugged. I know it’s not 100% effective but I fancied myself as a strong fighter and a persona not resembling an easy mark.
      Now that I carry a gun, I find myself avoiding certain places and definitely certain times of night. I don’t carry to protect myself from a mugger or a working pair where a 686 Plus would be more than sufficient to defend myself. I carry in “safe” areas. Places where the most likely attack will be the well armed psychopath or terrorist bent on increasing body count rather than simple robbery.
      What are the odds? Stupid fucking question. Ask the victims of the Aurora CO theater that question.
      Revolvers are very effective. However, if and when I carry one, if I have to reload, it will be the New York variety and I will be going for my semi auto BUG.

        • 7 shot .357 magnum 3″ barrel, backed up by Glock 19 with spare Glock 17 mag, backed up by an LCR, backed up by a fixed blade, backed up by a folding knife.
          Sounds like a good pocket dump once you throw in a memo pad for field notes.

        • Pretty close! All you really need beyond all that is to stay home with the doors locked and the lights off. Permanently!

      • “I don’t carry to protect myself from a mugger or a working pair where a 686 Plus would be more than sufficient to defend myself.”

        I thought you were going to follow up with: “I carry to protect the mugger(s) from having to deal with the lashing my fists would otherwise deliver…..”

        You bring up a really important point. One which conscientious (assuming such exists)gun grabbers would be wise to consider: People who carry, are more likely than not to be doubly conscious of avoiding potentially troublesome areas. Simply because of the risk that they may be forced to use their gun, with all the subsequent headaches doing so entails. Chalk it up to yet another variation of “armed society, polite society.”

        • My “go to answer” when someone asks “Why did you bring a gun? Are you expecting trouble?” is “No. If I was expecting trouble, I wouldn’t be here.”

      • …..After you’ve spent the better part of the day trying to find the darned thing, that you just know is glowing somewhere out there……….

    • My end means is to stop others or myself from dying I’m not out to engage in a shoot out with a custom ar! I hope it’s one shot end of story I have no desire to get into a wild hi cap shoot out ccw ,
      rely on surprise and training. Glen

  3. Bullshit. If you can’t reload a revolver under stress you’ll try to jam a mag into a semi backwards and upside down. There are valid reasons for carrying either. But the reload isn’t a valid reason for not carrying a revolver.

    If I was a cop or soldier I’d want the latest and greatest semi to back up my patrol rifle or shotgun. But us non sworn citizens have the option to avoid trouble. And when trouble comes to us it will be close. Close enough for a semi to jam because of contact between 2 bodies or blood causing a slippery grip.

    And how do you reload your semi when one of your hands is injured too badly to function? And now your semi is soaked in your own blood causing all sorts of problems.

    Carry 2 handguns, regardless of type. A new york reload, especially if injured, is better than any other type of reload.

    Up nest, 3 reasons not to carry a 1911.

    • absolute agreement. Except for the next up part.
      The next up, by my count is; “3 reasons TO carry a revolver”. Then comes three reasons “Not to carry a 1911”, followed by 3 reasons to… and so on.
      But he’s running out of types of firearm for click bait. I predict the next tack will be; “three reasons why the 9mm is better than the .45 ACP.”, followed by 45 is better than 9, etc. That ought to serve for a while…

    • Agree that if you can’t reload a revolver, you will likely panic with an auto, as well.

      Three kinds of people carry. (There’s always three kinds, right?)

      Experienced, practiced, capable individuals who train well, and they know that they don’t know everything.

      Inexperienced people who think a little practice is all they need and they don’t know that they really know nothing.

      Inexperienced people who practice little, know it’s not enough, but would rather take a chance having a gun than not having one.

      Now, the first group can carry anything they want, IMHO, and they will have the highest survivability.

      the third group, well, give them a single mag, or a Bond Arms in .410, or a revolver, and they will shove it in someone’s stomach or face and pull the trigger. They probably have a better chance of surviving than if they didn’t have the gun.

      The second group, though… they will probably shoot themselves in the arse.

      • Revolver:
        BANG BANG… BANG BANG BANG….BANG CLICK CLICK. Push button, swing cylinder out, slap pin to eject shells find speed loader in pocket. ..not that pocket, the other pocket, insert cartridges, drop speed loader, close cylinder, get back in fight.

        Semi- auto:
        BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG…BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG…BANGBANGBANGBANGclick. Push mag release with while simultaneously reaching for backup mag. Insert new mag, rack slide, get back into the fight.

