Top 8 Revolvers 2014 Combat Handguns
Top 8 Revolvers From COMBAT HANDGUNS in 2014

While semi-auto pistols may get all the attention these days, the tried-and-true revolver still has a lot going for it—and a lot of life left in it if all the new versions being offered today are any indication. Read on to see a selection of some of the newest and most exciting wheelguns available on the market today.

From compact, polymer-framed models to full-sized, all-steel behemoths that deliver magnum power, there is likely a revolver out there that is just right for you. Take a look and see what fits best!



By William Bell

Sporting the usual stainless steel construction and laminated-wood grip panels, the Sidewinder stands out as being easy and fast to load and reload. Unlike 99 percent of modern revolvers, the Sidewinder’s cylinder swings out on its crane to the right, instead of the left. Cylinder release is accomplished by pulling forward on the cylinder pin/ejector rod, which has a knurled end, and then pushing the cylinder out to the right. The hammer must be cocked to the first click, and a housing on the bottom of the barrel holds the rod in place.

Two locking points are located on the barrel below the muzzle and at the rear of the cylinder, respectively. The cylinder can be safely loaded with five cartridges, as slots are machined into the outside rear of the cylinder as a rest for the firing pin, which is integral to the hammer nose. There are also windows at the back of the counter-bored cylinder chambers, which provide visual indication of whether or not the gun is loaded.

NAA mini-revolvers are single-action guns. You have to manually cock the hammer, which rotates and locks the cylinder into place for firing. As you draw the hammer back, you can hear three distinct clicks. The first notch is for loading/unloading and allows the fluted cylinder to be swung out—it is not a safety notch. There is a second click and then a third as the hammer reaches the full-cock position. The trigger is of the spur variety and does not have a guard; a downward projection of the frame offers minimal protection. This gun harkens back to the 19th-century vest-pocket pistols often seen in Westerns.

The rounded backstrap of the grip frame is dubbed a “bird’s head” for obvious reasons. Atop the 1-inch barrel is a built-in rib, into which is affixed a post front sight. A cut in the rear of the topstrap allows you to see the hammer nose and acts as a rudimentary rear sight. The quality of manufacture and fit and finish are top notch. The flat sides of the frame and the cylinder are polished smooth without being glossy, while the cylinder flutes, barrel, top, bottom and grip frame have a matte finish. Markings and stampings are kept to a tasteful minimum. The tips of the hammer and trigger are serrated for a good purchase with finger and thumb, and the grip frame is long enough to curl two fingers around for good control while firing. The laminated wood grips are smooth and taper upward, allowing for a good hold without a lot of bulk. The handgun has an empty weight of 6.7 ounces and an overall length of just 5 inches. An easy-to-install cylinder in .22 LR is optional, making for economical practice shooting.

Read the full review in the March 2014 issue of COMBAT HANDGUNS, available in print or digital editions. To subscribe, go to

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By Denis Prisbrey

The aptly named Ruger GP100 Match Champion is intended primarily (but not exclusively) as a ready-to-go Ruger for International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) competition. For those not familiar, IDPA competition is based more on “practical” equipment than expensive and exotic race gun hardware, and competitors use production guns reflective of what you might actually carry and use in everyday life.

Besides being more realistic in developing and testing defensive problem-solving skills, IDPA is also much less expensive to participate in. If you have a carry gun, a holster and speedloaders or spare mags to reload with, you’re in. That is, as long as your gun meets the rules and hasn’t been too exoticized. No need to spend a couple grand on a tricked-out gun that’s only good for competition. Aside from realism and affordability, one other important benefit of IDPA events is that you can hone your skills with the same gun that will be there for you should you ever need to use it.

While the GP100 Match Champion’s brushed stainless finish is nothing new, many of its other features are. Up top are Novak sights. The rear sits in a solid, flat-topped frame with no longitudinal milled cuts for either the fixed-sight model’s groove or the adjustable-sighted model’s sight base recess. The black Novak unit is positioned in a dovetail for windage adjustments and uses a hex-head screw to retain it in place. This frame’s topstrap is unique to the model, with a lowered section just behind the sight to allow it to ride low enough to line up with a relatively tall, green, fiber-optic front blade. There’s no way to adjust for elevation.

Ruger says the gun is factory-set for 158-grain .357 Magnum loads, and the sight combo was chosen for quick visibility. While there are those who dislike fiber optics, this is one of the better ones on the market, with a very well-protected light pipe nowhere near as vulnerable to hard knocks as more exposed types.

