How To Use A Revolver For Self-Defense

Until fairly recently, revolvers were generally the preferred self-defense handguns due to their rock-solid reliability. Recent improvements in the reliability of semi-automatics have given them the edge. They generally have a greater magazine capacity, and reload more quickly and easily under stress.

But there are situations where the revolver still has an edge, and many of you may already own a revolver, and may want some ideas on using them for defense. This article examines some of the advantages and disadvantages of revolvers, as well as practical advice on how to employ them for self-defense.

Advantages Of Revolvers

Old Faithful Revolver

Old Faithful

There are many reasons to pick a revolver for defense. They are simple to operate; point at bad guy, pull the trigger, it goes BANG. This makes them a good choice for novice shooters who don’t have time to train with a semi-automatic. This also makes them excellent backup-carry guns if you might need to arm another person. Revolvers are extremely reliable, still a bit better than the best semi-automatics, although no gun is 100%.

A major advantage to revolvers for concealed carry is the ability to fire from concealment. Because they don’t have a slide moving back and forth, concealed revolvers can be fired from within a pocket or coat, without having to be drawn first. A mugging victim could pretend to reach for a wallet in the pocket that has their revolver.

The biggest advantage to a revolver is the ability to use powerful cartridges. .357 magnum is a significant step-up in power from any of the common auto cartridges (9mm, .40, or .45). If you can handle .44 magnum, it is a real death ray, and stands head-and-shoulders above any cartridge commonly used by a semi-automatic. You can even go up to a hand cannon like .454 casull or .50 S&W if you need to make up for a small penis!

Long-barrel revolvers (6-inches+), can be a good choice for several purposes, although they are generally too big for concealed carry. The longer barrel increases the muzzle velocity, especially with magnum cartridges, where the velocity increases 20-40% compared to a 2-inch barrel. For this reason, long-barrel revolvers are generally considered the best choice for animal defense; grizzly bears will laugh at a 9mm, but a .44 magnum from a long barrel revolver might save you. They are also useful for hunting small and medium-size game at close ranges. And they are a good choice for home defense due to their decided advantage in one-shot stopping power.

Disadvantages Of Revolvers

Semi Autos Have The Edge on Capacity and Speed Reloads

Semi Autos Have The Edge on Capacity and Speed Reloads

A full-size revolver generally holds 5-7 rounds, while a full-size semi-automatic generally holds 11-17. Revolvers are somewhat slower to reload, but reloading reliably under stress is a much bigger concern. With practice, revolver reloads can be done quickly, but the the stress of using fine motor skills in a gunfight is, I believe, the biggest downside to using one for defense. Reloading a semi-automatic is easier, and easy is good when your heart rate is through the roof, you have tunnel vision, and someone is trying to kill you.

While military and law enforcement may need to be able to throw a lot of ammo in a short time for suppression, the limited capacity and difficulty of reloading are not fatal to the revolver for defensive purposes. Most defensive gun fights happen at close range, and are ended within a few shots. If the fight is not ended within a few shots, you can generally run away or get to cover to reload. In 90% of defensive gunfights, a snub nose revolver with 5 shots will work just as well as a full-size Glock with 4 spare magazines.

That said, you should still have a good method of reloading your revolver if you need to. So, what are the best ways to reload a revolver in a hurry?

Speed Loaders

Speed Loader

Speed Loader

A speed loader holds a full reload of ammo in a plastic or rubber shell shaped to match up to the cylinder of your revolver. To reload, open the cylinder, extract the shells, put the new rounds into the cylinder, release them, close the cylinder, and get back in the fight. Here is a video of police trainer and expert competitive shooter Massad Ayoob demonstrating his preferred method of reloading a revolver with a speed loader.

If you are going to carry a revolver, or use it for home defense, I would recommend at least 2-3 speed loaders, kept fully loaded. It is very important to get the loader that matches up exactly with your gun, because it must be custom-fitted to the cylinder or it will not function.

Speed Strips

Speed Strip Tutorial

Speed Strip Tutorial

Speed strips are a rubber strip with holes to hold ammunition. They are generally designed to reload two shots at a time. Simply insert the rounds into the cylinder, and peel the speed strip to the side so the rounds will drop into the cylinder. Here is Massad Ayoob again, demonstrating his preferred method of reloading with speed strips.

Fun Fact: If any of you also own an SKS or AK-47 rifle, you can also use your stripper clips to reload a revolver! .38 special and .357 magnum, by pure coincidence, will fit perfectly into 7.62×39 stripper clips. Here is a video showing how to do it. I actually prefer these metal stripper clips due to their rigidity, and find it nearly impossibly to fumble cartridges when using them.

