Wheelgun Wednesday:
October 2019

24

Challenging the norm, October 2019 features questioned the viability of single-actions for self-defense, is five rounds enough — and more. Catch up on what you missed in our Wheelgun Wednesday newsletters while your kids trick-or-treat.

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Single-Action Self-Defense

From 1836 through the Mexican-American War, the War Between the States, the great migration West and even up to the World War I era, the single-action sixgun was the top choice for not only self-defense but just about everything else. Admittedly, a few double-action sixguns arrived in the percussion revolver period and both Colt and Smith & Wesson introduced double-action revolvers around the late 1870s/early 1880s. These were basically single-action models with the double-action system added. The modern double-actions arrived in the last decade of the 19th century with the Colt New Service and the Smith & Wesson Military & Police — about the same time semi-automatic pistols began to appear, culminating in the great 1911.

Even with the arrival of the modern handguns, many, such as the Texas Rangers, held on to their single-action Colts. However, by the middle of the 20th century even they had switched over to double-action sixguns and semi-automatic pistols. But, are single-actions still viable for modern self-defense?

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Micro Every Day Carry

I’ve almost always been the guy who carries a full-size handgun for CCW. I was willing to forego comfort for capability, wanting to make sure I had a gun both effective and reliable. But over the years I've sized things down a bit. While I carried a full-size Springfield Armory TRP 1911 .45 ACP in my early CCW days, I currently carry a “mid-sized” Smith & Wesson M&P9 M2.0 Compact 9mm.

However, I’ve been thinking lately about those who don’t want to (or cannot) carry a large handgun, and where even a traditional “compact” handgun like an S&W J-Frame or a Ruger LCP may be too large. I’m talking about truly small handguns, in the “micro” size range. So as an experiment, I set about putting together a “micro-carry” system of the smallest practical gun and support gear I could find.

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Ruger New Vaquero

After Bill Ruger designed his Single-Six .22 sixgun, the .357 Flat Top Blackhawk quickly followed in 1955. Using a heavier top strap and coiled piano wire springs at Elmer Keith’s urging, the Blackhawk was sturdier and stronger than its Colt cousin. The following year, 1956, the Flat Top .44 Magnum was introduced, followed by the Super Blackhawk in 1960. In 1973, the New Models were released with transfer-bar safeties, when less-informed yahoos loaded six rounds in the cylinders, causing the hammer to rest on a live cartridge.

Finally, a full-sized Vaquero, a bigger and more robust Colt clone of sorts, was released. Featuring fixed sights and a lot of nostalgia, Ruger chambered them in .357, .44 Mag. and, my favorite .45 Colt. Bisley grips were added to some models, while Hunter Models had scope ring cutouts on the barrel. And since customers always want more, it turned out some of them wanted a Colt-size framed version of the Vaquero. Never one to ignore their customers, Ruger responded with what has become known as the “New Vaquero.”

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Smith & Wesson Model 360

For generations, the idea of “five to stay alive” has put the iconic snub-nosed revolver at the top of any list of capable backup guns. Although some snubbies give you six, seven and eight rounds on board, five seems most common. That’s “two pair, one spare” to keep track of in a gunfight, which you’ll hopefully be avoiding — or exiting — with this gun.

Compared to many concealed carry guns in today’s market, Smith & Wesson’s Model 360 carries half as many rounds — 5 — and costs almost twice as much, at $770 retail. It not only fires the mighty .357 Magnum but also the more-than-adequate .38 Special. And the 360, like virtually every J-Frame, is eminently concealable. To be clear: There’s no mistake or mystique with this gun. But for whatever reason, the relationship between its capacity, caliber, cost and concealability continue to make it — like many J-frames before it — a top choice for concealed carry.

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North American Arms Ranger II

After many years of making their beautiful little updated version of the solid-frame spur-trigger revolver, North American Arms decided to try something different. Nearly a decade ago, Ken Friel and his design team made their first tiny top-break, and called it the “Ranger.”

In traditional design, the latch for opening the barrel unit was T-shaped and pivoted on the barrel extension. The one on the original Ranger was slightly different, but worked the same way, engaging posts on the frame. This was quite strong enough for the cartridges used. The original Ranger was sort of an experiment, and only around 500 were made. The new version, arriving in late 2017, is appropriately named the Ranger II and is chambered for .22 Magnum (.22 WMR).

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More Wheelguns

Read October 2019 Wednesday Wheelgun features from GUNS Magazine and subscribe to receive revolver-related content, including editorial, videos and news, delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

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