Buying Your First Revolver
Image: Mcumpston (talk)Mike Cumpston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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Decided buying a revolver is in your future? Lots of people still love them, and for lots of good reasons. They were pretty much the only handgun outside of muzzleloaders and derringers until the end of the 19th century. And they then remained the dominant military and police sidearm until almost the end of the 20th century.

Believe it or not, the most proven combat pistol in history is not the 1911, nor the Browning Hi Power and certainly is not a GLOCK.

Buying Your First Revolver
Image: Major tom at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Smith & Wesson Model 10 has been used by more military personnel and police worldwide than any other gun in a defensive capacity. You can do a lot more with the right revolver; handgun hunting is also a thing and plenty of competitive shooting is done with them, too.

A good example is accurate, reliable and many of them are ergonomically outstanding. The feel of a Colt Peacemaker’s grip is incredible. A smooth DA revolver trigger is downright joyous to shoot compared to so very, many lackluster striker-fired triggers, but I digress. Heck, revolvers look good too.

Buying Your First Revolver
A Colt Python. Commence to drooling. IMage: lifesizepotato from San Antonio, TX [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
But what should you think about prior to buying one? Let’s run down a list of things to consider before purchasing a wheel gun.

The J-Frame Revolver for Deep Cover Concealed Carry...Still
Logan Metesh for TTAG

1: Think about how you’ll be using it. Guns are tools, so be sure to select the right one for the task. Are you going to just be punching paper? Is it a home defense gun? Do you just want to get a big gun and make it go boom? Are you planning to use it for concealed carry?

It’s not that you can’t own a revolver for just the sheer pleasure of it; you definitely can and plenty of people do. It’s just that you want to pick an appropriate gun for the purpose you have in mind so you get the most out of it.

If you just want to see what the wheel gun thing is about, a .22 LR or .22 WMR is a great starting point. Heck, you can get a Heritage Rough Rider for less than $200. That will let you do lots of shooting for cheap and you get the full revolver experience (albeit in single-action with the Rough Rider, but still.) In fact, a .22 revolver is incredibly fun. While I have high regard for all of my guns, the one I love the most is an H&R 649 that’s old enough to grumble about “kids these days.”

Want a concealed carry revolver for self-defense? Snubbies like a J-frame, LCR, or Taurus 85 are great carry guns, as are medium frames such as S&W’s Models 66, 586 and 686 round-butt models, Colt’s new King Cobra, the Ruger SP101 and others. Just looking for an entry level gun in .38 Special or .357 Magnum? S&W still makes the Model 10, the Taurus 82 and Rock Island Model 200 are good budget options and you’ll never go wrong with a Ruger GP100.

A pair of S&W Model 29s in .44 Magnum, the most pow…never mind. Image: Mike Cumpston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2: Be careful about the magnum bug. A lot of people who have more money than sense get the idea that they want a BIG GUN that shoots magnum rounds even though the closest they’ve been to bear country was watching “Winnie The Pooh.”

Every person I know who owns or has owned a Smith and Wesson Model 500 – the most powerful handgun on earth – has one of two things happen. They either bought it for about 75 percent of MSRP after it had been fired only a few times, or they sold it themselves for about 75 percent of MSRP having only fired it a few times.

If you want a Big Bore Revolver, you had better be sure that you really want one. Rent one a few times or buy some ammo for a friend who has one and ask them if you can shoot it. If you’re still convinced it’s the gun for you, then go ahead.

Josh Wayner for TTAG

3: Ammunition is probably going to cost you more. Outside of certain exceptions, ammunition for your revolver is going to come a little dearer than 9mm. While .38 Special and .357 Magnum aren’t ridiculously expensive (they’re about on par with .45 ACP and 10mm for a box of 50 FMJ) they are more expensive than 9mm.

And then you get into the big bores. Boxes of 20 factory rounds, even for range ammunition, usually run about $15 to $20 and boxes of 50 will start at about $30. Oh, and good luck finding much of it because even Cabelas doesn’t stock much .44 Special or .45 Colt.

Shooting something chambered in .454 Casull? Get a second mortgage.

A Ruger Blackhawk convertible model, which can shoot .45 Long Colt or .45 ACP with moon clips by swapping the cylinders. Image: Cx0188645/Wikimedia Commons

Top Tip: “convertible” revolvers are a godsend in this regard. S&W N-frames in .45 ACP (as well as surplus M1917 pistols in that chambering) and any convertible revolvers that can shoot 9mm as well as .38 Special/.357 Magnum will help too. There is also the odd wheelgun in 10mm.

Dan Z for TTAG

4: Your trigger technique had better be good. The long, hard double-action pull on revolvers has put off many a lily-livered Tactical Tom who’s been shooting GLOCKs all his life. The days when wheel guns were the dominant pistol were a more rugged time. Everyone wore flannel and yes, they wanted extra bacon with that.

The women were men. The children were men. The men, of course, were men, and probably would have been given to quoting “Scrubs” if it was on in those days.

