Updated: Aug 18
Revolvers for Self-Defense & Armed Security
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 there are a lot of revolvers in use for personal self-defense and security duties.
If your serious about working internationally in the armed security industry you need to know how to use and shoot a revolver. It’s sad, but on most close protection and hostile environment courses that include firearms training they tend to only train on the common semi-autos such as Glocks etc. And 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, and to this day I have a soft spot for 4” .357’s, but the gun is completely different to shoot than a single action semi-auto like the Browning Hi-Power. In addition to the much heavier recoil of the .357 round over the 9mm round I had to get use to the much 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 action type guns. With single action the trigger is used only to release the hammer and fire the gun. Most modern revolvers are double- action but can also be used in single-action mode, which can be handy when taking long-distance or precise shots.
With single-action semi-automatics, like the Browning Hi Power and the Colt etc. 1911’s, 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 guns are not recommended for novice shooters, many of those that do carry them don’t keep a round in the chamber, which to me is severely flawed from a tactical point of view.
Double-action is the process by which you cock and release the hammer when pulling the trigger. This means 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.
I have seen too many people who own, carry or work with DA/SA semi-autos such as the 92F’s or Sig 226’s and never practice with their guns in double action. Which means when the shoot their first round it always goes low or misses the target as they are not use to long double action trigger pull. Now, give such people a double action revolver to use you have rounds going all over the place. Giving someone a revolver to shoot is always a good way to see if they really know handguns or not.
If someone is serious about learning how to shoot handguns I always recommend to start with a revolver as to shoot it accurately they will have to learn proper trigger control, after that shooting the DA/SA semi-autos or the safe action guns like the Glock will be a lot easier as they have a sold skills foundation.
There is, and I suspect there always will be the argument over which is better for a defensive handgun: A revolver or a semi-automatic. My answer to this argument is that it depends on what is comfortable and manageable to the individual. There are advantages and disadvantages with 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 certainly put a big hole is someone but tend to be a bit too big for duty or carry concealed and used for hunting, backcountry bear guns or gun range novelties.
Revolvers are simpler to use than semi-automatic pistols and do not need as much regular maintenance. Whereas with a semi-auto pistol you need to regularly unload your loaded magazines to keep the tension in the springs, with a revolver there are no springs under pressure when not in use. Revolvers make good guns to stash in a draw or a car in the case of a emergency, the only issues I have seen with guns that have been stashed for extended periods of time, and I am talking years, is the lubricants used on them solidifies and jams them up, so it’s best to dry clean a stash gun and keep in a dry location or a zip lock 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. Most of the problems 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’ll 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 will be a revolver.
A snub-nosed revolver is a good, all-around defensive handgun and are popular concealed carry guns in the United States. 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. A snub-nosed revolver is easy to conceal inside the waistband of your pants or in a jacket pocket and with a little practice can be deployed very quickly.
Speed loaders and stripper clips are available to make reloading a revolver quicker, but like everything you must practice with them. Speed loaders are faster to use than stripper clips but are bulky to carry. If I need to carry 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, because of their recoil for most, but when firing .38 special ammunition in a .357 handgun, it has less recoil and is more manageable than a handgun made only for .38 special. This is because of the heavier frame of the gun that is made 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 have the choice of also using. 38 Special ammunition also.
Personally, I 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 and long as you can shoot them properly.
Books on Amazon
Shoot First & Shoot Last: The Real World Guide To Pistol Craft
Handgun safety, shooting, concealed carry & tactical applications
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Paper Back @ https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980698252