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Handgun Reviews Revolvers

Head for the Hills

by J. Scott Rupp   |  June 10th, 2011 90

It was Dave Spaulding who gave me the idea, and in fact I bought a gun entirely due to a piece he wrote for our Handguns annual a few years back. The premise was, essentially, if things go to hell and you have time/room to grab only one handgun, what will it be? Dave’s advice made a lot of sense (as always), and when my gun fund hit the level that whispered, “Yes, you can buy something,” there was no doubt what my purchase would be: a Smith & Wesson Model 629 .44 Magnum with a five-inch barrel.

To loosely recap Dave’s advice and add my own two cents, the base gun—-a revolver-—is the logical choice for a couple of reasons. One, they’re damn near failsafe guns. You don’t have to worry about ammo compatibility with regard to function. If it’s the right ammo for the gun, and it’s not defective, it’ll fire. And if it doesn’t fire due to some defect, you just pull the trigger again to have a go at a new round.

Revolvers don’t get finicky due to dirt, dust, lint, whatever. They just keep on trucking. Maintenance? There’s no field-stripping (read, no springs or other parts that can get lost), and a drop of lube in the right places is all that’s required. And if push comes to shove, you don’t even need that—at least for a while.

Two, the DA/SA revolver gives you the best of both worlds. In a firefight with a bunch of Mad Max-type characters and need to crank out the rounds? The double-action pull will get the job done. Need more precision for a longer shot at foe or food? Draw back that hammer and use the short, lighter single-action pull.

Why did I select the five-inch barrel? I’m a man who believes that compromising is not always a compromise. The four-inch gun is great for carry and even in an N frame can pass muster (albeit barely) as a concealed-carry gun. The six-inch barrel is awesome for its longer sight radius, and the extra weight out front makes the gun more controllable.

The five? Best of both worlds. I’ve got two holsters for this gun, both from Galco. One’s a typical belt holster, the other the Kodiak that carries the gun across my front. (And this is the only strike against my barrel-length choice: Both of those holsters had to be ordered as custom because the five-inch isn’t a stock item.) In both carry styles the gun is totally comfortable—something I don’t always find with six-inch guns. On the range, I don’t feel handicapped taking long shots because I can see the sights better than I can on a four-inch gun.

Now for the fun part. Why the .44 Magnum? If there is one gun that can handle any task, it’s Elmer Keith’s finest creation. Clint Eastwood (well, Dirty Harry anyway) would squint and scowl when I say this, but the real allure isn’t that it’s “the most powerful handgun in the world”—-which of course it’s not. What appeals to me is its older, smaller brother: the .44 Special.

Hornady’s 180-grain XTP .44 Special.

You put a cylinder full of .44 Specials in a gun like the 629, and it’ll handle defensive tasks like it has since the days of the Wild West. In fact it’s so much better now because we have excellent loads such as Hornady’s 180-grain XTP round, which is what’s currently residing in my 629’s cylinder. Eminently controllable and accurate as hell, there’s not a two-legged predator that can’t be put down with authority with a properly placed shot from a .44 Special.

And if you’re truly heading for the hills, and the crap has really hit the fan, at some point you’re going to run out of the emergency food you’ve stashed for the occasion. At that point, survival isn’t just about avoiding roving bands of thugs but also feeding you and your family. Enter full-power .44 Magnum loads, capable of taking down any game in North America. And it’s not just the power but the velocity, which translates to a flatter trajectory and allows you to make shots on spooky food animals at longer ranges than almost any other handgun round.

I realize that the whole “head for the hills” thing is mostly just a mental exercise, and I’m not really going to limit myself to one gun (my Springfield XD 9mm is coming with, as are a couple of long guns), but thinking about these things—and acting on them by preparing—makes me sleep better at night.

  • Steve Durham

    Scott,I love ya man……but if I only have time to grab one it will be my Norinco 12 gauge pump with a "slicker than Monkey Snot-action" Buckshot beats bullets!(In most cases) Best 189.00 bucks I ever spent.(bout 20 years ago)It's a copy of a Remington 870 only with a steel receiver. Built like a tank. Not usually impressed with Chinese products,but this one has never let me down. Trying to buy American now. Sold my Glocks started buying FNH. Made in USA you know? Time will tell if it was a good decision.Scotty,you're one of my favorites!!!

    • D.L.

      Did you notice this sight and artical was about "handguns", not 12 ga. shotguns?

      Also FN is a Belgian company.

