New Year’s Revolutions

Taurus Model 85 Revolver

I love shooting, which is no surprise since I blog about it. While I will never get bored with my modern guns, sometimes I like to take a trip down Nostalgia Lane with some wheelguns and show my friends how things used to be; however, semi-autos have been around for over a century – have you? For my New Year’s Resolution, I’ve decided to carry and shoot my revolvers a little more often. There is something special about revolvers that I have trouble explaining. I will never say that revolvers are better than semi-autos—because sometimes it isn’t the best tool for the job. However, it is better in certain situations and for several reasons.

Taurus Model 85 Revolver
Taurus Model 85 Revolver

Primarily, revolvers are stupid reliable. A decent revolver will go bang every time you pull the trigger. This legendary reliability, coupled with less than stellar consistency in early semi-automatic pistols, helped carry revolvers into the modern age. At nearly 200 years old, your local gun store still has shelves of revolvers ready for purchase. Today, you can buy a quality semi-automatic at a low price that is almost as reliable as most revolvers, but this is a newer dynamic in the firearms industry. There still are plenty of gun owners who refuse to carry a semi-automatic handgun.

If you have a double action revolver, the trigger pull when the hammer is back is usually phenomenal. You often have to do a fair amount of work on a semi-automatic to get a similar level of trigger control. At the shooting range, this super-light trigger pull gives unparalleled accuracy. I don’t recommend taking your sweet time pulling the hammer back while trying to defend yourself, but in normal circumstances, you can achieve incredible accuracy with a double action revolver. If you are in a defensive situation, the long heavy trigger pull matters less at close range, since most defensive situations happen at room size distances.

If you are strapped for cash—say your budget is around $300—you can get more for your money with a revolver. A Taurus 85 chambered in .38 Special will get the job done and still fall within your budget. A low quality .380 auto at a similar price-point will most likely be far less reliable. Rossi makes a line of .38 Specials in the same arena, as does Ruger. In a defensive role, semiautomatic require more training. A revolver, with its simplistic design, is easy for just about anyone to operate. A semi-automatic, although an excellent tool, offers a more complicated platform by its nature.

Most gun owners won’t argue that part of reason we carry, practice and shoot firearms is the fun factor. Yes, we are exercising our Second Amendment rights; yes, we are making a choice to defend ourselves. However, there is little argument in the fact that lighting up a target with a lot of lead is just plain fun. To me at least, shooting a revolver is more fun than shooting a semi-automatic. I have owned 1911s, Glocks, XDs, Kahrs, and just about every other major platform under the sun, but I always get a grin when I blast away with a sturdy wheelgun.

Despite the popularity and reliability or the semi-automatic handguns, the revolvers still has its place. It packs an amazing amount of firepower in a concealable package and offers people a level of protection they would not otherwise have. When you’re grabbing your concealed carry weapon this year, consider the dusty, old revolver. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

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 (24)

  1. After carrying a Colt Gold Cup M1911 for over 25 years, I switched to a revolver in November 2011. I was intrigued by the versatility of the Smith & Wesson Governor. I also keep it next to the bed at night for home invasion defense. My wife and both sons like the semi-autos. I am more a wheel gun guy. I own a few .357 Magnums too, Ruger Security-6 and S&W Model 19. If the SHTF and I am forced to go tactical, I will break out the Colt Cold Cup again (with a Mini-14 as primary weapon). But, until that day, I am packing my one-hand shotgun, loaded with Winchester PDX1 and 300 grain “Bear Loads”.

  2. I prefer an autoloader, either glock or 1911. For people unfamiliar with firearms I recommend a double action revolver, 4 to 6 inch barrel, 357. Practice with 38s to keep from getting gun shy load and store with 357 HPs. If it becomes necessary to use it, point, start pulling the trigger and when fire stops coming out the other end its over, one way or another

  3. I cannot find fault with carrying a revolver. Revolvers are wonderfully reliable. I take exception to the comment about the 300 dollar price point for a 380 as being unreliable. Maybe, but I bought a Ruger LCP 380 and to date after several hundred rounds it is going strong. They can be had as low as 290 if you look around a bit. But the 38 spl hits harder and does more damage in general than a 380. Just something to think about. And speaking of thinking, you best have the mind set and thought to be able to use that gun if you pull it.

