Top Five Revolver Myths

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:

Jon Hodoway does gel testing on a Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum.  Click here to read the article.

We love the Internet because it is chock full of useful information. But we also hate the Internet because it is chock full of misinformation.

As you know, information about firearms abounds on the Internet and while there are many very good websites with well-informed writers who do the gun community a great service, there are just as many who are not helpful at all. Whatever the reasons for myths about firearms starting and spreading, I hope to do my part to clear up some of that confusion even if just a little bit at a time. Today, I’m going to take a crack at some of the myths I’ve heard surrounding the use of a revolver. These aren’t the only myths, but they’re my top five.

1. Revolvers Never Jam

Well, using the word “never” might be the first clue that this statement is a myth. It would be more accurate to say revolvers rarely jam — as long as we are defining what is meant by “jam.” By design, a revolver’s operation is fairly simple, at least compared to an auto-loading, semi-automatic pistol. With a revolver, you squeeze the trigger, which rotates the cylinder, aligning a cartridge in front of the hammer and behind the barrel. And, just at the right time, bang. Usually, if a round doesn’t fire, you would just squeeze the trigger again, starting the whole operation over, in order to fire the next round. The typical “jam” that could happen with a revolver is that some sort of dirt or debris gets lodged between the cylinder and the frame, stopping the cylinder from rotating and therefore not allowing the trigger to go through its full cycle to fire. Again, no one should say this never happens. It has and it does. But it is very rare.

2. Revolvers Are Inaccurate

Usually, when people make this assertion, it is about a snub-nosed or shorter-barreled revolver. The logic goes like this: The shorter the barrel, the less accurate the gun. And while it is theoretically true that the more barrel you have interacting with a bullet, the more accurate you can be, it does not necessarily mean that a short-barreled gun is inaccurate. It might be less accurate than a longer barreled gun, but other factors that determine accuracy are at work, regardless of barrel length. The key to better accuracy is better muzzle control — keeping the muzzle pointed at your target while squeezing the trigger. If you want a good demonstration of this — following all the gun safety rules, please — put a laser aiming system on whatever gun you’re shooting and watch how much the laser jumps around your target as you’re pulling the trigger. Oh, and one more thing: Google “Jerry Miculek 200-yard snub-nosed revolver shot upside down.” Granted, he’s a pro, but shoot a revolver from a rest in order to eliminate as much muzzle movement as possible and you might be surprised at how accurate the gun actually is.

3. Revolvers Are Difficult to Shoot

Some revolvers, by design, require a bit more hand and finger strength in order to squeeze the trigger, which usually is a longer stroke than the one experienced on a semi-automatic pistol. That doesn’t mean revolvers are more difficult to shoot; in fact, after getting used to them, some say they’re easy to shoot. It just means that some guns, revolvers included, require hand strength and practice in order to master. Another factor that might contribute to revolvers seemingly being more difficult to shoot is that people might only experience small, lightweight revolvers shooting medium to big rounds. Here, basic physics works against them. Small guns shooting big rounds equals big recoil. And big recoil can be difficult and intimidating. And it can hurt. Again, practice and training are your friends. And, for the record, it is possible to train up to shooting .38 Special +p or .357 Magnum rounds out of a lightweight snub-nosed revolver and be able to do it well. And even enjoy it.

4. Revolvers Are Underpowered or Too Low-Capacity

The typical self-defense revolver is a snub-nosed .38 Special with a capacity of five rounds. Some people scoff at the caliber; .38 Special is “the bottom of the effective self-defense cartridges,” they say. Some people scoff at the capacity — “five to stay alive” just isn’t enough, especially when you can easily carry twice or three times that amount in one magazine of another kind of gun. But the most effective self-defense handgun is the one you shoot well and will actually carry. If that’s a five-shot revolver, even a five-shot revolver chambered in .22 LR, then so be it. Better to have five rounds of .22 LR you can shoot well than 15 rounds of 9mm you leave at home. Regardless of what you carry, make sure you carry a reload. For revolvers, this means carrying a speed strip, a speedloader or moon clips — anything that will speed up replacing the empty cartridges with fresh ones.

