Colt's SF-VI & Cobra, both chambered in .38 Special.
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Colt is a name that’s synonymous with the .38 Special six-shot snub nose wheel gun. Going all the way back to 1927, with the introduction of their D-Framed Detective Special, Colt made a series of variations of this gun as it went through four generations during the twentieth century.

2nd & 3rd Generation Detective Specials.
Colt ad from the 1977.

After attempting to recover from a crippling labor strike that ended in 1990 and filing for bankruptcy protection in 1992 due a range of issues including a 1990 leveraged buyout. There was also a downturn in the arms sales following the end of the Cold War, and an overall loss of market share due the widespread adoption of automatic pistols like those from HK, GLOCK, S&W, SIG, and Beretta.

Colt attempted to regain some form of market share with a number of products. Guns like the M1991A1 Series 80, Double Eagle Series 90, and the All American 2000. But Colt also wanted to regain some share in the revolver segment.

With the explosion of shall-issue concealed carry permit systems sweeping the nation and the Clinton “assault weapons” ban, the revolver was still a very popular choice for concealed carry and personal defense. Smith & Wesson along with Ruger and Taurus were doing fairly well with their compact carry models. Colt saw the market as a way to get their brand back out there.

Starting in 1993, Colt released the fourth generation of the Detective Special. Marketed as the DSII, this gun was a radical departure from the prior three lines of D-Frame guns. It was modernized for easier production and lower overall costs. But sales were only OK as it was a blued-only gun. So in 1996, Colt released the SF-VI; the stainless steel version of the DSII.

Colt SF-VI advertisement from 1995.

My SF-VI was purchased at Lou’s Police Supply in Hialeah, Florida on a whim many years ago. I recall that at the time I thought someone had messed with the gun because it had the best trigger I’ve ever felt on a compact carry revolver.

When I took it apart, I was shocked to see everything was in perfect order. I don’t recall what the gun’s exact cost was, but I do remember it was under $400 at the time. These days, if you search “SF-VI” on GunBroker, you’ll see them going for over $1,000.

The gun is a solid chunk of stainless steel and mine has a born-on date of 10-31-1995 underneath the grips.

Internally, it doesn’t use the coil spring that the DSII did, but instead went back to the leaf spring of earlier models. The front sight is machined as part of the barrel. Making it non-adjustable. The rear sight is a simple affair, the normal thing you find on just about every fixed rear sight wheel gun going back to the start of the twentieth century.

The muzzle has a nice recessed crown to protect the rifling and, as mentioned, all the parts on it are stainless except for the leaf spring. Grips were Colt branded Pachmayrs.

The gun, unfortunately, was a commercial flop and production was ceased in 2000. A number of people ask why it was such a poor seller. A combination of things contributed to the failure.

There was poor management, with Colt emphasizing government contracts over the civilian market. The market had shifted towards concealable compact semi-automatics like the GLOCK 26, SIG P239, and Kel-Tec P11. Finally, Smith, Ruger, and Taurus produced competing revolvers of similar quality for lower prices.

At the turn of the century, Colt pretty much bailed on the civilian market and shuttered their entire revolver line except for a puny output of Single Action Army revolvers in very low numbers.

Up to the mid 2010s, no one thought that Colt would ever get back into the revolver market. I know because I was one of those people.

In 2016, however, the rumors started flying that the Prancing Pony would be back to making a double action revolver. In 2017, the rumors became reality when Colt announced the Cobra.

Colt Cobra advertisement from 2017.

Colt took everything that was the SF-VI and modernized it for easier production. The quality of the gun was vastly improved, though personally, I’m not fond of them using the Cobra name. The Colt Cobra was always a lightweight aluminum D-frame .38 Special six shooter. It was never a steel framed gun, let alone stainless steel.

But I understand why they went with that name. It harkens back to the collection of Colt’s snake guns and the Cobra was always a popular one. So for branding and marketing purposes, it made more sense to label the spiritual successor of the SF-VI the Cobra.

The new gun is entirely stainless steel, but when cracking it open, you find a lot of MIM parts. The hammer, the cylinder hand, the transfer bar, etc. . .

This isn’t a bad thing if the parts are made right. It’s just a sign of the times. Metal injected molded parts are a reality. The idea of a forged block of steel being machined to make every part is gone for the most part.

Practically speaking, the new Cobra and SF-VI are pretty much the same. The parts don’t swap due to dimensional differences, but mechanically the guns are twins.

SF-VI on the top and the Cobra on the bottom.

The front sight is not part of the barrel though, it can be replaced. It comes from the factory with a red fiber optic front sight that I replaced it with a more classic brass bead.

Cobra on the left, SF-VI on the right.

The barrel profile is different, too, as is the trigger guard.

SF-VI on the left and the Cobra on the right.