  • Frank

    I am close to agreeing. I would go ahead and take the longer barrel..

    Optoin A: I would grab my Ruger Super Redhawk .44 magnum carried in my Huckleberry holster in 7 1/2 inch barrel and if possible, my Marlin .44 magnum lever action. I have carried this for 10 hours at a time and am accustomed to it.

    Option B would be my 6 inch barrel .357 magnum revolver in model Ruger GP100. If I had a .357 Lever Action rifle, this might very well be Option A

  • Dan

    I agree that a revolver is a great choice but I would contend that a .357 mag would be the way to go. If the sh** hits the fan, 38 or 357 ammo would be easier to scrounge and is a more manageable handgun for anyone in your family to use..

    • Sarg

      I agree,a .357 mag is a good choice, since I reload I have

      hundreds of rounds ready to go.

    • D.L.

      100% agree and I'm not even a revolver fan….

  • Carl C.

    Your choice of the 44 Mag Smith is good. It was my 2nd choice, albeit with the 8 3/8 barrel.

    My first choice would be the S & W .22 Masterpiece with the 6 inch barrel. More versatile for small-game hunting AND sufficient for defense (up close) and very accurate. Ammo is cheaper, also and much easier to carry a LOT of ammo.

    But, the 44 Mag S&W is an excellent choice IF you are a handloader.

    • Doug

      Are you really going to use a .22 for home defense? Come on now!

      • Shad

        Why not a .22? (Too 'wimpy' of a caliber you say?)

        Then I ask, you ever been shot in the face with a .22?

    • Alex C.

      Dude? Really? .22LR? This is personal defence, not attack of the killer rabbit, .357 minimum, "and now to something completely different

    • Duke N.

      Hard to argue with a .44 Mag as the "one handgun I can bring" scenario. I question the statement, though, about it bringing down any game in North America. Depends on your definition of "game", I suppose, but a pistol cartridge, any pistol cartridge, is not a wise choice against say, an elk or moose, unless that "pistol" is maybe a TC Contender with a Buffalo Bullet .45-70 load. There are still people that seem to think a .44 Magnum is sufficient for defense against Alaskan Brown Bear/Grizzly attack. Personally I think anyone trying that is going to end up as bear stool. Do agree entirely with the .44 Special as defense load, but I'm prejudiced toward the .357 Magnum for the reason Dan said, .38 Special in particular is much easier to find about anywhere. As for the .22LR as a defense load, it has proven effective as a killing cartridge in several high profile cases (unfortunately): the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in June 1968, the Sharon Tate home in August 1969 and it nearly killed Ronald Reagan in March 1981. Bullet placement is as important as anything in stopping an attacker, and a .22LR certainly allows for accurate bullet placement.

  • Sal

    Understand your feelings Scott but if this is truly a "head for the hills" situation my #1 concern is going to be ammo availability. That would put some like the 629 VERY low on the list for me.

    My choice would be an easy one, my Beretta 92 in 9MM


    • Sarg

      I would also look at a 9mm. My glock with a 19 round mag.

      plus I reload so I have houndreds of rounds ready to go in a monents notice

    • Alex C.

      I agree, it's nice to have the power of the .44 Mag and other highpower rounds, but even if you have 300 rounds in your garage, that's 50 full loads for your revolver, and then you're out, better to go with a cal. more widely used, like the 9x19mm, or even the .45ACP if you must. Both are stock piled.

  • Palo

    If society would collapse, I would want a pistol that was reliable and it would be easy to scavenge for ammo. I would want a pistol that I could take small gave with and yet drop a whitetail if I should get the opportunity.

    I would lean toward the Ruger Single Six (.22LR/.22WMR). It's a rugged little pistol and it wouldn't be much to lug around 200 rounds of either the .22LR or the .22WMR. And when it comes to scavenging, no single cartridge is made in the quantity of the .22.



    • Alex C.

      And you'd run out of ammunition within days. A fully-automatic sub-machine gun would eat up ammo like crazy, even with a fired rate of 650 rounds per minute(for the 9x19mm Uzi, i do not know the ROF for the Mini-Uzi)

  • Alan

    Hard to choose only one gun as Scott says, I would grab more than one and a few long guns as well. But If I only had time to grab one it would be my trusty friend my everyday carry gun, my Glock 23 .40 cal. Why, because it is never out of hands reach day or night. Drop dead reliable (pun intended) and and plenty of capacity with a few extra mags. (But I would like my .44 mag Super Blackhawk with me as well, for all the reason Scott mentioned above).

