Revolvers Making Comeback…Again
Articles & Photos by Dave Workman
Handgun popularity is-cyclic, and according to some people attending this year’s Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas in January, the cycle has started turning back towards revolvers, the “wheelgun” chat so dominated the sidearm world a generation or so ago.
To be fair, revolvers never really vanished entirely from the self defense scene, but in recent years they have been overshadowed by various whiz-bang semi-autos ranging from full size to compact models. But it just might be chat the glamour of those guns is starting to wear.
Colt is back in a big way with its reincarnation of the Cobra. Ruger has introduced a model of the Redhawk in .357 Magnum char carries eight rounds in the cylinder, and a five-round GPlOO chambered for the .44 Special. Smith & Wesson has unveiled the Model 69 Combat Master in .44 Magnum, and it’s a handful, while their Performance Center Model 642 in .38 Special is bound to turn heads. Even Kimber is continuing to produce a revolver, now in its second year, although the company made its reputation with semi-auto pistols based on the Model 1911 platform.
Revolvers are certainly part of Americana. From the legendary Walker Colt and the later Dragoon, through the Remington and Colt percussion revolvers of the Civil War era, the Colt SAA and big Smith & Wesson cartridge sixguns, to the present day, the wheelgun has been part of the nation’s history.
Their effectiveness has rarely been questioned, and in the proper calibers, their knockdown capability is well recorded.
General George S. Patton became famous not only for his brilliance on the battlefield in WWII, but also for the ivory handled revolvers-a single-action nickel-plated and engraved Colt SAA and an early model S&W .357 Magnum-he carried.
Old West gunslingers James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, Wyatt Earp, John Henry “Doc” Holliday, William Barclay “Bat” Masterson and their contemporaries made their bones with single-action six guns.
It may, or may not, have been Patton who once observed that a semi-auto is a two-part gun that requires a magazine, while all that is needed to make a revolver function is loose ammunition. Pretty hard to argue that, although there are surely devotees to the Government Model 1911 semiauto that swear it was and remains the finest combat pistol on the planet.
Still, for the person who is interested in simplicity and ease of handling, a five-shot .38 Special from S&W, Taurus, Ruger or Charter Arms is pretty difficult to beat. Unless you choose a six-shot .38 Special such as the Cobra, an older model Colt Detective Special or Diamondback, or a Model 10 or 13 S&W; They’re all proven defensive sidearms.
The .357 Magnum turned the revolver into a powerhouse back in 1935, and the later arrivals of the .44 Magnum and .41 Magnum from S&W, Ruger and others further enshrined the wheelgun as part of American lore.
One mustn’t overlook revolvers chambered for the .32 H&R Magnum and the .327 Federal magnum cartridges, either. Both are potent small game rounds that can double for self-defense, and there are currently revolvers chambered for both cartridges.
For novices, many firearms instructors – not “trainers” – favor the revolver. It’s a good teaching tool that so rarely malfunctions it is nearly unheard of. Students can get the hang of a revolver pretty quickly, and it doesn’t take a great deal of strength or dexterity to load a revolver and make it function. Many of the best handgun shooters started learning with revolvers before graduating to semi-autos.
Handgun hunters and silhouette shooters have turned revolvers into precision devices. Every bullet manufacturer on the map offers various projectiles to fit virtually every revolver cartridge that one might care to reload, and the folks at Starline Brass are certain to have brand new cartridge cases ready for producing one’s own ammunition.
With the advent of speed loaders and speed strips, carrying double action revolvers as defensive tools has made quick reloading easy. There are also some people who carry single-action six guns for personal protection, and chambered for such stalwart cartridges as the .44 Special or .45 Colt, they are rather formidable.
Another factor in the current “revival” of revolvers is cost. Compared to some of the more popular semi-auto pistols, a revolver can be a bargain. In today’s economy, that is no small consideration.
Good holsters are abundant, and folks who visit gun shows or their nearest gun shops might find good deals on used revolvers.
One probably cannot explain why handgun popularity runs in cycles, but it does. That’s why revolvers may go out of vogue, but they never go out of service. So long as there is a need for defensive side arms, there will be a place for the revolver. Whether used for personal protection, predator control, hunting, target shooting or even competition, the revolver has hardly worn out its welcome on the American landscape.
It appears that a new crop has arrived to carry on the tradition.