Revolver Handguns

Sometimes referred to as "wheel guns" (in reference to the cylinder), revolvers have taken a back seat to semi-automatics in recent years (in military and law enforcement applications).

a collection of revolver handguns
Updated on August 24, 2013
by Admin

Pictured: Top - 1965 Colt Python, .357 Magnum, nickel plated, mother-of-pearl. Middle - 1965 Colt Detective Special .38, nickel plated, mother-of-pearl, the price on the original box reads $109.95. Bottom - 1950 Detective Special .32, nickel, mother-of-pearl.

Lower ammunition capacity and longer reload times compared to semi-automatics are the main reasons for the trend that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. The flat profile of semi-autos make them more suitable for concealed carry.

Revolvers still remain popular in the role of back-up and off-duty guns among American law enforcement officers (LEO's) and security guards. Revolvers are still common in the American private sector as defensive, sporting, hunting and collectible firearms.

General George Patton would have labeled the above guns as "New Orleans' Pimp" guns because of the Mother of Pearl grips. I think a reporter asked him about his gun grips being Mother of Pearl at a press conference once. Patton was quick to correct the reporter about the grips on his revolver being made of Elephant Ivory, not Mother of Pearl (continue to bottom of page to see a gun like his). Patton went on to make the statement that "only a New Orleans Pimp would carry a gun with Mother of Pearl grips".

Other than single-shot and multiple barrel guns, handguns can be divided into two categories:

Revolvers - Loading rounds from a cylinder, a revolver is a multi-shot firearm, usually a handgun, in which multiple firing chambers are grouped into a cylinder which rotates to align each round sequentially with a single barrel. A double-action revolver requires only a trigger pull for each round that is fired but is not considered semi-automatic. The difference in a double-action revolver is that the act of pulling the trigger also rotates the cylinder moving the next round into position.

Semi-Automatics - Loading rounds from a magazine, a semi-automatic pistol is a type of handgun that can be fired in semi-automatic mode, firing one cartridge for each pull of the trigger. This type of firearm uses a single chamber and a single barrel, which remain in a fixed linear orientation relative to each other while being fired and reloaded semi-automatically. Semi-automatic function uses the recoil force generated by the last fired cartridge combined with spring action in the firearm to ready the next round to be fired. Some terms that have been, or still are, used as synonyms for semi-automatic pistol are automatic pistol, auto-pistol, self-loading pistol, and self-loader.

more on autos here
    A Closer Look at Revolvers

    by Special Guest Thomas Drinkard

    In an earlier article we looked briefly at revolvers and mentioned a couple of prominent examples, the Colt Peacemaker M1873 or SAA (Single Action Army) and the Smith and Wesson Model 10. The former, a single-action handgun associated with the old west and the latter, a double-action, often called the S&W .38 Special. Both these handguns are “six shooters” and, in updated models, manufactured today.

    Let’s take a look at some variations on the theme of revolvers:

    Fixed Cylinder: The revolver’s cylinder is firmly attached, front and rear to the frame of the handgun. The weapon is loaded when the “loading gate” is swung aside and the spent round ejected manually by a spring-loaded rod set under the barrel. This is the standard method of loading a single-action revolver.

    Swing Out: The revolver’s cylinder is mounted on a pivot that, when unlatched, allows the cylinder to swing out and down. All spent rounds are ejected in one motion as the shooter presses a rod projecting from the front of the cylinder mechanism. The operator can then load the cylinder with one round at a time or use a speedloader to load several cartridges or the entire cylinder. The majority of today’s revolvers have swing out cylinders.

    Top-Break: The handgun is hinged at the front of the cylinder. When the shooter releases a lock and presses the barrel down, the weapon opens at the rear of the cylinder, usually automatically ejecting spent rounds. The operator then reloads singly or with a speedloader.

    Although top-break revolvers have fallen out of favor, primarily because they cannot handle modern high-pressure magnum rounds, there are historical examples of fully-functional, efficient top-break revolvers. The British Army relied on the Webley top-break revolver until 1963. It was chambered for the .455 Webley, a rimmed cartridge that fired a .45 caliber bullet at a relatively low velocity, but produced excellent knockdown power.

    It is also interesting that one of American History’s most famous lawmen, Wyatt Earp, was said to have been armed with a S&W Model 3 break-top revolver during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

    Definition: A speedloader is most often a device that holds cartridges firmly in a circular pattern for reloading a revolver. When the handgun’s cylinder is empty, the operator slides the rounds into the open chambers and releases them simultaneously.