Granted, it’s not that hard to learn. The double-action trigger pull just takes commitment. You squeeze hard and straight back. It’s like a tackle in football; you don’t make contact and then drive the ball carrier down. You hit through them.

Google “Jack Tatum” if you need visual reference.

With that said, shooting double-action will actually teach you better trigger habits and give you better control if you’re willing to put in the work. And yes, combat shooting with a revolver is DA only. That’s why guys like Bill Jordan, Charles Askins and Clint Smith grind the horns off their hammers.

Dan Wesson revolvers (.44 magnum above, .41 magnum below) image Dan Z. for TTAG

5: Easy to shoot or easy to carry…pick one. If you’re considering a revolver for defensive purposes, you generally have to pick between easy shooting and easy carrying.

The easiest to pack are snubbies, and getting really accurate with one (most have less than two inches of barrel, small grips and a small double-action revolver trigger) takes a lot of practice. A .38 Special J-frame or LCR is lively and has a short sight radius.

A snubbie in .357 Magnum is all but unbearable. You can size up to a round butt medium-frame, but bear in mind that they are close in weight to classic Wonder Nines like the Beretta 92 and SIG P226 in size and weight.

That’s as close to a compromise as you’re going to get.

Guns like a Ruger GP100 or S&W Model 19 are easy to shoot and shoot well, but the larger frame, longer barrel length and heft (close to 40 ounces in weight) make them difficult to carry concealed. I love “Dirty Harry” as much as the next guy, but wearing a 6-inch N-frame in a shoulder holster is something I won’t do if I have a choice.

buying a revolver first
Josh Wayner for TTAG

6: Get ready to fall in love. While the wheel gun is considered an anachronism by many these day, there is just something about them that gets people to keep buying them.

It’s like other older pistols like the 1911, Browning Hi Power and so on. While nostalgia is a selling point for some people, what’s also true is that there are inherent qualities that still make them very good guns.

Nothing is quite like the grips on a Single Action Army or one of its clones. The feel of an all-steel gun, the blued metal and walnut, it’s something else. They feel solid, substantial, and in a way that polymer-frame semi-automatic pistols just don’t. Some people get acclimated to the recoil of a magnum and never care to experience anything else.

They have a je ne sais quoi that you have to experience to appreciate.

But what do you think? Are you swayed to one side or another? Think it’s time the wheel gun went the way of the dodo? (You’re wrong, and get the heck out of my office. Pick up your last check and don’t come around here anymore!) Finally convinced of the truth that only blue cheese should be served with wings? Sound off in the comments!

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    • Don’t let the price make you miss out on the experience. For under 5 bills you can get a Pietta or Uberti reproduction that looks good and shoots very well. Ruger Vaqueros are a couple hundred more.The Colts and USFA guns are beautiful but at their prices you won’t want to shoot them.

      • I also shoot my Colt SAAs. Why not? I’m not planning on selling them any time soon, they’ll probably be a part of my estate.

        Nowadays, the primary reason I buy a revolver is the price. If I can add another 5 screw S&W or Colt at what I consider a good price, I buy it.

    • If you are referring to the price tag on a SAA COLT, you can pay 4 digits, but many are available in the high 3 figures (see I have shot both Colt and its many clones side by side, and there is honestly very little difference between an Uberti, Cimarron, or Ruger. And they can be had for as little as $200. Nothing fits your hand or points and shoots like an 1873 model revolver. Go get one!

    • And always remember that most single actions don’t have a transfer bar between the hammer and the firing pin. This means that if the hammer is down on a loaded chamber, the firing pin is touching the primer of a live round, and the only thing it would take to set it off is a tap on the hammer spur. Keep the gun loaded with an empty chamber under the hammer and it won’t be a problem.

      • Since so many younger shooters have missed out on basics of gun handling (thanks to the modern obsession with cheez-whiz semi-auto handguns), I’ll repeat my instructions on how to safely load a 1873/Peacemaker/Singe Action Army (or clone) revolver:

        Starting with an empty revolver, first pull the hammer back to the half-cock position. Open the loading gate.

        Load one chamber. Rotate the cylinder, skipping one chamber. Then load the remaining four chambers. This next bit is important: pull the hammer all the way back to full cock, then lower the hammer. The hammer will now be down on the empty chamber.

        • As per “gun handling”, I’m always more concerned with the yokel who drops the magazine on a semiautomatic but forgets the chamber still has a round in it…

    • I have a Uberti Cattleman in .45 long Colt and it’s a beautiful gun. The way it fits the hand is just something that has to be experienced.

      My one and only complaint with it is the cost of the .45LC ammo. Lol!

      • Seems that as 45 colt gains more use that it should be cheaper. I’d love to shoot it more frequently but it costs too much to use on a regular basis. I don’t have the option to reload so I’m stuck with factory ammo.

      • So reload. At the very modest pressures used by the .45 Colt, your brass will go through at least a half-dozen reloadings.