  4. Top Three reasons not to carry a semi-auto pistol:

    1) Most do not offer stand-off capability. If you are struggling with an attacker and push the barrel up against said attacker in a tight spot, your Glock or 1911 will not go bang. The revolver will happily go bang. Multiple times.

    2) If you carry your semi-auto in a front coat pocket, say in winter, or in a bag, and you don’t have time to fully draw it on an armed assailant, at best you will get off one shot before jamming. So much for 15+ rounds. Once again, multiple bangs, if need be, through your pocket or bag with a revolver.

    3) Really want to use a particular brand of defensive ammo, but your semi-auto cycles unreliably with it? Or maybe thats the only ammo you have on hand? Then you are out of luck. Find some other ammo. Revolver? As long as it isn’t a squib load or dangerously over charged, it will function just fine.

    Bonus:

    4) Have a misfire with a semi-auto? Tap, rack, bang or remove mag and rack and shake out double feed, etc etc….
    On a revolver? Pull the trigger again.

    But seriously, semi-auto or revolver, it really makes no difference to me as long as you fully train yourself and realize the limitations of your equipment.

    • What if hitlery had won?
      What if ISIS were not murderous?
      What will happen in 3 days? [AKA what will those lotto numbers be?]
      More to the point: ” it really makes no difference to me as long as you fully train yourself and realize the limitations of your equipment.” Wiser words are rarely spoken, after all the conjecture has been paraded. (I noticed you didn’t say which, or even if, you carried. Again, very wise!)

    • Bonus:

      5) No need to pick up your brass. If you didn’t reload, all empty brass will still be in the revolver. Very helpful if you are in a hurry and don’t want to leave more evidence laying around.

    • 1) A semi-auto will go bang. It will probably not chamber another round though.

      2) Not even a real issue.

      3) Most/Alot modern semi-autos that are broken in will shoot most ammo. If your ammo does not cycle reliably don’t use it.

      4) If you are CCWing a revolver it will most likely be 5 shot. If you got a dud round that is 20% or your ammo right there – so what if the clear technique is simpler (no last shot hold open either).

      On the real I do not own a revolver and if I was going to CCW I would pick up a snub nosed .38 🙂 Reasons 1 & 4 are legit 2& 3 NOT. Being able to power through and not have an enemy-induced-jam is major as a good number of gun fights are at grappling distances. #4 will kick in when you are not even thinking about it and will always be faster. Those 2 factors tell me that a revolver is better suited for 1-2 man confrontations and semi-autos for 3+ but more are of the 1-2 variety. AND statistically having a gun wins the day and when it does not discharging it does. Most of all this is debating 1% or less.

  5. Funny but I just saw Nick Nolte in 48 Hours in a gun battle. With a revolver. Very slow reload sans speed loader too. Since it was some 30 years ago everyone had a revolver…sorry give me a highcapacity 9mm ANYTHING. More fun on a movie set too?

  6. However did LEO’s and civilians ever defend themselves prior to the all powerful high cap semi auto???

    Or, how ever did the “Saturday Night Special” ever manage to earn such a name?

    My Taurus M85 Ultra-Lite snubby carries just fine for me.

    Wheel guns is real guns. Sometimes you do these types of posts on purpose don’t you?

    • “Or, how ever did the “Saturday Night Special” ever manage to earn such a name?”

      It goes back to the ’68 Gun Control Act’ as a ‘whistle word / term for very inexpensive handguns that used zinc alloys in their construction of the frame-slide.

      The claim was it was for ‘safety’. The unspoken point of gun laws that use the ‘melt temperature’ specification is to make guns less affordable to poor people the elites didn’t want armed. (That’s right – they didn’t want the people of the ‘wrong’ skin color to be armed.)

      Like many gun laws, they have blatantly racist origins…

      http://www.guncite.com/journals/economic.html

      • A very experienced modern shootist, a watch shop owner in LA, survived enough gun battles to make Doc Holliday look like a noob.

        He thru his Sig away because he had been wounded and his own blood made it impossible to properly grip the pistol. He pulled an S&W revolver and prevailed in the fight.

        If you believe you cannot win a gun fight simply based on the gun you’re carrying you’re right. You’ll lose. Equipment doesn’t win a fight. The man using it does.

    • “Sorry, but wheel gunners have been winning fights since Doc Holiday.”

      At the OK Corral Doc carried an 18″, 10 gauge coach gun as his primary weapon.

  7. “just as light a trigger press as a semi-automatic.”

