About the only real benefit I have seen mentioned pro revolver is the "You can't limp wrist a revolver" argument, which is a very good one 10-3-10 Edited to add:
Also of note regarding a revolver vs. semi-auto argument is that while using an auto at close proximity to your attacker you risk forcing the gun out of battery if the muzzle end of the slide is making contact with the body or the slide getting interfered with while shooting resulting in a jam, with a revolver this is a non-issue.
I'm just not getting the revolver thing. I like them and have a number of them. But I'm finding that many of the revolver claims are not very accurate. I understand the nostalgia and affection for revolvers, I have that too, but I’m speaking from a self-defense perspective only.
From this it could be deduced that I’m anti-revolver, but that’s not the case at all. I’ve been carrying my S&W Model 60 a lot lately. But for those that say they wouldn’t feel under-gunned with a revolver, I have to say, between a five shot, slow reload, requiring high manual dexterity under extreme pressure, apparently I’m failing to see the logic of choosing a five shot over a 15 shot.
Here are the typical claims:
1- they're light
2- they're compact
3- they're reliable
4- insensitivity to ammo
5- simple failure to fire drill - just pull the trigger again
6- they’re easier to shoot – just point and shoot, i.e. no safetys, decockers, etc.
1- Well they're light if you get the airweight models. E.g. my S&W 340 (I think that's the model) weighs 12 oz. But that's not the whole story. That light weight is carry friendly, but I've yet to hear of anyone that enjoys shooting it. The standard response is "You won't feel recoil in a gunfight." You may not but you cannot avoid the effects of it, and heavy recoil, as with the airweight snubs will have to be dealt with. I think that also suggest that more training and practice would be wise for these hard recoiling guns.
What if you don't get the airweight?
My stainless steel S&W model 60 weighs 22.5 oz and my Glock 17 (full size) weighs 22 oz. So now we have a snubby you can shoot some, but it weighs more than a full size Glock.
2- they're compact
They aren’t nearly as compact as you might think. I laid my model 60 over my G17, so that the butts are even, the only difference I see is the G17 (full size) barrel/slide is about a half inch longer. The height is essentially the same, but I do need to say that I have the longer grip on my model 60.
Yeah, but what about the shorter grip j-frames? Well they are shorter than a G17 but if we move to a more appropriate comparison, the G26, the j-frame will be longer and as tall or more so than the G26 and the G26 has less recoil, holds twice as many rounds, and weighs less to boot.
Then there’s the sight radius. The more compact a gun is, the shorter the sight radius, which many feel leads to proportionally less accuracy. But there is a very interesting difference between a subcompact revolver and a subcompact semi-auto. The rear sight of a semi-auto is at or behind the web of the thumb and index finger. The rear sight on any revolver is an inch to inch and a half or so in front of the web. The significance of that is that with a comparably sized auto and revolver, the semi is gonna have about a 1” – 1-1/2” longer sight radius.
3- they’re reliable – yes, they are, more so than a semi? Do we really know that? More reliable in what sense? Is a revolver more reliable than a semi if they get dropped in sand? I had an opportunity to talk to a Border Patrol officer that worked when revolvers were the issued handgun. He said he use to always carry a backup just like his issue revolver under his coat. He said the reason was, even though it was against regulations, was because if he got in a struggle that wound up on the ground (sand), there was a good possibility his main carry revolver wouldn’t work.
I talked to a long time Gunsite instructor about revolvers and he said he accidentally dropped a j frame in the sand and it locked up. He had to take it home and take it apart to get it working again. I believe it was in that same class that a student lost his Beretta 92fs in a draw and fire drill. The gun went end over end for about 10ft and then skidded to a stop in about another 5 feet. He picked up his gun, blew it off and continued.
I was practicing a one hand reload drill and my 686 fell from my waist band. It hit the ground and when I picked it up the cylinder wouldn’t close. I had to take it home to fix it. But so much for abuse that we know a SD will never get; we’ll leave those issues with the Border Patrol and other professionals.
Massod Ayoob tells the story of a LEO that pulled his j-frame from his coat pocket and the gun wouldn’t fire. IIRC, the LEO was killed in the incident. They found that pocket lint had got behind the hammer and wouldn’t let it travel far enough to fire.
But the point here is, if we’re gonna claim more reliability, we need to define what we mean by reliable. I would presume one that would be pointed out is a semis’ failure to feed, etc. I took a Sig 226 police trade in to Blackwater, fired 2500 rounds through it and didn’t have a single failure. I took a Glock 21 to Blackwater and fired 2500 rounds and never had a failure. I took a 1911 I built to Gunsite and fired 1200 rounds without a failure. I took another 1911 I built to Thunder Ranch and fired 1200 rounds through it and some of that started with the gun on the ground in the dirt, in the dark, and we even had to change positions so we wouldn’t know which/whose gun we were getting. Again, not a single failure to load or fire.
4- insensitive to ammo – my thought - ok, and your point? This purported advantage usually takes the form of you can put just about anything in a revolver and it will shoot it – that can’t be said for semi’s. Weeeeell, maybe, maybe not. Those ultra-light revolvers that are so comfortable to carry are well known for unseating bullets from their cases via the heavy recoil. More than one revolver has been locked up from this because the bullet has unseated enough to prevent the cylinder from rotating. Yeah, but who’s going to do that you say? Well who’s gonna put ammo in a semi that could cause problems? You see what I’m saying – what goes for one goes for another.
Another issue is the wide range of loads a revolver will shoot vs a more limited range for semis. Well, that’s true enough, but so what? We’re talking self-defense, we should know what works in our gun and what doesn’t. Most guns, esp. Glocks and I think more so Sigs, shoot just about any range ammo and SD ammo you can put in them and very reliably. Moreover, Bullseye shooters download their loads so low you wonder if they’ll reach the target. Well a bit of an exaggeration perhaps but the point is they use really low power loads and their 1911s still cycle them – they just tune their gun for the load. But that’s a very specialized event, and most semi’s will shoot any SD load you put in them. If they won’t handle something well, there’s lots more to choose from they will handle well. The point here is that how wide of a range of ammo do we need for a SD gun? I mean are there times we need to download our SD loads? None that I ever heard of.
5- simple failure to fire drill - just pull the trigger again. Well that is true, but that’s not quite the whole story again. If a round fails to fire in a revolver, you’re capacity just went from 5 to 4 for the entire gunfight. I think I’d just as soon rack the slide and go again.
6- they’re easier to shoot – just point and shoot, i.e. no safetys, decockers, etc. What about Glocks, Sig DAKs, and other DAO semis? Can’t the very same thing be said about them? Sure. But here’s what’s interesting: a short while back I posted a thread about long triggers. Many made the case for short trigger pulls being easier to shoot than heavier long trigger pulls. Very, very few of the revolver aficionados showed up to defend the long, heavy trigger pull on their revolvers. Does that mean that revolvers are more difficult to master because of the long trigger pull? Does that mean more training time is needed? Revolvers still easier to shoot?
In conclusion, and I know you’re glad to see that, I’m puzzled by what all the todo is about revolvers. As you can see the claims typically made are quite misleading and aside from our affection toward revolvers, I don’t see the utility.