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Best Beginner Revolvers: 8 Wheelguns For The Modern World

What makes for a good beginner revolver?

This is the big question. Honestly, it’s a tough call to make because revolvers are just so freakin’ awesome. 

Check revolvers to be sure the cylinder fits well and is not loose. Also check to see I the cylinder lines up correctly with the barrel.
A few revolvers

But, like any other type of gun, some designs are simply better than others…and there’s also plenty of designs that are not exactly beginner-friendly. 

But I’m here to help! If you’re new to revolvers and looking for the best ones to start with, stick with me. I think I’ve nailed down some gun models that are easy to handle and use.

So, learn from my mistakes and triumphs!

Huge Tiny Mistake
Don’t be like me. Learn from others!

First, I want to talk about the difference in revolver types. Then we’ll cover what criteria often make for a good, easy beginner revolver.

After that, I’ll send you off with some recommendations of my favorites.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

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Revolver Types: Single Action, Double Action, and DAO

In short, we have three types of revolvers to consider; so, let’s break down those styles.

Single Action Revolver

A single action revolver has to be manually cocked before each shot.  

When you pull the hammer back the cylinder rotates and brings a live round in line with the barrel and the hammer.

Single Action Ruger Blackhawk in 45 Colt
Single Action Ruger Blackhawk in 45 Colt

After rounds have fired, a gate, usually on the right side of the frame at the rear of the cylinder, can be opened. This allows the cylinder to rotate to line up with the ejector rod.  

From here, you can use the ejector rod to remove empty casings, then reload the cylinder and begin again!

Single Action with Loading Gate Open and Ejector Rod Depressed

Single Action with Loading Gate Open and Ejector Rod Depressed

Double-Action Revolver

A double-action revolver fires by cocking the hammer and then pulling the trigger.  In this fashion, you have a very short and often crisp trigger pull.  

You can also fire the handgun by pulling the trigger which will begin to rotate the cylinder, cock the hammer, release the hammer and fire the gun. But, the trigger pull feels much longer and heavier when fired in double-action mode.  

The Kimber K6s DASA is is a DA/SA, meaning it can work as a single action or double action revolver.

To load and unload the double-action, the cylinder usually swings out of the gun on the left side after you depress the cylinder release latch.

Tip the gun up, with the rear of the cylinder facing down, press the ejector rod and watch the cases fall free.

Double-Action Only

In a revolver, this most often means there’s no visible or accessible hammer spur with which to cock the revolver.

These guns are built for concealed carry and self-defense purposes and usually sport a fairly compact design.

Smith and Wesson 642 (5)
The S&W 642 is a double-action only revolver.

What to Look for When Choosing a Revolver

Now that we’ve looked at three types of revolvers, let’s go over what features to look for when shopping.

Size and Weight 

One of the cool things about revolvers is that you can chamber massive and powerful cartridges in them. 

Popular Pistol Calibers
Popular Pistol Calibers

The most powerful production handgun is a revolver. However, these guns are often way too big for a newbie to safely shoot. 

When a gun is too big and heavy, it’s tough to shoot, grip, and safely handle.

The Magnum Research BFR in .50 Linebaugh is definitely an effective hunting revolver (and it’s fun, too)
The Magnum Research BFR in .50 Linebaugh is definitely a bit big for a newbie.

You want a moderately sized revolver heavy enough to absorb recoil, but not so heavy you tremble trying to hold it up!

Something too heavy is simply not fun to shoot — especially when the shooter is on the younger side. 

Recoil and Caliber 

Am I going to suggest a .357 Magnum on this list? Of course! 

But am I going to suggest an airweight .357 Magnum J-frame? 

Smith and Wesson 642 (6)
The Smith and Wesson Model 642 Airweight is a five-round revolver…but it’s in .38 Special!

Nah dawg, not me. That’s too much gun for a newbie to handle. It’s loud, bright, and slaps your hand. 

My choices put an appropriate caliber in an appropriate platform with safe handling in mind. The caliber needs to be proportional to the size of the gun. 

Too much recoil and muzzle flip can be dangerous so you won’t see any of the big magnums on this list either. 

Revolver fail
See? Not safe.

Ease Of Use 

By their nature, revolvers are easy to shoot and handle. 

There isn’t much to them in terms of form and function. That said, some prove easier to use than others. 

How a Revolver Works
The internals of a Revolver (HowStuffWorks)

I love the Chiappa Rhino, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for a new revolver owner. 

It defies normal revolver handling, requiring a little bit more experience to handle with ease. 

