I think a double-stack full-size or compact autoloader is the weapon of personal protection in the 21st Century due to the nature of the threat we now face. While still less common than average crime the possibility of facing multiple active shooters or terrorists now exists and having a handgun capable of offering at least a fighting chance against heavily armed adversaries is an unfortunate reality that the modern armed citizen should consider. I humbly submit that the revolver is not the handgun for such an undertaking. Still, for the common criminal assault that the citizen may face the revolver generally proves functional.
When it is the only gun that works I carry a small-frame revolver. It is the only weapon that will conceal in less permissive dress for me and it is this role that keeps the revolver relevant in my life. Therefore, I am a disciple of the wheel gun in this application. I have used a Ruger LCR in this capacity for several years now. Still, despite my reliance on it for deep concealment, the revolver has always been a secondary weapon for myself, not a primary carry gun. I have been curious for some time as to how the revolver would work as a primary.
Earlier this year I acquired a Ruger SP101 which quickly became my favorite revolver. As an all-steel gun it has the weight to be a nice shooting weapon and I have more confidence in it than any lite weight variant. In an attempt to embrace the revolver as more than just a deep concealment or backup weapon I have trained quite a bit with the SP101 over the spring and summer and I have carried it extensively in that time as a primary gun. Ridding in the waistband the 25 ounce weight is not a chore and the gun is still a small-frame revolver that disappears. All good. The bad: it has only five rounds and it also takes three times longer to reload than my autoloader.
My takeaway from carrying the revolver as a primary is this: small-frame revolvers remain exceedingly easy to carry, the rounded shape conceals well. If you commit to the required training they are far more than a belly gun. I can shoot the SP101 quite accurately. I have no problems making solid and fairly rapid hits at 50 yards all day long with it. I also find it exceedingly comfortable to carry. The rounded shape pressed into the waistband is entirely unobtrusive despite being a heavy gun for the size.
I can tell you that if you are going to carry a snub as a primary gun on the belt I think a heavy one like the SP101 or similar is the way to go as they are much better shooting guns than the lite weight options. However, if the snub is a backup or pocket/ankle gun for you then the lite weight guns are easier to carry in those modes and prove more versatile for that application. If you are not willing to carry a larger gun but will commit to the small-frame revolver I think it is clear that it is a lot better than being unarmed and going with a stout, yet small, revolver like the SP101 or maybe an all-steel J Frame is a good option.
However, we come back to the most glaring limitations of the platform: low ammunition capacity and a much slower reload. A revolver will address the majority of criminal activity faced by the citizen, but the outliers exist. For the same general conceal-ability in casual clothing and for less weight I can carry my Glock 26 which has a 10 round magazine in the gun and a 21 round Magpul magazine backing it up as a reload. The revolver is still a great defensive weapon that serves certain purposes well and I still use one extensively. However, my preference remains for a pistol that takes staggered magazines.