The grips are Colt-branded Hogues instead of the Pachmayrs from years past. Trigger-wise, the gun feels just like the SF-VI; extremely smooth and light.

So why did Colt release the new Cobra in the first place? The carry market is now dominated by concealed automatics. In fact, the micro-compact 9mm revolution is in full swing, started by the SIG P365 and followed by guns like the Springfield Hellcat, S&W Shield Plus, Ruger MAX-9, Taurus GX4, Kimber R7 and more.

I think the resurgence was due to nostalgia and non-gun people. A lot of gun folks missed out on Colt revolvers back when they were affordable. Due to pop culture like The Walking Dead, popularity in guns like the Colt Python, becoming popular outside of the traditional revolver collecting community. That lead younger gun collectors down the rabbit hole that is a century’s worth of Colt double action revolvers.

Non-gun people is another reason. The revolver market, while smaller than it was in the past, it is still very good. S&W, Ruger, Taurus, and Charter Arms all stayed in it and Kimber jumped in with completely new designs. With it’s revolver heritage, Colt saw the opportunity and decided they couldn’t just sit it out.

Revolvers are still very popular with novice shooters and folks just getting into concealed carry. Plus, some jurisdictions with draconian gun laws, revolvers are still legal and easier to get.

A six shot snub nose stainless steel D-frame Colt chambered in .38 Special is still very viable for self-defense and concealed carry. Especially since places like California, with millions of gun owners, make it hard to get a handgun. So a gun like the Cobra still makes a lot of sense.

gun store california
(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

By modern tacticool standards, the Cobra may seem to be an outdated paperweight. But in reality, where any gun is better than none, the Cobra is an eminently capable self-defense tool. It’s easy-shooting, reliable, concealable, and capable of being a gun a novice non-gun person can take to the range and enjoy.

The D-frame Colts are in that magical sweet spot. Small enough to be good concealed carry guns, but big enough to be handy for home defense and turning money into noise and smiles at the range. They fit the vast majority of hands and the weight of a steel frame isn’t unbearable while heavy enough to tame recoil.

I’m a fan of the new Cobra, so much so that I purchased a King Cobra. too. But that’s a story for another article. Prior to the new line of Cobras coming out, I was very much a fan of my SF-VI. It made a great carry piece and was a fun shooter. The new Cobra took what was great about the SF-VI and made it better.

SF-VI (top), new Cobra (bottom)

Luis Valdes is the Florida Director for Gun Owners of America.

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  1. Revolvers are still viable self defense options. Witness the Marine that punched an armed robber in the face. That armed robber had 2 buddies. As soon as resistance was encountered they buggered right off.

    I owned a couple of Colts in the day. The Dick special is the only one I miss. IMHO, the S&W has the better action straight out of the box. My Rugers are no slouches either.

    • I have a Gen 3 Detective Special purchased in the mid-70’s from H. Cook Sporting Goods in El Paso. The trigger immediately received some meticulous attention from Fernie Escarsega (Cook’s Gunsmith) and it will be inherited by my son (eventually). Classic 6-shot beauty and smooth as glass DA/SA.

    • Yeah, the one in that 1977 ad pictured looks just like the one I bought the bride circa 1972. She carried it for a lot of years, probably has less than 500 rounds thru it, bone stock. Carry was probably illegal, dunno or care. But legal carry didn’t come to TX until mid-’90s. OOps.

  2. Thank you Luis,

    Please keep the revolver articles coming. I, for one, appreciate your insights and your collection of wheel guns.

      • Always interesting to read about ancient historical mechanical items. Steam traction engines, WWI biplanes, covered wagons, Viking longships, bronze age armor, etc, etc.

        • Yeah, yeah, hit a range with a 4″ Python and a box of hot .357, then tell me how modern and wonderful your 9mm beanshooter is.

        • If WW1 biplanes are ancient, then so are semi-auto firearms and machine guns. Both were around in WW1. Hello, my semi-automatic Browning Auto-5 shotgun was patented in 1898.

          Somehow, even 120+ years after semi-auto pistols and shotguns hit the market, some of us still find something uniquely appealing and useful about pump shotguns, revolvers, and other ancient stuff.

  3. Colt needs to get busy assembling their Colt 1911 Competition Series in .45acp…because I want one.

  4. Have my loyal Night Cobra on my side right now coincidentally. I adore it. And before it’s over, I’ll have the Target Model King Cobra, Python and Anaconda. I love the new Colt Revolvers. Of course, I love all my old ones too, lol.

    • Of all the Cobras, I want one of those the most. It has the extra round, better front sight, and better trigger that I always wished my S&W 442s had.

      You could have your hand on the gun in a jacket pocket and be ready to fire multiple shots from the pocket with no risk of jamming and without ever drawing or exposing your firearm ahead of time. That is one tactical advantage that some revolvers will always have over semi-autos.

