Recently a friend asked how important I considered accuracy in a carry gun.
I replied very important — the handgun I was carrying would put five shots into 2.0 inches at 15 yards with practically any load.
What was it he asked? A J-Frame Smith and Wesson was the reply. The revolver is far from outdated and, in some circumstances, is the best choice among handguns.
Let’s look at five of the reasons you should carry a revolver. I will make a point that I use both the self-loader and the revolver, and have different roles for each.
I would hate to be without either, but I began shooting with the revolver and it may be the last handgun I would part with.
Reason #1: Reliability and Longevity
Revolvers will take use, the self-loader takes abuse. A quality revolver will last many thousands of cycles.
Even at a high round count — 5,000 to 10,000 rounds — the revolver may be tuned up with new action springs and end-shake bushings.
Reaming a worn forcing cone restores accuracy. The revolver doesn’t have springs at rest when the handgun is at home ready.
The trigger is pressed and this puts pressure on the mainspring, rocking the hammer back then releasing it.
In the self-loader, magazine springs are under pressure when the handgun is loaded.
The GLOCK striker spring is prepped and the 1911 mainspring is under pressure when the pistol is carried cocked and locked. A revolver will last for decades.
I once owned a Colt SAA manufactured in 1899. It was all original.
A few years ago the hand broke, but I could still manually revolve the cylinder to fire the revolver! Revolvers are simply super reliable and long-lived.
Reason #2: Combat Ability At Close Range
This is the reason my backup handgun is a revolver.
If the fight takes place at intimate range, the revolver may be pressed into the adversary’s body and fired repeatedly.
A self-loading pistol would jam after the first shot.
Animal attacks are much the same. It is most common for the big cats to go for the head.
A revolver pressed into the animal’s body and fired repeatedly is the answer.
A four-inch barrel .357 Magnum is among my favorite all-around outdoor revolvers for this reason, and with proper loads, it may be a fine all-around carry gun for any situation.
If the grip isn’t perfect, a self-loader will short cycle. Not so the revolver.
Reason #3: Accuracy
Accuracy varies among revolvers just as it does self-loading pistols.
A four-inch barrel .357 Mag is usually more accurate than all but the most finely-tuned automatic pistols.
You pay a lot for accuracy in custom-grade 1911-type automatics. A Colt Python revolver is among the most precise handguns ever manufactured.
Smith and Wesson classic revolvers with modern tight tolerances don’t give up much to the Python.
Among the most accurate revolvers is a Smith and Wesson Model Ten. The Ruger GP100 is probably as accurate as the average Python, but not quite as smooth.
Reason #4: Power
Revolvers are very powerful in the right chambering, that is why we call them Magnums. The .38 Special is a versatile and powerful cartridge.
With modern loads, it is a capable caliber. The .357 Magnum is among our most proven calibers.
The .44 Special and .45 Colt are low-pressure numbers that offer plenty of wound potential with low recoil — although each may be loaded much heavier than factory specifications if you own a Ruger revolver chambered in these calibers.
The revolver offers a good choice for those that favor one shot, one hit.
Reason #5: Versatility
The wheel gun may fire different loads at different levels of power without any concern for function.
A self-loading handgun will function only with loads in a fairly narrow band. As an example, the .45 ACP 230-grain 850 fps load is standard.
A slower load may lead to short cycles, a heavy load may outstrip the ability of the magazine to feed.
Let’s take the .357 Magnum revolver as an example of revolver reliability.
For practice or small game, a 148-grain wadcutter at 750 fps in .38 Special is a mild and accurate loading.
For general-purpose use, a 158-grain SWC at 800 fps remains a mild and accurate loading.
A 125-grain JHP .38 Special at 1,000 fps makes a good home-defense load for most shooters.
The .38 Special is often regarded as the most powerful loading an occasional shooter may handle well.
Moving to the .357 Magnum, a medium-velocity loading such as the Remington 125-grain Golden Saber breaks 1,200 fps with good wound ballistics.
The full-power 125-grain JHP may exhibit 1,350 to 1,440 fps depending on the load. This is excellent power, practically a rifle on the hip.
If you hunt medium game, a 158-grain bullet at 1,400 fps from a six-inch barrel works well.
If you need a load for defense against large animals, Buffalo Bore offers a 180-grain flat-point bullet clocking 1,380 fps from the four-inch barrel GP100.
A similar situation exists with the .44 Special and .44 Magnum. And don’t forget shotshells, which do not usually function in self-loading pistols.
Conclusion: Is a Revolver for You?
Revolvers are far from outdated or an implement of the past. They are modern, reliable, powerful and offer many advantages.
When you have mastered the smooth rolling action of the revolver, you will be less likely to flinch during recoil.
For some, the revolver simply fits the hand well. Don’t discount the revolver out of hand when choosing a defensive handgun.
Do you like using a wheel gun for personal defense? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section.