Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Buying A Shootin' Iron

A Guide For Someone In Need Of Unsolicited Advice

I heard over the weekend that one of my blogbuddies is signed up for Concealed Carry classes. I ain't sayin' who it is, since I'm of the opinion that info like that is best left unpublished.

This person's no stranger to firearms, so I'm not out to teach Grandpa how to suck eggs. Trouble is, last time he had any extensive use of a handgun, Nixon was in office, and the handguns in question were relics of at least one (and likely two!) world wars and the institutional care and toss-in-a-crate storage of the Big Green Machine.

So, here's some things this person needs to keep in mind before shelling out a fistful of C-notes on a popper of his own.

Revolver Vs. Autoloader
I'm a big fan of autoloading pistols. I've also had one within reach most of my adult life, so I'm familiar with all the quirks of each particular model I own. It's knowledge that took years to accumulate.

I can say with great certainty and a middlin' amount of authority that autoloaders are the last gun I'd give to a beginner. There's just too many things to have to remember. Which lever is the slide release? Which is the decocker? Does the safety go up or down to activate? How do I clear a jam? Does the slide lock open after the last round? Where's the magazine release? Why won't this damn mag eject?

There's also the differential trigger pulls on DA/SA pistols, where the first round is a long double action squeeze, but all subsequent shots are a light single-action tap on the trigger. It's really easy to get an accidental discharge with that type in a stressful situation.

That's a lot of things to be going around in someone's head as they're pulling out the pistola to repel boarders. You really can't fault a double-action revolver for simplicity. You can operate one successfully for years and only touch two moving parts, the trigger and the cylinder release catch. No safeties, no need to cock the hammer unless you want to, and most empty cases will drop right out of the cylinder, so you rarely use the ejector plunger. It's almost, but not quite, completely idiot-proof.

A revolver can sit loaded for years with no magazine springs to weaken. They rarely quibble over ammo, whereas an autoloader can be really fussy about what it will feed reliably. Sure, they don't hold as much ammo, and aren't as slim as most autoloaders, but a CCW revolver is not meant for going into combat. It's a last ditch weapon after efforts to exit the situation have failed.

However... Texas CCW law still states that if you want to carry an autoloader, you need to pass the qualification course with an autoloader. If you take the course with a revolver, you're only allowed to carry a revolver, and would need to shell out the bux and requalify when/if you wanted to go the autoloader route. So, there's that to keep in mind as well.

Which Caliber?
All us strong and manly men, with no... errrr... shortcomings to compensate for, naturally choose the biggest, loudest, most destructive round we can stuff into our trousers. Grunt! Argh! Kill!

Ok, not really. What you really want is a round that will get the job done, and not cause seismic disturbances in the process. It can't be so powerful that you're afraid to shoot it, but also needs to be tailored to the situation and experience level of the user.

I love the .45 ACP. Big, heavy, slow moving, and it usually leaves the goblin that receives a few slugs knowing he's way far up Shit Creek. It's almost universally an autoloader round, though, and the few revolvers that chamber it tend to be heavy, with a cylinder the diameter of a baseball bat. Kinda hard to conceal.

.44 Magnum is wonderfully adaptive, and a good handloader can make bear-busting rounds as well as mild-mannered target stuff that hardly kicks. The CCW applicant this posting is for is not a handloader, though, and even though you could put .44 Specials in a .44 Mag revolver, you've still got a sizable revolver to try and hide about your person.

The .41 Magnum is the red-haired stepchild of the Magnum loadings. It just never really caught on, despite impressive ballistics and a manageable recoil. They're hard to find these days, ammo is pricy, and it's still a sizable handgun.

This brings us to the .357 Magnum/.38 Special. If you're going to buy a revolver in .38 caliber, you might as well get a .357, since you can always put .38 Specials into the .357 cylinder, but not vice versa. I can think of about 20 different commercial loadings for .357/.38, so ammo is cheap, plentiful and available for a wide variety of purposes. I like to feed +P .38 hollowpoints in my Ruger .357, since they're more zippy than regular .38's, but don't have the flash and blast of full-power Magnum loads.

You could go one step lower to the .32 S&W cartridge, the smallest the state will let you qualify with, but it's an obsolete round, and I don't know any currently manufactured revolvers chambered for it. Sure, Paul Kersey used one to great effect against muggers, but he had Hollywood FX on his side.

(Yeah, there's .32 H&R Magnum, but good luck finding ammo for it anywhere outside a full-service gunshop)

Gotta vote for the .357 in a revolver, then. Here's my picks for a good choice in a CCW revolver, in descending order. (FYI: I'm leaving anti-S&W politics out of this exercise...)

Ruger SP101 - I'd get the spurless hammer version, myself.

S&W 640 - As easy to operate as you can get in a revolver. The Dixie decoration's just an added bonus

S&W 649 - Close to the above, but with a hammer you can cock, and no Rebel yahoo stuff on it.

S&W 386 - Will kick harder, but you get 7 rounds.

Taurus 651 SHC - Better than a sharp stick!

Taurus 650 SS - Ooo! Shiny!

I can't in good conscience recommend an autoloader at this stage in the game, but if you do decide to go that route, better a .40 S&W or .357 SIG than the 9mm Europellet. I can't really recommend the Glock at all. Yeah, fans of the TupperWare Terror will shriek, but there's too many exploding Glocks and accidental discharges due to the funky trigger to recommend them to a novice user.

I've rambled on enough. Call me, dude! We'll talk.