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Revolvers vs. semi-auto pistols for SHTF

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by Northwest21, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. Northwest21

    Northwest21 OR & WA - split time New Member

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    One thing I often see, and saw on a thread here, is disagreement on the durability of revolvers. In a SHTF situation, I would want my primary sidearm to be bombproof, simple, and versatile, with readily available ammo (both for stockpiling and possibly being able to find it, depending on the situation). So: I have always been a revolver guy, presuming that simplicity equals durability, and liking the .357/38 versatility for various types of game in a pinch in a bug out situation, as well as self defense. I've gotten really quick with speedloaders, magazines tend to be a weak point in semi-autos and they are a finite resource unlike a speedloader, which can simply be replaced with your non-shooting hand :) and now with 7 and 8-shot .357s, capacity is no different than my trusty 1911.

    That said, I have often heard people talking about revolvers actually being much more fragile due to their internal workings. I am just wondering, and please excuse my lack of knowledge on this, if anyone might be able to explain why/if revolvers are indeed the more fragile choice for something you may need to bet your life and your family's life on, and whether it's possible (or more importantly practical) to gain the skills and have the tools/parts/etc. to fix a revolver gone wrong in a situation where a gunsmith is no longer an option. I've poked around the internet, but can't seem to find much of a comprehensive explanation of why revolvers are considered by some to be more fragile, and nothing much that considers SHTF type of contingencies such as lack of access to a gunsmith, tools, etc.

    I sure like my .357, and I also like the ammo versatility in being able to stock a lever gun in the same caliber. Any thoughts? I'll never be a Glock guy (nothing against them, and I absolutely admit to having no objective basis for this, but I don't really like the striker-fired concept or polymer...feel free to change my mind and explain why Glocks are safe and durable...I've been shooting for a few years and have a lot to learn), but some of what I've heard has me thinking that perhaps my primary bug out sidearm should change from a 4" .357 with 7 or 8 round capacity to perhaps a P226 in 9mm or 92FS (or maybe just the 1911 platform...though I'd like to stick with lighter and faster ammo than 45 ACP...would a 1911 in 9mm retain the same ease of replacing parts, etc. that was talked about on another thread)? Also, I love the Sig 226. If I was to go that route, I can't find any really detailed parts kits (Sig offers one with a few springs and pins, but there's nothing like someone mentioned in a previous thread with a spare firing pin and 40 some odd more parts...any idea where to get this? I know these are a lot of questions, so sorry about that. Any and all views/information or suggestions are welcome and appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. EZLivin

    EZLivin SW of PDX Well-Known Member

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    When I became involved in this hobby/sport it didn't take long for me to realize we are the most opinionated, stubborn, argumentative, and just plain anal group of people on the planet. (If anyone outdoes us I don't know who it would be.) So I listen to everyone, but only believe about half of what anyone says. :D For me it has come down to what I enjoy shooting and carrying the most. Those are the ones I stock a few parts for, or maybe have a back-up 'parts' gun. If it is too complicated or difficult to make basic repairs it won't be on my main 'go to' list. I'm not concerned about the reliability issue of any of them since I take good care of them, and would not own them if they had a higher failure rate than what is typical in the industry. Apologies for not specfically addressing the revolver/semi-auto issue directly. I own both, but the only reason the semi-auto is my 'go to' gun is I enjoy shooting it more and am more accurate with it.
     
  3. chemist

    chemist Beaverton OR Well-Known Member

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    I think their fragility is due to the tolerances and the unforgiving rigidity of revolvers. Muck or sand will jam it instantly, and the all-steel construction gives stress nowhere to go.

    I don't anticipate giving my weapon a mud bath or bouncing it on the pavement, but if surviving those tests are the criteria for a SHTF gun, then a polymer pistol wins hands-down.

    In other words, low parts count ≠ reliability. IMO.
     
  4. Boats

    Boats Flicking A Switch To Open My Third Eye Well-Known Member

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    For the purposes of this discussion, there are effectively only two revolver makers worth mentioning--S&W and Ruger. Colts are discontinued and Taurus/Rossi too poorly built to rely upon in a SHTF situation.

    DA revolvers need only reply. SA revolvers are too slow on the reload to be serious defensive sidearms anymore.

    S&W revolvers are fragile, yes even the X frame ones. Though the are made of forgings, the weakness is one of design. The front is locked up by the ejector rod alone and that ejector rod has been known to become loose and prevent the cylinder from opening. The leaf spring type ignition system is also prone to light strikes if the strain screw starts backing up under recoil. The DA S&W revolver design is over a century old and it shows.

