Selling Revolvers To Women (And Others)


In Shooting Industry’s August 2022 “Range Issue,” the Letters to the Editor page carried a note from gun dealer Steven Hamilton, saying he appreciated the column I had written for the June 2022 issue (“Relics Or Rescue Tools? Revolvers Are Booming”). Hamilton noted he’d had particular success selling revolvers to female customers, and suggested I do a follow-up column on the topic. Editor Jade Moldae replied this could indeed be done … and here it is.

Revolvers Have “Nothing To Hide”

Women have constituted a much larger than usual percentage of the first-time gun buyers who have been flooding gun shops since the pandemic began, according to most dealers I’ve interviewed on the topic.

First-time gun users of either gender are leery of complicated machinery, particularly if the equipment in question is something they perceive as “a killing machine.” They’ve been falsely told by anti-gunners a gun is more likely to kill its owners than to protect them. An auto pistol hides the cartridges inside it from view, for the most part. By contrast — except for .22s and other revolvers with counterbored chambers — a glance at a revolver from the side will show whether or not there are cartridge case rims in its cylinder. 

Unloading an auto, one has to be sure the sequence is “remove magazine, then eject chambered round.” If done backwards, there’s a “torpedo in the launch tube” of a pistol its new owner thinks is empty. Clearing the chamber itself can be a chore for someone who doesn’t have a significant amount of hand and arm strength, and it’s understood most females have less upper body strength than most males. This is why we have a generation of pistols typified by the Smith & Wesson “EZ” series, the Ruger LC380 and more whose key selling point is easier slide manipulation in weaker hands.

The double-action revolver with swing-out cylinder takes those concerns pretty much off the table. Pull back on the cylinder latch of a Colt or Armscor; press in on a Ruger’s; press forward on the latch of a Charter Arms, Taurus, Smith & Wesson or Rossi. Holding the latch in this position, use your fingers to swing the cylinder out. Empty chambers or live cartridges, the “ammo supply section” of the firearm is both visible and palpable. Easy-peasy, very little strength required. Press the ejector rod and live rounds or spent casings alike are lifted out of the chambers. 

The revolver, one might say, has nothing to hide.

Speaking of which, the revolver offers a little known and seldom appreciated advantage when a suspect is taken at gunpoint. Here’s a sales tip: You might want to remind the customer those cartridges in the chambers are also visible “from the business end!” 

Aim a plastic pistol at a hardened felon, especially one with a visible molding line in the frame, and it’s not inconceivable the thug might delude himself into believing it’s a toy. Level your most expensive 1911 .45 at him, and he won’t be sure if it contains live ammo or cobwebs leftover from World War I. 

But when he’s looking at a drawn and leveled revolver from the front, the bullet noses of live ammo are pointing at him and assuring him, this gun is real, it’s loaded and the intended victim isn’t bluffing with something that can’t hurt him.


Spellcheck doesn’t recognize the word “shootability” — but shooters do. It’s the ability to reliably deliver fast, accurate hits on target. Here’s where small, lightweight revolvers in .38 Special or larger come up short: Their short sight radius doesn’t help accuracy, and it’s not uncommon to find a 14-lb. trigger pull on a 14 oz. revolver! This isn’t the best formula for good hits delivered quickly.

How to compensate? First, some revolvers will have lighter, smoother trigger pulls than others. Colt’s current iteration of the Cobra series and Ruger’s LCR series are among the winners in this regard.

But — let’s look at “threat profiles.” A whole lot more women than men are more concerned with being sexually assaulted than they are with being robbed. Sexual assault, by definition, occurs at contact distance. A short-barrel revolver has some huge advantages in an entangled, direct-contact struggle.

As the great Henry Fitzgerald noted almost 100 years ago, a snub-nose revolver with a decent grip is possibly the most difficult gun for a strong male assailant to wrest away from a smaller, physically weaker intended victim. The victim has more to hang onto than the attacker who grabs the barrel. Decades of teaching weapon retention and disarming have shown me Fitzgerald was right. (Small pocket autos don’t give the attacker much to grab, but don’t give the defender much to hang onto, either.)

Moreover, “contact distance” may necessitate a “contact shot.” Press-contact will push most auto pistols out of battery and render them unshootable; not so with the revolver. Remember, at press contact, muzzle blast is directed into the homicidal attacker’s body, significantly magnifying wound effect.

Before we leave the subject of shootability, we have to address the matter of recoil. I’d advise against .357 Magnum ammo in a small, light wheelgun. Ace gun writer Tamara Keel is a strong, athletically built woman who stands 6′ tall, and she prefers a .32 Magnum to even .38 Special, let alone .357. A growing number of credentialed experts, such as Chuck Haggard, recommend the mid-range .38 Special wadcutter target load for self-defense with small, light revolvers. Recoil is relatively mild, and the flat-nosed wadcutter bullet cuts a full-diameter wound path. Keep some in stock if you’re selling featherweight .38 snubs. (Heck, those loads can work in larger .38s and 357s, too.)

Not Just For Women

Let’s not forget a lot of folks of both genders appreciate the above-mentioned revolver features. Ease of loading/unloading with arthritic or otherwise weakened hands can be a selling point to people of all ages and genders, but particularly the elderly. 

The profile of a spurless-hammer revolver, or a “hammerless” or hammer shrouded one make it easier to quickly retrieve them from a pants pocket. Such revolvers, particularly those with enclosed hammers, can be fired through coat pockets. They can also be fired through briefcases or handbags of suitable size.

Revolvers are seen by some as “girl guns” and/or “geezer guns,” but they have broader appeal than that. Among serious shooters, we’re seeing a ripple of renaissance of the double-action revolver, whose long pull teaches shooters to distribute trigger pressure and shoot better with the autoloaders they otherwise prefer.

They may not be the bestsellers in the gun shop, but revolvers sure ain’t ready for the museum yet.

Click To Read More Shooting Industry November 2022 Issue Now!