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Thoughts on Revolver Reliability


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This is a guest post from my friend Darryl Bolke.  Darryl is the co-owner of Hardwired Tactical and a very well established firearms instructor.  I saw this posting on Darryl’s Facebook page DB’s Shooting Adventures.  In the piece, Darryl discusses his view of revolvers as defensive sidearms.  All of you revolver shooters and instructors should read this article and pay attention to what Darryl has to say.

 

I went to my first California POST certified state required firearms instructor class with a revolver as my primary gun. I trained and qualified police officers at a department of over 200 officers carrying revolvers that qualified monthly. I have trained extensively with firearms instructors from an agency where 10,000 officers required qualification and training on revolvers. I spent the last six months of Pat Rogers life having in depth discussions specifically on use of revolvers for law enforcement and gunfighting with them. I also co-host a very popular Revolver Specific class every year for the last five years that features guest instructors who are revolver experts along with my partner Wayne Dobbs.

 

 

https://www.activeresponsetraining.net/thoughts-on-revolver-reliability

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A proven quality service level revolver that is clean, lubricated and loaded with quality ammunition is in my experience far less likely to malfunction than a semi-automatic pistol in the conditions we find in street shootings. That means, non-locked wrists, poor grip, asymmetric firing positions, interference from clothing or barriers, body contact, disturbance to the gun during firing, impacts, improper administrative handling, etc. They are consistent in their performance in those conditions, which is what reliable is.

 

Spot on, as is further admonition in the article that professional users maintain their defensive firearms.

My attitude that everyone who carries a gun of the hand for personal protection adopt maintence pratices of professionals. I would also say that any "professional" who does not properly maintain their weapons is, in fact,

not a professional.

 

My only serious concern about revolvers at this point in time, is the current quality being produced by some revolver makers that used to have the reputation of being the best in the world. One long standing member here, who was great knowledge of revolvers, and shoots them a lot and serious problems finding a new production wheel gun that did not develop serious problems. What he finally ended up doing was buying the piece he favored most, and having the knowledge and skills, corrected the defects/deficiencies himself, and is now satisfied. There is no doubt the drop in quality, as well as reduced information regarding defects in quality is exactly because revolvers have stopped being made in large quantities in general, and specifically not being made in large numbers because they are not being used by any large PD's for their service weapons, which must be able to handle abuse and still function.

 

I am still a bit bewildered by the drop in revolver QC overall.  While the big numbers and big bucks of LE contracts are no longer there for the gun makers, I see no reason for the quality to have dropped off from the heyday of revolver use. They have the blue prints and know what designs were most heavily used, and which had the best track records of reliability and ruggedness. There is absolutely no reason the gun makers can not turn out the same quality of revolver today. In fact there are places for in the manufacturing process for savings, to balance out the increased cost of the hand work that should be done to ensure reliability. Imo, since the numbers are not there, the gunmakers are simply not caring enough.  Shame on them. People are still depending on these guns to protect themselves and their families. To let QC slip, or to inject cost cutting parts or processes into the manufacturing to increase profit margin is shameful, and to their detriment in the long term. 

 

 

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Revolvers simply mean a shift in tactics.  Its, to us older guys, back to shoot and move then counting rounds with a lot more reliance on point and shoot.  Its the part of western movies that they don't show you.  

 

The problem with revolvers in these days of conceal carry isn't their inherent limited rounds or even reload times.  It's due to their cylinders, they're fat compared to semi even full size let alone micros.  One advantage seldom talked about is they have a way above average intimidation factor.  That is, of course, in context of self defense not apprehension and/or some combat scenario. 

 

Its been interesting in my life to have lived through the transition of when everyone carried revolvers to everyone carries semis.  Early transition in the 80's had issues with reliability (mostly due to maintenance instead of design) and trigger pull (once more a training issue) with the semi having a much lighter trigger pull.  Interesting gun trivia, the first Glock lawsuit was here where I live a Knoxville cop who sued Glock after he blew an unarmed suspects head off claiming a too light trigger and no external safety.  He, of course, lost but is it indicative of the transition from revolvers on finger discipline.  Considering how light triggers are today, funny isn't it? 

