Many years ago the original Equalizer that Samuel Colt brought to market changed the way people lived their lives. As the saying goes, Sam made men equal. But more than a hundred-eighty years later, has the revolver lost its place in American defense?
Pistols of all kinds seem to be coming out of the woodwork, new manufacturers and old are constantly improving and modernizing their design. All this is great for us consumers, we are definitely spoiled for choice. The first proliferate repeating pistols were not incredibly different from revolvers we shoot today, but what makes a revolver a revolver?
What is a revolver?
A revolver is a firearm that uses a cylinder with multiple chambers. The mechanics of the revolver vary, but they all share the cylinder that is rotated to fire the chambers individually. Each chamber is aligned with the breach of the barrel, the hammer is cocked, readying the pistol for the next shot. Its a fairly simple cycle, but in the early nineteenth century, it revolutionized the way people could confront dangerous threats.
Some revolvers have a fixed cylinder with a loading door, this requires loading each chamber one at a time. Others have a cylinder that opens out to the side of the frame, allowing access to all chambers at once. Some designs even break open hinging the entire barrel /cylinder assembly forward and down to give loading access to the cylinder.
The trigger and/or hammer engages with the cylinder rotation mechanism, ensuring that all are in line when the trigger is pulled.
Single action or double
Most modern revolvers are double action, that means they can be fired by either cocking the hammer manually, and pulling the trigger, or by simply pulling the trigger. A double-action revolver will mechanically cock the hammer and release it, while at the same time rotating the cylinder to the next chamber.
Single action revolvers require that the hammer be cocked to the rear manually, the cylinder is mechanically rotated to a live chamber at the same time. The trigger set during this same action, and ready to pull.
Single action revolvers were the standard back in those early days, and many still use them today. Part of the revolver attraction and the single-action revolver attraction, in particular, is derived from that cowboy western enchantment that many of us suffer from. Hopefully, they never find a cure🙂.
What makes revolvers useful?
Despite what some would call ancient technology, gun enthusiasts still find the revolver design very useful today. Much like the very first Colts, they still provide equalizing power against threats, handy taking of game, or all-day fun engaging with targets.
Revolvers typically have more room for larger caliber cartridges, which makes them a great companion for situations that might require heavy-hitting shots.
They also have the length of the cylinder for those longer magnum cartridges and even some shotshells. This may give the revolver and edge for some shooters, when they need significant power in a small package they can easily carry.
A few other advantages to the revolver that some might find useful; revolvers operate by input from the shooter. That means it’s your finger that cycles the next round into the firing position. So should you be in a sticky situation and a round fails to fire, a simple press of the trigger finger brings the next round into the firing position without having to break your hold or aim.
The simplicity of a revolver’s design also makes them generally less likely to experience malfunctions.
Choosing the right revolver
As previously mentioned, we are spoiled with choices today. You can get revolvers in nearly any caliber, and frame size. You can get five, six or more rounds into the cylinders of many modern revolvers. There are lightweight options made from titanium or composite materials, as well as hammerless designs that won’t hang up on clothing when drawn. You can get extra cylinders to shoot different cartridges if you want to, so many options make it hard to not like at least one or two.
When choosing a revolver, buyers should evaluate several options, and see which best fits their hand, purpose, and their budget.
There are plenty of new production pistols that have the historical look of the original Colts, like the Cimarron Mod P in 45LC available here on GDC for very affordable prices. And a moderate caliber like 45LC won’t overwhelm you with recoil or sink you wallet either.
If a more modern revolver is what you’re looking for, the Ruger GP-100 is available in a great variety of calibers, and a stainless steel frame for less than ideal weather.
If affordable ammunition is on your radar, you’d love shooting a 22 caliber revolver like the Smith and Wesson Model 17 available here on GDC
In my opinion, the revolver has only increased its value to shooters today. Its time-proven design has been maximized to squeeze impressive performance from wheel guns that my Great Great Grandfather would still find familiar. As with all firearms, I’m excited to see what the future holds for the revolver since I don’t think they are going away anytime soon.