        • not everyone has the opportunity or ability. I am prevented due to my living situation at the time and don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future. Others may have similar, or different reasons, but the knee-jerk response of “just reload” doesn’t apply to everyone.

        • A Lyman 310 tool is cheap enough, and small enough, you could reload while sitting in your living room, watching TV. Especially for rounds like the .45 Colt.

          If there’s one thing that really annoys me about the modern gun market, it is how complicated shooters have made everything today. Some people actually think you need a progressive press to reload. Even more people think you need a bench-mounted press to reload.

          Such contrivances are modern inventions. Look back in history to 100+ years ago, and you can discover that people not only loaded their own ammo, and they did it with tools that often came in the same box as the gun.

        • @dyspeptic it isn’t that I don’t want to try to reload, it is not possible. Presently I could probably make it work but I am in the process of changing jobs/careers. Where I am hopefully headed means I can’t even have guns on hand, let alone ammo and reloading equipment, due to living at the place of employment…as a professional staff member in a residential setting. I’ll have to store my range toys off site, so not everyone can reload 😇

          • Whatever you’re doing I hope it pays really really well. No guns and no freedom to do what you please spells no fun to me. Sounds more like prison than a job.

    • Ruger Vaqueros go for ~$600-650 online, about $100 more retail. Super Blackhawks about the same and the standard Blackhawks a little less. I paid $500 shipped and transferred for my ’06 50th Anniversary .44 magnum Blackhawk (not Super) that was used but unfired. For the traditional look Uberti makes some pretty nice yet affordable SAAs and they have the transfer bar like Ruger so you don’t have to worry about loading all 6 chambers.

      • I still prefer the old style, and only load five rounds. I like the way the chambers line up with the loading gate when on half cock. If one demands to load all chambers, then the best feeling single action of all, IMO, is a Ruger old model with the transfer bar retrofitted by Ruger. They put in the transfer bar, but not the new style loading gate that unlocks the cylinder. One still needs to put the hammer at half cock to turn the cylinder. It loads and feels like the old models(which it really is) but is safe to carry with six.
        I bought one already done that way, but I wouldn’t recommend having it done on a true old model. They have some collector value that gets destroyed if modified.

  1. After carrying and using striker guns for years, I finally bought a K6S a bit over a year ago. I love it, and it’s my only carry fun almost all the time now. Compact, smooth…my duty gun is still an XDM 45, but for trolling around town I prefer my revolver.

    I may just be obsessed with the rosewood grips. So nice.

      • Are you using your phone or tablet?
        I use a desktop, and I now get an edit function.
        The “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” function is still MIA, though.

        • I just got lucky (or unlucky) and found that smooth ivory or wood works well in my hand. It has low friction for adjusting my grip and high friction when I tighten my grip. This true dry or with water or blood on the grip as well. I realize that others have different results. Maybe my skin is different somehow, I dunno. Most people I know prefer the Hogue types grips.

        • I certainly prefer hardwood or G10 grips, and not just for aesthetics. I’ve put it to the test on the timer on several occasions, and I shoot faster with hardwood or G10 grips than I do with soft overmolded grips. I just get better control of the gun.

  2. Number 6 was the only thing I encountered when I got my Rhino, my first revolver. I knew it was quirky and unconventional. I was used to DA/SA due to my familiarity with my semi-auto – the DA trigger on my Rhino is actually easier than the one on my Px4. Size, ammo, nothing mattered as I was hell bent on getting a Rhino. My hand is sore from 100 rounds of 357 on Sunday but damn that thing is accurate and easy to shoot.

    • Most any DA revolver has a better trigger than your PX4, although the Storm does have a better DA trigger than the 92. I’ve never actually pulled the trigger on a Rhino but a friend has one an when I let him dry fire my GP 100 he thought it was definitely better, although I’ve got a WC spring kit in it that drops about a pound off both DA and SA. The Rugers are pretty easy to install those, but I can’t speak to other brands.

      • I had read that some spring kits could cause misfires and were not recommended for self defense weapons, have you had any issues after the spring kit was installed ?

        • The stock hammer is 14# and the kit had 12,10 and 9# springs. I used the 10# and have had no misfires. I had heard that the 9# would occasionally misfire with some ammo. Also dropped the trigger return spring from 12# to 8#. One nice thing about a revolver though is that if you do have a misfire you pull the trigger again and you get a whole new round to drop the hammer on. You’re not stuck doing the tap-rack shuffle like with a striker pistol.

      • Not long ago I was looking at a Colt Night Cobra at the LGS. That trigger was a joy – smooth, clean break, consistent. If I had the money that would be one of the next firearms added to my collection.

  3. My advice for those who want to get into a big bore revolver: start with either classic, .357 or .44 mag. Both rounds offer a lot of boom and power, and both guns and ammo don’t break the bank. Also the recoil on both is manageable in a full size gun. You can also download to the special rounds if need be.

    • Large, heavy frames soak up recoil. Longer barrels get more out of magnum cartridges. A 6″, .357 Ruger Redhawk weighs 52 ounces. The equivalent S&W Model 27 is a bit lighter at 44 ounces.

