Massad Ayoob's Colt Python
Mas has owned this Colt Python .357 Magnum with custom action by Jerry Moran since the mid-1970s. It has won him some state shoots, First Master at one national match, and one regional championship, and ridden with him on police patrol many times. It has performed flawlessly in matches from the National Police Championships to the Bianchi Cup. It still works fine…because he has taken care of it and not abused it.

The double action revolver was the standard American police sidearm for about 80% or more of the 20thCentury, and remains a staple among law-abiding armed citizens in the 21st.  It will be with us for a while yet. I was an “early adopter” of the semiautomatic police service pistol back in the early 1970s and still carry one as a primary self-defense handgun, but the revolver remains my choice as a backup gun for several reasons, which we can discuss at another time.

Proper revolver handling is seen by some in my business as in danger of becoming a lost art. 

I suspect anyone gun-savvy enough to be reading this blog in the first place knows enough not to use a wrist-twist to whip the cylinder into the frame (or worse, to whip it out, which bends the “crane” that the cylinder rides on and ruins “timing,” or alignment of cartridge chambers with barrels). 

But there are some subtleties that a whole lot of revolver shooters don’t understand, and my old friend Jerry Miculek – the undisputed top revolver shooter of our time, and probably of all time – discusses here.

Jerry says that if you take care of your revolver, your revolver will take care of you. Take his advice to heart.

51 COMMENTS

  1. I’m 31 and I love revolvers. I gave up on firearms for a few years, and revolvers helped me get back in. I carry my S&W 642 whenever possible, and I keep one of my Model 10’s nearby in case of a home emergency.

  2. Back when we were both revolver armed and used an armory issue system (you reported in and drew a sidearm from the armory), a very few of the guys demonstrated a new form of abuse I’d never known. After loading at the loading barrel, they’d slap the cylinder inward while imparting a very fast clockwise rotation. The cylinder would spin until it slowed enough for a cylinder notch to get caught by the cylinder stop.

    After seeing one idiot do this a couple times I asked the obvious question: “Why?” Response to the effect that: “Ain’t mine and when it breaks they fix it.” Counter: “Uh huh, and what if it breaks while your ass depends on it working?” I may have implied that if one broke on me there might be adverse consequences.

    Don’t know if he quit entirely or only when I happened to be around.

    • I saw that done to a beautiful Colt Trooper on the Police Pistol Range when I went through the academy and it made me cringe then and it makes me cringe now every time I remember it ! I’m a Smith and Wesson fan for the most part but I do love Colt as well as Ruger and you’ll never see me do that to any I own ! When I went through the academy in 1991 my weapon of choice was a brand new Model 66 four inch and I still carry that same revolver today albeit not as often as I used to carry it. I was never a fan of Glock until I researched their reliability and ended up buying a G-40 10mm long slide that I really like and since I’m kinda large hides easily under a double X t-shirt 🤣 doesn’t hurt that I weigh over 235 lbs.

      • Dana Rowe,

        I think it’s interesting how revolvers are simple and reliable, and so are Glocks. Kind of a kindred spirit there. Also, when I think of how popular Glocks are, I’m surprised at their affordability. I love my Glock 30, and wish I had a 41 and a 43.

  3. Tell ya what. Any pup that flicks the cylinder shut on one of my revolvers will learn what the old timers referred to as getting buffaloed. Yeah boy hows that Ruger Super Redhawk feel up side your head?

  4. Even though I’m a Glock Fan Boy at 70 years old I still love my Ruger LCRx 38 Special. I carry it when walking the dog or running to the grocery store. When involved in Church Security I have the Glock 17 and my wife carries her 19. I still really like revolvers both double and single action. Something about them that is part of my DNA.

    • I (at age 71) agree with you Bill. I have also carried Glocks for the last 15 years, and 1911’s before that. But I still have a collection of revolvers (DA and SA) that is my true love. There’s just something about a revolver….

  5. I have numerous revolvers. Mostly single actions (cowboy action dhooting) but have several snubbie 38s. I carry a348 often. One thing: mind the gap. Gap between cylinder and barrel!!!! Keep hands away. It’ll blast you.

  6. Received my Python for my birthday in 1962; still one of my favorites with Elliason rear sight added.

  7. I have always liked revolvers since I was a kid. I have many handguns mostly 1911’s but the few revolvers I have, are my favs. Three Smith’s, a model 29 in 3 inch, 1 of 5000, a model 66 in 3 inch, and a model 27 built in 1960 or so with a beautiful blue job that looks like it’s never been shot, and lastly my Colt trooper mk 3 in 6 inch which is worked and so sweet to shoot. My revolvers I’ve had for a long time and never abuse them. Sometimes I carry the 29 and sometimes the 66. But mostly my 1911’s whether it’s my Defender or Combat, Commander. I have 7 1911 Colt’s and one Springfield TRP. The one I carry basically everyday and practice the most with is my Combat Commander. I’ve had it since 1974 and she still runs like a champ. Just love 1911’s !!

