Am I Crazy? The Revolver Equation

Revolver Equation

Am I crazy? As you know I’ve been carrying a J-Frame revolver for almost two years now. I really enjoy this little round gun. I can almost literally forget it’s there, but it’s actually fun to shoot. I’m intimately familiar with it and I can run it pretty hard. However, lately I’ve begun to feel that I’m operating at the top of the gun’s capability (with my 686 on the other hand, I doubt I will ever feel limited by the revolver). I have also begun to feel like maybe it’s time to move back to something a little more capable. With this in mind I’ve been looking at other revolvers.

Revolver Equation

The next logical step up in the revolver world is the K-Frame. The K is a mid-sized, 6-round .357. It would give me 20% more capacity, a bigger grip, a (theoretically) better trigger, and more recoil control. And, assuming I could find a 3” version, a more useful sight radius. So, I’ve been looking for 3” K-Frames. Since I don’t want to take a step backwards with sights, I’ve only considered the models 19 and 66 – both of which come with adjustable rear sights. I have a couple options here: the new Combat Magnum from S&W or an old model 66.

I have been extremely excited about about the new 2.75” Combat Magnum. Unfortunately, the reports I’ve seen from people that have gotten them indicate absolutely dismal quality control. Iraq Veteran 8888 talks about his at the burrs left on the muzzle crown on his exemplar (if watching him shoot in single action the ENTIRE TIME drives you as crazy as it does me, skip to 7:57 of the video). Now I know IV8888 isn’t exactly the go-to guy for revolvers. But the other guy I have in mind definitely knows his way around a wheelgun. I won’t say who it is or steal his thunder, but I’ll say this: his first T&E gun from S&W was so bad it didn’t work correctly and had to be sent back to Springfield, MA.

This is not confidence-inspiring. If the guns being sent to gun writers and reviewers are this shoddy, I’m sure the ones on gun store shelves aren’t much better. I’m not going to put seven or eight hundred dollars down on Blue and let it ride in hopes of hitting the jackpot with a good gun – I just can’t afford that kind of risk. So what is my next logical step? I have begun looking at old 66s. I’m not the best guy with money, but I also don’t spend like a drunk Marine on shore leave. However, when I stumbled on a 66-5 on Gunbroker, I almost did something stupid. This revolver was in near mint condition. It’s a -5 which means it has the modern benefits of a pinned front sight (so you can change it out), it’s pre-lock, round butt… it’s perfect! (Oh, except for that pesky quarter-square forcing cone, but that can be our little secret, right?) So why didn’t I jump on it?

Well, it has been on Gunbroker for several months and the Buy-It-Now price is (was?) $1,999.00 (!!!). I’m not knocking the seller or the price – if someone will pay it, it’s worth that price to someone. As a concealed carry/utility gun for me, though, that’s an awful lot of scratch. And then I started thinking: $2,000 only buys the gun. It doesn’t get me any ammo, a holster, speed loaders, or any of the other necessities that would actually let me use this thing and replace my 640 in my waistband. To run a decent amount of ammo through it and get the gun where I want it with grips, holsters, and other impedementia, I’m probably out another $500 to $1,000. So that got me thinking: what else could I do with the $2,000 that would buy this gun?

The Revolver Equation

I started looking at the M&P-series auto guns (specifically the Shield and M&P9C). I think I’m pretty much sold on either of these guns as shooters, but I think I prefer the Shield for reasons I’ll not go into here. The Shield gives me a gun that fills basically the same footprint (though a much boxier one) as my 640 Pro. It gives me a minimum capacity of 7+1 rounds of 9mm. It gives me reloads that are much less complicated and faster to pull off. And it weighs 13 ounces less than a Model 66. Even though I’m prepared to carry some weight, I can’t over look the “rounds-per-pound” math.

With all this stuff going through my head, I sat down and crunched the numbers. I though about what I could do with the same $2,000:

M&P Shield: $400 (not counting the $75 rebate)
Spare M&P Shield: $400
4x 7-round magazines: $100
4x 8-round magazines: $100
2,000 rounds ball ammo: $400
250 rounds Federal HST: $175
Holster + Mag carrier: $200
Night Sights x2 sets: $250

TOTAL: $2,025

At the end of the day, for the price of a mid-sized revolver, I could have a pistol and a spare pistol, a bunch of spare mags, a holster, two-thousand rounds of practice ammo, and a pretty reasonable stock of defensive ammo. All of these things are really important for a gun that is going to be carried for self-defense. I semi-joke about purchasing a “spare” Shield (though honestly it’s not a bad idea) to make my point, but, I could cut the bottom line in half and still walk away with a gun, a holster, and a case of practice ammo.

