New Shooter’s Guide: What Are Popular Revolver Cartridges?

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Many new shooters aren’t as familiar with revolvers as shooters of, ahem, more experience. But revolvers remain as simple, easy-to-maintain firearms for hunting, carry, competition, or other uses. They tend to be chambered in fewer cartridges, some of which have been popular for more than 100 years. Here are a few of the best-known wheelgun rounds:

What Are Popular Revolver Cartridges?

Popular revolver cartridges include 22 Long Rifle (LR), 38 Special, 357 Magnum, 44 Remington Magnum (or 44 Magnum) and 45 Colt, also called the 45 Long Colt. These revolver cartridges are popular because they run the spectrum from informal plinking cartridges and excellent self-defense cartridges to powerful hunting cartridges.

The 45 Colt, also known as the 45 Long Colt, is an old revolver cartridge that is still very popular today.

These popular revolver cartridges come in two types—rimfire and centerfire—and are chambered in a variety of single-action and double-action revolvers.

Think of single-action revolvers as Old West cowboy revolvers where the user needs to cock back the hammer to fire the revolver.

Modern double-action revolvers allow the user to fire the revolver just by pulling the trigger in double-action mode, or the user can cock back the hammer and fire it in single-action mode.

Double-action revolvers, such as this pair of Smith & Wesson revolvers chambered in 357 Magnum, make excellent choices for self defense.

Why Is The 22 Long Rifle A Popular Revolver Cartridge?

Hands down the most popular rimfire cartridge for revolvers is the 22 Long Rifle, or 22 LR for short. The reason 22 LR is a popular revolver cartridge is simple: 22 LR ammo is inexpensive and has little recoil.

Single-action revolvers well suited for 22 LR include the Ruger Single-Six series and the Heritage Mfg. Rough Rider line of six-shooters. In 22 LR, these single-action revolvers offer a weekend of plinking fun. They can also hunt small game like squirrels and take care of small varmints.

Double-action revolvers chambered in 22 LR are also popular. One, the Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun, is iconic. Many people who spend time camping, fishing, hunting, and hiking have this rimfire revolver on hand.

A revolver chambered in 22 LR also makes a great training gun or first gun for new shooters. The low recoil and minimal noise help new shooters concentrate and learn shooting fundamentals.

Is 38 Special A Popular Revolver Cartridge?

The 38 Special is perhaps the oldest defense cartridge in existence, and it is a popular revolver cartridge today, as it was when it was introduced in 1898. Small, compact double-action revolvers like the Smith & Wesson Model 637 and Ruger SP101 chambered in 38 Special make excellent self-defense and concealed-carry choices.

Is The 357 Magnum A Good Defense Cartridge?

The 357 Magnum is the big brother to the 38 Special and is a powerful cartridge. In fact, the 38 Special can be fired in revolvers chambered in 357 Magnum, because despite their name differences, the calibers (diameters) of the 38 Special bullet and the 357 Magnum bullet are both 0.357 inch. (Many people use the word “calibers” when they mean “cartridges,” which is usually incorrect, or at best, incomplete. A cartridge is made up of a case, bullet, powder, and primer. A caliber is correctly used for only the width of the bullet itself and doesn’t include the other cartridge components. Despite this, most people use the two words interchangeably.)

Many law-enforcement agencies in the 20th century equipped themselves with revolvers chambered in 357 Magnum. The 357 Magnum offers more recoil than the 38 Special and is not a revolver cartridge for beginners. The medium-frame Colt Python and Smith & Wesson Model 686 are two popular revolvers chambered in 357 Magnum. The 357 Magnum makes a great defensive caliber for everyday carry (or EDC for short).

What is a 44 Magnum revolver good for?

The 44 Magnum is a very powerful revolver cartridge and is well suited for hunting whitetail deer and black bear. The 44 Magnum produces a tremendous amount of recoil and is not a revolver cartridge for recoil-shy shooters. Both the Ruger Super Redhawk and the Taurus Raging Hunter double-action revolvers are excellent choices for hunting. When topped with a scope, these and other revolvers chambered in the 44 Magnum round offers range and power.

Is The 45 Colt The Same As The 45 Long Colt?

Yes, the 45 Colt is another name for the 45 Long Colt. The 45 Colt produces recoil but is not as sharply recoiling as the magnum revolver cartridges. Weekend contestants competing in Cowboy Action Shooting match favor the 45 Colt in low-recoil cartridges, while some users still prefer the power of the full-boat 45 Colt and use it for hunting and home defense. The 45 Colt is popular in single-action revolvers like the Colt Single Action Army, Ruger Blackhawk, and the Uberti Cattleman series of single-action revolvers.

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