Whether you’re a first-time gun buyer looking for a safe and reliable gun for personal protection or an experienced collector looking to add a quality concealable handgun to your collection, a revolver is an excellent choice.
There are many advantages to owning a revolver, but as with any gun, there are some disadvantages too.
- Easy to use
- Considered safer than semiautomatics by many
- Low maintenance, especially stainless-steel versions
- Good choice for a reliable backup gun
- Limited ammo capacity
- Heavy for the amount of ammo available
- Fewer models available compared with semiautomatics
- Can be more expensive
What’s your budget?
Revolvers vary widely in price according to materials, manufacturer, and special features. If you’re hoping to buy used, the price may be closer to the MSRP than you expect because of sheer supply and demand. In recent years, more and more people have applied for and received concealed carry permits or simply bought firearms for home defense. Some used revolvers may sell for a lot more than their original MSRP, if they have collectible value.
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Do you have any physical issues with your hands or lack strength?
Having hand or wrist issues doesn’t mean you can’t shoot a revolver; however, you need to be careful which one you choose. For example, pulling back a hammer may be hard for some, but there are hammerless revolvers that are actually easier to conceal and weigh slightly less. The caliber is also important. For example, a .357 has more recoil force than a .32 or .22 but more stopping power, so there’s a trade-off.
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Available Calibers: .357, .357 Mag, .38 Spl+P, .22LR, .327 Fed Mag, and 9 mm Luger
Barrel Lengths: 2.25” or 3” depending on caliber, some come in both barrel lengths
The Ruger SP101 series is currently one of the more popular lines, with good reason. It’s rugged and designed with self-defense and concealed carry in mind. The wide array of available calibers means there’s a revolver in this series for practically everyone. The .357 is one of the most common Ruger SP101 variations. For those looking for the most concealable Ruger SP101, choose a shorter barrel version. For example, the Ruger SP101 Model 5718 has a 2.25” barrel and is chambered in .357 Mag for maximum knockdown power. If you’re comfortable with a hammerless revolver, the Model 5720 is even more concealable while retaining the knockdown power of .357 Magnum rounds.
Worried about recoil? Choose the longer 3” barrel. Although the extra 3/4” means more revolver to hide, the reduced recoil may be worth it. A longer barrel can also improve accuracy for targets that are farther away. The 9 mm Luger is another option for reduced recoil, and the ammunition is less expensive than .357. If you have a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun, adding a 9 mm revolver means you can use the same ammo.
Ruger LCR and LCRx
Available Calibers: .357 Mag, 38 Spl+P, .22LR, .22 WMR, .327 Fed Mag, and 9 mm Luger
Ruger’s LCR line of revolvers stays true to their principle of offering many calibers in a well-designed and rugged revolver. The Ruger LCR series features a monolithic frame of aerospace grade 7000 series aluminum for the .22LR, .22 Magnum, and .38 Special. The .357 Magnum, 9 mm Luger, and .327 Federal Magnum models are constructed of 400 series stainless steel.
Ruger’s patented friction-reducing cam ensures a smooth trigger pull with every shot. For those more concerned about recoil, the LCR/LCRx series has you covered. The patented polymer fire control housing reduces recoil by holding the fire control components securely while reducing the revolver’s overall weight.
The grips are designed to reduce perceived recoil, making this an excellent revolver for new shooters. The pinned ramp front sight is replaceable and features a white bar for accurate aiming. Grip pegs allow shooters to change out grips for a custom look and feel.
Ruger has an excellent forum for Ruger firearm owners and prospective buyers.Check it out for answers to all your questions about any particular Ruger firearm.
Caliber: .38 Spl+P
Taurus is an excellent brand for those who want a quality concealed carry revolver on a budget. The Taurus 856 Ultra-Lite Double Action Revolver has an alloy frame, steel barrel and cylinder, and rubber grips. It’s designed for those who want the lightest revolver that packs the knockdown power of the .357 caliber.
Taurus takes safety seriously too. The 86 Ultra-Lite features the Taurus Security System. The revolver can be disabled with the turn of a key. This is a great safety feature for those also using their gun for home defense. You can never be too careful with kids in the house.
Fixed front and rear sights offer high accuracy at close to moderate ranges. The sights are designed to minimize snagging on holsters or clothing when you draw your weapon.
Unlike many revolvers, the 856 is available in a wide range of grip styles and color combinations.
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The Taurus .380 offers the knockdown power of five .380 shots in a mini revolver that can be concealed practically anywhere. The Taurus 380 has a 1.75” barrel—a full 1/4” shorter than the 2” barrel on most compact concealed carry revolvers. The hammerless design means there’s no hammer to hang you up if you have to draw fast. The frame is made of aluminum while the barrel and cylinder are strong stainless steel. This combination offers strength while reducing overall weight to a mere 16 ounces unloaded!
The rear sights are adjustable while the front are fixed. The soft rubber grips reduce recoil and ensure the mini revolver stays firmly in hand. The Taurus 380 Ultralite is a fantastic choice for a lightweight revolver primarily for concealed carry without a huge price tag.
Smith & Wesson
Available Calibers: .357 Magnum and .38 S&W Special +P
The Model 640 is a variation on the classic Centennial 40 Smith & Wesson. The 640 has an all-stainless steel frame, barrel, and cylinder. This small revolver has black blade front sights and a fixed rear sight. The Model 640 is double action because of its hidden hammer. The standard 640 has synthetic grips that can be changed out for a custom grip, if desired. For a little more money, the 640 comes in an engraved edition with matching engraved wood grips.
The 2.125” barrel is a full 1/8” longer than many compact revolvers. The 640 is rated for continuous use and has a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects.
