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Why do criminals prefer revolvers?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Jimfern, Dec 17, 2008.

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  1. Jimfern

    Jimfern Member

    May 23, 2008
    North Texas
    I was poking around on the internet trying to figure out how many people get killed by handguns in the U.S. and saw this:
    "An earlier 1985 study of 1,800 incarcerated felons showed that criminals prefer revolvers and other non-semi-automatic firearms over semi-automatic firearms"

    from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

    The last statement made me wonder why criminals would prefer revolvers. I don't have the book referenced for that statement - James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi (1986). ARMED AND CONSIDERED DANGEROUS: A Survey of Felons and their Firearms. Aldine De Gruyter.

    I own and shoot both revolvers and semi-autos and if I were going into a situation where I thought I might have to use my weapon, I would most likely take a high capacity semi-auto with extra clips. I would appreciate anyone's comments on why this would be the case. It seems rather odd, or even flawed by my logic.

  2. jtemple

    jtemple Member

    Oct 22, 2008
    My guess is cost and availability. Maybe they're concerned about leaving spent casings at the scene of a crime, but I doubt that. Most criminals aren't that bright.
  3. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

    Nov 28, 2006
    Allentown, Pennsylvania
    Criminals use what's cheap and available. It has little to do with revolvers vs autoloaders.
  4. MikePGS

    MikePGS Member

    Aug 4, 2006
    Metro Detroit, Michigan
    I imagine if they do prefer revolvers, it would be due to the fact that its much easier to collect your brass (ie you do nothing) than a semi, and brass could be used to link to to other shootings.
  5. zx12rider

    zx12rider Member

    Sep 22, 2008
    Central CT
    My thoughts

    I would assume most stolen guns are from the elderly. IE kids stealing them from their unaware grand parents etc. It's the sad truth. I have heard storries and revolvers are more common in their collections. My grand father mostly owned revolvers and we made sure no one took advantage of him.
  6. Jimfern

    Jimfern Member

    May 23, 2008
    North Texas
  7. geronimo509

    geronimo509 Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    also, many criminals are not that good with guns, they dont spend much time taking them apart and cleaning them and such. Since they dont clean them and prolly dont know how they jam on them. a revolver really doesnt fail too much, and thats prolly all the criminals know.
  8. Claude Clay

    Claude Clay Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    supposing that to a thief a gun is a tool. i am not addressing gang/drug use of fire arms. so, its a tool--thief would want the simplest tool that will do the job. thus a revolver. 1985 was rather pre-plastic so a gun without any levers or buttons to press or move is a revolver. the original point and click.

    and as most thieves acquire their tools from previous thief's [ or their supplier does---] they have revolvers. and if theiven nets lots of guns, the semis sell for more-- so again, the thief keeps the revolver.

    as for effectiveness in a crime--point ANY gun at someone and only the darwin winner is going to resist.
    not leaving a case at the scene a) professional thieves do not carry and if they do -the last thing they want to do is shoot someone cause now the police are gonna try hard to find the VIOLENT thief. b) if the gun is discharged case forensics was rather underutilized in the mid 80's; and is mostly stupidvision today . recovered bullets could and did trace a recovered 'guns' crimes.

    unlike gang/druggers--a thief's chooses a criminal life style; this does not mean he is without skills or stupid.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2008
  9. Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave Member

    May 5, 2006
    People's Republic of Maryland
    Victims of firearm theft cover all ages, from 20's to the elderly. It is correct that the vast number of criminals don't worry about brass left at the scene. The source is 22 years old, so the data is WAAAAAY out of date. The basic answer is as stated above. There are more revolvers available than semi-autos, as the revolver has been around a bit longer, and has been mass produced in higher numbers. When a handgun is found by a thief, there is a better chance it's a revolver than a semi-auto. As such the revolver goes for less on the street just as it goes for less when compared to a semi when leagally sold.

    I have seen about the same number of the cheap, break-top, H&R style revolvers from the 1900-1930's era, as I have seen actual working revolvers. Of the working ones the cheap .22 types seem to be very prevalent, then the .38's.

    I also wonder about the source of the data, asking "felons" is not the same as asking "felons convicted of using a handgun where a working handgun was recovered". My experience is that folks who will use an actual handgun in a crime, and have the choice between a small semi-auto vs a small revolver, will pick the semi almost every time. Even if the semi-auto is a .380 and the revolver is a .357.

