That was the question asked back in 1989. The Era of the Wondernine was upon us. Higher capacity 9mm semi-autos that held 15 or 17 rounds was becoming the new standard. Technological wonders from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, GLOCK, SIG SAUER, HK, Beretta, and others were hitting store shelves and could been seen in police holsters.
The talk at ranges and in roll call rooms was that the old reliable wheel gun was done. By the year 2000, we’d all be shooting phased plasma rifles in the 40-watt range…and doing it on the moon.
Well boys and girls, they were wrong. They were wrong then and those who claim wheel guns are a thing of the past are still wrong now. The revolver is not dead, not by a long shot. In fact, I’d say they’re enjoying something of a rebirth. The revolver is regaining popularity like the mythical phoenix, obtaining new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.
I can tell you this, the revolver never lost popularity in my house. I grew up in a house of both automatics and revolvers. My father cut his teeth as a street cop carrying a wheel gun and I grew up shooting them.
Here’s a snapshot of the family armory back in the day when I was the TV’s remote control for my father.
As time marched on, automatics did indeed replace revolvers in cops’ holsters across the country. When I started my career, the revolver was relegated to being a backup gun and off-duty gun. We weren’t allowed to qualify with one as a primary duty gun.
I carried a Smith & Wesson J-frame of one flavor or another on my ankle as a BUG and toted revolvers as off-duty pieces too.
I found the wheel gun to be comforting and comfortable to carry. The two- and three-inch guns carry fine and are easy to conceal. The .38 Special and .357 Magnum loads I carried were capable and potent. I never felt under-armed with a revolver on my hip as an off-duty cop.
And I don’t to this day as a private citizen, either. I still carry them and even though I hung up the badge. I still deal with plenty of lowlife vagabonds who want to steal from us. Except now they’re in elected office.
As Gun Owner of America’s Florida State Director, I carry a revolver at most events I speak at to promote open carry and show the public that gun ownership is something that shouldn’t be hidden.
I have a pile of GLOCK, HK, Beretta, and Smith & Wesson autos. But there’s something about a revolver that just screams class.
But carrying and using a revolver these days isn’t simply about looks and hipster points. They’re still very capable self-defense tools and I put them through their paces at the local matches I shoot at. I was able to keep up with other competitors using automatics.
As a home defense gun, the need for the revolver to be small and compact goes out the window. Size doesn’t matter. In fact, the bigger the better in my opinion. The larger framed and longer barreled guns work better in home defense situations.
The weight aids in reducing recoil and the longer barrels give the shooter a longer, better sight radius. The Model 14 shown above is a kitten to shoot with the ever-classic .38 Special Treasury Load. A 110 grain Winchester JHP loaded to +P+ specs, this was one of the go-to loads back in the day and it is still a very viable load today for self defense.
Out of the six-inch Model 14, it’s very controllable since recoil is almost nonexistent from this gun.
The larger-framed Colt Python (I-frame) and S&W Model 686 (L-frame) are even better. Chambered in .357 Magnum, these wheel guns with their full under-lug barrels and overall larger size make shooting the stout .357 Magnum round very doable for even the novice shooter.
The Model 625 (N-Frame) is also another kitten when it comes to shooting, .45 ACP out of this gun is very tamed.
Again, concealing these guns isn’t an issue, so go big.
If you want something easy to carry, the classic snub nose is still an excellent choice even today. Yes, the micro-compact high capacity 9mm autos are awesome guns. I won’t deny that. But not everyone wants a SIG P365 or a Ruger MAX-9.
They’re easy to carry and easy to conceal. The nice thing about a J-frame like the Model 342Ti is that it weighs in at twelve ounces loaded and can be fired from the inside of a coat pocket without jamming. Plus, Smith & Wesson makes a .357 version called the Model 340PD. It is, in fact, the lightest .357 Magnum in the world the last I checked.
For general all around outdoor fun, nothing beats a good four-incher. For folks in the lower forty-eight; the classic duty-sized spinner is still a good choise for carrying on the trail in most places. The .38 Special +P and .357 Magnum loads are accurate and pack enough power to deal with any critter you might encounter, of either the two- or four-legged variety.
They also make for good home defense guns, too.
But nothing in my opinion is better than a three inch, fixed sight revolver.
They’re the best overall setup. Compact grips that you can still get a full hold of. Fixed rear sights so they’re simple and dead-nuts reliable. I mostly carry one of these guns these days when I’m out and about town.
Shooting the .357 Magnum round from them is controllable and the .45 ACP chambered single action is a great wood guns. A 255 grain semi-wadcutter from the Ruger bird’s head Vaquero is a very good load for use in the Florida swamps.
Market wise, there’s no shortage of options these days. Ruger, Taurus, and Smith certainly haven’t stopped making them. Kimber offers some very good options and Colt has jumped back in with the Cobra, King Cobra, Python, and now the Anaconda.
Will revolvers regain their place as a duty gun for cops? No, not likely. But they aren’t destined for the trash heap of history anytime soon either.
So don’t turn your nose up at one.
They’re still fun at the range and plenty effective in a personal defense role.
Luis Valdes is the Florida Director for Gun Owners of America.