You can call them obsolete if you like, but mastering the double action revolver imparts more benefits than many shooters realize. In the video below, I’ve shared some of the ways I think working with revolvers has made me a better shooter in general. Or you can scroll down and read the transcript instead.

Hey everybody, Chris here from I know most of you guys are not really revolver shooters and I totally understand why semi-autos are the dominant firearm type used for self-defense today. But if you consider yourself a serious student of handgun marksmanship, I think you’re really missing out if you don’t set aside some time to become proficient with a revolver.

I want to give Caleb Giddings credit here because this is something I was reminded of when I listened to a recent interview he did on Ballistic Radio. It’s a topic I’ve alluded to briefly in the past, but today I want to go into a little more detail.

There is an advantage I have noticed from training with revolvers that’s not so obvious if you haven’t done it and it has to do with the double action trigger. The revolver trigger can be somewhat challenging to master, but once you do get the hang of it, I think there is something that changes, mentally, about the way you shoot compared to the way most of us think when we’re running a semi-auto.

What it comes down to is that the long double action trigger press forces the shooter to maintain correct technique 100% of the time in order to not completely suck. As a result, someone who is reasonably proficient with both semi-autos and revolvers will often have slightly better accuracy and more consistent performance overall when they’re shooting a revolver. I can’t say this is how it works for everyone, but that’s been the case for me, and that’s how it’s worked out for Caleb and a lot of other shooters that I’ve talked to.

Another contributing factor to that phenomenon could be the lower ammo capacity of revolvers. When you know you’ve got fewer shots in the gun, you might be more careful to make sure those rounds hit. There might be something to that, but I think the bigger issue is the trigger.

That double action trigger is a lot less forgiving than most semi-autos triggers, whether they are striker fired or single action only or DA/SA. If you’re a decent pistol shooter, then you know that, especially with a modern 9mm, you can get away with imperfect technique a lot of the time. When you’re trying to push your speed, (and who doesn’t want to shoot faster?) you can occasionally sacrifice technique and slap the trigger or let your grip slack off a little bit and still hit the target. And sometimes that doesn’t work out and you end up with a flyer that doesn’t go where you wanted it to at all.

But when you’re shooting a revolver, your technique is kind of all or nothing. I’ve got to have a decent grip to counter-act the 10-pounds of pressure I’m applying with my index finger to get the trigger moving. I can’t slap or jerk the trigger — I have to give it a smooth press all the way to the rear every time, or I’m going to miss big. And while I’m working that trigger, I’m getting an extra tenth of a second or so to make sure that my sights are back on target before the trigger breaks again. If I try to cheat on any of that stuff because I want to go fast, my accuracy is going to fall apart right away.

So the way this works to my advantage is if I shoot revolvers exclusively over a period of time, it has a way of recalibrating my approach to shooting. After a few good range sessions, I become a little more careful about my technique, and that transfers over when I pick up a semi-auto again. It trains me to be a more disciplined shooter in general.

If you’re a decent semi-auto shooter — and by “decent” let’s just say you can clean a Bill Drill in 4 seconds or less — if you’re shooting at that level but you’ve hit a plateau skill wise, or you aren’t happy with the consistency of your performance, shoot a revolver for a while. After maybe 3 or 4 months of dedicated live fire and dry practice with a double action revolver, there’s a good chance you will start to see some noticeable improvement when you go back to your semi-auto.

You might be able to get the same advantage from a double action only semi-auto, but except for some pocket pistols, nobody is really making those anymore. And I’d be willing to bet a lot of you guys already have a revolver sitting in the back of your safe that you never shoot, or you know someone who will loan you their revolver.

So even if you’re part of the crowd that’s convinced that revolvers are completely obsolete as a self-defense tool, consider thinking of them as a training tool instead. Learning how to run a revolver really well is going to make you a better shooter in general, and you’re probably going to have a lot of fun in the process.

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16 thoughts on “The Hidden Advantage of Shooting Revolvers

  1. Grant Cunningham – a great revolver guy – said exactly the same thing. Mastering the double action revolver makes you a better shooter. Including semi-auto shooting. I tend to agree. But I love revolvers!

