Ranking the 10 Best Revolvers of 2020


A revolver is a repeating handgun with a wheeled cylinder containing multiple rounds of ammunition. The first revolvers appeared way back in the 17th century, but it is only in the past 100 years or so that they have really come into their own.

Today’s revolvers are an outstanding choice for concealed carry as many of them are both compact and powerful. They are also extremely reliable, easy to clean and maintain, and easy to use.

Despite the fact that most law enforcement agencies have shifted to semi-automatic pistols, the revolver retains its popularity among gun enthusiasts, collectors and those interested in an affordable, dependable means of self or home defense.

Below are the best revolvers of 2020.

1. Smith & Wesson Governor 410

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Specs

Finish – Matte Silver
Barrel length – 2.75 inches
Cartridge Type – 45 auto (ACP)
Capacity – 6 rounds
Overall length – 8.5 inches

With so many beautiful revolvers to choose from these days it was difficult to pick one to lead off this list. But we settled on the Smith & Wesson Governor 410 due to its potent combination of power, moderate recoil, light weight, tactile qualities and (relative) affordability. If you are the creative type you might even be able to make this work as your concealed carry weapon.

2. Ruger GP100

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Specs

Finish – Stainless
Barrel length – 4.2 inches
Cartridge Type – 357 Magnum
Capacity – 6 rounds
Overall length – 9.5 inches

‘Authoritative’ is a good word to describe the Ruger GP 100. This is a beautifully balanced revolver with a 3 inch barrel that delivers 357 Magnum rounds to your intended target. The lines of the GP100 harken back ever-so-slightly to the classic Colt revolvers of the 19th century.

But with it’s cushioned grip, minimal recoil and fluid operation it is a true 21st century wheel gun. Too big for concealed carry but not too big for open carry states, where it will be the toast of the town.

3. Smith & Wesson Model 19 Carry Comp

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Specs

Finish – Black
Barrel length – 3 inches
Cartridge Type – 357 Magnum
Capacity – 6 rounds
Overall length – 8 inches

Take everything you love about the GP 100 and add handsome custom wood grips, reduced weight and a slightly shorter overall length and you have the Smith & Wesson Model 19 Carry Comp. This is a beautiful piece of work that is as easy to use as it is easy on the eye.

It is intended for concealed carry, although at 8 inches long that might take some effort. If the wooden grips don’t soak up enough recoil for your taste, it ships with another pair of synthetic grips that will. We would have led off with the Model 19 CC but for the price. Which will be out of many people’s financial wheelhouse.

4. Kimber K6S

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Specs

Finish – Bi-tone
Barrel length – 2 inches
Cartridge Type – 357 Magnum
Capacity – 6 rounds
Overall length – 6.6 inches

Whereas the Model 19 Carry Comp may be pushing the concealed carry envelope a bit, the Kimber K6S fits the bill to a T. It features a 2 inch barrel and an overall length of just over 6 1/2 inches. It weighs a very reasonable 1 pound 7 ounces, is narrow and has an internal hammer that prevents the gun snagging when drawing or holstering.

We are not crazy about the look of this gun. But there is no arguing with the practicality, reliability and power. It also has one of the most agreeable revolver triggers you will find.

5. Colt Cobra 38 Special

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Specs

Finish – Stainless
Barrel length – 2 inches
Cartridge Type – 38 Special
Capacity – 6 rounds
Overall length – 7.25 inches

The Colt Cobra 38 Special returns as a snub nosed conceal carry revolver that should bring a smile to the face of anyone looking for a personal defense firearm. Framing is kept to a minimum, yet the gun does not lose any of its aesthetic punch.

The rubber grip soaks up recoil like a sponge. And at just over a pound and a half it will not slow you down when holstered. Unlike the K6S we just looked at, the Cobra 38 Special retains its exposed hammer, which allows you to cock the gun for greater accuracy when needed.

6. Rossi 352 38 Special

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Specs

Finish – Stainless
Barrel length – 2 inches
Cartridge Type – 38 Special
Capacity – 5 rounds
Overall length – 6.5 inches

The Rossi 352 is a handsome, compact, dependable, concealed carry weapon with 5 shot capability, a snub nose and exposed hammer. We love the way this gun feels in your hand, the outstanding balance and the mirror finish stainless steel.

We appreciate that it will accept +P over-pressurized rounds that will really get an assailant’s attention. At the same time you will not have to worry about recoil because the rubber grips drink it for breakfast. This is a great all-purpose concealed carry gun. And, like all Rossi revolvers, it features the Taurus Security System that renders the weapon unusable with just the turn of a key.

7. Colt Python

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Specs

Finish – Stainless
Barrel length – 4.5 inches
Cartridge Type – 357 Magnum
Capacity – 6 rounds
Overall length – 9.75 inches

While we were tempted to go with the 6 inch barrel just on principle, we had to ultimately give the nod to the 4 1/2 inch version of the Colt Python. Both will neutralize an assailant in short order, but the 4 1/2 inch is lighter, more nimble and better balanced. The Python is endowed with classic lines, wooden grips, and a high polish finish.