C and Rsenal revolver action
Here’s how a revolver works! (C&Rsenal)

My choices are all very simple guns that could be explained in mere minutes to a novice shooter.

After all, we do want them to have fun and, most importantly, be safe.

Durability 

The Colt Python is a sweet revolver. It’s one of my favorites, and honestly, it’s one of everyone’s favorites. Why? 

Because look at it…

Python head to head
A pair of Colt Pythons. (From the collection of Diane Walls.)

But it didn’t make this list because it notoriously comes out of time. Do the new models do this? 

I’m not sure, but they’ve had problems too.

Guns with issues, even good guns, are frustrating. Beginners shouldn’t be frustrated about the reliability of their firearm. 

Plus, newbies might struggle to diagnose and fix a problem. 

Rick Grimes Colt Python
You want your newbie’s gun to be so reliable you’d trust it against zombies. So uh…not the Python.

Best Revolvers for Beginners

1. Ruger Wrangler 

The Ruger Wrangler might be the best handgun for beginners out there. 

It’s small, affordable, very light, and chambered in the teeny tiny, fun-to-shoot .22 LR. As such, it barely moves between shots and honestly hardly recoils at all. 

Ruger Wranglers and ammo
Ruger Wranglers and ammo

Ruger imitated Colt’s old single-action army revolver in its design. A single-action hammer delivers a very crisp and light trigger pull for accurate shots. 

Plus, the thin SAA grips allow for shooters of all sizes to embrace and handle the Wrangler safely. 

One of the best parts of the SAA design is the simplicity. New shooters do not need a complicated revolver by any means. Loading, cocking, and firing the weapon is far from difficult. 

sight picture of Ruger Wrangler
Sight picture of Ruger Wrangler

Admittedly, loading and ejecting one round at a time takes a little time on the reload, but you aren’t gunfighting with the Ruger Wrangler. 

It’s a plinker, and maybe a pest removal gun. Ruger’s little Wrangler delivers a ton of fun from a very cheap platform. 

It’s tough to beat as a beginner’s revolver, or as a beginner’s gun in general. I think any new shooter would be well-armed with a Ruger Wrangler and 10/22 to start their journey into the world of firearms. 

2. Ruger LCR 9mm 

Snub noses are not good beginner guns, but the Ruger LCR 9mm is the best snub nose for beginners. 

First and foremost, it’s affordable. The Ruger LCR series in general are quite budget-friendly and deliver a lot of gun for very little money. 

Ruger LCRs
Ruger LCRs with clips for easy reloading

On top of that, the delightful trigger has to be the best stock double-action revolver trigger on the market. It rolls back smoothly with just a little fight and doesn’t give you much resistance.

Shooting a snub nose accurately isn’t easy, but the Ruger LCR eliminates some of the skill required. 

Ruger LCR
Ruger LCR

Rarely will someone shout, “9mm!” when it comes to choosing a revolver caliber, but it makes sense. 

The 9mm round provides plenty of oomph and capability for self-defense purposes but is cheap to plink and train with as well. Well…cheaper.

scrooge mcduck money
Ammo manufactures after 2020

Blasting away with a 9mm revolver isn’t as uncomfortable as a .357 Magnum, but hits harder than a .38 Special. 

The little LCR utilizes cheap moon clips for quick reloads, and provides you a good snub nose for the range and concealed carry. 

Best Laser Equipped
549
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Have you tried the Ruger LCR? If so, rate it below!

Readers' Ratings

4.98/5 (879)

Your Rating?

3. Smith & Wesson Model 317 Kit Gun 

Kit gun is a forgotten term regarding guns and gear. We all remember scout rifles but forget kit guns. 

S&W AirLite Model 317
S&W AirLite Model 317 (Major Pandemic)

A kit gun is a small, handy pistol, often a rimfire weapon, designed for small game hunting, pest control, plinking, and even outdoor defense from critters like snakes. 

The S&W Model 317 Kit gun fits the bill perfectly. 

This modern double-action revolver with an exposed hammer mimics the controls and design of most modern revolvers. It’s built on the S&W J-frame to be handy and useful. 

It packs right rounds of .22 LR and utilizes a 3-inch barrel topped with an adjustable rear sight and a high-visibility fiber optic front sight. 

S&W Model 317 Cylinder
S&W Model 317 Cylinder

It’s stainless for weather resistance, so perfect as a backpack companion. 

For beginners, the S&W 317 Kit Gun provides a modern double-action revolver that’s perfect for a wide variety of tasks — shooting, hunting, and more. 

What’s not to love? 

4. Taylor’s and Company 1873 .357 Magnum 

If you want to step up from the Wrangler and into a cowboy gun with a little more oomph than the .22 LR, then Taylor’s and Company has you covered. 