    The Ruger GP-100 series is a better SHTF design. Remove the grips, remove the tension from the mainspring, pull the hammer pin and then you can pull the trigger group out intact. The end user can field strip the revolver without compromising its timing, and can also do things like replace the trigger return and mainspring, the hammer, the transfer bar, the front sight, and the rear sight. It's just a more modern design. It also locks up on the front yoke independently of the ejection rod.

    Long story short, S&W wheelguns need gun smithing for things the Ruger end user can do for himself from an exploded parts diagram for a small trade off in trigger feel.

    Regardless, there are several valid reasons as to why the service pistol generally replaced the service revolver around the planet. Only one of those reasons is higher capacity. Autos have proven themselves to be less susceptible to environmental failure. Autos shake off dirt, sand, and mud conditions that will stop a revolver dead. Autos are faster reload. Logistically, revolvers were more complicated to mass produce because their parts required too much hand fitting and fine tuning of their timing adjustments. Revolvers, and their strict timing demands, are also easier to make begin "missing a beat" than a decent service auto is.
     
  5. branchbuster

    branchbuster Albany Active Member

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    Try a shotshell in an auto.
     
  6. HansC

    HansC Portland Member

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    While I enjoy autos and generally can shoot them more accurately, experience has led me to believe there is a place for a revolver for defense. I was badly hurt in a bike wreck, and was attacked the next day. One separated shoulder (completely useless, hanging arm until surgically repaired), many broken fingers, one broken thumb, road rash everywhere. I was a mess. Could not load a magazine or rack the slide of my 45 or 380, so went on a walk without. Some gentlemen thought it would be funny to mess up the crippled guy and came after me. By chance, one fell backward jumping over a fence to get me and hurt himself badly, which was enough to shift their attention away from me long enough for me to get scarce.
    If you try it, you will find you can load, cock, and fire a revolver with your elbows. While not practical, it demonstrates ease of use. It is still possible to use a revolver when badly hurt. They work well at contact distance, accept even the most egregious hand loads, and handle sub caliber inserts without a hiccup.

    I outfitted a pair of gp100's with spare cylinders (buy parts kits from the police after gun buy-backs) after the cylinders have been bored out to 9x23 with moon clip conversion so one cylinder can shoot 9mm, 380, et cetera while the other cylinder stays standard with 357 and 38. Internal parts are few and are largely replaced as a unit, so if the gun has a problem, I can swap out the whole set of pre-fit guts in a few minutes. Rugers are pretty reliable. I have sub caliber inserts for 22lr, 22 mag, 327 mag. Good package.
    I like autos more than revolvers, but keep revolvers around anyhow. I believe in their utility.
     
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  7. Dmonwai

    Dmonwai Seattle Member

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    I totally agree revolvers have a place as a defensive firearm.

    But you can use a semi-auto with one arm very effectively. Just get trained to do it and practice, practice, practice. Most advanced defensive handgun classes teach how to rack the slide and reload with one arm. The last class I was at also taught you how to draw from your holster with one arm when your gun was holstered on the opposite side. I was shooting in a IDPA match on a squad that had one guy with one arm. It was very cool to watch how well he did everything with just one arm. From "Load and Make Ready" to "Unload and Show Clear", "Slide Down, Hammer Down and Holster" and watching him run the COF and doing reloads was very impressive. His final scores beat a lot of the newbies that day!
     
  8. DEADTIME

    DEADTIME Coeur D alene Active Member

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    I likem both and carry both. They have attributes that compliment each other so I'm agnostic in the wheel gun vs semi auto war.
     
  9. erudne

    erudne The Pie Matrix PPL Say Sleeping W/Your Rifle Is A bad Thing? Bronze Supporter

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    My revolvers are far more accurate than my autos due to the types of sights they carry but I can still hit a 3" target at 40 yards with my Glock, if I shoot at it enough times.
    ergonomics are critical with handguns so pick the one which best suits your needs.
     
  10. CaliberGeek

    CaliberGeek Seattle, WA Member

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    People might find this funny, but I would carry both on me at all times during a societal disaster.


    My planned carry is a KelTec PF9 and a 38special compact revolver. They're both small enough that the combined weight is similar to one full sized handgun, but I have the option of choosing one of two during an engagement. both in a holster on both sides of my waist.


