A revolver style handgun is a repeating firearm that has a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The term revolver refers to a handgun but other weapons may also have a revolving chamber. These handguns also include some models of grenade launchers, shotguns and rifles. Almost all revolvers have six chambers in their cylinder and that is what caused people to call the handgun a six-shooter even though revolvers with from four to twelve chambers have also been made. The revolver allows the user to fire multiple rounds of ammunition without reloading. Each time the user cocks the hammer, the cylinder revolves to align the next chamber and round of ammunition with the hammer and barrel, which gives this type of firearm its name. In a single action revolver, the user pulls the hammer back with his or her free hand or thumb and the trigger pull releases the hammer. In a double action revolver, pulling the trigger moves the hammer back and then releases it.
The first true revolver, a flintlock, was made by Elisha Collier in 1814. The first percussion cap revolver was the Colt Paterson and it was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. The first cartridge revolvers were also produced in 1856 by Smith & Wesson. Revolver-style handguns soon became a standard for nearly all uses including in a survival or home defense situation. During the early 20th century, semi-automatic pistols were developed that can hold more rounds and are faster to reload when compared to semi-automatic pistols that were produced before the 20th century. Semi-automatic pistols also have a flat profile and are more suitable for concealed carry. Semi-automatic pistols have replaced revolvers in survival or home defense situations.
Revolvers still remain popular as back-up and off duty guns among American law enforcement officers and security guards. Revolvers are also still common in the American private sector as defensive and sporting or hunting firearms. Well known police and military revolvers include the Webley, the Colt company’s single action army pistol, Colt’s police special, the Smith & Wesson Model 29 handgun, the Smith & Wesson model 10 handgun, the Smith & Wesson model 1917 handgun and the Nagant model M1895 handgun.
The Smith & Wesson company’s most popular handgun for use in a survival or home defense situation is also known as the .38 Special handgun. This handgun features a rimmed, center fire cartridge that was designed by the Smith & Wesson company. It is most commonly used in revolver style handguns although some other semi-automatic pistols and carbines also use this type of round of ammunition. The .38 caliber handgun was the standard service cartridge of most police departments in the United States from the 1920’s through the early 1990’s and was also a common sidearm cartridge used by soldiers during World War I. Noted for its fine accuracy and manageable recoil, it is still the most popular revolver cartridge in the world more than a century after its introduction. The Smith & Wesson company’s .38 caliber handgun is also used for target shooting, formal target competition, personal defense, and for hunting.
The .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum handgun uses a revolver-style cartridge of ammunition that was created by Elmer Keith, Phillip B. Sharpe and Colonel D. B. Wesson who both worked for either the Smith & Wesson company or the Winchester company. The .357 Magnum cartridge of ammunition was introduced in 1934 and its use has since become widespread in the United States. This cartridge is what began the Magnum era of handgun ammunition because the .357 Magnum’s cartridge of ammunition has a positive reputation for its stopping power.
The .357 Magnum was developed over a period of time during the early to mid 1930’s by a group of people as a direct response to Colt's .38 super- automatic pistol. At the time, the .38 super was the only American pistol cartridge capable of defeating automobile cover and the early ballistic vests that were just beginning to emerge during the post-World War I gangster era. Tests at the time revealed that those vests defeated any handgun cartridge traveling at less than 1,000 feet per second. Colt's .38 super- automatic handgun achieved more than that velocity and was able to penetrate car doors and the vests that bootleggers and gangsters were using to protect themselves against the police.
Although .38 caliber bullets and .357 caliber bullets would seem to have different diameter chamberings, they are identical chamberings. The only external difference between the two cartridges is a slight difference in length for safety purposes. Credit for the .357 handguns’ early development was given to hunter and experimenter Elmer Keith. Elmer Keith's early work in loading the .38 Special to increasingly higher pressure levels was made possible by the availability of heavy target shooting oriented revolvers like the Smith & Wesson .38-44 Heavy Duty handgun and the Outdoorsman. The .357 Magnum handgun addresses the safety issues earlier cartridges had by stretching the ammunition case by approximately 1/8 of an inch, preventing the high pressure .357 cartridge from chambering in a firearm designed for the shorter, lower pressure. Elmer Keith also invented the Keith-style bullet that increased the mass of bullets located outside of the cartridge while leaving more room inside the cartridge for powder. The Keith bullet also used a large flat metal plate to enable rapid energy transfer for greater wounding capability. Elmer Keith’s bullet design does not deform to a hollow point but its end result achieves much greater penetration when compared to other handguns. These characteristics of the Keith bullet make it very suitable for hunting applications as well as for target shooting.
In order to reassert itself as the leading law enforcement armament provider, Smith & Wesson developed the .357 Magnum with Colonel D. B. Wesson leading the effort within the Smith & Wesson company along with technical assistance from Phillip B. Sharpe, a member of the Technical Division Staff of the National Rifle Association. The new round of ammunition was developed from Smith & Wesson's existing .38 Special round of ammunition and it used a different powder load. Because the .38 Special and the early experimental .357 Magnum cartridges loaded by Elmer Keith were identical in their physical attributes, it was possible for him to load an experimental .357 Magnum cartridge inside a .38 Special revolver with potentially disastrous results such as exploding in the user’s hands. Smith & Wesson's solution for extending the case slightly made it impossible to chamber the magnum power round of ammunition in a gun that was not designed for the additional pressure. Both the .38 Special handgun and the .357 Magnum handguns are able to chamber inside Colt New Army revolvers because of their straight walled chambers.
The choice of bullet for the .357 Magnum cartridge changed during its development. During the development of handguns at Smith & Wesson, the original Keith bullet was modified slightly to the form of the Sharpe bullet, which itself was based on the shape of the Keith bullet. The Winchester company experimented during its cartridge bullet development and modified the Sharpe bullet shape slightly while keeping the same Sharpe shape of the bullet.
This cartridge is regarded by many urban survivalists as an excellent self-defense round of ammunition. The hollow point version has a reputation for being the gold standard of stopping power among handgun cartridges while also being an extremely reliable one shot stopper. For big game such as bears which have a substantially sturdier build than humans, it is considered to be inferior to the .500 Smith & Wesson handgun, the .50 Action Express handgun, the .44 Magnum handgun, the .454 Casull handgun, the .41 Magnum handgun and other larger magnum rounds of ammunition. The .500 Smith & Wesson handgun contains a fine small and medium game round of ammunition that is even capable of killing deer.
The .357 Magnum caliber handgun also has a significant advantage of being able to fire .38 Special ammunition with its lower cost, recoil, noise and muzzle flash. This trait makes Smith & Wesson’s .357 revolvers ideal for urban survivalists who are not yet used to firing full strength .357 loads of ammunition but do not want the expense of buying a second lower powered gun for training.