Why are There No Revolver Style Rifles?

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The revolver style rifle is still popular among a small fraternity of shooters even though most manufacturers have discontinued its production. So, why are there no revolver style rifles? There have been so many negative aspects of the revolver rifle. One negative part of a revolving rifle is the gap between the barrel and cylinder that allows gas to escape.

There is a risk of burning your supporting hand when you fire a revolver style rifle. Another common risk is getting a wound from the resulting pieces of lead in case you fail to line up the chamber precisely. The solution would be to add some sort of shield to protect the supporting hand. However, it would create a place for dirt and debris to collect that would eventually lead to a jam. It is not a good idea, especially if you are in a combat situation. 

Understanding the origin of the revolver will make one know how this piece of weaponry has managed to be relevant for so many years after its inception. The term –Revolver- means a projectile weapon of the pistol type, which has a breech loading chambered cylinder. The arrangement is the cocking of the hammer, and the movement of the trigger will rotate and bring the next cartridge in line with the barrel for firing.

Reasons why Revolver Style Rifles are Unpopular

The reasons revolver style rifles are not popular are many, but mostly it is related to their utility. 

They Fire Pistol Rounds from a Rifle

While this might allow you to have greater accuracy and perhaps more range, there are still some problems the rifle encountered, which resembles those of a handgun. The logic is simple. A limited range leads to a low topping power. 

A rifle’s design is to be a distance weapon. Its primary purpose is to engage targets that are far from the shooter and which might require a more significant force. A rifle that has an ammunition chamber like that of a handgun will simply not do this.

Quantity of Ammunition

It is what every shooter wants. A rifle that can hold many rounds to prevent the constant need for reloading, especially in combat situations. The bolt action and the lever-action rifles with tubular magazines can carry more significant quantities of ammunition. In comparison, a revolving cylinder rifle can only hold a maximum of six rounds of ammo before their cylinder would become too bulky, and this made it less practical during combat. 

Even though modern technology led to the Chiappa-styled flatter cylinders would later reduce this bulk, it came long after the relegation of the revolving style rifles into the technological dustbin.

Hollow Point Ammunition

The hollow point-style ammunition is the most effective to be used on a pistol round, and it would have favored the revolver rifles as well. The disappointment is that the hollow point ammo was not in use until after a century since the introduction of revolver rifles. By this time, more sophisticated and less complicated rifles had already been manufactured, and the market already captured.  Better rifles solved the problem of limited ammunition capacity, and this made the revolver style rifles outdated

Reasons Why Bolt and Semi-Auto Action Rifles are Ideal for Military Engagements

There are several reasons why a bolt or semi-auto action is more desirable under military and related combat conditions.

Closed System

Bolt and semi-auto systems are a closed system, and this means that no dirt, dust, or grime can get into the chamber. Compared to a revolver’s cylinder, the ratchet, pawl, and ejection systems are also open. It is the reason your rifle gets exposed to all sorts of crud and weather-related complications. In a combat situation, a revolver rifle is most likely to misfire, and this makes it unreliable in the field. 


In combat, the rifle can be a very heavy asset. Shedding off some weight is more practical than adding a massive cylinder to cater for more rounds. The cylinder size that can hold rounds of say, .30-06 will be enormous, and this may be a disadvantage when engaging in an action-packed combat field operation. 

Ejection and reloading 

The ejection of a bolt action rifle is internal and straightforward, whereas that of a revolver is external, and this can make it get crudded up. If you consider reloading, a bolt action and lever-action rifles also top as the fastest methods. You can reload a bolt action rifle using a stripper clip and box magazines, which makes the process even faster. Even though you can reload a revolver using speedloaders, finding one that is a rifle sized cartridge will be again too bulky. It is what makes it an impractical weapon for combat. 

Cleaning & maintenance

Most military bolt/auto rifles are ultimately easy to break down to clean and maintain while most revolvers are not. My experience is with the Colt and the S&W, which I completely pulled apart to clean the internal mechanism. What you should know is that it is not for the faint of heart, neither is it simple enough for a rookie to comprehend in one go.  