    I'd probably reach for my semi-auto first though. Anybody should. The revolver is proven and reliable, but its capacity during a firefight is obsolete. It would mainly be a backup in case my semi fails on me.
     
  11. M67

    M67 NW Oregon Active Member

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    My family and i have choosen to go with all matching Sig Sauers in 9mm, for our primary handguns. Same holsters, ammo, mags, parts, etc.. If somthing were to go bad, they can pick up any one and know how it works, without fail.

    With that said, we also have 357 mag and 44 mag revolvers stockpiled for special needs.

    A firearm is simply a tool, and like all tools, they have a use they are best suited for.

    M67
     
  12. nitestocker

    nitestocker woodland washington Well-Known Member

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    Try a shotshell in an auto.
    12 gage or 20:laugh:
     
  13. Sabertooth

    Sabertooth Josephine County Active Member

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    Revolvers fragile?? I own a Colt .357 and S&W .44 mag have been beating the heck out of them for 35 years and they haven't failed. Had a .38 S&W but broke it, only about 15000 rounds through it. All where or are 6 in barrels. All Very accurate. I do also own several semi autos which are also very good. I use the "K.I.S.S." principle and am a firm believer in "if it don't have it, it can't break" So to me less is better, but quality counts.
    I think I got lost in my own stuff here.
     
  14. bikejunkie

    bikejunkie Salem Well-Known Member

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    Reloading speed/capacity alone is enough for me to keep semi-autos around. I have no problems with wheel guns, but just don't feel the need to have any when I could have a stone reliable auto or 3 around...
     
  15. pokerace

    pokerace Newberg Well-Known Member

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    Revolvers fragile?? No way look at all the Colt peacemakers from the 1800's that are still working..Then look at the RUGER SA'S, that will still be working after your dead.
     
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  16. halmbarte

    halmbarte PDX Active Member

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    Revolvers have closer clearances than autos and are easier to disable with debris. Any garbage under the ejector star will seize the action solid. Anything that prevents the cylinder from turning will disable the revolver.

    Of the pistols I've seen fail while shooting revolvers are in the lead 2 to 1.

    H
     
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  17. Northwest21

    Northwest21 OR & WA - split time New Member

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    Thanks for the info, all. I definitely wasn't trying to make a case for revolvers being fragile, or raise the wheelgun vs. semi-auto debate at all. Maybe this should have gone in the gunsmithing forum first, as I'm just somewhat uninformed as to how revolvers work internally. It's helpful to be reminded that the elements will jam a revolver more easily, though, and thanks to Boats and HansC for the info...perhaps I should give a Ruger a try (if only the bank account would permit it), and I really like the idea of interchangeable cylinders, particularly a 22LR/22mag given how light, portable, common, etc. 22 LR is (along with interchangeability with my 10/22).
     
  18. halmbarte

    halmbarte PDX Active Member

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    Revolvers are prone to failure because the internal 'clockwork' has to do multiple things, at the right time, using ~12lbs of force from your trigger finger. The internal parts are closely fitted together, as is the cylinder to the frame.

    Autoloaders typically use the recoil energy to power the mechanism. Unless too much energy is robbed from the action by friction or letting the slide rest one something, they generally work. Modern auto designs are typically pretty well sealed against outside debris getting into the gun and have mechanisms for dealing wih garbage that does get inside.

    Generally speaking, when a revolver stops working you're takin it in to see a gunsmith. When you have a stoppage with a auto you can clear it with immediate action.

    H
     
  19. chemist

    chemist Beaverton OR Well-Known Member

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    Give your massive steel revolver a big heave-ho in the parking lot, and I'll do the same with my Glock. Any bets on the outcome? Like I said, all-steel construction is extremely rigid, and like a civil engineer said to me, stiff structures attract force.

    But go ahead and fire your shotshells; I've never had the desire to fire any from a barrel less than 18" anyway.

    Now what I have done is fire a lot of suppressed weapons - let's see you put a can on your wheelgun.
     
  20. Sabertooth

    Sabertooth Josephine County Active Member

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    Now lets go with full auto or bolt action, Ok? Revolver jaming? Sounds like operator error. On my side I have seen many, many semi autos malfunction, won't eject fired shell, magazine will not feed correctly. None of them cheap semi autos. Capacity, 6 vers's how many? I'm don't plan on going into a combat zone any time soon. Nor do I plan on having to shoot someone more then three times. I train double tap. So what you like is what you like. If you do not take care of your firearm it is going to fail. No matter what it cost. If I lived in a city I would pack a Thompson with a 100 round mag.
     
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