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Can Revolvers Misfire? Common Reasons to Watch For

Revolvers are generally seen as trustworthy and reliable weapons, built simply to complete a simple task. No hardware and no machine are perfect, however, despite a simple design and clean mechanics, even revolvers can face difficulties. So, is it possible for revolvers to misfire?

Revolvers can sometimes misfire due to mechanical issues, the use of incompatible ammunition, damaged internal components, or factory defects. It’s important to know what can cause a revolver to misfire, and take steps to prevent these circumstances from occurring, if possible.

Keep reading to learn more about what can cause a revolver to misfire, how to properly care for your revolver, and how to avoid misfiring.

What Can Cause a Revolver to Misfire?

Revolvers are prized for their simplicity, ease of use, and old-fashioned charm among gun enthusiasts. Even so, sometimes revolvers can misfire. You pull the trigger, and nothing happens. This is not a situation you want to face if you’re staring down a threat, and you need to protect yourself.

The main reasons for a revolver to misfire boil down to:

  • Mechanical or ammo-related failures in the weapon itself
  • Using incompatible ammunition
  • Excessive wear or residue to or in the revolver’s cylinder
  • A factory defect in the revolver (it came damaged or incomplete)

A common mechanical issue you can run into with a revolver is “bullet creep”. This is when the bullet wiggles out of its shell casing. Upon firing, the bullet will jam in the cylinder, and you’ll have to carefully tap it back into its casing with a dowel rod and a mallet.

This often happens when you use the wrong kind of ammo with your revolver, or when the ammo comes with a defect. Always check that the ammo you’re using in your revolver is appropriate for the weapon you’re firing.

Here’s a video showing the parts of a revolver in case this is getting confusing:

A loose ejector rod can be a problem in older revolvers. Make sure that your ejector rod is properly tightened, and not damaged or bent before leaving home with your revolver.

A loose or damaged ejector rod can essentially lock up the cylinder with a spent cartridge, and jam the revolver, making it impossible to fire.

Make sure to have an experienced gunsmith check your weapon for damage and wear periodically (we recommend at least once a year), and be careful to not drop, or misuse your revolver.

Excessive wear or residue in your cylinder can also cause a misfire. Make sure that all parts of your cylinder are clean and in good working order, and that your gun’s barrel is clean, too. It’s a good idea to clean your revolver after every use, or every two weeks, to ensure maximum efficiency and safety.

Finally, your revolver may have come out of the factory with an innate defect. If your revolver is not firing properly after it’s been cleaned and checked by you, bring it into a professional for a break-down and an inspection. You may need repairs, new parts, or, unfortunately, a new weapon.

I use either Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, or Optics Planet to buy parts, that way I always know what I’m getting and that it will actually show up.

What Happens if a Revolver Misfires?

Now that you know what can cause a revolver to misfire, let’s cover what happens when your revolver misfires.

You aim, depress the hammer, pull the trigger, and instead of a loud “bang!” and a proper firing on ammunition, you’ll hear a loud “click” from the hammer righting itself, and nothing else will happen. The ammunition is still in the cylinder, nothing fired, and you’re no safer than you were a few moments ago.

Under normal circumstances, the revolver won’t “blow up in your face” upon a single misfire as is sometimes feared by those new to personal defense, but you’ll need to address the cause of the misfiring and check your weapon. 

Can a Revolver Discharge Accidentally?

While most modern revolvers will only discharge when the trigger is pulled, older-style, single-action revolvers can indeed discharge accidentally when dropped or struck with enough force. 

If you’re using an older revolver, or are using or firing a restored, antique weapon, be especially careful of how you handle your gun. Accidentally dropping an older revolver can cause a discharge, which can prove injurious or lethal to those nearby.

Older revolvers sometimes require nothing more than a hammer drop and a shock of force to go off. So if your revolver lands on its hammer and gets a jolt, it can fire. In very rare circumstances, it is possible for an old-fashioned single-action revolver to discharge due to hammer activity minus a trigger pull or a shock of force. 

Modern revolvers, however, are equipped with a “safety bar” located between the hammer and the firing pin to ensure that accidents like this are unlikely.

Still, it’s a good idea to maximize safety, and be aware and extremely careful of your revolver at all times. Never, never allow children near a weapon, and avoid mishandling or dropping your revolver at all costs.

Are Revolvers Less Likely to Misfire?

Generally speaking, revolvers are less likely to misfire. This is because the mechanics of a revolver are quite a bit more straightforward than a semi-automatic weapon. Depress the hammer, pull the trigger.

So long as the weapon is properly loaded and functional and the cylinder is aligned with the barrel, the revolver should go off.

With a simpler design, and fewer distinct parts, there are fewer things that can go wrong mechanically with a basic revolver.

The more complex a machine gets, the more intricate moving parts are involved, and the more components exist which could break, jam, or otherwise malfunction. As we can see, though a revolver is less likely to misfire, it is still possible.

I use either Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, or Optics Planet to buy parts, that way I always know what I’m getting and that it will actually show up.


A revolver can misfire due to bullet creep, worn or damaged parts, a loose or bent ejector rod, or using the improper type of ammo with the revolver. Make sure that your revolver is clean, free of excessive wear, and loaded with the correct ammunition to reduce the chance of a misfire.

While their simpler design generally makes revolvers less likely to misfire than a semi-automatic weapon, they can still fail, and older revolvers can accidentally discharge if dropped or misused, or due to hammer motion even without direct shock to the weapon. 

It’s a good idea to get your revolver inspected and serviced annually, to clean it after every use, and remember to always keep it stored safely and carefully when not on your person. Never leave a gun unattended or within reach of a child.