Revolvers and shotguns don’t jam

Except for when they do, and let me tell you when it happens it’s pretty spectacular. Tam experienced a series of ammo induced failures to feed in her 870 over the weekend using cheapo-Wal-Mart ammo. The process for reducing the malfunction was fairly involved, and should be noted is a lot more difficult to clear than say, a jammed rifle.

cracked .45 acp case

Similarly, when revolvers go wrong, it usually requires tools to fix them. I’ll recount a couple of instances where I’ve had revos go down, the first was caused by the cartridge you see in this photo, a piece of steel .45 ACP. The case cracked and tied itself to the chamber walls of my S&W 625, the extraction process involved hitting the extractor rod with a mallet. The moonclip that was holding the cases together was irrevocably destroyed by this process.

Another jam I experienced was with an older S&W revolver, where while the cylinder was locked up in the gun, firing was causing the ejector rod to unscrew and back out. There was just enough room in the shroud for the ejector rod to back out far enough that it bound up the gun, making a trigger pull impossible. Fixing this one also involved mallets and carefully tapping the cylinder out of the gun so the ejector could be tightened down. Loads of fun, clearing that.

I can’t confess to personally tying up pump guns, however I’ve seen it happen with other shooters. A simple mental mistake can cause a fairly difficult to clear issue with a pump gun; for example a shooter at M3GI running a pump accidentally tried to double load the gun by putting a round in the chamber on top of the round that was on the lifter, then slamming the action forward. That was complicated, to say the least.

The truth is that in this day and age, most modern production firearms are going to be more than reliable. Revolvers and pump action shotguns are still excellent choices for self-defense, but these types of guns are frequently presented as “good guns for newbies”, when the truth is anything but that. Think about it for a minute regarding revolvers: they hold less ammo, and are harder to shoot well and reload quickly than a modern semi-auto pistol. When they break, it requires tools to fix. A mid-to-full size semi-automatic pistol in 9mm is probably a much better gun for a beginner than a revolver.

Similar logic applies to a pump action shotgun as a home defense weapon. Yes, it’s the single most destructive weapon-systems the individual operator can put into play, but it’s also hard to shoot well, doesn’t hold a lot of ammo, and when things go wrong they go wrong quick. Why would you recommend a shotgun for home defense when an AR15 is easier to operate, easier to shoot well, and holds 5 times the ammo?

23 thoughts on “Revolvers and shotguns don’t jam”

  1. “Think about it for a minute regarding revolvers: they hold less ammo, and are harder to shoot well and reload quickly than a modern semi-auto pistol. When they break, it requires tools to fix. A mid-to-full size semi-automatic pistol in 9mm is probably a much better gun for a beginner than a revolver.”

    All true. But revolvers:

    – Can’t have their slide pushed out of battery
    – Can’t be limp-wristed
    – Are reliable regardless of barrel length or factory ammo pressure
    – Feed the next round more reliably
    – Have no manual safety to leave engaged when you really need to make the gun go bang
    – Enjoy the simplicity of “bullets in the gun = trigger makes it go” (no empty chamber to remember to fill)
    – Require only another trigger pull to get past a dud round
    – Have easy visual confirmation of loaded status
    – Have many options to adjust the grip to an individual’s hand
    – Have no magazine to lose or create unreliability

    There are at least 2 sides to every story, sure. But a 3″ or 4″ steel revolver is less tricky for most beginners to learn. There is demonstrably less that they need to learn & remember to safely make the gun work.

    1. Yes, because “put magazine in gun, pull slide to the rear, pull trigger” is so complicated. There’s really no way in which a revolver is less complicated than a Glock 19.

      1. The 2 Canadians I took to the range for their first time (1 man, 1 woman) in the past months both fell victim to the full magazine/empty chamber syndrome. With a Glock, BTW.

        A new shooter has a lot of information swimming around in their head. Reducing the number of things that they have to remember helps them get up to speed faster, with less confusion. And that is crucial for making the transition from “shooting is hard work” to “shooting is fun”.

        That’s how I treat it, anyway.

        1. If a brand new shooter can’t remember to put a round in the chamber of their gun, the person “teaching” them to shoot is not a very good instructor.

          1. > A new shooter has a lot of information
            > swimming around in their head.

            This is something that we “gun nuts” often overlook. It is easy to forget that not everyone is “into” guns like we are — even people who express some interest in going to the range and trying it out.