  5. “With the explosion of shall-issue concealed carry permit systems sweeping the nation…”

    When I applied for my CCW from a neighboring state, the entire process took place within the span of a (long, but nevertheless single) day. Indoor class lecture, safety and legal overviews, outdoor shooting test, application forms, drive over the Sheriff office, LiveScan, photos, fingerprints, everything. One day. I later received my permit in the mail.

    Here in L.A. County, within the “may issue” State of California, I took the instructional class and shooting test months ago. Submitted my application to my local LASD office and was told by the Deputy that I’d receive the CADOJ required phone interview from a Detective. That was literally months ago back in mid-Summer. Two friends of mine who work within the LASD checked for me, and said there were literally thousands of applications in the queue and no guarantee of any timeline. If/when the staff ever finally gets to mine, there is the legitimate question of whether or not the class and shooting test I was required to take would still be valid, or will have expired while I waited.

    A right delayed is a right denied…

    Meanwhile, back on the ranch, our fellow Americans who live within the 21 States that recognize “constitutional carry” may simply tuck their gat under their shirt and walk outside without the need for a permission slip. Sux.

  6. My wife will NOT give up her 38 Special… She pretty much hates every semi-auto I’ve put in her hands…

  7. Another good article. I generally prefer S&W revolvers, but I admit a soft spot for Pythons and SAAs. However, a few years ago I gave a mint Detective Special (3rd gen in the box) to my daughter. She was a college student living alone at the time in Jacksonville. We took it out to the farm. She made those Pepper Poppers sound like a hunchback ringing a church bell. Loaded with the FBI load and six more in a Safariland speed loader her’s is not the door the local ner-do-wells want to knock on.
    I own about as many revolvers as autos. Never felt under armed with a wheel gun.


  9. I do like the action on the new Colts. IMO it better than yesteryear with less stacking.

    I think the new Cobra should have been an aluminum alloy frame. That would make it smaller than a K frame snub and lighter than an SP101 while delivering 6 rounds.

    That would leave the King Cobra for a stainless frame and 357 capability.

    Give me a lightweight new Cobra with smaller wooden grips and I will own one.

  10. The few gun owners that are aware of just how bad the new Smith and Colts are would not touch any of them with a 10 foot pole. The Colt Python fiasco comes to mind with them rushing into production a new weapon that only looked like a Python but was not even close to the original design and was not perfected before it was suckering the public into buying them. I personally would not give even $500 bucks for their piece of cast iron trash.

    Smith is the worst offender but Colt also uses junk MIM cast parts that require zero machining and give rough grating trigger pulls besides going snap, crackle and pop at the worst possible moment.

    Smith even burns in the rifling with an edm machine. Just when you thought Smith could not make barrels any shittier they proved us all wrong because they did. Smith on some models uses 2 piece barrels that are not as ridged as the original one piece barrel and that results in less accuracy. The keyed safety lock has been known to malfunction as well and render the gun inoperable when you attempt to fire it in a crisis situation. There are even kits to disable it because its actually that bad a design.

    For the non-gun guy or woman who just bought a gun for home defense one of the older made quality revolvers makes a lot of sense but the gun guru’s by and large reject them because they are low capacity, slow to reload and far more difficult to conceal and more uncomfortable to carry because of their weight. And reject the aluminum and titanium frame revolvers as they are known to cause the bullets to pull from their cases because of excess recoil that will jam up the gun at the worst possible moment.

    As far as hunting if one likes to pull off a stunt and make an animal suffer needlessly most would buy a revolver but there are some very powerful automatics on the market as well. Still if I would need to carry a handgun on a hunt after bear for a back up weapon I would probably chose an autoloader as its far faster to reload and one never knows how wrong things can go when an animal attacks you so yes once again firepower is still an advantage something the revolver can never match.

    All in all the fisherman is still way better off with the short barrel carbine rifle than relying on any handgun in bear country. The mythical bear revolver is just that a myth that can get you killed when you could have used a far more powerful short barreled rifle carbine.

    I do own revolvers and regret selling decades ago an Smith 49 bodyguard that was the rarer nickel plated model. It was designed to fire from inside your coat pocket but in all honesty if I still had it I would probably still carry an autoloader for the above mentioned advantages. Just as people years ago quit shitting in Out Houses I quit carrying revolvers. Both are obsolete for my uses.

    Another gun I never should have sold was a 1970’s 8 inch Smith .41 mag in the old blue velvet lined box. It was the most accurate handgun I ever owned and it shot like a rifle at 100 yards. I was never able to find another one “in the box” at a reasonable price but several years ago picked up a 6 inch .41 mag for a song and a dance but it is not in the same class workmanship or accuracy as the long barreled 8 inch model I once had. I almost did not buy the 8 inch because it was right in the middle of the Dirty Harry craze when you could not find a .44 magnum anywhere for love nor money so the salesman talked me into buying the .41 instead. I am glad he did because after buying several .44 mag guns I never liked the .44 mag as well as the .41 mag.

