Debunking Common Revolver Myths

As far as revolvers go, the M66 is a great balance between easy handling and effectiveness.

There’s a distinct appeal to the revolver. The design speaks to some people. But how much of the mythology surrounding these guns is true?

Read more about the benefits of revolvers: Shooting revolvers from the pocket. Or this comparative study: Shooting revolvers from a man purse.

Revolvers are enjoying a massive resurgence of popularity. As we noted in the Taurus review we ran earlier this week (or the Kimber Revolver from SHOT Show), the old-school technology is still evolving. So what’s behind America’s love-affair with wheel-guns? Is it simple nostalgia, or is there something deeper?

Two classic beauties--the Colt Python (top) and the Smith 686.

Two classic beauties–the Colt Python (top) and the Smith 686.

There are certainly nostalgic elements to the revolver. Most single action guns hold firm to their 19th century roots. But there are very few people carrying single-action revolvers, and even fewer concealing them. Double-action, on the other hand…. There is a retro-cool to the Colt Snakes. Smith & Wesson, and others, are rocking big-bore calibers that simply aren’t practical in automatic pistols. And the refinements of material science have allowed many new options in lightweight concealed carry guns.

Revolvers have a reputation for being fool-proof. Though their mechanics are often complex, Revolvers are easy to use. And they never fail, right?

Well, the truth is more complex. There is a world of mythology that surrounds the revolver. And as a die-hard revolver fan, I’d like to share some of my experience. This is in no-way designed to talk you out of your decision to carry a revolver–instead, you need to know what the potential pitfalls might be.

Myth #1–Revolvers don’t jam.

This has to be the most pervasive of all revolver myths. There’s some truth to it, in that many revolvers are very reliable. But you’re kidding yourself if you accept this as gospel truth. Wheel-guns suffer from the same issue all guns have. I have broken them down into five categories.

  • Ammunition–There are people who believe revolvers will shoot any-old ammo. Not true. High primers can jam the cylinder rotation. Unburned powder, leaving powder flakes in the barrel and cylinder, gets under the extractor star and keeps it from retracting. On some super lightweight guns that shoot super-hot loads, the recoil can cause an unfired rounds to un-crimp, which allows the bullets to move forward. This impedes the cylinder from rotating.
  • Maintenance–Yes you do have to maintain your revolver. The cylinder window in the frame must be clean. Next the underside of the extractor (star) and the recess must be clean. All of the screws must be tight. I once did a reload at an ICORE match and the cylinder and yoke on my S&W 625 went skidding across the range. Lack of maintenance really falls into the next category….
  • User error–In addition to a lack of maintenance, user caused malfunctions often break down into basic trigger discipline. You can ride the trigger and prevent it from resetting, or short stroke it. But you can also stall a revolver by allowing a round under the ejector star during sloppy or hasty loading.
  • Mechanical issues–Revolvers are powered by the user instead of the ammunition’s energy (like on an automatic). But the energy of the rounds fired still takes a toll on the gun. While automatics move with the forces of redirected energy, a revolver just has to take the beating. The key operated lockouts on Smith & Wesson revolvers (normally operated by a key that I always promptly loose) can be engaged by a hot load. I have been told that some Colt revolvers may break firing pins. While these issues are incredibly rare, they can happen.
  • Damage–Revolvers are prone to damage. Drop your revolver on the cylinder on a concrete sidewalk and see if it still works with a bent ejector rod. Lob it in the dirt or mud and see if the cylinder will turn. Slam the cylinder open and closed, Hollywood style, and see what it does to the timing. While these are easily preventable, they will stop a revolver.
While the moving parts on a revolver are few, they can be abused by reckless use and/or excessive recoil.

While the moving parts on a revolver are few, they can be abused by reckless use and/or excessive recoil. Abuse to the crane will eventually stop a revolver.

And you have to keep things clean. Tolerances on most revolvers are generous, but not limitless.

And you have to keep things clean. Tolerances on most revolvers are generous, but not limitless.

The second batch of myths are far more dangerous, in that they imply revolvers are less dangerous than they really are.

The second batch of myths are far more dangerous, in that they imply revolvers are less dangerous than they really are.

Myth #2–Revolvers are easy to stop.

The second batch of misconceptions has more to do with what you should do if you’re ever on the wrong end of a revolver. How can you stop a revolver from functioning and take it out of the fight? If you were paying attention, there were some adroit suggestions above–just ensure that your attacker drops the revolver on an open cylinder, or has poor trigger control.

But maybe there are more cinematic ways to ensure your safety?

  • Grab the hammer to stop a revolver?

    Grab the cylinder to stop a revolver?

    Grab the cylinder and you can keep a revolver from firing

We have all heard the old CQB tactic that suggest if you grab the cylinder of an opponent’s revolver, the revolver will not fire. Well let me tell you there are 2 problems. First, if the revolver is cocked this will not work. Second, you have to keep holding onto the revolver.

If you are in a cartoon this may work (like plugging the barrel with your finger). Your attacker with the revolver may do things to make holding onto the cylinder difficult, like a simple quick tug back in towards his body.

Will it work? Yes. Is it practical–hells no.

  • Hook you finger behind the hammer

I have been told this is good if you are at contact distance. Question, what if the gun has no hammer? Or what if it is already cocked. This seems like a possible but not probable.

If you can get a hand on the gun, you can lock it down. A finger behind the hammer of a single action revolver will slow it down. And with a double action, there’s the outside chance that an attacker could break something internal trying to pull the trigger.

Will it work? Yes. Is it practical–not so much.

  • This will stop a revolver, but only long enough for your assailant to break your finger.

    This will stop a revolver, but only long enough for your assailant to break your finger.

    Put your finger behind the trigger

I have seen this on movies and the gun-store-lore would have you believe this fool proof. I have a few problems with this one. Again what if the gun is cocked? What if my finger will not fit? How do I get my finger in-there without getting shot. This again seems easy to show at the counter at the gun shop, but at night being robbed? Hardly.

Will it work? Yes. Will you end up with a broken finger? Likely. But maybe that’s better than getting shot.


