Revolvers are a staple American firearm and arguably some the best self-defense weapons you can buy. Wheel guns tend to be small, simple to use, easy to conceal and work in any type of holster, either open carry or beneath your shirt.
More than that, most of them are chambered for cartridges that are powerful enough to serve you well when it comes to self-defense. But you can also use revolvers for backyard fun or target practice at the shooting range if you like thanks to a huge variety of barrel lengths.
In This Article
Below is my list of the best revolvers for 2021. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of revolvers.
What to Look for in a Quality Revolver
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking for the best revolver. Consider each of these aspects and you’ll be sure to purchase a firearm that’s perfect for your needs.
First and foremost, consider the caliber of a given revolver. Caliber essentially describes how large the bullet is and how much damage it can do.
This also directly impacts recoil. Once you have the caliber determined you’ll winnow the list of potential candidates to a much more manageable size.
Some of the most popular revolver calibers include:
- .22 LR rounds
- .38 Special
- .357 Magnum
- .44 Special
- .44 Magnum
- .45 Colt
Generally, the bigger the caliber, the more damage the bullet does and more recoil it will create.
You’ll want to find the right balance of power and control, which boils down to experience and personal preference. Smaller caliber guns tend to be slightly smaller than larger caliber variants, which means less felt recoil, more control, and generally make them suitable for backyard plinking or target shooting..
2. Concealed Carry Fit
You’ll also want to consider whether a revolver is good for concealed carry applications.
Revolvers you can use with a concealed carry license are easy to conceal on your person and are ideal for self-defense. However, be sure to check your state’s concealed carry laws to ensure that you’re even able to get a license for the caliber you have in mind.
You’ll also want to be mindful of barrel length, as most barrels over 3” or 4” can be difficult to conceal and pair with an appropriate holster.
3. Double or Single Action
Lastly, check to see whether a revolver is double or single action.
A single-action revolver only does a single action when you pull the trigger: it just releases the hammer, meaning you need to pull the hammer back in between each shot.
Double-action revolvers are more expensive but allow you to take multiple shots in rapid succession since you don’t need to pull the hammer back yourself. Pulling the trigger, both pulls the hammer back and releases it each time.
Double action revolvers tend to have a heavier trigger pull due to it doing twice the work, but that adds to their safety and ease of use. You aim and fire without moving your hand position
The Best Revolvers Reviewed
1. Best Overall (Top Choice)
The Colt King Cobra revolver is a pricey but top-tier firearm, chambered in the classic .357 Magnum cartridge that offers both significant stopping power and is common enough to find at any LGS.
There’s a lot to love about the Cobra — beyond its storied past — reimagined in 2019 this new Colt snake gun features a 3-inch barrel which will ensure controllable recoil and reasonable accuracy in close quarters.
Most importantly, it’s constructed with heavy-duty, brushed stainless steel, it’s the kind of revolver that will be a joy to shoot any day of the week, and hand down through generations while performing the way you’d expect from a premium wheel gun.
- Incredibly durable construction
- Comes with great sights
- .357 chambering can pull double duty
- Pricy compared to many other revolvers
- 28 oz & 8-inch means not exactly a CCW revolver
2. Best Budget Option
This revolver isn’t the best self-defense pistol, but it will look great if you decide to carry on your hip.
The Heritage Rough Rider offers a more traditional cowboy firearm look and is chambered in .22 LR cartridges, making it a great backyard plinking or target practice firearm. It comes with a wooden grip for added aesthetic quality and features a machine barrel that is micro-threaded for added accuracy and overall performance.
It’s also one of the most affordable revolvers you can find the market. Add to that a blued steel finish for added corrosion damage and you have a great sidearm that looks cool and is just too much fun to shoot.
- Has an excellent aesthetic
- Very easy to draw/twirl
- Comes with a blued finish for added durability
- Very affordable compared to other revolvers
- Limited use cases
- Not CCW appropriate
3. Best .38 Special
This is another Smith & Wesson revolver but excels when paired with .38 special caliber rounds. The S&W 642 Airweight comes with a textured synthetic grip that’s comfortable to hold and adds to its controllability — making the weapon difficult to drop even when operating in a tense situation or with sweaty palms.
The Airweight pairs a couple of useful features to create a uniquely effective firearm — an internal hammer and aluminium alloy frame with a stainless steel cylinder. You get a revolver that’s both incredibly durable and lightweight at just 15 ounces. The additional of fixed front and rear sights make for a classic, robust firearm.
- Comes with a textured, rubber grip
- Proven frame durability and design
- Consistent performer
- Built from the Model 42 Centennial Airweight
- Non-adjustable sights
- Some may prefer an external hammer for additional control
4. Best .357
This Ruger revolver is chambered for .357 Magnum loads which provide more than enough firepower to stop an attacker in a self or home defense situation.
The GP100 revolver also features a cushioned grip that provides more than enough control for the additional power — ensuring you can fire the weapon repeatedly while staying on target and avoiding unnecessary hand or wrist fatigue. Of course, custom grips are available by the ton, so there’s lots of room to bet the grip just right.
While you get a steel alloy frame for performance and durability, the really interesting bits all involve Ruger’s focus on performance. The Hiviz fiber optic front sight gives you both fast target acquisition and the advantage of day and night performance. Paired with the 2.5″ barrel you have a seriously effective personal defense firearm.
It’s a shade heavy at 36 ounces but if you’re looking for a revolver that offers day and nighttime performance in a smaller package the GP100 is hard to beat.
- Very durable design
- Excellent size and shape as a concealed carry revolver
- Chambered for powerful cartridges
- Has an excellent grip
- A bit heavy for some
- Quite pricey
5. Best Concealed Carry Revolver
The Ruger LCRx revolver is extremely small — with a sub 2″ barrel length — and makes a perfect choice for self-defense and concealed carry applications.
Its sub-2 inch barrel and unique 400-series stainless steel frame paired with the polymer fire control housing help keep it extraordinarily lightweight at only 17 ounces, meaning it’s really just designed for all-day carry comfort.
Ruger puts quite a bit of stock in their patented friction-reducing cam which helps improve control and smooths the trigger pull.
Its smaller size means you have five rounds on tap vs. other revolvers six, but its light weight and Lilliputian form factor give it more than enough advantages to overcome the lack of capacity. If you want to carry an innovative CCW revolver that gives you a lightweight performer, look no further than the LCRx.
- Has a textured polymer grip
- Very small and lightweight
- Good for left or right-handed users
- Only chambered for 5 rounds
Wrapping it up
Ultimately, the Smith & Wesson Model 317 is the perfect revolver for most users. It balances durability and user comfort better than most pistols on the market and it’s designed for concealed carrying or general open carrying depending on your preference.
But overall, any of the above revolvers should perform well and will be top purchases, so long as you use them as intended. Thanks for reading!
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