Revolver Equation

This doesn’t even begin to address the fact that “stuff” for the M&P is way easier to find. There are probably two dozen reputable sites where I could buy M&P magazines. I couldn’t tell you when or where I would find some S.L. Variant speed loaders for the K-Frame. While Nate and I from Priority Performance constantly chat about who is making revolver holsters, guess who makes holsters for the M&P line? EVERYONE! There are plenty of solid defensive ammo options in 9mm, and most of them are pretty easy to find. Practice ammo? The market is flooded with 9mm ammo – you can buy cases of high quality ball ammo for under $200 all day long. A thousand rounds of .38 will cost half again that much, and a case of .357 almost twice as much.

The Bottom Line

I got sucked into the classic trap of looking at “just” the gun. The gun – by itself – is lovely and one day when I’m making millions from my diligent work here at, I’ll have one. But right now it’s a little out of my reach. Being defensively well-equipped requires much more than the gun and that can be easy to forget. Being equipped and prepared requires running the gun enough to be familiar with it and ensure it works correctly. It requires a decent holster, and some reloading devices and some good defensive ammo. These things can be easy to push aside when that beautiful 66 is sitting right there in front of you.

I love revolvers and I’m not giving up on them just yet. I’m still carrying one, and I will definitely keep writing about them. I haven’t bought an M&P, and I’m not totally sure I will. But almost everything about using a revolver for defense is harder and more expensive. Though this is the “golden age” of revolvers, we are still swimming upstream. Revolvers can still work, but making them work IS work.

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Author: Justin

Justin Carroll is a former MARSOC Marine and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Leaving service after eight years in the U.S. Marines, Justin continues his involvement with a variety of government agencies to this day. Justin began in late 2016 with an simple idea: provide an source of high-quality information for revolver enthusiasts.

51 thoughts on “Am I Crazy? The Revolver Equation”

  1. This is a bit off topic from the bottom line but have you considered a WC GP100? I don’t know how easy it would be to carry and I don’t know if you could upgrade the stock sights, but otherwise it has most of the features you mentioned. I have a stock 4 in GP and I have similar feelings about it as you have expressed about your 686.

    1. Andrew,
      I do really like the WC GP100. The issue is the GP100 is much closer in size to (and maybe slightly bigger than) the 686. Both of these would be vastly better guns that what I carry now, I’m just not sure I would actually carry one. I’ve carried my 686 concealed and it’s doable but it’s definitely not pleasant. Not only are these guns heavy – they’re bulky. I’m an athletic 155 lbs or so, so I would have trouble keeping them concealed.
      I like the K-frame becasue it’s that middle-of-the-road sweet spot in size. It’s not a lightweight gun by any means (it’s only a few ounces lighter than the 686/GP), but it is quite a bit smaller than the L-Frame/GP-class revolvers.
      With that being said – I would like to own a WC GP100 one of these days. It is a beautiful wheelgun and I hear nothing but good things.
      Thanks for writing in!

      1. The Ruger GP100 is as good as it gets (K frame size) in my opinion. Can’t say there is anything so unique about the WC models.

        Ruger is still building tank tough guns, and I can’t say the same for S&W. That’s not just fact-less opinion,,, I am inside both on a regular basis.

        I do all my load testing 38/357 through a GP100. Strong & reliable.

        Although a GP100 takes me more time to perform an accurate action/trigger job, if done properly it can make the gun a pure joy to shoot.

        I can put full throttle 180 Grain .357 in a GP100 and the weight of the gun tames recoil down to a minimum.

  2. I’ve done similar calculations (though for me it has been a Ruger Speed Six to compliment my SP101). I have to ask myself if I really need another gun, though. If I could only own one gun it would be my 3″ SP101, not a Speed Six, so that is a knock against the necessity of the Speed Six. Would the new gun replace my current gun for carry? For me, no. For you, it sounds like it might. For me, those responses lead to realizing that I don’t really need another gun.