      • Yup.

        I have a Super Redhawk in 44 Mag.

        It’s a pussycat to shoot. Much fun, the only unpleasant thing is the price of the ammo.

        A friend has an LCP in .380, that thing is a goddam wrist-wrecker.

        • I have an LC9 and agree with you. It is a great pistol for what it is designed for. I would not want to shoot it all day…

  4. I always find myself taking my revolvers out more often than my semi autos just because they’re more fun to shoot. Versatility is also nice. With most calibers, I have the option to blow the crap out of something or take it a little easier and just have fun. And when you’re all done, no brass to pick up!

  5. Have an older Taurus nickel plated 4″ six shooter my dad had picked up cheap, and an LCR, both in 38. Would like to get a nicer .357 later on to add to the above’s and the pistols in both DAO and DA/SA in the safe.

  6. My first handgun was a Colt Lawman MK III in 357 Magnum. I liked it because it had the ability to shoot both 38 special and 357. It had a great action and was pretty accurate for a 4 inch barreled fixed sighted revolver. I went on to the Colt 1911 in 45 acp which was my main working gun for many years but I own as many revolvers as I do autos and my main carry gun is a Ruger SP101 DAO in 357. I don’t feel under armed with it.

  7. 44 mag is fun and not too terribly expensive if you reload too. Anything bigger than 44 mag and reloading is essential. Shooting a good double action revolver accurately should translate to better accuracy with pretty much anything else in the realm of handguns, especially magnum revolvers. I’m looking at getting a 454 Casull next besides the new S&W model 610’s. Not for any particular reason just because both are fun to shoot if you like big bore revolvers.

    • “but it’s OOP now.”

      I thought you didn’t care…

  8. Take a look at the Ruger Blackhawk single action conversion. I have the 45 Colt/45acp. So much fun to shoot and the ACP is so much cheaper than the Colt. They also make a 38/357 Blackhawk with an extra 9mm cylinder. Love shooting single action. It slows you down and allows you to concentrate while at the same time you’d be surprised at how fast you can get six shots off. Rent one. You’ll be glad you did.

    • 406 Ammunition (Stevensville, Montana) has .45 Colt – 50 rnd boxes, either LFP or plated FP for around $22. Works great in my rifles and revolvers.

  9. While the ammo is expensive, the revolver could be reasonably priced if that ammo is an oddball caliber.

    Think about some of the .32’s and the Nagant. Not exactly defensive carry worthy, but plinkable and attention getting at the range. Sort of like the guy with a Tokarev or CZ 52 alongside the black gun/striker masses.

    If ammo cost is an issue, 9mm revolvers with moon clips; LCR, S&W PC 929, 986, Charter Arms and Taurus.

    • When you mention .32’s don’t knock the .327 Fed Mag. More power than a .38 Spc and very closely rivals a .357 Mag. As for the Nagant, I’ve got one in excellent shape (not too many years ago you could order one online for $99), ammo can be ordered from sgammo (it’s not that expensive), is a good range toy, and is a hoot to shoot. BTW, I have fired .32 S&W Long as well as .32 H&R Mag through it no problem.

  10. I think you confuse in service with the military and combat proven. They are not the same thing. The 1911 is clearly the most combat proven in history. No Army post WWI went to war with a revolver as its standard sidearm. Rear area troops and done aviators carried revolvers but that’s about all.

      • The British went to war with whatever they had that would shoot. They had to beg for donations from American private citizens.

        I read about an American who donated his revolver and a box of ammunition. After the war, the mailman delivered a package from the United Kingdom. It contained his revolver and most of the same box of ammo.

  11. My first shootable revolver was a surplus Model 1917 Colt when I was 15. I never felt comfortable with a single-action Colt until several years ago, when I tried out a friend’s Bisley; it just felt right. I couldn’t afford an original, so I bought a Cimarron copy in .44 Special. Perfect!

  12. There’s no reason to limit yourself to one handgun. Or to one handgun type. Shooting should be fun, first.

    As much as I love revolvers I will argue the authors contention that the revolver was the gun of choice for the military and police for much of the 20th century. The only major power still using revolvers as standard issue at the start of ww2 was England. Evan the backwards red army had adopted a semi auto by then.

    • I always wanted Pink’s dad to come home from the war and pistol whip some sense into his whiny narcissistic son’s head with that Webley. Oh well, at least the Anzio bridge held…

        • Interesting footnote to musical history; 22 years later an obscure* Canadian alt-country band named Luther Wright and the Wrongs fixed everything that was wrong with the Pink Floyd version of the wall in their own cover of all 26 songs which they called ‘Rebuild the Wall’.

          *How obscure you ask? I had to pay in Canadian dollars for most of their catalog and received a handwritten addressed envelop from Quebec when I received my CDs.

        • Maybe I’m just weird, but I like the one with 366 views way better than the one with 7 million.

