The five-shot .38 Special is one of the most popular concealed-carry handguns of all time, and the Charter Arms Off Duty typifies this category. The Off Duty has a lightweight aluminum frame with a tough steel barrel and cylinder. The fixed sights on top won’t be knocked off when carrying the gun in a pocket, and the “hammerless” profile ensures it won’t catch on clothing when drawn. Charter Arms fully protects the ejector rod from damage and has positioned the cylinder release so it won’t bang against your thumb knuckle when firing.
More often than not, left-handed shooters get the short end of the stick when it comes to selection. There are few rifles set up for lefties and even fewer revolvers. But Charter Arms offers a solution in the Southpaw. This is a five-shot wheelgun chambered for the .38 Special. It has an exposed hammer for single-action shots when desired. Charter Arms has a full-length underlug that protects the ejector rod. The sights are fixed, meaning they will not be knocked out of alignment when being carried or in a struggle.
Traditional 1911 maker Kimber is now in the wheelgun market with the much anticipated K6s revolver. This handgun is a six-shot .357 Magnum obviously designed for concealed carry. A 2-inch barrel and internal hammer make this a credible choice for pocket carry. The DAO trigger is very smooth with special attention given to eliminating stacking in the pull. Unlike many of its competitors, the gun has a dovetailed rear sight and a pinned front sight, making it easy to upgrade should you find aftermarket sights you like better.
This may come as a shock, but some of the best revolvers aren’t made in the United States. Instead, they are made in Germany by firearms manufacturer Korth. With a recent agreement, these top-shelf revolvers will now be sold by Nighthawk Custom here in the states. For concealed carry, the most interesting model is the Sky Hawk. Known overseas as the Sky Marshal, the Sky Hawk is a trim 9mm revolver that does not need to use moon clips with the rimless ammo. These revolvers have a slick action and a matte black DLC finish.
Ruger is well-known for building tough revolvers, and the GP100 is a perfect example of how rugged its guns can be. Built using stainless steel for all of the major components, the GP100 has a triple-locking cylinder for long-term durability. While longer barrels are available, for me the 3-inch-barreled model is the best of the bunch for concealed carry. It is outfitted with a pinned front sight and an integral rear, and it holds six powerful rounds of .357 Magnum ammunition. To help tame the felt recoil, Ruger uses Hogue’s popular Monogrip.
Ruger really hit a home run when it introduced the LCR line. This light, compact revolver proved that a top-notch defensive revolver could be made with polymer. In addition to helping reduce weight, the material also has a recoil-reducing property. But instead of just adding polymer to the design and calling it a day, Ruger also developed a cam system that resulted in a very nice, smooth trigger pull. Several chamberings are available, but I prefer the .38 Special +P model. The five-shot cylinder is significantly fluted to reduce weight, and the front sight is pinned in place if you want to replace it with a night sight or fiber-optic version.
It would be tough, if not impossible, to identify a more durable five-shot revolver than the SP101 from Ruger. These handguns have been solid performers for many years and have proven themselves in many self-defense encounters. Like its bigger brother, the GP100, the SP101 also has a triple-locking cylinder and a fully protected ejector rod. Rubber grip panels help keep the gun firmly in your hand while also absorbing some of the recoil impulse. Although the company offers models with a spurred hammer, I prefer the DAO model for self-defense.
If you want a lightweight revolver that is still large enough to fight with, take a look at the Model 340 PD from Smith & Wesson. This gun keeps the Classic J-Frame Centennial form but uses a scandium alloy frame and a titanium cylinder to shed ounces. Up front, the pinned sight has a bright orange insert similar to the ones that proved very successful in the company’s combat magnums carried by beat cops for decades. Chambered for the .38 Special +P cartridge, this gun does not have the oft-maligned internal lock.
Physical weakness can heighten the need for a reliable firearm for self-defense. It can also impact the kind of gun you are able to shoot well. While I typically would not recommend a rimfire handgun for concealed carry, one can make good sense where more powerful cartridges are impractical. The Model 43 C from S&W blends the features of the proven Centennial line with the soft-shooting nature of the .22 LR. This DAO wheelgun holds eight rounds in its cylinder and is topped with the excellent XS Sight Systems White Dot front sight. The hammer is completely internal to prevent snagging on clothing.
This is a serious combat revolver. Chambered in .357 Magnum, the 686 Plus holds seven rounds in its cylinder, making it the highest-capacity revolver in this list. An extra round of magnum firepower does add a little to the gun’s girth, and the 3-inch barrel is built for a regular diet of the full-power stuff. As such, this gun is most at home in a good OWB holster with a proper gun belt. Up front, Smith & Wesson uses a bright red insert in the front sight ramp, and the rear sight is an adjustable unit with a white outline.
Taurus’ Model 85 line has been popular with many people looking for a personal-protection revolver that is modestly priced. Taking advantage of modern materials and engineering, Taurus updated the line to include the Protector Polymer. This revolver adds a polymer frame to the design to help reduce weight while still maintaining good strength. On top, the company added a bright red fiber-optic sight for fast aiming downrange. The rubber grip helps absorb recoil, and a spurred hammer allows for SA shooting.
I admit that I’m a sucker for unusual revolvers, especially those that fire rimless cartridges. In this case, the Taurus Model 905 isn’t terribly odd itself, but it is chambered in a caliber more commonly associated with semi-automatic pistols: the 9mm. Using full-moon clips, the 905 handles the 9mm cartridge with aplomb. It has a spurred hammer, so it can be cocked manually for precise shots when needed while the DA trigger is perfectly acceptable for self-defense work. To keep the gun relatively thin, Taurus opted for a five-shot cylinder, which is typical for small-frame revolvers.
Wheels have been used throughout history to get things done. From moving cannons to Bunker Hill to pioneers traveling west, it seems that the wheel has helped the United States become the great country it is. Another wheel-based tool, revolvers, also influenced the development of the country.
Colloquially called a “wheelgun,” revolvers served both sides during the Civil War, as well as our troops in the trenches of World War I, and helped police the cities and counties throughout the nation. The revolver also proved to be the most popular handgun for self-defense for the majority of the last century.
Seasoned does not mean out of date, and the history of the combat revolver simply proves it to be a reliable design—not one that is over the hill. Since reliability is one of the most important aspects of any self-defense firearm, the revolver certainly is worth of considering when you select a weapon to carry for personal protection.
- RELATED STORY: The Best Ways To Carry Backup Ammo For Your Wheelgun
I’ve carried a J-Frame revolver for nearly all of my adult life, both as a backup to my service weapon when I still wore a police uniform and as a tool to protect my family when not on the job. While I also carry modern autopistols for personal protection, I still frequently carry that five-shot .38 Special and feel adequately prepared for most any eventuality. With all of that in mind, here is a quick look at some of the revolvers currently available that you may want to consider for your own needs.
For more information on the revolvers featured in the gallery above, please visit the following sites.
Smith & Wesson
For more from author Richard Johnson, visit http://www.
This article was originally published in ‘Concealed Carry Handguns’ 2017. For information on how to subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com
An armed driver made the costly mistake of pulling his gun on an undercover...
by Personal Defense World / Jan 30, 2017