In this day and age, when different size pistols with high capacity or single column magazines reign supreme, is the five- or six-shot revolver still a viable handgun for personal protection and home defense? I say they are. I take this position because I always felt very well armed whenever I carried various Smith & Wesson and a few Colt revolvers while on and off duty during my law enforcement career. In fact, now that I am retired, I consider my six-shot stainless steel Smith & Wesson Model 686 with the 4-inch barrel in .38 Special/.357 Magnum caliber to be one of my favorite personal defense weapons.

Speed Boost

If you wish to improve the firepower potential of any well made revolver you must be trained to effectively use speed loaders like the kind made by HKS and Safariland. The Bianchi Speed Strip is another accessory that is worth having when you carry or use a revolver. With practice, a six-round Bianchi speed strip can help a revolver operator facilitate a faster combat reload. Speed strips work by inserting one bullet into the empty chamber of a revolver cylinder before you twist the rubber strip to the side in a rather quick motion to remove one round at a time from the rubber strip. Even though I prefer speed loaders, I continue to carry at least one Bianchi Speed Strip instead of having loose ammunition rolling around in my pocket with spare change.

Revolvers also generally tend to be incredibly reliable and are very easy to maintain. Just like semi-automatic pistols, revolvers also come in different sizes, are manufactured with different types of material, have different barrel lengths, different ergonomics depending on the grips used, are chambered in different calibers and also come with fixed or adjustable sights. Similar to a pistol, you can also generally use different types of ammunition in a revolver that can change the performance and the level of recoil that a wheelgun displays.

Previous generations of shooters used handgun ammunition that was not as effective as the ammunition that is available today. A revolver loaded with more modern hollow point ammunition is more likely to provide better results than a revolver loaded with the ammunition of yesteryear. This is especially true today when an ammunition company like ATK manufactures the 135-grain Speer Gold Dot hollow point bullet that is specifically designed to provide maximum performance in any revolver that has a 2-inch barrel. Clearly, ammunition like this was not available in the so-called good old days.

Sights For Six Shots

During my law enforcement career I generally preferred to carry revolvers with fixed sights, but I did use a few wheelguns like a Smith & Wesson Model 66 with a 4-inch barrel and a Colt Python with a 2.5-inch barrel that had very easy to acquire adjustable sights. Now that I need to wear glasses to read, I tend to prefer a six-shot revolver with easy to acquire adjustable sights. As a result, at this time, my personal favorite wheelguns are a six-shot stainless steel S& Model 686 with a 4-inch barrel and a six-shot S&W 686 with a 3-inch barrel. Since the 686 with a 3-inch barrel is difficult to find, I am currently using a six-shot 686 with a 2.5-inch barrel. I should also mention that even though I suffer from a touch of arthritis in my hands, I can comfortably shoot snappy .38 Special +P, as well as 125-grain and 158-grain .357 Mag ammunition in any S&W 686 wheelgun.

Ejector Rods

One point on barrel length that you need to consider is that it is easier to extract the empty brass in your revolver if you have an ejector rod that is 3 inches or longer in length. This is why empty brass can hang up and not always be ejected from the cylinder when you carry a revolver with snubby 2- or 2.5-inch barrel with an equally shorter ejector rod.

Some oversized grips can also impede or prevent empty brass from clearing your revolver during an extraction process. If you run into any problems ejecting empty brass during any combat reloading drills, then try using a different pair of grips on your revolver.

Be Revolver Ready

True blue revolver shooters generally agree that a well made revolver with a super smooth double-action trigger operates with a cadence that is unique to the operation of a wheelgun. It is this DA cadence or special sense of timing that enables a trained shooter to accurately and quickly engage one or more targets with all the precision that is necessary to get the job done. I suspect that this was one reason why some well-known special operations units once effectively used revolvers while executing raids and participating in fast-moving tactical operations. In other words, a well made revolver has been proven in combat to be every bit as good as a trusted service pistol.

Old timers who taught me a great deal about firearms also said that carrying a revolver with a limited supply of ammunition has a psychological effect on your brain that tends to make you concentrate on the situation at hand, more than when you are armed with a 1911 or a high-capacity pistol. In other words, veteran revolver shooters believe that when all you have is five or six bullets at your immediate disposal, you tend to try and make every shot count.

Does this mean that a revolver shooter cannot panic and empty their wheelgun in a wasteful or foolish fashion? Of course they can! But the general consensus is that revolver shooters tend to be the kind of people who play chess not checkers. By this I mean that wheelgun operators tend to execute each move with slightly more consideration because they have no choice but to be more conservative with their ammunition supply. This is the main reason why the famous “New York” reload came into existence.

A New York reload requires carrying a pair of handguns to ensure that you have the tactical advantage in any use of deadly force situation, because all you have to do is draw your backup gun to continue engaging targets. The alternative is to risk executing a combat reload with your one and only handgun under an enormous amount of stress, possibly while being out in the open or tactically exposed to your attacker. A New York reload is basically an insurance policy—you have a second handgun in case your initial supply of ammunition is not enough to stop one or more threats.

Wheelguns Roll On

Revolvers in any substantial caliber (.38 Special or larger) are excellent firearms to use for personal protection, recreational shooting and home defense. While it is important to select a quality revolver and a good supply of HS speed loaders, it is imperative that you train hard and become exceedingly proficient with the firearms that you may one day be compelled to use

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