    If we assume, despite the above, that I was going to buy a new gun anyway, a 9mm is appealing for the extra capacity and faster reloads, but… I will not carry a gun where I cannot block the firing mechanism while re-holstering (I wouldn’t carry your 640 for this reason, so that probably is not a concern for you) or where I have to deactivate a safety. That means hammer fired DAO (preferred) or DA/SA guns, Glocks with a Striker Control Device, at least some of the Walther striker guns (I am not sure about all of them, but the PPS would qualify), or possibly the XD series (though I have never been truly comfortable with those guns for some reason I can’t quite identify). I also have a fairly narrow web between my thumb and trigger finger so the grips needs to be fairly well rounded (Glocks generally fail this test for me) and not overly thick (I’m looking at you, Beretta). I also want something that lets me switch back and forth between my revolvers and this unicorn pistol without having to re-learn either trigger. This makes a DAO gun the most practical choice, but there really are not that many out there.

    My ideal would be a DAO CZ 75 compact, but they do not make such a thing. I am certain my gunsmith father could help me convert one, but I am concerned about the legal implications of carrying a gun so modified. That means it would be a range toy, and it is hard to justify the money for that use. Something like a DAK SIG P239 would probably be better, but even that gun doesn’t fit me as nicely as the CZ and the price tag is higher.

    In the end, the only compelling reason for me to buy a 9mm is cheaper ammo. I could save about 6.5 cents per round by shooting a 9mm. I don’t shoot as much as you or even as much as I should, but I think I could force 50 rounds a month into my budget . At 50 rounds a month and 6.5 cents savings per round, I would save $3.25 a month. That means I would break even on a $400 gun (which I think is very optimistic for the features I want) in just over 10 years (10 years, 3 months). Even if I shoot 100 rounds a month, that would still take me over 5 years to “pay off” the gun. And we are still only talking about the gun; not mags, sights, etc. (I make my own holsters, so at least that helps). For me, the math just doesn’t work out.

    In the end, I guess that is my long winded way of saying, “I sympathize” (apparently, I just needed to get all of that off my chest). I had to get brutally honest with myself and admit that the whole exercise came down to wanting another gun because I had worn the new off of my existing pieces, not any actual need for another gun. You are not me, so that might not be the issue, but that was my final conclusion.

    1. Greyson,

      Thanks for writing in! I am wondering if just wanting another gun is the issue for me, and I don’t think it is. I have kind of gotten past the capacity and reload thing, I have learned to love the trigger and the “mechanical-ness” of the revolver and I now have a “relationship” (for lack of a better word) with my 640. Unfortunately, I’m still not as confident in being able to make a precision shot as I am with larger guns. I know that my accuracy with it is probably “good enough” but with my military background I know what I’m capable of and I just can’t seem to get there with the 640.

      Ammo cost is another huge factor. I go through a case of ammo every 2-3 months, and paying $189+shipping for a case would be very nice after becoming accustomed to paying $300+.

      I really do appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into this reply! Thanks for writing in,


      1. You have pictured a 3″ S&W Model 60 alongside your guns several times, so I am assuming you have access to one. How do you shoot with that? I know you wouldn’t gain any capacity, but you would be able to use your current speed loaders, grips, etc. And, you could pay full MSRP and it would still cost less than half of the used 66. Of course, you are back to the quality control concern, but the 60 has been around longer than the new 66, so getting one that was more decently made a few years ago might be feasible.

        Also, if the 3″ model 60 does what you want, but you are concerned about getting a good one, you might consider a 3″ SP101. I know the sights are not adjustable, but the Ruger’s rear notch is enough deeper that I think it is comparable to most semi-auto sights (and I like the black blade with stainless rear better than the typical black on black).

        1. That’s my dad’s M60, so I get to shoot it a decent amount. I don’t seem to be able to shoot it appreciably better than my 640 but I blame that on the “new style” S&W rear sights which are much shallower than the old-school rear blades. I could replace it with a D&L fixed rear (a really attractive option, honestly), add an Apex spring kit, and some VZ grips but once again I’m looking at spending several hundred dollars to get the gun into carrying condition.
          In this article I just wanted to highlight how much more expensive being a revolver guy is in a auto-loader world (also, holsters for 3″ J-Frames are much more limited than even standard-length Js). A couple weeks ago Greg Ellefritz linked to me in his Weekend Knowledge Dump and pointed out that I didn’t mention the cost difference between semis and revolvers, so I wanted to correct that with this piece. There are a lot of viable options out there and I might pursue one…or stick with what I already have.
          Either way, thanks for the feedback and keep it coming!