            The analogy I often use is learning to drive. Think about how much our 15-year old brains had to process, although I’m sure some people here were prodigy’s, and could masterfully manipulate a manual transmission after 1-hour of classroom instruction. They never turned the ignition key when the motor was already running, stalled a vehicle, shifted into the wrong gear, rolled backwards from an uphill stop, etc.

            The difference is that (1) driving isn’t stigmatized (adding to the anxiety of a “dangerous” activity) and (2) it’s something most of us have done every day since we were 16-years old, sometimes for several hours a day.

            >the person “teaching” them to shoot is not a very good instructor.

            But now I see that the failure of newbies to remember to chamber a round is Gunnutmegger’s fault. And my fault too; I see this happen again and again with gun-owning friends I take to the range about once a year.

            Now I’m starting to remember why I hated the gun culture…

          2. A manual transmission car is a lot more complicated to operate than a semi-automatic pistol. There are (not counting the horn) 8 controls that a driver must know how to operate to be able to operate the vehicle.

            A Glock has three (or four, depending how you count the slide) controls. There is a lot less stuff going on when you’re shooting a gun than when you’re driving a car, and on top of that if an “instructor” is teaching a newbie how to shoot, should’t they because actually watching them so they don’t make mistakes like forgetting to load the gun?

          3. > A manual transmission car
            > is a lot more complicated to
            > operate than a semi-automatic pistol.

            Juliet Foxtrot Charlie! Not that tired old argument again.

            As I stated, most of us have been driving every day since we were 16-years old, sometimes for several hours a day. It is something we’ve been doing for years and decades. Driving is so ingrained into us that we don’t give any thought to it (even when we should). And before that, we spent several years watching our parents drive.

            This is not true of guns. Oh, it’s true for you, me, Gunnutmegger, and everyone else reading this forum. We are so comfortable manipulating a Glock or AR-15 that we can do it without a second thought, while blindfolded. The new shooter “who has a lot of information swimming around in their head” can not.

            And even the term “new shooter” may be a misnomer. Is this somebody who is actually looking to invest time and money and discipline in a new hobby? Or just wants to go to the range and pull the trigger and sling some lead downrange for an hour? My experience has been the latter.

          4. Wait a minute, run through the minimum manual of arms.

            AR:

            Place on safe
            Insert loaded magazine or 30 rounds
            Operate charging handle to chamber round
            Take off safe
            Fire
            Fire again, as necessary up to 30 times
            Reload

            870:

            Place on safe
            Load magazine tube with 5 rounds
            Press and hold bolt release (unless trigger has been pulled on an empty chamber)
            Work pump to chamber round
            Take off safe
            Fire
            Work charging handle briskly and firmly (do not short stroke)
            Fire again, pump again, repeating up to 5 times
            Reload

            Which is “simpler?”

          5. Well, Caleb, if I said something to make you be so rude, I apologize.

            (But I reread what I wrote and I can’t see anything that constitutes an attack on you)

    2. Some pretty good arguments, but they do have their equivalents in revolvers:
      * While the slide cannot be pushed out of battery, the cylinder can get stuck.
      * While the feeding works rather nicely once the cylinder is aligned properly, it does not if the stop is worn out (which is rather easy to do when doing all the common things from movies, like spinning the cylinder and flipping it open and closed using inertia).
      * While another trigger pull gets you past a dud round, another hammer strike usually sets of the majority of duds. Does not work with most striker fired guns, though. Then again, tap-rack-bang solves more problems, so it seems like a good pay-off.

      The other arguments seem rather weak to me, though:
      * Have no manual safety to leave engaged when you really need to make the gun go bang
      ** a lot of pistols do not have safeties, a lot of revolver can be found with safeties. That’s unrelated to the gun type.
      * Enjoy the simplicity of “bullets in the gun = trigger makes it go” (no empty chamber to remember to fill)
      ** a lot of pistols are carried with a round in the chamber, a lot of revolvers are carried with an empty chamber under the hammer
      * Have easy visual confirmation of loaded status
      ** Much simpler: “Is it loaded?” – “Yes”. Works everywhere, every time. After that you are at the point where, with a pistol, you only have to check whether a round is chambered, while with a revolver, having a case in the chamber does not tell you whether it was fired – especially with a short 38 spec in .357 mag, where you won’t necessarily see the bullet form the other side.
      * Have many options to adjust the grip to an individual’s hand
      ** unless you are using a popular one like a Ruger or S&W, you’ll have to have them made specifically – no difference from pistols. That’s inrelated to gun type.
      * Have no magazine to lose or create unreliability
      ** The Ordnance Board has called, they want their 1924 argument back: Yes, one could assume that would happen, yet is has never happened in a statistically significant number.