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By David Bahde

Introduced in 2010, the LCR was an immediate hit. By using a polymer trigger housing and monolithic receiver, it provided an incredibly lightweight revolver chambered in calibers ranging from .22 LR to .357 Magnum. The use of Hogue Tamer grips tamed recoil, and the patented friction-reducing cam meant a pretty decent trigger pull. Less about trigger weight, it reduced “stacking,” or an increased trigger weight as you move through the pull. The stainless steel barrel sleeve is housed in an alloy along with most of the receiver. It made for a stiffer frame, increasing reliability. While flex may work in some semi-automatics, it is never a really good thing in a revolver, and Ruger’s combination of materials made for a solid performer. Designed as a pocket revolver, the hammer was completely covered and inaccessible to the shooter. Well suited to carry in a purse, pocket or even a jacket, it kept a segment of the revolver market out of the equation. The LCRx takes care of that.

The LCRx retains all of the proven features of the LCR, including its polymer, aluminum and steel construction. The trigger is the same, as are the sights. Introduced this year in .38 Special +P, it is currently available with standard sights. Laser-equipped models are sure to follow. Most importantly, it provides an option for those still requiring an exposed hammer in a proven platform.

Given the availability of an exposed hammer, the LCRx was tested for accuracy in both double action and single action. As one might expect, SA provided a bit better accuracy. In every case, however, the accuracy was better. Hornady’s 110-grain FTX turned in the best group at 15 yards at 2.5 inches. It was actually pretty comfortable to shoot on the whole and seems well suited to self-defense, making it a solid ammunition choice. For the most part, the LCRx was a 3-inch gun for me at 15 yards and in. The bladed sight was easy to pick up and provided aiming that is as good as it gets with a compact revolver. Where the SA really shined was at 7 yards when taking one precise shot on a “hostage rescue” target. Lets be clear, a 2-inch revolver isn’t a primary gun. But if that’s what you have and the shot is needed, well, you fight with what you brought.

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By Dr. Martin D. Topper

When the SSR arrived at the Florida Gun Exchange, everyone who looked at it and picked it up was impressed by its good looks. The custom 4-inch barrel is a real eye-catcher, and so are the wood grips. They also liked the gun’s grip-heavy balance. This makes the SSR quick to bring on target when drawn from a holster, and it also makes it swing with little effort. A smooth, effortless swing is important when engaging multiple targets. There were no obvious defects in workmanship on the exterior of the SSR, so I took it home and gave it a detailed bench examination.

A close examination for tool marks and conformity indicated that all surfaces were thoroughly finished, markings were crisp and evenly impressed, and there were no uneven lines or sharp edges. Chambers were evenly chamfered, the bolt notches were square, and facets on the extractor were properly conformed and clean-edged. In addition, the alignment of the cylinder crane was straight, with no gap between the crane and frame, and the bore was bright with clean-cut rifling.

The cylinder/barrel gap measured 0.006 inches on all chambers. Given the gun’s good fit and finish, it was no surprise that it functioned well. Timing was dead-on, and the bolt locked on all chambers well before the hammer was at full-cock. The double-action (DA) and single-action (SA) trigger pulls were very smooth. There was no increase in effort (i.e., stacking) as the trigger was pulled to the rear. The DA trigger pull was consistently 10 pounds to 10.5 pounds, and SA pull was 3.5 pounds to 4 pounds. The sear broke cleanly with about 0.125 inches of overtravel. The action was very good for a stock revolver, and at least some of this fine performance can be attributed to the use of a bossed mainspring.

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By Paul Scarlata

The Model 929 revolver is a product of S&W’s renowned Performance Center. S&W is well known for its Performance Center line of pistols and revolvers. These are carefully assembled from the finest components, using all of the traditional skills of the custom gunsmith. The results are handguns that are not only unique, but also eminently shootable and capable of extreme accuracy.

The Model 929 is an all-stainless-steel N-Frame revolver designed from the ground up for action pistol competition—Bianchi Cup, U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA)/ International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE) and Steel Challenge—and comes with all the “bells and whistles” demanded by today’s serious revolver shooters.

First of all, it features a super strong, but very lightweight, titanium cylinder that holds eight rounds of 9mm ammunition and is cut for full moon clips for super-fast loading, unloading and reloading.

The 6.5-inch barrel has a full-length, tapered underlug to mollify the effects of recoil while a muzzle-mounted compensator reduces muzzle flip. If you don’t wish to use the compensator, or if you’re competing in a division that doesn’t allow it, it can be removed and replaced with a false muzzle in a matter of minutes.

A titanium cylinder is used for added strength and to reduce weight. In addition, the cylinder’s darker finish contrasts nicely with the bead-blasted stainless finish of the frame and barrel. The rear face of the cylinder and ejector have been cut to accept full moon clips while the chamber mouths have been slightly beveled to smooth out reloads.