Revolvers are rarely the best choice for most new shooters. Instruction is the best choice for a new shooter. Revolvers, especially for self-defense, require more training for new users to be proficient with them. Small wheel guns have rudimentary sights. Their light weight means lots of recoil. And the 5 or 6 round capacity can be a detriment. As if that weren’t enough, the revolver is more difficult to reload, and people who carry revolvers aren’t likely to carry extra ammo.

Semiautos deserved their dubious reputation, and for a long time. Not today. The modern auto is, as a rule, just as well suited for self-defense as a revolver. So there has to be something else driving the popularity. It has to be more than nostalgia.

In the end, for me at least, it comes back to nostalgia. There’s something romantic about a well built revolver. The list of potential pitfalls listed above is easily mastered. Train with your gun, and keep it clean. Practice reloads. Handle it respectfully, and it will last much longer than you.

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  • knife March 20, 2017, 11:50 pm

    everything you mentioned that can go wrong with a revolver can go wrong with a semi auto, i disagree with the new shooters having more trouble learning the revolvers , a revolver handles recoil better than any auto . i do admit their are some exceptions like feather weight 357 mags or 44 mags with full power loads will kick like a beast but grab a desert eagle in 50 a&e and see what happens. every new shooter that i have helped get into shooting have always shot my 4 in med frame smith 357 with 38 sp way better than my glock 9mm or my bersa 380. yes they almost always suck at shooting double action but with a revolver but they spend more time at the range getting better . besides were talking about self defense distance here but i we were having a shootout in our home with an armed idiot that was beyond 6 or 7 yrds and had a revolver we would have time to cock the wheel gun and shoot more accurately. besides a double action trigger on a revolver isnt much worse than the triggers on the glocks or xds sr9 or m&p . just my opinion

  • Slick-Willy February 27, 2016, 11:48 am

    I’ve been around guns all my life, been shooting since I was a kid (too long) and I’m a former police-officer. Each type of hangun has its specific advantages and disadvantages – based on the comments, no amount of persuasion will change the minds of hard-liners from either camp. Regardless of your preference : carry AND practice as if your life depends on it because it does. Furthermore, if you don’t survive you won’t be any good to anyone.

  • ejharb February 24, 2016, 8:19 am

    Very good
    Recommended reading for all but especially for revolver folks new to the wheel
    I’ve been in a auto phase for awhile but a preload 3″ smith 64 38spl might drag me out every now and then and I still am a fan of the LCR

  • Rick P February 19, 2016, 11:40 pm

    I agree with everything you pointed out. Many of the points you made were related to heavy use, hot loads, lack of correct maintenance. Up until a month or so ago, I would not hesitate to advise a novice to buy a revolver. Although I own 3 semi’s for every 2 wheel guns (if you count 1911’s as semi’s). I still would recommend a revolver to a novice for home protection because they are not likely to put as many rounds through it to cause most of the situations you pointed out. The simple mechanism, fewer moving parts make it more reliable for someone who has minimal training and is likely to point and shoot. If the ammunition is carefully chosen, I think its still the way to go especially compared with semi’s with with external safeties or shotguns with similar. Like everything else every situation is different, but after 35 yrs of carrying 30 on PD I never had a revolver FTF. I’ve never had a stoppage with a semi that wasn’t set up by a range instructor during training either, but if you are not extensively trained I’d recommend a good reliable wheel gun after it was inspected, test fired and loaded with carefully chosen ammo.

  • viktor knapp February 19, 2016, 8:32 am

    The main reason that revolvers are popular in america is the stupid faith demented people.

  • Tarcante February 17, 2016, 2:23 pm

    I will give you 15 reasons why you need to start with a REVOLVER.
    1. With a revolver you don´t have to worry about failures to feed, failures to eject, nose dives, failures to cycle and magazine problems.
    2. With a revolver you don´t have to worry about losing the magazine.
    3. With a revolver you don´t have to worry about forgeting to put one round in the chamber.
    4. With a revolver you don´t have to worry about forgeting to disconect the safety mechanism.
    5. A revolver has fever moving parts. Less moving parts, means few things can failed in the worst possible moment.
    6. A revolver is more relaible. This is self explanatory, based on the above points.
    7. With a revolver you don´t have to dangerously manipulate the handgun to see if there is still one round is in the chamber. Just see the rounds inside the revolver´s chamber.
    8. Learn to shoot with one revolver, means knowing to virtually shoot with any other revolver. If have seen one revolver, you have seen them all.
    9. Wih a revolver you don´t have a long handgun breaking period. With a semi auto, usually you need 200 rounds to know if the gun is reliable.
    10. If you have a failure with a semi auto. It could be 10 or more different things. The magazine lips, the ejector, the feed ramp, the rod´s spring, etc, etc. With a revolver, since it has fewer parts, if it goes “bang” the first time, you have a 99.99% chance the next round will go “bang” again.
    11. Maybe the most important reason. A revolver is not “ammo sensitive”. A revolver will eat anything. Full metal jackted rounds, hollow points, semi wad cutters, etc, etc. Semi autos are not that ammo versatile.
    12.You can teach almost any other family member, on how to shoot a revolver in less the 5 minutes. Everybody can instinctively grab a revolver and pull the trigger. Try to teach someone that has never shot a gun, on how a semi auto works, you will need at least 30 minutes to explain everything. And he or she will have to remember at least 5 things before shooting a semi auto.
    13. Loading a revolver is much easier. You don´t have to worry about inserting the magazine correctly. Or putting the rounds inside the magazine correctly, not backwards like rookies sometimes do it. With a revolver you are loading the handgun, not a magazine.
    14. In a life and death situation you will be at a hand touch distance, less than 12 feet. With a semi auto if the attacker grabs the barrel of you handgun, it is useless. With a revolver, if your attacker grabs your barrel, the revolver will still go “bang” if you pull the trigger.
    15. With a revolver you can do pocket fire. Or shoot the revolver inside you pocket. Thy to do that with a semi auto, it will failed 99.99% of the time.