  • Jhon Baker

    I would grab my XDm .45 acp – Hands down, if there were time to grab two the second would be my Ruger 5" GP100 .357 – both for accuracy and ease of care – the first for the amount of rounds available till reload and the second because there is more than one ammo to put through it. The XDm is my nightstand gun so it would be the easiest to grab by far.

    • D.L.

      Agreed on the .357

  • Michjael e. Rowell

    My go-to gun is a S&W model 24 with a three inch barrel. I am accurate with it to 75yards. the .44 Special will stop man or beast, and the short thre inch barerl is easier for my aged eyes to shoot accurately than longer barrels in all but brighest daylight.

  • Bikersteve

    I agree, I would grab either my 629 Clasic 6" barrel or my 686 .357 7-Shot, 5" Barrel. Both are stainless, almost maintenance-free and both will shoot Magnum & Special loads. PLUS, they are damned intimidating to any two-legged menace you point them at! I own several other fine revolvers, Semi-auto's & rifles, but the S&W pistols are as accurate as any of them. One other good choice would be my Henry "Big-Boy" Lever-Action Rifle in .44 Mag.

    • D.L.

      686 all the way….

  • DocRod

    That's easy to answer…. I have a loaded 1911 with 4 extra loaded magazines in every room of my home, in my car, in my workshop/garage, and in my safe. When I enlisted in 1967, I only had prior experience with revolvers. My issue 1911 was a worn out WWII / Korean War retread that rattled when I walked, and worse, I couldn't hit a wall standing in the middle of a small room with the thing, I never considered the 1911 as anything but an ornament to be worn at ceremonial events… until 5 years ago. I was still shooting and concealed carrying revolvers when a friend insisted that I try his S&W 1911 Government model. That was all it took to disrupt my life for several years. (being retired, I have far too much time on my hands) I started out just reading about the various 1911's when I made the monumental error of buying one, a Springfield G.I. model in stainless steel. Over the past 5 years, I have acquired 14 more of these remarkable pistols, all different brands, configurations, finishes, etc., and I'm still nowhere near satisfying my addiction. When my friends question me like I have lost my mind (they do & maybe I have), I just tell them: While there are many fine pistols in the world today, there aren't any that are so familiar and comforting to hold as the 1911. The 1911's are like my closest group of personal friends – I love having them around, and I've not found a reason to change any them. That usually shuts them up!

    • Festus

      DocRod, welcome to the 1911 collectors club! I have around 20 of them built and 4 new frames that haven't been built up yet. I used to build custom 1911s for friends and family as an FFL, now I just shoot and work on them as a hobby.

      "While there are many fine pistols in the world today, there aren’t any that are so familiar and comforting to hold as the 1911." Well said, couldn't have put it better myself.

  • kenny loveless

    Great points made and one gun would not really happen for me either as long as I have two hands. A really great choice would also be a Stainless Ruger SP 101 in 357mag. It can also bring down any animal with properly placed shot, is as well built and reliable as any gun ever produced and the gun as well as ammo a little lighter in the event of having to travel often or long distance by foot.

    • D.L.


  • Mark

    The Title " must have gun…" is a bit different than the context of the article.

    If I could truly have but one gun I might go for an LCP 3AT type for have it on ya at all times and I am talking virtually ALL TIMES!

    I like the concept of the article and might think along those line for my bug out pistol, though I have a Blackhawk SA…just what I happen to have. It would pair nicely with a lever in .44 which I am lucky enought to have as well…

  • Ed Bochan

    I was thinking a Daw Wesson 357 Magnum w/ 2, 4, 6, & 8" bbls. Concealed = 2", 4" or 6"= general use, 8" (w/ scope on the shroud)= hunting. If you can't kill it with 6 .357 well-placed rounds, you shouldn't be shooting at it in the first place (or it leaves tank-tred marks in the dirt as it goes by).

  • Festus

    .357 Magnum revolver, hands down. Ammo is about a third smaller and a third lighter so you can carry it more easily. It has good power for most things, even deer at moderate range, and a better manstopper is hard to find. If you're like me, you've been stocking up on brass and ammo for 30 years by now and the only problem will be carrying it all. I'm thinking that ammo stashes may be the way to go. Ammo in stores will be taken along with guns early on if society crashes. The cops and leo's will not be reliable, we saw that already with Katrina. Some cops stayed loyal, some went astray, some agencies went around disarming folks in their homes. That will be a bigger concern than which handgun to have, that being, what will you do to keep it?