    Holy bullshit, Batman! I like semis, carry one every day, anymore. But there will not be anyone convincing me that there has ever been a semi with a trigger to match my bone stock ’73 Python in single action fire, which was essentially all I ever used. With hot loads, cocking the hammer as the gun comes down out of recoil is quickly automatic. If you need more than 6 shots of .357, you are in a war, and should be using a rifle (semiautomatic). The only complaint I consider valid about revolvers is one I also never hear-after a couple shots, if I have occasion to reholster, I will drop the hammer, and then a live round is no longer in sequence until a lengthy and complex reloading process.

  8. Nothing wrong with a quality revolver. I have a SW 642 in my rotation but mostly carry my MP Shield. Really boils down to training and what works for you. The capacity thing is funny to me because there was always the argument that 5-6 rounds wasn’t enough. But soon as the single stacks hit the market everyone went crazy and those became the carry standard . Revolvers work just fine. If you think you will encounter 4-5 bad guys you need to pack up and move your family to a new town or carry an AR . Very unlikely scenario that you will need 45 rounds on your person but you never know…

    • Single stacks are popular because many people with smaller hands have an issue with the large grips of a double stack. Plus a double stack is thicker and harder to conceal.

      • Correct. I’m just making fun of those who said a revolver didn’t hold enough rounds but they all flocked to the single stacks which only give you 1-2 extra rounds compared to a revolver. I enjoy my Shield very much but also like my 642 a bunch

      • Mark, I’m a 70 year old lady, only 5 feet tall. My hands are small. I have carried an XD compact 9mm for many years. It carries 16 +1 rounds, and I have no problem shooting it with either hand, together or alone. I have found that the double stack is not a problem with the right trigger configuration. I can’t fire any Glock or 1911 I’ve ever picked up… because the trigger is too far from the grip! I simply can’t reach the trigger on those guns. It’s not the size of the grip that is the problem here.

        I also carry a 16 round spare magazine. Can’t imagine when or how I’d ever need 33 rounds of ammunition, or would need to reload, but anything might happen. I’m too old and disabled to do any running away.

  9. The nice thing about living in “flyover country” is that my chances of running into more than two bad guys at one time are astronomically low. However, when I do go to the big city, I wear a semi-auto and carry a spare magazine. For local carry, I’m comfortable carrying a revolver. In other words, it’s about the right tool for the job at hand.

      • Why yes I have as a matter of fact. The leader said he was the Mayor of Buck Lake. The mayor was taken down a few days later after I reported the confrontation.
        I didn’t shoot the idiot because he didn’t get within range and I didn’t want to mess with all the paperwork.

        • this made me think of iggy pop cooking while wearing gorgeous gingham deep in the woods in the movie deadman. but he was cooking stew.

  10. 1. Not even close to enough ammo.
    2. Weight/size ratio compared to ammo capacity is terrible.
    3. Reload speed is significantly slower.

    • Depends on the style. S&W airlites are ridiculously light. I’ve carried my 44M and it’s probably at least a pound lighter than my P226, and far more powerful. The downside is of course the lack of capacity, with the 44 having 6 shots compared to the Sig’s 15.

      • There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. I’ve played with some scandium framed 38’s, and it’s stupid how light they are. If we’re going to somewhat compare apples to apples, is an air weight 5 shot 38 heavier than an LCP, 6+1 .380? One is bigger for sure. I’m just a fan of “more is better/merrier.” I’ve tried for years to really love and appreciate revolvers, but with size, weight, capacity and cost of ammo, a semi auto wins in every category.

  11. I am really enjoying these click bait articles, the articles themselves are ok at best, but the comment wars make me very happy. Don’t know why so many people are so concerned with what other people carry.

    • Good observation about click-bait articles in general. The comments are fun and so’s the debate on this subject. Sometimes very informative too. Good way to chew up some time in early evening. Thanks.

  12. Any real life stories out there? This is the usual speculation we all love to engage in. I’ve got a friend who ran a business in Brooklyn, his concealed revolver did just fine. The highlights in favor of a revolver? Never jams even after severely clubbing someone with it. When snuggly imprinted in flesh or a body cavity, like an ear, it can’t be easily displaced and would still fire. When lodged in an ear and the hammer is pulled back it really gets someone’s attention, even when the eardrum is broken. They in turn notify others who will do exactly what you ask. You can imagine the scenario, very close encounter, and it’s about as likely as any other. Actually more likely. Another friend recently told me of a co-worker who shot a home intruder. The intruder turned out to be a very nice guy after being shot only once. Another friend’s son was protected against a knife wielder by a security guard who only had to shoot once. But preferring a semi-auto is very understandable, there are situations some people (check Youtube) may feel they’ll get themselves into requiring a lot more rounds, hopefully fired from a very reliable source. But it’s all good. Especially that many can carry in the first place as a herd-immunity kind of deterrence. That’s all I needed a year ago, just put my hand in my pocket and stood the guy off in a guessing game. I’d love to hear, and evaluate for my use, real experiences involving concealed semi-autos where a change of magazine was needed. I’ve even heard a tunnel rat story that didn’t go that far with a full size auto. Thanks to this site and Robert for writing the article.

