If you check the internet forums you’ll find a plethora of posts touting the benefits of carrying a big gun that holds lots of ammunition and assuring readers that carrying a little gun is a recipe for disaster. These assertions may be accurate in certain situations, but not always. A big gun is likely to be a better choice when carrying a gun openly or traveling through an area where the potential for a violent encounter is acute. A smaller gun works better when carried concealed or when carried on a daily basis during normal activities where the potential for violence is low.
Before I delve deeper into this subject, I should probably let you know that the idea of carrying a small revolver came late to me. I’ve carried a gun a good part of my adult working life. For decades that gun was a Colt Combat Commander in .45 ACP. I have a deep affection for that gun in particular and for 1911 style pistols in general. That said, 1911s are heavy and difficult to conceal except under a jacket or some other heavy garment. I live in San Diego, California where people simply don’t wear jackets or heavy garments most of the year. Consequently, I found carrying a gun to be a major pain in the rump. I left the gun at home most of the time. It is at this point that I will introduce you to the concept of a “left-it gun.” A “left-it gun” is a big gun that I should have taken with me, but since it’s big and a nuisance to carry, I left it.
One day several years back I met a close buddy of mine at the range to shoot some clays. We both love shotgun sports and met regularly to shoot. We were getting out of our cars when he proudly announced that he had purchased a new carry pistol. What he showed me was a small semi-automatic pistol chambered in .380 ACP. I immediately flashed back to my dad’s AMT Backup. It was a little .380 auto pistol that he carried everywhere. He loved it and I hated it. Well… long story short, my buddy and I never made it to the shotgun range. We ended up on the pistol range shooting his little .380 pistol. History repeated itself. My buddy loved that little gun and I hated it. Still, the experience reminded me of Dad’s practice of always having that little gun with him. There were times when he carried a bigger gun, like when he was on duty or when he thought he might be going somewhere particularly dangerous. Any other time, he always had that little AMT Backup. So, it is at this point that I will introduce you to the concept of an “Always gun.” An “Always gun” is a gun that, although smaller and less powerful, is convenient and comfortable to carry no matter what you are wearing, so you always have it with you.
After shooting my buddy’s little auto and remembering Dad’s little .380, I came to the realization that little auto pistols don’t work that well for me. I’m a big guy with big hands. Little auto pistols don’t give me enough purchase on the grip to make shooting them comfortable or easy. That said, I am well aware that Murphy’s law dictates that if I ever need a gun, it will be when I got a case of the stupids and left the blasted thing at home. I was determined to find an “Always gun” that would work for me and keep me from leaving my house unarmed. It was about a week later that I stumbled upon the answer.
One Saturday, after finishing the introductory pistol class I was teaching, I took a stroll through the pro shop at the P2k Range. I happened to walk by the pistol counter when the manager was placing a small revolver in the glass display case. I asked him what it was. He said, “Ah, it’s just a little Taurus 38.” I asked to see it. Immediately upon picking it up I knew that I had found my “Always gun”. The gun fit me like a glove and I found that the grip, although short and small, was beefy enough to give me the purchase I needed to shoot the gun comfortably. I bought the gun ten minutes later and picked it up after the required ten day waiting period. I’ve been carrying it ever since. There are times when I have a larger gun, but even when all other guns have been left at home, my little “Always gun” is with me.
Having carried a snubbie now for several years, I’ve discovered some added benefits of carrying a revolver as opposed to a small auto pistol. Here are some examples:
- Semi-auto pistols have sharp angles and tend to print more readily. That is to say that the outline of the pistol becomes visible as it presses up against whatever garment is concealing it. This is not so pronounced with small revolvers. Revolvers have fewer sharp angles and more rounded surfaces. Consequently, they are less likely to print than are their sharp angled and boxy shaped semi-auto counterparts.
- A snubbie revolver in .38 Special carries a more powerful cartridge than a small auto pistol chambered in .380 ACP. Since the gun is already small, I prefer having a bit more powerful cartridge onboard. My particular snubbie is a Steel Taurus Model 85. Since it is of steel construction, it is a little heavier and handles the .38 Special +P self-defense loads comfortably.
- Another plus in favor of the revolver is reliability. While I have seen many of my friends have cycling and feeding issues with their little semi-auto pistols, my snubbie revolver always goes bang and never has a problem firing it’s full payload of five rounds.
- Revolvers will fire from inside a purse or jacket pocket, while a semi-auto pistol will jam after the first round. If you are carrying a gun in a purse or jacket pocket, you might want to consider a small revolver.
When taken as a whole, small revolvers offer many benefits for concealed carry that small auto pistols simply do not. Revolver technology may be over 100 years old, but it still offers one of the best options for concealed carry today.