5. Revolvers Are Outdated or Ineffective

Revolvers might have an old-school stigma: They’re the guns of old-time detectives and Old West shootouts. But there are many manufacturers making revolvers today and we keep seeing new models released each year, and that’s because people want them and buy them for concealed carry. So, revolvers might be a long-standing, long-history kind of gun, but to say they’re outdated is completely inaccurate. And just because there are hundreds of very good semiautomatic pistols available today — guns that are smaller, lighter and offer higher capacities than revolvers — doesn’t mean revolvers are ineffective. The key with any gun is practice, practice, practice. And remember, the “best” gun is the gun you shoot well and actually carry with you. Some people don’t shoot revolvers well or don’t like the trigger. Some do! Different strokes for different folks!

What other revolver myths have you heard? Let us know in the comments below!

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{ 37 comments… add one }
  • Chris Beggerly October 16, 2017, 6:00 pm

    I shot IHMSA handgun silhouette for years with both a Ruger .44 and a Dan Wesson .357 super mag. at targets from 50 meters to 200 meters (approx. 220 yards). The tie breakers were targets at 200 meters about the size of a dinner plate and we consistently hit those with iron sights. Due to lock time ( the time it takes for the hammer to fall ) it was harder to shoot than say a Remington XP bolt gun but I consistently hit 35 of 40 targets. I’ll put my old wheelguns up against any auto-get-ums.

  • William October 13, 2017, 4:32 pm

    You really need to question what some of these people are saying! Like the guy saying the .357 Magnum 125 Gr. bullet, at 2000 ft/sec. It doesn’t exist, never did, and don’t try it!

    • Alan October 17, 2017, 1:07 pm

      reread, and you will discover he spoke of a rifle with 20″ barrel.
      My Henry and my Marlin both significantly increase my pet loads velocity over my Blackhawk.
      Longer barrel, no cylinder gap both make for higher velocities.

    • Alan October 17, 2017, 1:09 pm

      My error, you meant the first post, sorry.

  • William October 13, 2017, 4:13 pm

    Some comments infer that revolvers have trigger problems! Double action revolvers can have the best trigger possible! Smith and Wesson, Colt come from the factory with very good triggers! A little work by a good gunsmith will make them excellent! I have never heald an automatic pistol with an excellent trigger! Even when you get close to a good trigger, the thing will double on you!

  • Ernest G Heaton October 13, 2017, 4:13 pm

    I have found that the “biggest gun Experts on line”, in the Real World, know very little to nothing about Real gun fighting. So reading what THEY have to say is totally pointless.
    The same goes with gun rag writers. Everything with these guys runs in circles. One year or three, the .45 ACP is the King of all hand guns! The next season or three again, the.45 ACP is to heavy, not enough ammo, hard to conceal, etc.. the Only gun to carry then is the double stack 9mm! Anyone Can shoot them because the recoil is less, you never run out of ammo with 13-16 round caps on them, so even IF you Can’t shoot..just fire 32 or 64 rounds in that direction, and if you don’t hit one by accident, you will probably scare them away!
    After the SALES on that one drops, you move to the .357 Sig! And start all over! With the Power almost of a true .357 mag, but mag cap and action of the 9mm! The Perfect gun! Until the next one, or the ammo gets to hard to find.
    I have Stacks of old gun mags my friends give me when they are done with them, piles 5-6 feet high, going back over 40 years! The only constant in ALL of them is as I call it, “the rotation!” When one caliber or models sales start to lag in sales, the Next “same old gun” replaces it! Over and over, year in and year out.
    Sure, the new shooters have not seen it all repeated, so they can keep selling them anyway. The Quality of both the writing And the testing has fallen Way down over that 40 years, but the rest stays the same.
    Me? I like my .45ACP colts, especially my officer’s model automatic in a Lou Alessi shoulder holster. Or for hunting, or a real dangerous situation I prefer my S&W .41 mag with a 6″ tube on it. Not because it was built for the state police to be the Best defensive weapon you could carry..but because it shoots flat, and drops white tails like my 270 win does, within range of course.
    My Most Carried gun? A .380 that fits in my summer pants in a holster of course. It draws very fast, never hangs up, and with the New ammo out today it will do a good job at stopping someone if the need truly arises. Plus as the writer stated, the best gun you have is the one you have With you! Sure, a .500 mag will stop Better, but will you carry it when ever you wake up in the morning until you go to bed at night, all around the house? Not a chance pal. I DO my .380!
    As for a revolver being out dated and useless as a full time carry gun. Tell Mr. Bill Jordan that! I guess you can’t as old Bill has passed away now, then do the next best thing, read his book “NO SECOND PLACE WINNERS”. With pictures even! So you won’t get bored. Check out the Speed records he set with a 4″ .357 revolver, putting 5 or 6 rounds into a target the size of a Playing card! Trick shooter? Nope, border patrol officer. He walked the walk And talked the talk too! With a body count to PROVE it! Not just words.
    People that write This stuff about how unreliable a revolver is, should walk through a door of a Texas boarder bar on the tail of a known wanted killer, alone. He did, more than once! More important is, HE Walked back out!

