"I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you better ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?" Ryan from Handgun Radio joins the show to talk to us about revolvers in episode 42 entitled, Revolvers 101.
Welcome to Practically Tactical Episode 42 brought to you by the Firearms Radio Network! The Practically Tactical Show features a round table discussion about guns, gear, and shooting. Tonight’s show the panel will talking with Ryan Michad, host of Handgun Radio here on the Firearms Radio Network
Ryan Michad Host of Handgun Radio
Part 1 - Revolvers - Revolvers have been around since the early to mid 1800’s. Early on, there were “revolver” type weapons commonly known as “Pepperboxes”. Pepperbox handguns used several barrels that rotated around an axis. One would load the barrels and have several repeatable shots, which was quite an advantage during the age of single shot muzzleloading handguns. In 1836, Samuel Colt came up with the idea to have a revolving cylinder with chambers, and have one single, unmoving barrel. This would increase accuracy, and reduce the bulk of the handgun, as well as making it far simpler to operate than the pepperbox. Colt started out with the “Paterson” revolver, so named because the original Colt factory was started in Paterson, New Jersey. The Paterson was a five shot percussion revolver that utilized some of the then-new technology that the industrial revolution was bringing to the forefront in firearms manufacturing. The Paterson found great favor among lawmen, including the Texas Rangers. It allowed the Rangers to have a firearm that could be fired repeatedly five times before having to stop to reload. In an era of mostly single-shot firearms, this was a HUGE advantage. Later on, two individuals by the name of Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson imagined a concept of having a revolver that utilized a self-contained metallic cartridge and loaded from the rear. A former Colt engineer by the name of Rollin White held the patent to a bored-through cylinder (something that was actually rejected by Sam Colt) and allowed the two men to use the idea. With that, the company Smith & Wesson was born, starting with the S&W No. 1 revolver in .22 Short. From there, revolver development accelerated rapidly, with larger calibers becoming available and better designs becoming available as well. Oftentimes, European designers sometimes led the pack; this is evident with the French 1873 Revolver. Issued in the same era where the U.S. Military was using the single-action Colt Model P or “Peacemaker”, the French were issuing a big-bore double-action revolver to their military. Things progressed from there and we ended up where we are today.
Current Currently, we are in the golden era of double-action revolvers. Advances in machinery, materials and manufacturing have done wonders for the revolver market. One example of this is the new Smith & Wesson Model 929 Jerry Miculek signature model. It utilizes a stainless steel frame, a Performance Center custom tuned action and a titanium cylinder (which reduces the rotating mass, thereby improving the trigger pull). We use precision machinery to have tolerances and repeatability that was unheard of years earlier. Stuff that was once necessary to have hand-fitted can oftentimes (but not always) be done with some pretty sophisticated machinery.
Part 2 - Types Of Revolvers Revolvers, whether or not they are cartridge firing or blackpowder, percussion revolvers are divided into two main categories: Single-Action and Double-Action.
- Single-Action: The revolver requires the hammer to be pulled back after each shot in order to advance the cylinder and prepare the next round for firing. Pulling the trigger without the hammer being pulled back will do nothing. Old examples of this include the Colt Single Action Army. New examples include the North American Arms Mini-Revolvers, all of which are single-action revolvers.
- Double-Action: Probably the most encountered revolver type out there. The DA revolver can EITHER be cocked manually like the single-action revolver, or the user can just pull the trigger through the entire stroke, which will bring the hammer back and then let it drop, firing the revolver. Most defensive revolvers are DA revolvers. Many of these revolvers have the single-action notch removed and have the hammer spur ground down for defensive use. This mainly negates any argument that the user cocked the revolver, thereby resulting in a light trigger pull and a “negligent” discharge in a defensive situation.
Part 3 - How Do They Work
In terms of reloading, there are several main types of revolvers: Loading Gate/Ejection Rod combinations, Top Break automatic ejection, and finally the most popular, the side-swing out cylinder.
- Function Early on, cartridge firing revolvers, whether single or double action, had a fixed firing pin mounted on the face of the hammer. This firing pin protruded through the recoil shield and into the cylinder window. This would leave the pin resting on an empty cartridge. This is why you hear people say to carry single-actions (and double-actions that are not fairly modern) with only 5 rounds in the cylinder, with the hammer resting on an empty chamber. If the gun is loaded with 6 and then the user drops it, they run the risk of having an accidental discharge and potentially injuring someone.
Part 4 - Calibers
Revolvers are known for their bigger punch calibers right? Yes. Because revolvers do not depend on chamber pressure, gas port pressure, bullet construction, etc. they can be far more versatile in terms of calibers. The most popular calibers are .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special and .44 Magnum. These are all very powerful handgun rounds. They can be used for self defense or even hunting with the larger calibers. Some custom guns such as the ones done by Hamilton Bowen can be things like the double-action Ruger Redhawk in .500 Linebaugh or .50 Action Express. Revolvers can handle very large cartridges very well.
Common Calibers and Their Use .38 Special/.357 Magnum - Self-Defense, Hunting (with heavier loads)
.44 Special/.44 Magnum - Pretty much the same as above. .44 Special is more of a defensive load, .44 Magnum more of a hunting load (or used for competitions such as silhouette shooting.)
Oddball Calibers -
- .32-20 W.C.F
- .44-40 W.C.F
- .327 Federal Magnum (Based off of the .32 H&R Magnum)
- .454 Casull
- One note about capacity; yes, revolvers hold less rounds. But revolvers do one thing by holding less rounds; they teach you how to judge shot placement. Often, people with semi-automatics can tend to think “i dont need to aim great because ive got so many rounds” and they end up missing under stress. Those who practice with a revolver are fully aware of the limited capacity, and therefore are very aware of their sight picture, trigger technique and overall form. Also making up for the loss of capacity, the revolver can chamber much bigger rounds than most automatics, sometimes resulting in less shots being needed, simply due to the larger energy dump.
Part 5 - Famous Revolvers
- Dirty Harry Gun - Model 29
- Colt Single Action Army
- Smith & Wesson Military & Police/Model 10
- Freedom Arms
Part 6 - Recommended Revolvers for CCW
- Billion S&W Models? S&W 442 or 642
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