Best Revolver : Wheelguns We Want
So you want a revolver? Aka, the six-gun, the snub nose, the hand cannon, the wheelgun, Cincinnati roly-poly, and whatever else you call it. The ole revolver has been around for quite some time, from the early days of percussion weapons to the wonderful world we currently live in. Over time they’ve predictably improved and become quite modern. So what is the best revolver out there?
Today we are going to be talking all about going wheeled. We’ll talk about big revolvers, small revolvers, revolvers for self-defense, and revolvers for fun. We will talk about the very best of the revolver world and why you should sink your teeth into a wheel gun. First, let’s look at my top picks based on use, move on to talk about ‘why’ a revolver, then get into some “wheelgunology“!
Best Revolvers By Use
- Ruger LCR – Best Concealed Carry Revolver
- Ruger SP101 (with 3-inch barrel) – Best Beginner Revolver
- Heritage Arms Rough Rider – Best Budget Revolver
- M&P R8 – The Most Tactical Revolver
- Heritage Arms Rancher – Best Revolver Rifle
- Magnum Research BFR – Best Hunting Revolver
- S&W Model 10 – The Classic
- S&W Model 500 – The Powerhouse
On to the best revolvers!
Best Concealed Carry Revolver
Best Beginner Revolver
Best Budget Revolver
The Most Tactical Revolver
Best Revolver Rifle
Best Hunting Revolver
Best Revolver Reviews
Below we have our top picks of the Best Revolvers that made our list. We have a review, pros and cons and price point of each of these options.
Ruger LCR Review Specs
- Calibers 38 Spc/357 Mag, 9mm, 22lR, 22 WMR, 327 Fed Mag
- Action DAO and DA/SA
- Capacity 5, 6 and 8 depending on caliber
- Barrel Length 1.87 inches
Ruger LCR Review
Revolvers don’t change much, but when Ruger created the LCR, they went big with it. Instead of using titanium and scandium to drive the price sky-high, they simply used polymer. Polymer framed revolvers seem odd, but to reduce weight without increasing price, it makes sense. Ruger didn’t just stop there though. They ended up making a fantastic revolver for everyday carry.
Double action triggers are rarely nice, but Ruger’s design is absolutely brilliant! It’s superbly smooth and relatively short. It’s easily the best stock double-action trigger on the market. As such, you’ll have no problems being accurate with the gun. The big front sight is nice and also easily replaceable. A good aftermarket exists that provides a variety of replacement front sight options.
When selecting the LCR, I also include the LCRx, which gives you a DA/SA hammer design. Also, Ruger released the LCR in a ton of calibers, including the usual suspects like 38 special and 357 Magnum, but we also get 9mm and 327 Federal Magnum. These little fellas are lightweight, powerful, accurate, and very easy to carry concealed. Beyond that, they are a very modern option.
Read our review of the 9mm version LCR; if you’re looking for an older school, more noir CCW revolver, you might look at the S&W 442.
Ruger LCR Review Pros and Cons
- Outstanding Trigger
- Great Price Point
- Tons of variants and caliber choices
- Stock grips are too small
Ruger LCR Review Deals
Ruger SP101 Specs
- Calibers 38 Spc/357 Magnum
- Action DA/SA
- Capacity 5
- Barrel Length 3 inches
Ruger SP101 Review
When I say the SP101 is the best beginner revolver, I mean specifically the 3 inch barreled model in 38 Special/357 Magnum. This combination gives new revolver owners an option that’s both easy to handle and can accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Ruger’s SP101 is an extremely capable gun that’s made to last. It doesn’t tap out and will be a gun you can pass down, in fact. It’s stout and very capable.
The 3-inch barrel makes it easy to shoot 357 Magnum rounds and ensures they reach a good velocity. 357 Magnums from a barrel shorter than 3 inches can be quite stout, extremely loud, and concussive. The hefty weight of the SP101 also makes it a bit easier to control with 357 Magnums.
The DA/SA trigger allows the user to cook off a precisely aimed round or to fire rapid follow-up shots. The SP101 is small enough for concealed carry and can also be used on the trail for animal defense. It’s a combination of features that allow you to take the SP101 anywhere and do anything.
Read a more in-depth look at the SP101. Another good Ruger wheelgun is the GP100.