          1. Fair enough. Based on what Greg said in his comment, I don’t think he was necessarily trying to knock you. He actually did a very similar post about 2 years ago entitled “Revolvers in a Grid-Down Collapse Scenario”. You are both definitely right that we have the short end of the stick on costs, though.

            By the way, between Greg Ellifritz linking to you, Lucky Gunner Lounge, and Grant Cunningham in his Weekend Knowledge Dump, and Grant Cunningham linking to Lucky Gunner and Greg in his Hump Day Reading List (when he does one), and you referring to Lucky Gunner content (I’m looking forward to Chris’ Model 66 review that you alluded to), my online reading is starting to feel kind of incestuous. What gives?

          2. Agreed – I don’t think he was down on me. But he was right – I should have mentioned it.

            Lucky Gunner links to me – and I link to them – because I write for them, and I write for them because I really like their content. As for Greg, Grant, etc… I have no idea. I’ve never met or talked to either of them. And to be honest I’m kind of surprised and flattered since I’m just “some dude” with no real industry connections outside of LG.

            Edited to add: LG, Active Response, Grant Cunningham, and me all have a lot of revolver-related content…so it could be as simple as that.

    2. I can’t believe I forgot to mention the other consideration (and this might be more relevant for you): I also want a DAO or DA/SA gun to make dry practice more feasible. Given the limited round count that I manage, dry practice is important, and needing to even partially rack a slide between trigger presses really limits how thorough that dry practice can be.

      1. Excellent point – no question about that one! I dry practice daily and I haven’t really thought about that much.

  3. Haha!

    Greyson, I think you’re seeing a common interest at play with Grant, Greg and Justin. Grant made his name with revolver ‘smithing and Greg has long written about using revolvers on and off the job. I think those guys have linked to Justin’s blog because there’s not a lot of places where you can find a good discussion about these great guns!

    By the way, Greyson, you get 10 Bonus Points for mentioning the Speed Six! I sure wish that gun was still in production!

    1. It was really a fairly facetious “What gives?” I am pretty sure there is no secret conspiracy to make all my online reading intertwined (at least not an organized one on the part of those people I mentioned). I just found it rather humorous.

      I agree with you on wishing the Speed Six was still being made. I almost bought one instead of my SP101 a few years back and have been kicking myself ever since. I can buy an SP101 pretty much any day of the week (in regards to availability), but a Speed Six at a reasonable price is probably going to require a bit of luck. Actually having the money when one does become available will take some painful budgeting and even more luck.

  4. I usually carry an old model 60, or 640-1, in a pocket holster, with 158gr. HP standard velocity Buffalo Bore ammo. I’m an old guy (75) and have always been partial to revolvers. I also own a Kahr CW-9 and have to admit the Kahr has a lot going for it. It’s got a longer barrel, holds more rounds, weighs less, good sights, great trigger, goes bang every time, and is probably easier to conceal. So why do I usually carry a J-frame? Don’t know, can’t explain it. Habit, I guess – certainly not logic, or common sense. I just “feel” better armed with the J-frame Smith. I can hit about the same with both guns, so it’s not a matter of accuracy.

    I wouldn’t consider a bigger gun, as I probably wouldn’t carry it all the time, as I know from long-time experience in gun carrying.

    Just some thoughts from an old guy who’s stuck on revolvers.


  5. Would like to start by saying I really enjoy your posts, and hope you stick with it! I have wrestled with revolver vs semi just as you. I rotate between a .357 LCR and Sig 239 9mm (da/sa), with the LCR getting most of the carry time. I bought the p239 for the same reasons you are looking at the M&P, (except I wanted to stick with hammer-fired DA).

