If you’re anything like me, you grew up watching cop & cowboy movies…
And if you’re anything like me…these films gave you an appreciation for revolvers.
The classic lines and reliability have kept revolvers a solid option for self-defense, and modern wheelguns still remain an excellent option for anyone looking for a reliable self-defense weapon.
If you’re interested in carrying a revolver for self-defense, read on to find out the pros and cons of carrying a revolver as your CCW weapon.
We’re also going to go over a few great modern revolvers that make for excellent carry guns!
Table of Contents
Everything in firearms is a trade-off.
Revolvers Vs. Semi-autos are no exception.
Modern semi-automatic pistols are unprecedentedly reliable — but they do have two weak points. Feeding and magazines.
Magazines are hands down the most comment source of malfunctions in a semi-auto anything. A revolver doesn’t have that problem, ever.
The second issue, especially with personal defense handguns, is feeding a round into the chamber.
Almost any semi-auto handles FMJ rounds without much issue, but hollow point rounds (what most people use in their defensive guns) can often cause issues.
Again, feeding isn’t something that a revolver has to worry about.
You have just a basic trigger, a hammer, and cylinder. Pull the trigger, the hammer cocks back, the cylinder turns, the hammer goes forward, and bang.
Pull the trigger again and the same thing happens. Pretty simple execution.
If a semi-auto malfunctions, it can almost always be resolved with a simple tap-rack-bang drill.
But when a revolver malfunctions, it is almost always catastrophic and cannot be fixed quickly, or at all, in the field.
Downsides of Revolver CCW
Revolvers are not the end-all-be-all gun for concealed carry, there are a few shortfalls.
A revolver holds fewer rounds overall; most CCW guns are a 5 shot cylinder. Most of your semi-auto pistols, even the subcompact guns, hold 6+1 (6 rounds in the magazine and 1 round chambered) minimum.
You can also get extended magazines so you can carry more rounds.
The width of most revolvers is also something to take into consideration. They are thicker than most similar caliber semi-auto pistols, even the double stacked mags like the Glocks have.
As an example, a Glock 33 Gen 4, which is chambered in .357 SIG, has a width of 1.18 inches and holds 9 rounds. The LCR .357 Revolver is 1.283 inches and holds 5 rounds…that extra width can be the difference
The weight of the LCR is less than the Glock 33 though, which might make the trade-off worth it.
Types of Revolvers
For the most part, revolvers are very similar.
They have all the same basic parts, but they might have a feature or two that sets them apart.
Aside from barrel length, there is something to consider when you’re using a revolver for your concealed carry gun.
Do you want the hammer accessible or do you want it covered so you won’t snag it on something when you draw your gun from the holster?
A lot of the manufacturers make a revolver with an internal hammer. These “hammerless” revolvers are a double action only where you pull the trigger and the gun goes bang…you can’t cock the hammer for a shorter, lighter trigger pull.
Best Concealed Carry
If you’re interested in a CCW revolver…there’s about a million out there. We’ve rounded up a few that will serve you well for a CCW.
1. Ruger LCR
The Ruger LCR is on most concealed carry gun lists and looky here, it’s on this list too. Some guns are just popular because they don’t cost that much. Others have rock-solid performance.
The Ruger LCR is the latter.
While it’s not outrageously priced, it is in the $500+ range MSRP.
What you get when you buy the LCR is a lightweight aerospace aluminum frame wheel gun. Pair this with the internal hammer design and you have the makings of a great CCW revolver. The LCR has, what they call, a Grip Peg.
What the Grip Peg allows you to do is remove the grip and add a different style. People buy and carry a gun more because they like the way they “feel”.
The Grip Peg gives you the option to get the feel you want and take a lot of the hassle out of swapping grips.
2. Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 38 Crimson Trace
The S&W Bodyguard 38 is a hammerless offering made for concealed carrying. It’s a small frame, and lightweight revolver that comes with a built-in Crimson Trace laser.
Chambered in .38 special +P, this little guy can do some damage if you need to use it.
Like most of the guns in this list, the barrels are pretty short meaning you won’t be shooting at things terribly accurately over 20-25 feet.
These guns are usually used at closer range, maybe 5-10 feet, and for that this thing is perfect.
To help with the weight of this CCW revolver, Smith & Wesson used a one-piece aluminum frame.
The short overall length and the light weight make this revolver a solid choice to protect your life.
3. Colt King Cobra Carry
It wouldn’t be a revolver list without a Colt. I was cautiously optimistic when Colt announced the King Cobra; when I finally fired the gun I fell in love.
