In USPSA, I shoot an elegant weapon from a more civilized age: the revolver. The most common question I get, in one form or another, is, “Why?”
Here are some of my answers.
Coolness is, of course, subjective, so your mileage may vary, but I think revolvers are cool. For one, there’s the cowboy cachet. If you’ve seen my match videos, at least after I started leaning into the spaghetti western theme, I’m sure you can tell I find that compelling.
For another, a revolver is a mechanical marvel: delicate clockwork nevertheless tough enough to survive a cylinder hammering back and forth. Bunches of tiny metal parts, all interlocking perfectly, cooperating to bring the cylinder into line and the hammer down at just the right moment.
And that’s saying nothing of the internal ballistics, which rely on the notion that standard-pressure air is more or less solid to a jet of gas at 20,000 PSI, at least on the timescale needed for a bullet to cross the barrel-cylinder gap and make it out the business end of the gun.
It’s a mechanically and historically fascinating tool. If your ‘why’ was intended to mean ‘why did you get into Revolver over, say, Open or CO?’, that’s why.
Come, reader, I have nothing to hide from you: you know I like weird hipster things. The fact that revolver is an esoteric corner of the USPSA game is a draw to me. Getting to1 work out a lot of how the wheelgun interacts with modern USPSA is an engaging mental exercise for me.
I don’t want to spoil my revolver techniques series too much2, but USPSA Revolver is a layer cake of similarity sponges and difference fillings. There are parts of the game that are the same as in semi-auto divisions, but then you look deeper and there are differences, and then you zoom in to the techniques that underpin those parts of the game and they’re the same, and then you get better at those parts of the game, and they turn different again.
It keeps the gears turning in my head, and the Revolver game has not yet fully revealed itself to me. If you want to know why I keep at it, that’s one reason why.
It Invites—And Rewards—Perfection
USPSA, fundamentally, ends up being more about speed than accuracy. There are only so many points available on a stage, but you can always go faster. Just about anyone can shoot 90% points at a USPSA match. The measure of a shooter is how fast he can do it. There are some wrinkles in that clean formulation. Maybe you shoot 85% points a little faster, or 95% points a little slower. Ultimately, though, your speed improves a whole lot more than your accuracy as you get better at the game.
Inevitably, and not incorrectly, that leads people to shoot as fast as they think they can go to get good hits. Shooters in almost every division except Revolver3 have enough ammunition in the gun to turn the dial a bit more toward speed. Even in Production, if you throw a shot off target and take a fast makeup shot, you’re still in decent shape.
The dial has to go a bit more toward accuracy in Revolver. Shooting a wheelgun, I don’t frequently find myself pulling into a position with extra bullets in the gun. Usually, my stage plan calls for eight shots, and all eight of those shots have to hit, or else there’s going to be a standing reload somewhere. Revolver is a deadeye’s game. If you want to win against solid competition, you have to be able to shoot any given USPSA position with perfect accuracy, and you have to know exactly how fast you can go while doing it.
What do I find compelling about the actual shooting in Revolver division? That.
I’m Good At It
Toward the end of 2021, after a year and a half of shooting almost exclusively revolvers4, I took a few detours into semi-automatic divisions: one day in Carry Optics, one in Open. I shot those guns, and those matches, pretty well. I’m clearly a better shooter now than I was the last time I ran my Carry Optics gun, and that was plain to see in the results.
That said, at the end of the match in Open, I donned the Revolver belt for a run at the classifier. In the aftermath of a 100% run, I remarked to a friend, “I shoot that gun like it’s an extension of my arm.” Revolver clicks for me. For the amount of practice I’ve put in, I run the revolver better compared to some hypothetical baseline skill than I would with the semi-autos. I’m shooting classifiers on a pace that should put me into Grandmaster soon, and in contention to win stages that don’t excessively handicap the wheelgun at the smaller of the two local matches I frequent.
Why revolver? Because I’m good at it, and still getting better.
- An uncharitable soul might phrase this ‘having to’, instead. ↩
- A series, I might add, that doesn’t take quite as much hedging now that I’ve shot my way into Master class. ↩
- Single Stack shooters running major power factor have the same concerns as Revolver here. ↩
- There are 25 matches on my record since the start of 2020, of which three, all in 2021, were semi-auto matches. ↩