Armory, Self Defense, And EDC > General Firearm Discussion

"Firearms for TEOTWAWKI"-(PDF Book Under Construction)

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Before getting to the second category of rifles (the Working/Hunting types), I want to look at a few options for the defensive use of Shotguns.  Shotguns fill a special niche in a TEOTWAWKI armory as well as being extremely useful in a home defense role.

First a definition of what Shotguns are and how they work:

Adapted from Wikipedia:

A shotgun (also known as a scattergun, or historically as a fowling piece) is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug. Shotguns come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 5.5 mm (.22 inch) bore up to 5 cm (2 inch) bore, and in a range of firearm operating mechanisms, including breech loading, double, pump-, bolt-, and lever-action, semi-automatic, and even fully-automatic variants.

The shot pellets from a shotgun spread upon leaving the barrel, and the power of the burning charge is divided among the pellets, which means that the energy of any one ball of shot is fairly low. In a hunting context, this makes shotguns useful primarily for hunting birds and other small game. However, in a military or law enforcement context, the large number of projectiles makes the shotgun useful as a close quarters combat weapon or a defensive weapon. Shotguns are also used for target shooting sports such as skeet, trap, and sporting clays. These involve shooting clay disks, known as clay pigeons, thrown in various ways.

Shotguns intended for defensive use have barrels as short as 18 inches (46 cm) for private use (the minimum shotgun barrel length allowed by law in the United States without special permits). Barrel lengths of less than 18 inches (46 cm) as measured from the breechface to the muzzle when the weapon is in battery with its action closed and ready to fire, or have an overall length of less than 26 inches (66 cm) are classified as short barreled shotguns ("sawn-off shotguns") under the 1934 National Firearms Act and are heavily regulated.

WHATZ NOTES: No question that for many people a shotgun may be the best investment they can make.  They are extremely flexible because various loads allow them to be utilized for a wide range of applications.  Using birdshot can allow for birds and small game, buckshot is optimal for defensive needs and even deer-sized animals (hence the term "buck"-shot), and slugs can be used for larger game or to convert cover into concealment.  Shotguns also tend to be less expensive and a good Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 can be picked up for a couple hundred dollars, a much smaller cost than a semi-auto defensive centerfire rifle. 

A quick overview of the various gauges available so you can determine what is best for you:

The caliber of shotguns is measured in terms of gauge (U.S.) or bore (U.K.). The gauge number is determined by the number of solid spheres of a diameter equal to the inside diameter of the barrel that could be made from a pound of lead. So a 10 gauge shotgun nominally should have an inside diameter equal to that of a sphere made from one-tenth of a pound of lead. By far the most common gauges are 12 (0.729 in, 18.5 mm diameter) and 20 (0.614 in, 15.6 mm), although .410 (= 67), 32, 28, 24, 16, and 10 (19.7 mm) gauge and 9 mm (.355 in.) and .22 (5.5 mm) rimfire calibres have also been produced. Larger gauges, too powerful to shoulder, have been built but were generally affixed to small boats and referred to as punt guns. These were used for commercial water fowl hunting, to kill large numbers of birds resting on the water. Although relatively rare, single and double derringers have also been produced that are capable of firing either .45 (Long) Colt or .410 shotgun shells from the same chamber; they are commonly known as 'snake guns', and are popular among some outdoorsmen in the South and Southwest regions of the United States. There are also some revolvers, such as the Taurus Judge, that are capable of shooting the .45LC/.410 rounds; but as with derringers, these are handguns that shoot .410 shotgun shells, and are not necessarily considered shotguns themselves.

The .410 bore (10.4 mm) is unusual, being measured in inches, and would be approximately 67 "real" gauge, though its short hull versions are nominally called 36 gauge in Europe. It uses a relatively small charge of shot. It is used for hunting and for skeet. Because of its very light recoil (approx 10 N) it is often used as a beginners gun. However the small charge and typically tight choke make it more difficult to hit targets. It is also frequently used by expert shooters because of the difficulty, especially in expensive side by side and over/under models for hunting small bird game such as quails and doves. Inexpensive bolt-action .410 shotguns are a very common first hunting shotgun among young pre-teen hunters, as they are used mostly for hunting squirrels, while additionally teaching bolt-action manipulation skills that will transfer easily later to adult-sized hunting rifles. Most of these young hunters move up to a 20-gauge within a few years, and to 12 gauge shotguns and full-size hunting rifles by their late teens. Still, many who are particularly recoil-averse choose to stay with 20-gauge shotguns all their adult life, as it is a very suitable gauge for many popular hunting uses.