        • “Her ‘gun’ uses batteries.”

          And the batteries are the same ones that power a saws-all, and the phallus is attached where the reciprocating blade is mounted… 😉

    • Hey, Cartoon Boy, you do realize that no one here believes you own a firearm and that anything you offer up as fact, or opinion, regarding the same you gleaned from the internet. Besides, how many bear encounters have you had in your Mom’s basement?

      • BTW, that 8″ N frame you referred to would have actually been 8 3/8″. Accuracy is everything. No pun intended.

        • Taken from Smiths web site this morning

          SKU 150481
          Model Model 57 – S&W Classics 6″ .41 Magnum
          Caliber 41 Magnum
          Capacity 6
          Length 11.5
          Front Sight Pinned Red Ramp
          Rear Sight Micro Adjustable White Outline
          Action Single/Double Action
          Grip Checkered Square Butt Walnut
          Cylinder Material Carbon Steel
          Barrel Material Carbon Steel
          Frame Material Carbon Steel
          Frame Finish Blue
          Barrel Length 6″ (15.2 cm)
          Weight 47.6 oz.
          State Compliance CA,CO,MA,MD

      • Flag waver if you knew anything at all about guns then why do you never give the critiques like I have posted? Its because you know as much about the history of weapons as you do about rocket science which is zero.

        And did you get an erection when you pointed out the extra 3/8 of an inch on the .41 mags. By the way Moron the newer Smiths do not have 6 1/2 inch barrels anymore and Smith does not even make any 8 inch guns anymore. Oops I forgot your extra 3/8 of an inch maybe you were caught in a Freudian slip thinking about the length of your penis being only 3/8 of an inch long. Chuckle.

    • Some facts for you:

      1. EDM machining has been around since the late 1960’s. But that’s not what S&W uses to cut their rifling. S&W uses ECM – electrochemical machining. The best way I can describe ECM in as short a space as possible is that ECM is “electroplating in reverse.” It produces good rifling, and it does not heat, stress or distort the barrel, the way broach, button cutting or cold hammer forging do. EDM and ECM are two different processes and I won’t bore people with the details. Suffice to say, ECM barrels shoot just fine.

      2. MIM. I hear some people go on and on (and on) about MIM parts in guns. Well, I’ve got some news for people: Unless you’re willing to pay thousands of dollars for a handgun, you’re going to see MIM, because as a gunsmith, I can tell you that the smallest parts are usually the biggest pains in the neck to machine. Why? Because you have to figure out how to hold onto the part, and then you often have to work up some custom cutting tools for the job. There are people who say “Just CNC it!” as if waving a magic wand that spews G and M codes over a flash drive cures all the manufacturing costs issues. No, it doesn’t work that way. CNC has lots of advantages in manufacturing, but when you’re making small parts, the issues I mentioned (workholding and cutting tool choice) are the same on both manual or CNC machines. In general, in gunsmithing, “making small parts” means “pain in the neck.” As an example, I’ve been looking around for some screws to hold on the side plate of an old S&W revolver. The used parts houses don’t have any. I’m considering making them. Without a screw machine, they’re a pain in the neck to machine, but I’m thinking of it, because I want the gun done. It’ll likely take a couple/three hours per screw to get the final result (which will include nickel plating). In the process, I’ll have to make two or three workholding widgets to hold the screw on the lathe (to finish the head of the screw) and to hold the screws as I use a slitting saw on a mill to cut the slots.

      Enter MIM. MIM solves several issues for design and manufacturing engineers at once. The complexity of parts you can make with MIM at a given price so far outstrips what you can do with traditional (ie, non-additive) machining, the cost comparison isn’t even close. Second, when we’re talking of > 50K pieces manufactured, MIM’s cost advantage becomes very, very strong.

      Why did MIM get a bad rap in firearms? Because the firearms industry adopted MIM manufacturing before they fully understood the process and the stresses placed on their parts. Most people don’t understand that, in the firearms industry, there have been not that many people involved in the design of firearms who are actual engineers who know how to perform analysis of part failure, part strength, strains, etc. Consider our greatest gun designer, John Moses Browning. Did he have an engineering background? Nope. A machinist’s background? Nope. He grew up working in his father, Jonathan’s, gun shop. He was a gunsmith from the time he was 13.

