8 Best Revolver [2024]: Wheel Guns We Want

by Travis Pike

May 15, 2024

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So you want a revolver? Aka, the six-gun, the snub nose, the hand cannon, the wheel gun, 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. Today, let’s dive into the world of revolvers. We’ll cover everything from big to small, self-defense to fun shooting, and discover the best options out there.

 Best Revolvers

Why a Revolver?

I could ramble on about all the cringe-worthy justifications folks use for sticking with revolvers, but let’s cut to the chase: they’ve got their perks. Packing the punchiest handgun cartridges, they’re often easier and cheaper to find than magnums for automatics. Their compact size makes carrying heavy hitters like .357 Magnum a breeze, especially handy in rural areas where wildlife is a concern. But here’s the kicker: you can tweak their performance without sacrificing reliability, thanks to versatile loading options. Swap between .357 Magnum and .38 Special for different power levels or dial down the recoil for a smoother ride. Plus, let’s not forget accuracy – with stable barrels and sweet triggers, many revolvers are dead-on precise, perfect for nailing those bull’s-eyes at the range.

How I Chose the Best Revolver

As someone who served in the Marines and has been shooting for over twenty years, I’ve tried out plenty of different revolvers. So, I have the experience to spot a revolver out of a bunch. But when making this list of best revolvers, I didn’t want to rely on my own experiences. So, I asked some friends who are professional shooters to help me out. By combining what we all know, I’ve put together this list of the best revolvers out there.

I know that choosing a revolver can be a personal thing, so I’ve split these guns into categories based on what they’re best at, to suit everyone’s tastes. Plus, I’ve included a guide for buyers to help you figure out which revolver is right for you. Keep reading to find the perfect revolver for your needs.

Best Revolvers By Use

On to the best revolvers! 

Best Revolvers

Ruger LCR

Best Concealed Carry Revolver

  • Polymer Frame
  • Multitude of Calibers Available
  • Awesome DA trigger
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Ruger SP101

Best Beginner Revolver

  • Jack of All Trades
  • Stainless Finish
  • Available in a Wide Variety of Configurations
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Heritage Arms Rough Rider

Best Budget Revolver

  • Simple SAO 22LR
  • It can be swapped to 22 Magnum
  • Tons of Variations Available
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S&W M&P R8

The Most Tactical Revolver

  • Rails for Optics and Lights
  • 8 Shots of 357 Magnum
  • California Compliant too!
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Magnum Research BFR

Best Hunting Revolver

  • Biggest Finest Revolver
  • Available in Tons of Calibers
  • Available in Tons of Configurations
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S&W Model 10

The Classic

  • An Awesome Classic Fighting Revolver
  • Descended from the M&P Line
  • An Awesome 38 Special Option
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S&W Model 500

The Powerhouse

  • Most Powerful Production Revolver
  • DA/SA Design
  • Available In a Variety of Configurations

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Heritage Arms Rancher 

Best Revolver Rifle

  • The Rare Revolver Rifle
  • 22LR/22 WMR Revolving Rifle
  • 16 Barrel with Stock
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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 making one of the best concealed carry revolvers 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. I also liked the new firing pin design on this revolver, which allows you to unscrew the bushing from the rear and remove all the parts. 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 wheel gun 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

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. 

Heritage Arms Rough Rider Pros and Cons

  • Cheap!
  • Reliable
  • Accurate
  • 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 and the not so heavy trigger pull contributes to ease of use. The 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

BFR Specs

  • 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.

Available in ten different calibers, including .30-30 and .45-70, as well as .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, the BFR offers short and long cylinder models. Made in America, these stainless steel guns boast durability and feature precision-grade barrels for long-range accuracy.

If you want to up your game, attach a scope with one of the available mounts for longer shots. While it’s not a sniper rifle, the BFR does a great job bringing down medium to large game, depending on what you’re after. As for whether it’s better than something like the Super Redhawk, well, that’s up to you and what you’re hunting for, along with your budget, of course.

Magnum Research BFR Pros and Cons

  • Extremely Accurate 
  • Tons of Calibers Available
  • Easy to Scope
  • Expensive

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 as a concealed carry gun or for 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.

Like to know more? Read the Gun University official Heritage Arms Rancher Carbine review.

Heritage Arms Rancher Pros and Cons

  • Tons of Fun to Shoot 
  • Zero Recoil 
  • Accurate 
  • Cylinder gap blast is painful

Heritage Arms Rancher Deals

Where the Revolver Rules 

There will always be a place for a good wheel gun, 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 – Sometimes traditional concealed carry methods just won’t cut it, and that’s where revolvers come in handy. Their compact designs, lacking sharp edges, make them perfect for deep concealment in different carry styles like IWB, AIWB, or ankle holsters. Plus, their ability to handle powerful cartridges, like the 357 Magnum, ensures formidable close-range defense.

Hunting – Revolvers cover a wide range of power levels, making them adaptable for hunting various types of game. From small game like squirrels to larger animals such as deer and hogs, revolvers in calibers like 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum deliver the necessary firepower. And for tackling even bigger game like bears, there are options like the 500 S&W Magnum.