WHATZ NOTES: My preference (and this is my opinion only) is for the 12 gauge due to the common nature of the ammunition.  If a place is going to stock shotgun ammo or you are able to find it after TEOTWAWKI it will most likely be 12 gauge.  20 gauge is also common, although less so than the 12 gauge, but easier for smaller-framed people to shoot.  Other gauges like 10, 16 and 28 are much more rare and for that reason (unless you can REALLY afford to stock up in advance) should probably be relegated to collectors and specialty shooters rather than general preparedness planning.  The diminutive .410 bore is useful in a couple firearms (like the Taurus Judge .45 Long Colt/.410 combo revolver or single-shot anti-snake shotgun) but in general is much less desirable for survival situations, especially considering the greater power, throw-weight, and range of the 12 and 20 gauges.  (Again, this is opinion so consider all your options and make your selections based on YOUR specific needs).

A little more on the three major types of Shotgun loads available: 

Adapted from Wikipedia

The extremely large caliber of shotgun shells has led to a wide variety of different ammunition. Standard types include:

1. Shotshells are the most commonly used round, filled with lead or lead substitute pellets.  Of this general class, the most common subset is birdshot, which uses a large number (from dozens to hundreds) of small pellets, meant to create a wide "kill spread" to hunt birds in flight. Shot shells are described by the size and number of the pellets within, and numbered in reverse order (the smaller the number, the bigger the pellet size, similar to bore gauge). Size nine (#9) shot is the smallest size normally used for hunting and is used on small upland game birds such as dove and quail. Larger sizes are used for hunting larger upland game birds and waterfowl. In Europe and in other countries that use the metric system of measurement, except Canada, the shot size is simply the diameter of the pellet given in millimeters.

2. Buckshot is similar to but larger than birdshot, and was originally designed for hunting larger game, such as deer (hence the name). While the advent of new, more accurate slug technologies is making buckshot less attractive for hunting, it is still the most common choice for police, military, and home defense uses. Like birdshot, buckshot is described by pellet size, with larger numbers indicating smaller shot. From the smallest to the largest, buckshot sizes are: #4, (called "number four"), #1, 0 ("one-aught"), 00 ("double-aught"), 000 ("triple-aught") and 0000 ("four-aught"). A typical round for defensive use would be a 12 gauge 2 3/4" (7 cm) length 00 buck shell, which contains 9 pellets roughly 8.4 mm (.33 inch) in diameter, each comparable to a .38 Special bullet in damage potential. New "tactical" buckshot rounds, designed specifically for defensive use, use slightly fewer shot at lower velocity to reduce recoil and increase controllability of the shotgun. There are some shotgun rounds designed specifically for police use that shoot effectively from 50 yards (46 m) with a 20" diameter grouping of the balls.

3. Slug rounds are rounds that fire a single solid slug. They are used for hunting large game, and in certain military and law enforcement applications. Modern slugs are moderately accurate, especially when fired from special rifled slug barrels. They are often used in "shotgun-only" hunting zones near inhabited areas, where rifles are prohibited due to their excessive range.

3b. Sabots are a common type of slug round. While some slugs are exactly that - a 12-gauge metal projectile in a cartridge - a sabot is a smaller but more aerodynamic projectile surrounded by a "shoe" of some other material. This "sabot" jacket seals the barrel, increasing pressure and acceleration, while also inducing spin on the projectile in a rifled barrel. Once the projectile clears the barrel, the sabot material falls away, leaving an unmarked, aerodynamic bullet to continue toward the target. The advantages over a traditional slug are increased shot power, increased bullet velocity due to the lighter-mass bullet, and increased accuracy due to the velocity and the reduction in deformation of the slug itself. Disadvantages versus a traditional slug include lower muzzle momentum due to reduced mass, and reduced damage due to smaller bullet diameter.

