Is There a 5.56 Revolver?

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There are no 5.56 revolvers from modern gun manufacturers, but that’s not to say such a firearm doesn’t exist. Antiquated Belgian classics with folding triggers are chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges. 

There were reports of a planned Taurus revolver in 5.56, but the actual firearm never materialized. The closest the Brazilian arms manufacturer has is the BFR or Biggest Finest Revolver that is chambered in among others, .45-70 Government. 

Other than that, homemade versions of revolvers in this 5.56 cartridge have cropped up here and there on the black market. 

A Close Look at the 5.56mm NATO Cartridge

The 5.56 is a common round. Its nomenclature is derived from 5.56x45mm as the metric dimension for the standard-issue NATO forces ammunition.

This cartridge is loaded for pressures of 58,000 PSI and above. You must be careful when firing the 5.56 round in chambers that are not rated for such pressure, as results could be catastrophic. 

Of all modern rifle rounds, this ammo is the most common, seeing as most if not all AR 15s function on 5.56mm. 

This cartridge is dimensionally similar to the .223 Remington apart from internal pressure. A larger throat, possibly by .125 inches is required for chambers designed to accommodate this round. 

Typical 5.56 NATO slugs weigh 62 grains due to the low quantity of ammo making materials used. This brings down the price of 5.56 since the cost of brass, copper, lead, and propellant has been minimized.

The 5.56x45mm cartridge is ubiquitous as the primary small arms round for NATO and US armed forces. This caliber in particular is used by designated snipers and as machine gun feed, alongside the 7.62 NATO. 

Is a Revolver Chambered in 5.56×45 NATO Such a Good Thing?

There are revolvers chambered in 5.56 NATO rounds, only you won’t find these available for hunting or home defense. Modification has always been rife in the firearms fraternity, and I suspect with the proper know-how and the right equipment such a gun is doable.

Expect myriad issues to beleaguer your revolver, some which can affect you the shooter. A loud bang and heavy recoil will alwaysaccompany any rifle round firing in a revolver.

Your revolver in 5.56x45mm will come across as a long chambered and extra-long barreled heavy gun. This is not your friendly conceal and carry, plus the range, ballistics, and takedown power are laughable.

The 5.56 round is a rifle cartridge for firearms that have a bore diameter of 5.56mm for its lands and 5.7mm for across grooves measurements. While the cartridge diameter is about as normal as any revolver bullet, this round has a case length of 45mm. 

This is a cartridge whose design was intended for military use, replacing a lower pressure .223 Remington cartridge. It’s rated for high chamber pressure, and firing this round in a chamber not designed for it can be devastating to you or your revolver. 

I am not saying that a revolver in 5.56 can’t be done, casing point the aforementioned Belgian classic or the homemade firearms. There would however be issues beginning from cartridge dimensions to something called leade.

There is a Taurus Raging bull revolver that chambers in .223 Remington. This is the closest to a commercially made revolver that fires 5.56mm slugs.

Problems That Would Surround Your Revolver in 5.56mm Cartridge

Customizing a revolver in 5.56 is possible, especially with chamber modifications. However, don’t be surprised if the results are a tad disappointing. 

For a start, the 5.56x45mm NATO round is a bottleneck cartridge. Bottlenecks will bind the cylinder of a revolver and have backing out issues. 

Your revolver will either rely on moon or half-moon ejection clips, or the rimless 5.56 will need additional machining. 

Gasses ejected from a revolver’s cylinder cause an eroding of its top strap. Often called flame-cutting, it will be a problem when using high-pressure 5.56 rounds. 

Yours is likely to be worse, seeing as 5.56 NATO is nearly twice and a half the pressure of .357, which is a notorious flame-cutter. 

With all that blast, your revolver in 5.56 will be loud. This is attributed to the cylinder gap and the shorter barrel. 

On top of that, your revolver’s performance will be mediocre, to say the least. As a rifle round, the 5.56 NATO’s design ensures the for best powder operations in 16-inch barrels or longer.

Even with all the ka-boom, your 5.56 revolver’s muzzle energy is wasted on flash and noise.

If your gun is to work better, it’d have to be heavy and for sight radius, with a relatively long barrel. This is not a fun piece to tote around, maybe if I am shooting from a stationary set-up at the range.  

