Defensive Revolvers:

Setting Up the Wheel Gun for Self-Defense

Bobbing the hammer, removing the spur used to cock for single-action firing,
eliminates snagging on the clothing as you draw.

Revolvers are back, especially for self-defense. Well-established companies are producing a wider variety of wheel guns than ever. And we have the re-introduction of the Colt Snake revolvers with several new entries to the market. Caliber? Take your pick from the tried and true: .38 spcl., .357, the .44s and of course .45 ACP. And we have “new” revolver calibers like the 9mm and .380 ACP. A good revolver loaded with modern defensive ammo is ideal for defensive use. But, like any firearm, there are a few modifications to make them “more better.”

Most people never consider modifying their revolver. “It’s easy,” they say. “Just point and shoot.” Revolvers are “easy” to shoot. However, compared to a semi-auto, they require more training and practice to shoot accurately and manipulate efficiently. For life-and-death situations, simple tools work well, providing you can use them competently. Any modifications to the revolver that make things easier are worth considering.


One of the easiest modifications to a revolver is changing out the stocks. Wheel gun stocks come in all flavors. Options include wood, bone/horn, hard synthetics like G10 and soft rubber — in all shapes and sizes. “Fitting” the pistol to your hand improves accuracy and control. Stocks can also factor into concealability.

Defensive sights are mandatory. You need to be able to acquire a fast sight picture
for close range, including low-light conditions. With practice, these sights are still
accurate enough to make hits at extended distances.


For defensive use, good sights are mandatory. “Target” sights are not for close-range, low-light fast shooting. Defensive sights are quick to acquire under all conditions, yet still accurate enough for the distances and size of targets involved. A lot of today’s revolvers come with sights fitting these requirements, or are set up so they’re easily exchanged. Older model revolvers may require the services of a gunsmith.

A smooth trigger face with a radius lets your finger slide as the trigger is stroked.
A slightly narrowed trigger guard is still safe and allows both large and small hands
to get on the trigger more efficiently.


Tuning the revolver’s action is highly recommended. It’s not uncommon for a revolver’s double action trigger (stroking the trigger cocks and releases the hammer to fire) to be north of 10 or 11 lbs. I’ve had some max out my 12-lb. electronic gauge.

“I’ll cock the hammer so the trigger is really light,” you’re thinking. Nope! All defensive shooting is double-action; single action firing is only for target shooting. The single action is too light for defensive use. Under stress it’s very easy to negligently fire a round. De-cocking is a very fine motor skill. This isn’t done under stress as the muscles start burning excess adrenaline and you’re shaking like it’s 20 below zero. A revolver “defensive” trigger (again not a “target”) with a crisp, clean break makes a revolver easy to shoot accurately.

Since you’re shooting double action, you don’t need a hammer spur for cocking. They snag up on your clothing as you draw from concealment. “Bobbing” the hammer cures this. While you’re at it, the exposed face of the trigger could use a little lovin’ too. As you stroke the trigger, the finger shifts position during the trigger’s arc. A smooth-faced trigger (no serrations) with a nice radius works best.


Although you don’t see it very often, in “olden” days it was common to slightly narrow the trigger guard. Nothing like the “Fitz Special,” which has the front of the guard completely removed. Trimming the sides of the guard slightly and contouring this into the frame allows the finger to flow smoothly onto the trigger when it’s time to fire. This helps with both large and small hands. I also like a little radius on the entire frame, including the front of the cylinder. This makes it feel better in the hand, and easier to holster.

In the right hands, revolvers are very accurate, even short-barreled “snubbies.” They’re ideal for close quarter situations, where most attacks occur. There’s no slide to get pushed out of battery. They come in a variety of sizes and calibers and are easy to “fit” to your hand. With defensive sights, modern ammunition and a few modifications (always consult an expert gunsmith before deciding on specific modifications) they’re close to perfect for self-defense.

Just don’t forget to learn the proper manual of arms, and then add plenty of practice.

Subscribe To American Handgunner

Purchase A PDF Download Of The American Handgunner Sept/Oct 2021 Issue Now!