WHATZ NOTES: Whatever classes of ammo you choose to purchase for your Shotgun make certain you get as much as you can afford.  A good mix of Birdshot (say a selection of #6 and # 7 1/2), some #4 and 00 Buck, and some good slugs (the best you can afford) would give you the ability to both protect yourself and harvest food.  The downside is that compared to other ammunition types shotgun shells are large, heavy and take up a lot of volume.  If you are operating from an area where you can have a stash of ammunition set aside this is unlikely to be an issue.  However, if you are ever compelled to "Bug Out" and be mobile there will be limitations on how much shotgun 'fuel' you can carry.  So, as always, consider your situation and plan accordingly.
One other quick note...  You will find many people who suggest birdshot for defense, at least in a home defense situation.  That may be a fine idea in some situations, but there are many who say that birdshot lacks the penetration if you are facing someone with heavy clothing or leather apparel so it is recommended you do some research and come to your own conclusion.  My own not-so-humble opinion is that anything birdshot can do buckshot can do better.  My preference is for #4 buckshot due to the greater number of pellets (all roughly about the size of a .22 long rifle projectile) but since it is harder to find that flavor I often defer to my number two choice, the ubiquitious 00 buckshot, which launches a number of round balls roughly the size of a .38 Special or 9mm bullet. 



WHATZ NOTES: There are many different types of shotguns available that would serve well in defensive applications.  In fact, almost any quality sporting gun would fill this role if needed.  However, if you have time, money and opportunity there are some factors you can considering when choosing a shotgun for defensive purposes.  In general, the shorter the barrel (within legal limits) the better.  20 inches is a good length and some shotguns (like the Mossberg 500) even come with a second 28" barrel making them a good "swing" firearm that can be used for both Defensive and Working/Hunting applications.  A pump seems the most reliable, but a good Remington 1100, Benelli or SPAS-12 shouldn't be ignored if the opportunity is there.  Some prefer a simple side-by-side double because even a pump can have issues (short-stroking, etc.) but whatever you choose, as I've said so many times, learn how to use it safely and properly and get training.  

A few options:


Adapted from Wikipedia

The Remington Model 870 is a U.S.-made pump-action shotgun manufactured by Remington Arms Company, Inc. It is widely used by the public for target shooting, hunting, and self-defense. It is also commonly used by U.S. police and the U.S. military.  The 870 features a bottom-loading, side ejecting receiver, tubular magazine under the barrel, dual action bars, internal hammer, and a bolt which locks into an extension in the barrel. The action, receiver, trigger system, safety catch and slide release catch of the Remington Model 870 shotgun are similar to those used on the Remington Model 7600 series pump-action centerfire rifles and carbines. 20 gauge stocks will also interchange. Several parts of the 870 will interchange with the semi-automatic Remington 1100 and 11-87.

WHATZ NOTES: A Remington 870 with a 20" slug-and-buckshot barrel and magazine extension was always my "dream" shotgun, but I never got one.  I've only fired one once (I think) but have always heard positive reviews of them.  They seem to be a solid option, but ask around as always before purchasing anything that you're going to depend on to save your life.


Adapted from Wikipedia

The Mossberg 500 is a shotgun manufactured by O.F. Mossberg & Sons. Rather than a single model, the 500 is really a series of widely varying hammerless, pump action repeaters, all of which share the same basic receiver and action, but differ in bore size, barrel length, choke options, magazine capacity, and "furniture" (stock and forearm) materials. Other models numbers included in the 500 series are the 590, 505, and 535.  

Introduced in 1961, all model 500s are based on the same basic design. Originally using a single action bar this was changed to dual action bars in 1970, which are (at least in theory) less likely to bind than a single action bar design. A single large locking lug is used to secure the breech. The magazine tube is located below the barrel, and is screwed into the receiver. The slide release is located to the left rear of the trigger guard, and the safety is located on the upper rear of the receiver (often called a "tang safety"). Sights vary from model to model, from simple bead sight to a receiver mounted ghost ring or an integrated base for a telescopic sight. Most models come with the receiver drilled and tapped for the installation of a rear sight or a scope base. The factory scope base is attached to the barrel via a cantilever-type mount, which places the scope over the receiver but keeps it with the barrel if the barrel is removed.

Intended for use in harsh and dirty conditions, such as waterfowl hunting or combat, the Model 500 series is designed to be easy to clean and maintain. All Model 500s feature interchangeable barrels (given a particular gun's mag capacity; a barrel designed for a 4-shot tube will not fit a gun with a 6-shot tube) which may be removed without the use of tools, by loosening a screw on the end of the magazine tube, which allows the barrel to be removed.

