She's not kidding

Let me tell you something about revolvers: People wax poetic about their ruggedness, reliability and simplicity, but when they call a revolver “simple”, it makes me wonder if they’ve ever had the sideplate off of one. The mechanical ballet going on inside a Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector makes your typical autopistol look like a stone axe by comparison.

I have been there, and even blogged about itSeriously, click that picture.  Look at what you see in there.  All those little gears and levers, it’s a machine only a watchmaker could love.  Compared to that, a 1911 is simple and a Glock is barely a machine.  I like revolvers a lot – I think once I get my 5-Gun Master tag there is a good chance I’ll go back to shooting revolvers primarily, although that seems to be a long way off right now.

The point of course is to come back to one of my favorite and most visited topics.  No swords are magic swords, and many are heap less magic than others.  Want a surefire way to upset a lot of “old-school” shooters?  Tell them revolvers break.  I know they do, because I’ve broken them.  Any gun that relies on the kind of clockwork parts you see on your left is going to subject to mechanical failures – that doesn’t make it a bad gun, it just means that it’s piece of machinery with parts that wear over time.  Shoot any gun enough, and it will break.

Of course, some swords are a lot less magic.


  1. All those MIM internal parts S&W uses these days can’t be helping either. Does ruger use MIM internals too?

  2. Everyone used MIM parts. Unless you’re getting a custom gun you’re getting some MIM parts. MIM parts don’t necessarily mean that the parts are “cheap.” The same way not all plastics are the same not all MIM parts are the same. Either a gun is quality or it isn’t, don’t let the inclusion of MIM parts deter you from buying a gun.

  3. We got a old WW1-era revolver in the basement that is all sorts of worn out. The timing is shot, the nickel plating is shot, the barrel is shot. It used to be my grandfathers and he had a friend that knew a police armorer that said he would fix it. 6 months later he gets it back with a different, and much worse, barrel.

  4. It amuses me too when people inform me that revolvers don’t “jam”. I learned different at about age 17 when I pulled my S&W 19 up for a quick DA shot at a running groundhog I almost stepped on. I got cylinder rotation but no hammer movement because the pivoting DA sear had stuck in the hammer so the trigger couldn’t engage it.

    Since then, it’s been apparent that while the revolver may be less likely to fail, when it does, it usually fails miserably. It usually takes a long time to get running again and maybe even a trip to the gunsmith. And good revolversmiths get more rare all the time.

    All guns fail.
    Carry as many as you can.

  5. “but when they call a revolver “simple”, it makes me wonder if they’ve ever had the sideplate off of one. ”

    I’ll have to go with Mistress Tamara there. One quick read through Kuhnhausen’s S&W shop manual convinced me I really didn’t want to do much with the internals of mine, if I didn’t have to.

  6. Even single action revolvers can fail, and they are somewhat simpler!

    Ever hear the stories of cowboys carrying a rock to hit the hammer with to fire their gun or having to hold back the hammer with their thumb and release it to fire the pistol because something broke inside and it wouldn’t work right!

    Anything mechanical can break, and in keeping with Murphy’s Law usually at the worst possible time.

  7. I have a Heritage Rough Rider revolver that jams if you’re not careful with it when reloading. If you pull the hammer too far past half-cock it’ll partially engage the cylinder lock..but won’t go into full cock. Rotate the cylinder to reload and BAM it’s locked up tighter than any revolver I’ve ever seen, lol. Only way to fix it is to remove the cylinder.

  8. In Texas concealed handgun license instructors have to qualify with both a semi-automatic and a revolver. I was in the first class back in 95. I borrowed a Model 19 Smith since I didn’t have a revolver. Yep. It locked up. Cost me 5 of 250 points. The on-site DPS gunsmith had to pull the cylinder since it still had 4 unfired rounds. “Reliable”? Give me a Glock anyday.

  9. A few weeks back I had a S&W 657 lock up so hard I couldn’t even unload it. Seems the center pin was peened and dragging in the ejector rod at a certain spot in the rotation. An easy enough fix, but not something you can do on the spot. Also, how many revolver shooters actually keep spare ejector rods and center pins and springs around? I doubt many do, but if you shoot magnum revolvers you definitely should.

    So far I’ve had three pistols break to the point where they were essentially nonfunctional, two 1911s and the 657. The 1911s broke because of, yes, poorly cast parts. Para Ordnance and a Kimber (a “high end” Kimber too).

    The 657 had a condition that was certainly avoidable, if you check your center pins and ejector rods for peening and straightness. I didn’t check that revolver because I’m fairly new to revolvers, only having owned any for the last year or so.

    I’ve got nothing against MIM parts, but I also inspect them for voids or roughness and replace anything I don’t like. That Para Ordnance had a magazine catch with a void almost all the way through it, and broke under normal use. It’s not like it’s a high stress part, but it’s not the place to sacrifice quality–just try doing without one. Then Para tried to say that they weren’t going to replace it, because I’d swapped the plastic MSH for a steel one. *rolleyes*

  10. Para makes me American Rifleman’s review of their base-model 1911. It got like 4″ at 25 yards…..

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