In Praise of the Revolver

December 10, 2016
2 mins read

I admit, I shouldn’t be the one writing this article. I only own one revolver. There are others that know more and have more experience. However, my perspective might be useful if you don’t find revolvers interesting, or if you think they are obsolete.
I once thought revolvers were boring. It might be because my early exposure to handguns had been in exclusively to semiauto .22 lr. I experimented in college. (With a friend’s .357 magnum you sicko).  That was cool, but it didn’t get through my thick skull. I thought they were old technology. They only hold six shots, compared to a limitless supply on movies like Lethal Weapon and Diehard. My dad claimed you couldn’t hit anything with a handgun anyway, and I believed him, after a few attempts to hit squirrels with my uncle’s semi-auto Ruger Mark 1.  I was into long guns, and handguns were just toys anyway, I thought.
Eventually, in an era of information at your fingertips, some of it soaks through. I had read an article by Elmer Keith on the development of the .44 magnum. Some pretty astounding feats of long range accuracy with a handgun. A revolver even. I didn’t see how that cylinder could line up with the barrel in any way conducive to accuracy, but Elmer Keith was claiming hits on a deer at 600 yards. I haven’t hit anything at that range with a rifle. There were other articles about Keith. One claimed that he witnessed Keith warm up by shooting jackrabbits and coyotes out to 400 yards, and then he started shooting running jackrabbits.  I was a member of a few online forums. There were lots of people that enjoyed hunting with handguns. I saw the videos of Jerry Miculek setting world records with a revolver. So when I got a chunk of money, I bought a Ruger Super-Redhawk in .44 magnum. I wanted a revolver I could hunt deer with, and .44 seemed like a good fit, because it was quite powerful, yet ammo wasn’t as ridiculously priced as that for a 500 S&W magnum.
I love that gun. I admit, a .44 magnum is a lot to handle. Developing a flinch isn’t that hard to do. But it you work at it, one can do pretty well. I harvested a deer this fall with my uncle’s model 629. I was wrong about revolvers.
So, I encourage you to look past your prejudices if you hold them. Here’s why:

  1. Revolvers are powerful. The most powerful repeating handguns are revolvers. The .460 and 500 Smith and Wesson magnums have maximum chamber pressures of 65,000 psi. Compare that to 35,000 psi for the .40 Smith and Wesson, and that is relatively high for a semiauto. These guns fling huge chunks of lead at high velocity.
  2. Revolvers are accurate. More accurate than most of us are capable of shooting. Very capable for hunting.
  3. Revolvers are simple. Some are designed for self defense, and they are very capable. Easy to conceal, and very simple to operate under stress. Cycling does not depend on energy from the fired cartridge. In the event of a misfire, just pull the trigger again.
  4. Revolvers are versatile. You can buy a variety of ammunition for revolvers. Since they cycle under human power, it doesn’t depend on the power of the cartridge. So you can fire very light loads or very heavy loads without affecting function. You can fire .38 special in a .357 magnum. You can fire .44 special in a .44 magnum. You can fire .45 colt, 454 Casull, or regular .460 ammo in a .460 Smith magnum. You can fire shot shells for snakes or rats. There are revolvers like the Judge that fire .45 colt and .410 shotguns shells. If you handload, you can find loading recipes for all kinds of fun things like multi-ball loads, homemade shot shells, and wax bullets.
  5. Revolvers are fun. The one revolver I own is one of my favorite firearms. I find it surprising how many rounds I expend with it.
  6. They can be serious too. Serious self defense or hunting tools.

So are you heading for the gun shop yet? There are many different applications and many different revolvers suited for each one. I am pretty sure that if you do your homework, you won’t be disappointed with a revolver. If you were born with more sense than me, well, I’m preaching to the choir.


  1. Saw my dad shoot an elk with a Ruger Bisley .45 Long Colt and 350gr. bullets. Went through it like a hot knife through butter. The very next year he dispatched a wounded deer with the same gun/load. Went through the deer and traveled 40 yards downhill through dog hair so thick you couldn’t see the creek bed below. When we dragged the deer down to creek bed we saw where the bullet excavated a 6 inch crater in the frozen creek bed.

    • Ruger blessed the shooting world by making some of their wheelguns extra stout. Somewhere I have an issue of Handloader magazine with a bunch of .44 magnum loads that are only to be used in a Ruger Redhawk.
      Ruger also made their ridiculously strong revolvers in .45 colt, and people started loading heavier loads for these stronger guns. It turns the .45 LC from something that can be pretty anemic to something approaching a .44 magnum. Not to be used in just any old .45.
      I don’t know if your dad is using these souped up loads, but it sounds like it.

      • Hugh, He hand loads all his ammo. He had the 350gr. bullet going about 1350fps. He could load it up to 1650fps but the recoil was horrendous and it loosened all the screws in the frame, so he had to use Lock Tite on the them. At this level it is much more powerful than the .44mag and approaches the .454 Casull (same case dimensions, however the Casull is only .10 in. longer than the .45 Long Colt.) The Rugers are fine revolvers. The Ruger Bisleys actually use Elmer Keith’s grip pattern for big bore hand guns rather than the original colt Bisley pattern. I believe it is Keith’s Pattern No.#5.

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