Four Biggest Reasons NOT to Carry a Revolver ~ VIDEO

U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- Before I begin to pontificate on why revolvers suck, let me substantiate my claims why adding that I both own several wheel-guns, and have carried them for nearly a decade.

You Carry Revolvers But Hate Them?

Yes and no. I certainly don’t hate revolvers, but I’m acutely aware of both their benefits and shortcomings. See, like everything in life, there’s no free lunch – and revolvers are no exception. Because revolvers are a great tool in very specific roles, but their often-vaunted title of ‘ideal first carry gun for new shooters’ is at best, questionable.

One of the biggest advantages of revolvers is their ability to chamber incredibly powerful magnum rounds. IMG Jim Grant

Why? Well, there’s a myriad of reasons, but first, let’s go into why a shooter would pick a revolver in the first place.

4 Reasons Revolvers Don’t Suck

  1. Versatility – If a shooter wants a robust firearm capable of firing any load hot enough to launch a round past the muzzle, the revolver is king – full stop. Much like the pump-action shotgun, revolvers don’t care if their ammo is loaded towards the top or bottom of SAAMI specs. Because the shooter themselves work the action, their rounds don’t have to be loaded within set specs to cycle the action. In the simplest terms, this means a shooter can load up a cylinder of super-mild .38 special rounds, or hard-hitting hard-cast 158gr .357 Magnum rounds in the same gun without worrying about reliability.
  2. Power – Additionally, revolvers are capable of firing more powerful rounds than semi-automatic firearms relative to their size. With our current technology, no compact auto-loader can be chambered in anything approaching the muzzle-energy of a J-frame .357 Magnum snub-gun. This isn’t an issue of metallurgy, but geometry and physics. Magnum calibers are simply too physically large to fit in the magazine of a handgun that would still be small enough to reasonably conceal. Moreover, big-bore hunting revolvers in massive calibers like 454 Casull are capable of producing rifle-like levels of ballistic energy in a relatively small package.
  3. Accuracy – Another boon of wheel-guns is their accuracy. Since the barrel is fixed, revolvers tend to be more accurate than automatics of the same size. Though since we’re talking primarily about concealed carry, the benefits of this are negligible since our targets tend to be fairly close.
  4. Durability – Lastly, revolvers are generally more durable than auto-loaders. Since their only moving component is the cylinder – which is surrounded by a robust frame – it’s much more difficult to damage a revolver in a way that affects its functionality. And if we’re talking about concealed carry guns, most snub-nosed revolvers utilize a simple notch for a rear sight that’s integral to the frame and either a pinned and dovetailed front sight post, or a blade permanently affixed to the barrel. In practical terms, this means it’s vastly more difficult to damage the sights to the point where they aren’t zeroed properly.

    SW-442 Jim Grant
    Although snub-nosed revolvers like this SW 442 are limited in capacity, they’re very reliable and easy to conceal. IMG Jim Grant

But wait, you might be asking, these features all sound awesome. Would these reasons alone make a revolver ideal for concealed carry?

Yes – in the right hands, but also no, because the sacrifices made by carrying a revolver don’t always outweigh the benefits of an auto-loader.

SIG P365xl Streamlight Shield RMSC Jim Grant 01
Revolvers are a hard sell against modern conceal carry offerings like this SIG P365 equipped with Shield sight and Streamlight tactical light. IMG Jim Grant

4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Carry a Revolver

  1. Capacity – I’m going to address the big one first. With the proliferation of reliable, ultra-compact pistols in 9mm feeding from ever-increasing capacity magazines, the five and six-round snub nose revolver is at a serious disadvantage. Yes, I’m aware that according to FBI statistics, the average number of rounds fired in a defensive scenario is a scant two, but there are several things wrong with using that stat to pick a defensive weapon. First off, you’re not Dirty Harry. A stone-cold bad-ass keeping your cool like there’s ice in your veins in a potentially deadly encounter with a bad guy. You’re likely scared out of your mind with adrenaline coursing through your veins. Unless you train every single day, you’re not going to be likely to place your rounds perfectly on target. But even if you are, bullets and physics are strange and your attacker might be hopped up on enough stimulants to fight through pain and blood loss until they lose consciousness. Finally, what if you’re firing more than one assailant? Do you really want to be restricted in your firearm’s capacity? In all of these scenarios, the increased capacity of a semi-automatic firearm is objectively superior.
  2. Ease of Use – This was a major selling-point of six-guns in the past to inexperienced, or physically weaker shooters. To fire a revolver, a shooter simply pulls the trigger. When the trigger goes, ‘click’ instead of ‘boom’ they open the cylinder, eject the spend casings, put fresh rounds in, close the cylinder and start pulling the trigger again. But with the advent of firearms like the S&W EZ9 Pistol, #ad racking the slide of an automatic requires substantially less strength. Yes, it will require a little more training, but since few of these compact auto-loaders feature a manual safety lever, shooters simply need to aim and squeeze the trigger to dispense high-speed lead. But most of all, these diminutive auto-loaders don’t suffer from the long, often-heavy DAO triggers that purpose-built hammerless snubs do. So while they might be a little more difficult to load, their better triggers promote more accurate shooting, which in turn leads to stopping a dangerous threat sooner.
  3. Speed – While reloading a revolver can be done fairly quickly (or extremely quickly by professionals) for everyone else who doesn’t have 10,000+ hours of training on a revolver, inserting a fresh magazine is roughly four times faster and delivers nearly twice as many rounds in the process. Before you jump on me about speed-strips, speed-loaders, or moon-clips, even these don’t mitigate the difference in speed of simply inserting a new magazine.
  4. Recoil – A More accurate header would be Recoil-to-Power-Ratio, but brevity is the soul of wit, and it doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way. But I digress, semi-automatic firearms have less felt recoil than revolvers of comparable size firing rounds of equivalent ballistic energy. This is true primarily for two major reasons. The first is the fact that an automatic firearm siphons some of the expanding gas of the detonating round to propel the slide rearward. This spring-loaded slide dampens some of the recoil impulses before they impart on the shooter’s hand. The second reason is due to a revolver’s relatively high bore axis. This is a consequence of a revolver’s fundamental design and requires a fairly in-depth explanation to fully understand. But suffice to say, semi-automatic pistols align the recoil impulse better with the shooter’s wrist and arm, giving it less leverage against your wrist, making the recoil feel less substantial.
The Ruger MAX-9 Pistol is another example of a pistol that is eclipsing the snub-nosed revolver. IMG Jim Grant