  • Frankandfrank October 13, 2017, 3:07 pm

    Hell, Google Jerry Miculek hits a 1,000 yard bullseye shooting offhand a 9mm handgun– maybe they should chose someone else for shooting examples. “This is a 9mm Luger ballistics chart (external) generated using our ballistic trajectory calculator. It tracks the movement of the bullet in zero wind conditions, and out to 100 yards. If you want to go further or apply wind resistance then use custom settings with our ballistic calculator. All data based of a the assumption that the pistol has been zeroed in at 25 yds., no scope is present, and the bullet being fired is a with a 124 gr, 9mm round, (in this example we used federal) with a bc (ballistic coefficient of 0.149). This bullet moves 1120fps from the muzzle. If all of this is confusing, just disregard all that mumbo jumbo above.
    While the 1.8 in drop of the 9mm bullet at 50 yards may not sound bad, it all goes downhill from there. In fact at the 100 yard mark the bullet will have dropped -12.0311 in (over a foot). So if you are shooting at a target 100 yards away you need to aim a full foot above the target, and without a scope that is very hard to judge at that distance” http://gundata.org/blog/post/9mm-ballistics-chart/ Watch the video and try to keep a straight fact– he does not even raise the barrel– level shot at 1,000 yards from a single offhanded 9mm shot.

    • John L October 13, 2017, 5:30 pm

      The hell you talking about? I remember the video, and it seems to me he stated he had a 50 foot holdover. Plus he was aiming at a large steel plate and the balloon was busted by the bullet fragments. It was just a fun thing to try. What point are you trying to make?

    • Jake October 14, 2017, 3:52 pm

      JM normally uses hard cast 147’s in 9mm’s.

  • Warren October 13, 2017, 1:38 pm

    I had a problem with some .38 special ammo that had aluminum casings and allowed the bullet to move forward in the casing and jam the cylinder. I simply loaded fewer rounds than the five my Ruger holds. I didn’t have any problems while doing this since it normally took four shots to cause the jam. Nothing but brass casings from now on!

    • Floyd Burdett October 13, 2017, 2:43 pm

      Warren, I suspect the problem you had was not because of the material [aluminum] of the casing but rather was a matter of the quality of the manufacturing… If the casing is not manufactured with the ACCURATE size rim — particularly with a ‘softer’ material — that can allow the forward creeping you mentioned.
      I certainly do not disagree with your future plans to use only brass casings! But I don’t think, necessarily, that aluminum casings are inherently undependable…

      • Chester Dow III October 13, 2017, 5:40 pm

        I have a S&W AirLite in .357 mag. on the barrel it says “no less than 120 gr. bullet”. It was explained to me that the recoil from the more potent rounds causes the bullet to unseat and then to jam between the cylinder and the frame.