      Well, modern manufacturing techniques need an engineer’s background in mathematics and measurement. “Winging it” won’t quite do any more. Using MIM to make parts for classic designs (such as 1911a1’s) and revolvers early on, without understanding and answering the questions like “so… what strength does this part really need? In which dimension? What surface finish does this part need? What hardness does this part need?” and so on weren’t really considered. We saw companies take an existing design (a revolver or semi-auto handgun, typically) and use MIM to reduce their machining costs, without really understanding “so what specs does this part need?” So there were problems.

      Today, firearms production is one of the largest users of MIM technology. Last I knew, over 40% of the MIM market was firearms parts. That’s not going away, folks.

      If you want a gun with all the parts produced from bar stock (not “billet” as is so mistakenly used in gun-rag marketing), then bring your wallet, ‘cuz it’s going to cost you.

      I’ve heard this rant for decades. I’ve heard it about Ruger using investment casting on their guns. Well, if you care to pay attention in reloading manuals, there are loads in reloading manuals that are called out “For Ruger Revolvers Only” – because if you put them in a classic S&W or Colt, you’re going to have a bad day. Rugers are now known for being built hell-for-strong, and they’re mostly cast parts that are then machined and finished.

      I can’t wait for people to start bitching about 3D printed parts… which share many metallurgical issues with MIM.

      • to the Gunsmith

        Thanks for the reply but you danced around the fact that MIM parts are inferior to bar stock and forged parts and we are discussing your survival in a gun fight when you have to depend on a gun to save your life whether it be from an enraged animal while out hunting or a depraved criminal trying to kill you. I have read so many horror stories on junk MIM parts I cannot even remember them all. I have been hoping that eventually the people who make MIM cast parts and then sell them to the firearms industry that they eventually improve them but I have worked with castings for many years and when you compare apples to apples, even old fashioned traditional castings compared to forgings or bar stock are inferior when both parts are the same thickness and hardness. No casting ever made can withstand the shock and stress of a good properly treated forged part which can be made hard as glass on the outside and soft on the inside to withstand tremendous shock and impact.

        Its interesting to note that in the last 5,000 years no one who makes swords has been able to make a cast sword that lasts like a heated treated forged one. The ancients made castings too but none ever used them to make knives or weapons that were for actual combat. That should tell you something about castings which are traditional or modern made MIM cast junk.

        One further example. Colt had so many 1911 guns come back with broken sears and hammers in desperation they started mixing junk MIM cast parts with forged parts. If I remember correctly they started using cast sears with forged hammers.

        Buying a new firearm today is to be largely ripped off as no matter how cheap the price an unreliable tool is useless and just a total waste of money as well as a complete insult to the buyer.

        I might also add I saw an interview with an English gunsmith that had formerly worked for the Royal Arsenal which I am told is no longer in operation but never the less he stated that the English had tested all types of rifling for extreme accuracy in sniper rifles and it was still the old fashioned single deep cut rifling that was double hand lapped, once for uniformity and once for smoothness that lasted the longest and was the most accurate. That should tell you something about modern made barrels. Yes I have had some very accurate button rifled and even a few , very few hammer forged barrels but none lasted as long as the traditional old fashioned deep cut rifling.

        • I didn’t dance around the issue. I explained why MIM parts had problems early in their use in guns. MIM parts can be perfectly acceptable in some applications in guns – eg, a grip safety on a 1911. There are some places where tool steel is preferable (sear/trigger engagement) and there are some places where I think it would be wiser to use shock-resistant tool steel (eg, S7) and that’s firing pins. But for a number of parts in handguns, MIM is perfectly acceptable (eg, the trigger rebound box in a S&W) and leads to much lower production costs. If you want bar-stock components, go buy used guns of the vintage you desire.

          Swords: Now you’re talking a completely different application of metal. Much of what makes a sword survive in use isn’t forging vs. casting, it is the heat treatment. Japanese swords show well what the skill of heat treatment can do – in a classic Japanese sword, you can see evidence on the blade where the hardness changes.

          Re: rifling. You must be new around here, because I’ve been making the point about single-point cut rifling for years around here. But that’s in rifle barrels. S&W is making handgun barrels with ECM. I use mostly Bartlein barrels for my customers’ rifle [re]barreling jobs, unless the customer, after being informed of the accuracy differences, says that a button-cut or broach-cut barrel is acceptable. From what I see through my borescope, S&W’s ECM barrels shows less tendency to leading/fouling than broach/button cut barrels, so that’s a win for handgun shooters.

          Re: quality in general. You really must be new around here. Go find one of my rants against Glock’s “Perfection” Shuck-n-jive.

        • ‘…isn’t forging vs. casting, it is the heat treatment.’

          Isn’t this the essence of the S&W vs Ruger debate, forged vs cast? It’s the heat treating and strategic placement of extra metal (e.g. no side plates) that makes the Rugers hell for strong?

          Also, I’ve been assuming that not all MIM parts are identical, just like there’s all sorts of types of steel, with different characteristics. Is that correct?

