Top Five Reasons to Carry a Revolver

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Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.

Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:

These are great days for those who carry concealed. Small, concealable auto-loading pistols have never been more numerous, reliable, accurate, affordable and accessorizable. Yet revolvers abound for concealed carry and new models continue to show up. This isn’t by chance, and if you’re considering a revolver for concealed carry, here are my top five reasons for doing so.

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1. High Degree of Reliability

Today’s autoloading pistols are reliable. Very reliable. So reliable that I hesitate to make this comparison. The only reason I sometimes desire to carry a revolver more than an auto-loading pistol is because, in my opinion, revolvers have less that can go wrong when squeezing the trigger and firing. Yes, in a revolver, the cylinder can get jammed and something could go wrong that could be a serious detriment to its use as a self-defense tool. I just think this is less likely with a revolver than with an auto-loading pistol, which still has a somewhat complex series of actions to accomplish through the process of firing, ejecting a round, scooping up the next round and seating that round properly. Moreover, as long as you can keep squeezing the trigger, a revolver will fire as it does not require a firm grip on it to cycle the slide. In other words, there’s no limp-wristing a revolver. Similarly, you can fire a revolver from a jacket pocket or pressed up against an attacker’s body. Because there’s no slide to catch on clothing in close proximity or to move out of battery if pressed from the muzzle, a revolver has this additional advantage.

2. Consistency of Trigger Stroke

Today’s auto-loaders have consistent trigger strokes — sometimes evident in single-action or double-action-only. The single-action stroke, of course, is short; there’s nothing to really remember other than to just press it, and the double-action-only strokes of most semi-automatics are pretty good. You can discern the different feels of triggers from various manufacturers, and many guns have reduced the double-action-only stroke to a short, smooth 4- or 5-pound pull. They’re good, sure, but I still like the long, relatively heavy (but buttery smooth) stroke of a revolver. Maybe it’s because I grew up on that type of trigger, but there’s just something about a revolver’s trigger that helps my strong hand grip the stocks just right and squeeze smoothly all the way through.

3. Range of Calibers

Today’s autoloading pistols are becoming more modular and there has been some interchangeability of caliber worth noting. But, in defensive handguns, a .357 Magnum revolver is a true dual-caliber gun since it can fire .38 Special rounds without any modification whatsoever. With two calibers compatible with one gun, many have advocated for shooting the less-powerful, less-expensive rounds at the range and saving the more-powerful, more-expensive rounds for actual carry. Consider, though, the opposite scenario. Because you can find excellent defensive ammunition chambered in .38 Special +P, why not carry that and practice shooting with a few .357 Magnums? One benefit is that if you can get used to shooting .357s, then .38s will seem much easier to shoot. Moreover, the .38 Special +P defensive ammunition available today is very good — comparable, in fact, to some .357 loads but with far less bark.

4. Availability of Accessories

Today’s autoloading pistols — depending on the make and model — have a wealth of accessories available for customization or for gearing up with holsters, reloads, sights and almost anything else you can imagine. But so do revolvers. In fact, revolver accessories might include more options for significantly changing a grip, which is arguably the most important customization you can make. Revolver grips can change your gun from a two-finger grip to a three-finger grip, from wood to rubber, from skinny to fat, and so on. Moreover, you can carry your revolver reloads in speedloaders, in speed strips or in a belt pouch.

5. Simplicity of Use

This really is my favorite reason for carrying a revolver. To shoot, just draw, aim and press the trigger. To shoot again, aim and press the trigger again. If a revolver doesn’t fire when you press the trigger, just press the trigger again, which will cause the cylinder to rotate and put a fresh round in place. And that’s it. You can train up for tap-and-rack and other types of failure drills — and you should if you carry an autoloader — but for the one, two, maybe three shots you would need (statistically speaking) to defend your life and get to safety, it’s difficult to beat the simplicity of a revolver.

Bonus Reason!

Here’s one more intriguing reason for a revolver: If you carry a small revolver, it’s really not too difficult to carry a second small revolver. Depending on your situation, a second gun — affectionately known as a “New York reload” — has a few advantages. First, it might be faster to draw a second gun as opposed to reloading a single gun. Second, if the first gun fails, you can draw the second.

Conclusion

Admittedly, a revolver isn’t for everyone and might not be a good choice in your personal circumstance. But before you dismiss it as limited or outdated in favor of a more modern pistol, think through the pros and cons to discern whether the defensive gun you’re considering (or already carrying) is really the best fit for your needs. Revolvers are here to stay, and there must be a reason (or five) they keep flying off the shelves.

What’s your favorite reason for carrying a revolver — or your best reason for not?

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Robert Smith June 20, 2017, 10:14 pm

    “…a revolver will fire as it does not require a firm grip on it to cycle the slide. In other words, there’s no limp-wristing a revolver.” So true. And your fingers can’t accidentally activate a safety, slide lock or mag release either. In a close-contact fight, you might find yourself having to fend off the bad guy with one hand while trying to get a shot off with the other. The revolver keeps going even when you can’t use that perfect grip and stance you practiced on the target range.

  • Richard Steven Hack June 19, 2017, 7:39 pm

    Number one reason to NOT carry a revolver: low ammo capacity.

    Unfortunately quite a few .45 caliber semi-autos have the same problem – but since reloads are faster (if you train for it), that is partially compensated for. And nobody says you have to carry a 6-7-shot .45 – you can carry a 19-round 9mm. Or you can carry a 6-7-shot .45 with an extended tactical magazine with 10 or more rounds.

    It’s a mistake to carry based on the statistical odds that you will only fire two or three shots in a confrontation. If you’re carrying at all, it’s because of the extremely unlikely probability (if you’re not a cop or soldier) that you ever use your handgun in anger. Might as well go the extra mile and up your odds by being able to deal with more than one or two attackers without having to reload.

    Of course, we’d all like to be carrying around twin 7.62mm miniguns on our shoulders like War Machine and Iron Man, but realistically there are limits. But the difference between 6 rounds and 15 might well be decisive in a situation (especially if your accuracy in a real fight is less than ideal, as STATISTICALLY SPEAKING it WILL be.)

    Number two reason: harder to conceal a rounded shape than a flat shape. Might not be a big difference, but that depends on the specific revolver vs a specific semi-auto. The smaller the weapon, the less capacity (see above) and probably the lower caliber. Also depends on how you carry which is also influenced by other factors.

    And if you can carry a second small revolver, you can carry a second small semi-auto. New York reload is the way to go. But train to reload magazines fast anyway. Depending on where you carry the second gun, a magazine reload can be faster (of course, depending on where you carry the extra mag!)

    Revolvers are good for target shooting and hunting. They are not adequate for self-defense purposes by civilians. Cops can get away with it because they have backup nearby. Oh, wait, almost all cops carry semi-autos… Could it be because in the past situations where six rounds (and a speedloader) just weren’t adequate occurred frequently enough to change minds?

    If you want to carry a revolver for self-defense, go ahead. Statistically speaking you’ll never pay for the privilege. But someone will.

    Won’t be me.

  • Will Drider June 19, 2017, 5:58 pm

    The revolver verses pistol argument boils down to two questions:
    In all your revolver shooting, how many times has it mechanically failed to fire?
    in all your pistol shooting, how many times has it failed to fire? Ammo issues included as ammo is required to cycle the action.
    For the large majority, that alone puts the revolver on top. However, the larger ammo capacity, smaller CC profile, faster reloads are a few of the reasons that drive us to test loads and maintain pistols to a higher degree of preperation in order to offset the potential pistol/ammo induced failures: making them acceptable to carry.

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