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By the Numbers: America’s Top 5 Revolvers

Heritage Rough Rider

According to the ATF, 744,047  about 750,000 revolvers are manufactured each year. That’s a lot wheel guns. Most would put Ruger or Smith and Wesson on the list, but if neither of those two took the #1 spot, which gun did? Here are the top 5 revolvers by the numbers.

Ruger Blackhawk

Three Ruger Single Six revolvers
Ruger Single Six Revolvers

Classic lines, classic feel, modern features—The Ruger New Model Blackhawk is the most advanced single-action revolver ever made. While retaining the solid frame, feel, and comfortable grip of the classic single-actions, the New Model Blackhawk features Ruger’s patented transfer bar ignition system with loading gate interlock, an all-coil spring mechanism, adjustable sights, and frame-mounted firing pin. New Model Blackhawk revolvers have earned a reputation as the best value on the market due to their durability and affordability.

Specifications and Features
.357 Magnum
4.62″ Barrel
1:16″ twist, RH
Adjustable Rear Sight
Aluminum frame
Black Checkered Hard Rubber Grips
6 Rounds
Weight: 42 oz

Ruger LCR

Ruger LCR 9mm right
Ruger LCR

The Ruger LCR is a small-frame revolver featuring the lightest double-action trigger pull. The LCR features a monolithic frame made from aerospace grade 7000 series aluminum. This particular distributor-exclusive version features the same high strength, stainless steel cylinder, however it is highlighted with a copper finish. The cylinder has extensive fluting for weight reduction. The patented polymer fire control housing holds all of the fire control components. The pistol has a five-round capacity and is rated for +P loads. Compact and lightweight, the LCR is a great choice for concealed carry and personal defense.

Specifications and Features
Ruger LCR Double Action Revolver Distributor Exclusive Edition 5440
.38 Special +P (rated for +P loads)
Double Action
1.87″ stainless steel barrel
1:16″ right hand twist
5 rounds capacity
Front Sight Replaceable Pinned Ramp
U-Notch Integral Rear Sight
Monolithic aerospace-grade 7000 series aluminum frame
Friction Reducing Cam Fire Control System
Patented Polymer Fire Control Housing
High Strength Stainless Steel Cylinder with Fluting
Copper Cylinder Finish
Hogue Tamer Monogrip
Non-Exposed Hidden Hammer
Overall Length 6.5″
Overall Height 4.50″ Overall Weight 13.5 oz
Matte Black with Copper Cylinder

Smith & Wesson 629

Ruger Model 629
S&W Model 629

Smith & Wesson’s large frame revolvers are a favorite choice among handgun hunters, competitive shooters and revolver enthusiasts. These revolvers are available from production, M&P, Classics, Champion Series and Performance Center in a variety of chamberings in .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 ACP. Offered in several different barrel lengths, Smith & Wesson provides the user plenty of options for a variety of shooting applications.

Specifications and Features
Weight: 44.7 oz / 1,267.2g
Caliber: .44 Magnum, .44 S&W Special
Capacity: 6
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
N-Frame, .44 magnum revolver
A serious big game hunting handgun
Light, crisp single-action trigger pull
Smooth double-action pull
Stainless steel construction
Fully-adjustable rear sight
Red-ramp front sight
Synthetic rubber grip

Taurus 85

Taurus Model 85 Revolver
Taurus Model 85 Revolver

The Taurus 85 Ultra-Lite Revolver is a great choice for concealed carry or home protection. This handgun is chambered in .38 Special and will accept +P loads. The barrel is 2″ long and the frame is made out of alloy. It has a black rubber grip and comes in a stainless finish.

Specifications and Features
85 Ultra-Lite Revolver
.38 SPL +P
2″ Barrel
5 Rounds
Alloy Frame
Black Rubber Grip
Stainless Finish
Traditional Double/Single Action
Transfer Bar Safety
Fixed Sights
17 oz
1:16.5″ Twist Rate

Heritage Arms Rough Rider

Heritage Rough Rider
Heritage Rough Rider

Taking the number one spot in this top 5 list, and born of the traditions of the Old West, the Rough Rider maintains much of the look and feel of the legendary Single Action Army revolver, only in a scaled-down version. Chambered in .22 LR or .22 Magnum, the Rough Rider is manufactured using state-of-the-art precision machinery that assures its accuracy and reliability. The cylinder lock-up is tight and the perfect timing of the action makes for a handgun that will put its shots where you want ’em.

