Revolvers, the far-reaching and industry-hanging development for firearms. A new type of gun that allowed the common infantryman to shoot more rounds within a shorter span of time.
These magnificent guns have stood the test of time and technology over the past 185 years. With absolutely no signs of withering away soon. Even with the mind-boggling weapon tech around us.
So let’s immerse ourselves into the exciting universe of revolvers and learn more about them.
An Overview of the Revolvers
The actual credit of the invention of a revolver mechanism goes to Elisha Collier of Boston, Massachusetts. He patented a ‘flintlock revolver’ in Britain in the year 1818. A similar patent was filed by Artemus Wheeler in the United States in the very same year. But that story is somewhat ambiguous.
Collier’s revolver mechanism added a five-shot cylinder on a flintlock gun. The cylinder was spring loaded and had to be rotated by hand after each shot. Ian McCullum explains in detail about the Collier revolver in his video.
But the actual modern concept of revolvers came into being in the year 1835. When Samuel Colt submitted and received a patent for his revolving gun. It was a five-shot handgun that used percussion caps and gunpowder.
After the invention of self-contained metallic cartridges in 1846. French gunsmith Eugene Lefaucheux came up with the Lefaucheux revolver in 1854. The first modern revolver design as we know it today. This was quickly followed by Smith & Wesson developing their Model 1 revolver in 1857. Which gained up a lot of traction during the American Civil War.
In 1873, Colt introduced the famous ‘Model 1873’ also known as ‘the peacemaker’. A gun that was the first most widely used revolver by civilians as well as the U.S Military.
Up until 1889, all revolvers were single action. Until Colt introduced the Model 1889. The first double-action revolver with a ‘swing out’ cylinder we find in almost all revolvers manufactured today.
A revolver can be single action (hammer is used to cock and cycle the cylinder, and the trigger is only used to release the hammer) or double action (trigger pull cycles the cylinder, cock, and releases the hammer). There are also single-action/double-action revolvers that can be used both ways.
What Are Revolvers Best For?
Revolvers have been around for almost two centuries. In fact, it was the first step towards improving the firing rate of handheld firearms. The first and foremost benefit of a revolver is its reliability and durability.
The design of a revolver is very simple. Not too many springs, moving parts, or frills. It is even simpler if a revolver is a single action. Double actions aren’t too complicated either. It’s just a spring and latch mechanism that rotates the cylinder and releases the hammer.
Not to mention that this simple design makes them easy to clean and maintain.
Since in a revolver, each round has its own shaft inside the cylinder. The possibility of a malfunction is almost zero. The only reason a round shall not fire is if it’s a dud. If that happens, no problem. Just squeeze the trigger again and a fresh shaft with a fresh round aligns into the battery.
Another advantage of revolvers is their availability in a wide range of calibers. Revolvers can be made thicker and more resilient to pressure. That’s why you mostly find revolvers chambered in magnum calibers. However, that adds some weight to the gun.
Revolvers tend to be very concealable. That’s because of their rounded profile and short size. Especially in smaller calibers like .38 special or .357, or even the 9mm. While this comparison can be debated. But the truth is that revolvers have been used far longer and wider for CCW than semi-auto’s. Up until three or four decades ago.
On top of all this, revolvers are inherently easy to use. Especially a double-action revolver. Just aim at your target and squeeze the trigger. No racking the slide, no turning the safety off. Only aim and squeeze. That’s great for self-defense, home defense, CCW and also makes revolvers a good backup gun.
On the contrary, some people believe that the lack of a manual safety mechanism is a drawback for revolvers. But I don’t believe that. Revolvers don’t work that way. Especially if you have proper training and awareness while carrying or using a revolver.
Additionally, revolvers don’t eject the spent brass flying here and there. That means an easy collection of spent cases for reloading.
Where Revolvers Falls Short
Revolvers are awesome, but they have a few shortcomings. Especially with the semi-auto’s around.
The first drawback that is obvious with a revolver is reloading time. The modern ‘swing out’ revolver can be emptied quickly. But each shaft has to be loaded individually with a cartridge. Yes, there are moon clips and speedloaders available for quick refilling. But one has to be trained and proficient enough for a quick swap with them. Additionally, moon clips aren’t as slim as magazines. So carrying and concealing them can be tough at times.
The exposed hammer design of revolvers makes them a bit prone to snagging. So you must be careful about the holster you choose and how you carry a revolver. Some companies have introduced hammerless (concealed hammer) designs. But they are quite limited.
Revolvers are also a bit short on ammo capacity. Most revolvers have six shots and the max you can find is eight shots for a smaller caliber. On the other hand, semi-auto pistols can have far more rounds than that.
This limited ammo capacity, coupled with a slightly longer reloading time somewhat limits the scope of applications for a revolver. Practically anywhere you need more rounds. That’s a reason why revolvers are often carried as backup and not primary.
Revolvers don’t break often. But when they do, you’ll have to employ the services of a competent gunsmith. Plus, revolvers tend to be a tad more expensive than their semi-auto pistol counterparts.
On a side note, double-action revolvers tend to have a heavier and longer trigger pull. Since it’s the trigger that does all the work. Oh, and don’t forget the recoil with heavier calibers. Since there’s no blowback mechanism to mitigate it.
How to Take Advantage of Revolvers
Unlike modern polymer-based semi-auto pistols. Revolvers are an older design and are limited in the scope of accessorization. However, there are specific revolver designs from a few manufacturers that have underbarrel rails and space for small optics. But either these models are rare or pricey.
Additionally, there’s limited scope for gunsmithing an existing revolver to add modern accessories. And if there is, the gunsmithing costs will outweigh the cost of a new revolver with such features.
Luckily, revolvers are as versatile as semi-auto pistols. Even more when available caliber options are concerned. For example, you’ll find revolvers chambered in every handgun caliber from .22lr and all the way up to 44 magnums. The most common of these are .38 revolvers and .357 magnum revolvers.
If you are concerned about the low capacity of revolvers. You may also want to take a look at the best eight-shot revolvers. Maybe you’ll find one that suits your needs. On the contrary, if you are more into traditional guns and participate in cowboy events and reenactments. You can also check out the best black powder revolvers.
There are fixed cylinder, top break cylinder, tip-up cylinder, and swing-out cylinder revolvers. This nomenclature is defined by how the cylinder is used for reloading. With the most common being the swing-out cylinder design. Plus, there are hammerless revolvers available too.
But no matter what revolver you choose. You must always look for an appropriate holster to carry it. A good holster will ensure safety, fast draw, and quick re-holster of the firearm. Leather holsters work best for revolvers. But it also depends upon what you need or like.
Invented in the early nineteenth century, revolvers were the first step towards fast shooting firearms. Now after so many years, these enigmatic guns are still widely popular, revered, and used. A revolver features a reliable and simple design that can be found in almost any caliber.
However, you have to practice a bit to overcome the safety and fast loading concerns. Additionally, there’s a wide range of options out there to choose from.