You know, I’ve never thought about it much but I know very little about revolvers. As someone who is a confirmed ballistics and firearms nerd, I’ve never actually learned anything about an entire class of firearms that dominated the personal defense scene for most of modern history. My guest on the podcast today, Justin Carroll, is here to help with that.
Justin is a former a US Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance member turned personal digital security expert. He’s also the Editor and Chief of Revolver Guy. Justin has published articles for GUNS Magazine, American Handgunner, and currently writes for Lucky Gunner Lounge.
Links Mentioned in this Episode
- The Minimum Capable Carbine (Your First AR-15)
- Justin’s interview with Tom Gresham
- Don’t Let Perfection be the Enemy of Good Enough
- Bear attacks and handguns
During this episode, we covered three main areas of conversation including how Justin came to the world of revolvers over the “traditional” semi-automatic pistols he was accustomed to carrying, some common myths surrounding revolvers, and what to look for when purchasing one for yourself.
Picking Up the Revolver (5:30)
Even though Justin served in a specialized military unit, he had the same experience that I and many other military members had when it came to small arms training: nothing formal. For most of us, pistol training consisted of a short safety introduction, weapon disassembly and inspection, and a quick qualification on the range.
The reason he started shooting revolvers was two-fold. First, the traditional revolver is legal in all 50 states and avoids any legal entanglements with magazine capacity. Secondly, revolvers represent an entire class of firearm that a significant portion of the shooting community ignores.
I liken this to learning to drive a stick shift vehicle. Automatic transmissions are so common these days that many, if not most, drivers on the road don’t even know how to drive a manual transmission anymore.
Once he got started, he threw himself fully into the new class of pistol. After selling all of his semi-autos, Justin carried and competed with revolvers as much as he could. While he has since come back to his semi-autos, and carries a 1911 daily, Justin still very much appreciates revolvers.
As a personal story, the closest I came to buying a revolver was when I lived in Montana and did a lot of back woods hiking. I believed, wrongly it seems, that my 1911 or Beretta 92A1 wouldn’t be enough to defend myself against wildlife. While this is a good use case for a magnum revolver, studies do show that even a 9mm has a pretty good success rate.
Other Benefits of Revolvers over Semi Autos
Something I hadn’t considered before this interview is the fact that revolvers are ammunition agnostic. They are not dependent on your ammunition to ensure consistent reliable feeding. You also have the benefit of being able to shoot multiple cartridges in the same revolver, such as both .357 magnum and .38 special.
Revolvers can also be chambered in more powerful cartridges in general.
Another benefit is the simplified manual of arms. Simply pull the trigger and it goes bang.
However, while getting the gun into action is very quick and easy other things like reloads become much more complicated.
The Ideal Revolver Audience (14:10)
Justin mentioned Caleb Gettings, of Gun Nuts Media, who talked about a sort of “bell curve” for revolvers shooters.
In this depiction, revolvers are a good option for people at the very far left of the curve and the very far right of the curve, but for different reasons.
On the left end of the curve, the rank beginner, the simplified manual of arms for bringing the revolver into action is a benefit. There are no safeties to be concerned with and fewer concerns over proper grip so as to avoid malfunctions. Checking if the weapon is loaded is very simple, only requiring a look across the rear of the cylinder.
Also at this end is the fact that revolvers are very tolerant of neglect. Think of the classic image of someone purchasing a revolver and leaving it in a locked box for years or decades at a time. Whereas a magazine-fed weapon will likely have issues with spring tension at that point, revolvers do not rely on such things to function.
That’s not to say that they are tolerant of abuse, they are not. But we have to separate neglect from abuse.
On the other end of the spectrum, they are very useful for experts who spend a lot of time practicing the manual of arms. At this end, there are some situations such as contact-distance shots that might interfere with a semi-auto’s function, but the revolver will still shoot.
In the middle, though, where we have “moderately skilled” individuals like many of us. We practice enough to have the basics down and effectively manage the pistol. We know and follow good maintenance practices, and take advantage of increased capacity. But we also don’t practice enough to master the complicated manual of arms for reloading and malfunctions that come with revolvers.
Revolver Mythbusting (24:36)
In this portion, we spent some time going over common misconceptions about revolvers. Due to pop culture, or just bad information passed down from our fathers, revolvers have a mystique about them. So what are some of these myths?
If your revolver malfunctions, just pull the trigger again (WRONG)
In reality, this only solves one specific type of malfunction. However, in the gamut of malfunctions that may happen, just pulling the trigger again will not fix and may even make things worse.
We go over several of the ways that revolvers can go wrong, such as:
- Debris under the ejector star
- Loose ejector rod
- Out of time
- Misaligned chamber and bore
- Parts breakage
The bottom line is that if you shoot them enough, they will break.
Revolvers are an older design, and therefore simpler [WRONG]
This is a subjective myth based on our definition of “simple.” But the bottom line is that revolvers involve a lot of parts making connections via angles. Parts must be fitted and timed together, or the weapon will not function.
Snubnose revolvers are good for beginners [WRONG]
Justin admits to being a sort of crusade against small revolvers. While they have their place, especially with shooters willing to put in the time and work to master them, a small revolver is all-around more difficult to shoot and manage.
Dry Fire (36:36)
In this portion, Justin talks about his mission to dry fire 10 minutes per day for an entire year. I thought this was an extremely good part of the conversation and jives with what many experts have told me. There is no escaping the work, and you have to work towards proficiency.
Buying a Revolver and associated gear (42:35)
There’s a lot of compromises that go into the selection and use of gear. Unlike common semi-auto pistols, there isn’t a huge list of manufacturers lining up to make accessories and holsters. Even more, you have to really think about considerations like your reload technique.
Justin highlights that there are several different revolver reloading techniques, and which one you subscribe to determines things like which side you carry your spare ammunition on.
In particular, he likes the Universal Revolver Reload technique, seen in this video here, among others.
After watching this, I think of all the times people have repeated that you don’t have any fine motor skills under stress. Revolvers do seem to involve a lot more fine motor movement than a classic pistol reload.
When it comes time to buy your first revolver, Justin had some advice.
The first thing you need to do is define your use case. Is this a defensive tool for carry? Is it a backwoods gun? How about a range toy?
Answering those questions determines what kind of caliber and size you’re looking for.
After that, pick a quality brand such as Ruger, Smith & Wesson, or Colt. After that, it gets subjective. How does the trigger feel to you? What about the sights? Does the grip fit your hand?
Questions & Answers
In this last little bit, we covered some questions you guys submitted ahead of time. Things like maintenance schedules and practices, and common parts breakage come up.
Also do not do the Hollywood spin-cylinder-and-slap-it-closed move. You’re not demonstrating that you know what you’re doing, and you might damage the gun.
That concludes another episode of Everyday Marksman Radio. If you want to read more about what Justin has to say, be sure to check out his site, Revolver Guy.
Justin is also active in our forums here at The Everyday Marksman. So be sure to let him know what you thought of the interview here in the comments or in the community.
I definitely learned a lot from this discussion, and its prodded me a bit to consider expanding my practice regime. Just like learning to drive a stick shift, there is value in learning to run a revolver and the different manual of arms it entails.