        • I’ve got a friend who used to own a record store that had heard it once and mentioned it because I was into the bluegrass covers. You can get there stuff here; That should be Canadian dollars. The second album (Roger’s Waltz) was recorded on Luther’s back porch (you can hear crickets in the background) and the sound quality isn’t great. Songs are good though. Some of the later stuff is a little more adult contemporary.

        • The whole album’s pretty good if you’re into the alt-country/bluegrass thing. They took all the whining and narcissism out and replaced it with banjos. I think that’s why rock music has been dying a slow, miserable death – too much whining.

  13. I did the police qualification many times for fun with my SW 29 with a 4” barrel. It made everything else much easier to shoot. Except of course for that brutal little j frame 642 in 357. My hand hurts just thinking about it while all barn doors remain safe.

    • Guy at LGS showed me one of them awhile back when I told him I liked 357. No. No. No. I like 357 in 586, GP100, etc., not in something that light.

  14. If you can carry a 4″ pistol you can carry a 3″ revolver.

    If you’re a semi-auto guy and can’t picture yourself carrying a revolver but want one anyway, get a .44 mag. It will fill a void in your collection that could only be filled with a Desert Eagle if you stick to pistols.

    There’s no law against thumbing the hammer back. In fact the original concept was DA for fast up close work and SA for longer precision shots. Start shooting DA at 7 yards and work from there. Won’t take much to shoot minute of bad guy at that range. If you want to get better do a lot of dry firing. And use the last joint on the trigger not the tip of your finger.

    • I carry both, sometimes a .41 Mag, sometimes a 1911, sometimes a .357 Mag…what’s nice is that the .41 and the .357 are the same frame size, so I can use the same holster for both…I think it’s important to have choices, and to know how to use those choices effectively…Oh, and I always have a .357M snubbie as B/U, regardless of what I’m carrying as primary…

    • You have it bass ackwards. If you can carry a 3″ revolver you can carry a 4″ revolver. And fuggitaboudt thumbing the hammer back if you ever are in a defensive shooting situation. Too easy for a negligent discharge when you are startled, trip, are jostled, etc.

      • Well most DGUs don’t happen at 50 yards. It doesn’t take a lot to master the DA trigger well enough for defensive use out to 7-10 yards. If you don’t feel like mastering it beyond that, I wouldn’t worry about it. Thumbing the hammer back isn’t any different than flicking the safety off on a 1911.

        My point on the 3″ to 4″ comparison is that it doesn’t really matter for carry that the grip curves back farther on a revolver but the slide length vs muzzle to hammer spur is what matters. So a 3″ revolver carries a lot like a 4″ semi-auto.

    • If you can carry a 4″ pistol you can carry a 3″ revolver.

      This. I have a Ruger LCR-X 3″ that’s easier to carry than my G26.

      • In particular I was using my 3″ Wiley Clapp GP 100 for comparison.

  15. I own lots of pistols, but always have at least one revolver around. Currently, it’s a Taurus 82 but I’ve owned many others over the years. My fist handgun was a Ruger Security Six that I eventually sold to a Lakota Sioux friend of mine who was a USFS Smoke Jumper for a song so he’d have something reliable to take into the back country with him. It was a great gun and still touches a spot in my heart when I think about it.

    And yes, wings go best with blue cheese.

  16. Thanks for the article. Can’t wait until S&W Model 610, 10mm becomes available. Missed out on the last go around. A review would he great.

  17. I really want a Mateba Unica 6 at some point.
    Shame that they’re so damn expensive. I might just have to settle for a Rhino.

  18. J found an excellent carry package for me was a standard heavy barrel 4 inch model 10 with a round butt and boot grips. It was an Australian police trade in. Very rough cosmetically but excellent mechanically. I had it cerakoted in a two tone scheme with a black frame and barrel, and silver/grey hammer, cylinder, and trigger. Carried it in an alien gear IWB holster with rubber hogue boot grips. It was an exceptional carry gun for me. I never brag but it was a deadly combo for me. I carried it with a pair of safariland comp tac speedloaders and could shoot 1-2 inch groups at ten yards with it as fast as I could pull the trigger, and I was FAST with those reloads with the comp tacs. I took a handgun class with it and was the only revolver in a class of ten or so, and the instructor always made me shoot more to watch my reloads. Unfortunately I’ve found it’s definitely a perishable skill, as I haven’t had a revolver for some time and I’m pretty rusty now. I gave it to my step dad for his bday a few years ago, but reading this make me want to get it back somehow!

  19. Cuz I’m an NRA instructor, I’m “forced” to have numerous revolvers and pistols. When looking for my first .357, I was settled on the Ruger GP, but didn’t like the staging of the trigger.
    Spent more money and got the S&W 686+ (7-shot), and later picked up a Ruger LCR in .38spl, and then the Uberti Cattleman Grizzly-Paw in .357, which is a good way to teach the difference in “felt recoil” with different sizes and weight of the firearms.

  20. You know, having had them all, if I had to choose a revolver to carry it would be a 9mm with a three inch barrel. It certainly would not have a “Hillary Hole”, and I’d stuff it with Underwood Ammo.