This is the first iteration of the gun since Colt reintroduced the model back in January. And it is obvious they put a lot of love and attention into making sure the new version maintained the legendary styling and quality of the early versions. It’s an expensive gun. But your great-great-grandkids will be arguing over it 100 years from now.

8. Ruger LCR Double-Action Revolver

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Specs

Finish – Black
Barrel length – 1.87 inches
Cartridge Type – 22 long rifle
Capacity – 5 rounds
Overall length – 6.5 inches

The Ruger LCR Double Action Revolver is a slam dunk concealed carry winner with its ultra-short 1 7/8 inch barrel, narrow profile and concealed hammer. It is compact and light but has a substantial feel to it that belies its size.

Trigger action is reasonably smooth, recoil is modest and the rubber grips provide you with a solid hold regardless of the weather. Granted the front sight is more aspirational than practical. But if you are willing to put in the time at the range, it may be possible to glean a surprising amount of accuracy from this pocket-sized beast. And let us not forget to mention the affordable price of the Ruger LCR.

9. Charter Arms Bulldog

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Specs

Finish – Blue
Barrel length – 2.5 inches
Cartridge Type – 44 Special
Capacity – 5 rounds
Overall length – 6.5 inches

The Charter Arms Bulldog is well-named. It might be the most powerful true concealed carry handgun on the market. It features double action only (DAO) operation, sports a handsome blue finish and chambers five 44 Special rounds that will stop anything short of an elephant in its tracks. Come to think of it, it might give that elephant something to think about too.

Remarkably, the Bulldog tips the scale at just 1 pound 5 ounces, which also makes it one of the lightest large caliber concealed carry handguns on the market as well. The outstanding grips ensure that when this puppy pulls on the leash it won’t get away from you.

10. Smith & Wesson Model 629 44 Magnum

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Specs

Finish – Stainless
Barrel length – 6.5 inches
Cartridge Type – 44 Magnum Special
Capacity – 6 rounds
Overall length – 12 inches

For the last of our best revolvers we could not resist the lure of the Smith & Wesson 629 44 Magnum. It is the ultimate guilty pleasure when it comes to handguns. Not just because of its numerous and still resonant cultural associations, but because it’s just such a compelling combination of beauty and power.

It features textured wooden grips, a high polish, stainless steel finish and a 6 1/2 inch barrel that seems to reach out and touch those who would dare to do you wrong. Whether your tastes run to sport shooting, collecting or just keeping the weasels of the modern world at bay, there is no better way to fulfill your desires than the S&W 629.

FAQs

Which is Better: A Revolver or a Semi-Automatic Pistol?

‘Better’ is a relative term, with both types of handguns having their upside and downside. In the spirit of helping you make an informed decision about which is right for you here are some pros and cons of both. Starting with revolvers.

Revolver Pros

Caliber options – With revolvers you get the option of chambering magnum rounds (1). Lots of people like that extra punch. While there are a few semi-automatics that will allow for magnum rounds, most will not. In addition, some magnum revolvers allow you to chamber standard rounds. That gives the revolver a versatility you will not find in most semi-automatics.

Simplicity – The modern revolver is the result of centuries of constant refinement (2). They are extremely simple in concept and execution and there is not a lot that can go wrong with them. They are easy to clean, easy to maintain, and they will outlast you if you take care of them.

Reliability – That same simplicity that makes revolvers so easy to clean and maintain also means they are very reliable. Compared to a modern semi-automatic pistol they have fewer parts. And, fewer parts means fewer things that can go wrong. So if reliability is your paramount concern, consider a revolver.

Concealability – Nobody is concealing a Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum. However, many revolvers with their 2 inch (or less) barrels make ideal concealed carry weapons. Toss in their reputation for reliability and the argument for using a revolver for concealed carry only gets stronger.

Useable lifespan – We mentioned above how the simplicity of the revolver lends itself to longevity. The fact is that, because an uncocked revolver has no active parts, you could, in theory, load it the day you turn 21, and then pick it up and fire it the day you turn 100.

Speed – What’s that you say? Speed? It is an often repeated myth that semi automatics are faster than revolvers. But an experienced revolver owner will likely be able to get off a hail of rounds just as fast or even faster than someone else using a semi-automatic. That’s because the revolver’s action is all mechanical, while the semi-automatic relies on expanding gases and inertia, which impose a speed limit on firing. With the revolver the only limit is how fast you can pull the trigger.

Revolver Cons

Trigger action – The average double action revolver requires a stronger grip than your average semi-automatic pistol. Some people, especially those raised on semi-automatics, have a problem with that.

Fewer rounds available – Maybe the most obvious drawback of the revolver is the smaller number of rounds in the wheel. Most hold either 5 or 6 rounds. By comparison, the Glock 17 semi-automatic has a magazine that holds 17 rounds, plus one in the chamber.

