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Opinions vary widely when it comes to the viability of the revolver as a combat weapon, which is interesting when you consider the revolver has been acquitting itself quite well both in combat and on the street since firearms were invented. This fact is not lost on everyone, and as much as the 1911 is making a comeback, so too is the revolver. With the advent of so many small lightweight revolvers these days, it is gaining popularity as a concealed carry gun, pocket gun, or simply a good gun to have at the ready. Properly loaded and operated by a trained individual, the revolver is as good as any other firearm for self-protection. Given good ammunition, the revolver will go bang when the trigger is pressed, continuing to do so until the last round is fired. This translates easily to the self-defense world, even given lower capacity when compared to an autopistol. In most cases six is plenty given appropriate shot placement.

For many years revolvers were all about big, powerful cartridges in small frames. That meant more recoil and less accuracy. There is still a vivid memory of the first scandium .44 Mag that went through my hands using full loads. The first words were expletives for sure and shooting it was anything but fun. Thankfully in the last few years the trend has been to produce more lightweight revolvers in moderate calibers.

The same advancements in bullet technology that have made the small semiauto viable have benefitted the revolver. Add to that the addition of new lasers that are small, consistent, and reliable and it gets even better. There are still some things the revolver just does better than the semi-auto for the average person carrying concealed.

Strengths

Especially with a hammerless version there is nothing to snag on during the firing process. You simply press the trigger and continue to do so. This is true even when fired from a pocket, purse, or jacket. It wreaks havoc with the garment, but as a general rule it does not normally jam. While three-inch barrels are about the limit for most semi-autos, the 2-inch revolver has been used for years. Many an officer carries a two-inch revolver as a back-up gun. When asked why, the general answer is simple; “When you need to use your second gun it had better work.”

Revolvers tend do be a bit more forgiving of load differences. Failures to fire only require you press the trigger again—no malfunction drills. Malfunction drills are great, but not something you would prefer to do in a gunfight.

Revolvers come in all shapes and sizes now with all kind of sighting systems. They weigh less and even the triggers on some of the small pistols are incredible. Having just handled a new Bodyguard from Smith and Wesson, that trigger is astounding for a small revolver. There really are a ton of choices out there now and the revolver can fit into many areas.

Cons

If you need a ton of bullets, you’ll need an autoloader. Storing spare ammunition on your person is also problematic. Speedloaders can be hard to conceal, and truly concealable things like pouches and speed strips are slow. Semi-autopistols also tend to have less felt recoil, especially with many self-defense loads.

The most critical of these is the need for training. The idea that a revolver needs less training to operate properly and use in a self-defense situation is mostly mythology. The opposite is true and is the very reason many departments went to semi-auto pistols in the first place. The stronger triggers and longer pull are difficult for many and impossible for some. Most people just shoot semi-auto pistols better with less training, and certainly less consistent training. You really need to get some training if you are going to carry a revolver for self-defense, and you need to get it from a proven trainer or facility.

S&W M327 TRR8

Combat revolver classes are getting harder and harder to find. This is mostly economic, as fewer people are using them so the market is pretty sparse. But to my delight, Gunsite decided to bring their Combat Revolver class back.

The revolver I chose is, in my opinion, one of the most versatile Smith & Wesson has ever made—the M327 TRR8. Although it was originally designed as the TR8 for special operations use, in the TRR8 configuration it does a ton of things.

Chambered in .357 Magnum, it also accepts .38 Special for training. This provides versatility for self-defense, duty use and even hunting. A really nice 125-grain .38 Special self defense round was used. This was a jacketed hollow point design and, although not loaded to +P pressures, it was no slouch either. It was flawless throughout, which is critical when attending training like this. This is not the place to take untested ammunition; it detracts from your training and the rest of the class. This ammunition proved to be incredibly reliable and incredibly accurate.