    • Stan d. Upnow March 7, 2017, 10:43 pm

      Let me go over some of your “15 reasons” here:

      1) Yes, you can certainly have a failure to eject with a revolver. I’ve had to bang on the ejector rod more than once to extract the spent cases. Failure to “cycle” – happened, as well, when the cylinder latch failed to fully engage allowing the cylinder to move out of battery.
      3) If you load Five rounds, instead of Six, and are not careful to properly index the cylinder accordingly, you might have the hammer falling on an empty cylinder.
      6) More reliable? In the sense that there are less possible functional issues- yes. But, revolvers have more closely fitted actions and are more exposed to the environment. That offers more chance for stoppages due to dirt or debris. Ask yourself why every military have gone to autos for the last 100+ years. Example: Colt 1911 Govt.
      7) This is perhaps your worst “reason” of all. If someone has lost count of how many rounds they’ve fired, it is Not easy to see if all rounds have been fired in a revolver without popping the cylinder. Ridiculous to say “dangerously manipulate” a pistol to check the chamber for a loaded round! Simply retract the slide slightly and check; gun can’t fire once the slide is out of battery. Also, many pistols have loaded chamber indicators that can tell you at a glance if the chamber has a round in it.
      8) Not correct. Not even in a general, functional sense. Someone used to DA revolvers has some adjustments to make if transitioning to a SA revolver, and vice versa. Also, each revolver has a different “feel” to it which will necessitate adjustments and acclimation to shoot and handle it properly.
      10) When it goes “bang” the first time is when something can break = no second shot! I’ve had the cylinder jam on the first shot, due to the bullet in the next chamber jumping the crimp due to recoil.
      11) Wrong! A properly designed or set-up auto will handle All of the loads you mentioned. I’ve never had a problem with that.
      Where your comment has Some validity is that pistols require a certain energy level from the ammo to function correctly. Underpowered ammo will not cycle the action. Also, not paying close attention to cartridge OAL can cause magazine loading problems and/or chambering problems.
      13) Wrong again! Quick reloads are Much easier with an auto. Eject the empty mag, slap a fresh mag in, drop the slide, and done. With a revolver you have to push the cylinder release, manually swing the cylinder out, tilt the gun up, push the ejector rod, tilt the gun down, slowly reload one chamber at a time(or use a much quicker speed-loader), close the cylinder and make sure it engages the cylinder latch, re-grip the gun, and finally- resume firing position. With the auto you never have to break your firing position to reload, unlike the revolver; most important if your in a firefight.
      14) Strike Three! First, unless your pistol is one with a fixed barrel, your attacker will be grabbing the Slide, not the barrel. Second, even in that case, unless he has the knowledge & presence of mind to quickly force the slide out of battery and keep it there, you can fire a round and he goes bye-bye. Your instinctive reaction should be to yank the gun straight back, breaking his grip, or at least returning the slide to battery rendering the gun once again, able to be fired.
      15) I’ve heard that one before. Have you ever done it? Unless your revolver is in a Huge pocket(like a large overcoat), it will be almost impossible to cock the hammer, much less point the gun on target. You’d have a far better chance to shoot a striker-fired pistol. Granted, it likely would only be one shot, as the same pocket restrictions would prevent the slide from cycling properly. You’re always going to be better off drawing your weapon.

      • knife March 21, 2017, 12:10 am

        everyone has likes and dislikes , i have both guns and like both , revolvers need to have plenty of rounds fired through them to make sure they have no malfunctions when new, but one thing that wasnt touched here was the limp wrist factor,or maybe i missed it. but my son and plenty of female shooters have it happen at least one time per mag . yet ive seen some women can handle a 40 cal auto with no prob. for raw fire power the auto is great with high cap mags but the in your face gut shot id still prefer the revolver.

      • Michael August 29, 2018, 11:39 am

        Sir: With all due respect, you are the equivalent of a gun racist. I have nothing against semi’s and own a few. However, I would not exaggerate the possible problem to denigrate one side or the other of the discussion. Claiming any possible disadvantages however rare, even those you’ve only ” hear of” and those shared by both revolvers and Samsung’s is dishonest at best.

  • Dave Ope February 16, 2016, 8:54 am

    BTW I forgot to comment on one other thing this guy wrote. He said “some women could have week fingers and not be able to squeeze the trigger on a double action revolver.” REALLY? I mean REALLY? If my kid could do it when she was 8 years old (and put it close to the bullseye just about everytime ) , then any woman should not have a problem, as long as they are taught and practice the right way.

  • Dan February 16, 2016, 12:46 am

    Repeat from above by Jeff Borger is right on:

    I disagree with the author and others who state a revolver is not for beginners. In fact, I believe a revolver is the best and safest gun for a beginner, in addition to its simplicity. For self defense (which is what guns are for), all you need to do is point and pull the trigger. However, teaching someone to use a semi auto requires to teach and remember where the safety is, the slide release, how to rack or know if there is a round in the chamber, in the case of a single action…teach there is a round loaded and cocked in the chamber after the first shot, etc. While I have both semi and revolvers, I keep and depend upon my S&W 357 revolver for protection. I’ve never had a jam or misfire, which is more than I can say about my semi auto pistols.

    • DrBill February 16, 2016, 4:28 pm

      I agree with the thoughtful comments above. I’ve taught novices to use both, and there are simply fewer things to think about with a revolver. There are less things to go wrong from inexperience hands. I can’t tell you how many gunshot cases I’ve seen in the ER which were terminated by a jammed semi-auto, and never have I seen this scenario with a revolver… DrBill

  • C. Thomas February 16, 2016, 12:43 am

    I would NOT advise any of those methods to stop me from firing my revolver because I have trained in Martial Arts over 30 years. In fact, if I’ve drawn it, then the situation must be very dire, I usually do not need my gun in most confrontations.

  • Jose February 15, 2016, 11:07 pm

    One big advantage to revolvers that I have found is that many of the women that I have taught do not have the strength to work the slide. The same with people suffering arthritis. I had one woman who finally opted for a SA Bisley. Not my first choice for self defense but it was what she felt comfortable with and what she could operate effectively and safely.

