Revolvers are Efficient
The revolver’s first advantage is efficiency; the revolver requires no manipulation of the gun beyond operating the trigger in order to fire. There are no extra buttons or levers to push, which means that there are no buttons or levers to forget to push.
I’ve watched even highly-trained and experienced shooters forget to deactivate the safety on their autopistols when faced with a new and distracting shooting challenge. I’ve also seen them forget to activate that safety and negligently discharge their guns. These aren’t people who are new to the guns, either. I’m talking about people with hundreds of hours of formal training, some of them police officers who are tasked with training their fellow officers. The more complicated something is, the easier it is to forget something when you’re distracted.
Revolvers are Reliable
Another major attribute of the revolver is reliability; the revolver will generally have a longer mean time between failures than that of even the best autoloaders, meaning that it will shoot more rounds without having mechanical issues that affect its operation. Of course that’s not to say that revolvers never malfunction, only that they do so less often than a self-loading handgun. What’s more, most of the malfunctions that can occur are easily prevented through proper technique or maintenance.
Part of that reliability is the fact that the revolver will shoot a much wider variety of ammunition. With an autoloader it’s necessary to thoroughly test the gun with any specific type of ammunition because they are somewhat picky about bullet weight, shape, and velocity. Many experts hold that an autoloader should be tested with 200 rounds of any ammunition that you expect to use (which today would run into an awful lot of money).
Revolvers Will Fit Anyone
The revolver, more so than the vast majority of autoloaders, makes it easy to get a good fit simply by changing the grips. Because the revolvers’ grip size and shape isn’t dictated by the need to fit a magazine, there is much more leeway in how big or how small the grip can be made. In many cases it’s possible to take a revolver which doesn’t fit the shooter well, make a grip change and end up with a combination that works well.
This is true regardless of whether the gun is too small or too big for the hands. Larger and smaller grips are available, and in extreme cases it’s possible for a gunsmith to modify the grip frame to make an even greater change.
Revolvers Don't Use Mags
Of course, there are no magazines necessary to operate the revolver, which is an often-unappreciated advantage. Magazines are the weak spot for the autoloading pistol – they’re fragile, they wear out, they’re expensive and you have to remember to bring the darned things!
The Revolver Trigger is Heavy
A very real advantage in an adrenalin-charged incident is the long and heavy trigger offered by the revolver. In the confusion of a defensive shooting, there is the very real possibility that fingers will stray into the triggerguard, and there are enough videos of trained police officers inadvertently discharging rounds when in a tense situation – sometimes resulting in death. I would never suggest relying on a heavy trigger as a safety device, but must also acknowledge that it does provide another layer of protection to even the best safety habits.
This article is an excerpt from the new book Defensive Revolver Fundamentals by Grant Cunningham.