Colt did a good job with their King Cobra and the Carry variant is an awesome choice for concealed carry.
This reincarnation of a past revolver is being made as a six-shot in .357 Magnum – of course – and it’s seriously solidly made.
The Colt King Cobra Carry is well made for use as an EDC thanks to its bobbed hammer and two-inch barrel but there’s more to it than ease of concealment. It’s a DAO – Double Action Only – which is just fine for a CC gun.
Having a DAO adds a layer of safety to your carry and yes, you can learn to operate a DAO. And as DAO revolver triggers go, this is a nice one.
Thanks to its stainless steel barrel and frame with a brushed finish this gun is well-suited to daily use. It ships with Hogue Overmolded grips and has a brass bead front sight.
As I mentioned before it’s chambered in .357 Magnum, so you can load it with that or with .38 Special. Using .38 Special is fine but don’t short yourself or discount the value of .357 Magnum.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
The King Cobra Carry weighs in at 26 ounces, empty, and with the right holster it basically disappears against your body. Plus it’s accurate, reliable, and durable. I call that a win.
They also make the larger King Cobras too, if you want a larger carry gun or maybe want to keep the full-size in your nightstand but carry something smaller.
Either way, we have a complete review of the Colt King Cobra and it’s awesome!
4. Ruger SP101 Spurless DAO
If your priority is a reduction of snagging you need to check out a spurless revolver like the Ruger SP101 Spurless DAO.
First of all, it’s Ruger, a company I’ve grown quite fond of, and second, it’s just a cool little gun.
The Ruger SP101 is yet another .357 Magnum – what can I say, it is a solid CC revolver cartridge – and it’s also designed for concealment.
A few specs on this one. This revolver has a 2.25-inch barrel, stainless steel construction, ramped black blade front sight, integral rear sights, and a five-round cylinder.
Its overall length is 7.20-inches, its empty weight is 25 ounces, and it ships with comfy, cushioned black synthetic grips (you can get it with hardwood grip inserts, too). As expected, it has a satin stainless finish.
One nice thing about those factory sights is that they’re both pinned and replaceable which isn’t something you can say for all the revolvers on the market.
The Ruger SP101 has a few safety features like the fact it’s DAO and has a transfer bar mechanism. As always, follow the four golden rules of gun safety, but yes this revolver is built for EDC use and safety.
It’s accurate, too, something owed partly to the triple-locking cylinder. When you have a cylinder that locks into the frame at its front, rear, and base your cylinder-to-barrel alignment improves and you’re granted greater accuracy and reliability.
Because yes, revolvers can fail. Don’t think they can’t; they can.
Basically, the Ruger SP101 Spurless DAO is a fantastic revolver. I do wish the grips were a bit different, so that’s my first aftermarket change, but they may be great for your hands.
Keep in mind these snubby revolvers do produce some major muzzle rise. You’re going to feel that felt recoil, but you can handle it. It just takes practice (that or you can get one with a longer barrel).
Well, practice and coming to grips with the fact it’s always going to take more time to get a snubby .357 Magnum back on target than it does a Glock 19. Decide what concessions you are willing to make and train accordingly.
5. Smith and Wesson 686+
Wait, you’re thinking, I get including Smith and Wesson but why the 686P? Because you can work your wardrobe to accommodate larger guns.
Me throwing on a baggier shirt to conceal a larger revolver is far preferable to wearing some cute little shirt and a mouse gun or no gun at all. What’s more important, your fashion or your life?
The Smith and Wesson 686P is a seven-shot .357 Magnum with a three-inch barrel. It’s an L-frame revolver built for durability (an L-frame is like a K-frame on steroids).
The cylinder is unfluted and although I did mention seven shots you can get it as a six-shot model, too (but why?). This revolver can be banged around and beat up and keep on going; I’ve used mine pretty hard and it’s survived.
This is a slightly larger gun. Its three-inch stainless steel barrel bumps up its overall length to 8.2-inches and it has an empty weight of 36.8 ounces so yes, it is a little heavier.
The gun ships with black synthetic grips with finger grooves – and I actually like these factory grips – and a red ramp front sight and adjustable white outline rear sight. It’s ridiculously precise and comfortable for me to carry. Get yourself a decent pancake-style leather holster and it’ll fit you well, too.
It’s worth mentioning the Smith and Wesson 686P is offered with a variety of barrel lengths so you aren’t limited to a three-inch design.