  • Tom G

    Great article! I am a Handguns subscriber and regular reader. Where I own as many semi-auto pistols as I do revolvers, it makes a lot of sense to have a .44 Mag as a primary defensive and hunting weapon when out in the back country, low country or "them thar hills" for that matter. However, all of my "44's" are hunting and target guns with long barrels. Even my Smith Model 29 "Dirty Harry" styled revolver has an 8" barrel. I don't shoot them often enough to be confident that I could improve my accuracy shooting these big canons with a shorter barrel. My bedside nightstand and travel gun is a Taurus Judge with a 3" inch barrel. We live in Orlando, Florida where an assault and battery, ATM holdup and a shooting/killing is becoming a regular almost everyday occurrence. I have a CWP. You just can't be too cautious and overly self or family protective these days. But you need to carry what you can shoot with confidence and accuracy.

  • Sproutz

    My bugout gun is still my trusty Glock 17. I have enough mags for it including a factory 33 rounder, Ammo is plentiful, and I'm certain a well placed gold dot will drop a white tail.

  • 1911fan

    "Revolvers don’t get finicky due to dirt, dust, lint, whatever."

    Is that really true? If you get a bunch of crud and lint and whatever built up near the cylinder gap, won't that cause it to get "finicky"?

    • D.L.

      Agreed, revolver guys live in a fantasy world with that excuse.

      The worst is actualy getting dirt in a double action's timing, I've seen them lock up and get thrown out of position.

      • EmG

        any gun can get dirty enough to act up. but revolvers will work when extremely dirty, I shoot all types of guns and I have yet to see a semi auto that will work right with all ammo, (reloads mostly) no gun is perfect however revolvers are more reliable in extreme conditions, thats a fact!! dont get me wrong I love all my guns includeing my semi autos!

    • EmG


      yes you can make anything stop working with enough crud, the fact is revolvers can take a lot more dirt than most if not all semi autos, and i cant imagine how much crud, dirt or lint would have to be near the cylinder gap to make a revolver finicky since the rotation of the cylinder would usually clear it. you could still clean a semi auto that was finicky from dirt, lint ect. put that dirt, lint ect in a revolver and shoot severl hundred rounds thru it with out a problem! the point is any gun can malfunction from being dirty but revolvers by design will work when extremly dirty!

  • Sheepdog

    If time is very short I'll leave with what is in my pocket, S&W 638, 38+P with Crimson Trace grips and one strip of reloads. If I have time to hit the safe it would be Kimber custom Pro Carry II in 45 cal and a couple hundred rounds. Gotta love them 1911's and 45 ACP is certainly common ammo. Lord help us all if we only have time to grab one gun.

  • fast fred

    The 10mm is the 44mag of the auto world, Good for just about any two or four legged critter.

    loaded up to 1600 fps or down to 900 something for everybody.

  • Jon

    I have a SW 19-6 357 magnum. There are numerous boxes of 158 grain jhp and 180 grain bear loads in my house. I am entirely confident that a home invader or a looter won't have a chance. If I head to the hills, the 180 grain bullets will bring home the bacon with no problem.

  • http://N/A Lopaka

    I have always liked the .44M & .44Specials and pefer the 6.5

    inch barrel for a gun myself. I purchased a .357M last year in

    a 6 inch barrel and saving up for my .44M this year. Yes, it

    will shoot with no jam and not like a semi-auto hand gun. Keep up the awesome information on hand guns. I have enjoyed the great articles each month. My Grand Son Loved the Hi Point destuction gun test and he has found his handgun to purchase in a .9MM.

  • Paul

    The 629 as you describe was the first thing that came into my mind, and I have a real love for it after shooting my friend's.

    What I have, though, is a Colt King Cobra in stainless, and it actually fits my smaller hands better. But the 629 is a classic, I agree.

  • Jack

    I Love my 629 w 4" barrell. It's fun to shoot with 44 special and the noise with magnums is great. Have to practce regularly or the recoil can be hurtfull. I keep it ready with Hornady's also.

  • http://Investor13 JGus

    My One Revolver = Ruger GP100 357mag 4". My one Semi-auto pistol = Desert Eagle Model 1911 45acp. My one Rifle = Winchester 1892 lever action 357mag. My one Shotgun = Benelli SuperNova 12ga. This way I've got a revolver and rifle both using the same ammunition in 357mag or 38special, and both guns extremely effective.