Verdict – Do Revolvers Suck?

In general, no, revolvers don’t suck. But they are definitely a second-rate choice in my opinion for a concealed carry pistol. With so many affordable, reliable 9mm compact handguns on the market today, there’s basically no compelling reason to pick a wheel gun for concealed carry. That said if you want a potent reliable hunting option, or simply a big-bore blaster strapped to your hip in case of wild boar or bears, the revolver is tough to top. But for the foreseeable future, I’ll keep my revolvers in the safe, and my SIG P365 handgun in my waistband when venturing out.

Read Now: SIG SAUER P365 High-Capacity Micro-Compact Pistol Review


About Jim Grant

Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who in addition to his mastery of prose, can wield a camera with expert finesse. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.

When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.

 

Jim Grant

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Pastor Roy
Pastor Roy
2 months ago

I enjoyed this. Jim is possibly the best-spoken man I’ve ever heard on the Ammoland platform. Eloquent without being flowery. Clear and easy to understand.

I agree with him 100% on his assessment. I, too, have both revolvers and semi-autos. I like them both and I really like my 9mm snubbie. But I carry a semi every day for the reasons Jim gave.

Terril Hebert
2 months ago

I used to think of revolvers as a terrible beginner’s gun until I realized that some people go 10,000 miles between oil changes.

gunnerdd517
gunnerdd517
2 months ago

I recommend all the practice one can afford,w/whatever they carry.

Tom Claycomb
2 months ago

Jim-good article. I like revolvers in the mountains because of dependability and bigger cal. for bears. Once we flipped the canoe. Got up, poured water out of the barrel and kept on truckin’. Wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that w/ a semi auto.

gunnerdd517
gunnerdd517
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Claycomb

did a similar thing,twice,once w/22 revolver&once w/ my 1911.Revolver,I washed out in river,Series 70,1911 45 acp is built for combat under all sorts of conditions. I shook it out,& cleaned it later in camp.

Bill
Bill
2 months ago

I know of revolvers with long barrels having good accuracy. But generally greater accuracy because of their fixed barrels? Not demonstrable.

Irrenmann
Irrenmann
2 months ago

But suffice to say, semi-automatic pistols align the recoil impulse better with the shooter’s wrist and arm, giving it less leverage against your wrist, making the recoil feel less substantial.”

Unless you don’t align it right, and then the semi-automatic might not shoot at all. :\

JimmyS
JimmyS
2 months ago

Pseudo-controversial click-bait. Boo.

IAMWHOIAM
IAMWHOIAM
2 months ago

Good article, but I will continue carrying a revolver. They fit my hands better than a semi-auto, and they go bang when I pull the trigger.

gcm
gcm
2 months ago
Reply to  IAMWHOIAM

Just be careful of the ones with the Hillary hole, they will lock you out for days.

Robar
Robar
2 months ago

Why did you not mention the revolvers major problem with cylinder gap? All revolvers (except the old Mosin) have this problem and danger to bystanders. Even if you hold a revolver properly, a bystander within 10 feet is in possible danger from the blowback. Please look at some of the slow-motion videos available. I personally have been the bystander recipient from blowback (luckily no permanent damage).

Mike the Limey
Mike the Limey
2 months ago
Reply to  Robar

Utter, unscientific, fact free nonsense & a fabricated claim of first hand experience.
There’s enough videos of balloons NOT bursting when placed within a couple of feet of a revolver’s cylinder gap available to show how silly your claim is.

Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike the Limey

Hickok45 and Mythbusters disagree.

Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove
2 months ago
Reply to  Robar

Hickok45 and Mythbusters both showed that there is some truth to this, although Robar may be exaggerating a bit.

