Despite the seemingly endless stream of polymer-framed automatics flooding the market over the last decade, the classic wheelgun remains. Known for its die-hard reliability, and ultra simple controls, the best revolvers embody the principles of "keep it simple."
Since fumbling with controls or having to clear a malfunction is more challenging during an adrenaline-fueled firefight, the simplistic nature of revolvers makes them ideal for concealed carry. Though this isn’t their only advantage over automatic pistols. They are also capable of handling much more powerful rounds.
In addition, the best revolvers aren’t ammunition sensitive, for the most part. So long as the round has enough propellent to launch the bullet clear of the barrel, the next round will fire without issue. Given these advantages, it’s no wonder so many new guns worthy of the title of best revolvers showed up at the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
Rossi’s new finish
The first item on this list isn’t so much a new addition to a "best revolvers" list, but an upgrade of some of the best revolvers offered by economy-priced gunmaker Rossi. Where previous Rossi revolvers were available in either a high gloss blued finish or even flashier stainless one, for 2016, Rossi is adding a more utilitarian coat.
While the sales rep for Rossi referred to the new matte flat finish as a tactical flat black, experience leads me to believe it’s some sort of phosphate coating like the parkerization found on World War II M1911s. While arguably the least exciting addition to the world of revolvers this year, it may mean that sister company Taurus might be adding a parkerized Judge in the near future. Now if it only came with M-Lok rails and a multicam grip, it could almost be construed as a tactical firearm.
JANZ Präzisionstechnik JTL-E
If you’re one of the few Americans who can read that second word without a guide, you’re more worldly than me. JANZ Präzisionstechnik, or precision engineering, is a firearms makers out of Germany, though that isn’t entirely true. The company is primarily a machine maker for dairy farmers and also happens to dabble in making some of the best revolvers in the world.
At this year’s SHOT Show, inside the German Pavilion, JANZ showcased a pair of beautiful, if heavy, double/single action JTL-E revolvers. Available in most calibers ranging from .22LR to .454 Casull, these high-end revolvers take precision to a ridiculous level. The examples present at the booth had cylinder gaps so narrow they couldn’t accommodate a single playing card, and the cylinders themselves had no perceivable play.
Ruger GP100 .22LR
The GP100 has been around for a long time and is widely considered on of the best revolvers for the money. During its extensive lifespan, it has established a reputation for ruggedness and accuracy for a fair price. So when Ruger announced that its flagship six-shooter would be available in .22LR, many shooters wondered what took so long.
Previous offerings like the Bearcat and the SP101 in .22LR filled the gap for small-framed plinking revolver, but it wasn’t until the latest addition that Ruger had a full-sized double-action revolver chambered in .22LR in its lineup.
Indeed, firing off the GP100’s ten rounds of .22LR in either double or single action is strangely enjoyable. At the range day preceding SHOT Show, I had a chance to run the small-barking big revolver, and found it obnoxiously accurate and soft shooting.
After placing 10 rounds easily on the small paper target provided, I took aim with the next cylinder at a plastic swinger around 50 yards away and struck it with every single shot. While by no means a definitive review, it shows how accurate the new rimfire revolver can be and why it belongs on our list of best revolvers for 2016. Ruger says the gun should be available now or very soon, depending on when your local dealer puts an order in.
JANZ Präzisionstechnik JTL-S
The other product JANZ had on display, was its new JTL-S system. It consists of a single frame with four quick-change barrels and four accompanying cylinders. Each barrel/cylinder combination is for a different caliber, and buyers can specify which calibers and barrel lengths they desire. So masochistic shooters can get their three-inch .454 Casull setup and pragmatic hunters can opt for an eight-inch .44 Magnum for improved terminal ballistics. This definitely makes our list of best revolvers for 2016, just because of sheer versatility.
Shooters concerned with accidentally firing a .454 Casull into a .22LR barrel can rest easy: cylinders will only install to a frame equipped with the correct caliber barrel. When questioned about availability, JANZ said it had no definite timeline.