Smith & Wesson revolvers maintain their value over time if you ever decide to sell.
Caliber: .357 Magnum
There are revolvers and then there is the Smith & Wesson Model 360 PD. This remarkable revolver takes five rounds of .357 while keeping the weight down to a mere 11.7 ounces, making this one of the lightest revolvers out there. The fact that this revolver still has a hammer makes it stand out even more. Most lightweight hammerless revolvers still weigh considerably more than the 360 PD.
The reduced weight is thanks to the outstanding materials used to construct this small revolver. The frame is made from lightweight scandium while the barrel is stainless steel with a titanium alloy cylinder. Of course, these metals make the cost of the Smith & Wesson Model 360 PD significantly higher than most of the revolvers in this article.
The 360 PD features a HI-VIZ fiber optic orange front sight. The 1.875” barrel is slightly shorter than some compact revolvers, but not enough to really notice.
If you have a little more to spend and want top quality, the Kimber K6s .357 should be on your list.
This K6s comes chambered for .357 ammo, so you’ll be packing a lot of stopping power if you ever need it. Kimbers are well known and have excellent resale value if you also consider your firearms a monetary investment. The Kimber K6s holds six rounds of .357 ammo, but you also have the option of shooting .38 Special. That built-in versatility could come in handy.
The small frame and 1.39″ diameter cylinder are made of the best stainless steel money can buy. Kimber took the time to ensure that all the edges are well rounded, so you never have to worry about your gun snagging if you have to pull it out suddenly. The Kimber is engineered to have the lightest recoil possible for a .357.
The Kimber K6s features a single and double action trigger system.
Caliber: .357 Magnum
The Kimber K6s DCR is lightweight and compact. This revolver is in many ways the hammerless version of the K6s. This six-shot revolver features stainless steel construction and laminated wood grips. Fiber optic sights help you acquire your target quickly and accurately.
I’m a fan of the .32 H&R caliber. It’s a fun round to shoot, and it has enough stopping power to get the job done without a lot of recoil. It’s a good round for those who don’t care for the recoil of larger caliber revolvers, such as the .357 or .380. Older or smaller individuals, especially those who do not shoot regularly or are new to concealed carry, may find that a .32 revolver is just what they need for an everyday carry gun. The disadvantages are that the round has less “punch” or stopping power than .357 or .380. The ammunition for a .32 H&R revolver tends to be more expensive and slightly harder to find than the widely available .357 or .380. However, unless you plan to shoot a lot, the ammo issue may not be a concern for you.
Available Calibers: .45 ACP, .40, and 9 mm
The Pitbull stands out because it offers unique caliber options for a revolver. It’s a great choice for those who already own a semiautomatic handgun because you can buy a Pitbull that takes the same ammunition. Some people use the Pitbull as a backup gun in case their semiauto fails, they run through their clips, or find themselves separated from their semiauto in an intense situation.
The Pitbull features stainless steel construction at a very affordable price point.
North American Arms
Available Calibers: .17 or .22 WMR
If you really want the smallest revolver available or want a back-up gun you can literally wear as a necklace, the North American Arms Black Widow should be on your list. This tiny revolver comes chambered in .17 or .22WMR, both of which are fast but small rounds. Don’t underestimate what a fast and small bullet can do. Smaller rounds stop plenty of people.
Rock Island Armory
Caliber: .38 SP+L
If you’re on a tight budget and want a concealed carry revolver, Rock Island Armory is a decent choice. The M206 has a fully shrouded 2” barrel and spurless hammer. The Parkerized finish will stand up to daily wear and tear. With an MSRP just under $260, this is one of the most affordable revolvers you’re going to find. Its front and back sights are fixed.
Caliber: .38 SP+L
The Cobra is a classically designed revolver that holds six rounds in a stainless-steel polished cylinder. Medallion wood grips offer a comfortable feel in the hand. The Cobra features the signature Colt spring leaf trigger. A brass-bead front sight and frame-trench rear sight make hitting your target easier.
The 2″ barrel and smooth ergonomics of this revolver make it easy to conceal and draw quickly and smoothly.
The King Cobra is the larger caliber version of the classic Colt Cobra. The King Cobra offers six shots. The frame and cylinder are constructed of heavy-duty stainless steel. The black Hogue over molded grips feel great in the hand. Despite its heavy-duty construction, the King Cobra is only 16 ounces unloaded.
The most popular choice is .357 because it's a great balance between knockdown power and size. As a result, ammunition is typically easy to find compared with other calibers. A revolver chambered in .357 can also fire .38 Special ammunition. If you have a semiautomatic handgun, it may be best to choose a revolver that takes the same ammunition. Having a secondary gun that shares ammo is common among security and law enforcement personnel.
Most revolvers do not have a safety. The heavy trigger pull is considered the major safety feature. Some revolvers, such as the Taurus 856, have a locking feature that prevents the gun from firing.
No. One of the great things about revolvers is that they're very low maintenance guns. Basic cleaning after firing is recommended. A thin coating of gun oil will help prevent rust while your gun is stored.
Revolvers are an excellent choice for anyone who wants a goodconcealed-carry firearm and is not concerned about the reduced ammo capacity compared with a semiautomatic pistol. Revolvers are amazingly easy to learn how to use. While revolvers cost more on average, they require less maintenance, and no specialized clips are needed.
When choosing a revolver for concealed carry, it’s best to stick with a 2–3” barrel. Larger revolvers are fun to shoot, but they’re too bulky for most people to conceal with regular clothing. That being said, some revolvers have short barrels and are still bulky. A good example of a larger revolver that is sold as a concealed carry gun is the compact version of the Taurus Judge.