5 Best Revolver in 2021 Reviews | Top-Notch Single and Double Action Guns That Will Meet Your Defense Needs

The market is flooded with numerous revolvers, so it's understandable if you feel a bit overwhelmed trying to pick out one to defend yourself. The best revolvers for self-defense are typically going to be your double-action variety.

That in itself helps us weed through some of the many available options so that we can start narrowing down the best revolvers for self-defense. However, we still have to determine which type of double-action is best suited for your needs.

There's more than one? Indeed, there is. Let's take a moment to compare them so you can see which one you prefer.

Top 3 Revolvers

1. [Overall Best 9mm Pistol]
Smith & Wesson 642 .38 Special

best one

Editor's Rating 

5/5

2. [Best for the Money]
Colt King Cobra Target .357 Magnum 

cobra king

Editor's Rating 

4.9/5

3. [Best for the Single-Action]
Ruger Wrangler .22 LR

ruger revolver

Editor's Rating 

4.8/5

What Is the Best Revolver for Personal or Home Defense?

So, what are the best revolver options for protecting yourself? Fortunately, you have a good selection to choose from, as there are quite a few revolvers that meet the requirements one would want for personal or home defense.

If you're like most people, you don't have time to sift through the seemingly countless number of options available. That's where I come in. I've researched and reviewed more revolvers can I care to admit, narrowing down what I feel are the best of the best for home defense.

Let's get started!

Top 5 Best Revolver Reviews

[Best Revolver Overall]

 1. Smith & Wesson 642 .38 Special

Protection Perfection?

If you prefer your pistols to be lightweight and versatile, Smith & Wesson's 642 .38 Special will knock your socks off. Weighing in at 15 ounces (empty), the 642 38 Special is a dream to carry.

 It's perfection as a concealed carry weapon and will serve you well in home defense.

best one

If you have never owned a handgun, the 642 38 Special makes an excellent first revolver. It sports a 5-round capacity and boasts an integral front sight and fixed rear sight.

Thanks to Smith & Wesson's proprietary J-Frame, you can look forward to owning a compact but robust little revolver. Since its inception, the J-Frame quickly rose in the ranks of consumers looking for home defense revolvers, thanks to its feathery aluminum alloy construction and high durability.

Smith & Wesson 642 .38 Special Technical Specifications: 

Caliber

.38 S&W Special +P

Action

Single/Double Action 

Capacity

5 Rounds

Barrel Length

1.875 inches

Overall Length

6.31 inches

Weight

15 ounces

Shooting & Accuracy

Firing the 642 38 Special felt great. Unloading its five rounds in single-action and double-action provides one of the best shooting experiences I've had from a compact revolver in a long time. I have to say, its five-shot capacity is ideal for self-defense. And because the 642 38 Special has such a lightweight frame, it's incredibly comfortable to handle.

To ensure that this pistol was ideal for concealed carry, Smith & Wesson opted to give the 642 38 Special an enclosed hammer. Moreover, the 1.875-inch barrel is snubby and comes to a quick halt, making it perfect for hiding away on your person. It's easily one of the shortest barrel lengths I've used.

These features are what you want to see on a concealed revolver. However, they do end up affecting the accuracy of the 642 38 Special. Still, one has to consider that concealed revolvers used for personal defense probably aren't going to require you to shoot targets at great distances. And if there is considerable distance between you and your intruder/attacker, you can always switch to single-action.

best grip

Grip

With that in mind, is it the best revolver ever made? Well, not quite. Those with larger hands might have some trouble getting acclimated to the gun's smaller size and shape. Granted, it's certainly the kind of revolver you want for a concealed carry. And people with small to medium hands will feel right at home.

But if your hands are any bigger, there's a possibility that you might even dislike the 642 38 Special. With any firearm, you want to feel comfortable shooting your weapon. If not, it could affect your accuracy, efficiency, or even safety.

The recoil isn't terrible or anything, but you'll definitely want to keep a firm grasp on this revolver when firing. Again, if you have big mitts, it will probably take you some time to get used to secure a tight grip.

