A few days ago someone asked me to post something I had written. He wanted something instructional after reading my "scope ring lapping and torquing" reply. So here is something about revolvers. I hope it is not too long. Let’s discuss revolvers, and some of their Pros/Cons. Smith & Wesson (S&W), Colt and Ruger are traditionally called the Big 3. Taurus, Rossi, High Standard, Dan Wesson, Webley, H&R, Charter Arms, Korth, etc have their following but space is limited. Mechanics and ergonomics. S&W steel framed revolvers are forged. The older ones have forged parts, while the newew ones have MIM parts. They have inherently excellent triggers, or triggers that can be made smooth and crisp. However, the triggers themselves on S&W revolvers tend to be serrated (sharp), unless you have the smooth “combat trigger”. On my S&W’s I have ground the serrations off and reshaped the lower part of the trigger to eliminate finger tip rub which causes blisters after a couple of hundred rounds of DA firing. The S&W trigger action has a “stacking” feeling near the end of travel, followed by a slight “click” just before it fires. This staging allows for consistent DA firing with a bit of practice. The “humped” backstrap of the grip frame on S&W’s fills the hand, but also focuses recoil back into the hand. S&W uses aluminum, titanium and scandium in their lightweight/airweight revolvers. They were also the first to use stainless steel in a production revolver (M60). Colt trigger action is very smooth, but in my experience Colt revolvers have been more fragile than the S&W competing model. Colt DA triggers also generally seem to get heavier as the trigger is squeezed. Colts tend to have very finely fitted parts which can make them prone to jamming. Great on the range, terrible in the dirt. Ruger DA revolvers can have really nice triggers, but the guns themselves are “clunkier”. While ridiculously strong, the Ruger cast frames tend to be much bigger and beefier than the corresponding S&W (or Colt). They are heavy to carry. The flatter backstraps of the new model Ruger DA revolvers like the GP100, SP101 and Super Redhawk help with felt recoil. The grip “post” also makes customizing grip sizes a snap. In the Ruger single actions, the “Bisley” grip frame helps tame felt recoil by a great deal. Ruger single action revolvers flat out rock. In double action revolvers, I prefer S&W. The S&W design has stood the test of time, parts are plentiful and the guns are very easy to work on. Reliability and durability. Revolvers in general are much less reliable than semi auto pistols. The popular opinion is that revolvers are idiot proof and can’t be “jammed”. This is dead wrong, and unfortunately has been repeated so often that most believe it to be true. Here is why. Revolvers are an “open action” firing mechanism with many nooks and crannies where dirt and debris can hide. But each of those nooks and crannies is there for a reason. They hold various parts in place or are “ratchet stops” for other moving parts. When they are clogged with dirt, powder, sand, lint, etc the gun does not function right. A few flakes of unburned gun powder underneath the ejector star of a DA revolver can take it out of the game by not allowing the cylinder to rotate correctly. Or unburned powder under the crane (the hinge on which the cylinder swings out) can keep the cylinder from closing completely and will take it out of action. How about a bent crane? (Never flip open/closed the cylinder on a DA revolver as it tends to bend the crane. This is called “Five-O’ing”). How about an ejector rod that comes unscrewed minutely either locking the cylinder open, or closed? Or a bent ejector rod? (One good pistol whipping can bend the rod). Bent ejector rods led to the adoption of protective shrouds that cover the rod, but if anything gets jammed into this shroud the gun won't work. These are all things that I have seen take a revolver out of action, but this list of frailties is far from complete. The Sand Box Test. The sand box test (or Box Test) is when a (loaded) firearm is dropped into a box filled with sand, or dirt, or flour, or any other medium. Then, more sand is poured over the gun and the box is shaken for a few seconds to get the sand everywhere. After this, the gun is removed, shaken off and fired. Revolvers tend to fail the “sand box” test almost every time. Decent quality semi autos tend to pass the “sand box” test with flying colors. Semi auto pistols shed the sand better and keep working better than revolvers. This test also demonstrates the problems with over lubricating, as any sand that sticks to exposed lube will not shake free. Then when the gun is “worked” the sand gets into areas where it will “jam” up the action. Anything that hinders the rotation of the cylinder of a revolver will cause it to stop working. Anything that keeps the cylinder from locking up at the right place (timing) can affect its ability to fire. Something as simple as lint from a pocket or purse can stop a revolver from working. It does not take sand to stop a revolver. Accuracy. Revolver chambers are not a part of the barrel. They are contained inside the rotating cylinder, and each chamber will vary slightly from it's neighbors. There is a minute gap between the cylinder face and the rear of the barrel (the forcing cone). So every time the gun is fired, the bullet “jumps” the gap from the chamber to the barrel. Technically speaking, this should seriously affect accuracy, but a high quality revolver will be very