The machined barrel is micro-threaded and inserted into the frame for the optimal barrel/cylinder gap to give you maximum ammunition performance. A hammer block, mounted in the recoil shield, provides extra protection and has a red dot indicator that lets you know when the gun is ready for action. A new, more authentic-looking flat-sided hammer paired with new exotic cocobolo grips, makes the Rough Rider both functional and handsome. There are also other grip materials available—plus, finish options include the attractive and durable Smooth Silver Satin. When it comes to the Rough Rider, no shortcuts were taken!

Specifications and Features
Heritage Manufacturing Rough Rider revolver combo
.22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum caliber cylinders
6.5″ barrel
9 round capacity
Cocobolo grips
Blue finish
Fixed sights
Hammer block safety with red dot indicator
Single action
Made in the USA

I have written articles before declaring my penchant for cheap guns. Admittedly, I have purchased both the Taurus 85 ultra-light and Heritage Rough Rider within the last six months. However, given the low prices and reliability, could you blame me?

Do you own any of the revolvers on this list? Which revolvers would you put into a personal top 5? Share your answers in the comment section.

Check out the other articles in this series:

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (25)

  1. Got the S&W 629 .44, M25 .45 Colt, and Rossi M88 5-shot .38Spc. Have a couple of Italian black powder Army 1860 clones too. But my favorite revolver wil always be my 6″ Colt Python .357.

  2. If haven’t held and fired a Ruger SP101 in .38+P or .357, 2″ barrel, hold your judgement. Add a Hogue molded grip and man, what a match! Small, heavy, spot on.

  3. I have an original Charter Arms 44 special 3″ bbl 5 shot revolver. I have carried it for several years now and have only pulled it out one time and did not have to shoot because the perps took off as soon as they saw my weapon. I feel that it is my perfect carry weapon.

  4. I’ve got a Ruger Vaquero in 44-40 and a couple of Heritage Rough Rider Combos. I like to play cowboy and fan them sometimes. I’ve got a Uberti in 45 long colt. The 1873 Uberti clone fans a lot better than the Vaquero.

  5. I had a Heritage Rough Rider with the convertible cylinder. I had trouble with the cylinder sometimes seizing half way between chambers and also found it to be less than accurate, even shooting from a rest. I sold it. The only revolver I have now is a Ruger SP101 which will likely be passed down to one of my kids. For a 2″ barrel, it is plenty accurate.

  6. I love my S&W 629 Classic for a backup bear gun. However, I am looking to replace it with a semi-auto 10mm. I know many people are moving that route, but truly, you can’t beat the reliability of a revolver. 17 rounds vs 6 can make a difference when you are being charged in bear country.

    1. Matt, i would not get rid of your 629, the 10mm is a good cartridge but it is only about the power of a 41 mag not the 44 mag power. sure get the 10 but don’t get rid of the 44. the 10 is a great round and it gives you a lot more fire power. strap one to each side and if the 44 does not stop it continue with the 10. just my thoughts on the subject. you cannot have to many guns if you need one.

  7. I have the Heritage in 22lr. I do have several Ruger Old Vaqueros in 45colt. Two have Bisley grips which I really like. While not a big seller, I recently purchased a Lipseys special Series 7 in 327 magnum with birds head grip. It is fun to shoot and the 327 is a great cartridge. The revolver is a lot of fun to shoot. I guess you can tell I have a love of single actions.

  8. The top 5 “by the numbers”? By what numbers? Smith and Wesson did not sell more 629’s than 637’s not even in the same ball park, so the number can’t mean volume sold. So by what measure are these being ranked it’s hard to imagine a system where the heritage rough rider is at the top of the list.

    1. This was the fourth installment of a four part series. The numbers were gathered by combining sales from several online sites and tallying the top 5 for each category. It was scientific by any means, but good for conversation. ~Dave Dolbee

  9. Thank you for the review of America’s top 5 revolvers. I truly appreciate your wisdom. I noted the photo caption for the Smith & Wesson 629 is mislabel. It reads Ruger Model 629. Otherwise a great read.