And then there's the trigger. Being one of the more compact revolvers available, the 642 38 Special has a very abbreviated distance between the grip and trigger. Once again, this can become a cumbersome experience for anyone with large hands.

Outside of these potential issues, however, Smith & Wesson has delivered a winner. The 642 38 Special is one of the first handguns I've fired of such a compact size. And although it took me some getting used to (I have relatively big hands), I'm happy to report that my experience was overall enjoyable. Once I was comfortable with it, I had a blast with this little five-shot.

Pros

  • Great carry gun
  • It is easy to conceal
  • It sports a 5-round capacity
  • It boasts an integral front sight and fixed rear sight

Cons

  • The recoil isn't terrible or anything, but you'll definitely want to keep a firm grasp on this revolver when firing

[Best for the Money]

 2. Colt King Cobra Target .357 Magnum

A Sizeable Upgrade

The Colt King Cobra Target might be the perfect handgun for you if you like your revolvers to come with a bit more gun. The 4.25-inch barrel is certainly an upgrade over the previous entry, although you'd be forgiven for initially thinking it could be longer.

cobra king

However, once you get your hands on this 357 Magnum, you'll quickly understand why Colt went this route. Without a ~4-inch barrel, the King Cobra Target would be terribly unbalanced and would cause accuracy to be an ongoing battle. At 4 inches, this gun's length is right where you want it.

The King Cobra Target's frame is made of beautiful stainless steel. Coupled with the Altamont wood grip, the two materials look simply stunning together. But more importantly, not only is it an attractive 357 Magnum, but it's also a comfortable one.

Colt King Cobra Target .357 Magnum5 Technical Specifications: 

Caliber

.357 Magnum

Action

Double Action

Capacity

6 Rounds

Barrel Length

4.25 inches

Overall Length

9.25 inches

Weight

36 ounces

Colt on the Range

If you're interested in revolvers that you can use for home defense and leisurely shooting, Colt's King Cobra Target certainly fits the bill. In single-action mode, accuracy is top-notch. With the assistance of a fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear sight, I was very happy with the results at 25 yards.

Although I don't believe it has the precision to work in a competitive capacity, it's certainly more than capable of stopping incoming threats. Or, in a less serious scenario, the King Cobra Target will serve you well plinking in your back yard or nosing around in the woods.

The single-action mode requires 3 pounds of pressure, while double-action requires 8.5. Both are perfectly acceptable and shouldn't pose a challenge to anyone who has been handling firearms for any length of time.

range

A Classic Companion

The Colt King Cobra Target features a six-round capacity, which is just fine for protecting yourself from baddies. As far as carrying it on your person, just know that it's got some weight to it. In fact, it's more than double that of Smith & Wesson's 642.

And with an overall length going on 10 inches, I'm not sure it's something most people will want to carry in a holster. That said, it can certainly be done, so it's really up to you what you want to do with it. Concealed carry aside, I believe the King Cobra Target is a fantastic companion for defending your home.

It's a classic six-shooter from one of the most recognizable gun manufacturers in the world. What's not to like? If I had to pick something, it'd definitely be the price. Yes, this is an expensive revolver. But considering its stellar craftsmanship and powerful 357 Magnum caliber, the King Cobra Target is also one of the more reliable revolvers available for home defense.

So, yeah, it's pricey. But when it comes to protecting your family, no price tag is too high.

Pros

  • It features a six-round capacity
  • Great for home defense and leisurely shooting
  • Frame is made of beautiful stainless steel
  • The Colt King Cobra Target might be the perfect handgun for you if you like your revolvers to come with a bit more gun

Cons

  • As far as carrying it on your person, just know that it's got some weight to it

[Best for the Single-Action]

 3. Ruger Wrangler .22 LR

A Worthy Exception

Yes, this is a single-action revolver. I know what you're thinking; "But I thought you said double-action revolvers were best for self-defense." I did say that, but there are exceptions to the rule, and the Ruger Wrangler is one of them.

ruger revolver

I included this Ruger for a few reasons. First of all, the price is bonkers considering what a gun you're getting. The Wrangler is a budget-friendly revolver that fires 22 LR (Long Rifle) cartridges; the perfect embodiment of "more bang for your buck."

