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Touted For Their Reliability, Even The Finest
Double-Action Revolvers Can Have Problems


By Massad Ayoob

In every article you’ve ever read comparing revolvers to autos, a much-touted advantage of the former was its reputation for reliability. In the fine print–hopefully–someone mentioned revolvers can and do fail, and when it happens the malfunction is often tougher to clear than with a semi-automatic pistol.

Four of my fellow shooters got a powerful lesson in this atthe International Revolver Championships in Frostproof, Florida, at Frank Garcia’s fabulous Universal Shooting Academy range. Let me state up front all four are very gun-savvy Master and Expert class shooters who know their hardware and maintain it scrupulously. To spare them any undeserved teasing, I’ll number them instead of naming them.



Scott Mulkerin-tuned version of this 4-inch 625 came to the rescue
when No. 1’s 5-inch 625 started shooting “away from the sights.”


Shooter NO. 1: 625 Six-Gun Gets Deep-Sixed

“No. 1” is a Five-Gun Master in IDPA and has used his various moon-clipped S&W .45 ACP revolvers to win multiple state and regional championships. In his first of 13 stages he realized he was hitting way high, to the tune of 8 inches or so. Missed plates required time-consuming reloads. After the first or second stage, he screwed the rear sight all the way down, only a turn and a quarter, but the problem persisted. At the third stage he bagged the 5-inch 625 he’d been shooting and went to its replacement, the 4-inch Scott Mulkerin-tuned 625 that had won him so many championship titles. It hit where it looked, but he was already too far behind to have any hope of winning the match. He’s been too busy (and probably too disgusted) to wring out the problem gun since.



Shooter No. 2’s 686, sans Hogue grips, awaits gunsmith inspection.
Problem turned out to be in the bolt.


Shooter NO. 2: Slick but Sick 686

“No. 2” is a two-time national champion title holder who doesn’t usually shoot a wheelgun, but is pretty darn good with one when he does. A week before IRC he and I had been to a 50-person shooting contest where he had used his 4-inch S&W 686 to knock me down to 2nd place, beating me on the group-size tie-breaker by 1/8 inch. He and his gun had both been running fine, and when I shook his hand I told him, “You look ready for IRC to me!”
And he was… until the big match itself, where his gun started going “Bang, Click, Bang, Click, Bang…” The cylinder was not locking up in fast double-action play, and after the second stage he gave up on it and borrowed Shooter No. 4’s spare revolver, another 4-inch L-Frame Smith. By then, though, he had lost what his brother shooters estimated as 20 seconds, and what might have been a winning score finished down in high D Class. The failure turned out to be in the cylinder bolt.



An aftermarket light spring kit plus hard primer handloads tanked
reliability for No. 3’s GP100.


Shooter No. 3: Weak Springs Plus Hard
Primers Defeat Strong Ruger


“No. 3” is a champion shooter who had put a lightened spring kit into his Ruger GP100. He started getting misfires in the first stage and it got worse through the subsequent three, destroying his score before he swapped ammo with Shooter No. 4. The latter’s .38 Special loads worked fine. No. 3 told me later he’s convinced the combination of relatively hard CCI primers in his own handloads and the lightened mainspring he’d installed in his Ruger were what poisoned the reliability… and his performance.

Shooter No. 4: Dirt Hurts

“No. 4” has won multiple division champion titles in regional IDPA Stock Service Revolver championships with his 4-inch S&W 686. He was the “sole survivor” of the four gun problems that day because, dry-firing just before a stage, he felt the cylinder binding and wisely requested a time out. Over at the Safe Table, he realized while he had brushed out his chambers after every few stages, he had been too rushed to clean under the ejector star: debris had built up there, pushing the star back against the recoil shield of the frame window. A quick brushing fixed it, and he finished unhampered as 1st Place in the Unclassified division.

Lessons Learned

One of “Ayoob’s Laws” is, “Anything made by man can fail, including our parents’ children.” N- and L-Framed Smith & Wesson revolvers are among the most reliable handguns ever made, and if Kalashnikov had ever designed a revolver it probably would have resembled the Ruger GP100. In the latter case, aftermarket parts had altered the synergy of the famously reliable Ruger with negative consequences. In Shooter No. 1’s case, we can argue it’s a sight issue and not a gun issue, but the sights are a part of the gun, and many of us have seen even fixed sights change point of aim/point of impact with time and lots of shooting.

Notice in three of the four cases, changing to a backup gun solved the problem. Few shooting matches allow you to carry a second loaded handgun during a stage in case the primary goes down, but history has taught us that for personal defense, the backup gun has been a life-saver again and again. Perhaps the ultimate lesson is, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”


When Nuthin? WorksGuns Magazine.com | Guns Magazine.com
 

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I had a revolver S & W model 10, 4 inch barrel when I started on the police dept. This was a brand new gun issued by dept.. Sometime during my career I had a problem with it. This appeared during qualification. Carried revolvers around 10 years or so before dept went to the sig p226 9mm The barrel was moving when it was pushed. Gun not cocked. This caused the cylinder to not line up, Keeping a round from coming into the correct position to fire. It took the Dept. armorer just a couple of minutes to fix this. Not sure when the problem started just happy it did not show up at a time my life would have depended on this gun. During the time with the 226 I had no problem with it, did not hear of any. The only malfunctions were done on purpose. Non functional rounds placed in mag to make us practice clearing jams.
 