  10. pogo2

    pogo2 Member

    Dec 28, 2002

    The study was done in 1985, which is 23 years ago. At that time there were probably more revolvers around, as a percent of total handguns, than at present. I believe that semiautos have been selling much faster than revolvers over the last 25 years, based on what I see in gun stores and at shooting ranges.

    I also believe the "no discarded shell casing" argument is a good one. The discarded shell casings can become evidence, from fingerprints or the impression of the firing pin.

    And I agree that revolvers are generally cheaper than semiautos, if you are buying the gun and not stealing it. A criminal generally uses the gun for intimidation rather than shooting, and a cheaper revolver works just as well as a semiauto for this purpose.
  11. orchidhunter

    orchidhunter member

    Jan 20, 2008
    It's the reliability of a revolver they like. orchidhunter
  12. walker944

    walker944 Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Texas Hill Country
    The study was published in 1986, which is right in the middle of a huge market swing toward semi-auto handguns. Prior to that the handgun market was predominantly revolvers. At a glance, I didn't see what the period of time was of the study, so it is very possible the focus of the study was during years of revolver dominance...which would explain why criminals mostly used revolvers. A more current study may reflect a different trend.

  13. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    Criminals will use whatever they get their hands on.

    I imagine if they do prefer revolvers, it would be due to the fact that its much easier to collect your brass (ie you do nothing) than a semi, and brass could be used to link to to other shootings.

    Any criminal who hangs on to gun they've done a shooting with deserves to get a double sentence for stupidity.
  14. KBintheSLC

    KBintheSLC Member

    Jul 30, 2007
    Stalingrad, USA
    I think the key here is 1985. Semi-automatics have come a long way since then. I haven't seen cops carrying revolvers in well over 15 years. And I am assuming that there are now far more autos than revolvers leaving the shelves.

    Thats not it. There are many autos these days that have the same flawless reliability as any revolver. I think that criminals just use whatever they stole. If peoples homes are full of revolvers, they will use revolvers. If peoples homes are full of autos, they will use autos.
  15. searcher451

    searcher451 Member

    Jun 15, 2007
    MikePGS has got much of it right. The crooks like the revolvers because they don't leave brass behind; too many of the bad guys apparently are watching CSI these days and know that those telltale spent casings can do them in.
  16. WC145

    WC145 Member

    Oct 28, 2006
    I'm guessing this is a joke. I doubt most criminals worry about the reliability of their guns. They shoot what they steal or what they buy out of someone's trunk. As someone said further up the thread, the info you've got there is quite old and there's been a big shift in the popularity of revolvers vs semi's in that time. If anything I would say that the opposite is true today what with Glocks and the like being glamorized in movies, music, and video games. Those are the types of weapons that the current crop of scumbags are familiar with and that's what they'll be looking for if they're in the market for a new piece.
  17. HoosierQ

    HoosierQ Member

    Mar 27, 2008
    Central Indiana.
    I have noted this before in a different way.

    Criminals are pretty much by definition poor. Maybe they are disadvantaged, maybe they are shooting all their money into their arms or snorting it up their noses...they're poor.

    So, the black market being what it is, if a criminal gets his hands on a halfway decent firearm, autoloader or otherwise (I'll bet not many of these "crime guns" are Pythons!!!) he is going to sell it for cash or dope, maybe food or rent. A criminal, economically speaking, just can't afford to hold on to a nice gun. A beater works just as well for most crime and since it is ugly or rusty or whatever, is worth most as a weapon. I base this observation on the police gun auctions. Two or three nice guns and thousands of horrible beaters...lot's and lot's of .22 rifles of all descriptions and all in pretty bad shape. A Glock here or there.

    I went to my first police aution thinking I'd see like a Luger or something really neat like that...didn't happen.

    So I doubt criminals prefer revolvers. There are just a lot more old beat up revolvers around and that's what they can afford to use.

    The real world just isn't much like Miami Vice.
  18. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
    I agree with everyone else.

    A 1986 study is very out of date.
    Semi-auto's were few & far between back then, with only the S&W's, Colt's, Browning pocket auto's, & WWII bring-backs having been around in any quantity not too many years prior to that.

    But there were gazillions of old .32 & .38 revolvers floating around then.

    A new 2008 study would find an overwhelming majority favoring the semi-autos, I betcha!

  19. sm

    sm member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Between black coffee, and shiftn' gears
    Besides not leaving brass behind...
    And before we had CSI Syndrome and Internet...