accurate. The sights on revolvers are fixed to the barrel and frame, essentially locked down. Semi auto pistols have a one piece chamber and barrel, but most of them have the sights mounted on the slide which is a separate unit from the barrel. I don’t find (practical) accuracy to be an issue with revolvers, compared to semi autos, though technically the semi auto will be more accurate. Longevity. Here is one area where revolvers may really shine. If a revolver is left fully loaded (and not cocked) all of the springs are at rest. Hypothetically it could be left for 1,000 years and as long as the powder and primers were still active and the metal had not rusted away it could be picked up and fired. Semi autos have a weakness that revolvers don’t have. They rely on the spring tension in the magazine to feed the gun. Now, I have used 1911 mags that were left loaded for 50 years and they worked perfectly, so in a practical sense this may not be an issue. And springs today are vastly better than they were 50 years ago. It is repeated loading and unloading of magazines that wear out the springs, not leaving them loaded for long periods. But the revolver is almost "spring neutral". Calibers. Revolvers traditionally handle magnum calibers that are not used in mainstream semi autos. While semi autos (LAR, Coonan, Desert Eagles, Wildey, AMT Automag, etc) have been chambered in magnum calibers, most magnum calibers are found in revolvers. And the versatility to handle non-magnun calibers in some magnum revolvers allows revolvers to be efficiently used for self defense as well as hunting (.44Mag/.44Special, .357Mag/.38Special, etc). Cycling speed (Speed of operation) A double action revolver is faster to operate than a semi auto pistol. Yes, faster. Semi autos rely on the expanding gasses of the fired round to cycle the action. While this happens extremely fast, it is still relying on inertia to cycle the gun every time it is fired. A double action revolver uses a purely mechanical linkage. It can cycle as fast as the trigger is pulled. Ed McGivern was an exhibition shooter and the fastest pistol shooter in the world. He used S&W "N" frame revolvers for all of his exhibition shooting. He once decided to try a 1911, but found that he could not get his trigger finger to go slow enough to allow the gun to "catch up". He found the 1911 to operate in slow motion, and went back to his revolvers. And Ed McGivern's revolvers were stock. Just the way they came from S&W. Operation. S&W uses a latch that gets pushed forward to unlock the cylinder, allowing it to swing open for loading/unloading. Colt has a latch that gets pulled to the rear. Ruger has a button that gets pushed straight into the frame. Charter Arms has a series of revolvers designed for left handed shooters. They have the cylinder latch on the right side, convenient for southpaws, and the cylinder swings out on the left side. Some revolvers (Webleys, some H&R's, and some old S&W's) have frames that "break open" on top and have an "auto eject" feature for the empties. But these are not "mainstream" designs. They all work fine and are easy to learn. The S&W latch tends to have sharp edges, though, making it easy to slice open the thumb if the gun is held wrong, or mis-handled during reloading. Loading. Loading can be done with individual rounds, speed strips, moon/half moon clips, and speed loaders. Each has pros and cons. The moon/half moon clips are typically used to fire rounds without protruding rims in revolvers (9mm, .45ACP, 10mm). My preferred method of carrying spare revolver ammo is in Speed Strips. The ones I use are made by Bianchi and are made of a hard rubber. They hold 6 rds in a straight line, and they fit very flat in my pocket. Many shooters use speed loaders. These are little gizmos that hold a full charge of fresh ammo, which can be used to reload all the chambers of a revolver in one smooth motion. Safariland makes some of the most used and liked speedloaders (push straight in to drop the ammo), though I prefer the HKS (twist the knob to drop the ammo) which have fallen out of favor. The old Dade Machine Screw speedloaders were awesome, though they did often dump the rounds prematurely (they used a small coil spring to hold the rounds). They were best used by someone really experienced in their use. Moon/Half Moon clips are fast! The whole clip drops into the cylinder and gets cycled through. When ready to eject, the empties come out as one complete unit (moon), or two separate units (half moon). Some "third moon" clips were made that hold two rounds. Third/Half/Moon clips are used with rimless calibers. If loading individual rounds, I suggest learning to load two at a time. Practice makes perfect. This was by no means a thorough discussion of revolvers, but is a good start. Learning to run a DA revolver hard takes a lot of practice, but it is worth it. For serious use, get in the habit of using double action at all times. Target shooting or hunting can benefit from a crisp single action trigger pull, but in a life or death situation the single action pull is too light. The resistance of a smooth DA pull will actually help you create good muscle memory/habit. Used police trade ins are a good source of affordable DA revolvers, though supplies are running out. Get them before they are all gone and you are lamenting "the good old days". Revolvers are archaic and outdated, but I love them. 20 more years and they could be the new "black powder resurgence". So, did anyone actually read this?