Head for the Hills

Head for the Hills

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.

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.

Recommended for You

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most parts in just minutes.
Instead, the curtain-rod engineer with a Accessories

8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods

Dusty Gibson - July 17, 2013

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most...

SIG SAUER has introduced the American Made P210 Standard pistol to the U.S. Commercial Market. Semi-Auto

SIG P210 Standard Pistol: Legendary and American Made

Handguns Online Staff - April 23, 2019

SIG SAUER has introduced the American Made P210 Standard pistol to the U.S. Commercial Market.

Mossberg dives into the CCW market with the MC1sc 9mm pistol (#89001), their first striker-fired semiautomatic. Semi-Auto

Mossberg MC1sc 9mm Pistol Review

Brad Fitzpatrick

Mossberg dives into the CCW market with the MC1sc 9mm pistol (#89001), their first...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

Handgun Basics

Handgun Basics

SIG Academy's Hana Bilodeau joins Rich and Jim to discuss the essential skills all handgunners should master.

Teaching New Shooters

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols. Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

In 1858 Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action, percussion revolver. The unique Revolvers

Remington Timeline: 1858 - Beals Revolver

Handguns Online Staff - September 09, 2016

In 1858 Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action, percussion revolver. The...

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase. Accessories

SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades

James Tarr - December 14, 2017

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.

See More Stories

More Other


Gun writers occasionally get to go to fancy events where manufacturers spend lavish amounts of Other

Thin Is In: Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Review

James Tarr - August 31, 2012

Gun writers occasionally get to go to fancy events where manufacturers spend lavish amounts...


Pistols designed for concealed carry are usually exercises in compromise. Barrels and grips are Other

A Super Stinger: Les Baer Custom .38 Super Stinger Review

James Tarr - September 10, 2012

Pistols designed for concealed carry are usually exercises in compromise. Barrels and grips...

By J. Scott Rupp



On three recent hunts for Handguns TV I've been shooting a Thompson/Center Other

Review: Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter

J. Scott Rupp - June 09, 2011

By J. Scott Rupp On three recent hunts for Handguns TV I've been shooting a Thompson/Center

See More Other

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.