By Jeremy Harding
“They’re obsolete,” my friend declared with all the authority of someone speaking the gospel truth as opposed to voicing his own opinion. “There’s nothing a modern-day revolver can do that a semi-auto can’t do better for the same price.” <;p>
I considered his statement for a moment. “But what about the simplicity of them? Anyone can pick one up, drop rounds into the cylinder, and pull the trigger. Not to mention you never have to take them apart,” I said.
He laughed off my assertion, “Anyone that can’t figure out how to fill a magazine, wrack the slide, or tear down their gun has no business using it in the first place.”
For a few moments it struck me how punch-able that smirking expression was on his smug face, but I kept my cool. “Maybe, maybe not. But, you can’t deny most revolvers are chambered with rounds that are a heck of a lot more potent than the polymer semi-autos out there. Face-to-face with an angry bear, I’d take half a dozen magnum sledgehammers over 20 conventional carry loads any day.”
He shook his head. “I never plan on running into any bears in my normal day to day.”
I crossed my arms. “Maybe not, but you carry a gun to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, and I can guarantee that revolvers are less likely to have malfunctions when a situation goes pear shaped.”
Our exchange continued on like that for some time without either being willing to alter their position on the relevance of revolvers in today’s high-tech market. It seems inevitable that simple, classic designs will always give way to more complicated offerings in the name of progress. However, that doesn’t mean that old school wheel-guns don’t still have a place in your gun safe, or riding on your hip. They may not sport all the fancy bells and whistles, but they’re reliable, fun to shoot, and can pack a real wallop. Here are 5 models chambered in .357 magnum that are an absolute must-have in anyone’s collection.
Starting off is the Ruger GP100. Ruger has long been known for their stellar reputation in producing quality revolvers and the double-single action, 6-round cylinder, GP100 is no exception. With a carry weight ranging from 3.7-4.5 pounds, thanks in no small part to the gorgeous satin-finished, stainless frame, you can expect recoil to be easily manageable from .357s and barely noticeable from .38s. The gun’s heft coupled with a black rubber Hogue mono-grip makes a full day at the range more damaging to your wallet than your wrists. Depending on your application, you have a few barrel length options to choose from ranging from 3-inch to 4-inch to 6-inch. With a price tag right around $729, you can have an awesome firearm that packs a punch while simultaneously being accessible to newer shooters who might be more intimidated by the magnum’s bite.
One thing that revolvers have over their more prevalent semi-auto cousins is there elegant simplicity. They have fewer moving parts, and therefore are less likely to malfunction except in cases of wear affecting their timing. You’ll never hear about a wheel-gun stove piping or having a round tip-up. That rugged dependability in tandem with Smith & Wesson’s knack for producing exceptional revolvers is what makes the 686 such a gem. It’s 2.75-pound starting weight, stainless steel finish, 6-round cylinder, and adjustable rear sight makes it a solid weapon for right around $800, but where it really stands apart is its trigger. A buttery-smooth take up in double action, and a light, zero-mush snap in single action make for an unparalleled shooting experience. Like a high-quality vodka that goes down easy, the 686 is simple in its elegance and will have you constantly coming back for just one more shot.
Durable steel meets a rich solid wood handle in this classic 50’s, 6-round single action. The Blackhawk is by no means a concealed carry pistol, but honestly why would you want to hide it in the first place? With barrel length options of 4.625 inches to 7.5 inches, an adjustable rear sight with bladed front, light 4.25-pound trigger, and a weight starting at 2.25 pounds, this gun is highly capable of stretching its legs with impressive results. A safety bar between the hammer and firing pin ensures that the gun will never go off unless the hammer is pulled all the way back every single time. Performance aside, the Blackhawk’s handsome blued finish boasts one of the best canvases for custom engraving you’re likely to ever find. For around $720 this beautiful piece of American history is the showpiece that can take a licking and keeps on kicking, and kicking, and kicking.
Our penultimate entry is one that many would dub the crown jewel of production revolvers. The python is a deadly accurate, exquisitely designed weapon that perfectly matches alluring form in blued, stainless, and nickel finishes with dependable function. Despite being introduced back in 1955, the 6-cylinder, double-single action Python easily stands up to its modern day peers. With an 8-pound, double-action trigger pull, and a feathery 3-pound single, you won’t need to look like Popeye to enjoy a day at the range. Venting along the top of the barrel helps cut down on weight to a comfortably balanced 3 pounds, while rear and front adjustable sights ensure the barrel of your choice between 2.5 inches to 8 inches sends lead exactly where you want it to go. The only downside? Pythons are no longer in production, so getting your hands on this king-out-of-time will usually cost you between $1k-$2.5k, depending on condition and the seller.
S&W Model 640
Capping off our list is the snub-nosed workhorse of everyday carry pistols. The double-action-only 640 is meant to be easily hidden with an overall length of about 6.5 inches. A 5-round cylinder helps to cut down on weight and slim up the profile. At a wispy 1.44 pounds, you won’t be exhausted at the end of the day from carrying it around in a purse or inside a waistband holster unlike some of its heavier cousins. Its hidden-hammer design means less chances of snagging up if you need to draw it in a hurry, which is worth its weight in gold when fear has robbed you of your fine motor control. An 8-pound trigger with plenty of take-up means it’s not going to go bang unless you really want it to, although the extra effort does contribute to reduced accuracy outside of a relatively short distance. With a bright stainless-steel finish, and extra milling to allow the use of full moon clips, the 640 is an invaluable addition to your go-to self-defense options.
It may be somewhat true that revolvers are becoming less useful in modern day applications. They don’t have the capacity of modern semi-autos, they’re usually heavier with bulkier frames, and they lack that all important “tactical” aesthetic a lot of younger shooters tend to gravitate toward. However, there’s a reason they’ve stood the test of time. They’re simple, infinitely easier to maintain, and incredibly fun to shoot. Not to mention they’re able to field some of the gnarliest magnum cartridges handheld firearms are capable of containing. The humble revolver may have its drawbacks in our applications today, but it’s still a rock-solid design that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Don’t believe me? Just try to imagine Jesse James or The Duke carrying a Glock. Enough said.