Uberti 1873 Cattleman Short Stroke SASS Pro
For most firearms, adding the term, "short stroke" to the name is a bad idea. Semi-automatic rifles and pistols suffering from short stroking indicates a faulty design or bad ammunition. In the world of single-action revolvers and lever-action rifles, however, short stroke means something totally different.
In the case of manually-operated firearms, "short stroke" refers to modifying the action to reduce hammer or level throw to allow faster manipulation. For SASS competitors, reducing the distance of either a level-throw or hammer travel can mean the difference between victory and third place. Since this modification normally runs more than $150, and can take busy gunsmiths more than a month to complete, Uberti has included it on the newest version of its immensely popular 1873 Cattleman revolver. Like its standard Cattleman, this new version is a case-hardened, single-action-only revolver chambered in .45LC. It also includes the iconic wooden grips with handsome, effective checkering and makes our list of best revolvers with ease.
Korth Super Sport
Korth is synonymous with high quality and equally high price tags, and the company's new Super Sport is no exception. Chambered in .357 Magnum, this six-inch barreled revolver ships with more rails than a subway station, wearing one on both sides and the top of the barrel.
Korth’s website suggested these rails are for adding extra weight to the revolver for target shooting. For more pragmatic shooters, they offer a great spot to mount tactical lights and lasers.
I had a chance to get some limited trigger with with the Super Sport at the range day prior to SHOT Show and found it exceptionally accurate and soft shooting. The latter was expected, given the pricey revolver’s 3.64 lb weight.
Korth Conversion Cylinder
So this one isn’t necessarily a firearm, but rather an accessory. The engineers at Korth know that countless Americans own one model or another of Smith & Wesson’s revolvers. Given the high price and low availability or Korth products, the company couldn’t possibly hope to capture the market away from either S&W or Ruger, both of which make some of the best revolvers in the world.
Which is why Korth developed a replacement cylinder for Smith & Wesson revolvers. The idea behind this new product is to promote better accuracy from existing revolvers by improving lockup and reducing cylinder gap and movement. While interesting, this hardly warrants a spot on a top product list for best revolvers.
That is until you learn the company's making a 9mm cylinder that doesn’t require moon clips. This goes a long way towards decreasing the cost of shooting .38/.357 Magnum, while simultaneously allowing the host gun to use the same ammunition as NATO. I’m not saying I’d take the Korth over say a Glock for a bugout pistol, but if it can use .38, .357 Magnum and 9mm, the new Korth cylinder makes your everyday S&W much more versatile.
The most surprising announcement of SHOT Show 2016 is the Kimber K6s. Known for its high-end M1911 pistols and precision bolt-action rifles, few shooters would have guessed Kimber and revolver would ever be mentioned in the same sentence.
Kimber’s first entry into the world of wheelguns is the K6s, a six-shot double-action-only revolver chambered in .357 Magnum. The new revolver is somewhere between the size of a J-frame and an SP101, not dissimilar to the discontinued Colt Cobra.
From my brief personal experience shooting and handling the K6s, it seems well built with ergonomics that do much to reduce felt recoil, even when firing potent .357 Magnum loads. The hammer on the K6s is fully shrouded, making the pistol double action only and well-suited to concealed carry use. The Kimber does have one odd inclusion: adjustable rear sights.
For most pistols, the inclusion of these sights is a given, but for short revolvers, it’s a different story. Since many shooters who carry snub-nosed revolvers do so in either deep concealment or pocket carry, adjustable sights are normally considered a drawback. This is because they can snag on clothing when drawn from concealment. Kimber’s new K6s tries to circumvent this concern by blending them into the frame. The novelty and innovation behind Kimber's newest gun means that it tops our list of the newest and best revolvers for 2016, and we'll be excited to see how it performs.
While some shooters have claimed the age of wheel guns is over, the modern revolver continues to hold its own with the same dogged tenacity it employs when used in adverse conditions. It may not be the sexiest, highest capacity plastic fantastic on the block, but the best revolvers of the modern day will remain a staple of self-defense and hunting for the foreseeable future.