The TRR8 is a scandium pistol but in the large N-frame and holds eight shots. As this was a three-day, 600-round class, the bigger gun just seemed like it would be more fun. It uses a brass bead front sight. This turned out to be a fantastic sight for me. In fact, upon my return one was ordered for my M&P45.

In the case of the TRR8, there are two accessory rails that are removable. If you want the light rail you can add it. If you want to add an optic, simply put the top rail on and you are good to go. The five-inch barrel seems long, but in the lightweight frame it is not at all. This gun also has the ability to use full moon clips, so it made accessories a bit less expensive. With gun in hand it was time to head to Gunsite.

Gunsite Academy

Like many of these classes, day one begins with introductions and classroom. Our lead instructor, Il Ling New, has been teaching at Gunsite for almost 10 years. As the class progressed this experience was obvious. It is the instructor that makes or breaks the class, not necessarily the doctrine. In this particular instance, Gunsite “chose wisely”—Il Ling was professional, yet entertaining, and ultimately proved to be one of the best instructors I have ever had the privilege of training with.

Once the introductions were complete and time spent on the history, doctrine, and some basics, it was time to hit the range. We started out with grip, stance and presentation. Although the stance and presentation are pretty much the same, the grip on a revolver is a whole other beast. It is one of the reasons training is so critical. A slightly weak grip on an auto is more forgiving—on a revolver the proper grip is essential.

With a solid grip in place it was time for the presentation. Again, an excellent base was provided and clear and concise instruction. Time was spent making sure each student had the proper grip and could manipulate it safely. Loading, unloading and speed re-loading were covered. After everyone was able to pretty much run the gun, time was spent focusing on accuracy and trigger manipulation. Trigger pull is critical to accuracy with a revolver, and much time was spent at this stage.

Although the focus was still on accurate fire after a smooth presentation, the pace on day two increased and the targets now turned. Throughout this entire day the focus never left applying these skills in a gunfight. The tactical load was added in preparation for the last day. Gunsite is all about gunfighting, and the training never left that theme. Reloading the TRR8 was fast, but it does bring up an issue with the eight-shot revolver. Lots of time here on reloads, and the accessory world is a bit behind here. Moon clips are plentiful and moon clip holders can be found, but they were scarce. Using speedloaders would have been nice, but given a bit of compressed time frame none could be found in time for the class. Just something to be aware of if you go with this handgun.

Day three was mostly a day in the simulators. These are designed to simulate working in a real environment with your gun and real ammunition. They are fantastic training tools. They provide a means to test your shooting skills under some pressure, and take you off the square range and into the real world. Ammunition management with a revolver is critical and applying the tactical reload was important. A typical tactical load with a revolver simply tops off the cylinder. That is just not feasible with moon clips. It required removing the clip with some rounds missing and putting them in a pocket. A fresh clip was loaded to complete the course. If you carry a revolver that requires moon clips for defensive carry, this may be critical so take the time to work that out.

Lessons Learned

The first thing I learned was how much fun and useful a revolver can be. I would not hesitate to carry a revolver into a gunfight. After running this Performance Center revolver, my gun is going to Smith & Wesson for some work, and when it comes back it is going to spend a ton less time in my safe.

After many years of semi-auto use my revolver skills had deteriorated significantly. Revolvers point and handle recoil differently. Even with a quality trigger such as on the TRR8, this type of handgun requires concentration. You really have to spend time dry firing to dial in the trigger pull.

Make certain you have a quality holster, and you determine exactly what you are going to carry for spare ammunition. Practice with what you carry, reloading and manipulating each revolver is different. Moving back and forth between semiauto pistols requires little alteration. That is not the case with a revolver.

Sometimes when you use a firearm for a living, you tend to forget that it can be fun, and Gunsite reminded me of that fact. The best training in the world is the training that is not only practical, usable, and definitive, but fun as well. It makes you want to come back, and at least spend more time on the gun, and that is the best possible outcome to any training.

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