However, it is not all bad historical experiences of the revolver rifles. You must consider that the revolver handguns had so much success and functioned reliably well under military conditions. Examples are the British Wembley, Colt SAA, Colt & Smith M1917. The only difference is that these hand revolvers shot at low pressure when compared to rifles. It also means that to scale these designs to make revolver rifles cartridges would be pretty bulky and, again, impractical for combat situations. 

History of the Colt Revolving Rifle of 1855

It is also known as the Model 1855. What this rifle piece represents is an attempt to provide the repeating action of a revolver within a shortened rifle form like the carbines. Carbines are typically shortened-barrel forms of the longer rifle counterparts, and they were suitable for use by the second-line infantry or the mounted troops. Carbines are also a firearm category widely in use today. 

With the Model 1855, all these qualities are together under the Colt production brand. Most modern critics find the design flawed, but the Colt 1855 sits pretty as the top revolver rifle to have many sales. 


The Model 1855 arrives in three distinct caliber forms: .36, the.56, and .44. Additionally, the rifle also comes in four barrel lengths: 15-, 18-, 21- and 24-inches. The caliber you selected also determines the shot cylinder you will use. If you selected .36 or the .44, a six-shot cylinder was included while chambering for .56, restricted the gun to a five-shot cylinder. 

The operator of the Colt Model 1855 held a distinct advantage in a gunfight. It is because of the accuracy of the rifle, combination of the repeat action revolver, and excellent ammunition supply. 

Aesthetic Appeal

Externally, the Model 1855 was a massive improvement from the rifle-muskets then in use and more of a glimpse into the world of long guns. The carbine has a rounded barrel set within a metal framework for maximum durability. The cylinder of h Model 155 is fluted and set within a closed-frame design. 

The firing action is of percussion and operated using a hammer that is fitted along the right side of the rifle’s body. The trigger adopts the rifle-style hand grip and gets its protection from within an elegant oval trigger ring. The wooden stock curved at the butt is to accept the shoulder when firing. In all, the Model 1855 is a sleek design combining wood and metal to offer clean lines typical of all Colt products.

The Colt 1855 Military Use in the American Civil War

The United States Army adopted the Colt Model 1855 in the year 1855, but it was not until 1857 that the full-scale use would come to effect. The reason is that the rifle had issues with-cook off- for the chambered ammunition.

After firing a cartridge, hot gas generated in and around the ammunition cylinder settled in the various parts of the chamber. Gunpowder would often ignite under heated conditions from the residual gas as it makes its way to the remaining chambered rounds. As a result, the hot gas would effectively set off the remaining rounds in the chamber unintentionally. 

The remaining rounds will fire while still in the chamber and would hit anything as if triggered by the hammer/cap arrangement. It would always put the supporting arm of the shooter in harm’s way, and if unlucky, anyone near the front section of the rifle may sustain injuries as well.   

This defect ultimately earned the carbine a less-than-stellar reputation.

The cook-off issue was so apparent that shooters had special instructions. It includes using the weapon with only a single round chambered, which defeats the purpose of having five or six ready-to-fire chambered rounds. 

The Model 1855 would be seen as a danger to its user as it posed the same threat to its targets. Therefore, another suggestion is the shooter to hold the weapon using his supporting hand closer to the trigger group. It would put it out of reach and path of any misfiring rounds. 


  • It offered five times the firepower for its operator to wield against multiple targets simultaneously.  However, it is challenging and time-consuming to reload a single shot muzzleloader in a running fight, a revolving rifle is therefore ideal for the mounted troops.
  • The greater firepower was a force multiplier, and it allowed smaller body troops to engage a larger body of the enemy combatants more effectively.
  • The overall design gave it the durability to function as either the frontier or in military life.