Ruger SP101 Pros and Cons
- DA/SA action
- Easy to Carry
- Easy to Shoot
- A Bit Heavy
Ruger SP101 Deals
3. Heritage Arms Rough Rider
Heritage Arms Rough Rider
An affordable single action revolver chambered in 22LR
Heritage Arms Rough Rider Specs
- Calibers 22LR/WMR
- Action SAO
- Capacity 6
- Barrel Length 4.75 inches
Heritage Arms Rough Rider Review
If you just need a revolver for the collection that’s cheap but fun then the Heritage Arms Rough Rider is for you. This little fella is a Colt SAA clone that’s chambered for the 22LR or 22 Magnum. It’s a plinker perfect for new shooters, for kids or just for fun. The Rough Rider often sells for less than 200 bucks in its various configurations with a multitude of grip designs and barrel lengths.
It’s a fun gun with a very well-proven design that makes it easy and fun to shoot. Heritage does add this weird manual safety I don’t care for, but I guess it has its purpose. Beyond that, this gun is the most fun you can have for around 150 bucks! Accuracy is surprisingly good, and the crisp single-action trigger makes it easy to drop hammers on the cheapest of 22LR and drive them to the target.
The Rough Rider brand has been around for quite some time, and millions of these things have proven themselves worthy. It’s such an affordable gun it’s tough not to be surprised by the reliability and accuracy the gun inherently has.
Like to know more? Read the Gun University official Heritage Arms Rancher Carbine review.
Heritage Arms Rough Rider Pros and Cons
- Don’t care for the safety
Heritage Arms Rough Rider Deals
M&P R8 Specs
- Calibers 357 Mag/38 Special
- Action DA/SA
- Capacity 8
- Barrel Length 5 inches
M&P R8 Review
Smith & Wesson created the TR8 or Tactical Revolver 8 for this task. What makes the TR8 so tactical is the fact it wears a rail for a flashlight and an optional rail to toss an optic on. The TR8 makes it easy to outfit a revolver with modern defensive or hunting accessories. The 8 in TR8 stands for eight rounds, and that’s how many this bad boy holds.
In states that ban standard capacity magazines, the TR8 offers eight rounds of 357 Magnum man stoppers which is tough to beat, especially with an optic and flashlight in place. This is a big gun, and it’s surprisingly easy to shoot. The DA/SA trigger design makes it easy to fire rapidly or precisely. Reloads are fast with moon clips, and the cylinder is cut for 8 round moon clips.
It’d be nice if they’d give us a Combat Magnum option like this. Oh, or a modernized Volcanic pistol! (Though maybe a Mare’s Leg would be better…)
Regardless, read on!
M&P R8 Pros and Cons
- 8 round capacity
- Optic and Light compatible
- Rapid reloads
- Too big for Concealed Carry
M&P R8 Deals
- Calibers Over 10 Options
- Action Single Action Only
- Capacity 5
- Barrel Lengths 5-12.75 inches
Magnum Research BFR Review
BFR stands for biggest, Finest Revolver, or at least that’s what Mangum Research says it stands for. It seems likely that F stands for something else though. The Magnum Research BFR combines a modern design with classic features. Like the revolver or yesteryear, the BFR utilizes a single action-only frame with a traditional loading gate design. These massive revolvers (think overall length of 17.5″!) have only one viable purpose: hunting.
Anyway, the Magnum Research BFR combines a modern design with classic features. Like the revolver or yesteryear, the BFR utilizes a single action-only frame with a traditional loading gate design. These massive revolvers have only one viable purpose, and that’s hunting.
This made-in-America revolver comes in ten different calibers, with short and long cylinder models available for everything from .30-30 and .45-70 to the tamer .357 Magnum and 44 Magnum rounds. These stainless steel guns are extremely durable and pack a precision-grade barrel for those long-range shots. Accuracy matters a fair bit when hunting, and the BFR packs a great barrel and excellent trigger for that task.
To extend your range, you can slap an optic on your BFR with one of the numerous optic mounts available from Magnum Research. Some of these calibers have such great extended-range performance that a magnified optic makes much sense for revolver hunting – they won’t suddenly become wheelgun sniper rifles, but they’ll definitely do good work at a distance. The BFR is an excellent hunting revolver and makes it easy to take down medium to large game (depending on caliber).
Would it be better in that role than a Super Redhawk or one of the others? That will probably depend on your budget and your quarry.
Magnum Research BFR Pros and Cons
- Extremely Accurate
- Tons of Calibers Available
- Easy to Scope
Magnum Research BFR Deals
S&W Model 10 Specs
- Calibers 38 Special
- Action DA/SA
- Capacity 6
- Barrel Lengths 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6 inches
S&W Model 10 Review
The original Model 10 started way back in 1899! It was originally known as the Smith and Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899. It later became the first Military and police revolver and eventually the Victory Model, and then finally the Model 10. As you’d imagine, after over a century of production, the Model 10 is widely available on the used market, and Smith and Wesson still produces the Model 10 as part of their classic series.