  8. Jerry covered rifles and the 1911, but not the revolver, in this clip. Is there another clip that should have cued up?

  9. Thanks Mas,
    Learned all my pistol “skills” with the venerable S&W Model 10 & Colt’s Official Police.
    Good video, and was surprised to learn, I had garnered my revolver experiences since 1970. That’s 50-years…..(can that be right?). Been hand-loading the 38-Spl that long, great cartridge.
    Did a bunch with the single-actions as well.
    Best to you and the “Evil-Princess”, and a Merry Christmas too!

  10. I love all my semi autos and am perfectly comfortable with all of them however 99 percent of the time I am carrying my snub 38. I feel the same way about revolvers as I do about pump shotguns. If you don’t get that second shot it’s your fault not the guns. Take care of your weapons and they’ll take care of you.

  11. I sold a nice little J-frame before my wife got interested in shooting (for which now I owe many thanks to the BLM movement). I introduced her to my several autoloading pistols but didn’t realize just how much trouble she would have operating the various parts. She is petite and has limited hand/arm strength. She had (reluctantly) shot the J-frame before with no issues. Now I am either going to have her fitted for one of the “EZ” pistols or seek out another J-frame. Another example of the old saw “Timing is everything”.

  12. When I was a Patrol Officer with a private security company my issued sidearm was a S&W Model 10 (-6),
    I loved that firearm, I almost asked about buying it from the company when I left the company.

  13. I am 72 years old and have tried many primary and backup pistol/revolver combinations over the last 50 years. About eight years ago I found the perfect combo (for me) and conceal carried this combo everyday, everywhere, all year round (NE Oklahoma) where your skivvies and even your socks get soaked with sweat in the summer… Glock 30S 10+1 45 ACP IWB with a Ruger LCR 38 Special +P revolver in pocket-carry. I frequently forget they are there. Comforting AND Comfortable.

  14. Although I mostly carry Glocks, I do carry a revolver (44M) when I am in griz country. Therefore, I do some training with revolvers. Bottom line is that I can shoot as fast and accurately with revolvers as with the Glocks until I hit the reload wall.

  15. I just bought a used revolver today as a matter of fact. A “like new” S&W Model 18. This is a blued K-frame revolver with adjustable sights and chambered for 22 LR. Its purpose is for plinking, fun and revolver practice rather than defense. I already have revolvers in the larger calibers for defensive purposes.

    I like revolvers and 1911’s. I even like the S&W M&P brand of polymer semi-automatic. The ergonomics of these guns generally fit me although I admit that I sometimes have to replace the factory stocks (or grips, if you prefer) in order to make them “feel right”. However, I have never yet met a glock pistol that “felt right” in my hand. I don’t know what exactly is the problem with glocks. Probably it is a combination of things.

    For one thing, the grip angle seems wrong. Also, the grip tends to feel too “square” for my hand. In any event, while glocks are good reliable pistols, I don’t own a single one and doubt that I ever will own one. Its a personal preference kind of thing.

    It does not worry me. I have plenty of non-glocks to shoot. In fact, I plan to head to the range tomorrow to try out my latest S&W revolver.

  16. Having been messing about with mechanical things most of my life, the things he recommends were untuitive for me, but he carefully explains WHY his practices are right, which helps. Good to know the whole story from a guy who has lived and breathed and oozed revolvers for decades. Tens of thousands of rounds in competition, and that gun still looks (and probably works lke brand new. Impressive.

    I must say, too, the guy he has running the video camera is top notch, and HE works very carefully to have his fingers moving the parts, yet keeps them out of the way so we can SEE exactly what hes taling about. Lighiting is also perfect. A top notch presentation on every level. The guy zooms right in quickly and on centre to see up close the fine detail Jerry’s talking about, then back out for the whole scene. VERY well done all around.

  17. Jerry is a generous guy, A compact DA revolver is hard to beat for first shots. Then, no substitute for firepower, a handy semiauto with 2 extra mags. Plus, for the revolver, 2 SPEE-D LOADER NO.1’s that I love, or 2 cylindrical speed-loaders. Just a second revolver is not so bad, though. Experience taught me that if one ever needs to trek for miles at 60 degrees below zero in the dark timber of a snowy subarctic winter, that one wants one or two heavy DA revolvers with secure grips, in special holsters designed to keep out frost and snow while staying close to the body so the actions don’t freeze, and the cold doesn’t weaken the powder. A warning shot seemed to deter a group of huge, curious wolves.