John
John
2 months ago

I grew up shooting revolvers with my dad who was a second generation cop. I passed the tradition on to my sons as well. We also shoot auto’s and love our 1911’s and subcompact polymer pistols. My oldest is now old enough to carry and wanted my dad’s airweight. Its small, super easy to conceal (which was omitted from the benefit list), and he can shoot it well. An auto may be better in some situations for sure but to paraphrase Jeff Cooper the best gun to use is the one you have and are willing to carry with you.

Ryben Flynn
Ryben Flynn
2 months ago

Forgets about the Magnum Research Desert Eagle Mark XIX (19) semi-auto pistol and the calibers it can fire. 7, 8 or 9 rounds depends on caliber.
.50 Action Express .44 Magnum .440 Cor-Bon .429 DE .41 Magnum .357 Magnum. 6″ or 10″ barrel.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ryben Flynn
Montana454Casull
Montana454Casull
2 months ago

I carry a 1911 in town , I live in Montana . When I go to the woods I carry a revolver chambered in 44 mag or 454 Casull . I prefer the revolver and extra powered cartridges incase I cross path with a angry griz in the woods ,

Duane
Duane
2 months ago

In my former life as a police armorer I inspected hundreds of handguns a year.

The two most common things that make a good quality handgun fail semi or Revolver is improper mainitance or bad ammo.

They are equipment every piece of equipment has a life span.

Once you reach that life span they can fail.

If you can afford to shoot 10’s of thousand of rounds.

You can afford to replace it when it reaches its end of its life span.

Glocktarded
Glocktarded
2 months ago

Since their only moving component is the cylinder”

Revolvers have more moving parts than semi-autos. More things to break.

Knute
Knute
2 months ago
Reply to  Glocktarded

“their only moving component is the cylinder”
AND: the hand, the trigger, the hammer, the cylinder stop, all the associated springs, and, almost always, some type of transfer bar or rebound slide to keep the gun from going off if dropped on its hammer.
Nevertheless, it isn’t really the sheer number of parts that makes a revolver more fragile, but the small size and necessarily precise fit of those parts.

WI Patriot
WI Patriot
2 months ago

Love my wheelguns, at home, or In the woods, on the tractor, etc, they’re my goto, off-property, it’s a secondary to my EDC…Nothin’ beats the versatility of a good wheelgun…

Knute
Knute
2 months ago

The only comment I will make is that these are all this authors personal opinions, and are not exactly factual! It would take too long to explain all the inaccuracies in here, but something to chew on is the question: Why did he leave out the revolvers biggest advantage, their reliability under conditions of neglect (that most carry guns suffer from)?

Russn8r
Russn8r
2 months ago
Reply to  Knute

Good point. Practical vs theoretical.

Knute
Knute
2 months ago
Reply to  Russn8r

Exactly. That says it even better. Autoloaders ARE reliable, but after riding in a pocket for a year without being fired and all full of lint and debris…. not so much. Sure, autos have more capacity, but I’d rather have 5 shots that I KNOW I can count on, versus even a hundred maybes. Another inaccuracy is number 4: Durability. He has this one completely backward. Long term durability goes to the autoloader. 1911s are good for 100K plus rounds, and even Glocks (gen 1 used to crack their frames after about 15K) are now good for 60K. Revolvers are… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Knute
JSNMGC
JSNMGC
2 months ago
Reply to  Knute

I’m sure you have handled more Glocks than I have, so my experience may be anomalies, but the two I have shot the most (both Gen 3 G17s) – one has more than 80,000 rounds through it and the other has more than 110,000 rounds through it. Other than cleaning and lube, the only maintenance has been replaced recoil spring assemblies (every 3,000 to 5,000 rounds). Like I said, the sample size is small, so maybe I have just been lucky.

I also shot “the G17”:
https://www.personaldefenseworld.com/2017/09/glock-17-pistol-torture-test/

Chuck was a good trainer and my son and I enjoyed his company.

Knute
Knute
2 months ago
Reply to  JSNMGC

I’ve worked on more Glocks than I’ve owned. All those numbers are averages. Some will last longer, and some will wear out quicker. A large part is doing the maintenance. Any gun well cared for will last many times longer than a neglected one. Most guns are sorely neglected their entire life. Take most any old military rifle out of the wood, and you’ll notice a bunch of slurm that shouldn’t be there. Many people don’t even want thier old military rifles touched. They think that it might harm any collector value it might someday have.This is a real pet… Read more »

Deplorable Bill
Deplorable Bill
2 months ago

Still hold the Az. record for 6 shots on 4″ square plates @7 yds. from “surrender”. Time was .92 seconds w/a 8 3/8″ Smith & Wesson 29. Load was 22g of 2400 and a 240g S.W.C. Was in 1984. Yes, it’s possible to beat it but not with most people and most guns. A 1911 commander in 45 ACP or in 38 super will cycle faster. I have done 9 rounds of 45 ACP on a “D” sized target in under a second but I am not good enough to place those rounds on a 4″ plate at that speed.… Read more »

JimmyS
JimmyS
2 months ago

6 shots of the old Elmer load in under a second would do for bear defense…

Duane
Duane
2 months ago

I carry every day revolvers or semi autos.

I do not feel under gun with ether.