Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Revolver Failure

One of the things covered frequently in this blog is the issue of self defense and of course firearms are a topic I often bring up.
Today during my instructor’s class we covered revolvers. We have to know how to use and train others in the use of revolvers and pump shotguns because due to our legislation, these are commonly the firearms used by security company personnel. Generally they are issued some of the worst revolvers in the market just to cut costs, so that makes matters even worse.
Today we shot with two revolvers, a 5-shot Taurus model 85, 38 special snubby (2” barrel) and a nice Smith & Wesson 686 with a 2 1/2” inch barrel.
The Taurus was having problems from the beginning. Sometimes you would pull the trigger and it would lock up. Maybe the hand was worn out, maybe it was some other problem. An important amount of patience was needed to shoot it and projectiles would keyhole (hit the target sideways instead of flying straight) Accuracy was non existent even at 7 yards. You would aim to the head and hit 10 inches away in any given direction.
The Smith and Wesson 686 is of course a much better firearm. It had been customized a bit for competition shooting and soon we where experiencing miss fires because the hammer wasn’t falling with enough force to ignite the primers. Of course people that read a lot but have little hands on experience will tell you that’s not a problem because one of the nice things about revolvers is that you just keep pulling the trigger and go to the next round in line. Let me tell you though, its not fun to go through the cylinder 3 times and still not get half of the rounds left to fire. I had to remove the cartridges, put them in the gun again and that time it did fire the rounds I had left. I wouldn’t want that happening to me in a gunfight. After tightening it up a bit with a screwdriver it fired ok, VERY accurate too. After 50 rounds it started having problem as well. You pulled the trigger and nothing, it just locked up. Some manipulation of the cylinder was required to fire a shot, maybe two, but soon enough it would fail again, the double action mechanism not working. The star was in good shape and the gun was tight, but I noticed the hand was chipped. The problem kept getting worse until it was just impossible to shoot it consistently.
Taurus are junk, no secret there. I’ve owned 3 and got rid of all of them and so has everyone I know that has shot them more than average. Not saying there aren’t exceptions out there, just saying that’s what I see occurring most often.
Taurus? I'm sure your life is worth more than that. I would not recommend a Taurus for Self Defense.

A S&W 686, on the other hand, that’s a well made gun, made by a reliable manufacturer. The model 686 is tough pretty tough, you’d have to go for a Ruger if you want something even more solid, yet this gun failed as well.
The Lesson of today’s blog? GUNS FAIL PEOPLE, AND REVOLVERS DO SO AS WELL. In fact, for anyone that does a moderate amount of training, revolvers are more likely to fail than service autos, specially autos such as Glocks that are at another level of ruggedness. Another thing to consider is that in spite of its simple users interface, the revolver is MORE complex than autos mechanically speaking and a failure with a revolver will most likely be complex and hard to solve, usually requiring a visit to the gunsmith.
Meantime a round that didn’t fire in a pistol gets cleared in a fraction of a second by a trained operator.
Revolvers do have a place, but a) they do have failures b) they are more fragile than modern service autos c) When they fail, the failure is not easily resolved.
For anyone choosing a handgun and willing to put the amount of training they should so as to master their weapon, a pistol is the way to go.
Take care folks,



Anonymous said...

Oye Ferfal

You are 100% right about Taurus revolvers and a well known revolver smith in the USA won't even work on them. See http://tinyurl.com/yvq8v4

I have two Colt revolvers and a S&W 44 magnum revolver and those are quality revolvers especially the Colts.

p35flash said...


I think you are absolutely right. Besides ammunition capacity will never be acceptable with revolvers.

However, I do believe a well maintained and reliable revolver has its place in anyone's arsenal.

Everyone should keep a couple around. It is easy to train anyone to use them and it gives some defense which would otherwise not be available to the neighbor, friend, or family member who doesn't train or shoot alot.

I recommend the older Smith and Wesson Model 10 .38's. These have been around for literally decades. Furthermore, the older S&W's were made with more attention to quality and can be had for cheap off of gunbroker.

Anonymous said...