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Yeah, I always laugh to myself and roll my eyes anytime I hear someone say revolvers are 100% reliable; never fail. Any mechanical device can fail, and when revolvers do it is often done until you can get it to a gunsmith to fix it. I find them to be no more or no less reliable than any quality SA gun.
 

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Touted For Their Reliability, Even The Finest Double-Action Revolvers Can Have Problems
Dunno, really... Maybe!

Haven't shot my revolvers to the same extent as my SIGs and Glocks...

I really can't profess! :lol:
 

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When you start to play with Springs (Main spring, rebound spring) in a Smith K or N frame, you are starting to dial in risk. I always smoothed out the Rebound trigger block, and the inside of the block where the spring compresses, and then looked around for signs of tell tale wear in the weapon. Smooth with emery or jewelers rouge, left springs at full strength, and then moved on.

You do want to tear down and clean and lube (With something that won't grab dirt) every year on your carry weapon. Just normal stuff.

If you do that, you shouldn't have issues. But remember, Murphy is everywhere. So keep track of what CAN happen.
 

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Yes, revolvers can have even more problems than an autoloader, and not be able to be fixed as quick, as an autoloader. Heck, with a Sig, the owner can replace most any part without much more than the "Tool", except for sights.
Yes, most of the revolvers in Malicious Compliances stories concerned modified revolvers, but how many have ever checked something as simple as chamber mouth diameters on a revolver cylinder... they never are all the same... in some instances one will be smaller in diameter than the projectiles you are shooting. Don't get me started on "timing", or cylinder gaps! Production revolvers can have their problems too. But their repair in the majority of cases will need to be accomplished by someone with training, and a lot of tools.
 

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"Anything made by man can fail"

And anything tinkered with by man is more likely to fail.
This exactly ^^^, anything mass produced is bound to have a failure be it a revolver, glock,Sig or a vacuum cleaner. Tolerances stack up or bad parts altogether can and will happen so a good QC department is key in catching these defects and that's where some do it better than others, I won't mention any names on that front :rolleyes:
 

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Broke a Redhawk twice. Mainspring assembly. Shot a Smith 66 out of time too. After its 3rd trip back home a friend put it into semi retirement. Took it a little easier on its replacement. Shoot a lot and you're bound to get some experience!
 

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My mother bought a brand new Taurus model 85. Took it to the beach, sat down, turned it on herself and pulled the trigger. It broke. Hammer locked back. A police officer came upon her not knowing she had a gun in her hand as she looked a bit out of place. He asked her if she needed help. She looked up and said 'my gun broke'. He calmly asked her to give it to him and he took possession of it. I got a call later from the hospital he took her to for eval. We had to baker act her. She was not well at that time. This was 20 years ago. Fine now.

Divine intervention or piece of **** Taurus I will not know until I ask the Lord almighty myself. But I will never forget that. When I got it back from the PD DEPT it was uncocked and the hammer was all floppy. I sent it to Taurus along with a letter detailing the events and asked them to destroy it. Never heard anything from them but I hope they did what I asked.
 

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I don’t think using highly customized guns with springs that have been tuned down is a good way to talk about a revolvers dependability.

I still use my colt trooper, colt agent and colt python that were all purchased in 1978-1979. They are still very dependable guns. I had the python factory tuned and colt told me that some hard primers may not fire which does happen occasionally with slow DA shooting.

But it always shoots in SA and the only reason I get an occasional misfire is because the springs were let down. My wife has put thousands of rounds through her trooper and never a misfire.

I started practicing more with the colt agent which I haven’t shot in 40 years and have put 400 rounds through it lately without a problem. So these are guns that are 40 years old and have had thousands of rounds through them without a problem other than the light spring python.

I’ve done nothing to these guns over the years other than basic cleaning. So I believe it’s hard to beat these examples for dependability especially with the test of time.
 

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Touted For Their Reliability, Even The Finest
Double-Action Revolvers Can Have Problems


By Massad Ayoob

In every article you’ve ever read comparing revolvers to autos, a much-touted advantage of the former was its reputation for reliability. In the fine print—hopefully—someone mentioned revolvers can and do fail, and when it happens the malfunction is often tougher to clear than with a semi-automatic pistol.

Four of my fellow shooters got a powerful lesson in this atthe International Revolver Championships in Frostproof, Florida, at Frank Garcia’s fabulous Universal Shooting Academy range. Let me state up front all four are very gun-savvy Master and Expert class shooters who know their hardware and maintain it scrupulously. To spare them any undeserved teasing, I’ll number them instead of naming them.