Taylor's and Co. 1873 Revolver
Taylor’s and Co. 1873 Revolver

Italians seem to love the American West almost as much as Americans do. From spaghetti westerns to replica revolvers the Italians provide us with plenty of awesome Old West stuff. 

The Taylor’s and Company 1873 brings an affordable, centerfire Single Action Army design. I’ve had a few Taylor’s and Co revolvers and found them very well made, especially at their price point. 

What seems like sacrilege to some is the reason I think the 1873 is a great beginner’s revolver. 

Taylor's and Co. 1873 Cattleman Ranch Hand Model
Taylor’s and Co. 1873 Cattleman Ranch Hand Model

The sacrilege is the .357 Magnum chambering over the .45 Colt. Yes. You read that right.

.45 Colt is the round of tradition with the cowboy guns, but .357 Magnum is better for beginners. .357 Magnum can also fire .38 Special, and that’s important. 

.38 Special is rather soft shooting, and, heck, even the .357 Magnum is rather soft from this big revolver. 

357 sig comparison
(left to right) 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W (Lucky Gunner)

Both .38 Special and .357 Magnum rounds are cheaper and easier to find than .45 Colt, and provide you with more than enough oomph for practical purposes. 

It’s a fun plinker, a solid woods gun, and even a half decent hunting pistol.

Plus, it retains the easy ergonomics of the SAA designs and makes magnums an easier entry point. 

625
at Taylor's and Company

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. Used Smith & Wesson Model 10 

There is nothing wrong with purchasing one of the new Model 10s from S&W’s classic series. 

Smith & Wesson Model 10
Smith & Wesson Model 10

However, I don’t find their price point that friendly when you can find a ton of cheap Model 10s on the market.

Sure they might be a little beat up, but they are true shooters. 

The Model 10 revolver traces its origin all the way back to the 1899 hand ejector, which became the Police and Military model, and later the Victory model.

From there we got the S&W Model 10, one of the finest .38 Special revolvers ever produced. 

Smith & Wesson Military and Police .38 Special Revolver (Model 10)
Smith & Wesson Military and Police .38 Special Revolver (Model 10)

The S&W Model 10 is a medium frame, 6-shot, double-action revolver that occupied the hands of soldiers, police officers, and many more over its long life span. 

For beginners, it’s a simple, but modern revolver that’s well-tuned and proven, durable, and extremely strong.

These guns shoot extremely well and can take some serious abuse.

Smith & Wesson .38 Special Military and Police Revolvers
Smith & Wesson .38 Special Military and Police Revolvers…or the Model 10.

The Model 10 with a 4-inch barrel, loaded with .38 special, is so pleasant to shoot. Take one out and you’ll see just why the Model 10 served for so dang long. 

Plus, it’s insanely easy to find holsters, speed loads, and more for the gun. Accessorization is important and we can’t deny it’s not a fun part of owning a gun. 

600
at Guns.com

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6. Ruger GP-100

The GP-100 is a Ruger workhorse with an all-stainless design. Featuring a 4.2-inch barrel and a full underlug, it comes with a fiber-optic front sight and adjustable rear sight.  

This model uses a 6-shot cylinder and tackles .38 Special/.357 Mag with no problem.  

Ruger GP 100
Ruger GP 100 (Photo: Chris Eger, Guns.com)

Because of its all stainless construction, the gun is heavy — weighing in at 40ounces. So, if you’re on the small side, this might not be the best gun for you.

But if you like a little heft to your firearms, then it works.

The grips on this model feature a cushioned rubber with a handsome hardwood insert.

The grip frame does accommodate aftermarket and custom grips of many styles. Yay for accessories!

Best Medium Frame Revolver
799
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

7. Ruger SP101

Have we mentioned Ruger really has the whole revolver thing on lock?

Ruger’s SP101 is another solid choice for an all-stainless double-action revolver. 

A tiny package that delivers a titanic hit!
A tiny package that delivers a titanic hit!

Sights are fiber optic up front with an adjustable rear, while the grips are rubber with a hardwood insert. These are easily changed if you want to try something different.  

The SP101 also comes in a very handsome and compact carry version with Novak sights.  Again, it’s a .38/.357, but with a 2.25-inch barrel and weighing only 26-ounces.  

Best Carry Revolver
699
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

We have a full review of the SP101, so make sure to take a look at that below for more details!

Conclusion

Revolvers can be a heck of a lot of fun with that old-school charm! But there are plenty of models that perform on par with semi-autos on the market.