    • You clearly read things on the “internet” and pass them off as your own stories. Get down to you true intentions being a left wing shill

      • To Maximus Duffus

        You far right people find it totally unfathomable that the majority of gun owners are not far right. As a matter of fact most of our 1,000 shooting club members vote Democrat and that is a fact. And it would surprise you how many Liberals and Socialists own guns. After all we did not beat the Conservative White Czarist Russian Army by throwing cream puffs at them.. We Reds used real guns and used them well. Get used to it we grow more influential every day in Congress and its long overdue

        • I saw a revolver once. It was used, but very nice. It was a bit odd though. The muzzle was pointed back at the shooter. It had only been fired once. The tag said it was $300 unless you were a socialist. Then it was free with a box of ammo. If you passed it on to another socialist. The guy behind the counter said they couldn’t keep them in stock. I wish I had a thousand of them to give away.

    • Bought an 8 3/8″ nickel .41 Mag in the early ’80s, still have it! Came in a shitty blue cardboard box, though. Great target gun, too damn big for anything else. I am just not good at selling guns.

  11. I loves me some wheelguns! The best range day I ever had was with a S&W Model 10. It was like I couldn’t miss with it.

  12. 1974 Colt DS is still in my carry rotation. Had it hard chromed 5 or 6 years ago and painted the front sight with fluorescent enamel paint. Black sharpie on the rear. The sights pop.

  13. I know the article is about Colt wheel guns, but let me put in a couple of cents. My Ruger SRH 454 makes for a difficult (but not impossible) CCW, but I dearly love firing the big cannon. The Ruger trigger is smooth and crisp making it “easy” to hit paper plate targets out to 50 yards with iron sights. Between my usual CCW (an HK45C) and the SRH, I really prefer the big wheel gun.

  14. Revolvers are still a great choice for those just starting to carry. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of people who start carrying do so without a round in the chamber. A revolver corrects this habit and raises confidence.

    • Revolvers tend to be popular with novices and experienced shooters. I think it’s the ones who are in between that have an issue with them. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    • Revolvers are also a great choice for older folks. I’ve worked with several older women (by “older” I’m talking 70+ years old) who no longer have the grip strength to rack a slide, no longer have the ability to load a magazine, etc. Age comes for us all. Revolvers have one huge advantage over semi-autos for older folks with sarcopenia or arthritis: There is nothing in the manual of arms for a revolver that requires a great deal of pressure or strength. Putting rounds into a revolver is pud-easy, taking them out is pud-easy, and the failure-to-fire drill on a double-action revolver is “pull the trigger again,” not “tap-rack-bang.”

      The Tacti-kewl crowd constantly forgets this group of people who really do need a gun for protection, because in the minds of criminals, “old and frail equals easy pickings.” A .38 Special in a classic S&W revolver does wonders for this aging cohort’s personal safety.

  15. I have a Dick Tracey vintage Colt Detective 38
    Special for $200.00 cash years ago.
    Was picking up a semiautomatic Ruger.
    Shop owner wasn’t interested and said “the lady next to you might be interested since she’s picked up some revolvers here before
    I just bought it for sentimental value since I watched the black and white reruns with my dad.
    I’m old enough to require semiautomatic handguns now.
    Ruger and Colt range, Home and Ranch lands.
    About only dangerous considerations are raccoons and Gray Fox rabies outbreak in Gillespie County Texas

  16. Really appreciate his article – good read, thanks. Wish the Magnum Carry of 1999 would have been noted.

  17. Being a Ruger fan-boy, I’m not sure I could tell the difference between the new Cobra and a Charter bulldog without looking at the inscription. Not necessarily a knock on Colt though.

  18. Revolvers are also really the only choice when you get to higher-powered cartridges.

    Look at what it took to produce a semi-auto for the .44 Remington Magnum (just as an example). You had the Auto Mag and the Desert Eagle – neither of which is a CCW piece. Never mind the larger handgun hunting rounds.

    When you want to “go big or go home” with a handgun, you’ll be carrying a revolver.

    • When you want to “go big or go home” with a handgun, you’ll be carrying a revolver.

      Or a 10MM semi-auto… Very much a CCW piece…

      • That’s not “big” compared to what you can get in a revolver. Allow me to acquaint you with some rounds you can carry in a revolver:

        – .454 Casull, aka “the .45 Colt made really long.”
        – .460 S&W Magnum, aka “An even bigger .454 Casull”
        – .475 Linebaugh (a cut-down .45-70 case)
        – .480 Ruger (a slightly trimmed-down .475)
        – .500 S&W

        That’s not an exhaustive list, BTW.

        These handgun cartridges have the power of a rifle cartridge (eg, .30-30 or heavier) in a handgun – over 1500 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. The 10mm Auto (which I love, BTW, so don’t think I’m pooh-pooh’ing it), can produce a bit over 700 foot-pounds of energy without causing issues in a quality handgun.