Speed strips are preferred by some for a concealed carry revolver, because they are flatter than a speed loader, and easier to conceal. I prefer speed loaders, due to their quicker reload time. However, speed strips can be easier to use under stress without extensive practice (they’re less likely to spill your cartridges everywhere), so they may be a good choice for those without the time to practice using a speed loader.


While semi-automatics are generally preferable, revolvers remain a viable defensive tool. Revolvers are reliable, easy to operate, can be fired from concealment, and fire powerful cartridges, making them the go-to choice for dangerous animal defense. Their Achilles heel is reloading, so plan to either fire a few shots while running away, or spend some time learning to reload under stress. And remember the most important rule of gun fights: HAVE A GUN!

Read More: Why Patriarchy Is The Greatest Social System Ever Created

117 thoughts on “How To Use A Revolver For Self-Defense”

  1. The fact that this article omits any mention of trigger pull / control is just pathetic.

    1. Good point. Double action revolvers tend to have a longer/heavier trigger pull than semi automatics.

      1. I like that feel. When I was a teenager LARPing as Dirty Harry with my granddad’s old colt was a fun pastime.
        After the whole Obama/bullet catastrophe I stopped shooting almost entirely.
        I’m going to get a .45 ACP and a .308 soon. Do you bros have any recommendations?

        1. For a .45, the Glock .37 is always a solid choice. 1911s are a good option too, but I don’t know much about them, so I’ll let someone else give better advice on picking one.
          For a .308, I like Savage for bolt guns. The Axis is a good entry level for around $299, and then there are about a dozen different options for precision and hunting rifles if you move up in price.
          If you want a semi automatic, the M1A is solid, accurate, and reliable. The AR10s can be extremely accurate, but there are some models that are unreliable. My firearms instructor recommended the DPMS Gen II.

        2. Nut n fancy claims the smith and Wesson M&P 10 is the best AR10 on market. I’ve never shot a semi auto 308’though. I just trust the nut n fancy guy for advice (see you tube).
          DPMS is always mentioned as reliable and accurate for 308.

        3. I really appreciate it Brutus. Thank you.
          The AR10 was what I had my eye on, but I would prefer something with consistency in performance and reliability over anything else.

        4. LOVE my Beretta PX4 Storm 45ACP, lightweight, with an energy-absorbing action you have to feel to believe. Over 2000 rounds, without a single hitch, including 500 re-loads.
          There are a lot of great-functioning 45s out there; rent at your local range, and try as many as you can, then go with what works for you.
          Next? Practice, practice, practice – everything, from your draw to your re-load, to disassembly/reassembly, to just getting used to wearing it holstered.

        5. “I’m going to get a .45 ACP and a .308 soon.”
          Colt M1911 .45 is my favorite, but the M1911 has been reproduced around the world and there are so many other great .45s out there (HK, Glock, SW, XD, SIG, etc..) you should try them out find whats best for you. It really hinges on your desire and budget.
          Springfield Armory M1A National Match is the best 7.62mm / .308 IMHO. If you can find a FN FAL, that is excellent weapon as well. If you are looking at bolt action, there is a plethora of them…. I like the Steyrs mself, but a Remington 700 series is a sound rifle.

        6. The HK G3 variants PTR 91, century arms C308… The Scout Rifles i.e. Ruger and Savage are in .308 and bolt action. For huge $$$ cost the SCAR 17 semi auto… The FN FAL is a .308 too

    2. It also lacks learning dominant eye. It’s not always dominant hand. Not knowing can equal lots of wasted money / effort / time.

        1. Believe it or not, that’s actually a lot cheaper than they were a year ago. They were going for $3000+ for nice ones.

  2. .357 magnum is a significant step up from .45? I don’t know about that. The wound diameter and penetration are nearly the same.
    While revolvers fail less often, when they do fail you probably won’t be able to clear it as fast as a semi auto.

      1. This is exactly why revolvers are so reliable, and still have a tiny edge on even the best semi autos. If a round doesn’t fire, you just pull the trigger again.
        But, if a bullet comes loose in a revolver cylinder before it fires, it can jam the whole thing up. So people saying revolvers never, ever jam are actually not correct. It’s just really rare.

        1. Amen.
          I have a .22 revolver (imported by a now defunct Netherlands company) that jams up if I pull the hammer back too far only when reloading it. I think the little bugger knows when I’m reloading. Have to take out the entire cylinder and put it back in.
          Still, its a nice little gun and it fits into my grandfather’s western gunbelt. I would say it looks good with my longcoat/hat/suit, but I take my revolver seriously. It helps that my father started teaching me gun safety when I was 8.