    What keeps the LCR in my holster more often and the p239 on my nightstand? I like my wheelguns and think the advantages of the revolver, in a purely defensive scenario, far outweigh their shortcomings. Its that purely defensive scenario where I see potential for slides being pushed out of battery, snagging on clothing mid-cycle, magazine released inadvertently, or just that unlucky stovepipe. My p239 has been flawless, it is bigger, has more capacity, and better sights, and yet I am considering trading it off for a bigger revolver.

    As far as ammo expense goes…buy a dillon 550, you probably have plenty of brass. Several hundred dollars and your ammo costs just went down exponentially.

    Revolvers have a lot going for them in a purely defensive situation. We are not talking about which we would take to a gunfight.

    Thanks for all the great info, keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks Ryan, much appreciated! You know, you guys have me thinking about a SP101 or a GP100…or both! Ruger makes fine guns and unforunately, to find a “fine” Smith you have to get a high-end gun (like my little Pro Series) or pay a mint for something old. I don’t know why, but I just LOVE revolvers – and I’m not going anywhere!
      Thanks again,

  6. If capacity is your main concern, you could always carry another j-frame, the ole “New York reload.” I carried a 640 and a 642 around for a while. The former was always planted at the appendix and the latter floated from the pocket to the ankle (weather dependent).

    1. Hi Brandan. You bring up a good point (i.e. the NY Reload) that doesn’t get talked about enough in this conversation (i.e. the semi-auto vs. revolver argument). Comparing semi-autos vs. revolver is an apple and oranges comparison in my opinion. Candidly, I too prefer the NY Reload. I carry a S&W 649 and a S&W 638. I feel quite comfortable with this set up in the Wild West of Chicago. I shoot often and practice drills with my revolvers; however, I spend far more time on honing my situational awareness. One can be the best shot in the world, but if their situational awareness is lacking they’ll get culled quickly here in Chicagoland.

  7. How about a Kimber K6S? Six rounds of .357 Magnum without getting into the physical size of a 686. And it’s a lot cheaper than $2,000.

  8. I am going to guess that Justin has a similar concern about quality control with the K6S. A lot of people are worried because Kimber’s QC reputation is a mixed bag. Almost every review I have seen says something to the effect of, “my sample didn’t have any obvious problems, but I’ll wait and see what the quality looks like when they hit full production.”

    1. As odd as it sounds to my own ears, I would be much more confident in the Kimber right now. Even though their QC is spotty, all the samples I’ve handled and shot have been fine. I have yet to hear a single favorable report about the new 66 that doesn’t have at least a couple of serious (dis)qualifiers.
      To be honest the main thing I’m looking for isn’t capacity – it’s a gun I can shoot better. I’ve put many hours of serious work into the J-Frame and I can still run circles around it with the M&P Shield or 9C (the capacity and box-fed reloads are a bonus)…or a bigger revolver. I am not willing to step up to a 686/GP100 for daily carry, so I’m looking for the elusive “Glock 19 of Revolvers“.

      1. “Glock 19 of revolvers”

        Okay, this is a really random suggestion, but how about a Ruger LCRx 3″? Proper sights, a respectable sight radius, and from what I hear a particularly good trigger for Ruger (it’s been a long time since I’ve tried an LCR trigger, and I can’t remember firsthand). Just five shots still, but the size/weight/sights might be the package you’re looking for.

          1. It was some years ago but I really drilled the target with a there-inch SP101 even better than the M&P Shield in 9mm. I think I was shooting target 357 and I may have even shot it in single action I can’t remember. Might have shot it a bunch in double action also. I think I still have the relevant targets from that session. Anyway a lot of it was frame and grip fit to hand. It was a lot better than the Smith J frame for me. That said I just completed John Farnam’s two day course defensive handgun with my Smith 36 + 638 and actually just made it to level 2 student badge after about 10 tries with the 638. Eight shots on a 8 x 5 reactive metal target from 25 ft with a speed reload and movement in between in 22 seconds. I was using the Pachmayr compac grips which were too big for my hand and trying to draw the gun and the reloads from pockets so that complicated things. They all said they couldn’t believe anyone would bring a J frame to a two-day course like that. But train with what you fight is my motto. Anyway I feel really good with my Smith model 36 no dash. I’m confident with my 638 but not as confident.

            In regards to greater accuracy and New York reload I’ve opted for a and don’t laugh but a Kel-Tec p32. After a trip back to the factory it was flawless when tested with 80 rounds. So I feel a lot better about it now at least for emptying a magazine into someone in a Newhall type situation.

