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Where Did All the Wheel Guns Go?

The revolver or “wheel gun” as we often affectionately refer to them as aren’t a new invention by any stretch of the imagination. I will admit that over the last 30+ years with the invention of smaller, lighter pistols that carry more rounds that the old trust revolver that has helped it’s fall from glory. Does this mean that wheel guns are suddenly irrelevant ? or just to be forgotten about when it comes to firearms conversation and development ? It’s been almost 182 years to the day since Samuel Colt was issued his first patent for the Colt Patterson and many things have changed since those early days. However in the last few decades it’s almost like the firearms industry hasn’t moved the development of a modern revolver along like they have semi automatic pistols. Just let that sink in for a few seconds.

The last great revolver innovation ?

Lack of Vision or Casualty of High Profit Margins ?

Is the lack of advancement due to a lack of vision ? a change in shooters tastes and fashion or just plain old economics. Lets focus on a the last point I mentioned, economic factors. When we stop to consider the economic factors and overhead needed to produce a revolver we have to take an honest look at the bottom line. At the end of the day we know firearms manufacturers are not a charity they are here to make money for their investors or they will end up like Colt and Remington in the last few years, bleeding money and routinely sitting in the red.

When we look at the case of a largely polymer semi automatic handguns compared to a all metal revolver we understand there will be differences in costs that determine many things such as price point and profit margin. Let’s take a list at the pros and cons of each style and things that may have enhanced the decline of the revolver from our modern gun culture.

Pros of Polymer Gun Production 

  • Less skilled manpower to produce
  • Faster production times
  • Less waste of raw materials
  • Reusable production tools and elements (molds that shape the pistols in plastic injection molding technique)
  • Less expensive raw materials
  • Lighter end product
  • Rust resistent base material
  • Faster to reload
  • Higher capacity
  • Easier to customize trigger

Cons to Polymer Guns in General

  • Less originality
  • Perceived decreased strength
  • Few in any in .357 Magnum , .44 Magnum or higher
  • Can be finicky with some ammo

Glock 19, The most popular compact 9mm ever ? Photo: Rick Dembroski

Pros of Revolver Production 

  • Made almost entirely of metal
  • Built by skilled craftsman
  • Available in .44 Magnum & larger calibers
  • More originality & better aesthetics
  • Less finicky about ammo
  • Less likely to jam

Cons of Revolver Production 

  • Higher base material cost
  • More waste
  • More chemicals involved
  • Less capacity
  • More skilled labor to produce
  • Higher production costs
  • Finish less resistant to weather on many models
  • Heavier weight
  • No external safety on many models
  • Harder to customize trigger yourself
  • Heavier trigger pull

Evil Roy by Cimarron Arms
Photo: Rick Dembroski

The Future of the Wheel Gun 

What is the future of the wheel gun as we know it ? Will it continue to only be used in specialized areas like cowboy action shooting and as a hunters back up tool? Will anyone step forward and change our ideas and release something new and attention grabbing ? I was hoping to one day get a Chiappa Rhino to perform a nice test & evaluation on but that day hasn’t arrived yet. Not all is doom and gloom though, there was a revolver related release from a major manufacturer at SHOT Show 2019 this year. Apparently Colt has re-released the King Cobra in .357 Magnum with a 3″ barrel sporting a $899.00 manufactures suggested retail price. It’s interesting that Colt is listening to consumer inquires and re-released this classic.

Quote of the Week: 

“Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but try a revolver first” 

Josh Billings (1818-1885, Author, Lecturer, Humorist)

About the Author /

Rick Dembroski spent 10 of the best years of his life as a USAF Civil Engineer, traveling the globe, drinking beer, and causing chaos. His superiors dubbed him "King of Useless Knowledge" a title that he still loves to this day. Separated in 2002 as a SSgt (E5- in the USAF), he chose to stay in the frozen north of Alaska and currently works as an Emergency Management Specialist combining his love of chaos with preparedness to ensure people know how to survive disasters.

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