How I fell in love with wheelguns

It all started 20 years ago. As a child in the 90s, I was surrounded by images of double-stack wondernines, most prominently the Beretta 92 as featured in Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and most importantly my dad’s holster. But despite all that, and my continuing love of the Beretta, the revolver had a hold over me. I can pin this largely on two things. The first is a book called Small Arms of the World, a massive coffee table book filled full of, well, the small arms of the world. The edition we had in the house growing up was from the late 70s, which meant that it contained lots of snide little comments from the English authors about the “unreliability” of semi-automatic pistols for police work. I probably read that book cover to cover a dozen times. My parents still have it, the cover’s nearly fallen off and the binding is coming apart, but when I visit, I’ll still occasionally turn those creaky old pages.


However, even more influential in my revolver fascination was a comic book. Again, as a child of the 90s I had the good fortune to experience a cartoon called Batman: The Animated Series when it was first airing. Nerdier fans of a certain age will fondly remember Batman:TAS as one of the best incarnations of Batman to ever air, and proper nerds will also remember the excellent spin off comic book that it spawned, The Batman Adventures. Issue 15 of The Batman Adventures is pictured at right, and featured Commissioner James Gordon as the primary character. One line from that comic sticks out, when Commissioner Gordon is confronting a group of mob thugs. He says “Now, considering that this is a revolver and my advanced age, I can probably only get the first three of you that move. Who’s it going to be?” 11 year old Caleb thought that line was a pretty badass thing for a cop to say to a room full of gunthugs, and honestly 31 year old Caleb agrees with him.

For whatever reason, that comic cemented in my head that revolvers were the guns that cool old guys carried. This was only further enforced by a steady diet of westerns, and when I was a a couple of years older, Indiana Jones. That’s what I absorbed from pop culture as a kid: cool guys carry revolvers. Even Lethal Weapon reinforced this. Look at the characters: Martin Riggs, a wild-eyed loose cannon carries a modern semi-automatic pistol, spraying bullets everywhere. Meanwhile, old-school cop Roger Murtaugh? All he needs when it gets real are six shots from a k-frame. He’ll revoke your diplomatic immunity with a single head shot from 50 yards away, LIKE A SIR.

It’s interesting looking back and seeing how much pop culture influenced some of my tastes in firearms. What parts of pop culture have influenced your gun buying habits as an adult?


  1. my dad’s S&W model 19 was one of the coolest things i had ever seen as a small child, followed by his 629 with 5inch barrel. i carry semi-automatics but those still hold a special place to me, and will be mine one day.

  2. I’m 30 so I grew up with Die Hard and Lethal Weapon also and always wanted a Beretta 92 when I was old enough. Well here I am today and still have not owned a Beretta 92. I did however buy a Sig P226 after seeing it in countless movies and tv shows, Tom Berenger used one in Sniper and Rebecca Demornay used one in FEDS. One of my favorite scenes as a kid was in FEDS when Rebecca Demornay asks the gun store clerk for a Sig and he replies “yeah, I have some but I usually save them for my swat guys.”.
    My real love is for wheel guns though. They just have an old school coolness to them and they are a blast to shoot, not to mention sexy. My love for the wheel gun would have to be from movies like Magnum Force when Harry Callahan runs the police shooting course. It is also from watching CHIPs and seeing that quick on scribe flash at the opening credits of a holstered revolver on the hip of either Ponch or John. I now own as many S&W revolvers as I do semi autos.

  3. I was ranching way back in 1960 and of course the gun had to be a single action. A gunsmith got hold of a junk colt single action from the Spanish American war and he converted the .45 LC to .30 carbine caliber. That steered my lifelong fascination for the wheel gun.

  4. The aesthetic appeal of firearms from media is fairly real to me with historical guns but with modern weapons not so much.

    In the historical vein I have a short lever Martini-Henry rifle because of the movie Zulu. I love the movie, have an 1870s vintage rifle with bayonet. I may or may not have stood behind my couch (anti-Zulu barricade) with fixed bayonets calling fire commands in a poorly executed English accent. I fired it on the range twice with blackpowder cartridges. Pretty neat.

  5. There’s a truck load of reasons why my first handgun was a 1911 but pop culture wise Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis and the original call of duty and medal of honor games were huge in my love affair of the pistol. Also SWAT, We Were Soldiers, The Untouchables (countless other Viet Nam and mobster movies but those two stick out from my childhood)

  6. Westerns are out — I wasn’t sure my boys had seen any, but they’ve seen plenty of superheros, battling robots and blue-haired anime warriors. My 11-year-old and I were at a gun show this past weekend looking for a decent wood-stocked .22LR bolt rifle. None looked good, so we were on the way out when he asked, “how about that cowboy revolver at the first table?” Apparently, he remembered a western show he watched when he was younger and thought the Colt SAA clone was cool. After many warnings about how slow it was to load and fire, he still wanted to try it out, so we did. We left with the Heritage Arms Rough Rider (.22LR) for less money than a bolt rifle was going to cost. For the first time, he begged to go to the range the next day. We did, and I don’t think we’ve ever had more fun shooting. Now he wants to look into Cowboy Action Shooting.

    Revolvers are just cool. They evoke a time when men drank and fought, but acquitted themselves with honor when the chips were down (or so movies like Shane, High Noon and True Grit would have us believe). Maybe that’s what my man in the making is after.

  7. Biggest influence on my gun purchases came from a movie quote from my childhood:
    “Get rid of that nickle plated sissy pistol and get a glock.”
    Tommy Lee Jones…like a boss

  8. Short barreled legal pistol grip shotguns and large caliber revolvers are the items that I was influenced to buy as a result of TV shows and movies. Love my 12 & 20 gauge pistol grip pumps and my 357, 44 & 460 magnums; they’re all quite the blast and capable for a variety of duties. Of course there is a 1911 in the stable as well. Favorite TV shows: Combat, Hogan’s Heroes, Rat Patrol, Car 54, Dragnet; then there’s the movies with Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry Series), Arnold (Terminator Series) and Sylvestor (Rambo & Cobra). Yes, I do have some ancestors that resemble the old military rifles, an M1A and a Mini 14.

  9. I, like most if not all who have commented, own several semi-autos but love my wheel guns. It may be just the look and feel of one in the hand that attracts ones attention or it may be the movie lure of many revolvers. Seeing some in Get Smart and The Avengers TV shows. And if you are a reloader not having flying brass is another blessing! I can sit in a chair or on the couch and just admire the shape and feel of a revolver in a way a semi-auto just does not bring about. But one of the greatest aspects is when at the range taking one shot at a time and just slowly enjoying it so much. Rattling of 17 cartridges in 40 seconds just does not do it. God bless!!

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