    -These can be used by anyone, no matter of skill level in regard to firearms.
    -They can be fired from a pocket.
    -Less likely to go out of battery if used in a confined space.
    -More difficult to get hung up on items in a confined space.
    -More easy to be reloaded if hurt, or injured one handed.

    Sound familiar?

    These things were shared with me by criminals and ex cons.
    Don't ask, just in some of what I have experiences with, all legit mind you, this is what I was told.

    I was also advised I needed to carry a .22 lr snub nosed revolver, by criminals.
    So was the UC officer.

    Illegal dawg and cock fight ring.
    I might have to go shoot the back of a knee out , though the single shot .22 rifles they had for this, were at my disposal.

    I miss those old H&R snub nose .22s.

    You see the S&W and Colt said "cop", as they used these for quality practice for the duty snub nose in .38spl.

    I sorta miss the days before CSI Syndrome and Armchair Warriors...

  20. CWL

    CWL Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    1985 study, all a matter of timing. At this time, there weren't that many semis available (and the traditional "Colt .45" had developed a lousy reputation for quality by this time.)

    In 1985, most LEOs carried revolvers. Also, to have been incarcerated in 1985, these felons were like arrested & tried prior to 1985.

    The rise of semis in popularity came-about as a result of TV & movies such as Miami Vice (1984); Lethal Weapon (1987) and Die Hard (1988).

    Heck, the Glock 17 wasn't imported until 1986; and the Beretta 92FS/M9 wasn't adopted until 1985 -dunno when it was sold into civvie marketplace.
  21. redneckrepairs

    redneckrepairs Member

    May 3, 2005
    Criminals prefer cheap , and in the latter 80s revolvers were cheap as we were seeing the transition to autos for LE . Hell in the late 80s you could buy a mod 10 S&W for under $200 I know because i did , several , and just got one back ( an estate thing ) that iirc i paid 175 for . In the late 80s and early 90s if it wasnt an auto it wasnt worth spit . It puts me in mind of the recent snobbery in sport rifles that might take standard mags . I remember when almost any ak copy was a top money 400 and most ar pattern rifles could be had under the big bill ( under $1,000) I remember when you paid 5 to 700 for a certin Califorinia FAL and then bitched about how you got screwed .

    All of the above goes to illistrate that in my experiance a criminal considers a firearm as a tool . It matters little to them what they have , but matters a great deal that they have . Granted nowadays they will pay more for a " glock " ( that is almost any double stack auto no matter the brand name of the pistol ) than another they will still go cheap . Good for the revolver guys that they are off the map nowadays, just the same as actually learning how to run the gun is off the map .
  22. twodawgs

    twodawgs Member

    Sep 23, 2007
    Northeast Wyoming
    Why would a criminal prefer cheap? It's not like they would actually be buying a weapon, most likely they'd steal it.

    The double action revolver is a reliable and simple device. Pull trigger, go bang. Many criminals do not appear to have the brain capacity to operate anything other than the simplest of tools. Semi-auto's require more intelligence and manual dexterity to operate.
  23. Hawk

    Hawk Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Grand Prairie, TX
    Take it one step further: they lack the critical reasoning skills to make that distinction. When was the last time you met someone that would admit they were too stupid to operate a semi and then act on that knowledge.

    I still have immediate family working in the NYS correctional system. Last I heard, criminals don't "prefer" revolvers, there were simply more of them in 1985.

    This thread, IMHO, would not be well served by turning it into a thinly veiled "revolver vs semi" thread. Besides, if the criminal element I was familiar with from my time in NYS actually "preferred" revolvers that would, by itself, be sufficient to convince me that wheelguns are a sorry choice. Srysly, it's not like the rest of their choices have worked out all that well, now did they?

    C'mon, "Revolvers: the choice of incompetent losers nation-wide" - swell endorsement, there.
  24. k9870

    k9870 member

    Dec 6, 2008
    criminals are too stupid to do proper gun maintenance, and revolvers arent high maintenance weapons. i thought gangstas liked glocks?
  25. Ron-Bon

    Ron-Bon Member

    Nov 12, 2008
    Norfolk, VA
    It's because revolvers are generally louder. Criminals are usually dumb enough to equate louder with more deadly. More importantly, revolvers are more simplistic and the shells do not get scattered all over the area, making forensics that much more difficult
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