    • TPSnodgrass February 19, 2016, 6:32 pm

      Each of us have to find our OWN salvation when it comes to the defensive handguns WE choose to carry/use. There is NO panacea, NO one right type or model of any handgun right for every single person. The only caveat to that, is that you will have to fight with the one you have on you at the time the fight commences.
      What works for me, probably won’t work for you. No worries. Revolvers are an effective tool for just about anyone to use. I’m an old school guy, I started out carrying a revolver on patrol in 1977 and never felt under or out gunned. We transitioned to pistols and I never felt under nor out-gunned at any time.
      It’s never the “arrow” it self, it is the archer that lets loose with it. Something the FBI seems to have consistently forgotten long ago, right after the Great Miami Tactical Goat-Rope Failure.(shootout) That incident was a failure in agent tactics at the time, not a failure in bullet design.
      Modern ammunition design of hollow point defensive loads is superior in every aspect to what was available and used back then.
      A urinating contest of whose revolver/pistol is “bigger” accomplishes nothing, in the end, your prostate enlarges and it is dribble time, no matter WHO you think you are.
      With age comes wisdom and treachery, revolvers and pistols work well, I carry each depending upon which Communist state I am traveling in visiting grand children, I always have a back up as well, because my Murphy Cousins are always lurking in the shadows some where.
      Carry what YOU feel comfortable with and don’t fret what someone else chooses. Personally I don’t care what somebody chooses to carry for defense, only that they consistently carry a LOADED handgun at the minimum. It’s time to make the low-lifes’ fear us for a change, and they need to hope we are not pansy-political-pimps who pander to them. Yeah, I like that hope and change a lot.

  • Jim Jones February 15, 2016, 8:07 pm

    Hello, GunsAmerica,
    I watched a video from SHOT Show 2016 with Jon Hodoway about a new AR trigger I’m sure was called a Reciprocal Trigger that fires once when you pull it and again when you release it, like the Echo, or Binary drop-in trigger. I haven’t been able to find the video again and want to know who makes it, when it will be available, and how much it costs.

  • John Bibb February 15, 2016, 3:23 pm

    I paid $40 for a Colt New Service revolver chambered for .455 Eley 6 decades ago. It had been converted to also fire .45 Long Colt. Almost 100 years old now–still very accurate single action at 70 ft., and zero mechanical problems with it. Accurate for double action fire at 25 ft.
    The only problem is the tendency to shoot high if not careful about keeping the top of the front site properly aligned with the groove in the backstrap. Lots of fun to shoot. And totally reliable.

  • Argee February 15, 2016, 3:19 pm

    I took my two sons out to the range, to try my new .357 magnum revolver and old 9mm semi-auto. The training was about 1/10th the effort with the revolver, and they never needed re-training. They commented, “even Mom could learn to shoot the revolver.” I think that’s the whole story.
    My only concern with revolvers is the heavy trigger, to keep sights on target. This means you need to select your brand carefully, maybe do some trigger work, and practice – none of this is bad. Because of the even heavier trigger issue for rimfire, I would avoid a rimfire revolver except as a plinker.

  • Paul Bottone February 15, 2016, 3:14 pm

    I was a police firearms instructor and spent a week at the FBI shoot school for police departments. It was all revolvers. Easy to teach recruits and produced good qualification scores. Then we transitioned to semi autos. Much more class room instruction because of all that can go wrong with them and how to clear malfunctions in the field. Scores were not as good in the beginning. Remember I did carry a 6inch Python for years. A 3-4 inch semi is no match for a long barrel. I carried a Glock 23 after that since the 45 caliber was not allowed then. Nice gun but not a Python. Over 95% of all police conflicts are under 5 rounds at 3-7 feet. Nice to carry close to 30 rounds but really only a mental crutch. In the good old day it was 6 rounds in 2.5 seconds and speed load in 3.7 seconds. But never in 18 years was it a necessity.
    A lot of officers had dirty guns found at snap inspections. A dirty revolver is less likely to be a problem the a semi auto.
    Personally I love my gold cup and hit a 3 inch ring at 25 yards regularly but I’m thinking I’ll carry a snub nose revolver for self defense. It is a no brainer to pull and shoot. I shoot around 500 rounds /month. If one does not practice a lot then they are fooling themselves they will be ready in a emergency. Another good reason to carry a clean no brainer revolver. IMHO!

  • Bob Long February 15, 2016, 2:30 pm

    wish you would have touched on dry firing, of course never dry fire a 22 RIM fire, but, today’s more modern revolvers with transfer bars and the like can be safely dry fired.

    • Frank Emerson February 15, 2016, 6:27 pm

      A transfer bar has nothing to do with preventing the firing pin from impacting the metal around the chamber. The transfer bar prevents the hammer from impacting the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled fully rearward. Dry firing a rimfire gun is not harmfulmm when the firing pin is designed to stop forward travel before impacting the metal around the chamber.

  • Eman February 15, 2016, 2:26 pm

    Chemo left me with weak and numb fingers. I had intermittent trouble with slides and striker fired triggers. Ergo I now EDC a snubbie .357 with .38 +P ammo. I’ve adjusted my mentality to only double tap the first target, and rely on my better than average shooting ability..and laser least that is my rationalization. I still havemy double stack .45 DA in the truck.

  • Shecky February 15, 2016, 1:46 pm

    Personal choice, no one can convince me or anyone else what they should carry. The story about the cop in the mud is a good one….on the other hand I’ve been hunting wild pigs and something similar happened to me. I guess my holster was better than his, my gun (model 29 Performance Center 44mag) went into the mud climbing from a swollen creek. As I reached the edge I was face to face with a 300lb + pig and he wasn’t backing up. My gun worked flawlessly and did what it was supposed to do. I carry a model 29 44mag mountain gun 4″ barrel. The thing I like about this gun is the amount of trama it inflicts, if you were to hit a bad guy in the leg or arm…their thoughts would immediately be on what had happened to them and not on me.
    The things they say about jams.. Dirty gun-you deserve to have a gun that treats you like you treat it. Primers extending-If you use this ammo for protection and don’t look at it after you purchached it, sounds lazy to me. Ammo under the forcing star??? 45+ years of shooting many different calibers, thousands of rounds…I’ve never had a round end up under the star EVER. That’s with speed shooting IDPA, hunting or just target shooting…the only problem I’ve ever had was with range reloads, the bullet had been set too deep swelling the shell.

