Even in the 21st Century where concealed carry semi-automatics from .32 to .45 gauge have taken the market by storm, the traditional revolver holds strong. Revolvers continue to sell off the shelves in droves, and the likely reason is that people know that you can always depend on a revolver to save your life.
The semi-auto vs. revolver debate has been going for many years and will likely never end. Every individual has their preferences. But even though semi-automatics have become more modern and updated with each passing year, the basic design of the revolver still holds many advantages over a semi-automatic.
Let’s go over what these advantages are, and then talk about 5 of the best-concealed carry revolvers on the market.
WHY CHOOSE A REVOLVER OVER A SEMI-AUTO PISTOL FOR CONCEALED CARRY?
There’s no denying that there are many appealing reasons to own a semi-automatic rather than a revolver. Semi-autos typically hold more bullets, are easier and faster to reload, and today’s models are highly ergonomic.
Still, revolvers continue to hold their own against the semi-automatic when it comes to concealed carry. There are many advantages with a revolver that you won’t get with a semi-auto and that benefit you for concealed carry and self-defense. These advantages include:
Revolvers are so simple that even those who have never even touched a gun before can figure out how to use one. Ease of use can prove to be immensely beneficial to you if you need to use your backup revolver to arm someone else in an emergency defense situation. There are no safeties to switch off or slides to manipulate, just point and shoot.
Yes, semi-automatics are reliable too, but all a revolver needs to do is turn the cylinder to fire the next round. For overall reliability, a revolver is hard to beat.
You Can Jam It into Someone in a Close-Range Fight
In a close fight where an opponent is physically attacking you, you would have to fire your weapon at point blank range. The problem with a semi-automatic in this situation is if you jam the muzzle into your attacker, the slide will be pushed out of battery and cause it to jam or not even fire. The barrel of the revolver has no effect on the cylinder, so you can jam it into an opponent up close and still fire all of your rounds if you had to.
While revolvers don’t have manual safeties, they do have long trigger pulls (at least on double action). The long trigger pull makes them safe guns to carry.
These are just four of the biggest reasons to carry a revolver over a semi-auto. Semi-autos have their advantages as well, but the advantages to owning a revolver are undeniably compelling.
Now that we know the reasons to owning a revolver over a semi-auto, let’s find out about what some of the best-concealed carry revolvers are:
The Ruger LCR was revolutionary upon its first release in 2009. It was the first successful polymer-framed revolver available (although the inside of the frame is aluminum alloy). The polymer frame made it very lightweight in comparison to its main competitor, the Smith & Wesson J-Frame series or Ruger’s SP101. Lightweight and reliable, the LCR is an excellent choice for concealed carry in general.
Today the Ruger LCR is available in numerous calibers, including .22 LR, .22 Magnum, .38 Special, 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum, and .327 Federal Magnum. In other words, you have options!
Beyond calibers, the LCR is available in numerous configurations. While the standard model has a 2-inch barrel and covered hammer (called hammerless), it is also available with an exposed hammer and/or a 3-inch barrel instead.
As with all Ruger DA revolvers, the LCR features a push button cylinder release that will allow the cylinder to swing out when depressed.
The Ruger SP101 is built like a tank, and you’ll feel it when you hold it. While the SP101 is easily the heaviest revolver in this list, the trade off is enhanced durability and shoot ability. A major complaint about compact or snub nose revolvers, in general, is that they are difficult to shoot and have heavy recoil. Recoil is severely mitigated with the SP101.
The SP101 holds five rounds of .357 Magnum, which means it can also chamber and shoot .38 Special if you desire a lighter round. Also, Ruger also makes the SP101 in .327 Federal Magnum, which holds six rounds.
Standard SP101’s have exposed hammers, but so-called ‘hammerless’ variants are also available. You also have your choice between a 2-inch, 3-inch, or 4-inch barrel.
All in all, even if you find the SP101 a little heavier than you would like for concealed carry, you should at least find it to be one of the more easy-to-shoot compact revolvers on the market. Just like the LCR, it features a push button cylinder release on the side that will swing out the cylinder when depressed.
SMITH & WESSON J-FRAME
There are so many Smith & Wesson J-Frame designs in general that we cannot narrow it down to just one specific model for this article. The J-Frame, which has been around since 1950, is simply the smallest frame of the revolver in Smith & Wesson’s lineup and is designed exclusively for concealed carry.
J-Frame revolvers are small, light, steel framed, and reliable. They’ve served as CCW weapons for civilians and as backup guns for detectives and police officers for decades, including today.
While the J-Frame wasn’t the first snub nose revolver ever released (the Colt Detective Special had been out for over two decades beforehand), it was arguably the gun that made the snub nose revolver iconic and popular with civilians.