  • It was much more complicated to produce and maintain than single-shot breechloaders and muskets.
  • It has more moving parts, which means it has a likelihood of failure. On a firing line, a soldier is only as effective as the weapon they use. Black powder weapons fowl with every firing as the burnt powder residue builds up. The gun becomes inoperable, and you must clean it.
    It means that during combat, a revolving rifle operator will go offline to clean the bore and revolving mechanism after every 30 rounds or so. However, it is also common for muzzleloaders and inventions that include a cleaner round allowed shooters to have more trigger time. 
  • They are difficult and costly to produce.  Back then, not every arms manufacturer could compete or had the capacity for Colt’s level of craftsmanship. It would, therefore, limit the availability of such weapons with the same regularity as rifle-muskets could. 
  • The ammunition was not uniform. The typical military load for the Model 1855 was .56 cal. It means that it could not chamber the .58 or .577 Cal ammunition that was the standard United States Army issue.  
  • The weapon was more hazardous to use since improper loading would lead to a chain fire reaction, and multiple loaded chambers would ignite all at once.

Remington’s Run of Revolver Style Rifles

Remington introduced its first revolvers in 1857 and began manufacturing revolving carbines in the 1860s. It is towards the end of the Civil War that the U.S. Army managed to procure a small number of Remington’s revolving-carbine versions. The.36-caliber Navy revolvers, and the .44-caliber Army even though Remington never built more than 1000 revolver rifles.

Remington saw the Colt revolving rifles and carbines as a success in the 1850s. However, Remington, and other American arms-makers, could not manufacture revolver style rifles until the Colt patent expired. It was in 1857 that the patent expired. 

Another Remington’s Patent Dilemma

In 1868, Remington started the conversion of its percussion revolvers to .38 centerfire and .46 rimfire metallic cartridges. But for each gun built, Remington had to pay a $1 royalty to Smith & Wesson, which held the patent rights to both the breech loading revolver and bored through cylinder since 1855 bored-through cylinder. Remington received patent blockades from both ends. The first in manufacturing revolvers by the Colt patent and the second for building cartridge conversions by the patent owned by Smith & Wesson. 

During this period, Remington’s arms bought its way into the market by paying royalties. Upon expiration of the cartridge patent by S&W, they sought to have a patent extension, but it was denied. 

By then, the Henry lever-action rifle and new Winchester Model 1866 were displacing the single-shot rifle. Also, handguns built to fire the self-contained metallic cartridge were on the way to shadowing the Civil War-era of the cap-and-ball revolver. It marks the time when the last Remington revolving carbines got produced around 1872. Today, you can only find around five of the .46 rimfire large-caliber. 

Revolver Style Machine Guns

While there were complications with the revolver rifles, none was existent with the Revolver machine guns. It is more like a revolver cannon if you consider the design and massive caliber it fires. The Mauser Werk of Germany developed a revolver cannon, and it had a higher rate of fire as it could manage 1200 rounds per minute. 

The concept was simple.

The cylinder revolves around a central axis, which allows the chambers to be automatically loaded with a fresh round. As the round gets fired, the chambers get unloaded.
In the battlefront this design provided a small, lightweight weapons package. The only drawback was it had a minimal barrel life. However, the solution lies in a quick change barrel. 

Modern Types of Revolver Style Rifles

Heritage Rough Rider Rancher Carbine.

The Rough Rider Rancher is based on Heritage manufacturing’s spurred hammer pistol and single-action design. It is aimed to deliver precision timing and a tight cylinder lock-up. Additional safety comes through the use of a manual hammer block integrated into the recoil shield opposite the loading gate. It is chambered for the .22 LR as the cylinder holds six rounds of .22 LR ammo. 

To maximize its cartridge performance, the Heritage Rough Rider Rancher Carbine has a 16.125-inches of barrel length that is micro-threaded to ensure an ideal cylinder gap to the barrel. There is a finger hook beneath the trigger guard, which is also unique to the Rough Rider Rancher design. It ensures that you have a comfortable firing hand positioning for the muzzle and optimal trigger control.

