Is The Revolver Still Relevant?


Two revolvers.

Six Shooters. Wheelguns. Plowhandles. Smokepoles. Belly Guns. Whatever you call them, the revolver has been around for quite some time. Some say their time has long passed. I beg to differ.

While revolvers were around for some time before, the first successful revolver was made by Colt in 1844 in the form of the .36 caliber Paterson. Improvements in machine tools and techniques developed over the next hundred plus years directly affected the development of the revolver, resulting in the creation of some of the smoothest operating, accurate handguns ever produced.

Simple, rugged, and reliable. These were the revolver’s selling points. They served, and continue to serve, citizens, law enforcement, and bad guys well. But they had their drawbacks. They only held six rounds. Now, when everyone had a revolver, this really wasn’t a drawback. The playing field was even.

Enter the autopistol. Now, you could be facing an opponent with eight, ten, or twenty rounds on tap at his disposal. Add a second opponent similarly armed, and the six rounds in your revolver suddenly seemed a rather anemic number. Personally, I’ve never went to or have been engaged in a gunfight where I thought to myself “You know, I have WAY too much ammo.” Now that six shooter has a drawback, right? I confess, there are times I carry a revolver as my concealed carry weapon. My state gun laws being what they are, there are certain establishments that I just can’t carry into. And while I don’t do business with places that have a no concealed carry sign displayed, there are places like the post office that I have no choice but to go into. So, going to check my PO box or into a restaurant that serves alcohol, the gun has to stay in the vehicle. This means unloading it, as I have no desire to be shot by my own gun. Repeatedly chambering an autopistol round can damage it. The revolver doesn’t have this problem. So, the rounds get put in a speedloader, the gun gets stowed, my errand is run, the gun gets reloaded.

And while more ammo is always a good thing, I don’t feel undergunned carrying a revolver. It still comes down to sight alignment and trigger squeeze. You just may have to reload more often. And the reloads are a little slower. You also have to carry a bit more around with you, as the picture shows.Revolver and ammunition.

You just have to problem solve a little better carrying a revolver. Back in the old days when I first got into law enforcement we were constrained to carrying revolvers. Going through the academy, I qualified with the department issued S&W Model 10, as well as my personally owned S&W Model 19 and S&W Model 659. My plan was to carry the auto. But, no plan surviving first contact, department administration vetoed the auto with “you’ll shoot yourself with it” as their reason. So, I carried the Model 19, and was always cognizant of the fact that I needed to pay attention to what I was doing. I practiced accordingly, using those six rounds to best advantage, and getting to the point where using a speedloader wasn’t much slower than changing magazines.

Revolvers, with their thicker profiles, aren’t as easy to conceal as an auto. However, with the proper holster and clothing, it doesn’t take much effort to hide a full size revolver.

Revolvers must have something going for them, or nobody would still be making them. And while the number of manufacturers has dropped sharply, there are still quality revolvers to be had. Colt hasn’t produced a revolver for a good many years now. The company that gave us the first viable revolver and then moved on to give us the Trooper, Python, and Detective Special currently produce only 1911 autopistols. Smith & Wesson has continued revolver production, and in doing so now dominate the marketplace.

Who is still buying revolvers? There’s a pretty fair number of handgun hunters still putting meat on the table with them. A check of a cop’s ankle may reveal a S&W Chief’s Special. Beginning shooters buy them because they’re simple to operate. Older shooters who no longer have the strength to manipulate a slide backed by a twenty pound recoil spring snap them up. When training beginning shooters, I prefer they have a revolver. It’s painfully obvious that a revolver is clear and unloaded when the cylinder is swung out and you can see into the chambers. The manual of arms is simple enough that children can catch on pretty quickly.

Go to an IDPA, USPSA, or Steel Challenge match and you’ll find revolvers. Steel Challenge matches are ideal for the revolver shooter as each stage consists of five targets. Extra rounds really don’t do you a lot of good, as a miss on a stage eats up time. Metallic silhouette matches? Never seen an auto used there. Competing with a revolver is my personal preference. While I shoot both revolvers and autos, there’s just something about going head to head with someone shooting a high capacity gun that really gets me focused. (Beating them is a real side benefit!)

So, while to many revolvers have gone the way of the T-Rex, there is still a viable market for the roundgun.


The Tactical Pirate

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President and lead instructor. Follow me on Twitter, and check out our blog.

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