I am often asked my opinion on the best revolver available today. Certainly we have in many ways seen the peak of the great revolvers in one sense because we have ushered in the semi-auto age. However, in recent years many companies have begun to market new and improved revolvers. Smith & Wesson has even begun selling blued revolvers again!!
With polymer choices, .410′s from Smith and Taurus, and the alloy guns made for concealed carry, it is certainly a cool time to be interested in revolvers. The options are endless. If you haven’t been shooting revolvers, I want to encourage you to get one and have a great time learning to shoot the old fashioned way.
Before the explanation, a word should be given about caliber. The great caliber debate may never be settled. I am not a ballistician. I am a gunsmith. To speak with authority on this issue would not be my place. I will however offer two pieces of advice. 1. Shoot something you can control in the small revolvers. If you can’t shoot a box of .357 magnum without hurting, don’t do it. I like the small revolvers chambered in .38 special. 2. In larger revolvers, I like the .357 magnum. It is adequate for all manner of applications. Advice given.
To understand the which company produces the best revolvers we must look at what I believe is the deciding factor; cost. Each company, Ruger, Smith, Taurus, Charter, has some fixed cost for materials. Metal is metal. It cost what it cost depending on the markets. Machining is machining. It cost what it cost. Labor is not labor, and I don’t just mean foreign job wages or American job wages.
When you look at a Smith, Ruger, Charter, and Taurus revolver in .38 special a few things come out. Smith and Ruger generally spend more making the revolver look better cosmetically. Smith’s blueing is better than Taurus’ blueing to me. It is more pleasing to the eye. Taurus looks better than Charter. But that is not where the quality is really at.
If you look inside the revolvers the Smiths and Rugers will be cleaner cut and finished. In other words the work that goes into final fit and finish is noticeably different. This is where money can be saved. Removing machine marks. Polishing surfaces. Making sure angles are true.
A good example: Charter uses a cheaper spring system for their trigger return spring. It takes less to do this, but it also makes it a gun that we simply won’t work on for trigger jobs. There is nothing that can be done. This doesn’t diminish there functional capacity for anyone who wants to buy one. But you are not buying a Smith, Ruger or Taurus. In one way this should make total sense. The person buying a $250 revolver probably doesn’t want to drop $100 on a trigger job. No problem here. Functionality wins.
If you are buying a revolver I would first look at the Smith and the Ruger. Then would be a Taurus. Certainly the Taurus Judge deserves a look. They pioneered a great one with the Judge.
Deciding between Smith and Ruger is a matter of preference. Smith makes the greatest small revolvers for concealed carry. It is hard to beat a J-Frame. I love them. I also love the older Smith full sized revolvers. Having said that, Ruger makes tanks. The SP101 is my favorite small revolver because I can actually shoot it in 357 magnum comfortably at the range. They build work horse revolvers that are hard to beat.
Confused? Just tell the wife you need to buy one of each for testing and evaluation. Works around here!