I SUSPECT THAT what you are about to read will make some of you angry so I will ask a favor of you before you continue. Answer the question I will ask toward the end of this article as honestly as you can. You don’t have to answer me; answer yourself. If it seems appropriate after that, go ahead and send me the email or send the editor the letter you were composing before you got to the question.
Here is my first declaration:
You should not carry a revolver by choice as a primary weapon. A revolver should not be what you choose to put between you and someone who is trying to kill you. If you are choosing your first handgun, do not purchase a revolver. If the choice of handgun is between a modern revolver and a modern semi-automatic, the semi-auto should be chosen except under certain specific circumstances.
Here is my second declaration:
The revolver was cutting edge in its time; that time is long past. Both technological developments and the nature of the potential threats you are most likely to face have made the revolver a second-choice weapon at best.
If a revolver fails in combat (and they do fail) that failure is more likely to be catastrophic to the shooter than it would be with a semi-auto.
Here is my reasoning:
Revolvers are limited in ammunition capacity compared to most semi-autos. (This can be mitigated by carrying two or more revolvers, but you can carry two or more semi-autos as easily.)
Revolvers cannot be reloaded as quickly as semi-autos. (Again, you can carry two or more, but you can carry two or more semis too.)
For most people, revolvers are more difficult to shoot well than semi-autos. (Most people can learn to shoot well faster and easier using a semi-auto pistol.)
Revolvers are harder physically on many, perhaps most, people to shoot than semi-autos. (More recoil is translated to the shooter than would be with an equivalent semi-auto.)
If a revolver fails in combat (and they do fail) that failure is more likely to be catastrophic to the shooter than it would be with a semi-auto. (Most semi-auto failures can be rectified quickly. A revolver failure is more likely to make the weapon useless.)
Spare ammunition is harder to carry for a revolver than it is for a semi-auto. There is not as much choice of model and type or caliber, nor is there as much flexibility in regard to add-ons and modifications with revolvers as there are with semi-autos.
Translation: Semi-autos should take precedence of choice over revolvers in the vast majority of cases.
Conditions and situations under which a revolver might be a better choice or perform better than a semi-auto handgun are:
Where semi-autos are restricted or banned for civilian carry, either outright or because of limited choice of ammunition (caliber) or ammunition capacity that creates a de facto restriction on such weapons.
Where there is a high probability or expectation that shots will have to be fired from inside a pocket or with the gun in contact with the attacker.
Where there is reason to want to keep the spent shells fully under your control. (Such as for reloading and re-use.)
Where there is an inability for some reason to be able to operate a semi-auto. (Such as an inability to manipulate the slide.)
If you do carry a revolver or revolvers, whether by choice or necessity, always carry at least one, preferably two, reloads for the revolver(s). If you can find one that fits, get and carry a speed-loader for your model revolver. Even if you do carry a speed-loader, and especially if you do not, carry at least one speed-strip as well.
You can use a speed-strip to do partial reloads that you can’t do, or do nearly as easily, with a speed-loader. Even if you don’t own one and don’t intend to own one, you should still take a little time and learn how to operate and fire one. There are a lot of them out there, and if you ever do need to run one, you need to know how best to do it. So take some time, stretch yourself and learn about them.
Here is the question I have for you if you are upset or angry from reading this: Why are you upset?
Is it because I am factually, realistically or rationally wrong about something? Or is it because you, personally, have an emotional attachment to, maybe even an ego investment in, the revolver? Be honest with yourself.
Here is the question I have for you if you are upset or angry after reading this: Why are you upset?
I have no problem with an emotional attachment to a thing, idea, concept, tradition, philosophy or anything else, unless it interferes with you having the best possible chance to win a fight for your life. However, if emotional attachment, tradition, convenience or laziness gets in the way of survival — and I think these reasons sometimes do where the choice between a revolver and a semi- is concerned — then I get worried about it.
I have written this because what I see and hear in defense of the revolver as a primary weapon sometimes sounds like inhibiting attachments and not like fully reasoned arguments based on solid experience, history and knowledge. Because I prefer my good guys to be alive and unharmed, that worries me.
The choice, as always, is yours. Investigate, research, consider, test, think, experiment as best you can, and make it a good one.
You be safe out there. And if you can’t be safe, be dangerous [within the limits of the law].
[ CR Williams is a former Suarez International Staff instructor and author of the “Gunfi ghting, and Other Thoughts about Doing Violence” series of books. Volume 1 is available now in e-reader versions through various outlets and in print by Infi del Media Group (for availability, check at www.onesourcetactical.com). To find out more about the books and to access additional material or to ask questions or make comments or requests, contact him through his website at www.inshadowinlight.com ]