The S&W Model 10 is a classic medium-frame revolver that chambers six 38 Special rounds. The DA/SA design makes it easy to fire the weapon rapidly in double action and allows for the user to manually cock the hammer for more precise shots. The S&W Model 10 comes in a wide variety of barrel lengths ranging from the snub nose 2-inch model to the combative 5-inch model and the competitive 6-inch model.
As far as revolvers go, it’s very basic, and it’s basically the model of revolver that the rest of the world looked at when designing guns. It’s the cornerstone of revolvers, if you will. The S&W Model 10 can serve you well in concealed carry or home defense, albeit the weapon is slightly dated.
S&W Model 10 Pros and Cons
- Well Proven Design
- Affordable and Available
- Easy shooting
- 38 Special is a bit dated
S&W Model 10 Deals
S&W Model 500 Specs
- Calibers S&W 500
- Action DA/SA
- Capacity 5
- Barrel Lengths 3.5 – 7.5 inches
S&W Model 500 Review
Revolvers are all about power. Ever since metallic cartridges became a thing, we’ve been shoving bigger bullets and more power behind them. Lots of companies attempt to produce more and more powerful revolvers, and currently, the S&W Model 500 is the most powerful production revolver in the world.
S&W produces numerous models of the 500 in various barrel lengths. Some as short as 3.5 inches which are designed for defense against bears and dinosaurs. Various models allow for optics, bipods, and slings to make taming the big gun a bit easier. My personal favorite is the Performance Center Model 500 with a 7.5-inch barrel and compensator for recoil and muzzle rise reduction.
While it’s still a powerful gun, the design makes it a bit easier to shoot. Like any S&W revolver, the Model 500 series are overengineered and built to last. The trigger design is a modern DA/SA design that allows the end-user to choose between the modes they prefer to shoot with. Heck, the swing-out cylinder even makes reloading rather fast, although I’m not sure why you’d need a rapid reload.
S&W Model 500 Pros and Cons
- Extremely Powerful
- Excellent Trigger
- Extremely Accurate
- Brutal recoil
- Expensive ammunition
S&W Model 500 Deals
Heritage Arms Rancher Specs
- Calibers 22LR/22WMR
- Action SAO
- Capacity 6
- Barrel Lengths 16.1 inches
Heritage Arms Rancher Review
Revolvers are typically handguns; every other gun on this list is a handgun. However, I like a wildcard. My wildcard comes from Heritage Arms and is a 22 LR revolving rifle. Heritage slapped on a 16-inch barrel and a rather nice wood stock, and bam, now we have a revolving rifle. It’s essentially a rifle version of the Rough Rider.
Like the Rough Rider, you can slap a magnum cylinder in the gun, and now you can chamber the much more powerful 22 Magnum cartridge. The Rancher rifle is a ton of fun to shoot and provides one of the more interesting 22 LR rifles on the market. It’s a bit of a novelty, but as far as revolving rifles go, it’s downright affordable, as is the ammo.
The single-action trigger is awesome and very light and crisp. The manual safety makes sense on a rifle since you can’t cover the trigger like you can with a revolver. One downside with a revolving rifle is the means by which you shoot it. You can’t use a traditional rifle grip. Instead, you have to keep both hands behind the cylinder or risk getting bit by cylinder blast.
Heritage Arms Rancher Pros and Cons
- Tons of Fun to Shoot
- Zero Recoil
- Cylinder gap blast is painful
Heritage Arms Rancher Deals
Why a Revolver?
I could fill a paragraph with all the cringe-inducing and eye-roll-worthy sayings people use to justify the revolver. The classics like, “I’d rather have six absolutes than 15 maybes,” and “If you need more than six, you should’ve brought a rifle,” so and so forth, but I think I’ll spare you. In the wide world of firearms, there are plenty of reasons to choose a revolver.
First, the most powerful of handgun cartridges come from the world of revolvers. In fact, almost anything magnum is easier and cheaper to find in a revolver. Automatics in 44 Magnum exist, but they are rare and expensive. Revolvers in 44 Magnum are incredibly common and vary widely in price.
When we look at compact firearms, we see the revolver’s power factor also come into play. Good luck getting an automatic in 357 Magnum that isn’t a massive beast. With a revolver, you can easily carry a 357 Magnum concealed. For those living in rural environments, you might have to factor large and aggressive animals into your self-defense plan, and with a revolver, you can do just that.
Those powerful hand cannons can often be loaded to a variety of pressures and power levels without affecting reliability. This allows you to individualize a quality sixgun even more, dialing it ever closer to whatever you prefer in your best handgun (vs. someone else’s, I mean).
