Whether you are an experienced gun-handler or a newbie who is interested in getting a concealed carry gun, choosing the best revolver for you might be a difficult task.
No worries; I did the research, hand-picked some of the best-rated budget revolvers, and found that there’s nothing like the good old Ruger LCR .38 Special +P as an overall best solution for self-defense.
That said, you do have some other options. So, in this article, we’ll talk about the best budget revolvers on the market today, what makes them stand out from the rest, how to look for a suitable one for you, answer some frequently asked questions, and you will find everything you need to know.
Why Do You Need a Revolver?
Is it for self-defense, for home defense, or do you want a piece that feels good in your hand and works wonders at the shooting range?
With home defense and self-defense, it usually comes down to short-range encounters. For the nature of such situations, you must draw fast, so the revolver should be as compact as possible.
Naturally, if you’re here for self-defense, having a lightweight revolver is a plus, since you’ll be carrying it around. Still, keep in mind that the lighter handgun almost always means harder recoil management.
On the other hand, hunting and firing ranges don’t require that much manageable recoil, while drawing speed and weight don’t matter as much either.
If you’re having a hard time choosing one, you won’t be wrong if you go for a budget-friendly revolver.
Let’s take a look at the Ruger LCR and see how it stands out from the rest.
Best Budget Revolvers
Our Top Pick – Ruger LCR .38 Special +P
- Excellent value-for-money
- Lack of hammer makes it snag-free
- Various aftermarket customizations available
- Top-quality materials
- Comfortable grip
- Clip capacity of only 5 shots
An outstanding rework of Ruger SP101, the Ruger LCR .38 Special +P Revolver is a more close-packed model with a barrel that’s 1.87 inches long. This lightweight compact revolver (LCR) can be found almost anywhere, and it also comes in different calibers such as .357 or .22.
Ruger LCR .38 Special +P is a reliable, budget-friendly, and hammerless revolver that won’t get stuck on your clothes while drawing. This makes it one of the most popular revolvers on the market.
This snubby with a double-action trigger pull brings a significant improvement in accuracy over other .38 Special models. The revolver’s cylinder is made of fluted steel to reduce weight and its durability is secured by a physical vapor deposition finish.
If you’re looking for the best snub-nosed revolvers on the market today, check out our guide here.
The alloy frame of Ruger LCR .38 Special +P is made of aluminum, polymer, and stainless steel. This mixture of materials makes it exceptionally lightweight at only 8 ounces. This brings some crucial stopping power to the LCR .38 Special +P.
Another upside of this handgun is the available aftermarket customizations. This model also brings an ergonomic Hogue Tamer rubber grip, guaranteeing outstanding steadiness.
The only possible downside that comes to mind is that its magazine capacity is limited to 5 rounds. However, with Ruger LCR .38 Special +P, this doesn’t seem like a dealbreaker since in most self-defense situations five shots should be plenty.
To learn more about the LCR .38 Special +P, watch this video.
- 6 bullets magazine capacity
- Good-looking blue finish
- Cocobolo wood grip
- Single-action trigger
- Lightweight and easy to shoot
- Blade and notch sights
- Exceptionally durable
- Some people don’t like its safety mechanism
- Single-shot loading
The first thing that meets the eye when it comes to the Heritage Rough Rider 22LR is the hammer block safety feature. Now, this is what I meant by “not all people like its safety mechanism”.
Shooters with more experience might find it annoying, though I find this feature to be very handy. Located opposite the loading gate on the left, you can flip it with your thumb and lower the bar blocking the hammer.
Later on, you will notice the red dot signaling that the revolver is ready to be fired. This does slow things down for a bit, but you will get your hand on it after a short practice.
If you have none or little prior experience with guns, the Heritage Rough Rider 22LR is probably the best budget revolver for you. It’s lightweight, so shooters with weaker arms will handle it easily, while first-timers needn’t be scared of the recoil.
Heritage Rough Rider 22LR comes with 4.75, 6, or 9-inch barrels. After choosing your barrel you also get to pick the caliber, which is most squarely in the .22 caliber area.