 

Anyway as LEOs transitioned to semi-automatics from revolvers so did the public.  The problem is training also shifted with LEOs and the application of apprehension and purely self defense are totally different let alone combat.  This is a topic for another day.  For now, just know its different. 

 

I have a good number of revolvers and to this day if I carried one, I would not feel outgunned, however I just don't these days.  The one exception is a rural setting like in the forest.  Hard to beat a hand cannon when potentially facing a large animal apex predator.  I do find it quite ironic though that much of the old revolver tactics are coming back due to limited round capacity of micros. 

 

Tj

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On 11/24/2022 at 4:23 AM, Retcop said:

A proven quality service level revolver that is clean, lubricated and loaded with quality ammunition is in my experience far less likely to malfunction than a semi-automatic pistol in the conditions we find in street shootings. That means, non-locked wrists, poor grip, asymmetric firing positions, interference from clothing or barriers, body contact, disturbance to the gun during firing, impacts, improper administrative handling, etc. They are consistent in their performance in those conditions, which is what reliable is.

 

Spot on, as is further admonition in the article that professional users maintain their defensive firearms.

My attitude that everyone who carries a gun of the hand for personal protection adopt maintence pratices of professionals. I would also say that any "professional" who does not properly maintain their weapons is, in fact,

not a professional.

 

My only serious concern about revolvers at this point in time, is the current quality being produced by some revolver makers that used to have the reputation of being the best in the world. One long standing member here, who was great knowledge of revolvers, and shoots them a lot and serious problems finding a new production wheel gun that did not develop serious problems. What he finally ended up doing was buying the piece he favored most, and having the knowledge and skills, corrected the defects/deficiencies himself, and is now satisfied. There is no doubt the drop in quality, as well as reduced information regarding defects in quality is exactly because revolvers have stopped being made in large quantities in general, and specifically not being made in large numbers because they are not being used by any large PD's for their service weapons, which must be able to handle abuse and still function.

 

I am still a bit bewildered by the drop in revolver QC overall.  While the big numbers and big bucks of LE contracts are no longer there for the gun makers, I see no reason for the quality to have dropped off from the heyday of revolver use. They have the blue prints and know what designs were most heavily used, and which had the best track records of reliability and ruggedness. There is absolutely no reason the gun makers can not turn out the same quality of revolver today. In fact there are places for in the manufacturing process for savings, to balance out the increased cost of the hand work that should be done to ensure reliability. Imo, since the numbers are not there, the gunmakers are simply not caring enough.  Shame on them. People are still depending on these guns to protect themselves and their families. To let QC slip, or to inject cost cutting parts or processes into the manufacturing to increase profit margin is shameful, and to their detriment in the long term. 

 

 


I have the exact same revolver that he has & I’ve inspected it looking for his problems nd did not find anything wrong, but I’m not as knowledgeable.

 

I did throw a old toothbrush in my range bag & have needed it when shooting dirty ammo as I’ve had problems with my Colt as well as the S&W getting dirty and having issues & not functioning 100%

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On 11/24/2022 at 5:26 AM, TomJefferson said:

Revolvers simply mean a shift in tactics.  Its, to us older guys, back to shoot and move then counting rounds with a lot more reliance on point and shoot.  Its the part of western movies that they don't show you.  

 

The problem with revolvers in these days of conceal carry isn't their inherent limited rounds or even reload times.  It's due to their cylinders, they're fat compared to semi even full size let alone micros.  One advantage seldom talked about is they have a way above average intimidation factor.  That is, of course, in context of self defense not apprehension and/or some combat scenario. 