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By Michael Humphries

At their core, the M&P Bodyguards represent a melding of the traditional and the ultra-modern. Those who have carried or shot an S&W J-Frame snubbie will recognize the familiar general outline of the M&P Bodyguard 38 almost immediately. However, a closer look reveals more.

The five-shot, concealed-hammer, +P rated Bodyguard 38 in .38 Special employs radically different materials and manufacturing techniques than its J-Frame siblings. Most notable in the design is the use of a stainless-steel-reinforced polymer “lower frame assembly” made up of the grip frame and triggerguard. This assembly offers the dual benefits of lighter weight and overall lower cost.

The lower frame interfaces with an aluminum “upper frame,” which houses the fire control parts as well as surrounds the stainless steel, PVD-coated, five-shot cylinder. A barrel/ejector rod shroud is integrated into this frame as well, with a stainless steel 1.9-inch barrel insert that fits inside of it. All these lightweight materials result in an overall empty weight of just over 14 ounces.

In addition to different materials, the M&P Bodyguard 38 also features different operation. Most notably, the revolver’s polymer cylinder-release lever is ambidextrous and located on the upper backstrap of the revolver, requiring a simple push forward to release the cylinder out of the left side of the frame. Just to the right of this is the polymer Crimson Trace laser module (which is removable), housing the integrated red laser. A small button on the top of the module controls the unit, with one push turning the laser on, a second push putting it on “pulse” mode and a third push turning it off.

Also of note on the Bodyguard 38 is the fact that the cylinder rotates clockwise, rather than counter-clockwise like its contemporary S&W brethren. Sights on the revolver are made of a ramped front sight and a simple channel groove in the topstrap. An evenly applied black finish mates up with the matte-black polymer, resulting in a very low-key and concealable gun.

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By Dr. Martin D. Topper

There are several small, lightweight .22 revolvers that hold eight shots. Some of the most popular are S&W’s Model 317, Ruger’s LCR and the Taurus Model 94 Ultra-Lite. Any of these would meet the criteria for a personal-defense .22, but I like the S&W J-Frame Model 317 for a number of reasons. At 10.8 ounces, it’s the lightest eight-shot .22 snubnose revolver. In addition, gunsmiths are very familiar with the J-Frame action, and most find it easy to do a trigger job on it. Finally, the J-Frame model is supported by a large number of holsters and aftermarket accessories.

The Model 317 used for this article has a 14-pound Wolff rebound slide spring installed, which gives it a smooth, 10-pound double-action pull. It’s also been modified by painting the serrated rear surface of the front sight with orange Bright Sights paint. The final modification is a Crimson Trace LG-305 Lasergrip. It promotes fast, accurate shooting in low light. The grip’s red laser matches the color of the paint on the front sight. Because of this, the color of the aiming point is the same, day or night.

The SSR was fired for accuracy and velocity at the Volusia County Gun & Hunt Club. Tactical drills were run at the Volusia Club, and the SSR was also used to fire the Army L Course at the Flagler Gun & Archery Club during a weekly “Bullseye” match.

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By Paul Scarlata

Taurus accomplished this visual and educational feat by replacing the metal sideplate on the right side of the frame with one made from clear Lexan. Intended from the very beginning to be the most concealable and portable .38 revolver on the market, Taurus’ engineers reduced the View’s size and weight in every conceivable manner. First of all, they used a lightweight alloy frame, an attenuated grip frame and polymer grips. Reduction of mass was accomplished further by the use of a titanium cylinder and barrel.

The barrel, which has a rifled, stainless steel liner, measures a mere 1.41 inches in length, which I believe is the shortest of any current production .38 Special snubbie. And do you see that little thing sticking out under the barrel? That’s the ejector rod—a very short ejector rod. Pushing on it partially extracts spent cases from the cylinder, after which they must be pulled out manually. While some might see this as a shortcoming, it should be remembered that the concept of the Taurus 85 View is that of a small handgun that will only be used at very close range in the most desperate situations. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be performing any speed reloads with it.

Thanks to its small size and alloy and titanium construction, the Taurus View has an unloaded weight of around 9 ounces, making it one of the lightest centerfire handguns on the market today.

The View is based upon Taurus’ tried-and-true Model 85, a solid frame design in which the cylinder is locked into the frame at two points. First, a spring-loaded center pin passes through and projects out the rear of the ejector rod, and when the cylinder is closed, the pin enters a recess in the recoil plate to hold the cylinder in place. In addition, a spring-loaded stud on top of the cylinder crane engages a mortise in the frame.

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