As far as barrel lengths go, I'm quite fond of the route Ruger went here. The barrel measures 4.62 inches, giving the gun incredible balance while adding to its comfort. Overall the Wrangler is a masterpiece, with impressive build quality and a sleek finish.

Ruger Wrangler .22 LR5 Technical Specifications: 

Caliber

.22 LR

Action

Single Action

Capacity

6 Rounds

Barrel Length

4.62 inches

Overall Length

10.25 inches

Weight

30 ounces

This Ruger model is the Dark Desert Earth version, which looks absolutely stunning in person. You're still getting the same high quality you've come to expect from Ruger but with a wicked-looking frame that stands out from the standard fare.

It's also worth pointing out that this looks like a gun that should carry a much higher price tag. I should add, too, that the Wrangler feels more expensive than it actually is. Of course, all the pomp and circumstance in the world doesn't mean a thing if the gun doesn't perform well.

But as you've likely already discerned from this Ruger being placed on a best-of list, the Wrangler is one of the better pistols to consider for personal defense.

revolver

Single-Action Shooting

Another reason I included this 22 LR Ruger is that there's no manual safety. As such, it's easier to fire if you're in a situation that calls for you to quickly unload your ammunition. Being a classic six-shooter, you get six cartridges to defend yourself.

Whereas other guns might compel you to fire more than shot, just one of the 22 LR ammunition should do the trick. Although you won't find any adjustable sights, this revolver is remarkably accurate the way it is. The fixed front sight works well in conjunction with the rear top strap notch, giving you a quick and dirty - but highly effective - viewfinder to line up your target.

As I've already covered, the Ruger Wrangler is one of the more affordable revolvers you can buy. And you're getting a lot for such a low price. As such, you might not want to pass up this gun. Even if you've already got a respectable arsenal, it wouldn't hurt if you added this six-shooter to it.

And as a brief aside, if you'd rather have more power than what the Wrangler provides, Ruger has a significant upgrade in the Blackhawk. While both revolvers are near clones of each other, the Blackhawk offers the most power you can get from a revolver.

For more information on this mighty pistol, jump down to the final entry. There, you will find out why it's the most powerful revolver on the market.

Pros

  • There's no manual safety
  • You get six cartridges to defend yourself
  • The Wrangler is one of the better pistols to consider for personal defense
  • The barrel measures 4.62 inches, giving the gun incredible balance while adding to its comfort

Cons

  • You won't find any adjustable sights

Which Is the Most Powerful Revolver?

When it comes to sheer power, the Ruger Blackhawk is your best bet. Featuring 41 Remington Magnum cartridges, there aren't many living things that could walk away after getting hit with one of these. As such, it's certainly in the running as a personal defense weapon.

Small revolver

Enter: The S333 Thunderstruck. Armed with eight rounds of .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, you've already got a likely advantage over what most intruders carry. But it doesn't end there. The aptly-named Thunderstruck fires not one, but two rounds of ammunition with a single trigger pull.

As such, you can fire a total of eight rounds with just four squeezes of the trigger. Of course, if an attacker has breached your home and forced you to shoot at them, it's unlikely that you'll need more than one trigger pull. But just in case you do, you've got six more rounds waiting in the wings.

Standard MFG S333 Thunderstruck Technical Specifications: 

Caliber

.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire

Action

Double Action

Capacity

8 Rounds

Barrel Length

1.5 inches

Overall Length

5 inches

Weight

18 ounces

The Thunderstruck is a unique handgun that is all business. It sports an unusual design, but don't let that deter you from having a look. Because it is so powerful, modifications had to be made to the traditional revolver setup.

Deceptively Compact

Impressively, Standard Mfg. Co. was able to maintain a small and lightweight body throughout, giving you a robust but compact gun that is near-perfect for concealed carry. It still has less than a 6-inch length when holstered, not to mention its feathery-light weight.