 

Its been interesting in my life to have lived through the transition of when everyone carried revolvers to everyone carries semis.  Early transition in the 80's had issues with reliability (mostly due to maintenance instead of design) and trigger pull (once more a training issue) with the semi having a much lighter trigger pull.  Interesting gun trivia, the first Glock lawsuit was here where I live a Knoxville cop who sued Glock after he blew an unarmed suspects head off claiming a too light trigger and no external safety.  He, of course, lost but is it indicative of the transition from revolvers on finger discipline.  Considering how light triggers are today, funny isn't it? 

 

Anyway as LEOs transitioned to semi-automatics from revolvers so did the public.  The problem is training also shifted with LEOs and the application of apprehension and purely self defense are totally different let alone combat.  This is a topic for another day.  For now, just know its different. 

 

I have a good number of revolvers and to this day if I carried one, I would not feel outgunned, however I just don't these days.  The one exception is a rural setting like in the forest.  Hard to beat a hand cannon when potentially facing a large animal apex predator.  I do find it quite ironic though that much of the old revolver tactics are coming back due to limited round capacity of micros. 

 

Tj


I frequently carry a J frame revolver or even a 22 caliber LCR in the front pocket as I can stand talking to someone and have my had gripping the revolver & make headshots in  under 2 seconds when that’s not possible with a larger IWB handgun 

 

6 rds of .22 Punch to the face is going to discourage almost everyone 

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As most of you know I am a revolver guy. I got into them as a young man and to this day have never fully embraced the semi auto for several reasons, mostly personal. 

 

My biggest worry about today's revolvers is quality control. The gun makers are pumping out gimmicky guns to attract people to them. Along with these odd guns (thinking a 6 shot as normal) comes some weird engineering and manufacturing techniques. The worst examples I came across were from the 2010 +/- 5 years time period. Yet my newest revolver suffers from some of these new style of manufacturing issues. 

 

Here is a list of things I have seen and owned....

Scandium framed revolver......frame twisted.

Internals not properly matched and a new gun hung up at 16 rounds fired. 

Over clocked barrels.

Front sights bent to accommodate the over clocked barrel.

The frame of the gun being wider on one side, meaning they built the entire gun off center.

Crane retention screw/ spring/ detent made to allow the crane to slip forward and gall the crane. 

Ejection rods that stick in the crane.

Ejection rods so small and sharp they cut you.

Cylinder latches that are sharp.

Hammers that are sharp and cut the thumb.

7 and 8 shot Cylinder star design that makes them the weakest possible design and a high wear part. I have even seen a brand new gun so loose it was out of time because of the design. 

MIM parts that are never properly mated to the adjoining part causing uneven movement like putting the nylon nub that the cylinder release slides on right under the little MIM dimple causing it to catch on it. 

Sight pins that walk out.

Side plate screws that loosen up quickly.

Cylinder to frame tolerance so small that when open the speed loaders cannot fit.

Single actions that have the detent removed which makes it hard to eject cases as the cylinder does not want to stop in line with the ejector and loading the gun is harder as the detent no longer holds the cylinder in alignment with the loading gate. 

 

 

While each of these guns also has great features it's like buying the Cadillac of toilets only to have a cracked seat. 

 

I want a gun made symmetrically, out of quality materials, and properly fitted. I want solid engineering and no gimmicks. Put the pins back in the ejector star or make the cuts the star interfaces with wide and equally beefy in both directions to hold that cylinder from rotating while being driven or on the rebound. 

 

In todays world gimmicks sell, and quality is boring. I have a S+W model 17 I bought in the 80's that went 15 years and countless bricks of ammo before it was ever cleaned. I only started cleaning it when I had the time to appreciate the gun and wanted to keep it nice. I used the crap out of that gun for years and it never gave me any trouble. I take better care of all my firearms than I did as a young man. I used them like the tool they were. In all my years of shooting revolvers I have had two stoppages. One was a new gun that locked up on round 16. Bad fitting parts and a weak frame. The second was a squib load that hung the bullet in the gap rendering the gun a brick. In my limited semi auto use I have had countless issues with ammo, improper feeding due to tolerances, and other things that stopped the gun from functioning properly.....but never disabling it. 