In addition to the functional barrel is an adjustable buckhorn-style rear and a fixed front sight to take advantage of the rifle’s long sight radius. For shouldering, the Rough Rider Rancher uses an elegant solid walnut stock that is grip-enhanced and checkered along the wrist. The stock has a durable matte finish that complements the rifle’s traditional black oxide finish.

The Rough Rider Rancher Carbine also comes with a thick adjustable leather sling, since it is ideally suited for target shooting and plinking. The sling is also useful when hunting for small-game and varmint control. The sling secures to the rifle with quick-release. The screw-type swivels feature a stud mount in a full barrel band and the stock.

The Uberti 1873 Revolver Carbine 

It comes available in .45 caliber with an 18-inch barrel. The best thing about the Uberti 1873 Revolver carbine is that you can choose whether to use adjustable target sights or the traditional field sights available. 

The Uberti 1873 Single-Action target revolver resembles the Colt Buntline 1873 that is an icon rifle of the Old West. A paltry 31 of the original Buntline revolvers came into existence, and today there is only 18 of them. 

Caliber: .357MAG. – .44/40 – .45LC – .44MAG

Length of Barrel is 18-inches and is quite ideal for long-range shooting, and the overall length of the rifle stands at 35.10-inches. It only weighs 4.12 lbs, which makes it exceptionally lightweight and suitable for maneuverability in the woods. 

The barrel is of forged steel and has a round tapered shape. It has a fluted cylinder, which is good for heat dissipation and carries a magazine capacity of six shots. The sight comes either fixed or adjustable. 

The Rossi Circuit Judge Revolver Style Rifle Models

Although a revolving action does have its limitations, reliability isn’t one of them. The Rossi Circuit Judge revolver-action carbines certainly offer a unique shooting experience. It comes in two forms.

The .22-caliber Circuit Judge

The .22 LR/.22 Mag. interchangeable cylinder model is a lightweight and reliable plinking rifle that can fire just about anything you choose to feed it.

In this review, I will look at the Tuffy model because of its practicality. It is also a weather-resistant synthetic stock rifle. The shoulder stock contains a small removable panel in the butt pad that reveals a storage compartment for nine-rounds of spare ammunition. 

There is a clear plastic window on the left side of the stock that shows you how many rounds are still present. What you will like about this rifle is that it uses interchangeable cylinders to alternate between .22 Mag. Cartridges and .22 Long Rifle cartridges. 

The synthetic forearm contains a release lever that allows it to slide forward on the barrel. Once the forearm is in the forward position, the cylinder opens, and you should press and hold the button on the right of the frame. It will allow you to remove the yoke and cylinder from the frame.

No tools are necessary. And to install the alternate cylinder, just reverse the process, and your rifle will be ready to fire. 

The .45 Colt/.410 Circuit Judge

The barrels of the .45 Colt/.410 circuit judge is 18.5-inches long and comes with adjustable fiber-optic sights.  The safety features include a transfer-bar safety and a Taurus security key lock located in the hammer. The cylinders swing out to the left side of the gun like most modern double-action revolvers. You can cock the external hammer for single-action firing, or you can pull the trigger to fire in double-action mode.

Most Popular Rifle Accessories 

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The most common revolving rifle was a Colt cap and ball muzzleloader, the Colt Revolving Rifle. It appeared on the market when there were no other means of obtaining repeating capability in a long arm. Like most cap and ball arms, it works reasonably well until heavily fouled by its black powder propellant, usually after 10–12 shots.

In modern times, with fixed cartridges, there are many revolving rifles notably by Taurus and Uberti- but these are primarily at the range. The modern guns are as reliable as any other modern revolver, but you still have to avoid the hot gasses blasting from the cylinder gap.

There are better designs for a repeating firearm, but they aren’t widespread -technology has bypassed the concept.

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