New series: Revolvers don’t jam, except for when they do

This is a topic I’ve touched on quite a bit in the past. As a devout follower of the Church of the Wheel, I also must recognize that my sad devotion to that ancient religion doesn’t magically make my guns any less vulnerable to failure. Here’s a video on an interesting failure to fire that I had with my GP100:

Obviously, this was an ammo issue, and not a gun issue. The interesting side note to this is that if my guns had hammer spurs, I’d be able to check for this issue in the future by pulling the hammer back slightly while keeping my finger out of the trigger guard and spinning the cylinder.


  1. Dang! I just bought my first wheel gun. I though life would be simpler and I’d just cruise through matches with no worries. Bummer.

  2. Back in the day when we carried .357mag we often had to stop in the middle of a 60 round qual course so that a number of officers could use a toothbrush to clean under the extractor. It was common for the issued model 66s to jam badly due to powder granuales getting under the star and bind things up badly.

    In my observation of various stoppages and parts breakage, revolvers are much less reliable or durable than a military grade semi suto pistol.

  3. I’m only speaking of personal experience from 40 years of shooting. I had 7 revolvers in that time. Six were S&W’s from 22lr to 44mag and a rossi 38spl. The Rossi never failed me. Five of the S&W’s suffered serious failure at least once. Broken parts in 3 or residue induced jams. I don’t include ammo problems because those have only occured with handloads, never factory. I have found autos, with factory ammo much less likely to fail due to parts breakage. Two of the three were Chinese made. So I don’t know if that really counts. I would not risk my life on any of the revolvers I still have. I keep them because they’re fun to shoot. If my life depends on it I’ll stick to my 1911’s and SIGs.

  4. I had a friend who showed up at the range with a brand new Colt Python. He took it out of the box, loaded it and fired a shot. When he tried to recock it the cylinder wouldn’t rotate, It was froze up tight. We imagined the cylinder pin was bent. It wouldn’t turn even empty when the cylinder was closed.

    Although he fondled the same model in the display case he never bothered to take the gun out of the box that the clerk brought from the stockroom, because, it was a Colt, it had to be perfect, it was checked at the factory…right?

    I knew another guy who was testing some handloads in his S+W. One was a squib. The bullet lodged in the forcing cone so that the cylinder wouldn’t turn and you couldn’t open the cylinder either until we put a rod down the bore and pounded the bullet back into the chamber.

    Otherwise, revolvers are pretty reliable, at least for the first 5 or 6 shots.

    1. I would be interested in when that Python was made. All of the S&Ws I mention failing were 1970’s production. They were all crap in my opinion. Chamber out of alignment, pins braking, rough trigger on a target revolver, jamming from the residue after 100 rnds. ( now carry a metal brush and solvent, always.) The one S&W that never fails me was made in the late 1930’s.

  5. Are you saying that the rim thickness is out of spec. or ?

    Over the last few years have noticed almost numerous factory centerfire auto cases
    that split noticeably the very first time they were fired presumably from no or poor heat
    treatment. Granted these were all “pick-ups” so have no idea what make or style pistol
    they were fired in ? Maybe we’re looking at ammo that now receives less quality control
    effort than in the past ?

    1. You can never tell with orphan brass. At standard pistol pressures I’ve never encountered case head seperation or split necks. Ever. Magnums have to be watched. I’ve also notices the occasional off/foreign brands may have off spec rims, even in auto’s. Also excessive OAL that won’t chamber properly, or are too long to fit some SLP mags. It’s for these reasons that while I’ll shoot most anything that goes bang at the range, if my life depends on it, I will only use top brands. I’ve NEVER had an ammo related failure using Rem-Win-Fed-Horn ammo. Ever. That’s been my experience

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