            Finally I have access to a reloader who I’m friendly with here in my local area and I can get 1000 rounds for $220 minus whatever spent brass I bring to him which I think he gives me three or four dollars a pound. I did also buy a nice 36-1 1975 vintage lady NYPD but it’s nowhere near as concealable with a square butt and I like to keep things on the down low since I live in an unfriendly area Second Amendment wise.

        1. I’m not Justin, but for me, the LCRx 3″ does not have enough weight to improve shootability. In order to shoot comfortably, I want me revolvers to weight a minimum of 1 pound. I don’t know of any good method of really quantifying felt recoil, but through trial and error, I have found that I notice recoil velocity more than recoil energy and that my absolute maximum threshold is right about 20 feet per second of free recoil velocity. 15 fps is much better. There are very few defensive rounds with which the LCRx generates less than 20 fps of velocity.

          For comparison, if we use common 130gr .38 Specials at 800fps which can be loaded in the LCRx and the 640, Justin’s current gun generates 4.1 ft/lbs of free recoil energy and 13.5 fps of velocity. The LCRx would generate 6 ft/lbs and 19.8 fps (bear in mind that this is a middle of the road standard pressure round). Even if you handle recoil better than I do, I think it becomes pretty obvious that the recoil characteristics are not going to lead to a more shootable gun than the 640.

          1. Greyson,

            Great point, that would not make for a more shootable gun. I just checked the Ruger specs – I didn’t realize how light the LCRx is. I really like where my 640 is in comparison (+/- 23 ounces). Man – I wish Ruger made the SP101 in a 3″ version with adjustable sights or the Novak sights they put on the WC model.

            This is kind of the problem I’m continually seeing – it seems like there’s only two options: 2″ or 4″, subcompact or full size, without a whole lot of middle ground.


        2. I just noticed this LCRX mention… Bear in mind also the 3″ comes with a slightly larger Jordan style grip. This is still concealable and makes a huge difference in shootability over the short barrel LCR. It’s well worth looking into, I promise.

  9. Justin,

    I feel your pain. I’m a wheelgun guy, and it’s disappointing to see that the new 2.75″ Model 66 is having some problems. I’ve heard some really reports about the same model with the 4.25″ barrel, so I’m hoping S&W gets their act together with the shorter barrel version soon.

    However, is it really THAT unusual for any new model handgun to have problems during the first year? I vividly remember the hoopla about the new Gen 4 Glocks, as well as all of the complaints that followed about malfunctions. I suggest just holding off for a year or so, and let others be the beta testers.

    There are still police trade-ins out there that are smoking hot deals. For example, Centerfire Systems has S&W 64 trade-ins with 4 inch barrels for only $319 right now. Yeah, it’s got the lock, but it also has the two-piece barrel, which I have found to be VERY accurate in my S&W 65-8. That 64 might have the extra shootability you’re looking for, if you’re willing to have a 4 inch barrel and fixed sights.

  10. Over 2K (once you add shipping and FFL transfer fees) for a 66-5 is ridiculous, but as you said, if someone wants to pay that then it is worth it to them. In the last year I have bought a 66-2 for $635 and a 66-1 for $800 (both 4 inch versions). I think good condition pre lock 66’s generally go in that price range and you can find pre lock 67’s (.38 special version) for less than that. Both of mine were in very good condition (though not like NIB) and locked up tightly. I found them both in local gun stores–I prefer that route rather than buying something sight-unseen. I would hope people don’t give up on the idea of a good revolver because they think they have to spend $2,000 to get one.

  11. Crazy–as in to be not in one’s right mind. That sounds familiar. For the life of me, I don’t know why I like J Frames for carry. I mean I do know that I like the shape that just melts into my waist. I also like DA triggers, but you’re right. If you can shoot a J Frame well, you can probably shoot a K Frame better. That seems to be the sweet spot. However, I’ve been revisiting the Colt Detective Special lately. My particular example (from 1977) shoots better than my Airweight J Frame and, quite surprisingly, better than my 2″ model 64. The Colt fits in a Galco Tuck N Go nicely, a completely serviceable holster that will work well as a placeholder. I also paid under $500 for it, so I’m not worried about ruining a collector piece with daily carry. The problem is that finding someone to service this old Colt could be tough. Ugh! I know I should just get a Glock 26 and be done with it, but, you know…crazy.

