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Top 5 Revolvers on the Planet (By 30-Year Gun Expert )

Revolver Shotgun Taurus Judge. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Top Five Revolvers As Explained by a Gun Expert with over Thirty Years Experience: I have spent a lot of time over the last thirty years in my personal life and professional career working with firearms

And specifically revolvers.

In the spirit of top five lists, and following the Top 5 .38 Special Revolvers, now we’re going to talk about what I consider to be the five best revolvers, regardless of a specific caliber, based on my expertise and personal experiences. 

Smith & Wesson (S&W) Model 19/Model 66 .357 Magnum

The Smith Model 19 wasn’t the first .357 Magnum – that distinction was earned by the behemoth S&W M27 back in 1935 – but when it debuted in 1955  it became the first gun in the caliber that was a practical weapon to carry for police and armed citizens.

As Guns & Ammo reporter Keith Wood elaborates, “It began life as the Combat Magnum, a K-­frame in .357 Magnum designed in consultation with legendary Border Patrolman Bill Jordan.

The concept of the Model 19 was to combine the power of the company’s N-­frame revolvers with the portability of the smaller K-­frames.” Its stainless steel variant, the Model 66 Combat Magnum, introduced in 1971, and the M19/M66 ended up in more American police holsters than you could shake a stick at, which held true until the large-scale nationwide police transition from wheelguns to autopistols began in the 1980s.

Smith & Wesson Model 19

Smith & Wesson Model 19. Image Credit: Smith & Wesson.

Ruger GP-100 .357 Magnum

After review of previous articles there should be little surprise at the inclusion of the GP-100 on this list, as it’s my all-time favorite revolver, period. Like I’ve said umpteen times before, Rugers are the Timex of revolvers, i.e. they take a licking and keep on ticking; this is true of their large-frame, medium-frame, and snubnosed wheelguns alike. 

The GP-100 falls under the medium-frame category. Introduced in 1985, this revolver is super-tough thanks to its investment casting construction and triple-locking cylinder; so tough that the gun has survived being beaten against brick walls and run over by pickup trucks. 

Gun Sales

Ruger GP-100. Image: Creative Commons.

Best .22LR

Ruger GP-100. Image: Ruger.

Moreover, as the official Ruger info page proclaims in boldfaced red all-caps (though we won’t use those here), “Ruger GP100 double-action revolvers are among the most comfortable shooting revolvers.

Based on 33 years of hands-on shooting experience with it, owning one for 19 years and 20,000 rounds fired through, and multiple medals won with it at the Nevada Police & Fire Games, I wholeheartedly concur. 

Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum

But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?” How could I possibly exclude the iconic Dirty Harry gun from this list? 

Smith & Wesson Model 29

Arriving on the scene in 1955, courtesy of big-bore revolver guru Elmer Keith, this was the first gun ever chambered for the .44 Magnum cartridge, which in turn descended from the .44 Special and .44 Russian cartridges. Of course, it was the 1971 Clint Eastwood film that truly made the gun famous and caused demand to skyrocket.

Though no longer able to lay claim to the title of “Most Powerful Handgun in the World” – having been superseded by calibers such as the .454 Casull and the Model S&W 500, the Smith M29 nonetheless remains an icon of the wheelgun world. 

Smith & Wesson Model 29

Smith & Wesson Model 29. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Colt Python .357 Magnum

To reiterate what I said in a previous article on the Python, if Rugers are the Timex of wheelguns, then the Python is the Rolex.

For sheer aesthetic beauty – especially in the so-called Royal Blue finish – and unbelievably smooth factory stock double-action trigger, this “Snake Gun” simply can’t be beaten. 

Colt Python

Image: Creative Commons.

Colt Python 2020

Image: Colt.

Colt Single Action Army (SAA) “Peacemaker” .45 Long Colt (LC)

Hey, c’mon, I had to include at least one single-action revolver on this list for the sake of “equal time,” right? As the official Colt info page states, “No Colt revolver has earned greater fame than the single action army – The Peacemaker.

In design and performance, in line and form, no more sculptural and practical Colt has ever been created. Movies serve as constant reminders of the role this equalizer played in winning the West.”

In addition, the Colt SAA served as the official sidearm of the U.S. Army (hence the official moniker) from 1873 to 1892. 

Hit Or Miss?

Okay, agree or disagree? For any fans of either the Colt Detective Special or the S&W M13, M10, etc, are you miffed that your fave didn’t make the list?

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

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Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).

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