  21. What’s not to like about a revolver? You can’t beat a revolver for home defense especially for elderly folks and people who are unfamiliar with handguns. You fill the wheel with six or five and you don’t have to check to see if one is in the chamber or if the safety is on. Cowboy action is restricted to revolvers and a repro single action is relatively cheap and you can get a reliable .22 for a hundred bucks and play cowboy if that’s your thing.. If you travel in bear country you can load up with a ported .44 mag to hold down the recoil

    • While I like revolvers you can get the same effect by taking a Glock (or similar) pistol with a respectable trigger weight, chambering it, and treating it the same as a revolver- except with much more capacity. No active safety needed and if you don’t need to unload a revolver there’s no need to unchamber a simple striker-fired handgun.The only real difference in terms of use will be the very unlikely scenario of firing out of battery due to a contact shot; the revolver brings its own problems into play in that sort of situation if someone grabs the cylinder.

      The main draw of a revolver to me is being able to fire a more powerful cartridge in a smaller package but I think its benefits to the novice or rare gun user are overstated.

  22. Six things to consider if you are going to bet your life on your carry weapon.
    1. Sig Sauer
    2. Glock
    3. FN
    4. H&K
    5. Walther
    6. S&W pistols

  23. I can understand the need for a high capacity semi-automatic handgun for the modern military and police use but for the life of me I can’t figure out why a civilian would favor a semi-automatic handgun over a revolver. Magazine capacity has been restricted in a lot of jurisdictions for civilian use and the chance of a civilian protecting him/herself with more than six shots is remote. Is it about trigger pull? I have a gunsmith worked S&W that I used to use for NRA combat matches that has a smoother double action than most creepy automatics have these days. The ease of handling a revolver and the variety of calibers should outweigh the usefulness of a semi-auto but people get caught up in the romance and hype I guess.

    • Easier to shoot well; especially for beginners. Last longer than revolvers. Easier to clean than revolvers. Much faster to clear malfunctions than revolvers. Less expensive than revolvers. Easier to reload than revolvers. You get the picture.

      • Since when are semi-automatic handguns “easier to shoot well”? Maybe a smooth .22 auto is more fun than a clunky revolver but the recoil of a Glock 9mm is harder to master than the recoil of a .38 revolver. Last longer? Hundred year old revolvers are in better shape than the rattle trap semi-auto’s of the era.

        • I’ll always start a new shooter with a semi auto. It prevents learning recoil adversion. A DA trigger means far more frustration getting to the center of the target.

          Starting with a revolver, other that a full size revolver loaded with 38spl or a 22.

          I’ve fired semi autos with over a million rounds through them (range guns). Old revolvers are neat but not for new shooters.

      • Have you ever, I don’t know, held a revolver in your hand. Maybe at a gun shop at some point?

        • Yes. My groups my revolver are dinner plate size at seven yards, if I’m having a good day. They’re fist size or smaller with semi-autos.

          I’m working on my revolver technique, but my semi-autos are much easier to shoot.

        • Well yes, SA is easier to shoot than DA and strikers are in between. But if you can keep your rounds on a dinner plate at 7 yards you’re good to go defensively. If for some reason you need to make a 25 yard defensive shot you’ll have to take the quarter second to thumb the hammer back, then you’ll have one of the best pistol triggers possible. But if you want to get better, practice dry firing. Work on keeping the front sight steady through the pull.

          As far as some of his other assumptions, I have no idea where he got the idea that semi-autos last longer than revolvers or are easier to clean. Yes they’re probably faster to clear a malfunction but revolvers almost never malfunction. Less expensive? There’s some pretty cheap revolvers out there but you get what you pay for with either. Easier to reload? That depends. If I toss you an empty weapon and a box of ammo and give you 10 seconds to load before I start shooting at you you’d quickly learn that cylinders are a LOT faster and easier to load than magazines. But once the mags are loaded, sure.

      • Most of what you said is dependent on the particular guns and shooters. As far as malfunctions go, I haven’t experience a malfunction of a revolver since about 1999 with my .475 Blackhawk – and that was a bullet pulling forward. I have experienced several (also mostly ammo related) in my autos though. A malfunction that doesn’t happen is easier to clear than one that doesn’t. I among others also point revolvers more naturally and shoot better with them than autos. Saying one is more expensive than the other is ridiculous – I don’t by cheap autos so it is definitely no true for me. I am not so foolish as to posit that either is better because that is very dependent on context and the the shooter.

      • Revolvers “easier to shoot well” another one of those myths people hear and repeat without experience. I have a lot of formalized experience with revolvers and I’m confused how people seem to think that a newbie handed a revolver and semi-auto will do better with the former.

        A DA revolver may have simpler controls than many guns- although striker fired semi-auto without a manual safety are about as simple- but it is not ‘easier’ to shoot. Think about it. With a revolver you need a trigger pull that cocks the hammer, rotates the cylinder, and then releases the sear. Most semis do not have your trigger doing all that work and taking that weight (remember, the NYPD and similar agencies had to purposely cripple their glocks to try and make them more like a revolver’s trigger weight). That doesn’t even take into account the reloading aspect.

