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Thread: The Modern Combat Revolver

  1. #1

    The Modern Combat Revolver

    I've always been firmly in the semi-auto camp, mostly because that's what I grew up shooting and carry every day. I think I'm pretty squared away in that department. I've always wanted to dabble in revolvers as more than just a range gun though. Given how things might end up in regards to what we're allowed to own, I've often been thinking of getting a revolver just to hedge my bets and have a serious use revolver on par with my HKs and Glocks in terms of reliability and durability. My only experiences with revolvers in any meaningful capacity was a Colt Python I owned for a while and shot a couple of thousand rounds through. It started having breakages when I was about 1000 rounds in with full power 125gr .357 Magnum loads.

    My question is, what is considered a "serious use" revolver these days, analogous to say, a Glock or H&K semi auto? I've been under the impression for a while that revolvers are more likely to encounter reliability/durability issues at lower round counts than a modern high quality semi auto. Can I expect similar long term dependability over high round counts that I have with my semi autos?

    Finally, are there any subject matter experts well regarded in the revolver carrying/shooting community that break down what the most effective and dependable "combat revolvers" are in this day and age? Keep in mind I'm talking revolvers carried as a primary carry piece, not a backup snub nose.

  2. #2
    If I were buying a currently produced revolver with the intention of putting high round counts through it, in the same manner I might treat a Glock 19, I would buy a Ruger GP100. If you prefer a S&W, the M66-8 or M686 also are good choices.

    I have found that reliability with revolvers is less a question of mechanical strength and more a question of your willingness to keep the operating surfaces clean. No revolver range bag is complete without a toothbrush for the cylinder face and forcing cone.
    Last edited by oregon45; 10-31-2020 at 01:08 AM.

  3. #3
    Site Supporter Lon's Avatar
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    2.5” or 3” K frame or a GP100. My preference is a 3” K frame. If I was buying now, I’d probably go w the recent generation (2.75”) Model 66. But that’s mostly cuz I know my way around a Smith and can do some parts changing/smithing. I’m down to a 2” K and a 3” K in my spinny gun collection.

    As for SME’s, I think Darryl Bolke (HiTS) and Tom Givens (Rangemaster) fit that description.

    @jetfire, aka Caleb Giddings, is also quite knowledgeable about spinny guns. Don’t think he does spinny gun classes, though.

    DB and Tom G do spinny gun classes.
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  4. #4
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    Revolvers will definitely require repair at lower round counts than semiautos.

    We have a number of very seriously knowledgeable revolver people right here on this forum, many of whom carried revolvers into harm’s way as police officers or federal agents working in dangerous places.

    Regarding specific models, you received good advice above. Give serious thought to the visibility and ease of changing the sights, since revolvers do not have as many or as easy options as semiautos. Also, make sure holsters you like are available for the gun before you buy it.


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  5. #5
    The Ruger GP100 and Redhawk are what I've often heard are very sturdy revolvers. I just figured with S&W's long track record for their basic revolver design in use with military and LE for decades might give it an edge. But looking at the Ruger's internals and dimensions, it does seem like it'd be exceptionally sturdy.

  6. #6
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    If I were buying a new revolver now, it'd be a 4" GP100 with a half-lug barrel and adjustable sights. This is from a guy who owns a bunch of 20th-century production S&Ws.

    For ammo, I'd stick with .38 Special. Ammo manufacturers have applied what they've learned in producing autoloader ammo to this caliber, but most current .357 Magnum ammo seems to be little improvement over the old-school stuff. An exception to this is Speer's 135-grain short barrel magnum load. Hunting ammo is another possible exception, but there's no testing out there that shows how it works.
    Last edited by revchuck38; 10-31-2020 at 06:54 AM.

  7. #7
    Life is good RJ's Avatar
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    I have an irrational attraction to the Ruger showcase every time I go to my LGS.

    Specifically a Ruger GP100 Model #1771.

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  8. #8
    Site Supporter JRV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwampDweller View Post
    My question is, what is considered a "serious use" revolver these days, analogous to say, a Glock or H&K semi auto? I've been under the impression for a while that revolvers are more likely to encounter reliability/durability issues at lower round counts than a modern high quality semi auto. Can I expect similar long term dependability over high round counts that I have with my semi autos?
    No. Revolvers generally lack the long-term or short-term round count tolerance of a pistol.

    Wheelguns wear and stretch with long-term, high-volume shooting, so you end up with inevitable timing and endshake issues that, even if addressed early, usually require gunsmith intervention. It’s no different than having a parts replacement schedule on a pistol—it’s just way more involved than “recoil spring at 3,000 rounds, slide stop at 10,000.”

    As a matter of short-term round count, revolvers will certainly choke before pistols. It’s not even remotely comparable. Depending on the ammunition and the clearances on the revolver, a hundred, two hundred or three hundred rounds can lead to:

    - ejection and feeding issues (dirty chambers);
    - sluggish cylinder and trigger; and even
    - total gun lock-up from the ejector rod vibrating a bit loose and/or getting too much debris under the star.

    There is no Glock revolver. If you want to shoot a thousand rounds and maybe hit slide rails with a couple drops of oil at round five hundred, that’s for Glocks. If you plan to do the same round count with a wheelgun, you’ll need to bore punch the chambers regularly, hit every part in or around the cylinder window with an oily toothbrush and a rag before the fouling gets too heavy and gummy, and bring a back-up revolver anyways.

    It’s worth it, though. A 3” K-frame or L-frame Smith is about as “general purpose” as a revolver can get. If high volume .357 is your thing, go L-frame. The GP100 would be a comparable Ruger.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwampDweller View Post
    Can I expect similar long term dependability over high round counts that I have with my semi autos?
    Define "high round count" as that means vastly different things to different people.
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    Maybe with talented students I would lube up with baby oil and then go at it.

  10. #10
    ...it tolls for thee blues's Avatar
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    I really liked the 3" 686+ I had...(L frame), but I couldn't get past the "lock" so made a good deal to a friend and neighbor.
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