Revolver Vs. Auto for CCW?

Revolver Vs. Auto for CCW?
Revolvers are still a perfectly viable option for self-defense.

What's best for concealed carry and what starts an argument between gun owners faster than anything else? Try this: Revolver vs. auto. Consider the pros and cons of each when you choose your sidearm.

If you really want to start an argument you can tell your wife you are buying a motorcycle or you tell someone which handgun is best for concealed carry — revolver vs. auto. Being single, I haven't had a good argument in a long time, so maybe it is time to poke the hive by taking a look at the pros and cons of pistols vs revolvers when it comes to CCW guns.

Polymer pistols are lightweight and offer lots of ammo, but are they perfect for you?

First, let's look at the obvious: Ammo capacity. Most, semi-autos win in that category BUT! we need to be aware of something. More often than not, you will not need all those rounds. FBI stats show that most gunfights see between three and six rounds expended. Now, in the unlikely event that you find yourself in an active shooter situation, you will still likely only fire a few rounds during the engagement. So, a revolver would work very well in such a situation as long as you fire accurately. Accuracy should be important with any handgun in a deadly force incident.

While we are on the topic of ammo, yes, reloads are faster with pistols. But with practice you can get pretty fast with a speed-loader for your wheelgun. But speedloaders are bulky and round, not like a slim and sleek magazine for your pistol.  Seems like the edge is going to the pistol so far. But wait…

Looks like reliability is making a late charge for the front. You know that in a defensive pistol pretty much everything is negotiable accept reliability. The defensive pistol must fire every time you squeeze the trigger. Unless, of course, you have fired your six and need to reload. But the old police mantra was very true: Six for sure. The truth is there are precious few things that can go wrong to make a revolver stop firing. Oh, there are things, but when you consider the complicated path each round from an autoloader must endure (fire, unlock, extract, eject, re-chamber, lock fire) the simplicity of a revolver is wonderful.

Of course this is not to say that a revolver is and will be perfectly reliable at all times. Hammer spurs might get hung up if you don't have the right holster. You might bend the crane or ejector rod. I have seen bullets move forward in their cases because

Revolvers are still a perfectly viable option for self-defense.

of high recoil and by the fourth round the mechanism was jammed. So, yes, revolvers can jam, but it is less likely. Along with reliability comes simplicity, or is that vice versa?  Either way: you pick up a revolver, aim at the target and pull the trigger. No levers or locks or anything else to think about. It is truly a point and shoot interface.

So where does that leave us? Ah, overall weight. One can purchase some very lightweight revolvers these days. Some of those guns in .357 Magnum are punishing to shoot, but easy to carry. You know what they say, “If the gun is too heavy to carry, you will leave it home when you need it.” But, then again, there are some pretty lightweight polymer pistols as well. But it is hard to beat a J-frame Airweight revolver for ease of carry.

So, in the end, I guess this argument as become pretty circular. Pistol, revolver… you make the call. Pick out the gun that works best for your needs and keep it with you. Remember the first rule of a gunfight: Have a gun.


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  1. One of the aspects of the revolver vs auto debate that is rarely discussed is trigger weight. Most factory new revolvers have a 10-12lb triggers. Many modern service pistols have 5-7 lb triggers. All other things being equal a lighter trigger is easier to shoot accurately, and many shooters will shoot a modern semi auto more accurately than a revolver.

  2. I thought you were starting an argument? Personally, I carry a semi-auto most all the time. Varies between an LCP, Kahr MK40, SAEMP40 & Kimber SCHDPRO; mostly carry the 2nd & 3rd listed and sometimes the LCP as backup. As for Revolvers, I would actually say I think too that they are more reliable (not that I’ve had any trouble with any of the guns mentioned), but revolvers are simple. The only issue I ever had were rounds that must have had to a high a pressure and they did not want to eject (they were factory rounds too). The sad part, it was a J frame model 632 327magnum. Never had any trouble with my model 686+ or 629, but they are a little on the large side for CCW; except in colder months. When I find a holster I like I just might start carrying the 686+ with the 3″ barrel. I actually find it extremely accurate and quicker for follow up shots that are accurate compared to most semi-autos. I also don’t notice accuracy variances with different brands of ammo as I do with semi-autos. Yep, I like my 7 shot 357/38 if you desire, but it’s a bit hefty; so are the EMP and the Kimber SCHDPRO. The model 632 327magnum is a nasty little bugger for recoil, I can only imagine what a 357 must be like in a J frame (never shot one, yet) or a Scandium J frame, even better . . .

  3. My two favorite handguns for CCW use are a S&W Model 442 with its concealed hammer and a Kahr CW40. Both have Crimson Trace laser sights and are loaded witht he best JHP ammo I can find in either .38 Special +P or .40 S&W caliber. The Smith is the odds-on pick for summer wear as I can put it in a pocket holster and wear cargo-type shorts that conceal it and the speed-strip of extra ammo. When I have more clothing on, out comes the Kahr. I have various holsters for it, but lately favor the Versa-Carry device that allows for IWB use without a bulky holster. I have confidnece that I can get the job done with either handgun and the laser sight aids in fast target recognition/aquisition, plus has an intimidation factor.


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