A Case for the Revolver

Is the old-fashioned wheelgun a good carry choice for today’s world? An experienced handgunner says yes.

S&W Performance Center Model 642 in .38 Special +P.
S&W Performance Center Model 642 in .38 Special +P.mfg photo

In today’s world of high-capacity, polymer-frame, semi-auto pistols, we often forget about the original repeating handgun. While the roots of the revolver go back to the revolving arquebus, produced by Hans Stopler of Nuremberg in 1597, it wasn’t until 1836 that Sam Colt figured out how to make it work reliably. Once Colt started making revolvers, the world of repeating handguns changed forever.

Whether you’re in the field hunting, hiking, or exploring, or in any wilderness setting, the revolver is the top choice in a handgun. For personal defense, the double-action revolver may be a bit less popular nowadays, but it’s every bit as good a choice as it ever was.

Three Advantages

From deep-cover concealed-carry to defense against the world’s largest predators, the wheelgun still shines bright. It is our oldest successful repeating handgun design, and continues to be a great choice for personal protection. Here’s why:

1. Reliability A revolver is that it is almost totally reliable. A quality revolver that is maintained and fed a proper diet simply does not jam. In the event of a misfire, another pull of the trigger lines up a fresh cartridge with the barrel.

2. Versatility A double-action revolver lets you choose between a fast, double-action trigger pull for defensive situations, or cocking the hammer for a light, crisp, single-action trigger pull for precision shooting.

3. Power Revolvers can be chambered for much more powerful cartridges than semi-auto handguns. That makes them the clear choice in a wilderness setting, where the predators are on four legs and can be big, tough, and tenacious.

Five Great Wheelguns

Here are five models that deserve close consideration if you’re in the market for a revolver:

The S&W J-Frame

The Smith & Wesson M&P Model 340 in .357 Magnum.
The Smith & Wesson M&P Model 340 in .357 Magnum.mfg photo

Even though it has fallen out of favor with Internet “experts” these days, the S&W J-Frame revolver is still an outstanding choice for carry in almost any situation. I carry an alloy frame S&W M&P Model 340 .357 Magnum in my pocket just about every day. It’s so light, I hardly know it’s there.

When hunting, I carry a similar Model S&W 360 on my belt. This is the same lightweight, scandium-frame gun, but with an external hammer.

The S&W Model 629

A Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 in .44 Magnum with a 2.6-inch barrel. As with all S&W revolvers, the "6" in front of "29" indicates a stainless steel version of the Model 29.
A Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 in .44 Magnum with a 2.6-inch barrel. As with all S&W revolvers, the "6" in front of "29" indicates a stainless steel version of the Model 29.mfg photo

The .44 Magnum has been my favorite revolver cartridge for years. I started with a Smith & Wesson Model 29 with a 6 ½-inch barrel—the same gun Dirty Harry used—and I have owned just about every other .44 Magnum on the market over the years.

My latest favorite is a custom Model 629 revolver that Mag-na-port worked on for me. It has a 2.5-inch barrel and a K-Frame round butt grip. I find that this lightweight .44 is very handy to carry for both urban and wilderness settings.

Ruger LCR

The Ruger LCR revolvers is designed for self-defense and comes chambered in a range of calibers.
The Ruger LCR revolvers is designed for self-defense and comes chambered in a range of calibers.mfg photo

The Ruger LCR is a very popular, reasonably priced double-action revolver. This gun makes use of polymer in the frame, which keeps both weight and cost down, yet it can handle a powerful cartridge like the .357 Magnum. It’s offered in a wide range of cartridges, all the way down to .22LR. Mine, of course, is a .357 Mag, and it’s held up well to a lot of shooting. It’s a small handgun that is easy to carry, chambered for a very powerful cartridge, and priced so a working man can easily afford it.

Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special

The Bulldog from Charter Arms.
The Bulldog from Charter Arms.mfg photo

At 21 ounces, this gun is a little larger than the smaller .38 Specials, but it uses a much larger cartridge—the .44 Special, which can be a formidable round for defense. With some of the newer ammo, like Hornady’s Flex-Tip loads, it’s an excellent personal-defense cartridge.

North American Arms .22 Long Rifle Mini-Revolver

A .22LR Mini-Revolver from North American Arms is light enough to be carried pretty much anywhere.
A .22LR Mini-Revolver from North American Arms is light enough to be carried pretty much anywhere.mfg photo

This revolver is so small that I carry it in my pocket like a pocketknife. It weighs 4.5 ounces, and most of the time I forget it’s there, which is part of its charm. I mostly think of it as a last resort, hideout gun.