Are Revolvers Better for Concealed Carry?

Smith and Wesson J Frame

When it comes to self-defense and personal protection, concealed-carry firearms are a popular choice.

Among the various types of firearms available, the debate on whether revolvers are better for concealed carry is a common one.

Revolvers have been around for more than a century and have some unique features that differentiate them from semi-automatic pistols, making them a viable option for concealed carry.

Revolvers offer a number of advantages such as ease of use, compactness, resilience, and enhanced safety, making them an attractive option for both new and experienced firearm owners.

With their simple design and fewer moving parts, revolvers are considered more reliable and easier to maintain compared to semi-automatic pistols.

However, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons of revolvers before deciding if they are the best choice for concealed carry, as there are factors like limited capacity, heavy trigger pulls, and short sight radius that may not suit everyone’s preferences.

Revolvers vs. Semi-Automatic Pistols

Revolver vs. semiautomatic

Mechanical Differences

Revolvers and semi-automatic pistols have different operating mechanisms.

Revolvers feature a revolving cylinder that holds cartridges, usually six, and rotates with each trigger pull to align a cartridge with the barrel.

Semi-automatic pistols, on the other hand, have a removable magazine that holds the cartridges and feeds them into the chamber as each shot is fired.

Semi-automatic pistols use the energy from firing a round to eject the spent cartridge and load a new one.

Reliability Factors

Revolvers are often praised for their simplicity and reliability.

They have fewer moving parts than semi-automatics, which can translate into fewer potential points of failure.

This can be especially important in stressful situations when a firearm needs to function properly every time.

That said, modern semi-automatic pistols have come a long way in reliability, and some argue that the difference in reliability between the two types is negligible.

However, if a malfunction does occur in a semi-automatic pistol, it can sometimes require more knowledge and understanding to quickly fix the issue compared to a revolver’s simpler design.

Advantages of Revolvers for Concealed Carry

Simplicity and Ease of Use

One major advantage of revolvers for concealed carry is their simplicity and ease of use.

Revolvers typically have a limited number of moving parts and do not require a magazine, which makes them easy to maintain.

This straightforward design also means fewer opportunities for user-induced errors, allowing for more reliable performance in high-stress situations.

Reduced Malfunction Risks

Revolvers generally have a reduced risk of malfunctions compared to semi-automatic pistols.

Due to their simple design, they are less likely to experience feeding and ejection issues, which can lead to jams or other failures in semi-autos.

This reliability can be crucial when it comes to personal defense situations, where a malfunction could be life-threatening.

Concealment Options

Revolvers offer various concealment options and tend to stay in place better compared to semi-automatic handguns when carried in concealment holsters.

This stability ensures a consistent grip location, allowing for a faster and more accurate draw during an emergency.

Additionally, revolvers are available in a wide range of calibers, from .22 LR to .44 Mag, providing an option for every individual’s preferences.

Disadvantages of Revolvers for Concealed Carry

While revolvers have some advantages, they also come with a few drawbacks when it comes to concealed carry.

In this section, we will explore the disadvantages of using revolvers as your primary concealed carry firearm, including their limited ammunition capacity and slower reload times.

Limited Ammunition Capacity

One of the main drawbacks of revolvers compared to semi-automatic firearms is their limited ammunition capacity.

Most small revolvers intended for concealed carry hold only five or six rounds, while even larger models generally max out at around eight rounds.

5 shots in a revolver

In contrast, semi-automatic pistols are available in similar sizes but often have higher capacities, with double-stack magazines offering 10, 15, or even 20 rounds in some cases.

In a self-defense situation, having fewer rounds available in your firearm can be a disadvantage.

While it is unlikely that you’ll need to fire more than a few shots, it’s important to consider that under stress and in high-pressure situations, accuracy can be compromised.

Additionally, multiple attackers might require more ammunition for effective protection.

Slower Reload Times

Another downside of revolvers is their slower reload times.

Since most revolvers use a cylinder to hold cartridges, they need to be reloaded one round at a time or with the help of a speed-loader.

Speed-loaders can improve the reloading speed, but using them still requires more time and skill than swapping out a semi-automatic pistol’s magazine.

During a high-stress situation, such as a self-defense encounter, having an efficient and quick reloading method can be essential.

The increased reload times of revolvers may put you at a disadvantage compared to using a semi-automatic pistol with a simple magazine change.

Overall, there are both pros and cons to choosing a revolver for concealed carry.

Understanding the disadvantages of revolvers, such as limited ammunition capacity and slower reload times can help you make a more informed decision when selecting the best firearm for your concealed carry needs.

Selecting the Right Revolver for Concealed Carry

Choosing the best revolver for concealed carry involves considering various factors such as size, caliber, materials, and construction.

This section will provide guidance on these aspects to help you make an informed decision.

Size and Caliber Considerations

Barrel length significantly affects the concealability of revolvers.

Generally, concealed carry revolvers have barrels 3 inches or shorter, making them easier to conceal and carry discreetly.

Shorter barrels, also known as “snubbies,” have a limited sight radius, which can affect accuracy at longer distances but is less of an issue for close-range self-defense situations.

Caliber is another important consideration for concealed-carry revolvers.

While larger calibers generally offer greater stopping power, they can produce more recoil, making them more challenging to control for some shooters.

Popular calibers for concealed carry revolvers include .38 Special, .357 Magnum, and .22 LR.

Of these, .38 Special is a common choice due to its manageable recoil and sufficient stopping power for self-defense.

Materials and Construction

The materials and construction of a revolver can impact its weight, durability, and overall performance.

Lightweight revolvers are easier to carry for extended periods, but they may produce more perceived recoil due to their reduced mass.

Common materials for revolver frames include aluminum and polymer.

For example, the Ruger LCR features a combination of aluminum and polymer for its frame, reducing weight while maintaining structural integrity.

Another durable option is stainless steel, which is heavier but offers increased corrosion resistance.

Revolver construction often involves either a hammerless or exposed hammer design.

Hammerless designs, such as those found on some Smith & Wesson J-frame models, minimize the risk of snagging on clothing when drawing the firearm from concealment.

Exposed hammer models, like the Ruger LCRx, allow for both single- and double-action firing, providing greater versatility in various situations.


Revolvers offer several advantages for concealed carry, including their ease of use, compact size, and enhanced safety features.

Their simple design and lack of magazines make them easy to maintain and reliable in high-pressure situations.

Additionally, revolvers can be suitable for new gun owners due to their straightforward operation and minimal learning curve.

However, revolvers tend to have a limited capacity, heavy trigger pulls, and a short sight radius.

These factors may impact the user’s ability to fire multiple rounds quickly or accurately.

It is essential to weigh these considerations against the benefits when deciding if a revolver is the right choice for concealed carry.

Ultimately, the suitability of a revolver for concealed carry largely depends on the individual’s preferences and needs.

Some may find that revolvers fit their hands well and provide a sense of comfort and reliability in a self-defense situation.

Others may prefer the higher capacity and potentially faster reloading capabilities of semi-automatic handguns.

In either case, proper training, practice, and safe handling of the firearm remain crucial for effective concealed carry.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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