Pros and cons of carrying a moonclip revolver

S&W 986 9mm

There has been an uptick lately in the number of revolvers available that are chambered in traditional “semi-auto” cartridges. While some of them aren’t great, like the Rhino in .40, the recent offerings from S&W are pretty awesome. Especially the L-frame 986 pictured above. People have been asking me about carrying that gun, so here’s a quick look at some of the pros and cons of carrying a gun that uses moonclips.

Pro: You get to say clips all you want
Let’s be honest, you know that half the reason you want a gun like this is so you can talk about how your carry gun holds “seven in the clip” and when some aspie pushes his glasses up and intones nasally “they’re called magazines” you can finally unleash hell. Or, you know, just show him the clips. Whatever works.

Con: Some guns can’t fire without the clips
Some moonclip revolvers allow you to fire without using the clips. The 986 doesn’t. If you drop a 9mm in one of the chambers without a clip, it’ll just slide in and you won’t be able to do anything with it. So, yeah you need the clips.

Pro: Quality defense ammo is cheap and readily available
This applies mostly to the 9mm guns. If I want to carry this 986, I am spoiled for choices on ammo. While I’d probably just drop some Critical Defense or Winchester PDX in it, there are no shortage of choices for me in terms of ammo.

Con: A bent clip can tie up the whole gun.
I had this happen during a match. Dropped a clip in for a reload, didn’t realize it was slightly out of spec, so I had three normal trigger pulls, then a 4th that was approximately 9 billion pounds. As you can likely imagine, that’s less than ideal. Now, I load all my clips before the match using a tool and drop every single one of them into the gun to make sure there’s nothing wrong with them.

Pro: Your reloads will (probably) be faster
It’s easier to load a clip gun than a speedloader gun…most of the time. So your reloads will probably be quicker with a moonclip gun than they’d be with a speedyloader gun, but you still have to practice. It’s also a lot easier to toss a moonclip into a jacket pocket than finding a spot for a Comp-III.

Con: a seven shot 9mm revolver is huge
Even if the 986 had a shorter barrel, it would still be bigger than a seven 7 9mm pistol, like the M&P Shield. It’s just always going to be bigger than a pistol of the same capacity.

I’ll probably carry this gun for a bit in the next couple of weeks just to get an idea of how well it’s suited for that task. The 5 inch barrel really isn’t an issue, because if I can conceal a 4 inch GP100, this isn’t going to be a problem at all. It’s lighter than a GP100 as well, thanks in no small part to the Ti cylinder. Plus, 9mm 7-shot revolver! That’s just cool.


  1. Just ordered a 9mm LCR. Can’t wait to say clip. All I need now is a GP100 match in 9mm and my life will be complete. Oh wait,IDPA did away with ESR so I don’t have a place to compete with it. DAMN IT!! Love my S&W 66 but .38 is so damned expensive.

    1. I just got my LCR in 9mm. I learned very quickly to never use Blazer Aluminum, and Tula prolly won’t work either. However it is a blast to shoot, ammo is cheap, and it’s ammo compatible with all my autos

  2. You left out one large con: The reloads for moon clip revolvers are bulky in diameter. The speed strip for my j frame or sp101 fits in a watch pocket.

  3. Canonical CON: You can’t rapidly “top off” a partially-used clip.

    Same is true for magazines, of course, but even on the range, a mag is easier to top-off than a clip.

    If you have a pocketful of loaded clips, you might not care.

    Typical self-def situations aren’t likely to allow a top-off scenario to arise anyway. LEO shootouts are another matter.

  4. “While some of them aren’t great, like the Rhino in .40”

    If it could take 10mm it would be a different matter entirely.

  5. Being able to say “clip” with impunity is the strongest point on the list. Oh how I would enjoy verbally slapping the keyboard commando who tries to correct me.

  6. This is a little off post and I am not trying to be a wise guy, but how often do you clean your pistols? I have read/heard many different opinions.

    1. I clean mine after finishing a day at the range. This keeps every gun on the shelf clean and ready to go.

  7. I carried a (half) moon clip revolver, a S&W Model 1917, for many years. The half-moon clips are even more convenient to carry than the full-moon versions.

  8. Been looking at an LCR in 9mm, since it wouldn’t require me to stock another caliber of ammo. Thanks for the informative article, and I look forward to reading what you think after carrying a moonclip revolver for a few weeks.

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