  12. I have been carrying a 3″ S&W mod 36 for about eight years, just switched to the LCRX 3″ in the last year.. Yes it’s lighter loaded than the empty Smith, yet I find due to the grip ergonomics that it is also much more comfortable to shoot. I was surprised, but there it is.

  13. K-frames are the cat’s meow, no doubt about it: well balanced, relatively svelte, and extremely shootable. But $2k?…no way!

    I picked into a 19-7 about three months ago for $550 that was barely used. (It came from a collector who had, I was told, amassed more than 1k of guns, so he was likely more a collector than a shooter [just call me Sherlock]. He died and part of his collection went to a small gun shop I visit on occasion.) I sold a 3″ 64-3 to help finance it and I couldn’t be happier. The trigger is great and it shoots so accurately with a handload I stumbled upon, you’d think it had a 6″ barrel instead of a 2.5″ barrel. I like it so much I am going to have it NP3 coated soon so it can be carried without fear of corrosion, and I can pass it on to my son when the time comes. (That’s assuming he wants it; he tends to like shooting bottom feeders…kids!)

    Best of luck on your search, and don’t get too hung up on a 3″ ; a 2.5″ on the right frame will work just fine.

    1. The reason I’m hung up on the 3″ is the full-length ejector rod, but you’re right – the 4s and 2.5s are far less expensive.


  14. There are still bargains in K frame Smiths if one keeps cash on hand and their eyes and ears open. I snagged three last year. A 1948 2″ M&P round butt with a Pachmayr grip adapter, period hip holster and most of a period box of Western Lubaloy .38 ammo for $200.
    Second, a very well cared for 4″M64-1 ex-police revolver that has the best revolver trigger I have experienced. Paid a premium for this one, $450, and have enjoyed it immensely. Both of these came from the same PD retiree who was downsizing for an out of state move.
    Third was a 4″ 65-5 .357 at a local cop shop mixed in with a bunch of prison M64 trade ins for $299. The tag was marked M64 and I showed the clerk the discrepancy and he sold it to me anyway. Another great K frame with low miles and .357 capability as a bonus.
    I would truly love a 3″ M64 but refuse to pay $200 more for one less inch of barrel.

      1. I picked one up yesterday at Cabelas.

        With my military discount it was $809. This is one beautiful gun, and I can see it meeting the majority of my CCW needs. It just feels right. All of the goodness of a 3″ Model 13 RB in a little smaller and lighter package.

  15. My gut reaction when reading this post was, “Noooo! Don’t give in. Stick with the revolver.” However, I have to say that although I enjoy shooting my revolvers and carry them regularly, mostly my LCR, my go to gun to carry when I may encounter a situation where the LCR may not be enough is a Glock 43 or 19…
    The majority of my carry is around the house (I work from home) and around my own neighborhood. For those cases the LCR (or J-Frame) is fine and dandy. When I go into town or will be gone all day I generally switch to the Glock and carry extra magazines. Most of my practice is with a J-Frame with a stock, unimproved trigger. Initially, I was worried the different triggers would be an issue. Instead I found that practicing with a J-frame made it easier to shoot Glocks more quickly and accurately, kind of like a doughnut on a baseball bat before stepping up to the plate.
    Take care and good luck in whatever you do.

    1. It’s great to hear from you – it has been a while! The bottom line is that I am probably moving to a 9mm semi-auto for “chores” but I will definitely keep some wheelguns around and keep writing about them. On the other hand…the new 3″ Kimber K6S looks pretty appealing to me!

      I appreciate you writing in!


  16. Interesting article and summary. I recall when I started learning the skills of shooting, that wonder nines were all the rage. Only the “Old-Timers” were using wheel guns at the range. When I discussed handguns with some of those veterans, the take away was that you had matured as a shooter when you found comfort with a wheel gun. Roll forward three decades. Wheelguns are not easy to master & shoot accurately. Their capacities seem limited to most and reloads require more time and mechanics compared to semi-autos. Now consider your environment. How you are dressed, where and when you will carry? A wheelgun doesn’t “print” as easily and there ergonomics make them easier to carry for long periods especially J &K frames. Hey, even an SP101 w/ 3″ barrel carrys concealed very well.

