Gun Digest

Revolver Selection, Understanding Your Needs

Smith & Wesson’s foray into really big-bore revolvers came with the introduction of the double-action X-frame. This one is chambered in the high-velocity .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum.

Picking a revolver to carry in the woods isn’t necessarily an easy decision or one that should be taken lightly. Your sidearm should become an extension of yourself if you are carrying for protection – from two and four-legged predators.

If your revolver is to be used as a primary hunting tool, you have a bit more leeway in your decision between single and double action. Chances are good that your double-action hunting piece will be shot single action anyhow, negating any advantages—perceived or real—between one type or the other. So, put all of your needs up front when it comes time to make your decision. I’ve compiled a partial list to get you started in singling out what will be your perfect revolver.

Primary Use

What will the revolver be used for? Protection or hunting? Protection against what (this will help determine the caliber)? Double duty? A back-up piece will only need to be accurate at short distances where it will be used to save your bacon, so a short barrel will be preferable.

Carry Method

How will you carry your revolver? On your belt? In a shoulder holster? In a pack? Size, optics and overall weight will help hone in on how you carry your chosen firearm, and your carry preference will also limit your options.


If you are gifted with the vision of an adolescent, then open sights are attractive from a number of perspectives. However, we often need a little help to accurately place our bullets on target. A scope will pretty much limit your revolver to hunting duty, as the long eye relief offered by handgun scopes do not lend themselves to quick acquisition in an emergency situation. You will likely mount a scope on a revolver with a longer barrel for longer shot expectancy. A red dot-type sight offers a bit more flexibility than a scope because it is easier to acquire, yet still adds bulk to the revolver.

Recoil Tolerance

Those sensitive to recoil will find double-action revolvers to be harder on the shooter in the hotter calibers. The recoil tends to come straight back into the hand, whereas a single action tends to want to rise more, deflecting recoil by reducing or redirecting the thrust. Many simply find the single-action revolver, even in large calibers, easier to shoot and not nearly as abusive.

Editor's Note, this article originally appeared in the February 13, 2014 edition of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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