        The above cartridges come with rifle-like chamber pressures of 45,000 to 55,000 PSI. Most “normal” semi-auto handgun rounds top out somewhere in the 35,000 to 40,000 PSI range.

        • Allow me to acquaint you with some rounds you can carry in a revolver:

          Nice list however the preferred handgun carried in Grizzly country IS the 10MM auto… OBTW I believe YOUR point was that the BIG Magnum autos were NOT CCW acceptable, neither are – .454 Casull, aka “the .45 Colt made really long.”
          – .460 S&W Magnum, aka “An even bigger .454 Casull”
          – .475 Linebaugh (a cut-down .45-70 case)
          – .480 Ruger (a slightly trimmed-down .475)
          – .500 S&W… My 10MM G29 carries quite nicely inside the waistband or very comfortably in a shoulder rig… That .500 S&W, not so much… If I need further assistance on what BIG guns are available out there that CAN’T be carried as an EDC, I’ll be sure to ask…

        • You’d be better off with a .357 magnum in bear county. Slightly more power but more importantly higher sectional density. A 200gr 10mm bullet has about the same SD as a 158gr .357, which is too light to be considered suitable for bear.

          And there are plenty of packable .44 magnums. Ruger’s Super Redhawk Alaskan is even available in .454 Casull or .480 Ruger at 44 ounces. If all you’ve got is a 10mm it’s better than nothing, but hardly the preferred handgun for bear.

      • Is 10mm actually the preferred gun? Or is that just online statements made by people making things up?

        Not saying this to trash you I’m just saying I see A LOT of claims online about 10mm being the new bear gun everyone is carrying but no real world evidence or any kind of study done on it. As far as I know the people who are in bear country and take it seriously carry a long gun. 10mm is so often talked about online but I’ve yet to see just one actual 10mm owner in real life.

        • people who are in bear country and take it seriously carry a long gun.

          I believe I specified “handgun”

          I see A LOT of claims online about 10mm being the new bear gun everyone is carrying but no real world evidence

          There are plenty of videos on Youtube about the 10MM in bear country…

          I’ve yet to see just one actual 10mm owner in real life.

          I carry a 10MM daily and the only other person that knows it is my wife… If you SEE someone actually carrying a 10MM then you are either in an open carry state OR they’re doing it wrong… The 10MM does not have the following of the 9 mainly because people are afraid of it but every major handgun manufacturer makes at least one model including a number of 1911 style pieces…

        • Ron you are 100 per cent correct. Its all advertisement hype to sell 10mm handguns and yes you are correct about carrying a rifle as the preferred weapon to survive with. I had a friend who had a European Brown Bear pet and when you stand next to a live one there is no way in hell I would attempt to stop one with a handgun if I had the choice of having a rifle in my hand.

          I did see Michael Bane hunt hogs with a 10mm and the caliber did not impress me anymore than any other handgun caliber. The hogs were not blown off their feet, it did not spin them around like a top and it did not make them disappear in a red puff of mist.

          As a matter of fact some of the hogs that were shot just stood there and looked at Bane. At first I though he had missed. This again shows how anemic handgun calibers are and how much myth surrounds caliber size and killing power. Hogs that were shot in Mexico in a barn yard by Pistolero magazine back in the 80’s proved that the .45 acp and .357 mag killed no better than the 9mm and .38 special.

        • If I’m in bear country (and here in Wyoming, we have real bears that have eaten people – elk hunters – for real, and recently) I’m carrying my .338 WinMag or I’m carrying a pump gun with Brenneke slugs. It’s a pain in the neck living and being outdoors in bear country.

        • It’s anecdotal to be sure, and I am most certainly not in powerhouse big bear country, we only have black bear here. Search and you will come across this vid of an admittedly crazy dude, testing against a brown bear skull partially encased with ballistic gel and using Underwood. Might want to mute after the shots, the music is terrible.

          Looks sufficient, in my opinion.

        • Dyseptic Gunsmith,

          Apparently you believe that a revolver with a 6-inch barrel chambered in .44 Magnum and with hot hardcast bullet loads is insufficient to stop bears?

          I was under the impression that a 300 grain, .43 caliber hardcast bullet with a large-flat meplat and muzzle velocity on the order of 1,300 feet-per-second would tend to be pretty effective at stopping bears up to 600 pounds or so.

        • The sort of bears we have in Wyoming that cause me to bring a .338 or 12 gauge with slugs on a back-country hike weigh a lot more than 600 pounds.

          We have grizzly here in Wyoming, thanks to the nutjob environmentalists who re-introduced them in the Yellowstone area, and they’re starting to spread out – just as the wolves did.