  • john P. Debest October 13, 2017, 1:14 pm

    The only myth I agreed with was ” revolvers never jam”. Use a revolver long enough and a few more examples come up.
    High primers will stop a revolver dead.
    Unburnt powder under the extractor star will stop the revolver. This happens after doing a speedy reload.
    A squib load (pushing a bullet into the barrel) followed by a round will shut you down.
    Never trust anything with more moving parts than a knife and fork. 🙂

  • John October 13, 2017, 12:32 pm

    I’m a little surprised that no one has mentioned the somewhat loss of pressure behind a revolver bullet when passing from cylinder into the barrel, sometimes even shaving lead off a bullet to shower the sides. I’ve been hit by lead shavings while shooting besides others at a police range in the 70’s, and often thought the release of pressure would affect ballistics.
    This may also have contributed to less power in percussion revolvers, especially with even more pressure escaping thru the nipple. It seems to me that a cartridge fired in a chambered barrel, as in an auto, or a bolt action would be more accurate, more powerful, & cleaner firing.
    I’ve been surprised to never see this factor addressed.

    • William Johnson October 14, 2017, 6:03 pm

      It has been addressed and I’m sorry I don’t have a reference handy. Long and short is that it can be a very significant velocity loss. Up to 20% can often be observed. But it can also be no factor if the tolrances are good enough. So you bring up a great point and something that is often a key to quality. Inspect that gap!

  • Todd October 13, 2017, 12:24 pm

    Fool me once, shame on you.
    Fool me 642 times – well, call me hopeful.

    I had hoped there might be 5 widely held myths that perhaps I was forgetting of but no – just more click-baitery.

    Never, in over half a century have I ever heard anyone imply – let alone reach myth level – that revolvers are inaccurate or difficult to shoot.

    Oh well, hope springs eternal.

    Todd.

    • William Johnson October 14, 2017, 5:51 pm

      I always heard the opposite, that revolvers are more accurate. But I guess the writer’s crowd tends toward only snubbies. I think it is generally true that once you pass 4″ or so most people will naturally point accurately, and on average revolvers have higher quality barrels. But you have to have practice also since you usually can’t use the same grip/form as a semi-auto.

      If you like to try for OWB on the hip with a full-size weapon and still achieve near perfect cocealment in a wide range of clothing; then I know of nothing but a revolver in pancake holster.

      They definitely are not stagnant, recently revolvers have led in innovation. But it doesn’t get a lot of press, nor is it even always easy to understand if you don’t follow and fire them frequently.

    • Alan October 17, 2017, 12:55 pm

      As a former Instructor and salesman, I have heard these myths many times. It just depends on the company you keep, and in gun sales, that’s all of them.
      Gunnies have as much, if not more B.S. floating around as motor heads.
      Face it, whenever you get ‘guys’ together, you get the gamut of ‘experts’ and know-it-alls in practically every field of human endeavor.

  • Jon Law October 13, 2017, 11:09 am

    Nothing wrong with revolvers but reloading them on a galloping horse was a bitch. Glad when the department went to semi-autos. Have shot 98%+ for the last 43 years with either. Mostly, for EDC, I carry a Custom Browning Hi-Power IWB at 1:00 clock. Additionally I carry a 11 oz. S&W 340 PD in a Kydex rear pocket holster. I like them both and feel comfortable with both.

  • Dennis Leveille October 13, 2017, 10:48 am

    With a revolver you can very easily learn how to reload primer powered wax bullets and practice your combat shooting skills in your garage. You will be surprised at how fast you learn to gain speed and accuracy.

  • Bill October 13, 2017, 9:36 am

    Speaking of misinformation on the internet, your “expert” erroneously wrote: “With a revolver, you squeeze the trigger, which rotates the cylinder, aligning a cartridge in front of the hammer and behind the barrel. And, just at the right time, bang.”

    Try that with ANY single-action revolver, and exactly nothing will occur. If all revolvers were double-action as your tunnel vision afflicted “expert” has intimated, neither the celebrated Old West era of American history nor the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting would exist. Single-action revolvers may not be the first choice these days for personal defense or home defense, but they’ve been effective in those roles for 150 years – and still are.