      1. Shallow hole? Every ballistics test I’ve seen has at least 12″ of penetration for .45. In fact, people more often tell me how they can over-penetrate, especially indoors.

        1. Well, shallow relative to other common cartridges. Standard ball ammo .45 is only going about 800 feet/second, while a lot of common .357 magnum loads are going around 1500 feet/second.

    1. Most self defense shots occur in at a distance of 15ft or less, and usually only involve 1-3 rounds being discharged. It is a rare case you would find yourself in a movie type shootout with a bad guy (although it does happen). Usually such instances involve an armed home invader against an armed home owner. A good snub nosed .357 is easily concealed, and is unlikely to have problems deflecting off bones in the attacker.
      I have never been an exceptional fan of large handguns for conceal and carry, as they can be uncomfortable, and imprint against clothes too easily.
      My personal preference is that no one know I’m lethally armed until it’s too late. The element of surprise can work just as well for the victim as it can for the attacker.
      I do most often carry a semi-auto .380, but I have carried a wheel gun from time to time. Mostly it boils down to personal preferences and what you, the shooter, is most comfortable with.

      1. True. But, I think the factor or reloading a magazine is a much bigger factor than people consider.

        1. With quickloads reloading time is just about on par with semi-auto magazines. Although in most self defense shootings, reloading usually isn’t needed.

  3. My old man swore by the .38 snub nose police revolver for personal defense, he figured he would not have to worry about being attacked by more than three or four people if trouble came and pointed out when you hit somebody in the head with it that somebody went down hard.

  4. It is difficult for me to imagine a self-defense situation where you would need anything more than the 5-7 rounds in a revolver… except if you are fighting a grizzly, but in such a situation you should really be carrying a rifle rather than a handgun, anyhow!

    1. how about walking out of a restaurant and into a mob of black lives matter jigs who want nothing better than to kick the shit out of YT? You might need more than 5-7 rounds then.

        1. Whole different situation so I would recommend the “black gun” of your choice and a nice natchez battle pack to go with it. Oh yeah…… cover and concealment .

        2. Then, obviously, you pull out your Carl-Gustaf m/48 (for which you have a concealed-carry permit) from you ankle holster!

      1. Then you pull out your gun and tell them to back off. Most likely you will not need to fire a single bullet. In the extremely unlikely situation of there being more than a couple of people in that crowd actually trying to shoot you, you will be screwed anyhow, no matter how many rounds you have.

        1. Some dindu is going to crack you in the back of your head while you’re running your mouth instead of shooting.

      2. Years ago you may have had to only ask ” who’s first” but now, they are like kamikaze . Try to get some in line. A few thru and thru’s may slow them down in bulk. Reposition

      3. You can’t reason or talk to a crowd they can’t hear you. Pick one out of the group(preferably the ringleader) and quickly explain that no matter what happens he gets shot first. Hopefully he backs off and the rest go with him, if not……well…run.

      4. Dindus are cowards even in troop chimp out mode.
        Shoot one and the rest will scatter like roaches every time.

      5. Pistols and revolvers are good for self defense/home defense. That’s all.
        Good Tools for good use. If there are a serious risk to be attacked by a crowd, you should invest in a militia. Or at least in rifles. With big ammo capacity.
        And lots of lesson in practical shooting.
        Range is not enough if you consider more than a few opponents at a time.

        1. Shotguns are very good weapons. There are two limiting factors for home defense. They kick like a mule (12 gauge) that limit their use for elderly, disabled, women… which limits also the tactical training for most people.
          Second limit. In confined spaces, it is often difficult to move with them. if your opponen comes from your side, if you have to turn rapidly….you are somewhat slower.
          For familly defense, if you want to have a sotgun i’d rather advice a 20 gauge caliber… and training, training, training.

      6. Throw work boots at them and they’ll run!
        Come out ofthe restaurant before noon you’ll be safe. They’re still sleeping.

    2. True, Ed. Or aiming. In a real life sit, if your target is more than 10 ft away, they better be pointing a gun at you, too or you might be facing charges after you put a few rounds in them.

  5. To each their own. I prefer my old reliable .357 Desert Eagle. If I run out of ammo, it’s such a heavy gun, I could likely throw it at my enemy and crack his skull.

    1. I had one of those years ago, it was a handful too and I’m a big guy with big hands. Traded it off in 1999 for a new Browning HP chambered in .40S&W plus 350 rounds of ammo. Shot up all that ammo and then some, now .40 cal HP is discontinued and is worth double what it retailed for then, I think I came out pretty good.