    • Oh, now, there’s a good point! Has anyone ever heard of someone needing to reload (revolver or semi) in a firefight, other than professionals, like cops or military?

      • Or, how about someone who died with an empty gun? How about ANY evidence that anyone, ever, had a need for more bbs than his gun held? Other than professionals.

  13. Click bait. Stir pot, check. Contradict previous blog entry, check. Sit back and collect pay from ads due to spirited infighting by the potg, check. The more controversial, the better.

    • Yea.

      By now, it’s become quite transparent and tedious.

      As of today, I think it’s become contemptuous of the readership.

      • Amen, DG. Speaking of tedious repetitive click bait, what do you think about this site’s “pocket dump” feature? I can’t wait for someone to send in a picture of a real turd because, if everybody pretty much carries the same ol’ crap, that’s all each daily “dump” amounts to. Maybe that’s the answer to today’s revolver vs. semi debate: carry a turd. Better yet, carry a turd in every pocket, crevice and orifice. That way aspiring armchair commandos, packing 20 pounds of concealed armament and ammo, fantasizing about wallowing in their own slippery blood while taking down dozens of attackers, won’t even have to worry about anyone getting within 40 yards of them.

  14. Most regular commentators here know my feelings on the wheel gun and I’m not going to rehash that. If you like it, carry it. You’re less likely to carry a gun you don’t like.

    I do want to address a few things here though. Please don’t take any of this as a shot at anyone in particular.

    First, capacity vs. statistical chances you’ll need it. Will a five shot snubbie get you out of a lot of jams? Sure. However, a higher capacity semi-auto theoretically will get you out of worse problems. Arguing that a revolver is “good enough” statistically is, statistically speaking, essentially the same as the anti-argument that you don’t need a gun. Realistically, unless you seek out trouble, the DGU itself is unlikely enough that it can’t really be argued statistically to warrant carrying a gun on your person. Other factors merely compound that small chance with yet smaller chances which are smaller due to the fact that you have to, by definition have a DGU before those other factors can become a problem. “My semi-auto jammed when I didn’t try to fire it” said nobody ever. Most people will never experience a house fire but that doesn’t mean we argue for smaller fire extinguishers does it? Carry the most gun you can comfortably (and legally in some states) carry. Less is not more. If 8oz of weight (I’m not commenting on size or style) is the serious consideration here in terms of EDC then you really need to stop with 12oz curls and get your ass to the gym.

    Second, distance.

    People worry about a pistol being knocked out of battery by contact with another person. Consider, loath as I am to mention the case, Treyvon Martin. Cheapo semi-auto offed that kid with one shot. The gun not being in battery wasn’t an issue and the two people in question were basically as close as two people can be without spooning. Further consider how astronomically stupid Zimmerman was. That incident resulted from repeated colossal fuck ups on his part. Mistake after mistake after mistake. Semi auto still got the job done. Shoving your gun into someone… yeah, don’t because why the hell would you unless you’ve got one of those nifty mini bayonets? Is the Martin case a single and anecdotal data point about guns out of battery? Yes. However the colossal set of mistakes Zimmerman made are a lesson everyone can learn from.

    Secondarily, once someone is within arms reach of you the time to reach for your gun has passed. You’re at hand to hand or knife distance now. Reaching for your gun is, except in very special and rare circumstances, is extremely fucking stupid. If you disagree with that statement then feel free to flame me with ignorant comments about how John Wick does things.

    You need to create distance before you try to draw a gun in this situation unless you absolutely can’t and you, like Zimmerman, have no other choice because your attacker is now going for your gun because they’ve seen it/know it’s on you. Barring such a situation distance is what you want. How you make that space is up to you and the situation you’re in but, regardless of how you do it, at that point are you at contact distance? No, not unless you advance and intentionally bury the muzzle in this guy before you fire in which case you’re probably going to prison.

    Third, reloads are something I personally believe that people tend to overthink. That said however, if you take one to the arm the semi-auto generally will let you keep firing without reloading which is now a bonus feature because I’m really not sure how you’d go about reloading a revolver one handed but I am sure that it will be damn slow.

