These days many shooters and those in the armed security business shy away from revolvers.
I have heard quite a few people brush them off as being old-fashioned, obviously not tacticool enough to post on their social media. But in the real world of protection, there are a lot of revolvers in use for personal self-defense and security duties.
If you’re serious about working internationally in the armed security industry, you need to know how to use and shoot a revolver. Unfortunately, most close protection and hostile environment courses, which include firearms training tend to only train on the common semi-automatics such as Glocks. Meanwhile, most people coming out of the military have only used Berretta 92F’s or Sig 226’s or the like.
When I was in the British Army, the only handgun we used was the classic Browning Hi-Power in 9mm, which is an excellent pistol. When I left the British Army, the first handgun I was given to work with was a Taurus 4″ barrel .357 magnum revolver. To this day, I have a soft spot for 4″ .357’s, but the gun is entirely different to shoot than a single action semi-auto like the Browning Hi-Power. In addition to the heavier recoil (compared with the 9mm), I also had to get accustomed to the longer double-action trigger pull.
Single Action (SA) and Double Action (DA)
Revolvers and semi-automatics come in both single and double action. With a single-action handgun, the hammer needs to be cocked before the handgun can initially be fired. With single-action revolvers, the hammer needs to be cocked every time you want to fire a round, this is usually found on cowboy guns. On single-action handguns, the trigger is used only to release the hammer and fire the gun. Most modern revolvers are double-action; however, they can also be used in single-action mode, which is handy when taking long-distance or precise shots.
With single-action semi-automatics, (like the Browning Hi-Power and the Colt 1911), when the hammer is cocked, the gun can be carried with a round in the chamber and the safety catch on. When a handgun is in single-action mode, it only takes minimal pressure on the trigger to fire the gun. Single-action (SA) guns are not recommended for novice shooters. Many carriers don’t keep a round in the chamber, which is severely flawed from a tactical perspective.
Double-action (DA) is the process by which you cock and release the hammer when pulling the trigger. This makes for a longer and harder trigger pull, which is safer. With DA/SA semi-autos, after the first double-action trigger pull, most semi-automatics fire in single-action mode until de-cocked. This makes shooting the gun easier than having a constant long double-action trigger pull.
Far too many people who own, carry or work with DA/SA semi-autos such as the 92Fs or Sig 226s seldom practice with their guns in double action. This means when they shoot their first round, it always goes low or misses the target as they are not used to the long double-action trigger pull. When such people use a double-action, there will be rounds going all over the place. As such, giving someone a revolver to shoot is always a great way to see if they really know handguns or not.
If someone is serious about learning how to shoot with a handgun, I always recommend starting with a revolver since to shoot it accurately, they will have to gain proper trigger control. After mastering that, shooting the DA/SA semi-autos or safe action guns like the Glock will be a lot easier as they will have a solid skills foundation.
There is, and I suspect always will be, an argument over which is better as a defensive handgun, a revolver or a semi-automatic? My answer is that it depends on what is comfortable and manageable to the individual. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of handguns. The main difference between revolvers and semi-automatics is that semi-automatics have larger ammunition capabilities and are quicker to reload.
Revolvers are good all-around handguns, and they come in a wide variety of calibers and overall sizes. The most common defensive calibers for revolvers is .38 Special and .357 magnum. The larger calibers such as .44 magnum and .50 S&W will undoubtedly cause serious damage to someone, but they tend to be a bit too big for duty or to carry around concealed. They can, however, be used for hunting, backcountry bear guns, or gun range novelties.
Revolvers are more straightforward to use than semi-automatic pistols and do not need as much regular maintenance. With a semi-auto pistol, you need to regularly unload your loaded magazines to keep the tension in the springs, whereas with a revolver, there are no springs under pressure when not in use. Revolvers make good guns to stash in cars or drawers in case of an emergency. The only issue with firearms that have been stashed for extended periods, even years, is that the lubricants used on them solidify and jams them up. This is why it’s best to dry-clean a stash gun and keep it in a ziplock bag that you can pull the trigger and shoot through in an emergency.
Most well-maintained revolvers do not suffer from the stoppages that sometimes occur with semi-automatics. The problems that arise with revolvers come from faulty ammunition and poor maintenance. I have personally worked with revolvers in high-risk areas in South Africa and Latin America and have had no issues. For those who say you need more rounds, I say if you have your strategies worked out and can use the pistol properly, 5 to 6 rounds can solve most problems! In quite a few countries, semi-auto pistols are restricted for military and police only, so your only legal option may be a revolver.
In the United States, a snub-nosed revolver is a good, all-around, defensive handgun and are popular concealed carry guns. The most common caliber is .38 Special, which is a capable and proven defensive caliber, and its recoil is manageable for most people. The size of a snub-nosed revolver makes it easy to conceal on your person or in your vehicle. It is also easy to conceal inside the waistband of your pants or in a jacket pocket. And most important of all, with a little practice, can be deployed very quickly.
In terms of reloading, speed loaders and stripper clips are available to make reloading a revolver quicker, but like everything, you must practice with them. Speedloaders are faster to use than stripper clips but are bulky to carry. If I need to take extra ammunition, I prefer to carry a stripper clip or two as they fit flush into a trouser or jacket pocket.
If you are considering buying and using a revolver, you should consider looking at and shooting several in caliber .357 magnum. While these guns may be uncomfortable for people with small hands, they use both .38 special and .357 magnum ammunition. A snub-nose revolver firing .357 magnum ammunition may be uncomfortable and unmanageable to fire for most because of their recoil. However, .38 special ammunition in a .357 handgun has less recoil and is more manageable than a handgun made only for .38 special. This is because the frame of the gun is made heavier to manage the recoil of the more powerful .357 magnum round. If you can shoot it accurately, the .357 magnum round is an excellent defensive caliber. And remember, with a .357 magnum caliber handgun you also have the choice of using. 38 Special ammunition.
The bottom line is that revolvers are a handy tool to have in one’s security arsenal. I personally like revolvers. A decent full size 4″ barrel .357 is an excellent all-round firearm, and a snub nose .38 Special or .357 makes for an excellent concealed defensive pistol. As long as you’ve practiced enough to shoot them accurately, that is!
Tactical Firearms Revolvers
By: Orlando Wilson
Orlando Wilson has worked in the security industry internationally for over 25 years. He has become accustomed to the types of complications that can occur, when dealing with international law enforcement agencies, organized criminal and Mafia groups. He is the chief consultant for Risks Inc. and based in Miami but spends much of his time traveling and providing a wide range of kidnapping prevention and tactical training services to private and government clients.