      Samuel Colt Patented the "Revolving Gun" February 25, 1836

      by Admin

      "A key element to Colt's success was vigorous protection of his patent rights. Even though he lawfully held the only patent on a revolver, scores of imitators copied his work and Colt found himself constantly in litigation.

      My Detective Special pictured here was made in 1995 making it one of the last ever produced.

      In each one of these cases, Colt's lawyer, Edward N. Dickerson, deftly exploited the patent system and successfully shut down Colt's competitors. However, Colt's zealous protection of his patents greatly impeded firearms development as a whole in the United States.

      Colt's preoccupation with patent infringement suits slowed his own company's transition to the cartridge system and blocked other firms from pursuing revolver designs. At the same time, Colt's policies forced some competing inventors to greater innovation by denying them key features of his mechanism; as a result they created their own."


      Author Comment: I believe the above is what started the old saying, "If it ain't a Colt, it's just a copy."

      The power, accuracy and handling qualities of the Single Action Army (SAA) made it a popular sidearm from its inception, well into the 20th century.

      The association with the history of the American West remains to the present century, and these revolvers remain popular with shooters and collectors.

      My First Generation .45 Colt Single Action Army (Peacemaker), nickel with Ivory grips.

      George S. Patton, who began his career in the horse-cavalry, carried a custom-made SAA with ivory grips engraved with his initials and an eagle, which became his trademark. He used it during the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916 to kill two of Pancho Villa's lieutenants, and carried it until his death in 1945 shortly after the end of World War II.

      The father of a very good friend of mine served under Patton, knew him well and told me stories of some of Patton's "antics", for lack of a better term. The one story that stands out in my memory is about the time that Patton squared off with the Chief of Police in Phenix City, Alabama. Patton and his troops were at Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia preparing to ship out for the war in Europe.

      Columbus, Georgia is right on the Georgia-Alabama state line, with only a river separating it from Phenix City, Alabama. Army troops would routinely get into trouble at the bars and nightclubs in Phenix City. Four or five of Patton's troops were arrested for a Saturday night bar fight and were being held in the Phenix City jail. Patton telephoned the Chief of Police on Sunday morning to get his men released so they could ship out for the war on Monday. The Police Chief didn't like Patton's attitude and basically told him that the men would not get any special treatment and that it would be Monday before they could go before the judge.

      Patton went ballistic! Patton informed the Chief that he was coming for his men and would be at the bridge that separated the two towns in thirty minutes, if he had to cross the bridge to get his men, the Chief would no longer have a jail when he left with them. Patton proceeded to take several tanks and lined up at the bridge. The Chief released his men.

      From the CollectionRevolvers

      a 1950 colt .32 detective special

      Made in 1950, this gun is chambered in the .32 New Police cartridge (.32 S&W Long).
      Colt Peacemaker

      The Colt Single Action Army - this is a first generation gun.
      1962 Colt Python

      Pythons produced from 1955 to 1969 have no letter in the serial number and are some of the most desirable to collectors.
      1965 Colt Python

      A Python with a 2" barrel was on my wish list for a long time until just the right one came along.
      Detective Special

      One of the most well known and most copied guns in the world.
      S&W Chiefs Special

      The Model 60 is small and very easy to conceal. This gun was used by one of the government services.
      Colt Cobra

      It was an earlier version of this gun Jack Ruby used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald.
      1968 Colt Python

      The Colt Python is considered by many to be one of the most accurate handguns in the world.
      Ruger .22 Single Six

      Ruger Single Six Flat Gate. Guns with the flat loading gate were made only four years (1953-1957).


      tom drinkard

      Thomas Rowe Drinkard was born and reared in Alabama.

      He graduated from the University of North Alabama with a degree in English. Upon graduation, he was commissioned an Army second lieutenant.

      Within two years he completed parachute school and was selected for the U.S. Army Special Forces (the Green Berets). He spent more than ten years with the fabled unit. For you guys that served (like me), I might add that Mr. Drinkard served with MACVSOG.

      After his active duty, he found his way into teaching and writing in the securities exam preparation business. Many of his articles and texts are currently in use.

      Tom is now a full-time writer/ part-time editor. He is the author of the novels; Piety and Murder , Where There Were No Innocents (Mack Brinson Series) , Overload and Devil’s Blade as well as the novellas, V Trooper - First Mission and V Trooper - Second Mission - The Demon . He is also the author of a chapbook of Vietnam poetry, FINDING THE WAY HOME -Vietnam and the Aftermath.

      We are looking forward to future articles from Tom.

      question or comment

      Comments and feedback welcome ...

      I love revolvers. In fact, the last time I checked my collection was 60 percent revolvers and 40 percent semi-automatics.

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