When Selecting a Carry Gun, SIZE MATTERS!


by Butch Kent

photography by Butch Kent

October 10, 2006


I donít claim to be an expert on personal carry weapons, but I have used a variety of carry revolvers and autos for many years. Iíve also known and learned a lot from professionals in law enforcement and other respected authorities. In all of my reading and study of the question of the perfect carry arm, I have come to the conclusion that size definitely matters. In the following paragraphs, I will try to make that point through the comparison of several popular options.

The weapons considered are all fine examples of available choices from Ruger and Smith & Wesson. I know that there are other excellent carry revolvers available from other manufacturers, I just donít have any of them or the experience with them to speak with any authority. 

Some Great Choices, Starting With The Smallest

S&W Model 36, 38 Special, 2 inch

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The Model 36 is a fine concealed carry weapon because of its small J-frame design and 5 shot cylinder. All of which make an easy carry pocket pistol or IWB (inside waist band) concealed weapon. The model 36 is accurate at 25 yards and with the light recoil of standard 38 Special ammo is easy to master with practice. Also, 38 Special ammo is relatively cheap so lots of practice can be had for the dollar. Practice and familiarity of any weapon is very important, but if you are going to carry a weapon because you may need to use one in a life threatening situation, it is critical that all actions required to defend yourself are automatic and skills are finely honed. Anything less will place your life at increased risk and possibly endanger others. The model 36 loaded with +P ammo for business is quite adequate. I love this little 38 because it is one of the most concealable and can be worn IWB under a T-shirt.


S&W Model 60, 357 Magnum, 2-1/8 inch

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The Model 60 is an even better choice than the 36 since it is essentially the same size, which makes it a great concealed-carry weapon, and it is a MAGNUM. The 357 magnum is one of my all time favorite handgun rounds and handguns in this caliber are my almost constant carry choice. The model 60 is very accurate at any range where a short barrel handgun would be appropriate and even with full magnum loads is pleasant to shoot. Of course practice ammo is still cheap and one can get really proficient with the weapon before it goes undercover. I like the stainless finish also, since in warm weather and IWB carry, my favorite concealed location, can get a little hot. A good holster makes a lot of difference but the stainless feature takes most of the protection of the weapon finish concerns away. Regarding accuracy, recently my brother and I had an afternoon of plinking at various targets, cans and small stones. After a while, I began to dig spent 38 slugs out of the dirt bank and place them in bullet holes in a log. With great regularity one could pluck the 38 slugs out of the log or drive them in at 25 feet. Nuff said!


Ruger SP 101, 357 Magnum, 2-1/2 inch

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The Ruger SP101 has been my long time carry favorite because of its great size, 357 magnum capability, and the terrific Lipsey's special finish. The finish is a special titanium coating, which appears virtually indestructible. No sweaty palm worries. The revolver shoots very well and is highly accurate. Itís a Ruger so you know you can shoot almost any load in it you can handle. The grips are great and make the hottest magnum loads easy to handle. The noise is the most punishing thing about full house loads in this or any of the other short-barreled revolvers. Concealability is just as good as the other models mentioned above. The revolvers are affordably priced. Like I said, it is my almost constant companion. It has a special place on the nightstand and in the car. I did brighten the front sight with florescent yellow just to aid in quick sight acquisition.


S&W Model 19-1, 357 Magnum, 2-1/2 inch

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As I have discussed before, the S&W Model 19, 357 Magnum is one of my life long favorite handguns. I own more than just a few and use most. Some are unfired and I guess Iíll have to keep them that way. The Model 19 is a powerful revolver, built for accuracy and ease of carry. While the K-frame design makes the revolver a little heavier and bulkier than the previous offerings, it has a full 6 round cylinder. Itís somewhat comforting to know that you have the additional round in a personal defense weapon. It is the most accurate of the revolvers discussed thus far due to the excellent adjustable sights, frame size, trigger and action smoothness, and grip. As configured, the Model 19 is very comfortable to shoot even with full house magnum loads. It is a little larger and harder to hide than the smaller versions. But in my opinion the additional size and weight are value add options for a personal defense weapon.


S&W Model 24, 44 Special, 3 inch

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The Model 24 is an N-frame revolver, and thus is a little larger and a heavier than the model 19. It is not a magnum, however, it has a significant advantage in bore size. The 44 special round is a large to start with as many expanded smaller bullets (0.43 inch vs. 0.36 inches). The weight of the bullet is also much greater, 240 grains vs. 158 grains. Added weight means added momentum and penetration. Loaded with a Keith type cast bullet or a +P loading in jacketed ammo, the 44 special offers significant margin in knock down power. Big bullets make big holes, so the stay down factor for the 44 special is greater. As shown in the following photo, the difference in size of the weapon in minimal while the difference in size of the round is significant.


Comparison of S&W Model 19 .357 Magnum (left) and Model 24 .44 Special (right)

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The Model 24 with round butt grip and grips makes this larger revolver an easy concealed-carry choice when heavy artillery is warranted. Having read for years the exploits of Elmer Keith and others who used the 44 for personal defense, enforcement of the law, bringing home the meat, and protection from dangerous critters has given me a great deal of respect for the big bore. A little extra weight on the hip is good insurance when needed. This particular handgun is rapidly becoming my favorite personal protection partner.

The truth is that size does matter. In fact the only thing I can think of that is better than a handful of 44 on your side isÖ


...a pair of 44ís!

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All of these weapons are configured for easy concealment under a light jacket, shirt or vest. I have carried each. All are good choices. I prefer those on the heavier end of the spectrum. Selection of a carry weapon is a very personal decision. The only recommendation I would make to anyone else is to select a handgun that you are comfortable with, and will practice with enough to become skilled in its use. And, like buying insurance, which is always too expensive until you need it, all handguns are too heavy, bulky, and hard to conceal until you need one. Thatís when size really matters.

Butch Kent


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