I have experienced or witnessed five different types of revolver malfunctions in my decades of gun handling. The big difference between “jams” in revolvers and semi-automatic pistols is that most pistol malfunctions can be cleared fairly quickly. However, with a revolver, the malfunction will usually take you out of the fight.
Here is what can happen to a revolver:
During recoil, the bullets in the non-firing chambers may creep out of their shell casing causing the bullet to collide with the barrel’s forcing cone thereby locking up the cylinder. In order to clear this jam, you will need a mallet and a dowel rod so that you can tap (or pound) the bullet back into the shell casing. That’s a difficult task to perform during the stress of a self-defense encounter.
Bullet creep can be caused by an improperly crimped bullet (and I have seen this happen with factory ammo as well as reloads) or by shooting high velocity loads in a lightweight revolver. A close inspection of your ammo may reveal imperfections in the crimp and your owner’s manual will generally warn you against the types of ammo not to use in your lightweight handgun.
During recoil on Smith & Wesson revolvers (usually those made prior to 2000) the ejector rods can unscrew themselves jamming the cylinder shut. It is a good idea to check the tightness of the ejector rod before use.
The ejector rod can get bent and interfere with the closing of the cylinder. This occurs when the firearm has been dropped on the ejector rod or when the revolver has been mishandled, usually by someone flipping the cylinder closed as they had seen James Cagney do in a plethora of gangster movies.
A bent moon clip can completely stop the cylinder from moving. Worse yet is that the moon clip may prevent you from opening the cylinder to remove it. Moon clips are stamped out from sheets of spring steel. They need to be malleable enough so that you can force the rounds into the clips but that also means the tines of the clip can be easily bent out of alignment.
The hand and the teeth on the cylinder star, which causes the cylinder to rotate, can become worn over time causing malfunctions in rotation and the ability to open the cylinder. These parts should be periodically inspected by a qualified gunsmith. I have been hearing the myth of revolver infallibility as long as I have been a shooter.
“Revolvers don’t jam, you get 6 shots for sure, every time”. The myth-buster in this equation is that revolvers are a mechanical device and all mechanical devices will, at some point, breakdown.
Revolvers are still viable handguns for recreation, hunting, competition, and self-defense. If you want to learn more about them, seek out one of the experts at Stock and Barrel.
Stock and Barrel is gun club, pro shop and indoor shooting range located in the southern suburbs with locations in Eagan and Chanhassen.