    A side note: I saw a comment here about blood on the gun. I haven’t personally tried this, but you know what, just for TTAG I’ll try it this week at the range. I’ll pour baby oil over my poor pistols because it’s about the same consistency and lubricity as blood. My educated guess from having seen people over lube their guns to the point of being obscene is that the guns will run multiple mags before they hiccup if they do hiccup. On top of that suppressed pistols foul very, very rapidly and will still go through at least one hundred rounds (generally) before they start to have issues. However, I can’t say that with certainty in regard to blood consistency stuff, so I’ll test it.

    • +1

      Carry what you can, be damn good with it, and use your best weapon–SA–as a first defense.

      It is fun to read folks’ input though, so much appreciated.

    • As I understand the incident the blood was on the outside of the Sig. Causing the wounded shooter to have trouble gripping the gun and making it unreliable.

      Try your oil on the grips of the gun as though your arm was bleeding. See if that effects the functioning of the gun.

      I’m not saying a person should not carry a semi. I just get really tired of the “Oh noes, you gonna die cause you ain’t got the latest and the greatest.”

      I know people who’ve seen off the bad guys with a revolver. It still works.

      • I was thinking of trying a few things. The first of which was gripping the gun while pouring this stuff down my hand as if I was bleeding from my arm. We’ll see what that does in general. After that I’ll do the grip itself to simulate dropping the gun and bleeding all over it while picking it up. Finally I’ll just soak it with baby oil and see if I can generate a stoppage.

        Realistically I can only foresee two potential serious problems. The first being that the gun is so slippery aiming becomes very, very difficult. That’s obviously a problem that would occur with a wheel gun too. The second would be a semi-auto only problem and that is that grip could be impaired to the point that limp writing the gun causes hangups.

        We’ll see what happens. I’ll toss a wheel gun in for funzies.

        I’ll test it out before hand too. Maybe I finally found a reason to dry-fire my pistols!

        The RO at this range is gonna laugh his ass off when I come in with a painters tarp and half a gallon of baby oil…

        • I already did some pretesting to see if it’s safe to attempt with live ammo. It seems to be.

          I’ll write it up and submit it to TTAG with pictures. I’ll make sure you get an advanced copy.

        • Try to find a method of “limp-wristing” a revolver to make it malfunction, while you’re at it. The gun is supposed to function the way *I* use it, not just refuse, and tell me I’m doing it wrong. My semis function no matter how I hold them, if they do not they are OUT of here, if I have to return to revolvers.

    • It’s my understanding that Zimmerman’s gun jammed after the one shot, due to being in contact. Which negated any benefit from it having a 500-rd magazine, six in a cylinder would have been much better, and lighter. I’m not a student, may be wrong.

  15. Eh. I’m not a huge revolver aficionado (other than .460 Smith, .454 Casull, .45 Colt, .44 Mag, and .500), but I’ve carried them for SD and they work fine. I’m looking at an 8-shot Smith 627 Pro right now. We’ll see how taxes go.

    • “They work fine”? Who did you defend yourself against? A Mack Diesel? Didn’t you wish for a few more rounds of .500 during a firefight? When the FBI recommends 15″ of penetration, did you think they meant of engine block?

  16. Ya’ll remember this scene from “Reservoir Dogs” where Mr Pink, armed with a S&W 459, outshoots 3 cops armed with revolvers. Probably the most realistic gunfight scene on film.

  17. A quick search on youtube for “self-defense shootings” returns about 631,000 results. I have never seen a video of multiple criminal attackers pressing an attack on an armed citizen. The most common reaction by violent criminals, to armed self-defense, is running away really fast. Sometimes they just lay on the ground and bleed. I have never read a news report of an armed citizen, other than Leo’s, engaging in a gun battle with multiple criminals who managed to override their natural instinct for self-preservation.

    The single defensive gun use I have experienced involved six young gentlemen, in the process of turning their lives around. They rushed me from behind on a dark street, shouting empowering slogans such as, “get that white m-f”.
    I drew my revolver, a five-shot Iver Johnson, turned around and was witness to one of the most impressive athletic feats I have ever seen. They had turned 90 degrees down a side street and covered fifty yards in the blink of an eye. All I could see was the white bottoms of their tennis shoes. It would not surprise me to learn they are still running to this day.

    When I was a fourteen year old, some fifty years ago, I dressed like a fourteen year old. Then I became an adult and started dressing like an adult. A shoulder holster with an N frame S&W or a Ruger Redhawk in .41 magnum is my carry gun of choice, I have both. This method of carry does not stress my back like a belt holster.