  • Thomas Siciliano October 13, 2017, 9:18 am

    I agree with David Hamilton 100%. I am a retired LEO and had to carry a model 10 S&W .38 special revolver. Much practice made me a very good shot. My midnight partner, also a very good shot, told me if he ever became a hostage, shoot don’t give up my duty weapon. At that time, the book “ The Onion Field “ was read by all our officers describing the same situation that happened to a pair of LAPD officers.
    So, getting whacked in the face with one shot from a .38 works better than a double stacked spray and pray duty weapon whatever caliber it may be. Most cops I’ve met were terrible shots, so young officers today because their life is really on the line, should practice, practice and practice with what duty weapon is issued.

  • Nick M October 13, 2017, 9:17 am

    I literally have never heard these “myths”. It is fairly common that it is rare to have a malfunction compared to a bad magazine in an auto loader which will ftf.

  • Marc October 13, 2017, 8:39 am

    I’ve always been attracted toward revolvers, but always end up buying an autoloader. Why? prices. I compete at different venues IDPA, Bowling Pins and Steel. At IDPA out of eighty shooter there’s one revolver guy. Even if you buy a 9mm revolver it will cost over a thousand bucks.

    • Tom Drake October 13, 2017, 11:08 am

      I have never been a fan of the 9 mm any way, but I would rather carry 45 acp or larger weapon. For a good carry all day everyday I choose a Charter Arms 20 oz. 45 acp Pitt Bull. Loaded with 5- 230 gr metal jacketed hollow points. Also before you buy make sure when firing in double action the hammer comes almost as far as in single action, so the hammer strike the primer with about the same force as firing in single action. A light hammer strike has caused some revolvers to misfire. My PitBull cost was less than $450. I also use a PDA holster. I like carry concealed in plain view, so I can take my shirt off and still be legal.

  • Roady Fanelli October 13, 2017, 8:37 am

    As per usual people of the prevalent generation cannot or will not accept hundreds of years of logical thinking. I have never heard any of these “myths”. Maybe I hang with the wrong people, read the wrong books, watch the wrong news & don’t waste time on video games. The history of firearms is twice as long with revolvers as autos. Autos are johnny-come-lately. The majority of professionals still use a revolver as a backup last ditch lifesaver. You punks who have never voted for anyone except obama for president need to throw away your damn graphic novel & read some history or you will be destined to repeat it.

  • brigit Adeir October 13, 2017, 8:36 am

    Defensive shooting a pistol a 6″ ‘center mass’ group is considered acceptable at 15 yards.
    Hunting with a .357mag or larger revolver typically produce 1-2″ groups at 50 to 100 yards.
    In my experience with quality pistols AND revolvers, they have all been reliable and never failed to function. Although in extreme circumstances or with partial damage, a revolver can almost always be made to go bang.
    As for power, a .357mag 125gr. jacketed hollow point @ 2000fps is going to take down anything with a good hit in a single shot as fast or faster than any of my pistols. When I may need more than 6 shots, I carry a pistol. When I want optimum stopping power, I carry a revolver.
    Like the author said, it’s all up to the individual.

    • Jake October 14, 2017, 3:59 pm

      I get 2,000 fps with the 125 gr .357 except I’m firing it from a 20″ Winchester 92 lever gun. I am guessing you meant 1,200?

  • Infidel762x51 October 13, 2017, 7:40 am

    Revolvers have been obsolete since 1911. Good for a backup ankle gun or one of the super magnums in bear country but not for a primary defense weapon.

    • Alan October 13, 2017, 9:05 am

      SO, are you saying that defense against a bear while fishing ISN’T a “primary defense”???
      I’ll bet a lot of Alaskans would take you to task on that.
      On that point, I’ll bet that on average, the chances of you needing MORE than say, 5 rounds to defend yourself are astronomical.
      Obsolete?!? Only for you.

    • Hat October 13, 2017, 9:15 am

      Obsolete really? Owning 32 autos and 19 revolvers I amd many others will argue that point all day. This all matters on how much range time an individual uses to their advantage. Sure having more rounds because you fail to utilize range and or professional training classes. Look at the facts, an individual that goes to the range and rents a weapon. Now proven 8 out of 10 can shoot the revolver over the auto with precision and comfort. That does mean it fits that person but gets them started. With newer revolvers and addons, hand down can keep up and in the right hands can out shoot autos. I’ve seen this time and time again. How much ammo do you need? Wow revolver make yuou reserve anf make more accurate shots. Autos you pray and spray. I would hope you don’t need that many shots. Most people use single stack autos, including me. I can draw and shoot just as fast with either. So I choose to carry both styles. They are both just as accurate and consilible. It all boils down to the individual and the training. Practice practise practise. You will be surprised on the out come.