Not to mention, you just feel like a badass cowboy or an ‘80s vice detective with one of these in your hands. 

john wayne cowboy poster
If you want to feel like The Duke, get your hands on a revolver!

As always, choosing the best gun for you is a pretty personal decision, but I hope now you have an idea of what to consider, and a few guns to start your search!

What’s your favorite revolver for beginner shooters? Any to avoid? Share with us all in the comments! And if you’re looking for some .357 Magnum goodness…check out our 9 Best .357 Magnum Revolvers.

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16 Leave a Reply

  • Mark Starrett

    Over the years I've helped a lot of people choose and learn to shoot a new handgun. The SP101 is a top choice. easy to manage with 38 spl loads for learning and practice, and plenty of stopping power in .357 magnum. Great home defense gun, and fun to shoot too.

    June 15, 2021 3:04 pm
  • Christopher Bonnett

    The 686 is a solid choice. I have a 586 because I like the blued finish. Also, a Model 60 and 642 for carry. Some shy away at the S&W price, but understand that you can pay $300 less for a "clone" but you may find yourself seeing a gun smith to "finish" fitting the gun. In the end, you save nothing and have a lower valued handgun. With Revolvers, you do get what you pay for. Think of the Smith as an investment - something you can pass down. I sadly saw a Colt collection for sale at a local gun shop. The "kids" didn't want the old man's collection after he dies. So sad.

    December 8, 2019 6:31 am
  • Clifford Bloom

    when I was in my early twenties (about 40 years ago) I went to the local gun store in Lincolnwood Il. because you couldn't buy a gun in Chicago. My momma & uncle had taught me how to shoot when I was about 12 starting with a Remington .22 pump and a Beretta 9mm. The owner of the gun store ran through all of the pertinent questions regarding what was I going to use the gun for, etc. I walked out of the store with a Ruger single 6. I won and love my Colts, Glocks, Springfield, Beretta & S&W's, but living now in rural northern Illinois, my go-to all purpose tool is still the Ruger. It has sat out in the barn through all seasons and doesn't have a hint of rust, unlike some of the blued rifles I keep indoors. It has also proven to be the perfect hand gun with which to teach my grand kids basic safety and how to shoot.

    May 19, 2019 6:32 pm
  • Earp

    Oh, and here I was thinking a revolver one would not have to sell his children to afford might be mentioned.

    January 22, 2019 2:15 am
  • alexander kovaloff

    how do i go about buying one of the revolvers reviewed???

    April 26, 2018 6:30 pm
  • alexander kovaloff

    how do I go about buying one of the revolvers reviewed???
    alex

    April 26, 2018 6:29 pm
    • Daniel

      There's a link provided to most of the guns in this article

      April 17, 2019 6:58 pm
    • Ed

      Step one....go to the gun store. Step two....buy the gun. Step three....walk out of the gun store.

      September 9, 2019 5:24 am
      • Solrac

        Simple and to the point, can't go wrong. I found an SP101 in a 3" for my carry, truly an excellent gun.

        May 25, 2021 8:20 pm
  • Pandaz3

    I have most mentioned including the Taurus 605 my LCR is a 327 Federal Magnum, a six shooter. The Blackhawk is my oldest personally. I have 22 LR and 22 Magnums including a seven shot J Frame.. I have 9MM, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP revolvers. A S&W 629 is my only 44. I would like another 327 or two, but I'm set.

    April 24, 2018 11:42 pm
    • LazrBeam

      Yeah, I’m quite fond of .327 Fed Mag. Have Ruger’s LCR, LCRx, and SP101 (SS w/3 in bbl) in that caliber. Not only powerful but versatile.

      June 13, 2019 5:54 pm
      • LazrBeam

        Forgot to mention, they’re all 6 shot.

        June 13, 2019 5:55 pm
        • LazrBeam

          Update: I recently procured a Ruger Single Seven. .327 Fed Mag and seven round cylinder. What’s NOT to love about that?

          August 14, 2020 8:46 pm
  • Jeff

    I really like my Ruger SP-101 in .357 with Wiley Clapp front and rear sights. Small frame but strong revolver with plenty of stopping power in a compact size. Swapped out the OEM grips with a wrap around Hogue grip. Easier on the hand with a fully wrapped rubber grip,

    April 24, 2018 5:36 pm
  • John L

    You've got to get the Chiappa Rhino on this list. It's a perfect choice for beginners and makes practically all other carry/home defense revolvers obsolete.

    April 12, 2018 6:52 am
    • RGP

      "Never give a sucker an even break." - W.C. Fields.

      March 31, 2021 10:10 am