In short, the rate of fire isn’t anything to write home about, and you’re not going to holster your 5.56 revolver. If you want to fire this cartridge in a handgun, a single shot encore or contender would be a better alternative.

Homemade Revolvers in 5.56 and the Vintage Belgian Angle

In and around the years between 2015 and 2017, there arose a specialty of an illegal gunsmith in local Indonesia. These craftsmen were busy building portable solutions for all manner of conceivable uses, translating robberies.

Such is the availability of the 5.56mm NATO round, street thugs were found to be carrying and hiding revolvers chambered in this cartridge. Some of the supply was coming from lowly paid army personnel. 

In May 2018, the largest of these home factory setups was busted. It appeared that these manufacturers had basic tools, local armorers with copied patterns. 

Proceeds from black market gun sales in Indonesia prompted many of these poor metal workers and machinists into crime. This is despite Indonesia having the death penalty for such capital crimes like possession of firearms or armed robbery.

When a follower of these stories asked whether there were reports of the revolvers blowing up, the answer was interesting, no. The barrels appeared to be .25 caliber overbore, while they featured cylinder gaps to reduce pressure. 

I inspected the Belgian 5.56mm revolver with an internal hammer and folding trigger that I mentioned earlier. This classic firearm, along with others of its vintage; feature housed-in receivers and a checkered chamber release. 

With plastic grips and 6 shot chamber in 5.56, the barrel and receiver bore Belgian Liège rifling, AK inspection, and manufacturer marks.

Working Around the Challenges for a Fire-Able 5.56 Revolver

In a common length revolver barrel, your 5.56 rifle or carbine round is 40% longer than the longest suitable cartridge. For reliability, the history of centerfire 45mm bore has been a plagued one.

The rimless 5.56 NATOs rimless design limits it to revolvers that have an ejector rod and loading gate. Closest you’ll get is a revolver from Ruger is chambered in .30 caliber. 

There was once revolvers for the .357 magnum, and a troublesome S&W chambered in .22 Remington. 

Other than being noisy and presenting lackluster ballistics, a revolver chambered in 5.56 will suffer accuracy shortcomings. This is all down to leade.

Leade is the distance between a cartridge’s mouth and the point where the barrel riffling engages the bullet. The 5.56 cartridge has a steep leade, as opposed to standard revolver bullets that are not bottlenecked in the first place.

The rifle chambers for .556x45mm caliber ammo differ slightly from commercial revolvers. Since chamber pressures are higher, a greater internal chamber throat and space between rifling and bullet is necessary. 

When firing a 5.56 round out a revolver, chamber pressure has to be moderated.

When you fire your revolver in 5.56, the slug is smaller than the diameter of the shorter barrel. The leade gap results in increased barrel pressure and decreased velocity at the expense of accuracy. 

In addition to uneven velocity from the cartridge’s shallow leade, gunk and carbon collection will require frequent cleaning and oiling. This affects the functioning and reliability of your revolver. 

My Expert’s Take on a Revolver in 5.56

The firearms field is rife with creativity, steeped in over 700 years of innovation. So is there a 5.56 revolver really?

Though designers with nefarious intentions have been known to do such gun-making, there are still issues with any available revolvers in 5.56x45mm NATO. 

While looking for a revolver in 5.56, I started looking at bottleneck cartridge issues on revolvers. Most of the trouble has to do with the casings sticking due to the taper or angle of the shoulder.

This causes the casing to stick back against the recoil shield. A semi-auto extraction mechanism on your 5.56 revolver can be the solution to this. 

I suspect the extractor can also act as a recoil shield, holding the casing in place in relation to your revolver’s cylinder.

Due to the high pressures of 5.56 ammo, you need to be fastidious about keeping the cylinder bore well-oiled. Free cylinder rotation gets very tight with each shot, which is the worst experience when plinking. 

Most of the issues that a revolver in 5.56 would have will arise from casing expansion and reduced velocities. There would be a lot of cylinder binding as high-pressure cartridges must have straight wall so as to slip back in the chamber post-firing for clearance.

I think that’s what happened to the anticipated Taurus in 5.56mm. The Brazilian gunsmith realized they would be dealing with a steady stream of dissatisfied buyers with elongated lists of complaints. 

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