This reflects some of my experiences as well.
Long ago I bought my first pistol, a used S&W 686.
It was a great pistol, but after a few thousand rounds it started to go out of time.
Sure, S&W fixed it at no charge, and in after about 8 weeks it was I had my pistol back. Great customer service, absolutely.
But, what if I had needed it in real life?
I've still got the revolver, but my primary weapon is a Glock 19.
I wouldn't bet my life on ANY revolver, if I had any choice.

Living in Babylon said...

The place for my revolver is as backup; I carry a single action auto 1911 and a double action Ruger .38 for backup. I like having a double action on hand in case I am injured and unable to pull back the slide on the 1911 when I reload.

The romantic in me would like to put in the time and effort to master a single action revolver, as at a certain skill level the disadvantages of the weapon matter less...but I doubt I could invest the time and ammo.

Anonymous said...


I work part time at a gun shop and I can tell you if someone tries to sell you one of the Taurus revolvers mentioned in the article RUn. It is a POS. I took a customer outside to see if she wanted to but one along with a few other automatics. The Taurus only fired about every second or third round. Stay away from this gun by all means.

hamyheadmp said...

May I offer a suggestion, If you buy new there shouldnt be a problem. If so the manufacture should stand behind the product. If however you are buying used ask a smith to give it a once over. That should only run 25-50 dollars. If you have ever bought a faulty gun its well worth the price especially if you intend on keeping it of passing it to one of your family. mwp

dc.sunsets said...

Imagine a hangfire with a revolver where the cylinder has indexed to the next round when the previous one decides to light, or a squib load you didn't notice at the time (in a gunfight?) where you just pulled the trigger again with the previous bullet lodged in the barrel?

Some years ago Guns & Ammo printed an article where the author took two semi-autos (1911 & Beretta 92F) and two revolvers (GP100 and S&W Chief's Special), shook them in a box with some sand, took the tape off the barrels (he didn't wish to ruin them by firing with sand in the barrels), and tried to fire them.

92F ran without problem, 1911 needed a nudge after each shot to close the action, GP100 ran ok (I think), and the S&W was locked up solid and had to be disassembled to fix. This was before Glocks were invented.

Dave Markowitz said...

Good post.

One thing some folks do to lighten the trigger pull on Smith & Wesson revolvers is to back out the mainspring strain screw. This is located on the bottom front of the grip frame. This does lighten the trigger pull a bit BUT it also lightens the hammer impact and can lead to ignition problems.

If you're shooting a S&W wheelgun, tighten that strain screw.

(Note: This doesn't apply to J-Frames with coil mainsprings.)

Anonymous said...

Smith and Wesson has passed through a lot of hands over the years and if you bot during a time of bad quality, like I did, you may have endless problems, like the cylinders of the .22 kit gun needing to be repolished by S&W multiple times and then still sticking cartridges.

There are so many better options I'll never buy another S&W, though I have 2 old inherited .38 Chief's models. As someone said, much older is better for this brand. The old bluing was excellent also.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the issue of reliability. The only reason you'd want a revolver is to let less experienced people have a gun in extreme circumstances.

Unknown said...

More than 3,000 magnum loads through my Ruger SuperRedhawk and it is still rocking. I've never had a misfire or problem of any type.

I have noticed that the tolerances become VERY tight after 50 or so magnum rounds get the metal cylinder/barrel extremely tight.

Then again, the only weapon I've ever had fail was a very old single-shot .22 rifle I had when I was a kid.

Ditto the very complicated nature of a double-action revolver. Especially if it has a transfer bar or similar mechanism. Also, no revolver will pass any of the intense tests that the Glock/Springfield XD line has survived.

Idahoser said...

both guns sound like they've been fired in training for decades with no cleaning. It's a lot more involved and takes proper tools and training, so don't just take a screwdriver to your revolver without it, but it does need to be done occasionally. Revolvers are more complex than auto pistols and if there's a malf, it usually takes more to clear it than a revolver. It seems silly that revolvers still exist, right?
the best example I can give on why you must have a revolver in a respectable caliber (.357 recommended) is for the spouse, neighbor or friend who discovers the S has already hit the F and THEN decides you need to teach her to shoot. That shooter needs a revolver. I prefer them for carry also, but that's a personal choice.
There is no gun that can do every job a gun needs to do the way a .357 steel 3" or 4" medium revolver can.