Another great feature of this handgun is the wide variety of available grips. Cocobolo is my favorite, but you can also choose between art deco, cool flags, and laminate options. No matter your style, Heritage surely has a grip that you’ll love.
Possible downsides come down to safety, as mentioned, and the fact that the cylinder doesn’t pop out. This implies that a speed loader clip isn’t an option, so you will have to rotate the cylinder by hand to load each bullet independently.
In case you want more information about the Heritage Rough Rider 22LR, check out this video.
- Extremely durable
- Fast fire ability
- Quick loading/unloading
- Easy to grip
- Useful for EDC purposes
- It might be a little hard to clean at the beginning
- The cylinder can be a little tough to pull out
- Shooting groups can be a little inconsistent
- 5-round capacity
Taurus 605 .357 is lightweight and it won’t bulge in the holster, so it’s a great pick for a concealed carry.
Despite its rather small size, this revolver can produce some serious damage due to its .357 caliber. This caliber size is highly destructive to soft material targets. So, in case you want to purchase a revolver that is small but extremely powerful, the choice should be easy.
Keep in mind that Taurus 605 .357 is one of the best options for experienced shooters.
We wouldn’t suggest this handgun to the newbie users since it can be really loud, while the firing power may prove too hard to handle.
If you like Taurus 605 .357 and want to learn more about it, make sure to see this video.
- Pretty lightweight (14.4 ounces)
- Aluminum frame
- Cylinder made of stainless steel
- Aftermarket options available
- Tough recoil
- Low capacity magazine with only 5 shots
One of the best-known models on the market, Smith & Wesson 642 Centennial Airweight has been around since 1952. Since this classic revolver has been reliable and versatile from the start, not many changes have been needed or enforced since then.
The designer’s goal was to create a light, hammerless handgun whose grip will be suitable for larger hands. It’s a great choice for home defense and self-defense, but it’s also a great choice for a backup gun.
The S&W 642 consists of a durable frame made of aluminum alloy, a barrel made of stainless steel, and a synthetic grip. At 6-inches long, it makes an outstanding compact revolver.
This handgun weighs 14.4 ounces, so it’s fairly light. Small weight can, on the other hand, cause some point rise problems. It’s not like it’s bad at aiming, but the recoil won’t be gentle on your hands.
Although categorized as .38 Special +P, .357 Magnum caliber versions are also available and the difference is easily noticeable. Check out our list of best .357 magnum revolvers here.
Aftermarket customizations such as awesome grips and holsters are always an option with 642, so I am sure that with a few tweaks, this pistol will easily become one of your favorites.
The only downside, besides the tough recoil, is the low-capacity magazine with only 5 rounds, but—once again—this should be plenty in most self-defense situations.
If you want to know more about the S&W 642 .38 Special +P, click here and see the video.
- Lightweight at 15 ounces
- Gentle recoil, easy to handle
- Can fit inside a larger pocket or a purse
- Concealed hammer
- Low weight causes you to feel more recoil
- Exposed aluminum strap back
- 5-round magazine capacity
Similar to the earlier model 37, 637’s frame is made of aluminum, but its cylinder, crane, and barrel are made of stainless steel. Smith & Wesson 637 also comes with the keylock above the cylinder release.
The lack of a hammer-mounted firing pin is the key difference between 637 and its older sister model 642.
The S&W 637 weighs 15.5 ounces when a 1.875-inch barrel is fully loaded. This revolver has a hammer spur that enables the single-action firing with a light trigger pull; you can also fire in double-action.
The 637 is ergonomic, featuring a rubber grip wrapped around the grip frame that feels comfortable and sturdy in your hand. Some might find it lacks the classic grittiness of the original walnut grips that can be found on model 37, but the rubber fits it well since the 637 is rated for +P ammo.
The main downside of this handgun is the exposed aluminum strap back, which can cause slight pain in your hand after you fire a few shots of the +P ammunition. This might induce bad habits such as flinching, resulting in imprecise aiming, and wild shots aren’t a luxury you can afford since you’re limited to only five rounds (and you don’t want to hurt anyone by accident either).