    Some 30 years ago, competitive pistol shooting involved standing in a firing line with 10 -15 other shooters, mostly using revolvers with light .38 spc. loads. I used a .41 magnum with full power loads. A RSO once pointed out to me, every time I fired he could see a wave move through the firing line as the other shooters reacted to the noise and muzzle blast. I often took second or third place in those matches and felt like I was cheating.

    In the old days, new shooters started out with single shot .22s or bolt action rifles with single shot adapters. When you only have one shot you pay more attention to the fundamentals. My first Ruger 10/22 resulted in a decline in accuracy for me because if I missed all I had to do was pull the trigger again. To this day I am more accurate with single shot rifles any other type.

    I do not believe it is appropriate to use a handgun for suppression fire in a defensive gun use. The liability for each round I fire precludes it.

    • Once we’ve arrived at which semi holds the most bullets, then we start trying to discover which gun allows the fastest mag dump (all those bullets go somewhere, guys), allowing for an operator to perform an operational reload, operationally, to allow another spray-and-pray mag dump with random passerby casualties. You should know where every bullet is going.

  18. Carry what you can shoot well. One hit is better than 14 misses. And carry. 5 rounds from a snubbie in your possession is better than 14 in the safe at home. Would I like to carry my Sig P226 every day? You bet. Shoots well and holds plenty of ammo. But it is not always possible to conceal it with my wardrobe. These debates are rather pointless. If things get bad enough that I need more than 5 rounds I am going to be wishing I had a rifle or shotgun rather than a pistol.

  19. The fact that it was easier to state the anti than the pro revolver case is a clear indication that the semiautomatic is superior for self defense.

    The idea that a proper semiauto has 12 rounds is nonsense. The proper semiautomatic is the one you shoot best. If a single stack us the one you shoot best then it is proper.

    It is absolutely false that a .357 revolver with the same footprint as an semiautomatic is more powerful. A 686 that is the same size as a 1911 is less powerful. A round like Hornady Critical Duty 220g +P is 10% more powerful out of a 5″ barrel than your typical .357 round out of a 3″ barrel. Shoot Buffalo Bore 10mm out of a Colt Delta Elite or similar pistol you get over 700 ft/lbs of Energy. Once you drop a .357 below a 4″ barrel .40, .45 and 10mm give equal or better performance out of gun that has better recoil characteristics and a superior trigger than any revolver.

    • Huh, a.45 from a 5″ barrel is 10% stronger than a .357 from a 3? Since you’re drawing side by side comparisons, what’s the performance from the same length barrel? If you’re actually wanting to be fair that is. Actually, the real fair would be 10mm vs .44 mag. But I noticed that you wanted to mention the top range of semi autos vs the middle range of revolvers.

      Revolvers are less prone to failure, are easier to move past a failure, and can handle a wider range of power allowing lighter loads to limit bad habits and more powerful to limit bad people. Are you more likely to need 12 shots forcing a revolver reload than to have to clear an FTE from a semi auto? I don’t know, but let’s not pretend there’s this much discussion on a closed case.

      Also, who do you think you can convince that semi autos have “superior trigger to any revolver”? That is one massive display of ignorance right there

    • Ri-i-i-ight! Specify down to a gnat’s ass a particular loading and barrel length on one side, and compare it to a “typical” .357 round on the other, without mentioning why a .45 was not compared with, say, a .44. Really believable. And your idea of a trigger comparison shows you to be a complete newbie, get some experience before joining such conversations.

  20. I learned how to shoot on a .357 DA revolver that was so well-loved that the trigger, though somewhat heavy, was perfectly smooth from repetitive use. Spent years training with it, reloads and all. I would prefer carry a full-sized duty semi-auto if I know I’m going into a gunfight, but then again, I’d rather carry a rifle in that case.

    In the meantime I don’t feel outgunned with my .357 on my hip when I choose to wear it.

  21. We used to be general purpose shooters. Hand the old timers that I learned from a 1911, N frame Smith, Colt SAA, Dicks special, P38, PPK, or any other gun and they would get the job done.

    Now, if it ain’t a Glock or AR the modern shooter gets the vapors and takes to his bed.

  22. “Revolver triggers are too hard,” sobs M1911 trigger snob.

    Yes, as Caleb Giddings has said, carry revolvers are easy to use and hard to master. But, people did so for many decades. Newbies may not know or understand this, but there is actually a reason why people carried revolvers and said, “six for sure.” There is actually a real reason.

  23. I was walking down the street, 2 blocks from my home. 8 guys jumped out of a car, and tried to beat me to death. To this day I can’t look at a wheel gun as a GOOD self defense gun.

