Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For the Record

Yes, it's way past my bedtime, but I'll be quick with this.

If you are around gun circles for a while, you hear a lot of stuff. Some of its good information, but some of it...

One widely circulated bit of "common knowledge" is that revolvers are the bee's knees for newby shooters. They are stronger, simpler to operate, and don't malfunction.

Horse puckey.

Revolvers, due to design, can often handle more powerful cartridges, but that is not the same thing as being "stronger". Let me give you an example.

If you take something like a decent 1911 autoloader, you can fire perhaps TENS OF THOUSANDS of rounds with only simple maintenance like replacing springs, and eventually, your barrel. You may eventually wear out the ole warhorse, but it'll take some doing. There are Glocks out there with excess of 100,000 rounds through them.

Strong? Take a decent autoloader, and slam it sideways up against a wall. As long as you don't hit the barrel, you've probably only scratched/dented the finish and maybe knocked a sight off. You can probably go right back to shooting. If you try this with a revolver, don't shoot it, unless you have a long string, and something to hide behind.

Are revolvers "simpler to operate"? No, I don't think so. Maybe simpler to understand, but that means something different. Let's look at reloading. If you have a spare magazine, you can get pretty much any duty-sized semiautomatic back up and rolling in less than two seconds. Revolvers aren't as fast, and they don't hold as many rounds, so you'll need to reload quicker, anyway.

Revolvers are mechanical devices. As such, they are subject to failure. I have actually had a greater appreciation for revolvers in recent years, but I still have many more rounds through semiautos. And in my drastically fewer revolver rounds, I've had some malfunctions, usually light-strike failures to fire. Worse CAN happen, though.

Buddy Byron fired a Model 57 that was out of time enough to spray fragments from his fired bullet into his face. I wasn't there at the time, but I saw the blackened holes in his cheek. He was certainly glad he had been wearing eye protection!

Revolvers do have a place. They make great close-range hunting or woodswalking pieces, and some folks are able to use them for self-defense. They certainly have a niche, but they are no more magic than any other tools ever made. With the exception of Kim Breed knives.


phlegmfatale said...

Being a newbie, I was wondering what the essential differences are. I need reliability and ease of use and maintenance for my first one, I think. Maybe I'll get fancy later on. Thanks for this post.

J.R.Shirley said...

The easiest way to go autoloader- if you're concerned about getting too complicated- is with a double action only, external safetyless type piece, like a Glock. Loading and firing is as simple as tap (insert loaded magazine), rack (draw and release slide), bang (aim at target, pull trigger).

The manual of arms to get a wheelgun into action isn't too much different actually- the shooter just slides the loaded rounds into a cylinder instead of a magazine, snaps the cylinder back into place, and fires. The process is more time-consuming and easier to fumble under stress, though.

SpeakerTweaker said...

Yeah, you know I do still want a couple wheelguns to toy around with, and there's also a couple I'd like to have for back-up guns.

But I'm with you on the "ultimate beginner gun" thing. I still hold true to If It Fits, It Hits. It can be all of what ever the recommender wants it to be, but if the shooter don't like it, it just ain't going to work.

I've fired a couple different J-Frames. The .38 wasn't too bad, but the .357 was like slamming my hand in a car door.

The only auto I've had that came close to that sort of abuse was a Kel-Tec P-11, but I hated the way that gun felt anyway.


Assrot said...

I completely agree with you on this. I carry a compact S&W .45ACP Chiefs Special for my concealed carry gun in a shoulder holster with 2 spare,fully loaded mags.

I carry a cheap little Charter Arms .38 special as a backup gun in an ankle holster.

I know without a doubt that my little .45 ACP with Hornady XTP JHP 240 grain personal defense ammo will get the job done. I've put well over 5000 rounds through it. Replaced the springs once. I had one jamb in 5000 rounds and it was my fault because I reloaded the ammo and didn't quite seat the bullet properly.

If by chance the .45 fails me (which I doubt very seriously) I think the little .38 Special with Hornady XTP JHP 158 grains will get the job done at close quarters. I've only put about 500 rounds through it so I don't trust it like the .45 but given my druthers, I'll take a good .45 semi-auto over a revolver anytime.

