Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Small Revolver Choices- SW Airweight .38?

We talked before about whether I should get a revolver or a little semi auto.

Anyway I decided to go with a little revolver. There were a lot of different considerations involved in this.

The Kel Tech 9mm is at least temporarily rejected. If one comes up at a deal and it is from a person I know (that will say if the gun sucks or not) maybe but for now I think not. There are a whole flock of new subcompact single stack 9mm's but I want to see how they fare and let some kinks get worked out.

There were a variety of options but I quickly narrowed it down to a Ruger SP 101 .357 mag or a Smith and Wesson .38/.357. Lots of other companies (Taurus, Charter Arms, etc all) make decent revolvers but I am looking for something that I'm not going to have issues with or want to replace in 2 or 3 years.

After some consideration the role I am looking to fill is a carry piece smaller than a Glock 19. This will give me some options and since I will be in Arizona through the summer that is important. I do think the steel framed models are probably more durable over the very long term. However since subcompact revolvers tend to be guns that get carried a lot and not have crazy round counts so to me the issue is negligible. Also this is another consideration in buying a quality revolver. My concern about the SP 101 is that despite being small it is heavy enough to be problematic for my intended use of summer or casual carry.  Also I tend to want to go lighter for a carry gun which makes the air weight smiths a good option.

[Eventually this little revolver will be paired with a stainless steel .357 or some variety. A Ruger GP 100 4" would be nice but a 3" SP 101 might just be the ticket.]

Alexander Wolfe of TEOTWAWKI Blog noted you do not get a lot from the .357 cartridge (vs the .38 special) in a snubby and there are probably shoot-ability issues in lighter guns. I would be inclined to go with a .357 mag and load .38's just to have the chamber capacity if it ever came up. So I got to looking. Around here SW stainless .357 mag's of the small variety are semi rare and in the air weight flavor they might as well be made of unobtainable and have diamonds for night sights. Nice guns but way more coin than I want to spend.

Anyway the combination of my preferences, budget and availability makes me think a Smith and Wesson Airweight .38 special as the best available option. Thoughts?


Pilgrim said...

I bought my wife a tiny lightweight .38 Charter Arms revolver.

In pink digital camo.


It's held up well for a few years though.

I doubt the pink camo is your thing, though. ;-)

I have heard good things about the S&W, but have never fired one.

Ryan said...

Pilgrim, My wife has the pink Charter Arms .38. Our use for it has been light but it's worked just fine.

Pilgrim said...

We've looked at the small semi autos, but haven't jumped yet.

Maybe I'll let you test the waters...

Ryan said...

Pilgrim, It will be a hot minute. Want to let the SW Shield and Ruger LC 9 get some field time. In terms of priority it would be after the AR pistol project and a decent .308 bolt gun anyway.

Aesop said...

The niche you're going for is
>"I don't look like I have a gun" appearance for lightweight constant carry
>"I've got a gun" for flash when the issue is pressed by random a-hole(s)with evil intent
>gunfights at phonebooth to inside a men's room distances when things go all goat rodeo

A stainless airweight in .38 will do all of those things just fine.
With the drawback you mentioned, a .357 (vs. 38) mainly serves to up the odds that afterwards, the only person making a statement to the PD is you, the survivor.

If you haven't already done so, to go along with the responsibility of carrying (outside the course and scope of your uniformed duties), peruse Ayoob's comments regarding after-action behavior in "In The Gravest Extreme" (or similar works), and invest about an hour for a very pleasant law school lecture on YouTube entitled "Don't Talk To Police" team-taught by a VA law prof and a local VA detective.

Hopefully, you'll never need the lecture or the .38, but once again, PPPPPPP.

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

I'd also recommend the Charter, especially in the older 1st generation Undercover series. I bought mine two years ago for less than $250, tax included.

The Ruger will be near $400 (or higher), the S&W about $200 more. If you paying less than $500 for the S&W, you are stealing it.

Definitely agree with .38 Spcl vs. .357 - most of the gain in higher power is noise and recoil, not something you want to add in a snub nose.

Just my .02 - good luck with your choice.

sethmcdonald said...

Well, I had HORRIBLE luck with my charter arms .38. I sent it back to the factory twice before trading it off.

