The Revolver Won't Die

Aug. 8, 2012
In our most recent poll, officers reveal that more than 1/3 of them still carry a revolver either on duty or off duty. We simply didn't expect those numbers.

In's most recent poll, as of August 6, 2012 at about 10:00 eastern, 37% of the officers who voted revealed that they still carry a revolver.  I have to admit, as the guy who asked the question, I fully expected a different response.  Given the plethora of semi-automatic handgun designs, and how small manufacturers have managed to make significant calibers (9mm on up), I simply didn't think that many officers would still be carrying revolvers.  The numbers say different.

According to the poll results 3% still carry a revolver as their primary sidearm on duty.  That didn't surprise me so much.  When you think about the number of campuses, private agencies, etc. that are either trying to save money by arming their officers with surplus guns, or mistakenly thinking they can reduce liability by restricting their officers to six rounds per load, it's not a surprise that three out of every hundred officers still have a revolver as their duty weapon.

More significantly, 10% report carrying a revolver as their back up gun (BUG) on duty.  That's telling.  I doubt you'd find 10% of law enforcement agencies today carrying revolvers as their primary weapons (as evidenced by that 3% number above), so a good number of officers who are armed primarily with a semi-auto are choosing as revolver as their BUG.  Is it reliability? Concealability? Familiarity?  Perhaps another poll is in order as we try to narrow down the perceived value of a revolver as your BUG.

9% of the responding officers report carrying a revolver as their primary off duty weapon.  I'd be willing to bet that most of those 9% are also the folks who carry a revolver as their BUG on duty.  I admit, I've been tempted to carry a revolver off duty myself at times.  "Back in the day" I certainly did.  In the late '80s I often carried a Smith & Wesson Chief's Special 5-shot .38 both as my BUG and as my off-duty gun.  During that time frame my on duty weapon went from being an S&W 4" .38 to being a Sig Sauer P226 9mm.  Even after being issued the Sig, I continued to carry the Chief's Special on my ankle, mostly because I had the rig and the gun.  During the winter months when I was wearing a parka I carried my Colt Combat Commander in .45ACP in a shoulder rig as my BUG.

Another 15% of officers report carrying a revolver "occassionally" as their off duty weapon.  We all know the reasons why they might choose a revolver occassionally for off duty carry: concealability, less perceived threat, convenience of a holster they have, etc.  Whatever the reason, 15% isn't a number to scoff at.

Now let's think about some of those numbers for a minute.  Fully one in ten officers is using a revolver as their back up gun.  That's significant.  ABOUT one in ten uses a revolver as their primary off duty gun.  That alone makes up 1/5 of the cops on the street.  When you add in the other 18% who are either carrying a revolver as their primary duty weapon or occassionally as their off duty weapon, you get a number more than 1/3 - 37%.

In today's day and age, the message is clear:  the revolver is not dead.  It still has a strong following.  So, that begs the question: What's in your holster?

About the Author

Lt. Frank Borelli (ret), Editorial Director | Editorial Director

Lt. Frank Borelli is the Editorial Director for the Officer Media Group. Frank brings 20+ years of writing and editing experience in addition to 40 years of law enforcement operations, administration and training experience to the team.

Frank has had numerous books published which are available on,, and other major retail outlets.

If you have any comments or questions, you can contact him via email at [email protected].

Sponsored Recommendations

Build Your Real-Time Crime Center

March 19, 2024
A checklist for success

Whitepaper: A New Paradigm in Digital Investigations

July 28, 2023
Modernize your agency’s approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge

A New Paradigm in Digital Investigations

June 6, 2023
Modernize your agency’s approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge.

Listen to Real-Time Emergency 911 Calls in the Field

Feb. 8, 2023
Discover advanced technology that allows officers in the field to listen to emergency calls from their vehicles in real time and immediately identify the precise location of the...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Officer, create an account today!