You would think a gun that fires two rounds simultaneously would be rather hefty. But at only 18 ounces, that's not the case at all. The lightweight frame is all thanks to Standard Mfg. using 7075 Aircraft-Grade Aluminum. It's light, versatile, and incredibly durable.

This material plays a big role in shooting and handling, as well, ensuring that you have complete control over your revolver if you need to use it.

22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire

There was a time when the 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire was the most powerful round of its kind. Although it's since been surpassed by the .17 Winchester Super Magnum, the 22 can still hold its own quite handily. And when effectively double up, you're looking at a serious contender for self-defense.

In execution, the Thunderstruck is definitely a gun that takes some getting used to. The trigger pull requires two fingers instead of one, which is sure to prove to challenge for newcomers. And then there's the weight of the trigger.

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Pull & Recoil

You need to provide around 25 pounds of pressure to fire this revolver. If I had to guess, I would have thought it was at least double that. As such, the Thunderstruck isn't a good fit for first-time gun owners. Even veteran shooters are likely to have a hard time at first.

There is also considerable recoil to overcome, which isn't for the faint of heart. Again, not ideal for beginners. This, of course, is to be expected considering the double 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire rounds it shoots.

I've fired my share of revolvers in my time, but none took quite as long as the Thunderstruck to acclimate myself to. It's an exercise in patience and practice, to be sure. But once you finally do get the hang of what this revolver requires of you, the Thunderstruck is an effective handgun that you can count on to protect yourself and those you love.

Worth the Investment?

Quality components were used throughout this revolver. The barrel and cylinder are both made of high-strength steel, and the 7075 aluminum frame sports an anodized black finish for added strength and protection. In short, you're definitely getting your money's worth here.

Aside from the double-barrel design, the price is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this gun. The Thunderstruck almost seems as if it's underpriced, boasting a budget-friendly ticket while delivering a heck of a lot.

Bottom line; if you're serious about protecting your home and are willing to overcome the difficulties that this gun presents, the Thunderstruck will make a reliable addition to your arsenal.

Pros

  • The Thunderstruck almost seems as if it's underpriced
  •  The barrel and cylinder are both made of high-strength steel
  • The 7075 aluminum frame sports an anodized black finish for added strength and protection
  • Thunderstruck fires not one, but two rounds of ammunition with a single trigger pull

Cons

  • You need to provide around 25 pounds of pressure to fire this revolver

Which Is the Most Powerful Revolver?

When it comes to sheer power, the Ruger Blackhawk is your best bet. Featuring 41 Remington Magnum cartridges, there aren't many living things that could walk away after getting hit with one of these. As such, it's certainly in the running as a personal defense weapon.

ruger revolver

Familiar But Different

I wrestled with where to place the Ruger Blackhawk among the above reviews. But I ultimately decided to place it last. Why? Because I already had the Ruger Wrangler and didn't want two revolvers that were so similar to each other. Granted, the Ruger Blackhawk is leaps and bounds more powerful compared to the Wrangler. But outside of that, they are very much alike.

So essentially, if you're a Ruger fan who is more concerned about power than anything else, get the Blackhawk instead of the Wrangler. As far as lengths and weight, both are virtually identical. The only real difference is that the Blackhawk weighs 8 ounces more than the Wrangler.

Ruger Blackhawk Technical Specifications: 

Caliber

41 Remington Magnum

Action

Single Action

Capacity

6 Rounds

Barrel Length

4.62 inches

Overall Length

10.25 inches

Weight

38 ounces

Six cartridges of Magnum loads into the cylinder, and the front sight is fixed. The rear sight is of the variety of the adjustable sights, however, allowing for precision shooting at greater distances than that of the Blackhawk's Wrangler counterpart.

Crazy Powerful

Being a 41 Remington Magnum, the Ruger Blackhawk delivers incredible firepower. For a revolver - or any handgun - this is most impressive. As such, you're getting greater versatility over many of the other revolvers included in this review.

good black revolver

How so? Well, not only can you use it as an effective personal home defense gun, but you can take it hunting, as well. Its accuracy is some of the best I've seen a revolver, making it ideal for taking down games of all shapes and sizes.