WHATZ NOTES: This is my favorite shotgun design, because of the combination of low cost, ease of changing barrels, and the location of the safety.  You can still pick up one of these in most parts of the US for a couple hundred dollars (or slightly higher).  They seem well-made and durable and are used by police and military (well, the 590 variant I should say).  The Maverick 88 is a slightly cheaper version with the safety in a different location but seems to be decent for the price range.  Still, the 500 is superior enough to recommend it for the relatively minor additional cost over the Maverick.

WINCHESTER 1200/1300

Adapted from Wikipedia

The Model 1200 is an American pump-action shotgun that was marketed by Winchester and manufactured by Olin. It was produced in 12-, 16- and 20-gauge.  The Winchester Model 1200 was introduced in 1964. A number of them were acquired by the United States Army in 1968 and 1969 along with Model 1400s. The Model 1200 was succeeded by the Winchester Model 1300 when U.S. Repeating Arms Company became the manufacturer of Winchester firearms. Production of both the 1200 and 1300 has since ceased.

WHATZ NOTES: Although they aren't being made anymore, the Winchester pump is still available used and many consider it to be up there with the Remington and Mossberg models in terms of craftsmanship and reliability.  The ability to get replacement parts may be an issue since it's no longer being manufactured, but if you already have one in your closet or can find one for a good price they seem to be a worthwhile addition to your battery.  


Adapted from Wikipedia

The Ithaca 37 is a pump-action shotgun made in large numbers for the civilian, military, and police markets. Also known as the Featherlight, it utilizes a novel combination ejection/loading port on the bottom of the gun which leaves the sides closed to the elements. In addition, the outline of the gun is clean. Finally, since shells load and eject from the bottom, operation of the gun is equally convenient from either side of the gun. This makes the gun popular with left-handed and right-handed shooters alike.  The Ithaca 37 was a popular choice among civilians for both sport and personal protection. With higher prices for new Ithacas and decreasing availability compared to the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870, use of the Ithaca 37 continues to decline. Interestingly, Ithaca's loss of market share was hastened by competition from a copy of the shotgun. Chinese copies of the Ithaca 37 (itself a copy of the Remington Model 17) have been imported recently. Additionally, the supply of used civilian and departmental shotguns has been a steady competitor.

WHATZ NOTES: I don't know much about this model, other than it used to be extremely popular but has lost a lot of market share and is also more expensive than the Remington 870 or Mossberg 500.  If this is already in your closet I'd consider yourself well set in the Defensive Shotgun category.  If you find a good price on one, same thing.  However, there are less-expensive options that seem more than adequate like the aforementioned models discussed above.  


(NOTE: This section should go at the beginning of the book, and will be reordered when editing this work into a PDF book).

I do want to mention here at the beginning what the purposes are for a book dealing with firearms and their applications in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.  But first, what is a TEOTWAWKI event?  Well, as I see it, it is basically the breakdown of existing human systems into a long-term situation where life will NOT return to its previous state. Like a cascading effect, our existing vulnerable systems will begin to fail to an irreversible state.  Many believe we are at the beginning of the transition into a TEOTWAWKI time period due to anything from Global Warming (which I'm not sure I buy into) to Peak Oil (again a "I'm not sure" prospect) to the ever-present threat of Nuclear Armageddon.  While I do not believe there will be a worldwide return to primitive existence, I do think history shows us that this could take place in some locales (for that matter there are people today who exist in Stone Age societies so it's really not far-fetched at all). 
Regardless, while I believe firearms to be a necessary part of preparing for an unknown future (if your location allows it and if it doesn't you should consider moving) I do not advocate people thinking of using firearms in an OFFENSIVE rather than Defensive manner.  I've heard of nutty survivalists who stock up on "guns and bullets" with the idea of taking from others if the poop hits the spinny thing.  That is not rational, humane or even likely to be successful for moral, ethical and even practical reasons.  Nor do I advocate people stockpiling firearms to try to take on existing governmental structures.  The way to institute change is at the ballot box, and if you don't like what you're seeing take place in our nation then work within the system to fix it.  People who have bad intentions or who are motivated by ideas beyond protecting themselves and their families give everyone in the preparedness community a bad name (this should not be construed as any denigration of true patriots who believe in supporting the Constitution and the democratic foundation this country is based on provided they advocate for their beliefs in a non-violent and appropriate manner).  While Hurricane Katrina showed how bad things can be there are many examples of communities coming together to face disaster and becoming stronger for the effort.  So plan to be part of the solution rather than making the problem worse.  (Again, these are just my opinions.  Take them or leave them as you wish.)


