Should the pocket-carried handgun be a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol? Each side argues vociferously for their favorite. Often, it’s a matter of habituation: The old, retired cop who carried a revolver most of his life may just not be comfortable with anything else. The relatively new shooter who cut his teeth on a semi-automatic, however, may perceive the revolver as an anachronism and see no point in learning the subtleties of shooting one. But, personal bias and prejudice aside, each platform has distinct advantages.

Revolver Advantages

Reliability and maintenance issues generally favor the revolver. Pocket holster notwithstanding, a handgun carried in a pocket picks up dust and lint. Some finely fitted small autos have been known to jam on that sort of crud once the shooting started. With revolvers, that’s far less likely. Revolvers tend to function well when “dry,” while the long bearing surfaces upon which the autoloader’s slide runs demand lubrication. Lube drains, and most types of lubricant evaporate. Finally, when fired from a weak hold, an auto may malfunction; this isn’t the case with a double-action revolver.

Muzzle contact shots may be necessary in a close-contact fight with a homicidal attacker. Most semi-automatics, when pressed against an opponent’s body, will go “out of battery”—that is, the barrel/slide assembly is pushed rearward and the parts are no longer in firing alignment. In these circumstances, the auto is likely to fail to fire. Even if the gun does go off, flesh may be blasted back into the bushing area where the front of the barrel meets the slide, preventing the gun from completing its cycle and therefore preventing follow-up shots from being fired. When a revolver is pressed against an assailant, its barrel is fixed and extended, allowing every cartridge in the gun to be fired this way if necessary.

Firing through a coat pocket is absolutely feasible with a small double-action revolver, especially one with a shrouded hammer. With a semi-automatic, the pocket lining may retard ejection or slide cycle, turning what should have been a higher-capacity handgun into a single-shot pistol.

Access and draw is usually faster with a revolver than with an auto in pocket carry, particularly from trouser pockets. The reason is that the pants press the side of the gun facing the body rather tightly against the leg, and the fingers have to claw between the flat side of an auto’s grip and the wearer’s thigh to gain a firm firing grasp. Moreover, the rear of the slide rises at such an angle on most autopistols that it can be prone to snag the front edge of the trouser pocket, stalling the draw. The rounded grip frame of the revolver facilitates a faster reach-and-grasp movement, and with a bobbed or shrouded hammer there is nothing to catch the edge of the pants pocket on the draw.
Even a revolver with conventional hammer spur can be drawn swiftly if the shooter’s thumb is placed on the back of the spur, creating a “human hammer shroud.”

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