Revolvers are for backup only and of course cowboy action shooting but that's a whole different ball game.

I've seen a few revolvers dropped at the range from just a few feet up onto the concrete. All of them went out of timing and had to be repaired.

I've also seen a few semi-autos dropped in a similar fashion. These were still in perfect shooting condition after the fall every time.

BobG said...

Never had any problems with wheelguns myself. I've shot everything from 22 to 454 casull, and I prefer them for packing out in the field and hunting. Everyone has different needs, so some prefer the revolver, some prefer the autoloader.

Habbs said...

Excellent post. I wish I responded earlier. I don't think revolvers are the bees knees for the new shooter.

This is especially true for snubbies, with their recoil and short sight radius.

Ne shooters need a pleasant, accurate gun. The Browning High Power or one of it's clones gets my vote.

Dedicated_Dad said...

I can see the point you're making.

I don't necessarily disagree, in fact I've never owned a revolver although I grew up shooting them, every pistol I've owned has been a semi-auto.

That said, putting on my devil's-advocate cap, perhaps you're over-thinking this a bit.

It should go without saying that any self defense gun, but PARTICULARLY one for a "noob" needs to be in perfect WORKING order -- by that I mean it may be old or ugly, but all its parts should severally and jointly function as designed.

It should also be assumed that any self-defense weapon should be ready for use -- if you wake up to an intruder kicking in the door, you should be able to "grab and go."

With those caveats in place, a double-action revolver is about as simple as it gets. No safety, no nonsense -- just the original "point and click" interface.

Nothing simpler than a double-action revolver for such "work" and that's the reason they're so favored and recommended.

Bearing in mind that I don't think I've ever heard of a "civilian/home" shooting that required a reload. These situations are almost (if not) always settled by a few shots at most. This removes the advantage of a detachable mag, not to mention the DISadvantage of trying to reload a revolver.

Further, if a semi fails to fire, it's time for a "tap/rack/bang" drill, which requires lots of training to really develop proficiency. A revolver on the other hand just needs another trigger pull to bring a new round under, then drop the hammer to fire.

In other words "bang-bang-click-bang-bang" as opposed to "bang-bang-click... WTF?" then a complex sequence to make the weapon ready to fire again. This doesn't even consider the possibility of a jam...

Sure -- I can do a "T-R-B" drill in ~.5 second, and train for this by having range-buddies slip some snap-caps into my mags here and there. Even knowing it's going to happen -- although not WHEN -- there's still lots of time while my brain processes the fact that the gun didn't fire and I begin the TRB. In the time that takes, I could easily have finished emptying TWO revolvers.

For many years I've considered revolvers and anachronism, and rolled my eyes at their recommendation as much or more as you seem to. I thought just as you did. As I've learned and practiced enough to become truly proficient, and gotten more "addicted" to the hobby/sport/etc, I've changed a lot. I stopped thinking like the movies, and looking at reality -- at history.

Every "cop video" I've ever seen shows the same thing -- shooters squeezing the trigger as fast as they can, most often with no aim at all. Most of the "civilian" home-defence "debriefs" I've read, the citizen noticed the repeated clicking telling them their gun was empty. As I said, I've never seen one where a reload was needed -- a few shots at most generally did the trick, or at least sent the goblin running away.

Further, every single DA Revolver operates in the exact same way. No "does the safety go up or down? Is there a round in the chamber? As I said -- "point and click."

For these reasons, I've changed my mind, and now disagree with your (and my, until recently) premise.

It's taken me a long time to get to where I am, but I'm currently shopping for .38 DA revolvers with 4-6" Bbls for exactly this reason.

I want to be able to place them strategically around my home, in places and ways that ensure they'll not be found by visitors or intruders but guarantee my wife and (HS+) daughters can get to and use them if needed.

Daughters know how to shoot, wifey's a GFW, in any case all of them can understand "point and squeeze. They can be shown the basics in ~60 seconds, and that will be enough to save their lives if (G*d forbid) such were ever required.

Yes -- my "go-to" will always be a Semi-Auto, as will my carry piece(s), but for the "non-shooters" in my family, some well-maintained DA revolvers seem to me to be the best choice!

A very respectful $0.02...