The Blackhawk is still a single-action revolver, just like the Wrangler. As such, you're going to need to consider the minor delay these types of revolvers have compared to the double-action trigger variety.

Price-wise, the Blackhawk is very reasonably priced when you factor in the astounding firepower you get with the gun. It's still quite a bit more than the Wrangler, though, so think over what you want from a pistol before you make an investment.

Pros

  • When it comes to sheer power, the Ruger Blackhawk is your best bet
  • Six cartridges of Magnum loads into the cylinder, and the front sight is fixed
  • The Ruger Blackhawk delivers incredible firepower
  •  Not only can you use it as an effective personal home defense gun, but you can take it hunting

Cons

  • You're going to need to consider the minor delay these types of revolvers have compared to the double-action trigger variety

Double Action

The reliable double-action revolver comes in two basic types. The first is standard double-action, while the second is double-action-only. Both double-action varieties function much in the same way.

You pull the trigger, it cocks the hammer, drops it, and fires the gun. Therefore, every time you pull the trigger on a double-action, the hammer performs two actions, hence the name, "double-action." Furthermore, the majority of double-action revolvers you see come with an exposed hammer and can be fired in single-action mode.

And thanks to single-action shooting, you can improve your accuracy at longer ranges. Since the gun is already cocked, there is less movement when you pull the trigger. Thus, you have a better chance of hitting your target with a single-action revolver compared to that of a double-action model.

single vs double

Weight, What?

The weight of the trigger pull plays a big role in your ability to shoot comfortably and accurately. If you're looking for a smooth double-action trigger, its pull is going to be somewhere between 9 and 15 pounds.

If you prefer a crisper shooting experience, a single-action trigger between 3 and 6 pounds will serve you nicely. With that said, it's important to note that single-action is not ideal for self-defense. Why? Because you have you manually cock the hammer before you can fire.

With a double-action revolver, both actions are handled for you. As such, you're getting a much more efficient shooting experience, which is preferable for home defense.

Is a Glock Better Than a Revolver?

This is an age-old question that continues to be asked by gun owners everywhere, so I figured I'd address it here. Is a Glock better than a revolver? Well, it really comes down to what you want from a gun.

Some gun owners understandably want a pistol that offers reliability over convenience. And then there are others who want the latest and greatest in technological advancements, which is what you typically find among Glocks.

It's true that a semi-automatic Glock - or any semi-automatic handgun, for that matter - has advantages over revolvers. For starters, you can carry a lot more ammunition with a semi-automatic than you can in a revolver.

And on average, you can fire rounds faster with a semi-auto. I say "on average" because there are undoubtedly skilled shooters out there who can fire revolvers faster than you and I can possibly imagine.

Proficiency Matters

That said, most semi-automatic handguns are going to outclass revolvers due to their advancements in build-quality and technology. Now, no matter how advanced a handgun is, it can't make up for bad shooting. If someone isn't proficient with a gun, there's nothing that will make them better other than practice and training.

So, is a semi-automatic pistol better than a revolver? I guess it depends on what you define as "better." Most gun owners are in agreement that revolvers are more reliable than semi-auto handguns. This is because a revolver is far less likely to jam compared to a Glock or other semi-automatic pistol.

What's more, revolvers have a lot less technical components and mechanisms internally and externally. Not only that, revolvers are typically made with stronger materials, such as stainless steel. The end result is a pistol that is likely to outlast a semi-auto any day of the week.

super old revolver

Bottom Line

If you're all about reliability, a revolver isn't likely to let you down. Sure, you're not going to get the conveniences of a semi-auto. But you can pretty well guarantee that your revolver will last a lifetime with the right care.

What's more, revolvers offer greater simplicity compared to Glocks and other semi-auto handguns. With fewer possible components to break or malfunction, you are far less likely to experience issues with a revolver, as long as you keep up with regular maintenance and cleaning.

For many gun owners, guaranteed longevity is more valuable than fancy optics and convenient features.