Monday, April 29, 2019

Are Revolvers Relevant? Part 3

With all the arguments, anecdotes, and misinformation regarding revolvers and semi autos it's finally time to go through a list of the pros and cons of a revolver as a primary lethal force option.  I'm going to list the actual pros and cons as well as some misinformation and try to address them in detail.


  • Simplicity of operation
    The epitome of the point and click firearm.  No external safeties to disengage.
  • Resistant to neglect
    It's not uncommon to find a loaded revolver in a glove compartment or sock drawer that has been there for decades and will still function without issue.
  • Less prone to negative effects from pocket carry
    Pocket lint can clog up a small semi auto to the point that it won't function after the first shot.  The resistance to pocket lint applies more to Centennial style revolvers than those with exposed hammers.
  • Inherently accurate
    A fixed barrel helps with accuracy.  This doesn't mean that all revolvers are more accurate than other pistols, just that most are accurate enough to be useful as a defensive tool at distances out to twenty yards.
  • Less prone to ammo sensitivity
    You can load up each chamber with a different load from a different manufacturer and not have one affect the subsequent function of the next, unlike semi auto pistols that rely on a certain amount of force from the fired cartridge to reliably cycle the next.
  • Easy to clear failure to fire procedure
    Cartridge doesn't go bang?  Hard Primer? Press the trigger again.  Not many semi auto shooters can boast less than one half second to clear a Failure To Fire.
  • Vast array of grip options
    There are entire companies devoted to making grips or stocks for revolvers.  While it might be difficult to find options for some of the newer designs on the market, it's usually possible to adapt a revolver to various hand sizes and preferences.
  • Less prone to feed issues in confined spaces or entanglement
    It's almost impossible to grasp a revolver and keep it from firing.  It's also not as prone to interference from clothing.
  • Long trigger press
    There's a sizable segment of serious students of defensive pistol craft that prefer a longer trigger press.  This helps provide one with time to think while under stress.
  • Can be fire from within a pocket
    I kept this separate from enclosed and entangled spaces because many people prefer to carry a small revolver in a jacket pocket.


  • Limited on board ammo
    Even the larger guns only carry eight rounds of ammo.  
  • Long trigger press
    The length of travel and relatively heavy weight of a double action revolver trigger can be hard for some to learn and master.
  • Relatively heavy
    Most revolvers weigh more than their similarly sized semi auto counterparts.
  • Slow reloads
    Very few revolver shooters can reload as fast as a semi auto shooter.
  • Reloads revolve around loose ammo
    Revolver reloads require getting each cartridge properly aligned with each chamber.
  • Can't mount a WML
    With the exception of only a couple of designs, revolvers don't come with picatinny style rails.  There are some grip options that provide a light that do not have much of a following.
  • Less accepting of abuse
    You can run a quality semi auto hard with minimal maintenance and expect thousands of rounds without issues.  Not so with a revolver.
  • More felt recoil
    The lack of a reciprocating slide and recoil spring mean that only the weight and mass of a revolver provide recoil absorption.
  • Major jams require tools to correct
    A high primer or bullet jumping the crimp will lock up a revolver to the point that hand tools will be necessary to correct.  
  • Relatively expensive
    Revolvers typically cost more than their equivalently sized, semi auto counterparts.

Hang around gun stores, shooting ranges, or firearms related pages on the internet and you'll most likely hear some well worn sayings like the following in regards to double action revolvers.


  • Six For Sure!This refers to the common belief that the first six shots of a six shot revolver will fire without fail.  This came about during the first few decades of semi auto firearms development when things were still getting figured out.  
  • Revolvers Don't Jam!Similar to the Six For Sure concept that revolvers aren't prone to ammunition failings.  In fact most serious revolver shooters have seen that this is not always the case as high primers, bullets jumping the crimp, or moving forward out of the case, dirt and trash under the extractor star, and the extractor rod working loose can and jam a revolver to the point that tools or even a gunsmith are required to correct.
  • Revolvers Are More Accurate
    Again this harkens from the days when gun designers were still figuring out what worked and what didn't as well as ammo design.  The belief that a revolver with a fixed barrel is inherently more accurate than a semi-auto.  Nowadays we've learned that there are many variables that affect accuracy and it's much easier to produce a very accurate semi auto than revolver.
  • Revolvers Are Simpler
    Not in the slightest.  Double Action revolvers are complex machines made up of many moving parts which typically require hand fitting for all to operate properly.
  • Revolvers Are Suitable For Novice Shooters
    That's a grey area.  Revolvers require work to learn to shoot well.  While it's true the manual of arms is simpler, the actual process of shooting, sight alignment, trigger press, maintaining sight alignment during trigger press, and follow through is typically harder for newer shooters to gain rapid proficiency with.
  • Revolvers Are Better For People With Limited Hand Strength
    There are a lot of folks that assume that if one doesn't have the necessary hand strength to cycle the slide on a semi auto pistol that a double action revolver with a 12-15# trigger weight will be a suitable alternative.
  • Revolvers Fit Small Hands Better
    This is another grey area.  There are a lot more choices for grips or stocks for revolvers than semi-autos, this provides myriad options for shooters however, this statement is usually used in reference to the typically smaller hands of women who are then told that a light weight J frame in .38 or even .357 is what they need.  Those guns are brutal to shoot and people that recommend them to new or casual shooters are destined to the same pit of hell as those who talk in the movie theater.
This will conclude the third part of this series.  Expect the final installment in the next couple of weeks.

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