        While it can be a good idea to learn on a revolver, it’s not because it’s easier. It’s because if you learn to fire a DA revolver accurately a semi-auto will feel like easy mode.

    • I can’t load a magazine much past 6 rounds by hand anyways because my thumbs are not that strong and I don’t have a “lula” widget. So even if it can hold 13 rounds I’ll still only load what few I can do. For me, the semi-auto is more about speed of firing over the DA, not how many it holds. Also, with a revolver I don’t have to remember to take the safety off. Safeties on a defense gun are like landing a plane gear up cause you forgot to lower the wheels on final approach. Baaaad.

      • My thought. Very, very few cops ever have to fire their weapons in anger. Even fewer more than 6 times in one event. Although the obligatory mag dumps are always useful just to make sure your dog is good and dead. That’s probably more of a SWAT thing though.

  24. I am always puzzled when someone writes an article about revolvers that moon clips are seldom mentioned. One of the nicest wheel guns out there to shoot is a Ruger SP101 9mm, for price, quality, weight, and feel, but it uses moon clips. I am keenly aware of DA trigger pull, and that gun makes it a pleasure. But for others who don’t want to deal with the clips and getting another piece of hardware to load and demoon, the next similar is the 38 S&W rimmed cartridge. (I love S&W revolvers a lot and own a few. But their price has gotten sterling.) The 327 FedMag is also rimmed I think, but what about the other smaller 32 rounds? Are they rimmed or will they also need moon clips? (H&R and S&W)

    • Moon clips WERE mentioned.

      Go back and read the caption for the picture of a Blackhawk Convertible.

      I have revolvers with moon clips, and a Blackhawk Convertible, but I sure hope Hoober’s next article explains how the technologies combine.

      (I wonder if it has something to do with the “hammer horn.”)

      • Moon clips WERE mentioned.

        Go back and read the caption for the picture of a Blackhawk Convertible.

        Heh. Except Blackhawk convertibles don’t use moon clips!

      • Got it. But nary an in-depth description. They’re not terribly well-known of among common folk, surprisingly.

    • Check the Charter Arms offerings in 9mm, and if you dare, check the Nighthawk Korth 9mm. No moon clips needed.

  25. Photo caption:

    A Ruger Blackhawk convertible model, which can shoot .45 Long Colt or .45 ACP with moon clips by swapping the cylinders.

    What? I don’t know if I can use moon clips in my Blackhawk convertible. Never tried. That’s because it would be the dumbest thing ever. The Blackhawk is a single action revolver that loads and unloads via a loading gate. To eject moon clips, you’d have to remove the entire cylinder.

    • Ha! Well it might actually be faster to pull the cylinder pin and remove the cylinder to reload than poke those empties out one by one…

      • I’m pretty good at poking empties! 🙂

        SA revolvers are about the only handgun out there that naturally favors lefties. The position of the loading gate and ejector mean that you never have to take your firing hand out of position.

        Besides, the whole ejection and loading sequence is part of the experience. I enjoy it!

        When it starts feeling slow, I get out my percussion cap revolver. 🙂

        • My current primary home defense weapon is my .44 mag Blackhawk anniversary model. I have no illusions about how long it would take to reload. It’s purpose is to get me to the next gun (as if there’s going to be any bad guys still in the house). My guess is 20 seconds at the range, 30 seconds under pressure.

        • …as if there’s going to be any bad guys still in the house…

          Maybe one punk. And he’ll be trying to decide if he feels lucky.

    • Ultimate revolver is an X frame in .500S&W. But your Raging Bull seems a little more practical.

  26. My love affair with wheel guns started with a used S&W model 60 and grew from there. And all I can say is… yippie.

  27. I got my first revolver last fall. It is a S&W 586-8 with a 4″ barrel. The very first shot of .357 Magnum that I fired from it will forever be one of my happiest memories.

  28. I ought put together a checklist for folks who are looking at used revolvers on how to evaluate them before buying.

    There are many revolvers available in the used market, and many of the police turn-ins from the days when LEO’s carried revolvers are reasonably priced.

  29. A big iron is also a great club when you run out of ammo, and need to bash somebody’s head in.

    • True, but please don’t use DA Colt revolvers for pistol-whipping someone. The DA Colt mechanism can be put out of time with sufficient force applied in this way.

      If you’re going to use a handgun as a club, get a N-frame S&W.

      • Here I always thought the perfect tool for pistol whipping was a 6″ GP 100…

        • That would work, certainly.

          But a S&W 629 with the 8″+ barrel would get the job done more quickly.

  30. My 1st gun is still my favorite gun and will never be sold.
    A 2.5 inch magna ported double action only. Model 66.
    To me the only thing Id change 30+ years later. Maybe NOT magna porting it.
    Not much fun to fire in anger at night. But nice to see when someone else is shooting it at night.
    Flame thrower for sure. And some temporary blinding.

