What are the best 9mm Revolvers?
When it comes to concealed carry, revolvers have been in use for over a century. That’s a long time in the firearm world, and since over those 100 years or so handheld firearms have seen a lot of innovation.
For most people, that means when they think of a carry arm, they gravitate toward a semi-automatic firearm, preferably in a performant caliber like .45 ACP or 9mm.
This has led some people to think that revolvers have become the stuff of competitive shooters or old-fashioned types who want to carry a snub-nose .38 special in their trenchcoat pocket. There is, however, certainly a case to be made for using centerfire revolvers as carry guns today.
We highlight six 9mm revolvers that bring innovative design to the table, proving that centerfire revolvers aren’t stuck in the days of Wild Bill or Dick Tracy.
I'm your Huckleberry
1. Ruger Blackhawk
At first glance, this Ruger looks like an old school, single-action cowboy gun, and in a lot of ways, it is. The contour of the handle, as well as the relatively long barrel and precise sights, make this an excellent shooting revolver.
There are also some excellent modern innovations here, especially the ability to swap cylinders between .357 and 9mm, so that you can choose, on the fly, the caliber of rounds you want to shoot that day.
Like most single-action revolvers, the manual of arms will take some practice, but for home defense, competition, or having fun at the range this Ruger is an excellent revolver.
Revolvers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and barrel lengths. For concealed carry, the Ruger LCR is about as small as revolvers come while still offering a fully-featured firearm. The 9mm variant of the LCR has been increasingly popular over the years because it’s so easy to conceal, at just 6.5” long, and with no external hammer, there’s nothing to snag on a holster or jacket.
It’s also a good example of how 9mm is typically loaded into revolvers: with moon clips (more on those in a bit). This LCR includes three moon clips and there’s a decent array of aftermarket parts available, mainly grips, lasers, and sights — to be fair, a 2” barrel firing a 9mm isn’t exactly a long-range weapon, but you can enhance the LCR to suit your needs, which is a great feature.
Even straight out of the box this is a prime example of a perfectly reliable CCW revolver.
3. Smith & Wesson
This revolver is truly beautiful. With a stainless steel body, rubber grip, titanium frame, and 6.5” barrel, it’s likely far more accurate than most who will wield it. Intended mostly for competition, it would also make for a great firearm to open carry, for instance, if you went backpacking.
This revolver isn’t just a pretty face — it is also highly functional, with attention to detail and craftsmanship clear from every angle. It’s a real case of blending old-world craft with modern tech to get the most out of both.
While it will look great in a gun case, it will also excel in virtually any situation you may need it to.
4. Charter Arms
For those looking for a practical, affordable 9mm revolver that’s a little bigger than the Ruger LCR, the Charter Arms Pitbull is the revolver for you. Coming in an attractive blasted stainless finish, with just basic maintenance, this firearm should last a lifetime.
This one is a double-single action which means that you carry it with the hammer down — on a loaded chamber, this is safe in modern revolvers. The safety on the firearm is the long (relatively heavy) first, double-action trigger pull.
For the rest of the cylinder, the trigger resets to a single action and is much lighter and crisper.
Another great option for those looking for a reasonably-priced, high-quality revolver is the Taurus 905. The all-black anodized look is attractive and makes for a subtle concealed carry piece that doesn’t sacrifice performance or reliability.
In particular, the slightly oversized cylinder release is a nice touch, which makes it easier to reload quickly under duress. That and the spurred hammer make this a smooth handling revolver that gives those who want to use this for concealed carry an option for single-action firing.
The Chiappa Rhino looks like a gun from the future, which is probably why it ends up in so many shows, films, and games. That interesting look comes from its barrel layout, which helps reduce muzzle flip: let’s explain.
Conventional revolvers have what’s called a high bore axis. They fire from the top cylinder, which puts it above your hand and wrist. Under recoil, your wrist acts as a fulcrum, and the barrel recoils both back and up.
This is why, for example, automatic weapons are generally inaccurate when fired for more than a few rounds and a best practice is therefore to shoot in bursts.
The Rhino’s barrel uses a low bore axis — firing from the bottom-most barrel. This puts it in line with your hand and transfers recoil back into your wrist, making this an exceptionally flat-shooting revolver.
How a revolver works
Revolvers are simple machines
Both semi-automatic handguns and revolvers fire one round per pull of the trigger.
The major difference is that revolvers feed those rounds via a rotating cylinder in the frame of the gun, whereas semi-automatic handguns feed from a stack of ammunition in a magazine.
Rimmed .vs Rimless Cartridges
The difference between a rimmed and rimless cartridge is fairly simple on paper: the former has a rim at the bottom of the round, and the latter does not. This has a few implications for their function in firearms.
Rimless cartridges stack well in magazines
Generally, rimless cartridges like the 9mm are used in magazine-fed guns. The lack of a rim means that they stack more efficiently in magazines will not lock together when stacked. This helps magazines feed reliably.
Rimmed cartridges, on the other hand, use that rim to catch on the edge of a surface: in most revolvers, this means that the cartridge will rest on the face of the cylinder.
Moon clips to the rescue
The 9mm is rimless, and thus to use it in revolvers, you will typically need to use moon clips. A moon clip is an inexpensive, reusable ring-shaped or star-shaped piece of metal designed to hold rimless cartridges together in the correct position for loading into a revolver.
They’re cheap, easy-to-use and also speed up the reloading process.
Additionally, if you do need to use moon clips, get more than you think you will need: they bend over time and with use, and the last thing you want is for your carry revolver to jam up because of a $3 moon clip.
Benefits of 9mm Revolvers
There are some major benefits to carrying a 9mm revolver. Generally, for revolvers, reliability is one feature that attracts people to the platform, and semi-autos require more maintenance due to their additional number of moving parts.
Most of the time, you can put a reliable revolver away for years and not worry about it functioning when retrieving it. This makes them excellent guns to store away from home defense, and a no-brainer option for concealed carry.
Additionally, many new shooters are drawn to revolvers because they’re unintimidating — you can see how everything works. Revolvers are simple enough to learn how to use comfortably in a few hours at a single range session.
Pair that with their small size, and revolvers can be excellent choices for people who want, for example, to conceal carry with a purse.
The 9mm offers particular benefits as well. First is price and availability; you will be hard-pressed to find a gun store or ammo retailer that doesn’t have 9mm in stock (pandemic-based ammo shortages notwithstanding).
Second, because 9mm is such a common defensive round, there are excellent personal defense ammo options available that help to make the revolver a more than viable concealed carry firearm.
Two shortcomings with revolvers do need to be mentioned. The first is that they are limited by capacity. Typically, 5-6 rounds of 9mm is all you’re going to get out of a revolver. This pales in comparison to the 12+ that is common in many 9mm semi-autos today.
The second is loading time: moon clips take more practice and patience than magazines. But, with practice, that difference can be fairly minimal and its relatively easy to carry a few moon clips once readied.
So, why choose a 9mm revolver? Take a look at the above six options and you’re more than likely to be interested in at least one. Revolvers can be classic, futuristic, practical, or some mix of all of those things. The variety of high-quality, carry revolvers out there makes them a fascinating segment of the firearms market, and one well worth considering.
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