    • You forgot the rest of the story! How many did you kill with your semi? Did you do ANYTHING? Or did you drop trou and bend over?

  24. It seems to me that semi autos give a person more rounds and easier reloads. While revolvers are less prone to failures.

    It also seems to me that the argument “DGU facing several determined attackers are rare, so I probably won’t need to reload mid fight” carries about as much weight as “semi autos rarely stovepipe or double feed on the first shot, so I probably won’t need to try to clear my weapon mid fight”

    The real question is what’s more common? A semi auto failing early in a way a revolver can’t? Or a DGU where 6 rounds won’t stop one or several determined attackers?

    I don’t know the answer, so I won’t judge other people’s decisions

    • This ‘revolvers fail less’ horseshit needs to be put to bed. I have no fewer than 9 handguns in my house right now. The only one not properly functioning is a well loved, well oiled 357 magnum that is currently having light primer strikes for which I simply cannot determine root cause. It is literally the only gun I cannot pick up and guarantee it will fire in my whole house.

  25. 1. I agree, although single stacks aren’t much different, with a slight edge to them for extended mag options.
    2. Jerry Miculek? But my name isn’t Jerry either?
    3. I think you should typically expect to be in double action mode in a self defense situation unless you have some real training to back up using single action. But I also don’t think that double action is the mountain that some make it out to be.

    • As much as it could be claimed as “training” (I called it “shooting”), all my practice for around 20-30 years was SA with a revolver. Because it was FUN! But if you needed to impress me from 100 yards away with a handgun, you were going to be dead meat in a heartbeat, I was good with that combo. If you had a rifle at 150 yards, you stood a chance. Jerry can beat that with a semi, but I hate to imagine what that man could do with a Python.

  26. Revolvers are cool. I bought my wife a snub nose S&W 38 special +p because she doesn’t like the “complicated” semi-autos, but it’s not that fun to shoot, esp. the +p, and it’s a snubbie, so accuracy is not its finest trait, and it only holds 5 rounds. Regarding .357 mag…note that a 2″ snub nose .357 mag. has significantly less energy than a 9mm+p (and 9mm standard pressure) out of a sub compact 3.5″ barrel (or 3.3″ etc.). So if you’re carrying a snub nose w/ .357 mag, you might as well carry it with 38 spc. +p, because the two aren’t that much different in a 2″ package – energy wise, but it’ll be a lot easier to shoot. Comparing .357 mag to 9mm…It actually takes a 3″ barrel 357 mag to match energy levels to a 4″ 9mm+p barrel. Sure, if you’re talking a 4″ revolver. 600 ft/lbs vs. 400-450 ft/lbs out of a 4″ 9mm+p. But carrying that huge revolver? Tough chore if trying to conceal compared to even a semi-auto w/ a 4″ barrel. And round count? My Springfield XD Mod.2 4″ carries 16+1 of 9mm+p JHP ammo. Nearly 3x that of most .357 mag revolvers. Plus I carry another 16 round mag in my pocket or in a mag pouch. And, if one is so inclined, one could step up to a 5″ 9mm barrel, and get an additional 10″ energy, approaching 500 ft/ lbs with some 9mm+p loads. I bet that gun would be easier to conceal than a 4″ S&W 686, or close to it. I agree, I carry a semi-auto.

    • Well my edit didn’t take. I meant 10% more energy when comparing a 5″ barrel to a 4″ barrel in 9mm. And I changed my stance saying the semi-auto pistol w/ a 5″ barrel only might be easier to conceal than a S&W Model 686. I haven’t carried either of those, so I’m not sure.

  27. Revolvers are great. I’ve got a couple. They’re great for the range or for open carry on a hike in the woods.

    My little semis are good for every day carry. Lighter than my revolvers. Thinner. No worries.

  28. For you revo folks, please…..use proper snap-caps. They’re not made merely to satisfy the overwhelming demand for them, and of course, the enormous profit margins for their manufacturers(yes, humor). Preferably, use those with the spring-cushioned primer button. Those red alloy things with silicon filled pockets are only good for reload practice. I’ve personally owned two smiths which malfed from dry-firing, older guns with “hammer noses”. I’ve handled at least one other Centennial with the firing-pin jammed forward. Since the latter use frame-mounted pins, I now use caps even in my Rugers.

  29. 3 reasons to carry a single action revolver.

    1. They were good enough for Billy
    2. see number 1.
    3. Refer to number 2.

    How come reason 69 never comes up in these self defense discussions,

    horny 1500 lb Moose do exist ya know!