Handguns are available in almost countless actions, styles, calibers, makes, and models, for every shape and size shooter, for any purpose imaginable, from defense, to plinking and target shooting, to hunting everything from small game like squirrels, all the way up to large game like bears, and everything in between.  While they lack the power and range of Long Arms such as the rifle or shotgun, they have the advantage of being lighter, smaller, and more readily concealable.  This places them into a very special place in the survivalists battery, as it provides access to a firearm is situations where a long arm would draw unwanted attention, or the weight and size would make their carry prohibitive.  Handguns are highly favored as Defensive weapons, due to portability and potentially high rates of fire.  Another advantage of handguns is the fact that their ammunition is usually significantly cheaper per round than rifle ammunition.


We'll begin with the biggest division in handguns, whether they are Revolvers or Autoloaders.  I am omitting derringers as they are impractical, and a better choice for practically any situation can be had at as good or better of a price.  I will finish with Specialized Hunting/Target revolvers.


This is a Revolver.

It holds between 5 and 9 rounds in the cylinder, and is available in Single Action,  Double Action  with Single Action, or Double Action Only.  I am not going into unusual designs like the Mateba Autorevolvers, as they are beyond the scope of this article.  They all fire by rotating a cartridge into place in front of a Hammer, then having that hammer strike the Firing Pin, firing the round.  They are some of the most rugged and reliable handguns available, and are available in plenty of sufficiently powerful calibers for any purpose, with the advantage of retained brass for all you reloaders out there.  However, compared to modern autoloaders, they are slower to reload and lower on in gun ammunition capacity (especially against a double stack autopistols).

Adapted From Wikipedia:  A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. As the user cocks the hammer, the cylinder revolves to align the next chamber and round with the hammer and barrel, which gives this type of firearm its name. In modern revolvers, the revolving cylinder typically chambers 5 or 6 rounds, but some models hold 10 rounds or more. Revolvers are most often handguns, but other weapons may also have the design of a revolver. These include some models of grenade launchers, shotguns, and some rifles.


Adapted From Wikipedia: In a single action revolver, the hammer is manually cocked, usually with the thumb of the firing or supporting hand. This action advances the cylinder to the next round and locks the cylinder in place with the chamber aligned with the barrel. The trigger, when pulled, releases the hammer, which fires the round in the chamber. To fire again, the hammer must be manually cocked again. This is called "single action" because the trigger only performs a single action, of releasing the hammer. Because only a single action is performed and trigger pull is lightened, firing a revolver in this way allows most shooters to achieve greater accuracy. Additionally, the need to cock the hammer manually acts as a safety.

PistolWhipped Notes:  These are your classic "Cowboy Guns" in all their variations, a lot of your mini or micro revolvers, and most of your large bore hunting revolvers.  They are relatively slow to fire, but the fantasically light triggers make the potential for aimed fire very accurate.

Colt Single Action Army, Schofield, Cimmaron Model P and the like fit into the Cowboy gun category category.  Cambering rounds like .44 Special, .38 special, .357 Magnum, .44-40 and others, these are capable defensive arms in the hands of a TRAINED shooter.  That said, these require large amounts of practice to become skilled with.  Still, if it's all you have, it's not a bad handgun by any means.  Just don't get into a lead throwing contest with an autoloader.

Mini revolvers for concealed carry, like the North American Arms Black Widow, are often found in single action, as the simple mechanism can be condensed to fit as small a frame as will hold a bullet safely.  The NAA Black widow for example chambers either .22lr or .22 Magnum, depending on cylinder, and with optional Concealed carry grips, which fold over the trigger mechanism, is no longer an only a hair thicker than an average tactical folder.  They lack power, and are ludicrously slow to reload, but these will fit ANYWHERE.  Nothing impressive, but the first rule of a gunfight is have a gun.  and with .22 MAG, the 1 shot drop rate is between 40-50%.  5 of those would be better than nothing.