  • 1911fan

    A Dan Wesson 357 Super Magnum w/8" bbl would be an interesting choice. For daily duty you can use 38 SPL or 357 rounds and for extreme situations, a 357 Rem Maximum 180 grn FPJ will generate 960 ft/lbs of energy (Sierra HRM, 3rd ed.), that's some fairly serious horsepower roughly in 44 mag territory.

  • William Brandt

    Undestand what you are saying, and philosophically I agree. Being realistic and practical, a .22 caliber revolver might be a better choice. Lots of reasons. Weight and bulk – many more rounds of .22 can be carried. Quiet – the "hills" have ears. Providing for the pot? Woodsman skills come in here, as well as less destructive for small game, as well as the fact the the favorite choice of the poacher is the .22.

    I do understand this is "just a mental excercise", but it is something to think about. I expect to be taking my 629 Mountain Gun, a custom 1911, along with favorite 3" .357 small frame stainless revolver, both .38 and .357 rounds, and ……….etc. as well as long guns. (Talk about bulk).

    We've got lots more to really be concerned with, the economic conotations of the future are the true problems!

  • Obamistake

    Gun? Hell! I'm grabbing my Springfield Armory M1A!!!!!! After that I'm grabbing my SA .45 XD.

    • Alex C.

      Thank you, thank you. Finally, someone mentions the M14(the M1A is the semiauto civilian version but workthe same). The .308, or 7.62x51mm if i'm not mistaken, has the stopping power for anything that would cause this event and the .45? First semiauto cal issued by the military and now it's being brought back for use with Special Forces and other highend groups. And is anyone thinking silencer(suppresser) at all? I'dlike to be able to keepmy hearing and i wouldn't any "enemies", per se, hearing me either.

      • Mack M.

        You talkin' rifles? I prefer .30 caliber myself. I'd think a .25 Caliber would be a nice in-between. I like bolt actions. I admire the M1A and the M14 though, don't get me wrong.

        I just see the .223 as wimpy compared to .25+ caliber rifles. I'd think even a .24 caliber AR would be a step up from the .223.

        I HAVE .308. It's amazing. I want a .30-06 and a .25-06 at the moment as well. I prefer rifles. So whatever handgun I'd bring along in this situation–it's be backup compared to my rifle :D

  • wayne pasko

    i could not agree more. now – i wish the sales figures reflected the logic. Way too many .357 mags sold to make sense – in my opinion

  • Bikersteve

    Sounds like a guy who never shot a .357! (at least not a quality .357) The first time I fired one I was 13 and I've been enamored with them ever since. In my opinion, it's the "1911 of revolvers"!

    • Sarg

      For a few dollars I had a "trigger" job done on my S&W modle 19 talk about a sweet shooting revolver. I would have no problem grabbing it as my choice fo a ""get the hell out of dodge""weapon

  • jeff

    ruger single six hunter with 2-6×32 scope if I can bring only one…..

    ammo plentiful

    easy to carry

    accuracy good with scope

    22 mag for hunting can get you a deer or at least a turkey or something to eat.

    and good for defense .

    • Alex C.

      I'm not doubting your hunting abilities and i think it is possible, but i'd like tosee someone take down an untamed White Tailed. Now turkey yes, if you getclose enough.

  • Dale

    I agree with the .44 Magnum, S&W 629 only in the 4" Mountain Gun. The 4" is a better carry gun either in a belt holster like a Bianchi 10, or the Galco Miami Classic shoulder holster. I sometimes use my as my apt gun with Glaser Silver Tips and have shot over 300 SWC reloads this year. Better to have a bigger caliber and not need it, then to try and make do with a smaller caliber.

    • Mack M.

      That's be nice. But give me 5"! :D

  • http://aol jeff

    Wow what a brain buster I still think a rifle is best and a m1a is really the best in my opinion but a handgun it would be my hk usp 45 twelve rounds lots of mags and very accurate so there you go

  • DonM

    Not a bad choice, but mine is a SW625 revolver in .45ACP. Lots of modern bullets for social occasions, Where more penetration is needed the full metal jacket gives the edge, without the magnum recoil. And the .45 is an honest .455 compared to the .44 magnum/special's .43 caliber bullet, for a slight edge in letting daylight in and blood out. Now add the minor fact that the 625 loads with clips, on the 6 sigma occasion that more rounds are needed.

    • Sarg

      Why has noone said anything about "the JUDGE" A .45LC

      and or a .410 shotgun shell ???? I think that would be a good choice

      • Alex C.