    Lets face it, Not everyone will remain on the “X” during a encounter when firearms are drawn so do you really need those 10 to 16 rounds? Maybe, depending on your skill level as when adrenaline flows half your rounds will miss the mark. Most statistics bears this out and that surprisingly, most firearm exchanges usually require three rounds to end the encounter.

    So, all things considered as to how, where & when you will carry. Revolvers are really still relevant, aren’t they?

    1. “Revolvers are really still relevant, aren’t they?”

      No doubt in my mind, BP! I carry one often and rely on them at home, too. They offer advantages that cannot be overlooked. They’re not always the best tool, but they do some things so well that no other type of gun can match them.

      To steal a line from Mark Twain, “the reports of the death of the revolver are greatly exaggerated.”

  17. Guys,
    I have the Kimber K6 3″….it’s replaced my S&W 65-3 & my S&W 60 no dash 2″! I can’t say enough good things about it.Bought from GUN BROKER AUCTION.Carry in a STICKIE holster APEX carry!

  18. I have never felt un- or under-armed with a five or six shot revolver. Quite the contrary! .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, or .44 Special all give me a nice, toasty feeling of safety, should the chips start to fall. Every round will fire, with nary a stovepipe (yes, I clear those instinctively on a jammed semi-auto) on my side, at least.

    I agree with the observation that the way to find a revolver is to keep some cash handy and show patience and determination. I’ve found it useful to drive off the beaten path and stop at pawn and gun shops in smaller towns in the spring, when hunting rifles, shotguns, and such are not moving very fast. Sellers tend to be more open to haggling at such times. Used police handgun are also a source of real bargains. They usually have been shot just enough to have been broken in.

    As a life-long revolver fan (I’m 67) who has carried them as a citizen and in security and private detective work, I’d suggest not getting hung up on barrel length. For years, my concealed handgun was a model 14 K-38 Masterpiece, carefully tuned by the factory before they had a “Performance Shop.” I wanted the 6″ barrel, as the law in several states confined me to .38 Special (that barrel gave a welcome boost to velocity), and the sight radius meant that even quick rough alignment was pretty darn good -and fast. Carried in a Bianchi high-ride holster, the K-38 came out quickly and smoothly, and I never felt unduly encumbered. Frankly, though 3″ is a nice barrel length, 4″ is just as concealable and 1″ isn’t worth the fuss made about it. But under 3″ strikes me as unnecessarily short and even foolish; the ballistics will make my entire case for me. A model 36 S&W with a 3″ barrel conceals easily and starts to pack a real punch. Plus there is that critical, superior sight radius again!

    The S&W, Rugers -even Colts- are out there, looking for a good home. I have bought a number of each, and always found them at surprisingly good prices while others were paying a premium. But don’t hesitate. If you see a deal, buy it! You can always sell it (at a profit) later!

    Revolvers rock! Thousands are calling our names right now. It is our duty to give them a good home. Can’t you help?

  19. I totally agree about the dismal quality control from S&W.

    I recently purchased a 642 so-called “Pro Series” at my local range. They didn’t have the model sans lock, so they agreed to get one from their other facility in a nearby town. I picked it up late one evening and gave it a cursory once-over. Looked good. Trigger pull was a little heavy, but I put that down to my last J-frame gun having been an early Model 60 customized by the late Jim Fish, former quality control guru at Smith and afterward rangemaster at Colt for several years.

    Anyway, I got the airweight home and did some dry-firing. Ugh! When I tore it down to polish, I found a .5 mm burr on the front of the cylinder crane. Jim was probably turning over in his grave. A few swipes with crocus cloth removed the stalactite, smoothed the pull and lightened the trigger by a good 3-4 lbs. I went ahead and polished all the easy stuff and the gun is slick as a whistle now, with a measured 10.5 lb. pull.

    I expect to have to tune up just about any new revolver, but that mess was ridiculous. Clearly, Smith has decided to ignore the invisible details.

    1. Bill, thanks for joining us here and adding your report. Sadly, we’re seeing a lot of that behavior from manufacturers these days.

      Oh, for the days when skilled labor was cheap and machines were expensive!

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