Are revolvers ideal or obsolete? This is somewhat less argued a question than the age old comparison of 9mm v .45 but still worthy of discussion (just don’t get Ed Lovette, Michael de Bethencourt or Grant Cunningham started on an answer). Lucky Gunner asked that question a couple weeks ago and we figured we’d share this with you.
Semi Video Transcription:
“…the guys at the revolver roundup came across as being a lot more pro-revolver. The prevailing sentiment…was that the revolver are kind of like the everyman gun. It should be the go-to firearm for the average civilian who wants something for personal protection and semi-autos are probably best reserved for more dedicated shooters.
These two perspectives might seem pretty incompatible on the surface, but I think there’s a lot of merit to both of them. And that’s been one of the recurring themes of the Wheel Gun Wednesday series — this paradox of how revolvers can be seriously flawed but also maybe the ideal self-defense tool for most people.”
He is quick to point out, however, that the revolver is not without its flaws.
“It never ceases to amaze me just how many people are under the impression that revolvers are incapable of malfunctioning. You can just look at some of the comments on some of our other revolver videos and blog posts to see just how common that sentiment is.
The fact of the matter is that even though revolvers can be very reliable, they’re also prone to some pretty serious issues that don’t affect semi-autos. Just in the past year, had I’ve had plenty of revolvers malfunction on me and I’ve also seen people on the range have problems, too.
A frozen cylinder from debris under the extractor star or from out of spec primers.
An extractor rod backing itself out preventing the cylinder from opening.
Multiple light primer strikes.
A shooter being sprayed with bullet fragments from a revolver with severe timing issues.
A Smith and Wesson revolver with a broken cylinder release latch.
A Ruger GP100 that completely stopped working due to a broken cylinder latch.
And several instances of triggers spontaneously dragging or freezing up for undetermined reasons.
And I’m not even going to go through all the user-induced problems like short stroking the trigger or all the different ways you can fumble a reload.
Out of all those issues, only one — the light primer strikes — is easily fixed.”
Recap Downside to Revolvers
The Good side
Most experts are saying for most people that only buy a gun and stick in their drawer but never practice shooting it. Is probably perfect for them. For the more active gun enthusiasts, get a semi-auto. What do you all think?, Let us know below.
Sources: Lucky Gunner Ammo Youtube, Chris Baker, Reddit
The Chiappa 1873 10-shot represents an effort to bring an affordable single-action plinker to the market. Using a cast zamak-alloy frame, they look and feel like the old .45 Colt Peacemakers without being as expensive to buy. Depending on the model they retail anywhere from just under to just over $200. These revolvers are available in the US and come with either a 4.75-, 5.5- or 7.5-inch barrel, the last with adjustable target sights.
To me, the main appeal was practicing with inexpensive rimfire ammunition and enjoying the light recoil – in style! To that end, I obtained a highly decorated belt and holster set from Old El Paso Saddlery to ensure I had the complete package. I also obtained belts and holsters from El Paso for the kids and adult shooters which looked great functioned flawlessly.
Single action revolver grips are usually fairly good fit for smaller hands, their triggers don’t require much reach, so I also planned to use them for teaching new shooters. To that end, I also got a more utilitarian set of holsters – one each long and short in left and right hand configuration – and adult and child size gun belts with cartridge loops. This way, a person can run the more precise long gun with the string hand and the lighter, shorter gun with the weak hand.
Single-action, gate-loading revolvers are among the most hardy repeating gun designs. Sequential ejection enables the use of imperfect ammunition and brings the full impact of the ejector to bear on one empty casing at a time, and since the ejector rod goes into the casing from the front, even rimless ammunition can be used. With the cylinder fixed in the frame, alignment with the barrel usually remains good, even after a steady diet of hot loads. With rimfire ammunition the guns should last for many generations. Single-action triggers are generally quite decent, but loading may be slower than with break-open or side-swinging cylinders. Recent models, like this pair of Chiappa SAA1873s, hold 10 rounds each, which should be sufficient for a fairly high rate of fire for a short time.
I headed to the range with high hopes and a brick of Federal 40-grain ammunition. The long-sight radius and crisp trigger should produce good practical accuracy, and the longer models with a 7.5-inch barrel should yield a very respectable velocity. Normally, the 40-grain CCI Velocitor manages about 1,250 feet per second and the 33-grain CCI Stinger zips out at 1,350 fps.
The shorter revolver with fixed sights was test fired first. I discovered that the substantial gap between the cylinder and the forcing cone caused a louder than expected report. Despite good balance and a decent trigger, the best groups I could get were well over 2 inches at a distance of 25 feet. The problem with these entirely acceptable groups was their location – 3 inches down and one to the left of the point of aim. With a groove in the top strap for the rear sight and a fixed blade for the front, there was not much that I could do to reconcile the point of aim with the point of impact. The front sight could be filed and repainted to raise the point of impact, but I wouldn’t try to bend the casting for fear of breaking it. This revolver can still be used for point shooting, but aimed fire might require a bit of Kentucky windage.
The longer model with the 7.5-inch barrel shot much better. A minute with a flat-blade screwdriver adjusted the target rear sight to correct zero. At 25 feet, all 10 rounds shot consistently and fit into a 1-inch circle. Success?
Unfortunately, two issues plagued this sample. First, it actually jammed during loading. To load, the hammer should be placed at half cock, which enables the cylinder to spin freely. Opening the loading gate exposes the chambers. Half way through this process the cylinder would stop rotating. To get it to rotate further, I had to put the revolver on full cock, carefully lower the hammer (sometimes on a live round) and only that would free up the cylinder for the completion of the loading procedure. The other problem was the amount of misalignment between the forcing cone and the chambers. This caused lead shavings during firing. Outdoors, this could have been overlooked given the excellent accuracy, but indoors I found small chunks of lead hitting the lane dividers, which bounced off into my face. Though not very fast by the time they reached me, these bits were annoying.
It’s possible that minor gunsmithing would resolve these issues, but the cost of that would quickly add up. My reluctant conclusion is that the budget single-action revolvers are hit and miss in terms of quality. ASJ