Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Revolver Like

Frank James pines wistfully for lost popularity of revolvers

I came late to the shooting game. I’m not the youngun type he describes as I have recently passed the 4-0 line. But I came to the shooting hobby late, so there was every chance I’d have youngun sensibilities and eschew revolvers as well. But longtime readers know that I have old fashioned ideas…

As a kid, when my imagination was easily capturable and paradigms were set in my head, revolvers were still what the police carried. And, knowing then, sensibly, that I didn’t know how semis ‘worked,’ revolvers had an appeal. Years and years before I bought a gun I pictured situations where I’d actually deploy one legitimately. I puzzled through in my head that if I needed one, worst case, it would be a stressful situation, and it’d be at 3AM, and I’d have been woken from a sound sleep and not quite mentally in the game yet. A revolver would be handy to have, as I wouldn’t have to consider whether I needed to disengage a safety or rack a slide or all that other mysterious stuff you needed to do with a semi that I didn’t yet know. I figured by this time I’d have learned the operation of any semi-auto I might have bought, but under stress or groggy my chances of forgetting EVERYTHING right at that moment was forefront in my mind. And this is my teenage or preteen brain working this all out.

You know what? It still applies. I’ve taken classes, and I’ve shot thousands of rounds by this point but just a couple weeks ago I flubbed a shot in training with the instructor using the shot clock to introduce some stress. I drew and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber of the Sig P229. Like most gun owners, some of my guns are actually loaded. The big revolver and the snubbie, and the 1911 and the Sig all are ready to go with self defense ammo. But to avoid a discharge with the semis and also to cut back on setback of the top round in the magazine, there is no round chambered. In a stressful situation I’d be pulling the trigger on the 1911 until I figured out the safety was on. Then I’d be pulling the trigger on the 1911 until I figured out there was no round in the pipe. And then it would be too late. And that is why they stay in the safe while the revolvers are accessible in the bedroom.

It will take a bit more training and a bit more familiarity before I deployed a semi auto, or a pump shotgun, for a 3AM gun.

So back to Farmer Frank going wistful for revolvers… Some of us relative younguns still like them. You know what else? I shoot the revolvers ok, too. I won’t win bullseye competitions with my Double Action work, (or Single Action for that matter, but I, naturally, do better with SA. Not that I’d do SA for self-defense) but I do hit the target well enough and fast enough with my wheelguns. Even with the snubbie. I just like the revolver. I am comfortable with it. They are good tools.

Am I, and people like me and Frank and all the other people with a medium sized revolver jones, just retrograde throwbacks, or will, maybe, revolvers make a comeback? It’d be hard to get an enthusiastic comeback among a new generation. Even upgrades to the basic design like polymer frames isn’t snazzy enough to really turn an eye. Hell, titanium wasn’t enough. Rhino type revolvers and .410 shot shooting revolvers, the same applies, I think. Not enough to rekindle the old revolver flame in a new generation and make it a truly big resurgence. And revolvers are more expensive. You can buy 2 glocks for the price of one good six gun. I believe there is a lot more hand work at manufacture that requires expensive skilled workers we just don’t have anymore and also the resultant bottleneck in manufacturing time throttling production. Simple economics.

I personally like the concept S&W came up with in a revolver upgrade. An 8-shot full size .357 with stuff like a light rail and big tritium front sight. It’s expensive, but if it had been around when I bought the 686, and I knew of its existence, I’d have jumped on it. Sometimes I have fanciful notions of dumping my semi-autos and buying XD40’s because I shoot them well, they are simple, and are all I’d ever need. Other times I consider dumping my semi-autos and just getting that 8 shot and maybe a slightly larger than my snubbie 6 gun.


What’s the difference in a snubbies accuracy compared to full size, at least in a self-defense situation? You are shooting both DA in dire circumstance, or you probably should be. The shorter sight radius isn’t that big a factor at social distances. The inherent accuracy out of the shorter barrel isn’t that big a difference… The only thing I can think of is less mass to absorb some of the recoil might make the anticipation worse for a snubbie initially and also for a follow up shot. But if you take the time to get good with a full size double action revolver shot, the snubbie trigger work would be the same of very similar with, say, two Smith and Wesson .38s. Maybe gunstore clerks SHOULD push snubbies for women (and everyone for that matter) with the caveat that they must train and practice with it, a LOT. Hmmm. Well THAT’s opening the well trod internet bugaboo.


Arthur said...

"But to avoid a discharge with the semis and also to cut back on setback of the top round in the magazine, there is no round chambered"

Have you measured the setback on your rounds? On my 9mm and 45 cal Sigs the setback was minimal on my normal rounds. I've since started crimping the case behind the bullets on my SD ammo and now there's no measurable setback even after 10 cycles.

The danger of a negligent discharge is the biggest reason I like DA/SA on my guns - you'd have to be completely oblivious to accidentally fire a Sig in DA mode.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Thing is, I could forsee 50 or more chamberings for that one round. And I didn't want the one time I NEEDED it to be the time the bullet gave way and was set back, with no way to check if it has without unchambering it and chambering it again, adding to the risk.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

I know it is over-cautious. But that's the nature of my head, ATT.

Anonymous said...

how about just shooting the round out in stead of repacking it into the mag.

please don't say it's because they are shiney expensive home defense rounds.

the difference when you need them is small.

bluesun said...

I don't have any revolvers, but count this youngster as one in love with them... there's just something to them that the semi-autos don't have, in my opinion.

JB Miller said...

I like the .357mag defense rounds in my revolver.

My autos all eat the same white bread.

Chris said...

I have two revolvers (and more than a few semi-auto pistols), both S&W: a 340sc AirLite and a 625 N-frame (.45 ACP). Love both of them! Smooth trigger pulls, fit my less-than-average-sized hands well, etc. The J-frame shoots well enough (all rounds in the target's chest cavity area at 10 yards); the 625 shoots like a dream - very accurate! Last weekend at the range, I took three moon clips and just banged away with it at 10 yds as fast as I could re-load, and only 2 of the 18 rounds were outside the target zone. As a so-so shooter, I am quite pleased with that.

Mike W. said...

I keep semi-auto's ready to go with one in the pipe. I'll chamber the same round several times as well. If I know a round has been chambered more than 3-4 times (or I can't remember) then that round gets thrown into a ziplock to be shot the next range session.

I'm not loading / unloading my home defense pistol all that often anyway.

You can also avoid setback issues by cycling a chambered round to the bottom of your mag, then shooting out that mag when all rounds have been chambered.

Ryan said...

If you aren't comfortable with a round in the chamber of a semi auto then don't carry them or use them for defense. Shoot and enjoy them but until you are comfortable with one in the pipe don't rely on them.

The biggest benefit of revolvers for defense is that the failure drill is pulling the trigger again. If pulling the trigger again doesn't work toss the gun at them and move on to some kind of plan B.