Past Perfect, Part Deux

Sheriff Jim talks about a “trend” of people reverting to revolvers as self-defense weapons.

Colt has recently made a big splash with the reintroduction of their Python revolver. At the same time, we continue to see and hear from shooters who cleave to their Smith & Wesson J-frame revolvers. And there seems to be continued interest in revolvers manufactured by several other companies. A custom holster maker recently told me that 70 percent of his orders are holsters for revolvers. I am curious if we are seeing a solid trend back to the defensive revolver, or if this is just some sort of fad.
Of course, many of our older shooters have never quit the revolver. They learned to shoot it and shoot it well. In many cases these folks have had revolvers save their lives and it’s pretty hard to quit a gun that you could rely on in those circumstances. Many of these older shooters also passed their love of the revolver on to their children which has affected the choice for many of the younger generation.

Yeah, no prizes for guessing where I fall on this spectrum.  Despite my eternal love affair with the Colt 1911 Government pistol, my bedside gun is and always has been a revolver, because at the end of the day, a revolver is like a fork:  you pick it up, and it works.  No fiddling with safety catches, worrying about popping the mag by mistake, trying to remember if you racked the slide to load it earlier (in my case, that would be “always”) — your revolver is loaded and ready to go, period, end of sentence, end of story (for any goblin on the naughty end of its muzzle).

For me (and, I suspect, a boatload of others of my ilk), there is no “trend”;  the rest of the world is coming back to realize what we’ve known all along:  the more dire the circumstances, the more we need simplicity.

That was my very first bedside gun, back in South Africa:  a Colt 1917 (.45 Long Colt).  I never had to use it in anger, thank goodness, but there’s no doubt it could have handled pretty much any situation short of a regimental banzai attack.

My choice of cartridge may have changed somewhat in the fifty years since then (.45 LC to .357 Magnum), but my philosophy sure as hell hasn’t.


  1. For whatever it’s worth, I’m starting to find (at least personally) that I very rarely carry a revolver anymore (even though I own a safe full of them, love shooting them, and competed with them in IDPA for years). Until about 5 or so years ago I found myself pocket carrying a j-frame hammerless .38 because of concealment needs, work, etc. I had messed around with a bunch of smaller automatics, but didn’t find anything small enough to truly conceal that was anywhere near as reliable as a j-frame.

    And then the Glock 43 came out. That was a complete game changer for me. It was as reliable as a revolver, held 2 more rounds, could be reloaded much faster, could be concealed just as easily, and my split times and accuracy were well beyond what I ever managed with a j-frame. But in absence of that coming out, I’d still be firmly in the revolver camp for EDC, so I’m with you on the absence of a new trend — the revolver has always worked, and doesn’t work any less well today.

  2. NOTHING I have found conceals like a J-frame, at least on my body. Sure, I’ve tried bottom feeders of various frame sizes and widths, but I keep coming back to the J-frame. Maybe a collision has occurred for folks in the real world between marketing hype and reality, and people are finding autos just aren’t worth a bother of weight, concealment issues, etc. Who knows? As for me, my EDC gun will 99.0% of the time have a revolving cylinder. Oh yeah, I’m 60 by the way, but I’ve been carrying a J-frame for over 20 years.

    Sadly, my son does not share my interests in revolvers. When I can get him to the range, he only wants to shoot autos. Where have I failed? When he turns 21 I’ll have a surprise for him: he is getting a J-frame for his birthday, because papa knows best.

    1. “Where have I failed? When he turns 21 I’ll have a surprise for him: he is getting a J-frame for his birthday, because papa knows best.”

      I loved reading that! I have a j-frame in the safe for each of my kids, waiting for each of them on their 21st birthday.

      If you want to give him a little incentive to get into revolvers, consider getting S&W’s custom shop to do a trigger job (keeping the stock springs). It’s not cheap, and the shipping is outrageous, but the difference between stock and tuned is unreal, and much more fun to shoot.

  3. OH yes!
    The iconic J frame, in my case a 640. I shoot it almost as well at 50 yards as my Sigs. I’m headed to my club tomorrow, with a stop on the way at my LGS to pick up a Gunbroker S&W model 15. Yes another round gun to enjoy. Okay, I’ll admit, I carry a Sig 229 about 80% of the time and have a Sig 226 bedside.
    However, I must admit, that for shooting pleasure, a revolver is my happy place. The Sigs, go BANG every time all the time (as do the S&Ws) But the S&Ws are more enjoyable to shoot. ( And don’t even mention glocks, they are just another machine.)
    All of my firearms are “adjusted” for smoothness, clean break, etc. But the S&W revolvers when done right are just so – – – – right.
    Don’t misinterpret my opinion. The Sigs are business, pure business and they do it very very well. The S&Ws are less business and a lot more enjoyable.

  4. I picked up a Colt 1917 in .45ACP years ago, and I love it but its a big gun and has quite a heavy trigger pull that makes me want to use it single action most of the time. I certainly wouldn’t feel undergunned with it. So far my only Colt revolver. Tyler Tgrip and aftermarket stocks made it much more pleasant to shoot but they look out of place.

    It tickles me to have a revolver in the same cartridge as my favorite autoloader.

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