  • G51 February 15, 2016, 12:33 pm

    I have to say IMO the revolver is the safest gun for a beginner. No safeties to wonder about. Very easy to see if it is loaded. Aim and then pull the trigger…can’t get any simpler than that.
    Can a revolver jam? Yes they can but not near as possible or often as with a semi-auto. Yes I have had a revolver jam due to a cracked casing that let the bullet come forward from recoil which jammed against the gun frame. Also I have had ammo that I couldn’t even close the cylinder because of the casing head thickness. Also if the primer isn’t seated right or it backs out it can jam the cylinder. Are these more prone to be a problem than the feeding problems of a semi-auto? I have to say no way in my experiences of firing both types of guns.
    I have to say even my more expensive semi-autos have jammed. Like a gun dealer told me…any gun is subject to fail at some time. IMO a semi-auto is much more prone to an ND than a revolver. Bottom line is that to each his own thoughts about which is better.
    Personally I go with the revolver as my preference for protection.

  • FAAQ2 February 15, 2016, 12:19 pm

    I had friend who has since passed away – that while employed as a STATE TROOPER. He got in a fight one night with drunk – at that time he was carrying a S&W model 19. Down in the dirt and mud they went when the dirtbag started chocking him and pushing head into the mud puddle. my friend drew his revolver and tried to shoot the suspect who was trying to kill him. The revolver jammed when the mud did not allow the cylinder to turn. Because of the revolver not working he nearly was killed. So much for revolvers being better then automatics. Shortly after that the State Police started carrying Semi- auto 9mm’s.

  • Jeff Borger February 15, 2016, 12:17 pm

    I disagree with the author and others who state a revolver is not for beginners. In fact, I believe a revolver is the best and safest gun for a beginner, in addition to its simplicity. For self defense (which is what guns are for), all you need to do is point and pull the trigger. However, teaching someone to use a semi auto requires to teach and remember where the safety is, the slide release, how to rack or know if there is a round in the chamber, in the case of a single action…teach there is a round loaded and cocked in the chamber after the first shot, etc. While I have both semi and revolvers, I keep and depend upon my S&W 357 revolver for protection. I’ve never had a jam or misfire, which is more than I can say about my semi auto pistols.

    • BryanD February 16, 2016, 4:41 am

      Wow. So, a beginner shouldn’t have to learn to tell of the gun is loaded (round in the chamber)? Granted, they don’t have to learn to rack a slide or clear a malfunction with a revolver. If an auto malfunctions, tap, rack, bang usually clears it, even in the middle of a self-defense situation. If a revolver fails, you are screwed. They do fail. Just because yours haven’t, doesn’t mean they don’t. I’ve been carrying various autos for years, everything from Sig Saur and Kimber to Taurus and Keltec. Guess what? I can count on my hands the number of times a well-maintained auto has failed (and it’s usually the higher-priced autos because of ammo).

      You want to teach a beginner? Figure out what fits their hands well, and then figure out what they like to shoot. And then teach them how to shoot it well. Auto or revolver. It really doesn’t matter. Autos fail, occasionally. Revolvers fail, occasionally. Shoot what you shoot well. Help others find what they shoot well.

      I cannot shoot a snubbie well. It’s ok, I shoot a 1911 VERY well. My friend is just the opposite – he can’t shoot autos worth a darn, but can bullseye with a snubbie. Guess what? I carry a 1911-variant. He carries a revolver. If either one of us needs to rely on the other, we know we can.

  • DAVE OPE February 15, 2016, 11:05 am

    I carry an 8 shot smith from the performance center. With a 2 5/8 barrel I am more accurate and with a faster 2nd shot than with any of my semi autos. I have seen a cheaper revolver jam.(rossi) . But I have also seen a semi auto fall into pieces while being shot. I have herd of some one pushing the slide of a semi auto back toward the person holding the gun on them just enough that the gun didnt fire.Its all your preference my brothers and sisters.Do what works for you . I have love for both, but a revolver (on most days) protects my family ,friends, and my life.

  • tim February 15, 2016, 10:46 am

    In a Self Defense mindset in most cases you will have only 3 seconds at best to identify & stop the threat.unless you carry a semi auto in condition one like a duty officer , then drawing/ racking one into the chamber & presenting- with my old reflexes is not an option. having only 5 or 6 rounds of 38+P/ 357 in my wheel gun is enough for self defense imho , God Forbid. Stopping the threat but not having to engage in a gun fight. FIGHT /FLIGHT/FREEZE …Always awareness of Surroundings.

  • Lee February 15, 2016, 10:22 am

    Great article. I didn’t realize how fallible revolvers were until I started shooting competition with one. I was always a Glock guy, then started shooting USPSA and inevitably ended up in open division with a custom SVI race gun. And when I started shooting IDPA, for some reason I decided to make a change and started shooting a wheel gun in SSR (now just plain revolver division). Talk about a learning experience. I was surprised how fickle a wheel gun can be. Its not like an auto when you get a malfunction or something breaks. A lot of times a jam puts you out of a fight. Whether a rim falling under the ejector, or just a little grit or fowling preventing a round from dropping all the way down into the cylinder. Its not like you can just drop the mag and rack the slide to clear. Mastering a revolver is not for a beginner, and I’d never recommend a beginning shooter, by far is the most complicated platform to be able to learn on.