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 – Who hasn’t dreamed of being a cowboy at some point? Revolvers tap into that timeless appeal, offering a taste of the Wild West. Whether you’re drawn to classic models like the Colt Single Action Army or modern takes like the Uberti Cattleman Revolver, there’s a revolver to satisfy every cowboy dream.

Best Revolver – Buyers Guide

New to wheel guns? 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. 

Action Types

Double Action Only – Double action revolvers are popular for concealed carry due to their snag-free design, featuring a long trigger that both cocks and fires the gun. They often have bobbed hammers for ease of drawing. While some tout their capability to shoot through pockets or purses, this is not recommended as a standard tactic.

Single Action Only – Single action revolvers need you to manually cock the hammer. They’re popular for cowboy-style shooting and hunting, mainly because of their light trigger pulls

Double Action / Single Action – Most modern revolvers are what we call double action/single action (DA/SA). They’ve got an exposed hammer, so you can switch between a heavy double action trigger and a lighter single action trigger. It’s a solid choice for duty or defensive use, giving you versatility without compromising concealability.

Red Dead Redemption LeMat Revolver
Here’s another pistol it’d be cool to see in a modern form: the LeMat Revolver. This one is from the video game Red Dead Redemption, but you might also recognize it from Westworld’s Man in Black (Ed Harris).

Loading Styles 

A modern revolver allows you to load the weapon in one of two ways. 

Side Gate: This method, typically seen in single action-only revolvers, lets you load and unload chambers one by one. You half-cock the weapon, open the gate, and use an ejector rod to remove casings before reloading each chamber individually.

Swing Out Cylinders: Found in modern DA/SA and DAO revolvers, this feature allows for quick emptying and loading. You just press, pull, or push the cylinder release, and the cylinder swings outward, giving you access to all chambers at once. Then, a press of the ejection rod releases all the cartridges together, making reloading a breeze with speed strips or a speed loader.

Factors To Consider When Buying a Revolver

Know Your Purpose: Think about why you want a revolver. Are you looking for something for concealed carry, home defense, hunting, or just plinking at the range? Understanding your intended use will help you narrow down your options.

Choose the Right Caliber: Consider which caliber suits your needs best. Whether it’s .38 Special for everyday carry, .357 Magnum for more power, or .22 LR for target shooting and plinking, each caliber has its own advantages and drawbacks.

Find the Right Size and Weight: Revolvers come in various sizes and weights, so think about how you’ll be carrying or using it. Do you need something compact for concealed carry, or are you okay with a larger revolver for hunting or target shooting?

Consider Features: Look for features that match your needs, such as barrel length, sights, grip style, and capacity. Think about whether you need accessories like rails for lights or optics, or adjustable sights for improved accuracy.

Set Your Budget: Determine how much you’re willing to spend on a revolver, considering both the upfront cost and ongoing expenses like ammunition and accessories.

Try Before You Buy: Whenever possible, handle and test fire different revolvers to see how they feel and perform. Pay attention to factors like ergonomics, trigger pull, and recoil to find the revolver that feels right for you.

Now that we’ve covered what to consider when purchasing a revolver, let’s also explore what actions to avoid with a revolver.

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.

Flicking the Cylinder Closed: Sure, it looks cool in movies, but slamming the cylinder shut can actually damage your revolver’s delicate parts. Stick to closing it gently to avoid any unnecessary wear and tear.

Use an Aggressive Thumbs Forward Grip: If you’re used to automatics, be careful not to position your thumb near the cylinder’s opening. Hot gas escaping from the cylinder gap can cause burns, so keep it clear.

Ride The Trigger: This bad habit can lead to misfires, especially with revolvers. Avoid riding the trigger forward, as it can cause issues with firing the next shot.

Steel Cased Ammo: While it’s okay for some guns, using steel-cased ammo in revolvers can lead to problems. The cases may expand and get stuck, making it tough to eject rounds and potentially damaging your revolver. It’s best to stick with other types of ammo to avoid headaches.

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.

Maintenance

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 Wheel Gun

Best Revolver – FAQs

What are the different types of revolver actions?

Revolvers typically feature double action only (DAO), single action only (SAO), or double action/single action (DA/SA) actions. DAO revolvers have that long trigger pull for both cocking and firing, SAO revolvers need you to manually cock the hammer before shooting, and DA/SA revolvers give you the choice between the two.

How does a double action revolver differ from other revolver actions?

A double action revolver allows for firing by simply pulling the trigger, which both cocks and releases the hammer. This action gives you a smooth trigger pull and is favored for self-defense and rapid firing scenarios.

Are revolvers good options for carry guns?

Revolvers are actually pretty popular for carrying because they’re simple, reliable, and they offer some powerful cartridge options. Models like the Ruger LCR or the S&W Model 10 are compact enough for concealed carry, which makes them a favorite among handgun owners.

How does a revolver compare to a semi-automatic pistol for carry purposes?

Revolvers and semi-automatic pistols each have their pros and cons for carry. Revolvers are known for their simplicity and fewer moving parts, making them less prone to malfunctions. On the other hand, semi-automatic pistols typically offer higher capacity magazines and faster reloads.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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1 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

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