January 03, 2011
After chiming in with his choice, the reader's respond to the Sheriff
Recently I got my two cents worth in on the old debate concerning which gun I would have if I could only have one gun. You might recall that I decided my one gun would be a handgun, and after studying the uses I have for a handgun, I settled on a medium-frame .357 Magnum double-action revolver. Over the years I have spent quite a lot of time with the Smith & Wesson Model 19 and Model 66, now discontinued, but I could live quite happily with the new seven-shot L-Frame Models 619 and 620.
Several readers chose big-bore revolvers, such as Smith & Wesson's Mountain Gun, as their choice if they were limited to having only one gun.
At the end of that column I invited readers to share their one-gun choices with me. I thought you might be interested in some of the responses I received.
My comments were focused on handguns, but I mentioned that many others might choose rifles or shotguns. Adam Hollinghead was one of those. Adam's one-gun choice is the Winchester Model 94 in the dependable .30-30 chambering. Adam points out that the carbine is short, light, and easy to handle. He builds light handloads for plinking and small-game hunting and uses factory ammo when full power is needed. He correctly points out that any store that stocks any ammunition at all will generally have some .30-30 cartridges on the shelf.
Another interesting response was offered from Jack Scofield, whose favorite handgun is a Browning Hi-Power. Back in 1970 Jack was a gunner on a Huey in Vietnam and packed a Hi-Power in a shoulder rig. During one fiery episode, Jack was working his M60 when an enemy rifle round slammed into the left side of his chest. The round had hit his Hi-Power, destroying it, but the Hi-Power prevented the bullet from penetrating his chest. Jack recently sent a Hi-Power off for some custom work like I'd had done on my own Browning, and he was really pleased with the outcome. My bet is that Jack will be packing this custom Hi-Power for some time to come.
Pat Cascio and Joe Johnson both wrote to agree with my choice of a .357 Magnum revolver. Pat is a handgun instructor and writer who hails from the Northwest, and if I recall correctly, his preferred .357 Magnum is the old K-Frame Smith & Wesson. Joe, on the other hand, prefers the Model 686 Mountain Gun from Smith & Wesson. It is an L-Frame revolver similar to the current Model 620, and Joe has had his modified to accept full-moon clips.
And I certainly can't argue with Bill Sullivan and Dave Tippets, who both choose a .44 Magnum. Bill didn't specify which .44 he packs but indicated that he owned several. Dave, on the other hand, gives the nod to the 4-inch Model 29 or 629. Both men correctly point out that the .44 Magnum has an extremely flexible power level. The handloader can work up whatever power loads he needs, from .44 Special to full-house .44 Magnum. Factory ammunition offers the same broad spectrum of choice. Folks who live in bear country are wise to consider the big .44.
Other big-bore choices were expressed by Ray Tuftee and Will DeRuyter. Ray chooses the Smith & Wesson Mountain Gun in .41 Magnum and says that he enjoys shooting it much more than his other .44- and .45-caliber handguns. Will takes the same Mountain Gun but prefers his in .44 Magnum.
It's interesting to see the popularity of the Smith & Wesson Mountain Gun concept. Three readers specified the Mountain Gun as their choice in .357, .41, and .44 Magnums.
One of the most interesting responses I got was from Steve McIntyre. Steve prefers the .38-40 caliber and says he'd like to see a fixed-sight, N-Frame revolver from Smith & Wesson in that caliber. Steve makes use of the large variety of .40 S&W and 10mm bullets to handload his ammunition. Since these bullets are intended for use in auto pistols they have no crimping grooves, but Steve takes care of that with a cannelure tool from CH.
And, finally, I heard from my old friend Charlie Pirtle from out in New Mexico. Charlie is a retired Border Patrolman and was a good friend of Skeeter Skelton's. Charlie is a pretty darn good hand with just about any handgun he might care to pick up. His preference, however, is for a First Generation Colt Single Action in
.38-40. Charlie's favored Colt has a 43/4-inch barrel, nickel finish, ivory grips, and a slicked-up action. Watching Charlie run a single-action sixgun through its paces would help folks realize that the single action is far from being an antique and thing from the past.
Several readers mentioned that some form of 1911 was among the guns on their short list, but I'm not surprised to see that most of the guns chosen were some sort of revolver. In this world of polymer frames and high-capacity magazines, the old revolver is still holding its own very well, including the single action. It's really not about how many bullets you can put into the air; it's about how many hits you can make. The modern revolver is a tough, reliable, and accurate companion for the handgunner.
And, of course, the whole one-gun debate is not about trying to convert someone to your way of thinking. It's really all about refining your own thinking and selecting a gun that actually fits your particular needs. Do you live in a rural or urban setting? Do you compete in shooting competition or handgun hunting? What are your plans for your own personal-protection program? These are the sorts of questions that we have to ask ourselves when deciding on the gun that suits our needs.
Finally, we ought to buy the very best firearm that we can possibly afford. A good gun, properly maintained, will outlive several generations of shooters. Through the years it becomes a familiar, comforting part of our lives.
It has been interesting to see the response to my one-gun column. But the important thing is that all of the guns mentioned are good guns. There's not a clunker in the bunch. And the fact is, I could make do with each and every one of them. I expect that you could, too, although I'm at a bit of a loss to figure out how to properly conceal that Model 94.
But I still shudder at the thought of actually being limited to one gun. We probably ought to take the time to be thankful that we live in a country in which that is not a reality. Maybe we also ought to be very careful who we cast our votes for so that some professional politician down the line doesn't force us to make that choice for real.