  10. I’m not surprised at the top five although disappointed that Charter Arms isn’t represented. They have , like Tarus, received undeserved bad publicity although in my experience they will do their job as long as YOU, the owner/user do your share.
    Of those you listed I have and use the Ruger Blackhawk in .41 mag, .44 mag and also their .357/38 convertible with 9 mm cylinder. I also own the Tarus 85 but it’s the older all steel model and it has always shot to point of aim from day one with its rudimentary sights. I opted for the Chiapas SAA 17-10 rather than the Heritage as I wanted a .17 HMR revolver and only had a choice between it or another Ruger and the Chiapa felt better in the hand. I’ve put just short of two bricks through it and my only regret is that Chiappa didn’t offer it with a convertible cylinder for shooting the neglected .17 HM2 (or the .17 Aguila or High Standard all being interchangeable).
    Anyone with a “penchant for cheap revolvers” should treat themselves to a Chiappa. (And NO, I don’t work for Chiappa, I’ve been retired from the military for over 27 years and while I wouldn’t turn down paid endorsements of firearms or ammo that I like, I haven’t been offered any so I suggest rather than endorse 😉

  11. Sorry about the previous post, but the max .357 Mag Ammo is 907 ft. lbs. of ME, and the max .45 LC ammo is 1,359 ft. lbs., and the max ME for the .44 Mag that I have found is 1,610..

  12. I have owned a Ruger blued .357 Mag Blackhawk for over 50 years. Mine has a 6.5″ barrel, unlike the one listed here in this article.6.5. The longer barrel gives two advantages: (1) less kick with high powered ammo, and more power than the shorter barreled guns, especially vs. the 4.62″ gun. But you want to quickdraw, then the shorter barrel would be a bit nicer. I use to quickdrw\aw with my 6.5″ gun, and I was able to be quite fast anyway.

    But on a slightly different note, I liked the RUGER Blackhawk so much, I purchased a .45 LC/.45 ACP Ruger stainless 5.5″ Blackhawk This would be nice for quickdrawing as well. But my .357 Mag Ruger Blackhawk shows a little wear at the inside tip of the barrel due to quickdrawing, and this would not be the case with a stainless model, so keep that in mind when looking to buy a Ruger Blackhawk.

    What is nice about the Ruger Blackhawks is that they can handle any just about any power level of ammo. The .357 ammo can go as high as 07 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy, The .45 LC ammo goes up to around 1,340 ft. lbs. of ME, but I have limited my shooting to just 1,219 ft. lbs. of ME since it very hard to shoot at this power level already, and I have to limit the number of rounds fired greatly because my hand gets sore!

    I have a very nice ballistics file that gives online purchase info as well as ballistics info on 30 handgun calibers, and 18 rifle ones. Just post here that you are interested for my free ballistics file ad I will respond with my email address.

    Vincent (11-09-2017)

  13. I have a Heritage Rough Rider 6.5 inch barrel with the 22LR and 22 WMR cylinders. It’s a really nice and accurate revolver which can’t be beat for the money. Great for plinking and with the 22 WMR cylinder installed is good for taking care of varmints. If there was one thing about the gun that I’d like to see changed, it would be the plastic shell extractor, which can easily be broken with rough handling. Other than that, it’s a solidly built SAA clone revolver that will give you years of plinking fun.

  14. If I had the funds my top two would be a Ruger Blackhawk in 45 LC with a 5″ +/- barrel and a Ruger GP 100 in 357 Mag. with a 4″ barrel.

    1. + 1 for the Ruger GP100 in .357 4″+, in fact, I would replace #5 with the GP100 due to the Double/Single Action option. As with all Ruger’s, strong positive lockup, and add a set of Crimson Trace grips and it’s hard to beat. Other calibers are available and if you needed to jump to a bigger round there’s always the Redhawk’s!


  15. i love my s&w 29 but one of my guns i bought a long time ago that i thought was sweet and accurate was the S & W model 27. it came with a wooden carrying case. one of my favorite guns. it was unfortunately stolen by a close friend, at least i thought he was a friend. we are not friends any more. i guess my 29 is the 629 now. not sure what the S & W’s are like now but they use have a great trigger pull.i have not shot my revolvers for quite some time. gee, i have not had a day off in over 2 years. at the end of this year i am closing my shop and will have the time i need to shoot more. i can hardly wait…..

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