What about a glock 26 or a steel S&W snubby 38? I would likely pick a smith airweight over the ruger if the purpose is summer

riverrider said...

the ruger lcr.38 is hard to beat. way cheaper than smith but built to last. i had problems with charter arms snubbies. wore out very quickly and began having cylinder alignment problems,shedding lead out the side when fired. nearly put a bystanders' eye out.

Ryan said...

Aesop, The concept of use you described could be filled with a .380/.32/.25/.22 the size of a deck of cards. I am looking for a bit more that that.
-Readily concealable (no gun look like you said)
-Adequate stopping power.
-Capable of reasonable combat accuracy (obviously if I do my part) at close ranges of 10m and under.

Honestly even if I get a little .357 it would be loaded with .38 JHP.

I have seen some (or maybe all I cannot recall) of that series and enjoy Mr Ayoob's stuff a lot.

Ryan said...

@6:21, As of the last few years (before that it has changed ownership a few times and varied widely in quality) Charter Arms generally makes decent stuff though there are definitely some lemons.

I do not really mind paying for the QA/QC as well as fit, finish and ergonomics of a better pistol at this stage in life. Would rather save for another month or two and get what I want (or close enough) then settle. That way I am not coming back to the problem in 2-3 years.

Yeah the lack of sufficient barrel to really get more out of the .357 combined with Airweight .357's being priced like they are made of unobtanium with Diamond and Ruby night sights made the choice obvious. Just not paying $700+ for a snubby .38.

Seth, I agree that Charter Arms (and Taurus) definitely have more issues by % than Ruger or S&W.

A stainless steel .38 might be a candidate if one popped up at a decent price. Folks around here seem to think they grow more valuable with age like wine though.

A Glock 26 would be an option but I would want to shoot one first. Haven't heard great things about them.

Riverrider, The idea is promising but I like to see how a gun does for a few years before buying one.

Aesop said...

With respect, I get the stopping power rationale.

A .22, like the NAA mini-revolvers, is a last-ditch crotch/armpit hideout piece. You get what you get with .22LR, and they're pretty spiffy at that.

.25/.32s aren't for stopping people, they're for pissing them off, prior to getting them to beat you to death if you actually hit them. Assuming the piece (of ****) doesn't jam. Most crooks won't spot you time to get the thing out and screw it into their ear, which is about the only way they're worth the bother.

A .380 is barely adequate (just ask the barely adequate euro-cops), but James Bond lore usually prices them out of reality, so one is usually better off with more standard fare.

FWIW, I have a Glock 26, and I like it a lot, it's Glock-reliable, accurate, and suitably small. But to get the 10 (or 11) rounds of 9mm goodness in a package the size of my small hand requires a noticeably significant weight penalty, such that you'd still be better served with an SP-101 in .357, and such would still, I think, be lighter than the loaded 26. And the after-market magwell extension for the mini-Glock to give my pinky somewhere to go (besides extended a la afternoon tea) kind of blows the concealability/ease-of-draw factor too.

Which leaves you back at the Bodyguard Airweight .38 with JHPs,(+P optional) as a very fine choice.

If borrowing from someone, or a rental range are options, by all means, try before you buy.

Ryan said...

Aesop, .22 has the advantage of being uuber common and able to fit into really small packages like the NAA revolver or Beretta 21A.

Personally I have no use for a .25 or .32.

.380 is not a power house but for a long time it was the only game in town. In addition to questionably adequate power the ammo is quite expensive and often out of stock. The new sub compact 9mm single stack's have probably got .380's number at least in all except the smallest (Kel Tech P3AT, etc) configuration.

Have shot a variety of small revolvers in the past though never a smith of the ultralight variety. Can't see them shooting worse than a Taurus or a Charter Arms and would wager they shoot better.

The opportunity to shoot a Glock 26 has not come up though honestly I have not really sought it out. Would like to shoot one before considering the purchase. It could be a nice addition to the collection.

Anonymous said...

Having owned more than a couple snub nosed Smith & Wessons, a Colt Detective Special and an older Charter Arms, I feel confident in stating that the Smith's with either shrouded hammer or the DA-only guns with totally enclosed hammer are best for CCW. Or, a "regular" gun with hammer spur ground off. This to prevent snagging the spur on your clothing if you have to whip it out.

I own two shrouded hammer Smiths, and the most I gave for either via private party sale was $425 in near new-in-box condition. Your mileage may vary, but, I doubt it very much.


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