Revolvers

An article I just wrote on the top five handgun cartridges for AmericanRifleman.org just went live. I was asked to write it because of the widespread popularity of a similar piece I wrote on the top five sporting cartridges back in June. Predictably, this one has also struck a chord with many in the cyber world. On my Facebook page last night a couple of my friends carried on a discussion that eventually took a trail as to whether a revolver is a viable self-defense tool in today’s world.
One of the participants in that discussion is a young man who I have known his entire life. His dad is one of my best friends, and Patrick has been hunting with us since he was 6 years old. He is a most remarkable young man in today’s world—one who really gets it. He spent five years in the Marine Corps, most of it guarding Marine 1, the presidential helicopter. As soon as he got out of the Corps, he went through the grueling LAPD Academy, and now he is about to start a new chapter of his life as a police officer with another agency. Patrick’s dad was a decorated police officer, so he has been steeped in guns and police work his entire life—and he is a hell of a shot. However, as we all are, Patrick is a result of his training and experience environment. He sees the revolver as a somewhat anachronistic piece of armament, though he reluctantly agrees it is somewhat useful as a pocket pistol.
Patrick’s training and experience is deep, if rather narrow. Military and law enforcement may be the cutting edge of a modern gunfighter, but isn’t the whole world. His world, even in the Marines, has largely been urban, and many modern tac-tards, as they are often referred to, are consumed with the Miami FBI and North Hollywood LAPD shootouts. Hundreds—perhaps thousands—of self-defense incidents have occurred since those iconic events, and relatively few have required more than a handful of shots to terminate hostilities. Like Patrick, I strap on a firearm every day. Unlike Patrick, I am not at the tip of the spear for urban social re-engineering. I live in a rural area.
More than 90 percent of the time I carry a revolver—usually a .44 Special or an S&W 342 PD, depending upon my dress and needs. There are a couple of reasons why I choose to most often carry a revolver. First, I am very comfortable with them. I’ve been shooting revolvers ever since I started shooting handguns. Second, there are potential threats other than people where I choose to live. Bears and wolves come immediately to mind, but there are other considerations that emphasize power over round count in the self-defense handgun. Even in a human-to-human self-defense encounter the real possibility exists that my potential antagonist may be shielding himself with some kind of barrier that might be too much for one of these modern trick hollowpoints to overcome. Too, he might be at an extended range where many semi-auto pistols might have a bit more difficulty making a disabling hit.
In the end we all make our decisions based upon perceptions, comfort, familiarity and compromises. By no means am I in any way saying Patrick is wrong or misguided in his position. Were I in the same position—given age, background and experience—I might likely feel the same. A personal self-defense weapon is just that: a very personal decision that each of us bets our life upon. For me given my age, experience and, yes, even prejudices, a revolver is a fine choice as a carry gun. It doesn’t work for others, but that does not mean either of us is wrong.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”

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