        A JUDGE is great for up-closepersonal defence, but the spread with the Judge using a .410 personal defence load it quite a lot, normally only 3 out of 4 pellets hit a man-sized target from15-ft.

  • Sean

    I would sure not grab a revolver……..I would without question grab my Glock 20 plenty of power, much better capacity, and it also always goes boom……

    • Sean

      EDIT* 10mm as mentioned before can also be loaded soft or stout, and you can shoot 40cal in them as well….

  • Matt Wellington

    I must agree that the .44 Mag makes a good choice, and I like the Model 29 platform. I must say though that I would choose my 29 Mountain Gun. It makes me think I might have gotten the stainless instead, but I think it is a slightly better choice. I have a wife and 2 (soon to be 3) kids to move about should the stuff hit the ventilator. Every ounce will begin to weigh down after the first few hours or days and I believe the weight savings will pay off in spades. In the timeber environments in the immediate bug-out vicinity, I believe there will be plenty of improvised rests available to help out with hunting. Another advantage of the .44 revolver you touched on is the availability of lower powered ammo. I believe a careful tailor could craft some fine small-game loads for subsistence hunting as well as the medium-to-large animals we traditionally target with the .44Mag.

    • Sarg

      Does your wife shoot the .44mag with good results ?? maybe it would be better to have something that she is good with if you were unable to help


    A Coach gun for 2 legers, a M1A for food, a Security 6 or Hi-power for


  • Chris U

    I would have to go with my Sig P226. I have extra .357 Sig and 9mm barrels as well as a .22 conversion. This gun is as reliable as a rock, well actually more a rock can be cracked easily. Gun has been used for USPSA, IDPA, range, and target. NEVER a malfunction.

  • Brian

    All about the 44. Super Blackhawk 44 mag with 5.5 inch barrel. I'd also take my HK P30 to keep on my side at all times. Then a Ruger Mark III for small game and the Mossberg 500A1 which will take everything from bird to bear. I think one factor that's over looked is- "Do you have a reserve ammo supply set aside for just this type of situation?" I do and I'm ready to "Head for the Hill" if need be. Although it wouldn't be a bad idea to take as many guns and ammo as you can carry. Your "extra" guns would be pretty valuable in trade if the time ever came.

  • Clay

    Can't go wrong there; I've had the 29's; awesome; Now I have the S&W model 57 .41 magnum 4 " bbl. Super awesome; very controllable kick butt piece. You can fire this rapid fire fast and put all six in the body area even after running coming back and doing arm pushups on the tail gate of your truck to simulate being stressed out heart racing, etc.

  • gary

    my nitestand piece is the 3" JUDGE W/45lc and triple X 410 love my Ruger 40 cal W/3 dif loads, with 3 extra mags loaded with the 3 different rounds. My safe is close to BR so I want one of my AR' S.either a 308 0r 223. I always have 20+ mags loaded with those 2 calibers.

  • Wyatt

    Tauras Raging Judge,.410 .45c .454c…..410 for the small game of all kinds birds in flight…45c for deer or bad guys 454c for the largest game the big bears,buffalo and moose….being able to shoot 3 diffrent loads and with the 45colt round being so common with sass cowboy shooting.

    also women can easly handle 45colt. and light 410. 454. would be hard to come by but you wouldnt have to carry alot and only use in time of great need.

    • Wyatt

      the TRJ.comes in 3in and 6in i would take the 6in also its a six shot,with some slight modfi and moon clips it would shoot 45acp not very practical but would work in a pinch.

  • D.L.

    Sorry Mr. Rupp, but your choice is really not well thought out.

    I'm a big bore man myself, only I preffer semi-autos in 45acp, yet I think a perfect do-all pistol would be a 4" S&W .357 mag, it will take down a deer, you can use .38 sp. for self defense and it is smaller & lighter to pack around. Plus .38 ammo is cheaper and usually more available in an emergency.

  • coolgunguy

    Lots of good choices. For me, it would be my SW1911 45 ACP. Plenty good as a defensive round, good enough for close range game and readily available.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, (happens often enough) but I'm thinking any of the Judge series would suffer as anything other than a close-up weapon, due to it's 'versatility' in chambering. My thought is that accuracy would suffer at distance.

  • Richard

    All of Scott's points were thought of when I picked my "if I only had one" handgun. However I chose the S&W 625 in 5". I know it will not reach out like a .44 mag but at closer ranges the .45 Auto Rim ammo that is available will do the job on most game and .45 ACP is about as common a ammo to be able to find as there is. The Full Moon clip in the .45 ACP with good personal defence loads make it quick and dependable like no other.

