With so many new folks joining the shooting sports or rushing out to buy their first carry or home defense gun, it surprises me that I don’t hear of more people buying revolvers. Sure, some consider polymer-framed semi-automatics the future kings of pistoldom, but if that’s the case, wheelguns are the queens. If you’ve ever played chess, you know how useful that queen is. Here are a few thoughts on why you may want to consider purchasing a revolver.
The wheelgun’s astounding simplicity makes it a perfect candidate for new shooters. In the case of double-action-only revolvers (with no exposed hammer), operation is as simple as loading the cylinder and pulling the trigger. Compared to a SA/DA SIG Sauer (not to pick on my beloved SIGs)—with a decocker lever, magazine release, slide catch, the need to jack the slide to charge the pistol, and the discrepancy in trigger-pull length between the first double-action shot and the subsequent single-action ones—the revolver begins to look like a veritable cakewalk to handle.
Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge the gorilla in the room. I don’t care how much you love your Glock; when it comes to sheer “pull-trigger, hear-boom” dependability, wheelguns are the archetype and have been for the last 150 years. Their operating mechanisms are almost always ironclad—as long as you don’t make a habit of that awful, Hollywood flick-of-the-wrist move to swing the cylinder back into place: a great way to knock a good revolver out of time (where the cylinders no longer align with the barrel).
How many semi-automatics do you know of that can shoot multiple calibers without retooling or dropping in a new barrel and magazine? Many wheelguns, such as the Smith & Wesson Governor (capable of shooting .410 shotshell, .45 Long Colt, and .45 ACP), can. Revolvers chambered to .357 Magnum can shoot the .38 Special, .44 Magnums can shoot the .44 Special and .44 Russian, .327 Federal Magnums can shoot .32 H&R, .32 Long, and .32 Short…the list goes on and on. One (ideally, less expensive) round for target shooting, one for business.
Revolvers, by their very design, are limited in capacity by comparison with most semi-automatics of the same approximate size. Though some wheelguns—such as the Taurus 608 or the Smith & Wesson 327—can hold eight rounds, the quintessential revolver holds only six. The FNH Five-seveN holds twenty rounds in a standard magazine. That’s an enormous discrepancy in firepower. And if you plan to carry concealed, even small wheelguns designed for the task are noticeably wider than their semi-automatic counterparts.
Are wheelguns superior to semi-automatics? Of course not. Do they have areas where they excel? Certainly. Consider picking one up the next time you’re at the range and judge for yourself whether it would make a good fit for you.