Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: The Enduring Concealed Carry Revolver

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

It wasn’t until the past few decades that compact revolver ceased to be more or less THE default concealed carry gun. While there have been compact semi-autos for a very long time, concealed carry revolvers were long the dominant type of pistol for personal protection. Guns like the Ruger Speed Six, Colt Detective Special and later Cobra, and the Smith and Wesson J-frame were the pistols to carry before the “Polymer Striker Spring,” as it were.

For many years, there weren’t too many pocket or subcompact autos worth mentioning outside of the Walther PPK and a few others, especially with the proliferation of “Saturday Night Special” pocket guns, many of which were of dubious quality. That made a snubnose .38 more or less the one thing for many years.

You’d think that with the higher capacity, lesser expense of ammunition and greater proliferation of accessories that no one would bother with a concealed carry revolver anymore – but you’d be wrong. They’re still incredibly popular. Not only that, but it seems to be getting more popular.

Recent SHOT Shows have featured debuts of concealed carry revolvers from large brands. For SHOT Show 2016, Kimber announced the K6s, a compact .357 Magnum. The K6s takes many cues from Smith and Wesson’s compact revolvers, as it’s a double-action only with low-profile sights for an easy draw and a Ruger-esque cylinder release button. Unlike many other snubbies it holds 6 shots thanks to a novel cylinder design.

Colt recently announced the return of at least one of their uber-popular Snake revolvers, as they have updated the Cobra and are going to start selling it soon. The new Cobra will likely be headed to SHOT Show 2017 as well. The new model Cobra has been updated in a number of ways, including rubber grips optimized for absorbing recoil, fiber optic front sight and a stainless steel frame. The rearward-moving cylinder latch, a Colt hallmark, is still present. While not a magnum (PLEASE let them bring back the Anaconda and the Python!) it’s rated for +P ammunition.

Other concealed carry revolvers of recent years have improved on the design of the snubnose to a great degree. The Ruger LCR is widely touted for being easier to shoot than it’s seemingly impossibly lightweight would have one believe, and can be ordered in a number of chamberings beyond the staid .38 Special or .357 Magnum/.38 Special, including 9mm and .327 Federal Magnum.

Chiappa’s Rhino series of pistols turned revolver design on its ear by placing the barrel at the bottom of the cylinder frame rather than the top and designing a flat-sided cylinder, making it fantastically easy to conceal.

Then there’s the Taurus Judge. Say what you will; some would relegate it to a curiosity as it’s a touch large (and heavy) for a concealable pistol, and the gun can’t get the most of the .45 Colt cartridge that large revolvers like the Ruger Redhawk and Blackhawk can. Then again, the point of the Judge is that it fires .410 shotshell, which is kind of awesome.

The typical argument against carrying a revolver is reduced capacity; the vast majority of revolvers carry 6 shots and many compact revolvers carry 5. This is a worthy consideration, to be sure, though most defensive shootings (and many police shootings, in fact) consist of only a few shots fired at close distance. However, many snubbies are compact and light enough to carry a spare for a New York reload if necessary.

Another criticism is of the .38 Special cartridge. It’s old to be sure (but so is 9mm) and slow in base loadings. However, it has a decent track record as a service round, with 158 grain +P semi-wadcutter and semi-wadcutter hollowpoint loads as well as 135-grain +P hollowpoint loadings being known performers. The former, often referred to as the “FBI load” or the “Chicago load” has a long service record with various law enforcement agencies. (The 1986 Miami shootout nonwithstanding.) The latter loading, often called the “New York load” was developed by Speer at the behest of the NYPD for use specifically in snubnose revolvers.

The simplicity of operation is also very attractive, as there are no recoil or magazine springs to wear out and no safeties to deal with. Double-action only guns couldn’t be simpler to operate and it’s been argued more than once that a long double-action pull guards against negligent discharges very well. Even moderate care can keep a revolver in serviceable condition for decades, if not long enough to pass down to grandchildren.

Say what one will, but the CCW revolver is here to stay – and for good reason.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.