  • Thomas Deal

    I don't think I would grab the 44.Ithink I would grab the guide gun and a single six in 22mag.That should take care of the whole deal!

  • Dave Whitney

    I've got an old Herter's German-made .22WMR revolver with a 6-inch barrel that I would consider first. Can carry a lot of ammo and I've had it so long and shot it so much that it's like having a rifle out to about 100 yards. Yet my Charter .44 S&W Special with a 3-inch barrel has been a favorite hunting side arm for years and will drop most anything on this planet. The Judge with a 6.25-inch barrel goes along with me on some hunts, but even though effective and a good personal defense weapon, it's too heavy – as is the ammunition – to be the only gun on a survival run. The old Herter's .22Mag is to versatile not to be No. 1 on my list.

  • Bill

    I like the idea of .44mag but I don't own one, I have shot my friends 44's

    and agree its a sweet gun. I guess my choice would be one of my

    1911s 10mm or 45. Don't forget if you are successful there will be

    guns to be picked up off the ground from time to time, most likely

    AKs, if you are using the 44mag you may have to hose them off

    before use

    • D.L.

      If you've got a 10mm, that's close enough to a .44 mag, but good luck finding ammo for it in an emergency.

      • BILL

        I have plenty!!

  • http://??? Doug

    After a body has been around for a while, I can only applaud your choice. When the family is with you and the vermin may be two legged or four legged or you may want to reach out to collect the next meal; a person would be hard pressed to find a firearm that does the job and still is portable and reasonably concealable. The ammunition may be heavier, but you don't need as much to, "get 'ur done."

  • Nick

    In a true, SHTF scenario there is no question about which gun I'd grab: my 6" 1911 chambered in 10mm. It would take me less than a minute to grab my mini pistol tote with 6 mags (48 rounds total). I'd grab as many boxes of handloads as I could fit in my pack. Most of my regular field loads are a 180gr XTP @ 1250fps or my nuclear loads consisting of a 200gr XTP @ 1300fps… a warm and a hot 10mm load, each capable of defense or hunting tasks up through deer and small bear) with quick reloads to boot. I'd also grab my Alessi Fieldmaster for vertical shoulder carry (that has two mag pouches on the offside.

  • Josh

    Any .44 revolver would be a great only-one-gun, but if I had to pick just one to grab and run with, it would have to be my S&W 66 and as much .38 and .357 as I could carry. Realistically, how much .44 mag and especially .44 special would you be able to scrounge up once you run out???? A .357 revolver would be the only logical choice. The only additional gun I could think that would make sense to grab would be a break-down 22 single shot survival rifle of some sort.

  • Shad

    The oddest point behind this whole discussion is why a 'handgun' in the first place? If sh*t is hitting the fan, and I have time to grab 'A' weapon, it sure the heck ISN'T going to be a handgun of ANY caliber!

    A shotgun or a Ruger 10/22. Best all around weapons man has ever produced! JMHO…

  • Mack M.

    I am not really into handguns at the moment. I realized some months ago that I am a Rifleman. Compared to a Carbine a handgun is a pea shooter.

    But I suppose a 5" barrel 9mm or .45 autoloader would be awesome in this case. A .357 or .44 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk (Single Action) would be dandy as well. Also like the .357 Vaquero in this instance. It's has a smaller footprint than the Blackhawk.

    Double Action Revolvers are NOT bulletproof!!! I learned that the hard way after buying a NEW S&W DA revolver. The action locked up after the ejector rod assembly came unscrewed :( NEVER EVEN FIRED IT–just practiced. I prefer Single Action Revolvers now.

    DA Revolvers actually have many small parts–like clockwork. They are in the frame on S&W's. I'd say that DA Revolvers are no more trustworthy than an autoloader after my dilemma.

    A SA Revolver is much more trustworthy in design. But they are slow to load and unload. Much better for hunting than assault. They are good defense against an animal (in larger caliber).

    For assault/human defense the 9mm or 45 glock, Beretta, & Sig.