  • Mac February 15, 2016, 10:06 am

    You may well be “a die-hard revolver fan” and you can say you’re not trying to influence or “not talk anyone out of carrying a revolver,” but it’s clear where your preference/bias is. However, where new shooters are concerned, I totally disagree with your opinion/comments about revolvers not being the best choice for new shooters…and then following right up with training being the best choice for new shooters, as if an alternative to a revolver in favor of a semi-auto. Training is paramount with either/ALL firearms. Take the what ifs out of it along with those who carry for the once-in-a-lifetime 8-16 shot firefight they may (likely never) encounter plus all the reloading/overloading/under-gunned issues you mention as detriments to revolvers, and you have a gun that is so much simpler to understand and shoot with for the new and occasional shooter for self-defense/personal protection, as well as for safety around the home. How many times do you read about accidental shootings where “I thought it wasn’t loaded”…or…”I checked the magazine and it was empty”…but they either forgot or didn’t know to check/eject the chamber…? The weapons in these cases are virtually everytime a semi-auto…and it’s not just children or beginners. You rarely have that with a revolver…much easier to check/see/understand/operate or figure out, and therefore less complicated, accident-prone and intimidating for new shooters. Yes, instruction and training is a MUST, and new shooters in time can/will learn the semi-auto if they so choose, but in the beginning they’re better to learn on a simple, smaller, well-maintained and easy-to-understand revolver with appropriate and dependable ammo (not undersized with hot-shot loads, etc.).

    • 1av8r February 15, 2016, 10:41 am

      Absolutely. My thoughts exactly

      • Dave Ope February 15, 2016, 11:15 am

        I agree too. revolvers are a great starter platform.

        • Smoke Hill Farms February 19, 2016, 2:06 am

          And particularly when neither of you have any idea as to whether the new gun owner will keep up any sort of training or practice, since the number of new gun owners that actually keep on shooting regularly is very small — some because of the difficulty when you live in an urban or suburban area, and some just because they lose interest and mostly bought the gun “for protection” and it will just sit on their nightstand or in their purse forever. Three or five or ten years later (still loaded with the same ammo), when some thugs break in your door at 3 a.m., the odds of some groggy, half-asleep citizen remembering where the safety is, or whether there’s even a round in the chamber of a semi-auto, are not good. And then add to the mix whether this guy or gal, panicked, is going to frantically grab the gun paying no attention to a proper grip, and the first shot slams the slide back into your hand, and then jams it. Happened to a very close friend of mine who’s been shooting regularly for over 50 years, when a feral dog was eating his way thru her pheasant pen. She lost all the pheasants, had her hand bandaged for two weeks, and then tossed the .380 in a drawer and went back to carrying that .357 whose weight she used to complain about.

          Unless you have some definite belief that the new gun owner is going to seriously follow thru with regular practice for the rest of their life, you are doing them a disservice — and a dangerous one — by encouraging them to buy a semi-auto. They should start with a revolver. If they actually turn into a regular shooter over the long term, and then later want to trade in for a semi-auto, fine. But starting them with a wheel gun is far more likely to keep them safe no matter what their future in firearms turns out to be.

      • William Perkins February 15, 2016, 12:18 pm

        You are 100% correct. A revolver is a point and shoot, self-defense gun perfect for someone who has no clue about firearms and no training. Yes, training is preferable, but in reality…how many people ever get it. I’d never recommend a semi-auto for a total novice unless they intend to practice with it. I carry a scandium .357 wheel gun for concealed carry because I want to end a chance encounter threat quickly. If I’m going to be in a gunfight…I want a semi-auto 9 mm with a double stack magazine…and two more mags in my pocket. Revolvers…will they/can they fail? Of course! Everything can! Are they likely to fail? Absolutely not!! The random chance is so small, it isn’t worth mentioning.

      • Jeff Borger February 15, 2016, 12:19 pm

        I posted my comment before reading yours. I agree with you exactly.

  • Steve Warren February 15, 2016, 10:05 am

    I love revolvers and autos. They are both good tools. I have heard many people state they carry the revolver because it is more reliable and revolvers never fail. The cylinder is a very heavy chunk of steel supported by a rather delicate precision piece called the crane. I can tell you I have seen several revolvers fail due to a bent crane. What usually happens is the revolver will fire one round (double action, that’s the only way we train) then the trigger locks. You open the cylinder, hmm… everything appears OK? Close it up, fire one round, trigger freezes again. This malfunction is usually a bent crane. The revolver must go to a gunsmith to be realigned. What causes a bent crane? It can be caused by dropping the gun on a hard surface. Or, and more importantly, it can be caused by slamming the cylinder shut Hollywood style. NEVER DO THAT! As soon as I see someone do that I don’t take anything they say ref guns seriously from that point on.

    • Master Gunsmith February 15, 2016, 11:31 am

      Bent crane you say? Wow sonny boy I have been a gunsmith for fifty years and I have never seen a bent crane. I have been shooting six-guns all my life and never had one jam or break. If you don’t like six-shooters just say so. All the claims about jams and bent cranes are bullshit lies.

      • Steve Warren February 15, 2016, 4:02 pm

        Been a gunsmith 50 years and “never” saw a bent crane? You may call me a bullshit liar, but I’ll say you’re not much of a gunsmith. BTW.. I was issued my first S&W revolver in 1985, so I’m no ones “sonny”.

        I carry an auto and can clean the course with either, but I actually shoot tighter groups (as most people do in my experience) with a revolver. All I can say is if you never saw a bent crane you’ve not been working on carry/fighting guns. You’re right, they don’t get bent laying in a gun safe. You may know how to work on them, I don’t. But I know how to break them and how they get broke. I don’t say autos or revolvers are better, just that both can fail.

        Try not to be such an old wind- bag in future posts.

        • Master Gunsmith February 15, 2016, 11:57 pm

          Wind-bag? Sorry sonny boy I must have hit a nerve faster than you can hit a paper target. Issued your first revolver in 85? Wow sonny I had mine in 1974 s&w model 10. I was state police you sound local yocal. I used to build IPC guns and full race auto pistols so I know the game. If you treat your carry guns with care they do not bend. I have worked on thousands of six shooters mostly s&w, colt and ruger and I have been shooting pistol since I was 10 years old. I HAVE NEVER SEEN A BENT CRANE.

      • Smoke Hill Farm February 16, 2016, 5:58 am

        I agree, completely. I’ve been shooting heavily for 60+ years, including 21 years in the Army & 8 yrs as a dealer, and have (at last count) 37 firearms. I have seen semi-autos jam and fail, and many I’ve owned were quite picky about the ammo they eat.

