The revolver

‘The Revolver’ a chapter taken from Joseph Renaud’s book ” La Defense Dans La Rue” 1912

Special thanks to James Farthing and Herve Dautry for providing this English translation

First distance

Basically, it is the distance between you and your aggressor that determines the kind of defence that should be used. At what I call the “great distance”, three or four paces, the revolver is clearly the weapon of choice. At a closer range, one cannot argue with the effectiveness of a bullet in the stomach, but when taken by surprise we have no time to draw our weapon or we might not dare to do so by fear that the aggressor could get hold of it. Furthermore, we often find ourselves unarmed, or just wish to give the thug a good beating, not to kill him. Other means must therefore be used.

The revolver causes injuries from far away, and help to keep unfriendly people at a safe distance. Its use does not require any physical strength, and as we will later see, it can also be used to deliver boxing blows in impressible and effective ways. I consider the 38 Smith and Wesson to be the best pocket revolver as it is big enough to be dangerous and precise while taking little space.

Now days, the hammer less[semi-automatic pistols fitted with an internal hammer] have almost replaced the revolvers but if we need to shoot someone from far away, for example when taking aim at a thug running away, it is best not to use the double action but to raise the hammer  while getting the revolver out of our pocket, as the shot will prove to be far more accurate. Obviously, such an advantage can only be gained by using a weapon fitted with a hammer. Small revolvers firing armored/ jacked bullets are for sale, and those are undoubtedly fearsome weapons. However they lack precision and can prove unreliable as the armored/ jacked bullets have been known to rebound on rather soft surfaces.

The semi-automatic Browning is the fashionable weapon of today, and I have heard a lot of positive comments about it. I myself tried several models of this weapon and found it to be a excellent pistol. However I would not recommend its use as I do not know how it would fare in a life and death situation. I insist teaching in teaching from true experience only so all the recommendations in this book are bases on facts. Such a method may seem rather exclusive, but it is usefuland prevent the occurrence of many mistakes. So far, I am aware of many examples of the Smith and Wesson performing well in combat, but of none concerning the Browning. Some must exist however, and the next edition of this book might therefore contain new information in this respect.


Every person walking the street at night should carry a revolver. However, it is not good enough to have it in your pocket as a revolver is only reliable if one knows how to use it properly. One must therefore spend some time training conditions that mimic as closely as possible what happen in a real fight.

To master the use of his own weapon is of paramount importance. Someone who uses a familiar weapon will perform ten times better than if he uses an unfamiliar one. A duel where the opponents are allowed to use their own weapon is an extremely lethal affair. I have never heard of such a duel that did not end up with severe consequences, while I know of formidable marksmen who missed their man at a distance of twenty five meters simply because they were using an unfamiliar weapon. Consequently, if you carry, or keep in the drawer of your bedside table, a revolve you never train with, you are in for some nasty surprise.

Often, people under attack try to use, or even use their revolver without causing any damages to their aggressor. However, I know of an old English lady from whom I would say more about later on, who severely injured several of her aggressors when attacked one night on a bridge at Neuilly. This lady used to train herself by shooting at big pebbles on the beached of Brittany during summer time.

How to train

The best way to train consist in having a person arrange five silhouette targets grouped differently at a short distance all around you, while  you keep your eyes shut so as to maintain intact the element of surprise. When your assistant shout “fire”, you try to put a single bullet in every single target as fast as possible.

I insist on keeping the distance short because in the street, it is unlikely that you would need to shoot at anybody from a distant of more than five or six meters. You must learn to shoot quickly and instinctively. After a while, your hand should be able to “throw” the bullet on its own without aiming.

Training plan

Training with  revolver should be practised as follow:

  1. Firstly, shoot precisely and with increasing speed at a single target, whose size should be a little smaller than a human being, from a distance of five or six maters. You should be able to hit the target without aiming or looking at your weapon, with both the left and right hand, and from any position: seating, kneeling, on your back, etc.
  2. Then, you should try to hit at the same target as fast as possible using progressive bursts of bullets: two bullets, then three, then four and five.
  3. Then you use two targets, trying at first to put one bullet in each target alternatively. Progressively, you do the same exercise with two bullets in each, three bullets, etc. The exercise is still to be done without aiming at the targets.
  4. Increase the number of targets up to five.
  5. Practise the exercise described earlier on which consist in having the target arranged randomly around you while you keep your eyes shut.


It is obviously more difficult to put quickly and accurately five bullets in five targets arranged randomly around you, so such an exercise should not be attempted at an early stage. The arrangement of the targets can be modified indefinitely to keep the exercise both more useful and more interesting. The targets used should be made of cardboard and attached to a post so as to be easily transportable. This special method of shooting will proved to be particularly difficult to master but it will help you to develop precision and cold blooded efficiency, two essential abilities that will stop you killing innocent by passers instead of your aggressors during a life-threatening situation.

