Are Revolvers Obsolete?

Alex C.
by Alex C.

Revolvers seem to be either loved or hated. There isn’t much middle ground these days, with most people firmly planting themselves on one side of the fence and smugly looking down on the other camp. In this installment of TFBTV, Alex takes a look at this old question through unbiased eyes.

Transcript …

– [Voiceover] Are revolvers obsolete? Well, this question tends to start a firestorm among many members of the gun community.

The more tactically-inclined folks, whose perception of the gun has been shaped by modern military experience, carbine courses, or three gun competitions, would almost certainly say, “Yes, absolutely.” A great many other people have found through trials and tribulations that revolvers work best for them, generally citing the way they are contoured, reliability or familiarity.

To this, I say, “Carry on.

“Only you know what works best for you.” So, back to that big question, “In general, are revolvers obsolete?” Short answer, Yes.

But, damn, if I don’t love them and, occasionally carry them.

From military perspective, revolvers have been largely obsolete for over 100 years.

When the Swiss adopted the Luger in 1900, it kicked off the trend of nations ditching revolvers in favor of self-loading designs.

The Germans followed suit in 1908, the Americans in the year of our Lord 1911, and, so on, and so forth.

While revolvers did see quite a lot of service in World War II, that was mostly due to holdovers from previous conflicts, as was the case with the American M1917 revolver.

In the war, revolvers filled a few niche roles.

For example, inside of a cramped vehicle, you wouldn’t want an auto-loader spitting hot brass all over, or failing to cycle due to (gunfire) spatial hindrance or clutter.

Now, that’s well and good, (gunfire) but let’s move forward to today. (gunfire) Companies are still making fine revolvers that are sold (gunfire) almost exclusively to the civilian market. (gunfire) You saw American Law Enforcement largely (gunfire) shift away from them in the 80s, with the Wonder Nine revolution, and companies like Colt and Smith and Wesson now had to adapt.

Colt never seemed (gunfire) to get the hang (gunfire) of auto-loading handguns, (gunfire) with the flops that were the All-American 2000 and Z40.

But, Smith is doing just fine, and still produces (gunfire) fine double-action wheel guns. (gunfire) Colt, unfortunately, (gunfire) decided to kill guns, like the iconic Python, while keeping the single-action Army in production.

Other manufacturers today include Manurhin, Korth, and Janz, but these high-end custom manufacturers seem to cater less to people with duty-use in mind, and more to the high-end consumer market.

From a civilian carry perspective, I believe that the humble revolver still has a lot of merit.

(gunfire) Say what you will about automatics, but they are harder to use than a revolver.

This is something I used to scoff at (gunfire) until I took some uninitiated persons to the range who physically had trouble racking the slide (gunfire) of an automatic.

That’s something very easy for guns guys like us to (gunfire) overlook and it’s almost become second nature, but, seeing a 100 pound female struggle to chamber a round (gunfire) in a Glock 19 makes you realize that there really isn’t a one size fits all option for concealed carry. (gunfire) Yes, I know we all think we need a semi-automatic (gunfire) with extra magazines for that romanticized (gunfire) gun fight that’s played out in our heads, but, the fact of the matter is (gunfire) that in the vast, vast majority of cases, the number of shots fired in an altercation will be two.

A survey of 482 civilian (gunfire) incidents involving firearms used in self-defense produced this statistic. (gunfire) And, when more than two shots were fired, (gunfire) it was generally because the defender’s response was to fire until empty. (gunfire) I would never turn down additional capacity, but with a revolver, you trade capacity for a very simple manual of arms.

So, in short, there are still applcations where a revolver shines.

As a carry piece, target or competition gun, they still have (gunfire) great relevance.

However, I believe that as a duty gun, (gunfire) they are very outmatched by modern semi-automatic pistols. (gunfire) If anything, I like revolvers because I enjoy shooting them. (gunfire) They are accurate, and the nostalgia that comes with them caters to my heritage (gunfire) as a Texan.

However, if I were headed (gunfire) to the OK Corral in the 21st century, you bet, I would leave the old Colt at home.

Thank you for watching this episode of TFB TV.

What do you think of revolvers? Put your opinion in the comments below, and I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Big thanks to Ventura Munitions for helping us out with our shooting videos.

And, we hope to see you all next time.

Alex C.
Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.

More by Alex C.

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2 of 287 comments
  • ChiptheBarber ChiptheBarber on May 01, 2016

    I understand the discussion completely, really I do. There's so much to be said for today's semi-autos. But the LAST handgun that will leave my collection is my S&W 686. It shoots like a rifle. It's so much better than I am it's not even funny. I sold it to my brother-in-law once, he wouldn't let me have it back for 13 years. I won't make that mistake again.Thanks for the video Alex.

  • Ed Smith Ed Smith on May 01, 2016

    Interesting comment regarding the difficulty a 100lb woman had cycling a glock 19. It was followed by a remark about semi-auto pistols for self defense. I figure a glock 42, or similar size pistol, would be better suited to her. The lower recoil of a 380 would mean a lighter recoil spring, which in turn means easier time racking the slide.

    For the record, I feel revolvers are obsolete. But I still own and use one.