Debunking the Revolver Myth (or Why Revolvers Suck)

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There is a crowd in the armed citizen world that would have you believe that a revolver is the ideal weapon for home defense (or to put in your wife’s hands for home defense, or to carry, etc). They are wrong.

Here is a point by point breakdown of why a revolver is not the ideal gun for home defense, even for the lazy jerk who doesn’t want to invest training time.

Reliability

The majority of these revolver fans will tell you that their revolver doesn’t malfunction. This is mostly true. The only malfunction you can really expect in a revolver is a failure to fire. If this occurs the immediate remedy is to squeeze the trigger again and try the next round. Most revolver malfunctions are going to be blamed on the ammo and not the gun itself.

Most modern semi-auto pistols are plenty reliable. I’ve put thousands of rounds through my Glock 17 with very few malfunctions. Sure there have been malfunctions, but these are rare. If you maintain the gun properly, it won’t be likely to malfunction.

Simplicity

Revolvers are said to be simple. They have no external safety, so there is essentially a single input – the trigger. Aim and squeeze is all you need to do to shoot the target.

I’m sorry to break this to people, but my Glock 17 has a control interface that is just as simple. I too can aim and squeeze without the hindrance of disengaging a safety mechanism. If the lack of external safety is your reason to use a revolver, there are plenty of semi-auto pistols to fill that role as well.

Safety

Revolver proponents are often quick to judge semi-autos based on the risk of injury. It shouldn’t be news to anyone that firearms can be dangerous when used improperly. Revolvers come with their own caveats.

Both types of pistol can hurt you. Semi-autos used improperly can bite you as the slide reciprocates (a bad grip on the pistol where your hand comes too high on the back-strap of the pistol). This type of injury would be unpleasant, but it can be easily avoided with a little training. A revolver on the other hand can take off or seriously injure your thumb if it is placed too far forward next to the cylinder. Also correctable with training, but not as easily. Do you really want to worry about becoming thumbless under pressure? I don’t.

Capacity

Most revolver users will claim that a revolver has enough ammo to get the job done. Most defensive revolvers carry a maximum of seven rounds. What if seven isn’t enough? Do you feel confident that seven rounds could put down multiple attackers? Reloading a revolver requires much more skill than the semi-auto pistol. The motor skills required are also far finer since you need to either load each round or line up speed strips or a moon clip to reload it. When the adrenaline starts pumping, fine motor skills like this will be out the window.

If I want to reload my Glock, I slide a fresh magazine into the mag well and at the press of a button, I’m ready to keep shooting. Its a little more complex than that if you are worried about speed, but it is certainly easier than futzing with rounds in a cylinder under pressure.

Unfortunately, it seems that many revolver fans completely overlook the reloading issue. Maybe you won’t ever need more than those seven rounds, but are you willing to gamble this way with your life? Your family’s lives? Even sillier, if we assume that we will never need to reload, a semi-auto generally carries many more rounds than a revolver. My Glock for example carries 17+1, and with an extended magazine can carry as much as 33+1 rounds if home defense is my goal.

Ultimately revolvers are the lazy man’s answer. Too often people choose a revolver thinking they won’t need to invest as much time and energy into learning how to use it. You are kidding yourself if you think you can avoid putting in substantial time training with any firearm. If you honestly can’t find time to train, I still think a semi-auto offers tremendous advantages over a revolver, and has fewer problems than you may think. If you can’t invest the minimal time to learn the basics of your weapon, should you really be arming yourself at all? A weapon in the hands of an unpracticed individual is a threat to yourself and those you love.

Revolvers may sound like an easy option if you are looking for something you can simply point and shoot, but I think many of us in the self-defense community should have higher goals. I’ll take the capacity of a semi-auto over the purported reliability of a revolver any day.

Do you agree that semi-autos are superior to revolvers or are you a revolver fan?

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Comments

  1. I own a new model of the1863 army revolver in 44 spec. by Colt. I also have a new 1911 45. I would grab either one in a fight.

    • I respect that, but you can’t tell me that given a choice between those two firearms that the 1863 Army Revolver would be your first choice over the 1911?

  2. I carry 1911, .45ACP 3.5″ or my Browning Hi-Power. I have a Ruger LCR as a BUG. The reloading problem and round capacity are my major dislikes re the revolver in a defensive situation. While I’m not a rabid fan of the 9MM cartridge, I do like the mag capacity. The Hi-Power is the only double stack I can handle efficiently. (small hands)

  3. I’m sorry, but this is nothing more than opinion and not even worthy of the miniscule space it takes up on the internet.

    Know how many malfunctions I’ve had with my S&W Model 10? None.

    Know how many my girlfriend has with her Walther PK380? At least one lockup, round not loading properly, etc. every single time we shoot. Perhaps it’s just her gun, but it’s pretty common.

    I’ll also take the skills an old iron-sights revolver requires over the ease of use and laziness that can come with a semi-automatic pistol.

  4. I guess you have your opinion and I have mine.

    The same mentality can occur with semi-automatic pistols, but the trend I have always seen is the guy who happens to claim his revolver is perfect, will never malfunction and as a result doesn’t worry about those other skills. If a wheel gun is your weapon of choice so be it, but invest the time to get those skills.

    Hell, my Glock 17 had a failure to fire the other day. Does it happen often? Definitely not. But any excuse to have your equipment be the solution instead of your skills is definitely not the right answer.

  5. Nick,

    Have your opinion but don’t proclaim it as gospel. The revolver continues to be the “best choice” for many people. The vast majority of self defense shootings involving civilians involves 4 shots or fewer, being fired well within the ammo capacity of revolvers. You say that malfunctions with your Glock are rare, but me thinks that they are even more with a quality revolver. The problem is compounded by the fact that when they do occur,those fine motor skills that you seemed to believe are non-existent in a gun fight, will often be necessary to remedy the malfunction in magic automatic.

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