American Rifleman | Self-Defense Revolvers: Are They A Good Selection?

by B. Gil Horman –
Thursday April 1, 2021

Semi-automatic pistols seem firmly entrenched as the king of the defensive handgun market these days. They certainly dominate, especially as the number of models designed for comfortable concealment continues to grow. Some people might even go so far as to say that the defensive revolver went the way of the dodo, but that would be a false assumption. Wheelguns continue to have a quiet but loyal following among modern pistol owners – and for good reasons.

At the top of the list of reasons to recommend revolvers for personal protection is their ease of use. In a self-defense situation, fine motor skills, memory, and concentration can go straight out the window. Modern double-action revolvers lack the buttons and levers that can get in the way of a pistol. Aim and pull the trigger to fire, that’s all it takes.

In addition, interference drills developed for handguns have been designed for semi-automobiles rather than revolvers over the years. This is due to the fact that the reliable functioning of a semi-car is significantly influenced by the choice of ammunition. The action of the pistol is controlled by the energy released from a fired cartridge. If the pressure is not high enough, the gun can jam. If the dimensions of the cartridge are slightly different, the pistol may not eject or a used case may become entangled in the ejection opening. If the cartridge is faulty and does not fire, the gun will need to be changed manually to correct the problem. Semi-automobiles are also prone to “wrist slack,” which is a jam caused by the gunner having poor grip when the gun is fired.

Revolvers, on the other hand, do not rely on ammunition to operate the mechanism. Ammunition pressure is largely irrelevant, so a revolver can operate with a wide variety of light, medium, and hot loads. This has the additional advantage that the ammunition can be adapted to the needs of a shooter, e.g. B. Increase penetration for dangerous animals or decrease strength for those who are sensitive to recoil. In some situations it can be helpful to mix up the types and power levels of cartridges loaded in your pistol. This is not a problem with a wheel gun.

The slight variations in cartridge dimensions that occur with different brands of ammunition are unlikely to cause revolvers to malfunction. If a cartridge fails to ignite instead of tapping the revolver and breaking it to put it back into service, the operator simply squeezes the trigger to switch the cylinder to the next active cartridge. Also, since recoil is irrelevant to the revolver function, they are completely free of wrist limp issues. This is very useful when the revolver has to be fired in adverse conditions, e.g. B. when the operator has to operate the turret with one hand.

Half-car fans enjoy the advantage that they can quickly reload their pistols with removable magazines. It’s a good system, but not a perfect one. Magazines, like ammunition, can cause malfunctions. Hammer the magazine in too hard and the pistol may not work hard enough and the magazine may fall out or no longer retract. Inexpensive, damaged, or worn magazines can cause an excellent pistol to perform poorly. If the magazines are dropped or lost, the pistol is out of service. The ammunition retention system of a revolver, i.e. the cylinder, takes a little more time to open, eject used boxes and reload, but is firmly attached to the frame. Cylinders do not have springs or drivers like magazines that can wear out and cause jams. Reload times can also be improved by using speed loaders such as those offered by HKS and Safariland.

Working with the cylinder in a revolver has a few other advantages worth mentioning. When a defensive pistol comes into play in a central defense situation, it is important to verify that the pistol is properly loaded. This is easy to do with a revolver even in complete darkness. Carefully open the cylinder and run a fingertip over the cartridges’ primers to check for their presence. Then close the action. It’s just as easy to check that the turret is fully unloaded for cleaning or storage: just pivot the cylinder out. Removing the magazine from a semi-auto does not remove a cartridge from the chamber, while opening the barrel of a revolver guarantees that no cartridges will match the barrel.

Shooters should also never underestimate the importance of a good fit with a defensive pistol, as the shape of the handle and material can make a huge difference in how a pistol shoots for you. Revolvers offer detachable handles that allow the shooter to change the size, configuration, and material of the handle. Tighten a compact handle to make it easier to hide the revolver, or attach a full-size hand-filling handle to tame the recoil. While semi-automobiles are virtually unchanged in the handle department, revolvers fit in any hand they want to fire.

The final consideration in the never-ending revolver versus semi-automatic material debate is ammunition capacity. Today’s half-cars typically hold around 10 to 18 rounds of ammunition, compared to the typical five to six rounds of a revolver. This is a personal preference. Some people feel more comfortable wearing more laps. Others will argue that most self-defense shots are usually finished within a few rounds, so that a revolver has enough capacity for them. The truth is that tactics, training, and situational awareness are always more important than the weapon you use.

The debate about which pistol design is “best”, the half-car or the revolver, is likely to continue until firearms become obsolete. Choosing a pistol should always involve research, evaluation, and some time to actually fire the guns you are considering before purchasing one. Semi-automobiles may claim to be king, but the revolver’s simplicity, reliability, and ammunition flexibility ensure that it will be useful as a self-defense weapon for some time.

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