    • Speaking of curiosities, one is wondering about certain judges who have been dismissing lawsuits pertaining to clearly fraudulent (IMHO)2020 elections. I would propose a new legal doctrine similar to the “fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine,” pertaining to the admissibility of evidence in a crime. Let us call the new concept “the open bank doctrine.” Imagine a vengeful bank teller who just wants to get rid of all the cash in a bank. The teller disguises self and opens the bank after hours, leaving the doors and bank vaults wide open, with all the lights on. The totally expected happens, and unscrupulous people walk into the bank and clean out all the cash. Nobody is charged with a crime in court, because who can “prove” anything? Clearly an intentional crime has been committed, but “So What???”

      • Strategic Steve,

        It seems like the Left wins most of the time. They’ve certainly been winning the culture war since the 1960s. What I hate to see the most is felons being set free while restaurant owners and the McCloskeys get arrested or otherwise hassled by the legal system. I think it’s time for more cops to refuse to obey unlawful, or even unconscionable orders. But that’s easy for me to say.

        I will say two things about the Left; they are despicable but also POWERFUL. Even fringe issues by fringe groups become the news everyone talks about all over the country.

      • Strategic Steve,

        One more thing. At this moment, it looks as though President Trump, who won that election, will be denied his rightfully earned secomd term. Also, he may be the last Republican President ever. He has Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell and others fighting for him, and yet it looks as though the Dark Side of the Force will prevail. Communists are powerful. They ruled the Soviet Union for 70 years, China for 72 years, and Cuba for 61 years. Pat Buchanan once wrote that Americans are already cultural communists, if I remember correctly.

  18. Good info from a master. I live in rural E.Tx. and my EDC around the 53 acre tree farm is a 1966 Colt Cobra 2″ with four 158 grain Nyclad HPs up front, then 2 snake shot rounds (we have feral dog problems.) I am always on the lookout for a 3″ Cobra or Agent or Det. Special as I really like that barrel length for all around carry. When living on the Gulf Coast and wandering the bayous and marshland, I carried a 3″ “Couger” by Bill Davis Custom out of L.A. Cal. The Security Six frame was stainless and Davis hard chromed the 3″ Python barrel to match. Pretty much a perfect outdoors-y carry piece. Even though I carried 1911s most of my 36 year LE career, the 4″ Python and 4″ S&W Model 24 .44 Special that rode in my Jordan holsters still did the job and gave me confidence.

  19. Started my LEO career in 1969 when I returned from Nam and couldn’t find or even buy
    a job. Tried college but after having my tires slashed twice and the seat cut of my old
    BSA once, I gave that s*** up and was getting ready to re-up. On my way to the recruiter
    in Knoxville, I stopped for a cup of coffee and picked up a newspaper. Scanned the want
    adds as was my custom and seen where Washington DC was interviewing for Police Officers
    just down the street. I stopped in, took the test, interviewed and 2 weeks later I was in
    the Academy. We used S&W m10’s back then and rookies walked a beat and used call boxes.
    No radios or cell phones back then.
    I developed a love for revolvers back then and never lost it. My favorite is still the 4 inch
    S&W m10, but for carry, either a LRCx 357 short barrel or a S&W m60-14 .357 2 inch.
    9 days out of 10, I’ll have one of these on my person. Having walked the getto streets of
    DC’s Lower East side as well and Upper Northwest with a 6 shot m10, no radio and solo for
    several years, I have no fear of only have 5 rounds then a reload. I qualified against Semi-
    Auto’s and even with a S&W m38 Humpback, my times were as good or better than the
    average Officer’s and scores were better than the better ones with Semi-Autos. At 72, I’ll
    admit that I’ve slowed down and won’t be running any stress courses anytime soon but I
    can still hit what I shoot at and with a .357 mag, even out of a short bbl, I don’t feel the
    need for a Semi-Auto.
    Besides, at my age, a handgun is only necessary to fight your way to Shotgun or AR.
    Dano

  20. Hi Mas,
    I carry a model 58, .41 Remington Magnum, as my daily carry. Works great on feral dogs, bears, coyotes, and anything else needing to be shot. Too many idiots out there these days that don’t know how to handle a revolver.
    Wishing you and the EP a Merry Christmas.

    Vince

    • A spur-less, short-barreled DAO revolver is my index-carry weapon of choice. I most often lately prefer NOT to carry at the index position. Why take unnecessary chances of particularly gruesome self-injury, I say. Some occasions obtain, though, where I consider index-carry to be at least virtually necessary. It can afford the quickest, surest, most protected firearm access, while providing very good concealment. My primary compact semiauto has a likeable slide safety, with a naturally more vulnerable trigger pull than the revolver. Clicking off the safety of the semi-auto entails a certain amount of delay, and sympathetic action between thumb and index finger promotes less-than-optimal independent control of the finger. Sometimes I just wear an empty, flat Bianchi IWB holster as an index-carry option, too.