Inaccuracy – If your barrel is only 2 inches long your sights are going to be something less than dependable. That said, it is possible to become fairly accurate with a short barrel, concealed carry revolver. But it will take a lot of practice.

Semi Automatic Pistol Pros

More rounds available – As we just mentioned above, with a revolver you are limited to 5 or 6 rounds. Semi-automatics, by contrast, may offer 17, 21 or even more rounds in a single magazine. Now, if you are just fending off a single weasel on the street with your concealed carry snub nose revolver, 6 rounds may be enough. But if you are looking for a true home defense weapon, those 21 rounds start to look pretty good.

Lighter trigger – The difference between a 357 double action revolver trigger and the trigger on a 9mm semi-automatic pistol is like night and day. This lighter trigger makes it easier to get off an accurate shot. Although, as we discussed above, it does not guarantee you will get your shots off faster.

Faster reloading – It is hard to beat the semi-automatic when it comes to reloading. An experienced gunner can reload their pistol in a couple of seconds. Of course, with a speed loader (3), an experienced gunner can make pretty short work of reloading a revolver too. But most would agree it is still a more cumbersome process than reloading a semi-automatic.

Customizable – There are all kinds of aftermarket parts available for semi-automatics these days. As a result you can give your pistol a look and feel all its own. That is something that’s not easy to do with a revolver.

Weight – There is no doubt some of today’s polymer-frame pistols are light as a feather, compared to revolvers. This makes them easier to carry, and allows you greater mobility. On the flip side, being lighter means there is less mass to absorb recoil. But for the most part the lightweight nature is a definite plus for concealed carry.

Semi Automatic Pistol Cons

More does not always mean better – There is an engineering truism that states ‘simpler is better’ (4). In the case of mechanical devices that could be translated as meaning ‘more parts, equal more chances for failure”. Revolvers have it all over semi-automatic pistols in the simplicity department. Which would suggest they are better engineered.

A less satisfying experience – Everyone will have their own opinion about this, but for our money the semi-automatic pistol is a colder, less satisfying self defense tool than a revolver. Will it get the job done? Absolutely. But it’s more machine-like and less tactile.

Less oomph – While the thought of firing 357 magnum rounds makes some people’s wrists sore, there is no doubt they carry an authority a standard 9mm round does not. If you are in a life or death situation, that extra authority can be just what the doctor ordered.

And the Winner is?

With the revolver you have history, simplicity, dependability and power on your side. With the semi-automatic you have speed, light weight, customization and accuracy on your side. If it’s up to us we would default to the dependable power and tactile qualities of the revolver. Because a gun is more than a machine. It’s a work of art.

What Should You Consider When Buying a Revolver?

There are a number of things you will need to consider before plopping down your hard-earned on a revolver.

Your reason for wanting a revolver – A lot of first time gun buyers like the idea of the magnum round. It has all kinds of pop culture, antihero associations, after all (5). But while you are free to purchase whatever handgun you want for whatever legitimate purpose you want, you should try and divorce yourself from the romantic images and think about it dispassionately. You might still decide to buy a Rossi 352. But try and make sure you came to that decision in a logical fashion.

Ammunition – With a few exceptions you will probably end up paying more for ammo for your revolver than you would for pistol ammo. 357 Magnum rounds, for instance, are typically more expensive than 9mm rounds. Also, that 44 Magnum that looks and feels so authoritative might wind up being left behind when you go to the range, simply because ammo for that hand cannon can be difficult to find (6).

Trigger action – If you are used to the silky smooth action of your semi-automatic pistol, you may be in for a shock when you have to yank on the double action trigger of your new revolver. That said, you may come to appreciate the sheer mechanical joy of it. But it might take some time to get there. For some people, it just is not worth it and they find themselves trading in their wheelgun for a Glock 9mm two weeks after buying it.

Accuracy or concealability? – The best revolvers for concealed carry typically have ultra short barrels and produce more recoil than their larger brethren. Neither one of which is conducive to guiding the bullet to its target. With enough practice you may be able to overcome these handicaps (7). But it will take time. Conversely, larger, more accurate revolvers are going to be a chore to conceal. So there is a tradeoff either way.

Price – There are a number of well-made, affordable revolvers on the market today. So we do not want to give the impression that all revolvers are unreasonably expensive. That said, if you want a real top-of-the-line conversation piece be prepared to swallow hard when you see the price (8). Exactly why revolver prices have risen in recent years is the subject of much debate. But it is what it is.

Final Thoughts

Revolvers have been left for dead repeatedly over the years. But somehow they keep managing to draw new fans and placate old ones. The best revolvers make outstanding concealed carry weapons that are light and compact and pack a nasty punch. While larger revolvers are accurate and powerful and beautifully realized works of art that will hold down the fort and make an outstanding collector’s item.

The revolvers on our list cover the entire spectrum from ultra-compact to large and in charge, and everything in between. They represent the state of the art in revolver design and performance. If you are in search of a sidearm for personal protection, home defense, recreational shooting and more, consider the many benefits revolvers bring to the table.

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