My Son's .38 And A Carry Permit


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

June 27th, 2007




Not long ago my son reached his 21st birthday. As he nears twenty two he has five years service in with Uncle Sam and knows his way around handguns. His father has a not too limited battery of likely handguns. On his own time and his own dime Matthew had rather fire a .44-40 or the .45 Colt Hartford Model than any other handgun. But for practical carry purposes there are better choices. Recently, Matthew made several leaps in his career and personal life. Among these is choosing to obtain a concealed carry permit. While at present there are limited scenarios in which he will carry, he agrees with the author that the need to exercise our rights is apparent to any educated person. Matthew went through the proscribed training and passed the test with flying colors. The law is simple and direct and common sense dictates our actions. Much thought goes into the process and I would never say that concealed carry is for everyone. But it is for me and mine!

Recently, I was swapping brags with a friend who is also an author. This lady authors books on rearing adolescents and has done several children's books. She is a dear person who is immensely talented. I was showing her a photograph of one of the children in a firearms magazine when she mentioned she too had obtained a concealed carry permit. She smiled and said she felt quite a sense of accomplishment. Handgun use is not a high priority on her list and she is not a recreational shooter but she understands the nature of society and the checks and balances that make us a free nation. A free nation will have those who live outside the law. A free nation also has those who are armed in order to combat these individuals. 

While I am often armed when going about my daily business, there are times when I am not. As an example, my daughter and daughter in law recently participated in a Holocaust Memorial at the local synagogue. I am respectful of other people's faith and customs and my own background in dealing with and writing on hate groups certainly commanded my presence.  (My son was on active duty and could not attend.)  I did not carry inside this place of worship. The next morning my daughter and I went on a five kilometer walk for a foundation dedicated to fighting childhood disease. This time, I packed my iron. Convenience and a certainly of soaking the piece with perspiration may have played against my choice but knowing the town as I do, local thugs and the possibility of an ill tempered dog made my choice easy. The trusty first generation Glock 19 in a High Noon holster was practically unnoticed. I wish my walking shoes were as comfortable! The point is, concealed carry requires discretion. I do not recommend situational carry or carrying only when you go to the bank - it is best to be armed at all times in order to meet Evil head on. But at the same time, there are times and places in which concealed carry is not a good idea. My Jewish friends usually hug me or pat me on the back on sight, and while some know me well, others do not. Somehow in a sanctuary we are under a different type of protection! On the charity walk, well, I had not only my safety but my daughter's as well in mind.

These lessons are not lost on my son. He took the Smith and Wesson SW 1911 to his CCW classes and scored a perfect score on the firing test. Admittedly, it is not the Gunsite graduation exam, but neither is it so easy as to be pointless. But a few weeks later when Matthew received the permit card in the mail, he began to run across a few snags in acclimation. The grim reality of carrying was not lost on him, and he has a good head on his shoulders. But carrying a full size 1911 under light clothing proved a daunting proposition. We began with his personal Springfield .45 and then tried a shorter Officer's Model. I offered to put my Dave Workman (D and D Gunleather) inside the waistband holster on permanent loan. This holster proved very comfortable but in the end, Matthew learned what many others have learned - a full size Government Model .45 is difficult to conceal. Matthew said,' How about a snub .38?'

I occasionally deploy a concealed hammer Smith and Wesson .38 as a back up, and on rare occasions as a primary arm. The .38 hits hard enough if the round is delivered properly, but there is certainly no energy to spare. But the .38 offers a combination of ease of carry, durability, simplicity, and combat accuracy in good hands. The revolver may be fired repeatedly if jammed against an opponents body. You may be surprised how often this type of short range battle occurs. An automatic would not survive in an ankle holster or a hostile environment. The snub nose revolver will.

I offered to pass the Smith and Wesson over to Matthew, but he found another revolver he liked more. So, my backup revolver -- that is, the backup to the backup - became his first choice. I had obtained a square butt Model 36 blue revolver at a good price and decided it would be a good piece to put up just in case. My intuition proved correct.

The two .38s were measured up and test fired at the range. Matthew has fired practically every pistol I have had cross my path during the past ten years, and he is a fine shot. But his experience with the .38 snub is limited. After all, this is not the revolver that a teen age boy would find most interesting. 1911s are his favorite - I have given him a good raising! -and he appreciates single action revolvers. We quickly worked up the cadence of fire for the .38. It is important when firing a double action revolver to press the trigger smoothly and allow the trigger to reset in the same cadence. Once you understand this cadence and the proper way to handle the revolver, accurate fire is possible. The two revolvers on hand offered a choice of square butt and round butt. Matthew found he preferred the square butt grip to any other. The square butt sets in the hand well and offers a better gripping surface for a rapid presentation from the holster.

Fortunately I had on hand a good supply of hard cast SWC bullets and Ramshot ZIP powder. This is good practice ammunition, and at 780 fps from the two inch snub this practice load is right up with standard pressure factory loads. We practiced quickly drawing at firing with the one hand shoulder point at close range. After an appropriate acclimation, Matthew was getting the hang or the cadence of the snub nose revolver.

As a carry load, there is really little choice. The Winchester 158 grain lead semi wadcutter hollow point has sufficient mass and the bullet usually expands when meeting an animate target. Penetration is sufficient for the task at hand.  Aluminum and scandium  frame revolvers kick so sharply that a lead bullet may be stripped from the cartridge case in recoil, and a jacketed hollow point must be used. The steel frame Smith and Wesson avoids that drawback. The Winchester load is a +P and recoil is there but with sufficient time in it can be controlled. The square butt steel frame Smith and Wesson works.

We added a set of Grashorn grips to the Smith and Wesson. These are Elk stag grips that are not only undeniably handsome, they offer a good gripping surface with sufficient 'bark' to maintain a firm purchase. These grips add a degree of distinctness to the piece that we really appreciate. Finally, we used a Forster Products gold inlay kit to complete this personalization. The lettering on the barrel and frame now features Gold fill! We really did 'pimp this gun'.

Matthew uses the DeSantis Nemesis holster for pocket carry and has deployed the LAW Concealment Systems holster on occasion. He also has a custom sewn jacket pocket that is a very old idea and a good one. Overall, the choice was a good one and one that affords this young man and his growing family a good level of protection.

R.K. Campbell

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The author has acclimated to a Colt 1911 .45. The holster is carried in the super comfortable concealable D and D Gunleather inside the waistband holster. This takes a high level of dedication to master.



The Smith and Wesson snub in a DeSantis Nemesis holster is a good combination for most of us.



Pocket carry must be practiced. Donít make a fist in the pocket but blade into the handle.



This young soldier took to the .38 well. The .38 offers good power in a small package.



Firing practice at close range with snub .38s.



At close range the weak side arm is drawn up out of the way for nitty gritty shooting.



For special assignments, such as long periods while driving, the Null Vampire is a first class 'driving holster'.



The Grashorn grips of this .38 give excellent fit and purchase.



This classic Smith and Wesson .38 is a good defensive revolver that has served good men and women for many years.



The Grashorn grips not only look good they offer an excellent firing grip.