        I have NEVER had a revolver jam or fail to fire, except when using up ANCIENT ammo, and am rather dubious about anyone who claims it is anything other than an incredibly rare fluke, most likely due to very inappropriate loads or serious damage. I have owned some really trashy old revolvers, esp. some godawful European imports, and even those sleazy, cheap platforms have never failed.

        On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of cheap semi-autos that I’d love to give to ghetto thugs since they’d undoubtedly shorten their lifespan. We’ve all seen them — Raven Arms & similar junk. And I’ve had a number of very good-quality semi-autos jam when fed different ammo, old ammo, or cheap ammo. I enjoy my semi-autos and shoot them often, but would never, ever trust my life to them by carrying one for protection. Nor would I ever recommend them to a beginning shooter, esp. if they planned to carry for defense. Unless you spend considerable time at the range, practicing, you should only carry something that only requires you to draw, point at the threat, and pull the trigger.

  • Rick McCall February 15, 2016, 9:41 am

    What about accuracy? No amount of accurizing work on my 1911 or BHP ever produced better than 4\” groups at 25 yards. But a Smith 29 shot 1.5\” groups right out of the box. Never should have sold it.

    • Janic,2e Carrasco February 15, 2016, 9:57 am

      I love my revolver. S&W 64-2. Simple, and deadly surgical. Some of the article though is silly.

      • Smoke Hill Farm February 19, 2016, 1:43 am

        Yes, definitely silly. I bounced this off my local gunsmith, who’s been full-time for 18 years, and he’s never seen a bent crane … said you’d probably have to use a hammer to bend one, and then only on a cheap revolver.

        I also ran the question by three of the old-timers in my gun club … and none had ever heard of a bent frame, or any revolver they’d ever owned jamming. We’d all had dud rounds, usually when using up old cheap reloads, but it was still a matter of just pulling the trigger again — not frantically trying to figure out what was wrong with the slide-gun. I’m 70 yrs old, and these three were older than me, so that’s one hell of a lot of rounds going through a lot of guns … and it was unanimous that slide guns were FAR more likely to jam, and especially under stress conditions.

        If you laid a dozen name-brand (Colt, Ruger, S&W, etc) semi-autos on the table next to a dozen name-brand revolvers, and then stacked up a few thousand rounds of different random, off-the-shelf normal ammo, and then started running ammo through all of those guns, is there really any doubt as to how the number of jams will stack up between semi-autos and revolvers? Of course not. In fact, I suspect you’d have to go out and buy a lot more ammo before you found the first revolver jam. Hardly the case with those semi-autos.

  • T. Petrocik February 15, 2016, 9:40 am

    I have both revolvers and autos. If they didn’t have a special appeal/purpose I wouldn’t have it. My carry gun is a Glock 19 or 42, my bedroom gun is a S&W Mod. 36, with OC canister. My competition guns are P14-45 and a Mod. 66 Smith. My camp carry gun is a Mod. 65-3. Both revolvers and autos have a up and down side all require maintenance, care and quality ammo. Should a auto have a fail to fire, you must go through the drill. Should a revolver fail to fire, 99% of the time another pull on the trigger will do the trick. Best option, a long gun with the advisory that distance is your friend.

  • Steve K February 15, 2016, 9:18 am

    An aside: Just look at the difference between the stainless finishes of the revolver in the top picture and the 686 in the 2nd picture. Brushed stainless really sucks! (I know, to each his own)

  • Alan February 15, 2016, 9:08 am

    Wow! having spent many years selling and training Newbies, all I can say is that while the article has some points, it also has it’s own nonsense. Particularly using grabbing a gun (really!?) and the training part.
    Sorry Gentlemen, this article is half-a**, IMHO.
    Any one who ever tried to train a small framed woman with a blowback Auto (the Walter PPk series comes to mind) knows better.

    • Lee February 15, 2016, 10:42 am

      Small framed woman usually have small hands and weak fingers. Anything with a long heavy double action pull is a horrible idea to start one on. Teaching a modern competitive shooters stance, getting away from the old modified weaver which mitigates recoil energy poorly and retards the speed of follow up shots made a huge difference with smaller framed and weaker shooters. Taking an elbows out rather than elbows down approach and utilizing a forward leaning triangle makes up for a lot of problems that come with less upper body strength. But there is not much that can make up for short and weak trigger finger. I also find that no matter how well you teach, a poorly practiced shooter will inedibly yank the trigger when put into a even slightly stressful situation (running under a timer). And the heavier and longer the trigger pull is the more evident that yanked shot becomes. As a police firearms instructor, I have to find ways to deal with problems that arise from folks who refuse to practice, and skate by with the minimum mandatory annual firearms qualification. Its frustrating, like having to reteach the same person the same thing every year. You get them just barely up to par, and out the door they go till next year.

      • Dan February 16, 2016, 12:41 am

        If they have problems with a weak trigger pull…how the hell are they going to manage a malfunction involving a tap-rack scenario. And every instructor I know (and I was one for 13 yrs) teaches an elbows down or elbows locked out (new students) method for stability and tight quarters movement. (doorway in a home) They also know a revolver being used by an adrenalized amateur will most likely do the job than one limp wristed jammed auto. If they refuse to practice, then they refuse to live. That’s not on you.

  • bthomas February 15, 2016, 8:57 am

    If someone only wants a handgun for SD/HD type concerns, then just buy a Glock and be done with it. After all, every other semi-auto is just a old design prone to failure. And no semi-auto chambers rounds capable of serious use in the woods and fields, hunting, etc., beyond maybe a 10mm. If someone wants to carry a Desert Eagle, fine. But it is at best a poor choice, heavy and not very user friendly. If you want to use a handgun for anything beyond SD/HD, a good quality revolver is the way to go. A good quality revolver in a appropriate caliber will give the best results. The options for choice of loads, types of bullets used, velocities that can be obtained are superior to anything achievable with an automatic pistol. If one wishes to hunt heavy game animals with something other than a hand cannon, the revolver is the only way to go. Sincerely. bruce.