  2. Everybody has to work out their own salvation, and I will not try to dissuade anyone from their choice. While I went over to a .45 Auto more than 40 years ago, I *love* a big bore wheel gun and would take a 5 shot .44 Spl or .45 Colt over a 17 shot 9mm any day of the week in my neck of the woods (which includes a town of over a million people). I might choose differently for a military mission (revolvers are not quite as reliable in extreme climatic conditions – but they are fine for every day use), but for civilians (including 99% of law enforcement) I feel the big bore revolver increases the odds of survival a bit over a small bore auto – but it is a close thing and if that is one’s choice then that is fine.

    After all, most potentially lethal encounters end without firing a shot – so it hardly matters what you carry in those (see Lott & Mustard).


  3. Chris, thanks for validating what this relatively new shooter has observed, somewhat frustratingly. I typically find that when I practice with semi-autos, my first few shots are the most accurate, and then I tend to anticipate it and shoot low left a little. With the revolver (I picked up a new model 66 recently – I love it), my shots tend to be consistently more accurate throughout my range session, and when I then switch to the Glock or Shield I stay more accurate longer. In general, the revolver seems to be more accurate for me, even though I can get faster good enough hits with the semi auto.
    My experience has been primarily with striker fired pistols vs revolvers. I don’t have much experience with either SA or DA/SA pistols, but am interested in spending more time with one to see if that consistency I experience with the revolver can be carried over to one of those platforms and be faster as well.

  4. Here’s my revolver drill you can practice in your den: be sure the gun is unloaded, put a dime on the top strap, point in a safe direction, dry fire. When you can keep that dime in place all the time, you have earned a beer. And yes, my semiauto shooting has gotten really good since I came to prefer revolvers for home defense and field carry.

    1. Just make sure it’s a modern transfer bar revolver with a flat faced hammer.
      Firing pins attached to the hammer can be damaged if they have nothing to hit up against.
      Snap caps or fired cases with popped primers prevent damage.
      If using fired cases, paint them a bright color so you know live from fired.

      Great drill. After the dime stays put on a stationary target, start moving from one spot or object to another. It forces you to go slow and engage lots of smaller muscles for stability.

      1. Thank you for the clarification. All mine have transfer bars, and I still use snap caps.

      2. Ditto – while I like a firing pin (S&W calls it a “hammer nose”) in the hammer I’ve broken 2, one a S&W and one a Colt Diamondback, while dry firing. I suspect putting empty cases (be sure they are *empty*) with a dead primer in the chambers might solve this problem but I cannot tell you for sure because I have not been doing it with DA revolvers that much. I have used them in Colt SAAs and copies for something like 40 years and have not lost a firing pin – I did however break two hammers – one was a Ruger Blackhawk – apparently I can break anything 😉

  5. Noticed many of those same things myself. Oh my “revolver” is a Beretta Compact Carry with the sear removed. That really puts the focus on the DAO trigger.

  6. Great reminder. Double-action revolver shooting develops good habits (as you stated). I have a Ruger LCR-357 and a LCR-22, I shoot both at least twice a month, really helps with my accuracy and trigger control. The LCR-22 in DOA really helps you with focus and will expose poor shot placement–can’t hide with a .22 cal.

  7. Thirty-seven years as LEO, carried both revolvers and in the early 90’s transitioned to semi-auto when the department finally realized what was happening. Shot competitively with both platforms, but to this day, I still score better with a wheel gun.

  8. Could not agree more. Many years ago my first serious self defense firearm was a S&W 357 model 27. Every Saturday I shot 50 to 150 rounds in practice. In time I mastered it to point of shooting with both eyes open and could do accurate single action shooting as fast as many today do with semi autos. When I moved on to a Browning HP 9mm I was deadly accurate and quick. In time when I tried to teach my sons and grand sons, beginning from the start using popular semi autos it was difficult to get them to embrace the value of each shot by accurate sighting and trigger technique. They have never been able learn to point to out do me and I believe it all goes back to my experience with revolvers.

  9. In a self-defense situation, a violent offender might be tempted to wonder if my wife loaded a semiauto correctly. With a revolver, he can see the nice shiny hollow-points looking at him, ready to go. And there won’t be any question in his mind about “leaving the safety on” as the only safety is between her ears.

  10. Hey Chris, a bit of topic here but did you find a more ideal AIWB holster for your M66? In the original (best revolver in the world) article you were using a Dale Fricke holster and you mentioned that there may be future attempts at a different holster. Curious to know if you found alternatives you liked.

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