Certain calibers have alternatives loaded to lower pressures that are much softer shooting. For example, the 357 Magnum and 38 Special, the 44 Magnum and 44 Special, and the 454 Casull and 45 Colt are all interchangeable calibers.
You can down-load a revolver’s cartridge to pleasant shooting, nearly recoil freeloads, and the gun will still fire and cycle without issue.
Revolvers can be incredibly inherently accurate. Not all, but most large revolvers can be very easy to shoot accurately. A good single-action trigger combined with a non-moving barrel makes it easy to put small holes in small targets.
Where the Revolver Rules
There will always be a place for a good wheelgun, just as for the bolt action rifle. Revolvers rock and roll in a wide variety of roles. They seem to excel even in the face of semi-autos with their larger capacity magazine and modern stylings. They have a place, even if it’s somewhat limited. Here are a few categories where the revolver excels.
Deep Concealed Carry – There is concealed carry, then deep concealed carry. Deep concealed carry is for those times when an event or style of dress makes it tough to conceal a firearm. You’ll need a small gun that cuts out edges and printing. Revolvers tend to have melted corners and round designs that make them easier to conceal in IWB, AIWB, ankle, Phlster Enigma, or similar styles of carry.
Plus, as we mentioned above, you can get a small revolver in a powerful caliber. A small J-frame, snub nose style revolver can easily chamber a powerful 357 Magnum cartridge. Deep-carried magnum revolvers certainly pack a punch at close range.
Hunting – Revolvers sit on both sides of the power spectrum, and this makes it easy to take game of various sizes. A Rimfire revolver takes down squirrels and rabbits without issue. Something like the Dan Wesson 715 in 357 Magnumm makes short work of deer and hogs. A 44 Magnum acts like a hammer on both medium and large game. Heck, from there, we can even go bigger. If you want to hunt bear, you might get something as powerful as 500 S&W.
Hiking/Outdoor Rodent Control – Put some snake shot in that thing and go fully Billy the Kid on water moccasins where you’re fishing or rats in your barn.
Playing Cowboy – Let’s face it, if you’re an American, you’ve always wanted to play cowboy. Revolvers like the Colt Single Action Army, Schofield revolver, Colt 1851 Navy Revolver, and others are all iconic precisely because cowboys used them. On the big screen anyway. While revolvers have admittedly moved forward in technology and design, the industry never let go of our obsession with cowboys. Don’t believe me? Check out the Uberti Cattleman Revolver line.
Cowboy revolvers exist in various sizes, shapes, and calibers. Some are period-authentic and provide a realistic experience. Others utilize uncommon calibers and neo-retro designs to drive prices low and keep the ammo easily sourced. Either way, you can get that single-action awesome with a revolver.
Unless you prefer the more modern Dirty Harry Model 29?
Wheel Gun Buyers Guide
New to wheelguns? Well, great, you’ve come to the right place. We will cover some of the first few facts you should know about the world of revolvers. This isn’t a degree in wheelgunology, but it will get you on your way.
Double Action Only – Double action only, or DAO, revolvers feature a long trigger that cocks and fires the gun. DAO guns often have an internal or bobbed hammer that cannot be manually cocked into single-action mode. These revolvers are extremely popular for concealed carry, and the bobbed hammers make them snag-free and easy to draw.
Some often declare their awesomeness by shooting through their pockets or purses. However, the likelihood of ever doing this seems incredibly rare. This can be done with a DAO revolver, but I wouldn’t advise it as an everyday tactic.
Single Action Only – Single action only (SAO) revolvers require the user to manually cock the hammer to the rear. The action only performs the task of firing the weapon. Most single-action revolvers are built onto a cowboy-style action. While these are extremely popular as cowboy guns and replicas, they also produce many a large caliber hunting revolver in a single action.
Single-action triggers are extremely lightweight and very short. They are also simple and robust, and when faced with massive amounts of recoil, the less complication, the better. SAO revolvers keep things nice and simple for taking long shots at a variety of ranges.
Double Action / Single Action – Most modern revolvers are going to be double-action / single-action revolvers. While they are primarily double-action, they feature an exposed hammer. The exposed hammer allows the user to manually cock the weapon into single action at any time.
The combination of a DA/SA trigger gives the user the option to choose on the fly between the heavy DA trigger or the shorter, light SA trigger. It’s perfect for a duty or defensive revolver that doesn’t require it to be carry concealed.
Modern revolvers allow you to load the weapon in one of two ways.
Side Gate – Side gate revolvers are an older design associated with single action-only revolvers. The side gate is an opening gate that allows the user to manually load or unload a chamber one by one. The side gate opens, and the user half cocks the weapon and uses a manually operated ejector rod to push out casings. Then the user can manually load the chamber with a freshly loaded cartridge.
