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Carrying a Revolver Part 2: Sights, Ammo, and Holster Considerations

Revolvers stand out in the firearms world for their reliability and simplicity, making them excellent choices for primary defense and backup situations. Their straightforward operation—pulling the trigger to fire until the cylinder is empty—makes them exceptionally user-friendly, even under stress. Their ease of use allows them to be quickly handed off to someone with minimal firearms training, instantly increasing defensive capabilities. Unlike semi-automatic pistols, which require some familiarity with their more complex manual of arms, revolvers offer a no-fuss, dependable option for concealed carry.

So. you’ve made up your mind. You will start adding a revolver to your everyday carry lineup, but you need help determining where to begin. Start with our series’ first post, which compared the main mechanical and practical differences between semi-auto pistols and revolvers. Now, let’s get into the weeds on specifics for concealed carry, focusing on sights, ammo, and holsters. I’ll share my experiences to help you transition to a revolver as smoothly as possible.

Sights & Point of Aim, Point of Impact

Semi-auto sights are known for their straightforward and practical design, often featuring squared-off front and rear sights. You line up the top of the front sight with the top of the rear sight. Easy. The sights on most revolvers are not so much. They come in a diverse array like partridge, ramp, notch, hump, adjustable, to name a few.

The most common carry revolver sight setup will feature a notch/groove rear sight and a ramp front sight. When presenting the sight picture, most people will line up the rear notch with the front ramp’s bottom or middle. This is incorrect and will make you shoot high. You want to line up the notch with the topmost part of the front ramp. It feels funny, almost like you’re pointing the gun downward, but this will ensure you’ll hit dead on. As you back up and shoot further distances, there may be a better chance you’ll need to use lower parts of the front ramp.

XS Sights, for example, recommends using different elevations of the front sight to varying distances with some of their aftermarket Smith & Wesson revolver sights. You and your revolver need some experimentation to get your exact shot down. For ramp sights, a practical tip is to use nail polish or some other high-viz paint to mark the elevation point where your shots are more accurate. The visual aid helps quickly align the sights, enabling faster target acquisition.

Extremely common notch & ramp revolver sights on a S&W Model 642 [Image credit smith-wesson.com]

While I don’t personally use red dots on carry revolvers, I see no reason to avoid them if they suit your needs. Traditionally, mounting a red dot required adding a Picatinny rail, which could bulk up the firearm. However, Taurus has introduced an innovative solution with their new RDS plates. This clever design eliminates the need for a Picatinny rail by attaching directly to the revolver’s scope base on the backstrap, providing a sleeker, more integrated option for mounting a red dot. If you decide to go this route, select a low-profile holster to minimize potential printing issues. A low-sitting holster will mitigate printing, even though the red dot is not the part that would necessarily print when concealed while carrying a revolver.


Taurus 856 with new direct mount plate [Image courtesy taurususa.com]

Similar to semi-autos, in some cases, the revolver’s sights are configured with a particular load from the factory. Usually, for a 38/357 wheelgun, it’s a 158-grain semi or full-wadcutter. Make sure to check with the manufacturer of your revolver before assuming. The issue with sights being regulated with one load is that your point of impact and point of aim will change if you use a different load. Adjustable sights can mitigate this, but most carry-size revolvers don’t have them. So, you have to memorize your holdover or under when using your choice of ammunition. A mark on your front sight can help with this issue.

Speaking of ammunition, let’s chat about that.

Revolver Ammunition

The fantastic benefit of a revolver is the versatility of ammunition selection. Unlike semi-autos, which can sometimes be finicky with certain types of ammo and, in some cases, different grain weights of projectiles, revolvers can reliably handle a wide variety without the threat of jamming. Whether it is vastly different bullet weights & designs, hollowpoints, flat-nose, semi-wadcutter, full-wadcutters, shotgun ammo, you name it, and a revolver can shoot it.

I’ve narrowed down my carry ammunition choices for my revolvers, which include a beautiful pre-lock Smith & Wesson Model 686-3 with a 4″ barrel and a no-frills Model 642. Let me walk you through my selections to provide insight into where to begin.

I choose Liberty Ammunition’s Civil Defense 50-grain .357 for home defense. Yes, 50 grains. These are my go-to for one simple reason: in close quarters like my neighborhood, where my neighbors’ houses are just 10 yards away, these rounds expand rapidly upon impact, often within the first inch of penetration. There is absolutely no chance of these going through drywall. Yet, they pack a devastating punch.

When concealing my 686 or 642, I opt for a standard 125-grain Hornady FTX round. Its polymer tip is particularly advantageous, especially during winter, when targets may be layered in heavy clothing. This round reliably expands regardless of the target’s attire, offering consistent performance and instilling confidence in myself when carrying it.


Liberty Ammo 50gr .357 Left and Hornady 125gr XTP Right [Image courtesy of libertyammo.com & hornady.com]

I stay away from 38 when carrying, even in the J-Frame. There is some argument here, especially for the small gun. Here’s my rationale, and it comes directly from Thunder Ranch’s Clint Smith after attending defensive revolver class: If you are in a defensive situation, your heartbeat is going to be going 220, and you’ll have shit in your shorts. The fact of the matter is, your hand, body, or mind isn’t going to care if you’re shooting .357 Magnum, and I’d rather have the extra power. Even if you’ve got a super lightweight 360PD, it won’t matter.

You’re instinctively going to pull the trigger until the gun starts clicking. Always carry the hotter load. For practice sessions, .38 serves its purpose well. It allows me to hone my skills—mastering the trigger, reloading, grips, and drawing—without subjecting my hands to excessive recoil after just a few cylinders. However, at the end of each practice session, I always run a couple of cylinders of .357 through the gun to ensure familiarity and readiness before putting it back in my pants.


Let’s talk holsters. I’ll share my personal choices, which might offer valuable insights for your selections. I’ve had excellent experiences with the Harry’s Holster’s Masterpiece for inside-the-waistband carry. At first glance, it resembles a leather holster, but upon closer inspection, you’ll discover it’s made of brown faux leather patterned Kydex. Beyond its aesthetics, the Masterpiece is incredibly comfortable, thanks to its two-clip design. I trust it to securely hold my heavy K-frame revolver loaded with six shots of .357 snugly on my belt.


Harry’s Holsters Masterpiece with double clips [Image courtesy of harryholsters.com]

For outside-the-waistband carry, I preface that I’m not loyal to particular brands, but you need a Milt Sparks. Like, really need a Milt Sparks. There is no other option when it comes to revolver holsters. Specifically the PMK over the waistband. What I love most about this holster, among many reasons, is its usability. The mouth features a metal reinforcement and extra leather, making reholstering a breeze. Cheaper holsters often lack this feature, and after just a few reholsters at the range, the lip can bend, requiring you to use your weak hand to open the holster’s mouth to reinsert your gun.

The super high-quality Milt Sparks PMK [Image courtesy of miltsparks.com]

Clint Smith offers another piece of wisdom worth considering before closing: who’s to say you’ll be fighting with your own gun? Even if you’re not interested in carrying a revolver, why aren’t you training with one?

The post Carrying a Revolver Part 2: Sights, Ammo, and Holster Considerations appeared first on The Mag Life.

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