 

I learned over the years what oil not to use in my carry revolvers if the gun was to be left in a cold trunk, I learned just how much lube I needed and how often to do it. I also learned just how cruddy I could let my guns get before they needed service. My experience has been when my revolvers fails it becomes a brick.....and when my semi auto fails I can get it running again. I have made sure the guns on my CCW permit have never failed me. The one revolver that locked up on me and had the twisted frame was sent on its way to another owner (after a full work over at the factory) as I was not ever going to trust that gun again. My newest revolver, while a great gun now that I worked it over, is no longer on my permit. Design and engineering problems kept me from keeping it in rotation. It functions fine but reloads are painfully slow due to cases not falling free and tight tolerances for the speed loaders. Speed loaders do you no good if you have to pluck each spent case out by hand. Tight cylinders make it accurate....but the trade off is cases don't drop out......I want both accuracy and ease of use. It is really hard to find that Goldilocks gun that checks every box for me. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Believe it or not Taurus has made HUGE improvements & Caleb Giddings is now a employee of Taurus & a instructor at the annual Pat Rogers Memorial Revolver Roundup (revolvers only & at Gunsite) 

 

here is a quote from Caleb 

 

Over the weekend we had 1300+ rounds fired through my Taurus revolvers, plus a random student who brought his personal 856 UL and shot all the blocks with it. All the Taurus' worked without an issue, and Wayne Dobbs himself said nice things about my Model 82 and the 856 Executive Grade.

I really do love the Revolver Roundup, and I am so honored to be a part of this special event as an instructor, and I can't wait to be back next year!

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On 11/24/2022 at 12:31 PM, Rampy said:

Believe it or not Taurus has made HUGE improvements & Caleb Giddings is now a employee of Taurus & a instructor at the annual Pat Rogers Memorial Revolver Roundup (revolvers only & at Gunsite) 

 

here is a quote from Caleb 

 

Over the weekend we had 1300+ rounds fired through my Taurus revolvers, plus a random student who brought his personal 856 UL and shot all the blocks with it. All the Taurus' worked without an issue, and Wayne Dobbs himself said nice things about my Model 82 and the 856 Executive Grade.

I really do love the Revolver Roundup, and I am so honored to be a part of this special event as an instructor, and I can't wait to be back next year!

A local smith has sold a bunch of the Taurus guns. The quality or features of the old guns can be seen in them. Pinned ejector star is one feature I want to see back and the Taurus has it. I just cannot bring myself to buy one.....not only for their past reputation but they have nothing that pleases my eye either. They have some great features that make them strong....I have just never been around them. 

 

I was just looking at guns trying to find one that fits the bill the closest for what I want in a carry gun. None of them have a grip that works for me so I took that out of the equation. There is only one that fits the bill for me and it's this one......only with my grips installed...https://www.ruger.com/products/sp101/specSheets/15707.html. I want adjustable sights and a 3" barrel. The 2.25" SP101 I carry has been my best bet for reliability and conceal-ability. I can carry two speed loaders and hide it all under a t-shirt any day of the year. 

I would consider this one too but it needs a 3" barrel.....https://www.ruger.com/products/sp101/specSheets/5771.html....I need better sights with my aging eyes and I am going to start looking for a replacement front sight on my gun....something I can pick out better and get on target faster. 

 

 

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On 11/24/2022 at 2:10 PM, towtruck said:

A local smith has sold a bunch of the Taurus guns. The quality or features of the old guns can be seen in them. Pinned ejector star is one feature I want to see back and the Taurus has it. I just cannot bring myself to buy one.....not only for their past reputation but they have nothing that pleases my eye either. They have some great features that make them strong....I have just never been around them. 