Finally are the heavy duty hunting Revolvers.  Ruger Super Blackhawks or Vaqueros, or the like.  They are loaded for MASSIVE cartirdges like .454 Cassul, ,44 Magnum, .460 Magnum, or the new most powerful handgun cartridge, the .500 S&W Magnum.  You may see these with long eye releif scpes mounted on the top of these.  They have been used to take Grizzly Bears in the wild of the northern US.  These are the biggest, baddest handguns available.


Adapted From Wikpedia: Most double action revolvers may be fired in two ways. The first way is exactly the same as a single action revolver; the hammer is cocked, which advances the cylinder counter-clockwise (clockwise on a few models) when viewed from the rear and when the trigger is pulled, this releases the hammer. Double action revolvers also can be fired from a hammer down position, by pulling the trigger. In this case, the trigger first cocks the hammer (thus advancing the cylinder counterclockwise or clockwise, depending on the gun's manufacturer) and then releases the hammer at the rear of its travel, firing the round in the chamber.

Certain revolvers, called double action only, lack the latch that enables the hammer to be locked to the rear, and thus can only be fired in the double action mode. With no way to lock the hammer back, double action only designs tend to have bobbed or spurless hammers, and may even have the hammer completely covered by the revolver's frame. These are generally intended for concealed carrying, where a hammer spur could snag when the revolver is drawn. The potential reduction in accuracy in aimed fire is offset by the increased capability for concealment.

PistolWhipped's Notes:  These are some of the most common and versatile handguns about.  The advantages of a Single Action with the option for a semi-auto style firing.  Good makers include Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and Colt's "Snake Series" of revolvers.  Taurus and Rossi make pretty good revolvers for the budget minded.  I personally like a .357 Magnum snubnose Revolver for a basic beginners handgun, and a pretty nice carry pistol too, due to common ammunition and ability to accept .38 Special.  Add to that the near impossibility to jam, and you have a good beginners handgun.


I'll be focusing on Rimmed cartridges for revolvers specifically here, and specifically the more common calibers. The cool thing about these is that there are a lot of lever action carbines in many of these calibers, which would simplify ammo storage to an extent. 

There are a few revolvers chambered for autoloader rounds like 9mm or .45 ACP, but those are more esoteric.  Charter Arms is developing a series that will include the first .40 S&W revolver.  Again, esoteric and odd, but cool none the less.

.22 LR  - Mainly for target practice and small game hunting or pest control.  Still, If you have the money for one, they are handy and FUN little revolvers, and great to train on.  Might I toss out the Ruger Single Six as a good choice for a person in the market for a nie .22LR revolver.

.327 Federal Magnum - A newer magnum loading commonly found in J-frame revolvers.  It has less recoil than a .357 but still packs a punch.  I'd recommend it for recoil sensitive people looking for a fairly hard hitting cartridge.  I definitely wouldn't want to be shot with it.

.38 Special - Old reliable, this is approximately equivalent to a 9mm, though one shot drop rates tend to be a bit higher.  These are available in everything from airweight "hammerless" aluminum, scandium, titanium, or even polymer carry revolvers (which kick like a mule for the cartridge they shoot) up to loading these into a full sized .357 Mag revolver for a pretty gentle experience. 

.357 Magnum - Based on the 38 Special case, but lengthened to hold more powder (and prevent it from loading into 38 special revolvers), this is one of the highest rated one shot drop rated cartridges in data from actual street shootings.  They penetrate like a lightsaber through jello, but they do the job like few others.  One of of my top three recomendations for revolvers used for personal defense.

.44 Special -  One of my other recommendations for personal defense is the .44 special   Another old cartridge, the bullet wight, diameter, and velocity closely mimic the .45 ACP, one of the most respected (and effective) defensive pistol rounds in history.  This is a heavy bullet that punches big holes.  Damn good combination for a defensive round.

Charter Arms Bulldog with .44 Specials

.44 Magnum -  Following a similar developmental path to the .357 magnum, this is a big, fast, hard hitting round that I'd recommend for hunting.  Or personal defense . . . fom bears that is.  It isn't the best cartridge for defense due to massive penetration, heavy recoil, and huge muzzle climb.  That said, it certainly would work in a pinch.