To learn more about the 637, click here.
- Magazine capacity of 6 rounds
- Made of stainless steel, so quite durable
- Only available in .38 and .38 Special +P
- Some reliability problems
Colt Night Cobra is a descendent of the original Colt Cobra. It was redesigned to employ newer manufacturing methods. The parts of this handgun are metal-injection-molded in order to minimize labor-intensive fitting.
Unlike the original model, Night Cobra’s frame is built from stainless steel. This makes it heavier than the other revolvers on this list, weighing 25 ounces and measuring at 7.2 inches in length.
The cylinder latch represents the classic Colt characteristic and it must be pulled back to open the cylinder to load or unload. Another typical Colt feature is the clockwise rotation of the cylinder. The trigger also maintains the familiar feel, similar to the classic Colt pistols.
The Night Cobra comes with G10 stocks that have no sharp edges that would catch on clothing or make a holstered revolver easier to see through a cover shirt. This is great since the Night Cobra was primarily built as a civilian concealed carry revolver.
The main downside is the fact that the Night Cobra is only rated for .38 and .38 Special +P, so no Magnums allowed!
For more info about the Night Cobra watch this video.
- Excellent reliability
- Compact, ergonomic design
- Abundance of aftermarket options
- Light trigger pull
- Great for self-defense
- Only 5 rounds
The Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .38 Special +P Revolver may be last on the list, but make no mistake, it’s popular for many reasons, especially its concealability and reliability.
The Bodyguard is a .38 Special +P caliber with a 5-round capacity and a 1.8-inch barrel length, making it one of the best concealed carry revolvers you can get on the market today. They’re relatively rare to find, but if you do, snag one and call it a day.
It has black ramp front sights and integral rear sight for maximum accuracy, but there are also aftermarket options available like the TRUGLO Tritium Pro sights.
The Smith & Wesson’s M&P Bodyguard .38 +P Special revolver is a double-action only (DAO) revolver, chambered in .38 Special +P with a lightweight feel, aluminum upper frame, and ambidextrous cylinder release.
The ergonomic one-piece gray polymer grip, 5-round capacity, stainless steel cylinder, and smooth trigger pull make it perfect for newcomers to the revolver party. Smith & Wesson also offers you a lifetime service policy, which is certainly more than welcome for newbies.
The hammerless design with a snag-free feature and overall compact simplicity sells this revolver. Undoubtedly, the Bodyguard is an excellent option if you have trouble with crispy trigger pulls.
There’s a great number of revolver models available on the market, and they all come with different features and characteristics, so you might have a difficult time when it comes to making the right choice.
If you love the classic style and plan on getting a revolver someday soon, I made a list of the factors that you should consider before you make a purchase.
Budget and Quality
Although a cheap gun and quality often don’t come together, the situation with revolvers is different.
Even a modest budget can get you a revolver with better quality and performance than you would expect.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should go for a low-quality firearm and sacrifice the performance just to save a few dollars.
There are revolvers of different sizes, so the magazine capacity also varies. Usually, a revolver can hold six bullets, but some models have limits of five, seven, eight, or more.
Of course, picking the right number of rounds will strongly depend on what you prefer.
Keep in mind that going for a bigger number of shots is good, but at the same time, it will increase the width and make the revolver harder to conceal.
As always, purchasing a durable and solid item pays out.
No one wants a handgun that will fall apart easily, or malfunction after being shot a few times, so you need to get a revolver built from the best materials for it to last.
Remember, better materials like stainless steel and polymer always increase the lifespan of a handgun.
Important Stuff to Keep in Mind
Before you go for the Rugers and Smith & Wessons, there are a few important issues you should have in mind.
Don’t Just Go for the Biggest Gun
Lots of people will skip the thinking and simply go and spend money on the biggest revolver available.
Bigger revolvers look cool, but they’re, obviously, heavier to carry and harder to hide. Sometimes they can cause a painful recoil, especially when used by a newbie, so a lot of people sell their big handguns away after using them only a few times.