  4. After having neutralized one home invasion, reliability, and dependability are an absolute must. The wheel gun IMHO is the only way to go. Even though I have a variety of both semi-auto hand guns, as well as revolvers, the one I prefer to have on my night stand is the Charter .40 cal. S&W Pitbull. I’m guessing it has probably a 7 or 8 lb. D/A trigger pull, and probably about a 3 oz. S/A trigger pull, very light, and also easily concealable if one chooses to carry it. At some point, every semi-auto that I own have jammed, making it totally unacceptable in a life and death situation. As Big John said, that thug will most likely come in the wee hours, when he thinks you are sleeping, or not at home, usually in the middle of the day, they will try to contact you, to see if you are home. In my case the thug knocked on the door, I did not answer because I wasn’t feeling well, and he thought I was away, about 20 minutes later, I hear this rustling noise in the kitchen, I grabbed my gun and held him for the police. I knew all along, had I needed to pull the trigger, it would go bang.

  5. I could not agree more. My carry gun is a Smith & Wesson Model 642 38spl+p. I have a Firestar sub-compact 45ACP for home protection but the revolver is the only one I carry when I am out and about for all of the above stated reasons.

  6. I recommend a revolver for the bed-side firearm. A typical home robbery is during the night. Unless you have a lot of experience with a semiautomatic pistol, there is a high probability of a jam when you rack the slide. And in the dark, it will be difficult to clear the jam. I have 1911’s, but I do not keep a round in the chamber. So if you fail to properly rack the slide, and the gun jams, you are defenseless.

  7. I’m a retired cop. When I was on patrol, I carried a Charter Arms Bulldog in an ankle holster as my backup piece. It was chambered in .44 Special and was devastating at close range.

  8. I’m old school, was a LEO back in the 60’s – 80’s era. I carried my old S&W 37 airweight 2″ off duty and plain cloths when I became an investigator. Still carry it often, but have really fallen in love with my Ruger SP101 .327 Fed. Mag. It’s larger than the Smith so I have to have right cloths to carry it. The revolver fits the hand like a glove. What a neat caliber the .327 is. I wish more people would take a serious look at it. The Federal 85 grain Hydra-Shok JHP has ballistics approaching the .357 mag with much less recoil, which these old hands appreciate. Don’t get me wrong, I have (and have had) several Semi Auto’s that are a lot of fun, but I trust my revolvers more. In thousands upon thousands of rounds fired, I have never once had a center-fire factory round fail. I can’t say that for my Semi Auto’s.

  9. Having been around guns since birth, I enjoy shooting any & all kinds. Although I like the capacity of semi-autos, I carry the 5 shot S&W 2″ 38 cal. for concealed carry. Having been in law enforcement many years ago, this small revolver is easy to conceal and has the power to help me in a bad situation. I feel anything with more power is a danger to innocent bystanders. The average firefight is 15 feet or less, and this is all it takes to put down a bad guy.
    Hunting is another story, that’s when I always pack my S&W model 19 357 mag or the model 29 41 mag, more power, range & accuracy for bigger targets that require a larger, more powerful cartridge………Curt

  10. Reloads! Revolvers can shoot reloads with out fear of jamming. Surprised that was not mentioned. I carry a .357 revolver. I love the round. If there was ever an ammo shortage (worst case scenario: Disaster, buying craze, rioting) I also have the option of loading .38 rounds if that is all that is available. Revolvers are great and they are here to stay!

  11. i never had anything but revolvers all my life. i love my 44 mag, 357 mags and 38s.i carry an 8 shot 22 revolver loaded with shorts when wandering my property for trespassers. makes a quiet bang if you have to shoot at night or middle of the day..

  12. I took a group of 10 boys including my three sons out shooting over the Christmas break. I brought 8 different handguns as well as various long guns. Experience levels ranged from beginner to near expert. At the end of the day, while talking over Blizzards, I asked each of the boys what there favorite gun was. All 10 chose either the Colt Python with a 6 inch barrel or the Ruger Vaquero .45. The other dad chose the S$W 1911 tactical with laser grips. No surprise, he is an ex-Marine born with a .45 in his hand. But the boys chose revolvers over some stiff competition, H&K USP .45 Tactical, Sig 229, Beretta and the Smith 1911.

  13. Revolvers are not stupid reliable they are wonderfully reliable, quick to deploy, and more intuitive to use for most people than a semi-automatic. For the average person who seldom trains and for the civilian gun-pro who knows how to shoot and engage a threat they are ideal.