Scott Mulkerin-tuned version of this 4-inch 625 came to the rescue
when No. 1’s 5-inch 625 started shooting “away from the sights.”


Shooter NO. 1: 625 Six-Gun Gets Deep-Sixed

“No. 1” is a Five-Gun Master in IDPA and has used his various moon-clipped S&W .45 ACP revolvers to win multiple state and regional championships. In his first of 13 stages he realized he was hitting way high, to the tune of 8 inches or so. Missed plates required time-consuming reloads. After the first or second stage, he screwed the rear sight all the way down, only a turn and a quarter, but the problem persisted. At the third stage he bagged the 5-inch 625 he’d been shooting and went to its replacement, the 4-inch Scott Mulkerin-tuned 625 that had won him so many championship titles. It hit where it looked, but he was already too far behind to have any hope of winning the match. He’s been too busy (and probably too disgusted) to wring out the problem gun since.



Shooter No. 2’s 686, sans Hogue grips, awaits gunsmith inspection.
Problem turned out to be in the bolt.


Shooter NO. 2: Slick but Sick 686

“No. 2” is a two-time national champion title holder who doesn’t usually shoot a wheelgun, but is pretty darn good with one when he does. A week before IRC he and I had been to a 50-person shooting contest where he had used his 4-inch S&W 686 to knock me down to 2nd place, beating me on the group-size tie-breaker by 1/8 inch. He and his gun had both been running fine, and when I shook his hand I told him, “You look ready for IRC to me!”
And he was… until the big match itself, where his gun started going “Bang, Click, Bang, Click, Bang…” The cylinder was not locking up in fast double-action play, and after the second stage he gave up on it and borrowed Shooter No. 4’s spare revolver, another 4-inch L-Frame Smith. By then, though, he had lost what his brother shooters estimated as 20 seconds, and what might have been a winning score finished down in high D Class. The failure turned out to be in the cylinder bolt.



An aftermarket light spring kit plus hard primer handloads tanked
reliability for No. 3’s GP100.


Shooter No. 3: Weak Springs Plus Hard
Primers Defeat Strong Ruger


“No. 3” is a champion shooter who had put a lightened spring kit into his Ruger GP100. He started getting misfires in the first stage and it got worse through the subsequent three, destroying his score before he swapped ammo with Shooter No. 4. The latter’s .38 Special loads worked fine. No. 3 told me later he’s convinced the combination of relatively hard CCI primers in his own handloads and the lightened mainspring he’d installed in his Ruger were what poisoned the reliability… and his performance.

Shooter No. 4: Dirt Hurts

“No. 4” has won multiple division champion titles in regional IDPA Stock Service Revolver championships with his 4-inch S&W 686. He was the “sole survivor” of the four gun problems that day because, dry-firing just before a stage, he felt the cylinder binding and wisely requested a time out. Over at the Safe Table, he realized while he had brushed out his chambers after every few stages, he had been too rushed to clean under the ejector star: debris had built up there, pushing the star back against the recoil shield of the frame window. A quick brushing fixed it, and he finished unhampered as 1st Place in the Unclassified division.

Lessons Learned

One of “Ayoob’s Laws” is, “Anything made by man can fail, including our parents’ children.” N- and L-Framed Smith & Wesson revolvers are among the most reliable handguns ever made, and if Kalashnikov had ever designed a revolver it probably would have resembled the Ruger GP100. In the latter case, aftermarket parts had altered the synergy of the famously reliable Ruger with negative consequences. In Shooter No. 1’s case, we can argue it’s a sight issue and not a gun issue, but the sights are a part of the gun, and many of us have seen even fixed sights change point of aim/point of impact with time and lots of shooting.

Notice in three of the four cases, changing to a backup gun solved the problem. Few shooting matches allow you to carry a second loaded handgun during a stage in case the primary goes down, but history has taught us that for personal defense, the backup gun has been a life-saver again and again. Perhaps the ultimate lesson is, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”


When Nuthin? WorksGuns Magazine.com | Guns Magazine.com


This is a joke right? Let’s use guns that have been totally customized with springs that have been let down and I’m sure they have thousands of rounds through them shot at lightning fast speeds and use them to say revolvers are not that reliable?

This is beyond hilarious. This is like okay I will find the absolute worst examples to use as a way to make revolvers look like they are not dependable and all the semi auto guys will say see revolvers are not reliable. LMAO
 

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When I was a young military cop, I got a part time job with Wells Fargo armored car company. Got to the range to qualify with their supplied 38, opened the cylinder to load it and it fell out onto the ground. The shotgun was GTG, though. :p
 

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I have shot as many rounds through a revolver as I have a semi-auto.

If both firearms are maintained and not modified I would have to pick the revolver for reliability.

The main reason is they are not picky about ammo. Both weapons are the same when they have an internal malfunction and both are then equivalent to rocks.
 
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