      Arguments I never got:
      * Can’t be limp-wristed
      ** I heard about this. Actually, I was told I was limp-wristing a gun once. Turns out the seller used that argument to justify an unreliable gun. I assume people who are physically able to limp-wrist a gun wold probably have trouble making a revolver’s double action work reliably, too.
      * Are reliable regardless of barrel length or factory ammo pressure
      ** Aside from .22lr, I never had that problem with a production gun. With highly tuned competition pistols, yes, sure, but otherwise not at all. To me, this was always a rifle problem.

      Imho: Revolvers are nice. Just like 1911s. Hmm. Maybe we can get Todd Green to test one – he did wonders for the acceptance of 1911s… 😉

      1. “a lot of revolvers have safeties”?

        Um, what?

        And who carries a double-action revolver with an empty chamber?

        And if magazines don’t affect reliability, why do Wilson and Chip McCormick make so much money selling them to 1911 owners?

        While I appreciate a good troll, you should try harder next time. This is a serious topic.

        1. I see you don’t like the discussion since you call me a troll already. The seriousness thing is a nice touch, too. But I actually like the topic, since I started my shooting career on revolvers in CAS and switched to pistols only 5 years ago. So:

          I like your pick-and-choose way of argumentation. You elect to take a certain, idealised revolver against all weaknesses of all pistols ever. That is very convenient and of course I would never dare to call it trollish. 😉

          So that we are clear here: We are comparing a double action revolver against a 1911 now? Ignore that several competition rules require to carry a revolver with an empty chamber, but consider pistols with an empty chamber standard instead of a rule enforced in the Israeli military? And we skip all the other issues you brought and that I responded to; reduce the issue of mags being lost or failing to just failing, reduce the failing mags to 1911 mags (congratulations to Wilson, btw., for doing something that companies building duty guns have done for decades); accept that pistol mag springs wear out but only compare it to fresh new springs and stops in revolvers; ignore the history of S&Ws stupid gun locks; talk only about certain parts of the USA where revolvers are not mandated to have a push safety but apply the criticism of pistol safeties to all pistols in history that were contractually required to have them…

          Right, that’s not trolling. That’s just moving the goalposts, but let’s label it “defining the discussion” – the technique works well for MAIG after all. I would highly recommend you follow this strategy to the logical conclusion and and compare a S&W 627 to a Borchardt C93, because then you can even argue that revolvers have more power and the same capacity.

          P.S.: I am pretty sure I have a spelling mistake in there somewhere, which should also be made an issue.

          1. I was using the term “troll” as a verb, not as a noun. Read again, and see if you can spot the context. Not all who troll are trolls. Maybe you should spend less time being butthurt and more time thinking about the issues at hand…

            And, how much longer will we have to wait for you to provide the model #s of revolvers that have manual safeties?

            Your list was an exercise in contrarian trolling, as evidenced by your eagerness to distance yourself from what you said.

          2. @gunnutmegger
            Sadly we have reached the maximum level for responses, so I cannot use the reply function, although I find this “discussion” very entertaining. So we are down from me refuting 9 of your 10 points to 9.5/10, am I counting right? I mean, since you never came back to the “no one carries an empty chamber” issue. Let’s ignore your semantic limbo regarding the word “troll”, otherwise I might be tempted to apply this to your part, which would be boring.

            Also, I am pretty sure you don’t really want model numbers for revolvers with safeties, because a simple internet search might have given them to you – but that would be looking for an answer instead of entertainment, eh? And that search for answers would happen after re-reading what I first wrote (where I mentioned the ridiculous key locks on S&W guns). And checking out the passive safeties on nearly every modern DA revolver (hammer safeties and transfer bars, which are similar in function to what Glocks and similar striker-fired pistols use as drop safeties).

            I will assume our discussion is over.

            But for every other reader who wonders about other manual safeties on revolvers: Yes, there have been some. The Taurus 608, S&W 40 and some older S&W .22s (as the internet just now told me) had them at one point, and the annoyingly successful Murabito aftermarket safety is still sold. That’s for the USA.