The success of the J-Frame has prompted Smith & Wesson to release several variants. All variants feature a standard capacity of five rounds either in .38 Special or .357 Magnum and feature a cylinder release on the side that must be pushed forward (rather than down on Ruger models), to release the cylinder.
Here are the basic types of Smith & Wesson J-Frame revolvers currently offered and the features of each one:
- Model 36 – Original J-Frame, still in production
- Model 642/442 – hammerless .38 Special J-frame; 642 is stainless, and 442 is black
- Model 637 – hammered version of the 642
- Model 60 – .357 Magnum version of the Model 36
- Model 640 – hammerless version of the Model 60
- M&P Bodyguard – polymer-framed, hammerless J-Frame with Crimson Trace laser sight
The Taurus 85 is essentially a cheaper clone of the Smith & Wesson J-Frame series, but that doesn’t make it poor quality. If you desire a concealed carry on a budget, you’ll want to give the Taurus 85 a hard look. On the outside, the Model 85 resembles a J-Frame clear and through. Like the J-Frame, it features a five-shot cylinder with a cylinder release that must be pressed forward.
But an interesting feature of the 85 is the option to remove the hammer to create a ‘hammerless model.’ Simply twist the hammer to the side, and you will then be able to remove it from the gun. It’s a neat feature for a revolver and one that gives you the option of having either a hammered or ‘hammerless’ revolver without having to buy one of each.
The Model 85 is offered as a blued model or in stainless steel. As with all Taurus guns, it comes equipped with Taurus’s Trademark Security System: insert a key that comes with the gun into a keyhole behind the hammer, twist it, and the gun will be rendered inoperable. The security system you some peace of mind if you store the 85 in your house and have small children running around.
TAURUS JUDGE PUBLIC DEFENDER POLYMER REVOLVER
Another interesting concealed carry revolver from Taurus is the Judge Public Defender Polymer Revolver. This is the famous (or infamous) Taurus Judge .410/.45 LC that has been shrunk down for concealed carry. As the name suggests, it has a polymer-frame to reduce the weight.
The Public Defender offers you devastating self-defense capabilities in either chambering. A .45 Long Colt round offers far more power than the standard .38 Special or even the .357 Magnum. A self-defense buckshot load of .410 Bore will be near the equivalent of shooting three 9mm FMJ rounds at once.
It should be noted that the Public Defender is designed for extremely close-range defensive use only. To this end, it may be more suited as an anti-carjacking gun rather than for concealed carry, but still, there’s something very comforting about having five shots of .410 buckshot on your person.
All in all, revolvers are old, but they’re not yet antiquated. They’ve been around for many years, and they will be around for many more years. While they have their pros and cons, it’s incredibly unlikely that a revolver will fail you in a self-defense situation. And that reliability is what matters the most for a concealed carry weapon. Any one of the five types of concealed carry revolvers we’ve gone over is a suitable choice for concealed carry and armed personal defense.
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5 thoughts on “Concealed Carry Revolvers”
Nick, I appreciate your assessment of the revolver as a concealed carry weapon. I own a Taurus Model 605, .38Spl/.357 Magnum, early ’90’s vintage I believe. It is stainless, 2.3-inch bbl, I’ve installed over-sized rubber grips for comfort and stability, and the barrel is ported with four holes, each a different size. The trigger pull is smooth, something that is a must for me…I have a slowly progressing neuropathy in my hands as a result of Agent Orange exposure in Cambodia, and this hampers my ability to grip a resistant pistol slide. This revolver is a jewel to fire despite the fixed and open sights.
One major problem I have with contemporary Taurus revolvers is the “Lawyer trigger” that all I have seen and worked with had installed at the factory. I understand that the owner at some point in the past developed a real fear of lawsuits and mandated that the trigger pull would be so hard that it was virtually impossible for a person to fire it ‘accidentally.’ The problem now is that you can hardly fire one for any reason, if it is equipped with the Lawyer trigger. For that reason if I were in the market for another revolver, I’d go S&W.
I like my SP101, being a little larger it does take some of the bite out of .357 rounds and having .38 capability is a plus.
Even at home on my property I carry a full size .357. Either a Dan Wesson or Taurus 66 7shot. This is the same rig I carry while hiking with dog or out calling totes. I even use it to bag an occasional cottontail or yote. I carry two speed loaders, one with shot for the aforementioned rabbit or snakes. You would be surprised how conceable this rig is. Even when carrying a knife, multitool and as maglite led.
PS. I used to qualify for the Fed Protective Service with a SW 66, so I don’t feel outgunned, ever.
The S & W Model 60 is the stainless steel version of the Model 36, neither of which is chambered in .357 Magnum.