Where to carry your weapon

If you are expecting troubles, do not carry your revolver in a holster at your hip but inside the pocket of your overcoat. And do not show your weapon if someone suddenly jumps in front of you from a hidden place. First directly towards the abdomen through the material of your clothing. This is an excellent tactic. If you raise the arm which is holding the weapon, this arm can be grabbed, stuck, maybe by a second aggressor ; the bullet might even, who knows, be dogged. On the contrary, the tactic of firing from the inside of your pocket is almost infallible. If the material of your overcoat is thick, be cautious not to press the revolver against it so as  to prevent the gum from blowing out in your hand (something that would most certainly not happen). You should train yourself in the use of such tactic while wearing an old overcoat.

Example : last year in Marseille, a gentleman who had read about this tactic in an article I had written for the newspaper “L’Eclaireur de Nice”, used it with greatefficiency to save his life when attacked by a thug. Because he knew he was being stalked, this young man always carried his revolver inside the pocket of his jacket. When his persecutor rushed at him with a knife while he was having a drink outside a Cafe, he mortally wounded his foe with a bullet in the stomach. The tribunal later decided that there was no ground for prosecution.

Special handling

Some people will find it useful to press the trigger with the middle finger while keeping the index finger against the cylinder, parallel to the barrel. This technique relies on the habit of using the index finger to point at things.

I heard the General de Chabot tell that such a method of shooting had saved his life in several occasions. For example, the day before the battle of Sarrebruck in 1870, he found himself face to face with a Prussian captain  while seating in a small canteen. They both shot at each other straight away. Mr de Chabot had a single action weapon while his foe had a double action one.  Nevertheless, the German missed five times while the French lieutenant mortally wounded him with his second shot. It must be noticed that both had fired hastily but this technique for handling the revolver makes instinctive shooting more accurate. Always used this technique with a good quality revolver, as it will prevent any spit of lead from between the cylinder and the barillet that would burn your fingers.

Other training methods

Shooting with a revolver is entertaining, and if you practise with consistency you can become extremely proficient. If you have a mind for training specifically with this weapon, do not try to become a prodigy at shooting with aim. It is better to achieve less spectacular but more instinctive results.

For example, when you find it easy to put bullets in each of your five targets arranged close to you, instead of moving them further away to try to shoot even more quickly, or aim at achieving the same result while training at night in poor light conditions.

Or, during day light, keep your eyes open for just few second to locate the targets, then close them and fire. After a little while you will be surprised to discover that you nonetheless hit the targets and with relative ease.

You can also try to hit moving objects, but practise this exercise outside as much as possible. One way to do this is to use a revolver instead of a hunting rifle, and to try to kill rabbits, jays, and magpies, which is far from being easy.

Obviously, the weapon use for such a training must be the one you carry with you.

Other weapons

The other weapons sold for self-defence purposes are usually unreliable.

The “canne epee” [ sword-cane], a dangerous weapon for clumsy people. Rossignol, the famous policeman, state that nobody was ever able to defend himself effectively with a canne epee, but he knows of gentlemen who were injured or killed by their own weapon when disarmed by a bunch of thugs.

If you are an expert swordsmen, you may use such a weapon. But do not use it the way you would during training or a duel, with the blade straightened in front of you. Attack in a frenzy of strikes, with quick and short blows, and withdraw your arm immediately to avoid the risk of having your weapon taken from you.

Do not hesitate to thrust while stepping in, it is the best way to avoid being disarmed. Direct strikes are usuallysufficient, but if you need to feint an attack, a threat to the face in order to strike at the abdomen, or vise-versa, will suffice. Always threatened with a bent arm.

Some “cannes” contain a very sharp and pointed sabre. Those are the best weapons because they allow you to both thrust and slash. Furthermore, anyone who attempts to grab the blade would invariably injure himself.

The “canne plombee” [leaded cane] does not allow fast strikes. choose instead a more classical weapon as those sold by every boxing instructor. The rubber truncheon contained in some “canne” is practically useless. As for the knuckle duster, the sole effect it ever had was breaking the fingers of the person using it.

Have you heard about the “casse-tete” carried by policemen during the Second Empire : two balls of lead united by a short “tressis de baleines” [weaved rope made of hemp used by fisherman hunting whales]. A strip keeps it attached to the wrist, it can be carried hidden inside the sleeve, you do not need to be strong to use it and the blows it delivers are fearsome. Some of them can still be found in gum shops or in second hand shops. It is a fearsome weapon at close quarter combat.

Important observations

You can only use a weapon effectively if you have thought about what can happen in a street fight, and have trained in every kind of self-defence methods. You must know the different techniques that can be used against you and to do so, you must train  in boxing [French style included] “canne” and jiu-jitsu. It is better to learn unarmed combat first because it will enable you to use any kind of weapons efficiently. Even better, in your hands, and daily life object would become a dangerous weapon.