Semiautomatics command the lion's share of the handgun market these days, but the revolver isn't going away — and for good reason. They're simple to operate, totally reliable and excellent for home defense, concealed carry and hunting. Here are some of the key new revolver introductions sure to appeal to wheelgunners of every stripe.
Ruger GP100 .44 Special — The GP100 platform seems to fly under the radar a little bit, likely because it's beefier than some of its competitors. It may be a little overbuilt, but that makes it rugged and easier to control. And now it's available in .44 Special, a caliber near and dear to my heart. With its 3-inch full-lug barrel, it weighs 36 ounces, and man is it fun to shoot. The sample I put rounds through was superbly accurate, and with comfortable Hogue Monogrips, I could've spent the entire day at the range.
Why It's Cool: As a sensible defensive caliber in a nice-handling revolver, I'm thinking this is going to be my next trail gun. And it would certainly make an excellent home defense or CCW gun for the recoil sensitive, $830.
Smith & Wesson Model 69 Combat Magnum — A couple of years ago, Smith & Wesson brought out its first L-frame revolver chambered in .44 Mag. The Model 69 Combat Magnum made its debut with a 4¼-inch barrel; this year, the company has shortened that to 2¾ inches. The change drops the gun's weight to just a tad over 34 ounces.
Why It's Cool: The .44 Magnum is one of the most versatile handgun chamberings on the planet — able to pump out raw power to defend against heavy-duty threats or drop down to the capable .44 Special for all-around use. All this in a compact and light package, $850.
Magnum Research BFR — The BFR (Big Frame Revolver) is chambered not only for the world's most powerful handgun rounds, it's also available in rifle calibers such as .30-30 Win., .444 Marlin, .45-70 Gov't. and .450 Marlin. New is an upgraded model with a taller, narrower hammer spur and a one-piece, screw-less Hogue rubber grip. Both features should make these bad boys a little more fun to shoot.
Why It's Cool: It's big and powerful. But for hunters, the BFR also adds the unique capability of carrying a revolver and rifle chambered for the same cartridge you might be using for deer, bear or wild boar, $1,185.
Smith & Wesson 3-5-7 Series — S&W is selling this as a "collector must-have," but it seems more like a "shooter must-have" to me. What you get is an all-stainless Model 686 Plus Deluxe in, surprise, .357 Mag. Special features include an unfluted cylinder and custom black/silver wood grips engraved with "357." Sights are an adjustable rear with white outline and red ramp front. The series is available in 3-, 5- and 7-inch barrel lengths.
Why It's Cool: The collector aspect aside, this is a serious do-it-all revolver. The 3-inch would make a fine carry gun, the 5-inch should be both fun to shoot and a great defensive tool, and the 7-incher would make a good hunting gun or simply a piece to show off at the range, $900.
Colt Cobra — Colt initially produced the Cobra, a snub-nose double-action revolver, from 1950 to 1981. Now it's back and better than ever. The current iteration features the same six-shot capacity and is .38 +P capable. The gun also sports a fiber-optic front sight that is user swappable for tritium or other options. I haven't shot it yet, but I did get to dry-fire it at a recent trade show, and I was impressed with the smooth double-action trigger pull.
Why It's Cool: It's a Colt, for one thing. But I think the big selling point is the Cobra's six-shot capacity. Most snubbies hold only five rounds, and that extra shot could come in handy in a defensive situation, $700.
Ruger Redhawk — For years, the Redhawk was the quintessential big revolver. But in recent years, Ruger recognized that many folks, especially those who spend a lot of time outdoors, wanted to pack a lot of power in a smaller gun. New this year is a .357 Mag. with a stubby 2¾-inch barrel and eight-round cylinder. It's a gun you can carry comfortably all day in the backcountry and have plenty of defensive capability against two-legged and all but the largest four-legged critters.
Why It's Cool: The Redhawk has always been one of the best-looking revolvers around, and this one puts a whopping eight-round capacity in your hands — with the versatility of firing full-power .357, .38 +P or .38 Special ammo, $1,080.
Uberti Short Stroke SASS Pro — Duffers like me take their sweet ol' time when shooting single-action revolvers, but for competitors in Single Action Shooting Society matches, every second counts. The new Short Stroke SASS Pros — available in .45 Colt and .357 Mag. in both 4¾- and 5½-inch barrels — have short stroke hammers with 20 percent less travel than a typical SAA-style revolver. The hammer spur is extra wide and has a low profile for an uninterrupted view of the sight picture. A custom-grade mainspring provides a smooth trigger pull.
Why It's Cool: If you're serious about competition, you owe it to yourself to have the best equipment you can afford — gear that's going to give you every legal advantage so all you have to concentrate on is the shooting itself. Take a hard look at this SASS Pro, $720.
Kimber K6s — For 2017, the company has expanded its lineup of six-shot .357 Mag. revolvers. They're all double-action-only (DAO) with 2-inch barrels, and Kimber claims they're the lightest of their kind — and it's hard to argue with that when they weigh 23 ounces empty. Basically, they differ in the type of sights — fiber-optic or tritium night sights or Crimson Trace Lasergrips. The sexiest of the bunch, the Deluxe Carry Revolver (DCR), sports checkered Millenium (sic, per Kimber's website) rosewood grips.
Why It's Cool: Six shots of .357 Mag. in a gun this light? Sign me up. While the DCR is the belle of the ball in terms of looks, and the LG model boasts a laser, I'll bet the two rubber-grip models are more pleasant to shoot with full-power loads, $920.