The Best Revolvers

What are the revolvers for self-defense?

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.

Quick List: Best Revolvers Available Today

  1. Best Overall: Smith & Wesson Model 317
  2. Best Budget Option: Heritage Rough Rider 22LR
  3. Best .38 Special: Smith & Wesson Model 10
  4. Best .357: Ruger GP100
  5. Best Concealed Carry Revolver: Smith & Wesson Bodyguard

Best Overall (Top Choice)

The S&W Model 317 revolver is a pricey but top-tier firearm, chambered for common .22 LR cartridges that you can buy at any gun ammunition store.

It features a 3-inch barrel and can be purchased for single or double action configuration depending on your preferences. Most importantly, it’s constructed with an aluminum alloy frame, so it’s lightweight and very easy to conceal or use as a backup weapon. It even comes with adjustable sights for added accuracy.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Comes with great sights
  • 8-round capacity
  • Multiple calibers and actions to choose from

Cons

  • Pricy compared to many other revolvers

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.

Pros

  • Has an excellent aesthetic
  • Very easy to draw/twirl
  • Comes with a blued finish for added durability
  • Very affordable compared to other revolvers

Cons

  • Limited use cases
  • Not CCW appropriate

Best .38 Special

This is another Smith & Wesson revolver but excels when paired with .38 special caliber rounds. The S&W Model 10 comes with a textured wooden grip that’s comfortable to hold and that makes the weapon difficult to drop even if you have a sweaty palm.

It’s an incredibly durable and consistent handgun, with fixed front and rear sights for unrivalled durability.

You can select this pistol in single or double action varieties, but either way, you’ll enjoy a carbon steel frame that ensures long-term performance, even under heavy use.

The only downside is that it’s a bit heavy compared to many other revolvers on the market, but it’s an heirloom-quality revolver that will give you years of reliable service.

Pros

  • Comes with a textured, rubber grip
  • Excellent frame durability and design
  • Can choose it in single or double action
  • Durable
  • Consistent performer

Cons

  • Heaver than other options

Best .357

This Ruger revolver is chambered for 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 will allow you to control the magnum power and fire the weapon repeatedly while staying on target and without causing too much fatigue in your hand or wrist.

It’s made with durable steel for added performance and durability and has a stainless steel finish so it won’t suffer from corrosion damage. It’s a bit heavy but it does have excellent sights for user accuracy.

Pros

  • Very durable design
  • Excellent size and shape as a concealed carry revolver
  • Chambered for powerful cartridges
  • Has an excellent grip

Cons

  • A bit heavy for some
  • Quite pricey

Best Concealed Carry Revolver:

The Smith & Wesson Bodyguard is extremely small and makes a perfect choice for self-defense concealed carrying.

Its sub-2 inch barrel helps keep it lightweight (at only 14.4 ounces) and the hammer-less shape – without an exposed hammer – won’t catch on clothing or pants as you draw the pistol from a concealed holster. It fires five shots and is made with stainless steel and other durable polymers to ensure lightweight but rugged performance.

It even comes with several extra of innovative features, like an integrated red laser for accurate targeting, a pinned front sight, and an ambidextrous cylinder release so right or left-handed users can capably use this phenomenal firearm.

Pros

  • Hammer-less design
  • Has a textured polymer grip
  • Very small and lightweight
  • Good for left or right-handed users
  • Comes with an integrated red laser

Cons

  • Only chambered for 5 rounds

Things to consider when buying a new 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. 

Caliber

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.

Good for Concealed Carry?

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.

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 for due to it doing twice the work, but that adds to their safety and ease of use. You just aim and fire without moving our hand position.

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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