Here is our editor with his 4″ model:
If you want and can conceal one of the bigger ones, more power to you. This gun is among my favorite revolvers, for good reason. I can be hard on my guns and the 686P can take it.
Oh, and it’s SA/DA so you can run that first shot DA and the rest SA for greater precision.
Check out our full review of the 686+.
6. Kimber K6s
Surprised to see Kimber on this list? I was a little amazed myself that I like this gun as much as I do.
You already know it’s a .357 Magnum, right, so we’ll skip over that detail. It has a six-shot cylinder and Kimber designed it to be a lightweight revolver for better carry.
Considering it weighs in at 23 ounces, empty, it does come out ahead in the weight game.
There’s one thing, though: lightweight is all well and good for EDC but when you’re running .357 Magnum loads it’s not quite as ideal. Even so, this is a great little gun.
The Kimber K6s has an overall height of 4.46 inches, an overall length of 6.62-inches, and a width of 1.39-inches. That means it’s pretty easy to holster up and hide this gun.
Even the cylinder of the K6s is made for concealment; it’s slimmer than most and, in fact, Kimber claims it is the smallest-diameter six-shot cylinder currently available (I’ll add the addendum “at the time of this writing”).
The frame and barrel are stainless steel, so they’re tough, and the finish is brushed stainless.
Yes, the barrel is only two inches long, but what do you expect from a CC snubby?
Included sights on the K6s are black three-dots. It also has a match-grade trigger, rubber grips, and a textured cylinder release. It’s a DAO gun – no shock there – and the trigger is set at the factory for around a ten-pound pull weight.
For up-close use this is a good little revolver. If you aren’t a fan of Kimber it might be time to reconsider that for this revolver’s sake.
7. Nighthawk Custom Korth Mongoose
Just for fun I’m throwing the Mongoose in here (also because I adore it). The Mongoose is the result of a collaboration between Nighthawk Custom and Korth.
It’s a .357 Magnum – you aren’t surprised at this point, are you – and is offered in a variety of barrel lengths.
Okay, so it’s available in 9mm, too (surprise!). For concealed carry I’d stick to either the three-inch or the four-inch models but you can certainly go with the 5.25-inch or the six-inch barrels.
The Mongoose is a sweet-looking DLC-Coated Black revolver with a six-round cylinder. Its frame and parts are machined from billet steel, the trigger face is polished, and the action is crazy smooth.
With a four-inch barrel it has an overall length of 8.86-inches, an overall height of 6.1 inches, and a width of 1.54-inches. Its empty weight is 2.35 pounds – that’s right around 33 ounces – and it ships with a host of amazing features.
From its molded rubber grips to its textured cylinder release to its badass black finish it is an amazing gun. But what really rocks is its trigger which is glass-smooth with a crisp break and moderate reset.
When you’re getting a Nighthawk/Korth gun you know it is going to be not just good but freaking awesome.
This revolver fits my hands like it was custom-made for me, fires some of the most precise revolver shots I’ve ever managed to nail, and is made to last.
This isn’t just a gun you buy for carry or range use, it’s an investment. It’s an heirloom.
It’s the revolver you’re going to pass down to your kids and then they’ll pass it on to their kids, and so on.
You are now sitting there thinking hold on, these are all .357 Magnums. Where are the .22 LRs? What about the .44 Magnums? Where’s muh Judge?
Look, let’s be realistic about self-defense.
Although I am always right there saying any gun is better than no gun at all, you really should not be running around with a .22 LR for self-defense purposes.
On the other end, .44 Magnum is great for handgun hunting or defense from 4-legged threats.
But as a CCW… It leaves a lot to be desired. From the threat of overpenetration to slow follow-up shots to just being uncomfortable to EDC — you can do better than .44 Magnum.
If it’s the only gun you have and you have no choice, that’s one thing (but I do suggest acquiring a better self-defense option ASAP).
As John Farnam likes to say “don’t go stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things.” That applies to guns, too.
With .357 Magnum you can run the hotter magnum rounds or revert to the lighter-recoiling .38 Special rounds and those are logical choices for concealed carry revolvers.
Best .357 Mag Home/Self-Defense Ammo
And remember, this is not the end-all, be-all list. It’s just a roundup of a few nice options for a CC revolver.
What do you think about carrying a revolver for your CCW? See something on this list that’s caught your eye? Want more revolvers? These aren’t specifically CCW, but here is our Best .357 Magnum Revolvers article.