        1. Unfortunately I never got into reloading, they are scattered over three counties. Maybe someday someone will find the treasures I left behind.

        2. If/when western civilization falls, when the T.P. runs out….I’m going to kill myself.

  6. In another lifetime I had a job where I was issued a S&W model 64 .38 Special revolver, I never felt like I was inadequately armed. It only takes a little practice to be proficient with speed loaders. 38 Special ammo is still very reasonably priced too, more bang for the buck so to speak. If you can’t hit anything with six rounds you probably ain’t going to hit it with 15 either.

    1. “Hold on Loosely, and don’t let Go. If you feel too tired, you’re going to lose Control!”

        1. It IS, Indeed. Some Guy punched me about twenty times in the head back in ’82, so NOW I’ve got the Football Player’s Disease.

  7. With a revolver for home defense, learn to use old way to aim, with the elbow on the hip. (western shooting or Point shooting). It’s precise enough in short distance (even at greater distance with some practice), it’s harder to snatch it from you, and within confined space, it’s easier to use and to move with it.
    Never forget the last security rule; be sure of your target. Don’t shoot your son/daughter coming back from a party at the middle of the night…

  8. Lulz at dirty Harry. Too each their own, just I rather be able to keep target in sight and not blow eardrums out. Yet do like double action only with concealed hammer ( for apparent and legal reasons ). As for the trigger pull, beyond getting used to for aiming who cares…it’s not like gonna be blasting 100+ rounds ( the person on the receiving end has the problem, not poor finger ). Anyhow for the double actions that have the built in trigger lock, get a gunsmith to gut that crap out…one less thing too go wrong.
    Beyond that if can, practice not at a range. That level, well lit, no wind, exact distance enviroment doesn’t translate that grand in real world. Plus I don’t trust the mass amount of people…side racking with barrel pointed into next booth and so on. Saw some idiot cop shoot himself in the leg drawing his weapon. Only been at range a handful of times and every time encountered stupid stupid dumb shit.

    1. “Only been at range a handful of times and every time encountered stupid stupid dumb shit.”
      I go in off hours to an outdoor range when there are not that many people. If I see more than a half dozen cars in the parking lot, I keep driving.

  9. I wonder how your neighbors would feel it they knew a prostitute lives next door? Maybe the husbands already do eh? [wink wink nudge nudge]

    1. Even better you can use them in your offhand if your right hand is injured and don’t have to worry about brass hitting you. He also left out that some 45 revolvers can shoot .410 shotgun cartages

      1. “Be polite, be
        professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
        I would only add and get away with it

  10. Revolvers are best as “bedside” guns, for the simple reason that you don’t have to think whether there’s a round in the chamber (like you do with a semi, as most people seem to prefer leaving the chamber empty*). You simply pick it up, pull the trigger and it will go bang.
    Unfortunately, if you have small children, the revolver will also go bang when Junior picks it up and pulls the trigger, so be careful. Most important is to teach your kids about the danger of guns, so the risk of accident disappears.
    But for us grownups with no kids in the house, nothing says “Leave me alone!” like a bedside revolver in .357 Mag.
    *If you leave the chamber empty in your bedside semi-auto, racking the action to chamber a round will also eliminate the advantage of surprise.

  11. It is not easy to have the right to own firearms in Canada, even non restricted ones.
    If I ever have the possibility to get a conceal carry (nearly impossible in Canada) my weapon of choice would be a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver with a snub nose.

  12. I dont agree with using a revolver in a pocket it has moving parts too that are very susceptible to things in the pockets and lint/dirt.
    For novices, reloading is not an issue. Probably cant do it in most cases anyway, and shouldnt need to if since 92% of all encounters dont include firing a gun.

  13. Well I’m sure you can afford a Colt Python and certainly knee pads.. Both might be advisable in your new profession..

  14. I’ve got a model 60 JFrame that is a great belly gun. In a pinch, it is one of the best. I admit to having a preference for my semi-autos: Sig Sauer P 938, CZ 75 Compact.

  15. Excellent article. Revolvers are a great geezer gun. Simple. reliable. Also a good starter gun. And a good girlie gun.
    I was not surprised when I talked to my neighbor the other day. He is a pretty tough carpenter dude. Was never really into guns until Obama got us all interested in the 2nd amendment when he tried to kill it.
    So I went and got some easy to operate guns. Break action shot cguns, bolt action WW2 GUNS. Revolver
    .BUt my son who tagged along with me from an early age to gun shows and the like become more sophisticated with guns. Into performance.
    Like pistols with fancy cartirdges. When we go shooting he is like my coach now. 20 year old ROTC kid.
    My neighbor was the same. He told me that his sons were “well and heavily armed”. And left it there. He is a little better at OpSEC than I am.But as aging geezers, we just keep it simple. Revolvers.