  • Lloyd Dumas October 13, 2017, 6:53 am

    Revolvers are fine with me, they work and are more dependable than autos. When it comes to capacity I don’t think the odds are high that I will be in a gun fight or a shoot out so five will keep me alive. Revolvers are not old fashioned and in the right hands are just as deadly as any auto loader. The 38 cal has been around for a long time and never stopped being an awesome man stopper. What I’m saying anyone putting down the good ol 38 revolver is truly misleading.

  • Ron October 13, 2017, 6:09 am

    I just don’t like chasing after my brass. Nicest thing about a revolver is your brass never has to hit the ground.

  • TJ October 13, 2017, 5:46 am

    Well I’m old school but my department issue gun is a 45 semi automatic with 14 round capacity magazines plus we carry at least 2-4 extra magazines on our utility belt.
    I agree 100% that if you shoot well with ANY firearm from 22-500 magnum then what type of delivery system you use is a mute point.
    Most people don’t use or even shoot a revolver because they are difficult to learn to shoot but in my younger days that’s all we had available so you just shot it. Now there are not many fire arms instructors that will teach the basic revolver techniques so people think they are out dated and of no use in self defense.
    I am a range instructor for my local sheriffs department and I have seen first hand that some officers cant hit the mark even with 14 rounds in their firearm yet I can take one of my revolvers and hit 6 times center so I feel comfortable carrying one with a couple of speed loaders for off duty.
    most self defense scenarios the average person (non LEO) would face will not be a mass gunfight but would only require a few WELL placed shots to stop or end the threat.
    The key is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and more PRACTICE. Use various firearms that you might have or could use INCLUDING revolvers to be proficient with no matter the situation.
    Tj

  • Richard Steven Hack October 10, 2017, 8:44 pm

    “But the most effective self-defense handgun is the one you shoot well and will actually carry.”

    Uhm, that is true based on CONSTRAINTS. However, it is NOT true when doing an objective analysis of multiple firearm options with the intent of maximizing one’s capacity to survive using a firearm.

    Revolver caliber clearly isn’t an issue as the .357 Magnum has long been known as a capable caliber.

    But five and six shot revolvers ARE too limited in capacity compared to semi-automatics. There are exceptions, of course. There are ten-round revolvers firing a decent caliber – but they tend to be bigger and heavier than usual which makes concealed carry harder.

    And of course there are single-stack semi-autos with barely a round or two more than the limited-capacity revolvers.

    The key is to match caliber with capacity. If you insist on carrying a low-capacity firearm, the caliber it shoots needs to go up. If you insist on carrying a smaller caliber firearm, the number of rounds it can fire before reloading needs to go up.

    ideally, you want both a serious caliber AND a serious capacity. Which pretty much leads to double-stack firearms in the 9mm, 10mm, .40 and .45 caliber (anything bigger is likely to he hard to shoot accurately and with faster followup except for larger persons with strong hands.)

    Revolvers are suitable for sport shooting and hunting – not for self-defense (with the possible exception of ten-round revolvers.)

    • David hamilton October 13, 2017, 4:28 am

      Well, if you are speaking for just yourself you are probably correct. Only you know your limitations.

    • Marty October 13, 2017, 7:43 am

      I would have no concerns carrying a revolver. While capacity is definitely limited vs some other options, look at many concealed carry autos popular on today’s market. Many of those carry six rounds in a single stack magazine. Even the extended mags for many of those carry a max of 7 or 8. I definitely get that some people may not feel comfortable carrying a revolver, but the blanket statement of revolvers not being appropriate for self defense is not accurate. Especially when so many have been used effectively in self defense situations by both law enforcement and private citizens.

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