            Not sure if “a lot” is appropriate here, but German company Weihrauch/Arminius also seems to have liked the manual safety so much that the standard revolver (model HW38, I think, maybe the 357 model and they only use .38 special) for nearly every security company here has them. Anecdote: A gun safety course is mandatory for carrying on the job – and in mine, I was even told how to “accidentally” disable this safety as not to put my life in danger. Seems like a common-enough issue to me.

  2. Wal-Mart manufactures ammo now? That’s cool.

    Unless they don’t and they merely resell the same ammo that every gun store from coast to coast sells. Or are you suggesting the Winchester Wal-Mart sells is somehow inferior to the ammo you buy in the gun store that comes in exactly the same packaging?

  3. WWB sucks. I’ve had the exact same problems with it in my 870, causing me headaches at 2 different 3 gun matches. Thankfully I also had federal target loads to determine that it was an ammo issue, since then its been fine. Just like any other gun, you have to make sure it can eat what you feed it and you get what you pay for with ammo.

    I’ve also found the wwb handgun rounds are about the same quality as Blazer.

    1. That’s a valid point. A reliable used Mossberg 500 or 870 can be purchased for $250, a Maverick a bit less. Add a couple 5 round boxes of buckshot (and a couple 20 round boxes of birdshot practice ammo) and you’re still south of $300 out the door.

      The entry-level AR’s are going to run $6-650 to start with one magazine, with ammo still running around $0.50 a round up here (Alaska).

      If price is a real issue the shotgun still has the advantage.

    2. > Why would you recommend a shotgun for home defense
      > when an AR15 is easier to operate, easier to shoot well,
      > and holds 5 times the ammo

      I was never in the military, so somebody who was can correct me if I’m wrong, but…

      If I remember Daniel Da Cruz’s book Boot correctly, marine recruits spend a week of familiarization and training with the M-16 before actually shooting it.

      As awesome as the AR-15 is ( I owned a dozen at one point ), it is not a rifle I would give to the “casual” gun owner.

      The pump shotgun requires less training. A lot less. And “dry fire” training” uses the same manual-of-arms that live fire does. The same is also true of a revolver. It is not true of a semi-auto handgun or rifle.

      We “gun nuts” tend to forget that not everyone is looking for a new hobby — even those who “just want a gun for home defense”.

      1. We spent about 10 weeks learning how to walk properly too. 😉

        The Marine Corps, in Cruz’s day and mine at least, was teaching 3-position formal competition shooting. We spent much of our time on shooting positions, use of the sling, snapping in, and a host of minutia taught redundantly that really had no bearing on “safely getting effective hits on target at close range in a self-defense situation.”

  4. Alas, Tierlieb, you’re still full of malarkey.

    The S&W Model 40 doesn’t have a manual safety. It has a grip safety. I opened my safe and double-checked what the internet mistakenly told you. Yep, grip safety only.

    The Taurus 608 doesn’t have a manual safety either. Maybe you can share the internet search that led you to that bogus conclusion? Or maybe not.

    Since I don’t waste time talking to people who don’t have anything factual to say, you may indeed assume that our conversation is over.

  5. anonymous October 1, 2013 at 16:25

    > If I remember Daniel Da Cruz’s book Boot correctly, marine recruits spend a week of familiarization and training with the M-16 before actually shooting it.

    Well, that’s because they are required to MEMORIZE the serial number of their issue piece, the tech manual perfomance standards (maximum range are target, maximum range point target, cyclic ROF, operation cycle for the INTERNALS, max sustained ROF for semiauto, max ROF for semiauto, weight, length, etc.), requyired to field strip their weapons (including bolt dissassembly) without referring to a manual, function check for proper functioning of safety, semiauto, and burst fire mechanisms, know the “Marine Corps Way” to thoroughly clean their rifles, know how to set their sights for zero in the “MArine Corps Way”, be prepared to demonstrate any and all of this knowledge ON DEMAND and smartly, and learn the various rifle positions. They also do a lot of dime-washer and other “dry” training to hone their PRECISION accuracy.

    As a home defense gun owner, I don;t care if you know the “book” stats of your rifle, don;t care if you know the serial number, don’t care if you know “Standing supported position” or how to properly adjust a sling for long range shooting, don’t care if you need to pull out the manual to field strip your rifle for detailed cleaning and function checks, don’t care HOW you zeroed your sights as long as they work for you, etc. Nor are you going to be shooting it out to 500 meters.

    It took me longer to learn the user maintenance of a Mossberg 500 than it did an M16 — the fiddly bits were easier to get wrong when you break it down.

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