It was a brisk Saturday morning. The North Texas winter was usually mild, but this year was different. Sheets of ice lay like patchwork over the ground and I had to brush the frost off my windshield before heading to the local range. I managed to sneak out of the house in the early morning before the wife handed me the usual honey-do list. I’m not sorry to say I’ve been avoiding it in favor of some quality range time.
I was meeting up with a law enforcement friend of mine for a day of shooting. It was hard to hide my excitement. Playing weekend hooky wasn’t my normal routine so it felt good to grab my guns and get out in the open. I pulled up to the range and my comrade had his guns out while he organized his ammo. He already put some holes in a paper target, which sat in the middle of the three-sided berm. His Colt Python had some steam coming off the barrel, this was no surprise to me since he bragged about that wheelgun on a regular basis.
As beautiful and well built as that weapon was, I noticed that he usually carried a Glock 19 when he was on duty, not his fancy Colt six shooter. A .357 magnum revolver was still on the approved duty pistol list carry, so I was curious about his choice. When I asked about why he carried a little 9mm instead of that intimidating Colt, he said he felt that it was simply obsolete.
Obsolete? I wasn’t sure what to think about that. With the modern semi-automatic pistols being so affordable and reliable, was he right in saying that his beloved Python was too old of a platform to be a viable duty weapon? I dove into the matter and came to a few conclusions, but no definite answers.
This is the largest strike for revolvers. Six rounds of ammunition just doesn’t seem to cut the mustard when you can just as easily carry 16. Some double action defensive revolvers carry five, and reloading a wheelgun in the middle of a gunfight can be cumbersome. Reloading a semi-automatic is just as fast as dropping the mag, throwing in a new one, and closing the slide. All this happens after you dump 16 rounds from the previous magazine to boot. Semi-automatics have a clear edge in this category, and but that is really no surprise.
A quality revolver is just about the most reliable handgun you can own. There really isn’t a lot to go wrong. For the most part, every time you pull the trigger, it will go bang. If by chance, you pull the trigger and it fails to fire, simply pull it again. There is no need for failure to feed drills. In the past, the edge in this category would squarely belong to the revolver, however, with proper duty ammunition, a modern quality semi-automatic is every bit as reliable as the best wheelgun. Sure, there are plenty of junky semi-autos out there that can’t get through a magazine without a stovepipe, but a suitable duty pistol, properly maintained and operated, will get the job done without any issues. In my option, this category would have to be a tie, due to the reputation of Glocks, M&Ps, M9s, and XDs. My Glock 19 has thousands of rounds through it and itnever jams, not even during that wonky break in period.
Another tie. Recent advancements in ammunition make the old revolver rounds just as deadly as the latest in .45 or 9mm. You can find mile long threads on every gun forum about .38 versus 9mm and .44 versus .45. The bottom line is a well-placed shot from any of these rounds does the trick, body armor not withstanding. A .357, like my friend’s Python has an outstanding reputation for killing power, as does all but the most anemic semi-auto calibers.
So are revolvers a still a viable option for duty carry? I would say yes. However, the allure of carrying more ammunition at the ready is too tempting an offer for most military or police officers. Carrying a revolver won’t mean you are outgunned, but at the range you might be snickered at by the young bucks with “them new fangled plastic autos.”