When it comes to revolvers, training can be difficult to find. The revolver is a specific weapon system; and, like the 1911 or the AR15, it requires specific training and certain skills that pertain to that singular type of gun.
Revolvers are the original point-and-click technology, and they date way back to the black-powder days of early repeating firearms.
Samuel Colt submitted a British patent for his revolver in 1835 and an American patent (number 138) on February 25, 1836, for a revolving gun. He then made the first production model on March 5 of that year.
Revolvers might be “old news,” but they have a tremendous amount of redeeming qualities. When I call them the “original point-and-click technology,” I mean it. It’s a revolver. Point and click. If it doesn’t go bang … press again. Revolvers can be fired easily from a variety of positions and locations. Take the hammer off, and they become even more reliable and viable in self-defense situations.
However, the way we run a revolver is very different from how we run a semiautomatic pistol. Much of what we do with our strong hand using a semiautomatic is done with our weak hand using a revolver. Yes—I said “strong” hand and “weak” hand. I am right handed, and I consider my left hand my weak hand. It is the “less strong” of my two hands. (If you are one of those lucky freedom fighters who doesn’t have a “weak” anything … God bless, and carry on.)
As any good trainer should know, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Although I don’t use a traditional-style revolver grip, I am aware of them and know how to accomplish them. There are two “old-school” ways to grip a revolver, and each has its merits.
“… The way we run a revolver is very different from how we run the semiautomatic pistol. Much of what we do with our strong hand using a semiautomatic is done with our weak hand using a revolver.”
“THUMBS CROSSED” GRIP
Exposed hammer or no hammer, thumbs crossed across the backstrap works. If you can’t picture the crossed thumbs grip, let me assist. Think about seeing someone holding a semiauto pistol with his or her thumbs crossed across the back of the reciprocating slide. You know you’ve seen it … and you cringe when it happens. Thumbs crossed has no business on a semiauto.
revolvers try to apply it to a newly purchased semiauto. However, when used with a revolver, there are advantages. Improved recoil management comes with this grip when it is done right.
It also aids by placing the weak-hand thumb in just the right place to cock an exposed hammer spur. The weak-hand thumb can reach forward to slide the hammer to the rear. The thumb slips off the hammer spur and plants firmly on the back of the strong hand for firing. This is a great grip for firing multiple shots in single-action mode.
“THUMBS LOCKED OVER” GRIP
Probably the most popular grip for firing a revolver two handed is thumbs locked over (to the side). Unfortunately, many still use this grip method for firing a semiauto. It’s not the best way to hold a semiauto, but it works.
Not my personal favorite, the thumbs-locked-over grip just doesn’t work well for me. As with anything I don’t like, I don’t practice it; therefore, I likely won’t master it. It places my hands a little lower on the frame, causing recoil management to not be as efficient.
It can be a comfortable grip. It is very popular and is a favorite of my friend, Jerry Miculek—so it can’t be all bad.
A THIRD OPTION: “MODIFIED THUMBS FORWARD” GRIP
The revolver grip for many is very different from how we hold a semiautomatic. And, if it’s a small revolver, it can be even more different.
I tend to grip the revolver the same way I hold a semiautomatic pistol: very much like the popular “high thumbs forward” grip. However, what I do differently is that I don’t run my thumb down along the frame, under and alongside the cylinder. I plant my weak hand thumb directly on, or close to, the rear of the cylinder shroud.
For me—and for many others—this hand position is more natural, because it is very similar to my semiauto grip. It helps me manage recoil better and keeps my thumb away from the escaping gases that bleed off between the chamber and the forcing cone as the bullet leaps into the barrel.
Whether it’s a hammer-fired revolver that fires double/single action, or it’s a shrouded or enclosed hammer, this grip works well.
One issue that crops up with some shooters trying this grip is the cylinder release. The release ends up just about beneath the first joint of your thumb. Some say it’s hard not to put pressure on the release; others never even notice it.
I’ve used this grip on a wide variety of revolvers and found it to work well. There are those who complain that the recoil of the revolver bangs back into the pad of that weak-side thumb.
They say that certain calibers are harder to shoot because of this. I’m no tough guy, and I’m not sure why it doesn’t affect me, but I shoot all calibers, including the Smith & Wesson .500, in this fashion.
The revolver is a great carry gun and defensive tool. Too many people have moved past it for trendy semiautos. With second-strike capability, not a lot of moving parts and modern revolvers chambered in some popular semiauto calibers, they are worth keeping around.
I still own several, and I carry them regularly. Training with them gives me another skill set. With no magazines to go bad, they are low maintenance, and I never worry about them not going bang!
Chris Cerino is a 25-year law enforcement and training professional. He competes in shooting sports to validate his skills. Chris writes on the topic of training and can be seen on a variety of TV shows.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.