 

I was just looking at guns trying to find one that fits the bill the closest for what I want in a carry gun. None of them have a grip that works for me so I took that out of the equation. There is only one that fits the bill for me and it's this one......only with my grips installed...https://www.ruger.com/products/sp101/specSheets/15707.html. I want adjustable sights and a 3" barrel. The 2.25" SP101 I carry has been my best bet for reliability and conceal-ability. I can carry two speed loaders and hide it all under a t-shirt any day of the year. 

I would consider this one too but it needs a 3" barrel.....https://www.ruger.com/products/sp101/specSheets/5771.html....I need better sights with my aging eyes and I am going to start looking for a replacement front sight on my gun....something I can pick out better and get on target faster. 

 

 


 

I’ve hated Taurus as far back as I can remember owned a craptastic one and swore never again 

 

However, I’m on the fence about them now & from what I’ve read Taurus is getting lots of pressure for a 3” carry gun that can fit a small red dot 

 

I like the older SP101’s and have been watching gun broker and local pawn shops for a older one so I can send it off to a machinist/gunsmith for a 3” barrel & other modifications 

 

Still going to send the Colt off to be tweaked as like you say extraction is hard and it sucks with full power ammo

 

I really enjoy shooting Revolvers and am going to try going to the PRMRR at Gunsite next year even if I’m not shooting but for the knowledge 

 

Im tempted to order some of the newly developed/tested self defense ammo designed exclusively for short barrel revolvers

 

 

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Below is all cut and paste & lots of good feedback about the above pictured ammo and it’s faster & more accurate than the gold standard Federal wadcutter 


————————-
 

This is from Mark Fricke related to the new wadcutter load from GA

 

In my testing the Winchester is the fastest of the big 6. It averaged right around 700 fps out of several 1 7/8" guns. I have found it has more than adequate penetration (13-16") in ballistic gel even thru 4 Layer Denim test 

 

This new Georgia Arms Snub Defense ammo averages 750 fps. out of the same 1 7/8" barreled guns. Penetration is on par 14 to 17" with the Winchester but it actually expands from .43-45" caliber in bare gel to .38-40" thru 4 Layer Denim.

 

Ok gang, this has been in the works and was launched at the PRMRR at Gunsite last weekend. 
 

Mark Fricke and I have been working with Curtis Shipley, the owner of Georgia Arms. We have developed a 148 gr. wadcutter that is specifically designed around a 1 7/8” barrel J frame for personal defense.

Through extensive testing we found that the sweet spot was around 750 fps. This provided the needed penetration without excessive recoil. This is not a +P load so it is safe for older non-+P rated guns

 

I can’t post a direct link but the last pic is the contact information. If you call to order some, I’d appreciate you mentioning that learned about it from this  Facebook group.

 

For those wanting to order the new snub load from GA. The Product Number is  G38S

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Here is a little something I did to help my aging eyes.....blacked out the notch and put some bright orange on the ramp sight......really helps find that front sight. I put the same orange on the blade of the Blackhawk as well. 

SO7XMux.png

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Really like the orange and how you blacked it I hate the gold bead on the Colt it’s very hard to see

 

Hummmmmmm

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On 11/24/2022 at 4:24 PM, Rampy said:

Really like the orange and how you blacked it I hate the gold bead on the Colt it’s very hard to see

 

Hummmmmmm

The gold bead on the Colt has not been an issue for me. One thing that has happened in the last year is I lost all ability to see my sights through my distance lens on my glasses. I have tri-focals and now have to lean my head back and pick up the front sight with my mid range lens....feels wonky but it's all I got left:tap:

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1 hour ago, towtruck said:

The gold bead on the Colt has not been an issue for me. One thing that has happened in the last year is I lost all ability to see my sights through my distance lens on my glasses. I have tri-focals and now have to lean my head back and pick up the front sight with my mid range lens....feels wonky but it's all I got left:tap:


That’s one huge reason red dots work for me, I focus on the target and the dot appears superimposed over whatever you are looking at

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