Don’t let this happen to you! Take your time and research all of the available options and their features. Rent or borrow the revolver you like the best, and try it out. If you still think that’s the right one for you, then it probably is.
Ammunition Might Be More Expensive
You might not expect it, but revolver ammunition will cost you more than the standard 9 mm, especially if we’re talking big-bore handguns that start at around $30 per box of 50 rounds.
It might be a real hassle finding bigger quantities of some calibers since even the best gun shops don’t stock much of .44 Special or .45 Colt.
The best way to avoid this type of problem is to get a “convertible” revolver. They’re designed in such a way that they can function using different types of ammunition.
The conversion process doesn’t take much time, and it will allow you to use the same revolver in different situations.
Safety Always Comes First
As we approach the conclusion of our article about the best budget revolvers, we should take a moment to speak about safety. When it comes to guns, most pre-purchase evaluations happen in public places such as gun shops or gun shows. This means that there are people around you, and keeping everyone safe is the top priority.
That being said, there are two main rules you should know:
- Always keep in mind to hold the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Double-check the revolver as soon as it’s in your hands, and confirm it’s unloaded.
Now that you’re absolutely sure that the cylinder is empty, you can continue with the examination.
Are Revolvers More Powerful Than Pistols?
Then you have test shootings for .357 Magnum revolvers that clearly show the better stopping power of the .357 over 9mm or .38 calibers.
Choose what works best for you and remember to keep the recoil, weight, accuracy, and ergonomics in mind.
Are Revolvers Reliable?
Definitely yes. Revolvers are reliable because they are somewhat more simple and straightforward to use than regular handguns.
Plus, they’re easier to strip down and clean because a lot of revolvers have fewer parts for you to work with.
One of the most reliable revolver types is the double-action trigger revolver. Simply pull the trigger and shoot. It’s rare to see malfunctions on a double-action revolver.
Do Revolvers Eject Shell Casings?
It’s important to know that once you fire the revolver, the shell casings stay within the cylinder, and you need to pop the wheel and eject the casings yourself.
This might be a hassle for some, in contrast to the straightforward reloading that regular handguns offer.
Be advised, you’ll experience some malfunctions and reloading issues when the casings jam, and you have to manually pluck out the casings. It usually depends on the quality of the model and the brand.
I suggest you stick to Smith & Wessons and Rugers if you don’t want to come across issues like these.
What Is the Difference Between Single-Action Revolvers and Double-Action Revolvers?
The single-action and double-action mechanisms refer to the revolver’s method of operation and what happens when you pull the trigger.
On single-action revolvers, you have to manually cock the hammer before shooting.
On double-action revolvers, pulling the trigger means automatically cocking and firing. You can’t manually cock the hammer back, you just pull the trigger. The trigger pull is crisp and heavy, so keep this in mind when choosing DA revolvers.
Most handguns are single-action, but you have lots of double-action only (DAO) handguns and even single-action/double-action (SA/DA) handguns like the Taurus G2C.
How Can I Reload a Revolver Faster?
If you want to get faster when loading and unloading, for example, double-action revolvers, there’s only one thing that’s a fact: practice, practice, and more practice. That’s three things, but you get the point.
Reloading double-action revolvers have a cylinder that swings open from the revolver to the left side after pressing the release button.
Tipping the gun up and keeping the rear end of the cylinder down is a standard procedure and you should practice building muscle memory.
You should find a comfortable and fast swinging motion and maneuver that works for you best.
This little safety instruction concludes our pretty comprehensive overview of my top-rated high-quality, affordable handguns. My favorite deserves to be mentioned once more, so let’s give it up for Ruger LCR .38 Special +P.
This masterpiece of Ruger is reliable, compact, very accurate, and budget-friendly! The combination of aluminum, polymer, and stainless steel in its frame keeps the LCR .38 Special +P outstandingly lightweight.
Combine it with a Hogue Tamer rubber grip with ergonomic finger grooves, and you’ve got a gun that makes shooting easy and comfortable.
If you’re going for regular handguns on a budget, check out our guide here.
If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments below, and we’ll be happy to get back to you with the answers.