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Is the modern revolver still a viable choice for self defense? I don’t have any statistical data, but Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Kimber, Colt and the rest don’t seem to be hurting for wheelgun business. Interest in carrying revolvers is greater than I have seen in a long time. The question: is it still a good idea?

Revolvers get a bad rap by many a gun guru. The problem is, a lot of their arguments have valid points.

The revolver’s long double action trigger requires skill to master. Wheelguns are lower capacity firearms. Reloading is crucial — and very challenging to master. When your life may depend on hitting your assailants, these are no small matters.

You will notice ‘assailants’ is plural. One of the main drawbacks I see to carrying a revolver every day is, it’s a one-man gun.

Many armed Americans carry a revolver and hope for the best. They hope the mere presentation of a firearm will deter an attack. Or that perforating one bad guy will make the rest scatter. And it just might.

I’m more inclined to prepare for the worst, though. In my mind, any lethal confrontation is a worst-case scenario. Add multiple attackers and a revolver carrier may truly be in a bad way.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver
Dan Thurs for TTAG

Some people only carry a revolver as a backup weapon to their primary semi-automatic firearm. While I have done so more times than I can count, I’m not comfortable carrying a different platform from my primary gun. Not only is the platform different, the guns fire different ammunition (usually 9mm and .38 Special).

As training resources are limited (and ammunition is scarce and expensive), I have a hard time justifying spending time practicing with something I may use.

What I'm Carrying Now revolvers
Courtesy SLD

The time you have to put into shooting smaller, more recoil-sensitive “back-up” revolvers isn’t the issue. With lighter, less recoiling training rounds you can increase the round count to gain the expertise you need. It’s the time needed to master revolver reloads, along with the challenges of carrying these reloads that present the greatest challenge.

Proficiency volume is relative, but (while maintaining strict standards) the higher the volume, the higher the proficiency level. Getting more time on the longer double action triggers should be a top priority — balanced with the ability to reload under a variety of conditions.

Whatever your preference for carrying revolver reloads — loose rounds, speed loaders or speed strips — practice is the key. Marksmanship requires lots of live fire training. Use that time to practice your reloads.

When it comes to marksmanship I remind folks that it’s the Indian, not the arrow. Even short-barreled revolvers with low profile sights are still plenty accurate, especially for personal defense use.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll never have to shoot your snubby at longer distances, though. But be proportionate in your training. If you think there’s an 80 percent chance of using your revolver at close ranges (inside five yards) then use 20 percent of your range time shooting at longer distances.

Well, maybe not that long. You don’t have to develop Miculek-style revolver shooting skills. You just need to be proficient. Another way of looking at that is, you want to suck less than the bad guy.

Modern day revolvers really haven’t gone anywhere. There are millions of them out there and plenty of people who are still buying them. Lots of gun owners prefer them for home defense and EDC use and more people are recognizing they’re not just a backup option. Just remember making that choice means you’ll need more time practicing and training.

 

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned to the world at large. He is the president of Trident Concepts in Austin, Texas. 



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