.45 Colt - An old classic also erroneously known as .45 Long Colt, this is still found in a few personal defensive revolvers, and many cowboy guns.  With good reason too.  It is my third revolver recommendation for defensive ammo.  Capable of being loaded heavier than a .45 ACP with a similar or even higher velocity, it hits as hard as I'd trust a defensive round to without blowing completely through the target like a magnum.  A good round all around for defense, and when loaded hot is easily serviceable for hunting in a carbine or Blackhawk.

.454 Casull - Once being the reigning champ of power and penetration for a quite while, the .454 Casull is best described as the Magnum version of the .45 Colt.  A premium hunting round in a pistol, and an absolute beast in a carbine.  If you want a big, bad, fairly easily available bear caliber, this is it.

Hmmm, wouldn't let me edit.  Whatever.


Single Action

Ruger Single Six

A handy, durable, and fun .22 LR single action revolver, it get's my vote for a great training/learning pistol.

Adapted from Wikipedia: The Ruger Single Six is a single action rimfire revolver produced by Sturm, Ruger. The Single Six was first released in June 1953.

The Single Six is currently produced as the New Model Single Six. The term "New Model" simply means that this model includes Ruger's transfer bar mechanism for increased safety, allowing one to carry the revolver safely with all 6 chambers loaded. Prior to 1973, the Single Six was produced without the transfer bar mechanism, making it less safe to carry with all six chambers loaded, and with the hammer resting on a loaded chamber. The transfer bar safety allows the weapon to fire only when the trigger has been pulled. Ruger provides the transfer bar safety upgrade free of charge for owners of any old model Single Six.

North American Arms Black Widow

An exceedingly small caliber capable of firing .22 LR and .22 Mag, this revolver is about the size of a pocket knife and capable of being concealed almost anywhere.

Colt Single Action army


The gold standard of SA revolvers, this is one of THE cowboy guns.

Adapted from Wikipedia: The Colt Single Action Army handgun (also known as the Colt Peacemaker, Single Action Army or SAA,[1] Colt .45 and sometimes as The Equalizer or Colt Peacekeeper) is a single action revolver with a revolving cylinder holding six rounds. It was designed for the US government service revolver trials of 1873 by Colt's Manufacturing Company and adopted as the standard military service revolver.

The .45 Colt cartridge was of center fire design containing charges of up to 40 grains (2.6 g) of fine grained black powder and a 255-grain (16.5 g) blunt round nosed bullet. Relative to period cartridges and most later handgun rounds, it was quite powerful in its full loading.

The Colt Single Action Army handgun replaced the Colt 1860 Army Percussion revolver and remained the primary US military sidearm until 1892 when it was replaced by an enclosed frame Colt double action revolver. By 1875, 15,000 units chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge had entered service along with an additional 1863 chambered for the .44 Henry rimfire cartridge (Wilson 1985.)

Ruger Vaquero

A cowboy style pistol manufactured by Sturm-Ruger, this rugged pistol is capable of withstanding very powerful loads in whatever caliber it shoots, and as such is a favored hunting revolver.

Adapterd From Wikipedia - The Ruger Vaquero is a 6 shot single-action revolver manufactured by Sturm, Ruger. It is based on the .357 Magnum New Model Ruger Blackhawk frame that was introduced in 1973[2]. It comes in blued steel, case colored, and a gloss stainless finish (the latter gloss stainless finish is intended to resemble closely a 19th Century nickel-plated finish), all of which are available with wood, hard rubber, simulated ivory or black micarta grips and fixed sights. It arose with the popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting from which came demand for a single action revolver that was more traditional in appearance.

Ruger Blackhawk series revolvers

The biggest and the baddest, these are built to chamber the hottest loaded cartridges they can be fed.  These are almost exclusively hunting revolvers.  Still, I'd never want to look down the barrel of one in a gun fight.

Adapted from Wikipedia: The Ruger Blackhawk is a 6-shot, single-action revolver manufactured by Sturm, Ruger. It is produced in a variety of finishes, calibers, and barrel lengths.

Double Action Revolvers

Smith & Wesson 686

Adapted from Wikipedia: The Smith & Wesson (S & W) Model 686, is a six or seven shot double action revolver chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge. It will also chamber and fire .38 Special cartridges, as the .357 Magnum was developed from the .38 Special. The magnum case is slightly longer to prevent magnum rounds from being chambered and fired in handguns chambered for the .38 Special. The 686 has been available with 2-1/2 in. (64 mm); 3 in.(76mm); 4 in. (102 mm); 5 in. (127 mm); 6 in. (153 mm); and 8-3/8" in. (214 mm) barrel lengths as standard models and other barrel lengths either by special order from S & W's Performance Center custom shop, or acquired from or built by after-market gunsmiths. The Performance Center also made a limited number of 686 in .38 Super for competitive shooters.