  • andy February 15, 2016, 8:38 am


  • Grampy Tom February 15, 2016, 8:10 am

    I’ve been primarily a 1911 guy for the past 50 years, since I first carried one and reworked armsroom rack grade 1911s into match grade pistols for 8th Div. AMU. Still, I value my Ruger GP100 for it’s simplicity of operation and sturdiness of build. Semi-autos all have the same weakness, the magazine. It is far easier to damage a magazine than a cylinder and it takes way less force or wear to put a magazine out of action than a revolver’s cylinder. Then there is the matter of controls. If you can operate one revolver, you can operate 99% of all revolvers. Semi-autos have too many controls that are proprietory to specific brands and models. You pick up a strange revolver and shoot it. It takes more time to figure out the brand and model of a strange semi-auto and then check where the controls are and what condition it is in when you pick up a strange semi-auto before you can shoot it. All that makes me believe that revolvers are easier to use, have a distinct reliability edge and are better for the novice or any of us that need to concentrate more on the situation than on the tool the tool. The vast majority of us can’t spend the necessary hours of drill every week to perfect our threat response.

  • Jay February 15, 2016, 7:44 am

    My thoughts on reloading in a self defense situation be it a revolver and or a semi auto, if you have to reload, you have either made a very bad decision and put yourself in a position you should not have been in the first place or boy ol boy you need practice!

    • RJFixer February 15, 2016, 9:08 am

      I have a number of friends who are Law Enforcement. I have never been in an actual firefight, but two of them have. Neither carry revolvers. Both emptied their mags all in one go and needed to reload. Believe me they practice! The trouble is nobody practices against the real thing – someone charging you with another firearm. What you are going to do and how good your aim is in THAT situation is always open to debate. I love my revolver, a Taurus 66 that I used to acquire my Defensive Expert rating. But if there’s trouble and I have both types in front of me, I’m grabbing the semi every time. I can stuff a mag just about anywhere easier than a loaded speedloader. And based on the above, if I can, I’ll carry enough to qualify for a bulk discount.

  • M Kolendo February 15, 2016, 6:34 am

    Amen! I like both revolvers and semi autos but, the trouble with thinking anything is foolproof is that fools are so ingenious. Clean, maintain properly and practice and any quality gun will work 99% of the time.

  • Ross Riley February 15, 2016, 6:30 am

    There is something to said about not leaving brass “behind” should the succumb stances warrant…

    • Robert Smith February 18, 2016, 11:47 am

      You won’t leave any brass, but what about the bullets? Especially if you’ve managed to leave a few inside the bad guy. They can be matched to the gun just like the brass. Not that I am totally opposed to “shoot and scoot”. If someone has to live in places with gun laws like NYC or DC you may as well take off because you are already a felon just for carrying. But a revolver won’t help much with that problem.

  • Rangemaster February 15, 2016, 6:12 am

    You have covered all the bases. I carry and teach round guns, and the “plastic pistol” kids are amazed at what a 2″ “J” frame can do, as well as a S&W 625 with full moon clips.

  • Rick A February 15, 2016, 6:06 am

    There have been reliable semi autos for over 100 years. Like a revolver, user error and poor/no maintenance or bad ammunition will often cause problems. Problems with an auto can often easily be dealt with in immediate action. Limp wrist failures can often be fixed through training or sometimes by simply trying a different gun. Things that stop a revolver often require remedial action and they’re usually less durable as far as physical abuse. Running a double action revolver effectively (or a traditional DAO auto for that matter) often requires a fair bit of practice.

    I like both and carry both. It’s all about what you can carry and how well it works for you. Contrary to popular belief my snubs are often close to a match to my autos at 25 yards.

    This stuff can be debated to death but the gun you take with you is better than the one left at home. I have room for both. If it’s going to be a little gun I prefer a revolver over the mouse gun.

  • Mr Robert Anton Novak February 15, 2016, 4:37 am

    My EDC is a CZ-82, love that gun, but I’m looking to buy a decent .357 magnum to be able to take into the field, as a side arm, and maybe for hunting purposes. I love wheel guns, but like the article says for nostalgic purposes mainly, I would never carry one as my EDC. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Mike Hunt February 15, 2016, 4:14 am

    “As if that weren’t enough, the revolver is more difficult to reload, and people who carry revolvers aren’t likely to carry extra ammo.”
    Bullshit…that’s what speedloaders are for and I sure as hell have plenty of extra ammo if I’m carrying my revolver.

    • Blasted Cap February 15, 2016, 7:02 am

      Agree 110%. To be fast reloading it takes practice and then practice some more, with any firearm. Maybe they need to go to an ICORE match to see how long it takes to do a reload.

  • praharin February 15, 2016, 2:36 am

    You said the tolerances are generous, but not limitless. You meant clearances. Tolerance is the allowable deviation between spec and the manufactured piece. Clearance is the space engineered between pieces. Sigh. All credibility lost, I can’t possibly take you seriously now.

    • Grampy Tom February 15, 2016, 7:37 am

      You’re right. Sometimes I read these for their entertainment value….a good laugh in the morning is a good thing.

    • Sal T. Balls February 15, 2016, 8:16 am

      Maybe he meant the guns ability to tolerate dirt?

    • Jimm Moonpup February 15, 2016, 11:10 am

      Don’t forget that he has “a key that I always promptly loose” – perhaps the tolerance of the key wasn’t properly checked.

      • Jeff Borger February 15, 2016, 12:26 pm

        Yeah, that was funny about losing the key. Thankfully, none of my (old) revolvers have the lock.

  • Will Drider February 14, 2016, 3:15 pm

    Regardless of the factors that get opposing hands on one gun once you are clear of the muzzle: employ your gun or blade and you will get the disputed gun or end the fight faster then with a physical struggle. Always twist handguns in the direction of the backside of the holders hand.

    Defensive handguns: Any is better then none, some are better then others but only if they are better for you. A handgun unto itself will not overcome a lack of situational awareness or practice.

    • Griz Hunter February 15, 2016, 9:53 am

      Very well-stated, Will.Concerning self-defense, nothing is as important as vigilance, determination, and practice.

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