          I had a tag in elk area 051 a couple years back. The week before I was going to head over to my unit to go hunting, a hunter and guide were killed by a grizz in that unit. Spouse immediately put down her size 6 foot and said “No.”

          Grizzlies are a pain in the ass. You can read about how people thought they had a handle on them in the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. They scoffed at the Indians’ advice on bears, saying that the bruins could be settled by the white man’s guns.

          Two weeks later, there are entries in the journals bitching about how they had to send five men to do a one-man job – one man doing the job and four watching his back.

        • Dyseptic,

          Huh. I was under the impression that most grizzlies in the Lower 48 were around 600 pounds, with exceptionally large specimens approaching 900 pounds. Maybe that is incorrect.

          That would certainly explain why the man who owns Buffalo Bore ammunition carries really large revolvers in calibers such as .475 Linebaugh in grizzly country in the Lower 48 states.

          If you are so concerned as to think of a shotgun with Brenneke slugs, why not carry a lever-action rifle in .45-70 Government?

  19. I own a bunch of revolvers–but every last one is single action and unsuitable for CCW. Although the .45 Colt loaded with 250 grain lead bullets over 40 grains of black powder substitute is a ball buster for sure.

  20. In my opinion, revolvers are only suitable for self-defense in the sense that yes, they can do the job. I would never recommend one to anyone who doesn’t have a gun yet, and I’d encourage those with multiple guns to choose their semi over the revolver for every day carry.

    I’ll make exceptions to pistol caliber hunting or potentially 4-legged predator defense, but then you’re not taking those snub nose revolvers either.

    • Semi-autos are only suitable for self-defense in the sense that yes, they can do the job… until you’re flat on your back with someone twice your size banging the back of your head on the concrete and when you stuff your gat into his ribs you push the slide out of battery and the gun no go boom! So you pull the trigger again and again but no boom. Then you realize what happened and you need to push the slide back into battery but you’ve got one arm pinned behind your back, so you move your thumb behind the slide but now your monkey grip fails and the gun flops onto the ground and your antagonist sees it and thinks, ‘Oh cool, free gun.’

      If you want to make sure you can get 6 shots off you carry a revolver, if you’re more concerned about what might happen after you’ve fired 6 times you carry a semi-auto.

      • Pull firearm out, point muzzle, pull trigger. Can shoot one handed without worrying about limp-wristing. Can fire while the firearm is sideways, even upside down, without worrying about a malfunction. Don’t need to worry about “slap-rack” if it fails to fire; just pull the trigger again. Need accuracy at a distance? Pull back the hammer for single-action smoothness.

        If you’re not storming enemy fox-holes or crack-houses, a revolver is more than enough to do the job. Work on your accuracy. If you’re accosted by three or more hoodlums with firearms, shoot one in the head. Chances are the others will scram. If they don’t, a semi-automatic wouldn’t save you anyway. Even cops with semi-automatics and 17 round magazines still storm crack-houses en-masse.

        Semi-automatics were adopted by law enforcement because the “new breed of cop” (i.e. women) couldn’t handle the trigger pull and recoil of an all-steel revolver firing 158 gr at 1400 fps. Can’t handle the trigger pull and recoil? Get a grip trainer.

        You’re welcome.

        • “Semi-automatics were adopted by law enforcement because the “new breed of cop” (i.e. women) couldn’t handle the trigger pull and recoil of an all-steel revolver firing 158 gr at 1400 fps.”

          And then the FBI discovered that their new breed of agents couldn’t handle their new 10mm semi-auto hotness, which led to the “FBI load,” which led to the .40 S&W.

          Now law enforcement agencies are coming back around to the 9×19 semi-auto.

          I think law enforcement should regress even further. I’ve been advocated here at TTAG that law enforcement agencies be forced to go back to the .38 Special in a S&W revolver. It would help them focus on their marksmanship if they knew they had only six rounds and they couldn’t “spray all day.” People who prove that they can shoot .38 Specials could then be upgraded to a .357. Penetration issues into cars/through windshields/doors/etc solved, you’re welcome.

        • Now law enforcement agencies are coming back around to the 9×19 semi-auto.

          Hmmmmm the same gun that brought about the 10mm and the .40, history DOES repeat…

        • The whole reason Michael Brown was short in the street and the whole protest thing blew up was because the cop TRIED and failed to shoot him while Brown was reaching into his car and struggling to get his gun. Brown got a hand on the muzzle end of the cops semi-auto and that mowed the slide back just enough to take it out of battery. If the cop had been holding a .357 duty revolver instead, that “jam” as he called it wouldn’t have happened and Brown would have been shot right there in an incontestable position as the aggressor.

          Just keep that in mind. At contact distance, a revolver just works.

  21. Colt produces absolutely 0 guns that are competitively priced against guns of similar quality and performance.

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