PistolWhipped Notes: A great full sized revolver for most any purpose you'd need a revolver for.  Premium stopping power, bulletproof reliability, S&W's "Smooth and Wesson" trigger (One of the best Double Action triggers out of the box), a long sight radius for easily accurate shooting, and the option of a featherlight Single Action trigger.  Not much more I could think you'd need in a handgun.  Just be careful of our grip, too high and you could accidentally unlock the cylinder by pressing the release due to recoil.

Colt Python (or other "Snake series" Guns)


Adapted from Wikipedia: The Colt Python is a .357 Magnum caliber revolver manufactured by Colt's Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut. The Colt Python is considered to be a premium American revolver. Along with the Colt Peacemaker it is considered to be one of the finest revolvers ever made by Colt.

Colt Manufacturing Co. announced the termination of its production of Python revolvers in October 1999 due to lack of sales and rising production costs.[1] The Colt Custom Gun Shop continued making a limited number of Pythons on special order until 2003, when even this limited production was terminated.

PistolWhipped Notes: Daddy wants.  I've shot a few of these, and they are some of the smoothest, tightest, and quite possible most mechanically accurate revolvers I've shot.  While out of production, they can be had on the used market, albeit for a pretty penny.  Still, if there is one in your gun cabinet, it is a fantastic handgun for any purpose you'd need a handgun.  Te pull back release negates the chance of unlocking like the 686, but takes a bit longer to manipulate.

Ruger GP-100/SP101



Ruger's five shot .357 Magnum revolvers\, both some of the ruggedest available,  I have a friend whom dropped his SP101 in a creek, didn't notice until he hiked back to the ATV, went back, dug it from the mud, and after a quick shakeout, fired all 5 rounds.

Adapted from Wikipedia: The Ruger SP101 was introduced as the smaller frame counterpart to the GP100. Both of these revolvers, together, replaced the long-standing staple in the American firearm's market, the Ruger Six series revolvers. While no longer manufactured, a 9mm Parabellum version was also available until around 1998 and a .22lr version was also available until 2003.

Pistolwhipped Notes:  Retailing at about $500 each, they are good choices for someone wanting a powerful, low maintenance, relatively high performance handgun at a good price.

Ruger Redhawks

Adapted from Wikipedia - The Sturm, Ruger & Company Redhawk was first introduced in 1979 and was one of the most powerful handguns in the world at the time of its introduction. This large frame revolver has several unique design features, making it a very useful and affordable hunting revolver.

The Redhawk is a conventional double/single action revolver. Made from high grade steel, it is available with either a blued or stainless steel finish. The Redhawk is reinforced to handle extra stress, making it very popular for use by hand loaders as it handles the hottest of Magnum loads with ease. In addition, the cylinder itself is longer then most competitors, allowing ammunition to be loaded to a longer overall length, thus increasing effective powder capacity. Custom ammunition manufacturers even have loads made specifically for Ruger revolvers that can not fit in shorter chambers. The revolver has forward ramp sights with four various interchangeable sight inserts. The rear sights are fully adjustable featuring a white outline. The Redhawk is also available with scope mounts and rings.

The Redhawk holds six rounds of ammunition in its cylinder and is available with a 4 inch, 5.5 inch, or 7.5 inch barrel. When introduced it was offered in .357 Magnum/.38 Special, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, and .45 Colt. Gradually options in chambering were pared down, and by 2007 the Redhawk was only offered in .44 Magnum. However, in 2008 Sturm, Ruger & Co. once again began marketing the Redhawk in .45 Colt chambering.

PistolWhipped Notes - The DA analog to the Blackhawks, these are big, powerful revolvers with the ability to shoot at semi-auto speeds.  A good budget hunting revolver if you are in the market.

There are other good revolvers on the market, and this is far from a comprehensive list.  If you see a model you are interested in, check the condition, or have a knowledgeable friend come along.  Most all new revolvers today are of sufficient quality for protection, especially with good defensive ammo.  Just remember to learn to use it well.

Next up Autoloaders.


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