  • Lewis

    First I am going to assume this is a major meltdown scenario, where you may have to be CARRYING or HIKING around with your one gun, which can only be a pistol or revolver. I believe your choice of a .44 magnum to be the best choice, but also feel a good .357 would fill the bill nicely too. In this scenario, where you only have time to grab ONE handgun, I think the slightly longer sight radius of a 6" inch gun would be more beneficial than the benefit of slightly easier concealment with a shorter gun. If the SHTF, concealment will be one of my lower priorities. The need for sufficient ammo is always good for discussion, but in my opinion the real answer here is 2 guns. One in .44 or .357 (either one will do for most of what is required for personal defense or big game hunting), and a very accurate .22 for most of what needs to be shot. With this combination a several hundred rounds of ammo can be carried for the .22 along with a box or 2 for the larger caliber, without being excessively heavy. It's not like ammo for either caliber will just disappear, because of an incident, it will still be available somewhere, somehow, so all you really need to CARRY is enough to get you to your next supply, wherever that is. The weight of the .22 is not much more than the weight of a single box of 50 count .44 mag rounds. So for the same weight you could carry both guns, with a few less large caliber rounds, and still have enough rounds for an extended time in the field. Hopefully with my .44 and/or my.22 I will be able to get to my preferred self defense weapon, which is a scope sighted semi-auto in .308. With that combination, I have almost every conceivable self defense or hunting situation covered.

  • wheelgunner

    I am grabbing my .357 Magnum 8-shot Smith and Wesson Pro Series–4 inch barrel with tritium big dot sight and several moon clips loaded with 125 grain Buffalo Bore JHP (1600 fps–4 inch barrel = 710 ft-lbs) to stop any bad guy in their tracks and 200 grain WFN Grizzly Cartridge (1300 fps–4 inch barrel = 750 ft-lbs) to hunt and protect myself from wild dogs, wild pigs, and bears (with good shot placement a 200 grain .357 will kill anything in the lower 48). I can hit an animal sized target with ease at a 100 yards with this gun (as I practice with milk jugs–lol) The .38 special and .357 rounds are ubiquitous and easy to find. Magnum revolvers can easily outshoot any semi-autos at distances from 30 to 150 yards —not even a contest. Magnum calibers have much flatter trajectories and much more energy downrange than the 9mm, 40, or 45 ACP. People who think they are going to be shooting their ridiculous (20 to 30 ft nonsense) with their glocks and other plastic guns when they are in the hills/forest are going to be lying on the ground after being shot by someone at a 100+ yards with a .357/.44 magnum with or without a scope! lol you have to have both close in and long range ability with a handgun in scenario like this. The .45 ACP drops too much after 75 yards, the 9mm has no power at these distances. Hi-capacity means nothing when a guy with a Redhawk 44 mag with a scope tags you from a 125 yards and you never saw him! LOL A rifle trumps ANY handgun but if I could only grab one handgun it is going to ba magnum revolver specifically my .357.

  • Frank G in Tennessee

    Great article: Now that I have recently retired with the time to review these forums all good opinions. I have both sides of the S&W 44 although my plan is to purchase one shortly. I’m a stainless steel wheel gun guy. Both revolvers are used for the most part, hunting. The “big boy” is an 8” 460 XVR the “little guy” is a 6” 357 mag. No question: not exactly a conceal carry (My Walther PPK covers that aspect nicely). The revolvers are fun to shoot weapons.

  • Frank G in Tennessee

    What I do (when not hunting) 357: Load the first 3 holes with 38P and the next 3 with 357 SST. Two reasons for this: In the unlikely event I need to send the first “one handed” the 38 is easy to handle when the adrenalin is flowing: Second the “dial a caliber” to suit the need. The same feature with the 460, 45 in the first 2 holes then 3 460 SST just in case. When hunting hot loads all, using a bandolier style holster works well, easy access, doesn’t hang up on the snarly stuff when stalking around in the timber. Infinitely quicker/quieter/less movement to acquire the “target” then a long gun. Do I need a 44? NO. Do I want a 44? YES! I’m leaning towards the S&W pro hunter, two tone (black and SS). Anyone out there in cyber land have experience with the model? I have yet to try one out, although have handled one. If nothing else: One good-looking gun in the collection.

  • Frank G in Tennessee

    J. Scott,
    I have been all over the webb site, please provide link to "hat" your wearing. Oh I need one!

  • JOhn


  • MAX

    The 44 magnum hurts my hand. I would prefer a 357 simply because I am far better and comfortable with it. Ammo would not be a problem, and it is a bit more nasty in the other end than any auto pistol round (wild boars are really fun to hunt) save some big magnum type round. If I end up needing more energy, I would use a rifle. If you can handle the recoil and you like the gun, all power to you. Thanks for the article.

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