  31. If you buy into the .357 or .44 mag game you’re buying into two of the most versatile calibers ever made. Period.

    Reloading for .357 is a joy, as will most straight wall revolver brass be. No PITA sizing like 9mm’s tapered cases. Cases last a long time especially if they’re not nickel. 6ish is common with my nickel .357 brass and am doing 8+ with my brass cases.

    Besides this, man that taper barreld Smith. A tapered barrel gun is definitely on the bucket list. They just look so 30s detective movie.

  32. A quality wheelgun is a masterpiece in manufacturing. Compared to plastic guns that pop out of an injection mold a revolver is truly made.

  33. I see only one need for a revolver. If someone needs a home defense gun and has little experience with guns the revolver is more simple to understand as to how it works and if it is loaded or not as compared to the automatic.

    The down side of attempting to use a revolver for the average inexperienced gun owner who never shoots and is not a gun person is that I have read about more than one case where a person attempted to shoot an assailant by using the double action method and ended up getting herself killed by the assailant because she missed at point blank range when using the long hard double action pull and only succeeded in hitting the fiend in the hand. He later raped and killed her. Yes there is required even a minimal training so she should have known it would have been way easier to hit him if she had cocked the gun in the single action mode.

    Many revolver lovers brag that they have mastered the double action pull but when I have asked people to show me how great they were you would be surprised how many never practiced with the double action pull and when they “showed me” they ended up missing the entire target at only a few feet away. So much for the average joe mastering a double action pull especially under stress.

    The revolver has little fire power and is a night mare to try and load under stress. Try counting your shots under pressure. For most this is impossible but with the high capacity auto-loader you can load it on Sunday and shoot it all week. In the past many a dead Cop was seen clutching an empty revolver after being out gunned by a crook with more firepower. Anyone who has been in a firefight already knows that throwing a huge amount of lead down range ups the chances of your scoring a hit as compared to the 6 or seven shots in a revolver. Too soon the gun is empty and you are dead before you reload. Round style speed loaders are bulky and not practical for concealed carry as well.

    The revolver is a bulky weapon because of the diameter of its cylinder even in the 5 shot “J” frame Smiths. The auto loaders are way more concealable and have more firepower and are lightening quick to reload even under stress.

    The old adage that revolvers are more reliable is not often as true as one might think either. I have seen them jam up because of lint or dirt in the mechanism. I have seen them jam up because of bullets pulling out of the cartridge case under recoil especially in the aluminum or titanium or plastic light weight frame models. Many people carry them because steel frame revolvers tend to be too heavy even in the small Smith “j” frame models. No such problem exists in the auto loaders as now most being produced have plastic frames but still function reliably.

    I do own revolvers but only for nostalgia as for me personally the auto has too many advantages over the archaic revolver.

    And how about hunting. There are some very powerful auto loaders that can be used for hunting but in most states you can use at least a shotgun with slugs which makes a way better weapon for hunting.

    For me personally I have no real use for the revolver except as a collector item or a range toy on a Sunday afternoon but when I get serious about doing deadly battle with marauding and enraged dangerous barn mice I carry my huge Walter Mitty Webly-Vickers Automatic in 50-80. Try finding one of those at your local gun store. You won’t find any because Trump confiscated them all after he melted down all the bump stocks.

  34. When Glock releases its V8 Vertical Cylinder revolver, all the wheelgun fanboys will oooh and ahhhh.

  35. I admit it…I’m an old school romantic when it comes to revolvers. I just love them all.

    I just want a classic blued .44 mag revolver for hunting and booming, and a classic tooled leather belt rig to haul it around in while I play cowboy.

  36. Admittedly, I didn’t read all the posts. But is the pic above the line mentioning a model 10 actually a pic of a model 1917?

    That said, go wheelies. I like their history and aesthetics better than pistols.

    Now I just get me an early 1917. I want something older than my 1955 28 no dash…

  37. Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one. The best handgun is the one you’re most comfortable and accurate with. A revolver is no better than a semi-automatic if that’s your gun of choice. I have both and my preference is equal between a Beretta 92 FS, a S & W Model 27-2 although I sometimes carry a Colt “Combat Commander” .45 ACP, and, yes, I’ve been known to carry a 6″ Model 29, loaded with Specials, in a shoulder rig. I don’t expect to fight a war but there’s always an extra mag or speed loader with me just in case. You’ve got to practice, practice, practice and become proficient for the time you need your weapon or all you’ll do is make a bunch of noise. Each has it’s advantages but the best advantage is your being comfortable and accurate with your weapon.

  38. I have a 6″ stainless GP100 and a 7.5″ second-gen Colt SAA, both in .357.

    That’s all – I’m just bragging. 😉

  39. I have a GP100 with the six inch heavy barrel. I shoot 38 special through it and the recoil is fairly light. It is a solid gun, dependable and not expensive at all. My nieces love shooting it, they always ask for it when I take them.

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