  30. I personally prefer semi-auto. But lots of people simply can’t get the hang of shooting a semi-auto without limp wristing. A revolver is ideal for those folks.

  31. Got it covered both ways; P225 on right hip, S&W 649 in left pocket.

    I can’t always carry the P225 but I always carry the 649.

  32. The problem with this article is the title. Every firearm has advantages and disadvantages. If you have the luxury of owning more than one, practice with them and carry what is most appropriate for that day’s tasks, clothing etc…

    The implication that revolvers are no longer a viable self defense option is just plain wrong.

  33. Issues 1 and 2 can be mitigated by carrying a second revolver (the ole “New York Reload”) and issue three can be addressed by a funny little thing called practice. When I first began shooting revolvers I found the trigger unbearable but, after plenty of practice and a few training courses I began to prefer it to the typical striker fired trigger. But, to each their own.

  34. I prefer semi-autos myself. Revolvers are the epitome of KISS and I’ve noticed that novice shooters are much more comfortable and confident shooting then. The old adage six for sure rings true for the revolver. While today’s semi-autos are extremely reliable you still need to practice stoppage drills. Most shooters will not do this to proficiency. It is far more important to be proficient and confident with your hand gun than it’s style or caliber. Carring a hand gun is a very intimate thing there is no one size fits all. Do what is best for you.

  35. I agree with the first two but as the trigger pulls, I part company. Quality revolvers have good triggers, specially S&W triggers which are the best in the industry; they are easy to pull in DA mode and they can even be staged (pulling the trigger far enough to rotate the cylinder completely and hold it without firing the weapon) which effectively ends up shooting with the same accuracy as in SA mode. Single action mode is normally feather light and good enough for serious bulls eye work. I have been firing weapons for over 45 years and I have found that quality revolvers have quality triggers, the best being the S&W followed by the old Dan Wesson with the Ruger and Colt being about the same in SA and manageable in DA depending on the width of the trigger (wide is better than thin). It is all practice and more practice. The main reason to have a semi auto is to have more fire power with more rounds since more than likely your opponent will be armed in a similar fashion. A revolver is more accurate specially if you make distance between you and your opponent but since most encounters are at short distance better to have a semi with more bullets in case you missed or get trigger happy and loading is not as cumbersome if your ammo is depleted and require a reload. Again, it is practice and more practice, otherwise it will not make a difference whether you have a revolver or a semi auto.

  36. Has anyone researched how many people that have been shot in the head with a 22 LR and want to go back for seconds? Eight Rounds, 12 oz weight and accurate as the Devil. Easy to carry, cheap to practice with, safer than most. Not recommended for charging Griz, or Buffalo but neat in an urban area. Great penetration, car doors etc., casual killing, no brass at the scene, not made for Gorilla grips. Re think heavy plate glass and kevlar helmets.
    There is not any security in the 16 shot auto, or the big 40/45 at home in the safe. People that carry revolvers need a lot less time practicing malfunction drills. I forget where I was going with this, S&W model 617. Dinner with 2 other couples last night, 5 guns at the table. Only in America.

  37. 2. You can’t reload a revolver
    In Grant Cunningham’s book, “Defensive Revolver Fundamentals”, out of 238 total pages, 40 pages and 60 illustrations are devoted to reloading. He recommends Safariland speed loaders, but also tells how to use a speed strip. He describes and illustrates the technique of reloading a revolver one-handed. Everything he describes is based on avoiding the need to employ fine motor skills, emphasizing efficiency over speed.

    If you learn and practice Cunningham’s technique you could conceivably become proficient at reloading a revolver. Most people wouldn’t even make it through the reading, let alone mastering and drilling the maneuver.

  38. There sure are a lot of silly comments posted here – same for the article. Rev vs semi. Carry what you’re most comfortable with for self defense and practice with it. I’m sure I could come up with a reason not to carry a semi for every reason cited to not carry a rev. Anything can be “what if’d” till the sun burns out. I prefer a 9 rd 380 semi but I’ve also carried a 6 Rd Colt 2″ and a 5 rd S&W. I know a guy who carries a full size semi, 4 xtra mags, cap stun, retractable baton and cuffs. A bit overkill in my opinion.

  39. I don;t carry a revolver just because of the limited ammo capacity, although i do keep a couple strategically positioned around the house.

  40. Carry the style of gun you shoot best in the caliber you shoot best, all the rest of this pundit stuff is BS. It doesn’t matter how many shots you can fire or whether or not the round can punch holes through tanks, if you can’t hit the broad side of a barn with it.

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