    1. I’ve been asked by younger, inexperienced family members about purchasing for home defense and simply tell them to buy a 12 gauge shotgun. It is minimum maintenance, training and pretty straight forward. If they ask about pistols, I would suggest a .38 SW.

  16. Revolvers are great for anyone who has trouble racking a slide due to arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other wrist and hand related ailments. Revolvers can also come with smaller grips then an auto, since there’s no magazine contained in the grip. Because of these reasons, revolvers make excellent weapons for small stature shooters, elderly shooters, and a lot of disabled shooters.
    a 357Magnum can also safely and reliably fire 38 special, so you have an incredible variety of ammo to fire. Semi-autos can be finicky to ammo power. Too great a powder load will damage the slide, too little power won’t send the slide all the way back, and the gun will jam. With a revolver, as long as the bullet exits the barrel, and doesn’t grenade the gun, the round is good to go.
    Another potential failure point is the magazine. This especially true if the mag was made cheap, shoddily, or if its been dropped and abused a lot.
    Even if the mag doesn’t crap out on you, another weak point is the bullet on the feed ramp. Some guns just don’t like certain bullet profiles, and those bullets will jam up on the feed ramp. Not a problem with a revolver. So revolvers can load many different bullet profiles like wadcutter.
    I own five different handguns, only one of which is a revolver. Its a cheap Rossi four inch barrel 357 magnum I bought as a range toy. Darned if it hasn’t become my second favorite handgun behind my 1911. Don’t knock ’em till you try em.

  17. My God, you Americans, there is no hope of your lunatic gun culture ever coming to an end is there ? Are you all really that mind numbingly dense that you can’t see that an armed population is not such a good idea ? Mass shootings, kids picking up guns and shooting their siblings, gun accidents, for fucks sake what is wrong with you people ? Yes, here in Australia people have guns too you’ll tell me, but by fuck let me say when I go shopping at the local mart or out to a movie, I’m pretty much 99% sure that no one is hiding a fucking revolver under their jacket ready to blast me off to kingdom come if I look at them funny. You people need help, serious help if you’re ever going to change, coz you’s just don’t get it do you ?

    1. Quite the contrary. You don’t get us.
      You’de better go. I think I hear a dingo eating your baby.

    2. Look at that you even wrote two paragraphs to preach to us heathens. Here is some good advice: mind your own God damn business you limp wristed busybody.

  18. I have a .44 magnum I picked up in Alaska in case of a bear encounter. Otherwise, I never had much use for any other handgun. But then again, I don’t hang out in Compton.

  19. Question. My instructor recommended revolvers over semi-autos for many of the reasons you stated and additionally stated that the additional ammo capacity of the SA is irrelevant as the average numbers of rounds fired in a self-defence scenario is 3.
    Do you agree? Thanks.

  20. There have been analyses done about “power” of different ammunition sizes, and the upshot is, when dealing with defense against people, once you’re above about .25 caliber, the difference in lethality is minor. For instance, IIRC, the difference in the diameter of the lethal circle between otherwise identical ammo (same manufacturer, both hollow points, same powder) was under 10% for 9mm and .45. That works out to just a 10% increase in the surface area of the circle. A .22 is lethal, if you can put it into the small target circle you need to in order to get immediate lethality. Larger ammunition increases the circle’s diameter, but it’s a square or cube root (I can’t recall which) function of the muzzle energy, so the increase in diameter of the lethal circle drops rapidly. What it boiled down to is if you’re good enough to kill your target with a powerful handgun, you’re good enough to do it with a 9mm or .380. Get the gun you’re comfortable shooting, and are well able to handle the recoil so you can maintain accuracy, which matters more than raw power.

    1. While I agree with this comment, I’d say there is one advantage to a larger load that’s not captured in lethality stats.. Shock value. Yes a .22 will kill the fuck out of you. But a hit anywhere but the head will result in your attacker not being disabled immediately (even though they might die eventually).
      If you get hit with a 9mm or bigger pretty much anywhere on your body you’re going down. Even if you’re not dead, the shock of being hit with something like that is going to put you to the ground.

      1. I watched video of a guy getting shot 9 times by the police. He was in shorts, was outside his house, with a hand gun. When he started to raise it up, they opened fire. He jumped like he was startled, and walked back into his house. He came out shortly thereafter without his gun, and surrendered. He survived. I’d have to disagree with your comment. He was hit 9 times, and it barely phased him. He didn’t really realize he’d been hit until he got back in side and saw he was bleeding.

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