Relics Or Rescue Tools?
Revolvers Are Booming


A few months ago, I witnessed an interesting dichotomy in a couple of gun shops I visited during the same week.

At Outpost Armory in Mufreesboro, Tenn., I couldn’t help but notice handsome displays of double-action defense revolvers at their new building, complete with an indoor range. Now, this shop is owned by the Barrett family — Barrett, as in “Barrett Light Fifty,” a name we all associate with quality — and of course, they had an ample supply of AR-15s, high-tech rifles and the latest in semi-auto pistols of the most-modern styles. Still, it pleased my geezer heart the revolvers of my youth were obviously still selling well.

At Big Daddy’s Gun Shop in Gainesville, Fla., I saw something different. Amidst the latest and greatest in black rifles and high-speed, low-drag polymer pistolas, there were but four revolvers in the whole inventory, and two of them were single-action sporting guns.

Is there a difference in customer tastes between northern Florida (read: Deep South) and Tennessee (read: Mid-South)?

Well, not necessarily, because when I was in Big Daddy’s a month before, there had been a whole shelf of double-action defense revolvers … and they had all sold out by my second visit.

The lesson? Revolvers ain’t dead in the personal protection market.

The Bell Curve

There appears to be a bell curve in this matter, and current revolver sales seem to cluster at opposite ends.

Why do we hear anti-gunners gnashing their teeth and wailing about people buying guns for the first time, and screaming loudest about the fact that the numbers seem to be increasing? At the risk of using a pop culture phrase: “Well, duh!”

The reason we heard “5 million new gun owners!” “No, 8 million!” “No! 10 million or more!” is as simple as Occam’s Razor: That’s how much the numbers are increasing.

The pandemic has been going on for two full years. Looking back, the public experienced a national trend of toilet paper and hand sanitizer disappearing, and reports from credible news sources that emergency services from police to paramedics and hospital emergency rooms would be understaffed and over-run with people in trouble.
This was paralleled by the riots, burning cities and the realization people were going to be on their own. No wonder they raced to the gun shops!

As you no doubt experienced, many of those people had never touched a gun. For a lot of them, a semi-auto pistol was something politicians they voted for said was a deadly assault weapon, possession of which changed the owner’s identity to “incipient fascist.” They were scared of the damn things.

The revolver, on the other hand, was more “newbie friendly.” It held fewer cartridges. You could push or pull a lever, swing out the cylinder and see if it was loaded or not, no slide had to be drawn back against heavy spring pressure, no chance of getting the unloading process backward and leaving a live round in the chamber. When the time came to use it, God forbid, it would be simple and intuitive: Aim it and pull the trigger.

On The Other End

Meanwhile, on the far end of the bell curve, something else was happening. Some are calling it the “Renaissance of the Revolver.” We now see big-name shooting schools — Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, Rangemaster — filling “revolver-only” classes! If it was the gun experts, the cognoscenti, who had led the sea of change from the revolver that dominated handgun sales in the mid-1900s to the “high-capacity” 9mm Auto proliferation of today, and are now teaching revolvers again, what the hell was going on?
The answer is, the gun experts were appreciating certain revolver attributes.

One element, of course, is “gun people” recognize the elegance and style of certain firearms. Another element is those who care about hitting what they shoot at have learned once you master the long trigger stroke of a double-action revolver, you can shoot any handgun well. (For decades, I’ve told students, “A double-action revolver will teach you how to shoot your auto-loader better!”)

The math is simple: In a reactive life-or-death situation, five shots from a revolver right now beats more shots from an auto one second later than right now.

A small revolver with a spurless, shrouded or completely enclosed hammer can snake out of a pocket/ankle holster without catching on anything. During the draw, the rear of an auto pistol’s slide that extends back over the web of the hand can sometimes catch on the edge of the pocket or the bottom of the pants cuff, “stalling” the draw. The small, light revolver with a sleek hammerless (or at least, spurless) configuration can get past that.

The math is simple: In a reactive life-or-death situation, five shots from a revolver right now beats more shots from an auto one second later than right now.

Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch appreciates a large-caliber six-shooter, but usually carries a .45 Auto for serious business — and has written he prefers a light snub-nose revolver for backup in an ankle holster. Tom Givens, one of the world’s leading defensive firearms instructors, carries a GLOCK 17 as a primary option — but, usually, a light snub-nose .38 for backup. Ace police instructor Greg Ellifretz, now teaching private citizens, is a GLOCK guy for primary, but has written he likes a light .38 revolver for backup.

Does anyone else see a pattern emerging here … ?

Additional Sales Considerations

A whole lot of those new customers are buying “one gun per household.” The new customer might be well served if you informed him or her to consider other members of the household (even less familiar with firearms than the buyer) might be more confident and competent with the simpler to handle and operate double-action revolver.

Another consideration: Does your customer live someplace where venomous snakes are a problem? Snakeshot loads don’t cycle particularly well in auto pistols, but work just fine in revolvers.

Finally, you might want to remind defense-oriented customers the thing trying to kill him — a wild creature of the forest or a feral human of the city alleys — might be right on top of him or her, requiring a muzzle-contact shot to save their life.

While some auto pistols can function with a press-contact shot, most can’t. Whether it’s the defender reflexively pushing the gun into the threat or the threat’s body crushing down on the defender and their gun, most auto pistols’ barrel/slide assembly will be pushed out of battery, rendering the gun unshootable. Not so with a revolver, which can be emptied into a threat at press-contact distance. This also directs muzzle blast into the deadly thing’s body, magnifying destructive and fight-stopping power significantly.

The revolver isn’t yet obsolete for self-defense — but some of your customers may need you and your sales staff to tell them just why it’s still a valuable defensive asset.

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