  14. The first handgun I ever owned and learned to fire was my S&W model 66 revolver. I have always had a soft spot for revolvers; I don’t know it’s the nostalgia of them or just because they look so darn cool. I also feel very safe when I carry a revolver with me hunting; because I know it won’t jam and that it will have the necessary firepower to take down any threat or game I find in the woods. That’s something I can’t really say a semi-auto can do, although with some of the calibers out there today it might be possible. Find myself more accurate and confident when shooting wheelguns as well; however I’m becoming more comfortable with semi-autos now that I’m shooting them more frequently. I may carry a semi-auto for cc and like the size, weight, and round capacity; but I will always enjoy the power, simplicity, and reliability of my revolver. At heart I’m a 6 shooter guy and I probably always will be.

  15. Interject: I have 4 wheelguns,3 colts Py, Tr.,SAA, 1 Ruger LCR. Three of these are double action and I can put holes in a badguy as quickly as I can with any autoloader,NOT AS MANY, accurate too. I have never had a misfire from these revolvers. I cannot say the same with the others.The Ruger LCR 357 has a smoother trigger than any other pocket gun I tried, And I carry two speed loaders. My other CC is a Springfield Armory XDs 45 cal.I HAVE MORE FAITH IN THE REVOLVERS.

  16. Speaking of wheel guns, that is about all I have, except for my long guns. Which do recommend more highly for a cc, a .38, or a .45? Thanks a lot. I really enjoy the blog. Can hardly wait to see what the decisions are concerning Cheaper Than Dirt.

  17. I say any gun is better than no gun so get what you feel comfortable with. Honestly, most people will never need more than what’s in either their cylinder or magazine. Now, there are ‘special’ circumstances where one may need an extra mag or speed loader but IMO it’s rare. So I say whatever is comfortable is what you stake your life on. Me, I like a nice hi-cap 9mm but would never feel under-gunned with a comparable revolver.

    –Happy New Year

  18. I agree with all that has been said on the topic but I do prefer semi auto for my carry weapon for sheer capacity never know when a bad guy might bring some buddies also i always make sure that if I’m goin to the range I have enough time after shooting to clean the guns I fire very thoroughly when I am done most people fuss about cleaning guns I enjoy it for me that a hobby in itself.

  19. Revolvers are a way to make your range time last longer, even with speed loaders one doesn’t go through ammo near as quickly. Makes it easier to save brass if you are so inclined. Most revolvers hold 5 to 6 rounds and before you know it some official range idiot is telling you 5 more minutes, happened to me yesterday.

  20. If you are in the market for an “entry level” .38 caliber revolver, I highly recommend that you spend just a few dollars more and get one that will shoot the much more powerful .357 Magnum caliber, as well as .38 Special. The .357 will make quick work of disabling the bad guy(s) should you ever have to use your gun for self defense purposes.

    The .38 Special caliber is quite inexpensive and a lot of fun to shoot. But keep your gun loaded with .357 rounds for those unanticipated emergency situations.

    Beginners note: a gun that is inscribed as “.357 Magnum” will shoot BOTH .357 ammo and .38 Special ammo. But a gun that is labeled “.38 Special” will shoot ONLY .38 Special ammunition.

  21. Not this guy, Kickinbak. I completely understand, and agree with you. Over the years, I mostly had and shot revolvers. I always wanted a Contender since I hunted a lot, but sadly never had one. I had some nice DA revolvers, but usually fired them Single Action, hunting and plinking. In that vein, those revolvers would wind up staying tucked away somewhere in the camper, while I’d carry a single action Single Six Convertible, Blackhawk, or Super Blackhawk along in the woods, whether rifle or shotgun hunting. When I was young, I had my old man’s Colt 1911s, a .45 ACP, and a .38 Super, and a nice Hi Standard HD Military .22 Target Pistol, but sadly, I let them get away at an early age, as well as many others since. Nowadays and for the last 25 years, I’ve carried a .38 Colt Agent which I bought for protection in ’88. Never could hit rabbits with it, but then sadly I’m not hunting the last 15 years, and times have certainly changed. That little Colt has come into it’s own now, and while I now find myself longing for a Colt New Agent, I’ll certainly always have a place in my heart, and on my ankle for the Old Agent. Happy New Year everybody!

  22. I to have all different semi-auto,s.All name brands,I never intend to shoot anybody but what do I carry Yep, a Revolver.

  23. I have always had more certainty of target, and even more fun when shooting a revolver that’s familiar. While I do enjoy shooting a semi-automatic for the fun of shooting, I also tend to make a chore of it rather than just picking it up and just shooting as I can the revolver. I agree it may not be the best in a self protection situation because of the double action, but I generally shoot as a single action when for target anyway.
    This is also true of cleaning it and putting it away. The revolver is a breeze, where as I make cleaning my semi-autos a chore… I suppose this is all a personal thing, and someone else may feel completely opposite.

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