Swing Out Cylinders – Modern DA/SA and DAO revolvers often feature a swing-out cylinder. This allows the weapon to be emptied and loaded very fast. With a press, pull, or push of a cylinder, release the cylinder separates from the gun and swings outwards, often to the left. A press of the ejection rod releases the cartridges all at one time. This style of revolver makes it easy to reload on the fly with speed strips or a speed loader.
There are other styles, including top-break revolvers or revolvers, that require the cylinder to be completely removed to load and unload. These exist but are somewhat rare and often specialty revolvers or replicas of some type or another.
Things NOT To Do With Revolvers
Revolvers aren’t necessarily finicky, but in a world of automatics, some old revolver knowledge can be easily lost. As such, let me give you a little old-school knowledge on the things you shouldn’t do with a revolver.
Flick The Cylinder Closed – You’ve seen this in movies, video games, and the like. The main character reloads his revolver, and with a flick of his wrist, he closes the revolver’s cylinder. It sure looks cool, but boy, oh boy, is it dumb. It’s dumb because the cylinder stop is rather small, and the force of a loaded cylinder slamming home is a great way to break it.
Avoid this at all costs. Unless you’ve lost a hand and need to quickly reload because a Terminator is closing in on you, there is no need to ever flick the cylinder closed. It’s cringe-inducing and a great way to break a good gun.
Use an Aggressive Thumbs Forward Grip – If you come from an automatic background, you likely push your thumbs forward. Once you build a habit of shooting this way, you’ll fall into it, and it’s easy to do with a revolver. The downside is that with most revolvers, the gap between the cylinder and the barrel allows hot gas to escape.
If your thumb is sitting near the opening of the cylinder, you’ll get hit by this blast. It won’t seriously hurt you, but it will hurt. Your thumb will be blackened and slightly burnt. Watch your thumbs when you start handling wheel guns.
Ride The Trigger – Riding the trigger forward is already a somewhat silly thing to do, but it’s really silly with a revolver. Riding the reset home on a gun won’t help you fire more accurately and can cause an issue with firing your next shot. Lots of times, people will ride the revolver trigger home and get a false positive on the reset. This can cause the user to short-stroke the trigger and not properly fire.
Steel Cased Ammo – I don’t hate on steel-cased ammo. Not even a little bit. In fact, I’m friends with steel case ammo. I do hate on steel-cased ammo in revolvers. The problem is that steel cases often expand and get stuck in the chamber. When this happens, you’ll have major issues ejecting the rounds from the cylinder.
Worst case scenario, you might damage your star-shaped ejector trying to pry one of these cheaper rounds out of a stuck cylinder. That’s not worth the minimal savings on ammo.
Keep it Spinning
Revolvers are so dang cool! The classic wheel gun stays around for a reason. It’s a ton of fun to shoot, they pack a powerful load, and there is just something awesome about the wheel gun. Finding the right one is rather easy with the massive selection of revolvers out there, and hopefully, we’ve helped to narrow the choice down a fair bit.
Holsters for a Revolver
Like most pistols, there are a plethora of holsters to choose from. Luckily revolver holsters are no different; however, because certain revolvers can make for excellent CCW pistols, it’s important to find the right one.
After a day of shooting, you finish the day strong by cleaning down your revolver so it’s ready for next use. If you have never done this before, no need to worry, we have you covered.
We’ve found a great video on how to clean a revolver and linked it below; this has been put together by The Art of Manliness.
Suggested Resources For Your and Your Wheelgun
- How to clean your revolver
- Dry-fire practice with revolvers
- S&W News: 50th Anniversary of the Model 29
- Best .357 Revolvers (caliber specific)
May 30, 2023
May 30, 2023
Travis did a real nice review on revolvers. Flicking the cylinder closed is a big no no as he said. Lightweight revolvers are easy to carry and less fun to shoot. If you have the opportunity to try, before you buy, that is what I’d suggest. Don’t get pushed into what I call the gun store overload. If it’s light, it will recoil more. The Ruger LCR is a nice balance between carry ability and shoot ability. The lighter weight Scandium, SW revolvers may require certain weight bullets and I’ve had incidents of the bullets becoming unseated from the case. This occurred with factory bullets and not hand loads. Don’t let anyone tell you that a short barrel revolver is just a belly gun. It’s about training. I can consistently hit a silhouette target, double action at 50 yds. My best advice is try it before you buy it. If you like cowboy style shooting go find a range that does cowboy action shooting. It’s fun and entertaining. Read your safety manual then practice and enjoy.