  21. Mas said, “but the revolver remains my choice as a backup gun for several reasons, which we can discuss at another time.”. I would be interested in hearing your views on this topic. Have you already discussed it in some other article, blog, or book? Got a link? Whenever I think of backup, I think of S&W J frames. Thanks.

    • About the fraudulent-elections issue. Lower court judges have apparently cleared the way for the GOOD QUEEN OF THE CHESSBOARD, i.e., the SCOTUS, to chew bubble gum and take names. The SCOTUS is on the scene, and intransigent election-criminals are ripe for the rap sheet. Felons beware, you are ALWAYS under some kind of observation, don’t you know? Part of the late elections fraud may have stemmed from one or another “reverse prejudice” vengeance-motive. Basic, though, has been a lack of respect for a true democracy based on fair elections. The SCOTUS is not apathetic, impolite, or unfair, let alone tolerant of election crime. Here come the judges!

  22. It would be good to post a video of what to look for when purchasing an old revolver. I’ve found that many look pristine but have timing or other issues. Easy enough to check when buying in person. Take your chances on Gunbroker.

  23. @ Mark – “Take your chances on Gunbroker.”

    True enough. Although you can lessen your odds by buying a quality-brand gun. I have bought at least half a dozen revolvers off of gun-auction sites. Respectively, they were two (2) S&W’s, one Colt, one Ruger and two (2) H&R’s. None of the pistols had any timing issues. The S&W’s and the Ruger were all in excellent condition with no problems at all. The old Colt (made in 1923) worked and shot great but did have a crack in one of its stocks (or grips, if you prefer). I replace the grips on the Colt while retaining the originals in case I ever need to restore the gun to original condition.

    However, both of the H&R’s had the common problem with their mainspring and guide assembly. The plastic piece, that powers the hammer, was all cracked and broken. Fortunately, Numrich Gun parts sells new assemblies with a steel (rather than plastic) piece at the top. It is not too difficult to swap out the old broken assembly for a new, steel one that you buy from Numrich. This fixes the problem. In addition, one of the H&R’s had both grips broken (broken tabs) so that the grips would not stay-in-place. So, I had to get new grips for it too. None of these H&R problems were mentioned by the sellers when I bought the revolvers. I only found them out after I was the winning bidder and the guns were transferred to me.

    So, as you can see, it is a mixed bag to buy a revolver on an auction site. In my (limited) experience, you have to make some repairs to get the gun fully functional about half the time. However, so far, none of the problems have been so difficult as to require a professional gunsmith. I am perfectly able to swap out grips and mainspring assemblies on my own.

    Still, your best bet to get a fully functional firearm, right out of the box, is to buy one new from a gun dealer. Even then, there is no guarantee. I once bought a brand-new S&W Model 629 that malfunctioned on its very first trip to the range. The lock-work was not installed correctly (factory goof) and the hand stopped turning the cylinder after only about a dozen shots.

    S&W stands by their products. When I contacted them about it, they sent me a shipping label to mail the revolver back to them at their expense. They jumped right on the repair and had the gun back to me within a couple of weeks. It has functioned perfectly ever since they fixed it and shipped it back.

    Nevertheless, anyone can produce a lemon from time to time. You ultimately have to shoot any gun yourself, with your preferred ammo, to prove its reliability.

  24. I bought a used-but-pristine-looking S&W Model 29 once that had an obscure lock-work issue that was likely caused by amateur gunsmithing. Turned out to be an expensive mistake on my part, and I was only lucky to discover the problem before I had a jam in a tight situation. Pretty important to have a gunsmith evaluate a used firearm if you have any doubts, especially a revolver. My favorite gun dealer has actually been a very expert pawn-shop operator who has longstanding close connections with the New Hampshire Ruger facility. I don’t know of any stronger, more reliable revolvers than Ruger, although I am with Jerry Miculek on certain combat advantages with S&W.

  25. This article reminds me of something I was told in 1972. A Gunners Mate instructor told us that when you insert a mag into a pistol, you should hold the mag release button. Otherwise, you will put a little wear on the retaining latch, and eventually the mag won’t stay in the gun. I never heard that advice again, despite numerous books and videos. Is this a valid concern?

    • Not something I’d worry about. Could be counter-productive in that it eliminates the positive feedback of feeling the magazine click into place.

  26. I’ve never been “good” with wheel guns but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying my repat model 10, well used and kinda abused but was affordable. 1911 .45’s forever but heavy and buck a bit too much after 64 years of firing them. He’s semi-retired in the safe.
    Now, all day everyday carry is Walther PPQ, 9 & 10 ring capable so a wussy 9MM is okay 🤔
    Thanks to President-elect Soros/Biden’s ammo shortage it’s rimfire only and now less than once per month,
    Merry Christmas to all you’uns

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