by Sam Hoober
Sam weighs the pros and cons of using today’s quality reproduction revolvers as self defense guns.
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Alien Gear Holsters’ Sam Hoober ponders if a reproduction revolver would make a decent defensive pistol. [repop revolvers are modern rebuilds of classic gun models]
Could a person carry or use a reproduction revolver for self-defense? It’s an interesting idea.
It shouldn’t be too much a problem in all likelihood; these pistols were carried and issued for defensive purposes for decades and on a global basis, too.
That and they are just cool. The classic revolvers of the “Old West” have some great designs and they’re fantastic collector’s pieces.
But can they still be functional as well?
The Popular Reproduction Revolvers Are Usually The Better Examples
Most of the designs that have attained new life as reproduction revolvers were very popular models in their day. Typically, these aren’t boutique guns that are still being made just for their novelty; they were working firearms that were widely issued by police and military and widely purchased by civilians for purposes of self-defense.
For instance, there are repro Le Mat Cavalry revolvers, but they’re rarer and far more expensive than, say, Colt Single Action Army (aka Peacemaker) reproductions or Remington New Model Army revolvers. In it’s day, the LeMat revolver was also rare (and expensive) but also wasn’t too widely carried because of the expense and also because it didn’t work as well as other pistols.
Therefore, a well-made reproduction could be relied on if need be, because people did just that. Granted, it’s not like you’re going to be able to get a concealed carry holster for one. You’re better off with a J-frame anyway if a concealed carry revolver is your goal.
Also, be aware that these guns lack a transfer bar, so drop fires are a distinct possibility. That’s why a lot of people carried with the hammer over an empty chamber back in the day.
19th Century Ammunition Underpowered Today, But Serviceable
By today’s standards, popular rounds from the 19th century are underpowered but serviceable. Take note, however, that reproduction revolvers have lower chamber pressure tolerances than today’s modern revolvers. As a result, these tolerances must be adhered to. Most makers of reproduction revolvers state that only black powder or cowboy loads are safe to use.
Most common, of course, is .45 Colt. Today’s .45 Colt loadings are wildly different than those of the late 19th century but also fantastically diverse. There are low-pressure black powder and cowboy loads, moderate pressure and moderate velocity (for a big bore revolver) loadings that are perfectly suited for self-defense. Since the .45 Colt has a very long case, handloaders have been making hot loads of .45 Colt for a long time, and the high-power .45 Colt loadings are every bit the equal of .44 Magnum.
However, reproduction revolvers can’t tolerate the full-house loads.
That said, reproduction revolvers can handle the more pedestrian .45 Colt loads, which are pretty similar much like .45 ACP, as the latter was designed to offer the same performance as the former in a shorter case. Plenty of ammunition including good defensive loads is available that will work with a repro revolver with no issues.
A number of reproduction revolvers are chambered for .38 Special, and some in .357 Magnum. The capabilities of these rounds for defensive purposes are well-known, though the .38 Special +P and certainly +P+ loadings shouldn’t be used if not within chamber pressure tolerances – and likewise with .357 Magnum.
Two more common chamberings in older revolvers are .44-40 (aka .44 WCF) and .44 Russian. These chamberings are a little rarer as more repros tend to be offered in .45 Colt, but they are out there. In both cases, performance from factory loadings are about on par with the standard loads of .44 Special, meaning big, slow bullets – fans of .45 ACP should find them to their liking.
That said, hollowpoint or wadcutter rounds may not be available for these calibers, so the kind of defensive ammunition that is easily available for modern calibers is not as easily had. However, soft-point bullets – or projectiles made totally out of lead – do expand on impact.
So…you absolutely could use a repro revolver as a defensive pistol. Many Reproduction Revolvers would definitely make a good open carry or nightstand guns.
About Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at aliengearholsters.com, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.