Though most concealed-carry shooters prefer pistols these days, a cadre of knowledgeable, experienced self-defense aficionados prefer revolvers, sometimes referred to as wheelguns for the resemblance of the revolver cylinder to a rotating wheel. In fact, several Gun Tests team members carry revolvers instead of pistols, and have for more than 30 years. Why change something that is familiar and just continues to work?
One reason revolvers make good self-defense guns is that they are easy to use, basically requiring the shooter only pull the trigger to fire.
Also, revolvers are chambered in powerful cartridges like 38 Special and 357 Magnum, which are two of the most popular revolver choices for self defense.
Below, we look at a few more insights about the once-ubiquitous revolver as a self-defense choice and try to clear up some misunderstandings about its role as a defensive arm.
Are Revolvers Good for Conceal Carry?
Revolvers make an excellent concealed-carry firearm because some revolvers are small and compact and chambered in powerful self-defense calibers. Revolvers also make excellent concealed-carry guns because of the DA (Double Action)/SA (Single Action) trigger or DAO (Double Action Only) trigger. These types of triggers require a long, deliberate pull of the trigger to fire the revolver, and in a high-stress situation, a trigger that takes more effort to pull may prevent a negligent discharge.
Why Use a Revolver Instead of a Pistol?
Revolvers offer simplicity over many semi-automatic pistols. Revolvers have fewer moving parts and fewer operator controls, which means a revolver can be less likely to malfunction compared to a semi-automatic handgun.
With revolvers, a user just needs to aim and press the trigger to fire the handgun. With many semi-automatic pistols, a safety needs to be disengaged before aiming and pressing the trigger to fire the gun. Also, some safeties, such as those in mainspring housings, require a certain grip in order to make the gun ready to Fire.
Also, in the event of a misfire when shooting a revolver, a cartridge that does not fire only requires the user to press the trigger again. If a cartridge does not fire in a semi-automatic pistol, the user must manually tap the magazine to ensure it is seated and then rack the slide and perhaps do other clearance drills. The process is more complicated when shooting a semi-automatic pistol than it is with a revolver.
Plus, a revolver does leave empties scattered all over the ground.
What Are the Disadvantages of Revolvers?
Revolvers have slower reload times than semi-automatic pistols, and a wheelgun has limited capacity compared to most pistols.
With a revolver, the user needs to open the cylinder, called swinging out the cylinder, to eject empty cartridge cases and load a fresh cartridge into each chamber. The process takes longer than swapping magazines in a semi-automatic pistol.
Round capacity can also be seen as a disadvantage of a revolver, but not necessarily. Most centerfire revolvers hold 5, 6, or 7 shots, where pistols may carry twice those round counts, or more.
When you look at a typical self-defense scenario, only 3 to 5 shots are typically fired, according to FBI statistics. If you think you are undergunned with a revolver, you likely are not.
Why Do People Carry Revolvers?
Some with concealed-carry permits choose a revolver because it is effective for everyday carry. Revolvers are simple to use, simple but slow to reload, and are chambered in powerful cartridges that are effective in self-defense situations. Also, they may be fired from inside a pants or jacket pocket, and they won’t be knocked out of battery in the event something presses on the muzzle.
Revolvers do not have manual safeties, decocking levers, and magazine-release buttons that can complicate operation.
So revolvers are examples of the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. When the time to stop an aggressor has come, the wheelgun is simple and fast to bring into action. That’s a pretty good reason for carrying one.