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Priorities in the Selection of the Defensive Handgun

1. Reliability

2. Ergonomics

3. Other Size Factors

4. Revolver vs. Semi-auto (Autoloader)

Three generations of Smith & Wesson Centennial revolvers - with blued or stainless-steel frames - from top to bottom, wear the original factory grip with a Tyler T-Grip Adapter, hand-carved Boot Grips from Craig Spegel and the discontinued Pachmayr Compac Professional grip. (Photo from Defensive Use of Firearms: Revised and Updated, copyright © 2010, by Defensive Use of Firearms, LLC.)
The Delta Grip from Ergo Grip extends beyond both the back strap and the bottom strap of a round-butt, J-frame S&W revolver, making it less suitable for pocket carry. Some users of the Airweight and Airlite versions - particularly if they have man-size hands - find that it makes those guns easier to control.
Hogue's Centennial/Bodyguard grip - pictured here on Smith & Wesson's Bodyguard 38 - offers a less radical approach to making those two small-frame S&W revolvers more manageable for some users. It is currently offered with the rubber section in three different colors, including pink and black.
This two-tone version of a S&W M&P pistol offers a good view of the area occupied by one of the three "backstrap" options. The photo does not show the shape of the other inserts. This photo (borrowed from gives a pretty good idea of how the "backstrap" inserts install on the frame of the pistol. The T-handle rod secures the insert of the user's choice.

5. Hammer-Fired vs. Striker-Fired Pistols

6. Caliber or Power

7. Problems with Lightweight and "Ultralight" Handguns

8. Consistency

9. Revolvers Make Poor Shotguns


  • One of the most common problems with revolvers is binding of the cylinder. With double-action revolvers, this is often noticed as resistance in the trigger stroke. Such binding can be caused by one or more high primers, crud under the extractor star or - in S&W revolvers and some copies of them - loosening of the sleeve that forms the forward portion of the exractor rod.
  • A good precaution, after closing the action of a loaded revolver, is to check that the cylinder is not binding. If the revolver has a hammer with an exposed spur, the hammer can be eased back just far enough to disengage the cylinder stop, which rises and falls in a slot at the bottom of the cylinder window. Once it is disengaged, the other thumb can be used to check that the cylinder rotates without binding. If the revolver lacks an exposed hammer spur - such as if the hammer is concealed or the spur has been removed - the little finger of the non-gun hand can be inserted behind the trigger, allowing only a limited press of the trigger, to disengage the cylinder stop without the risk of firing the revolver unintentionally.
  • If binding is detected and is traced to one or more primers that project beyond the head of the cartridge case, those rounds must be replaced. This problem is seen more commonly with reloaded training ammunition but can occur with factory ammunition as well.
  • If no high primers are detected, check the mating surfaces of the underside of the extractor star and the recess in which seats in the cylinder. This is the most crucial area for cleaning on a double-action revolver and a revolver shooter should always take a nylon-bristle brush - such as a toothbrush - to the range for such cleaning. Accumulation of unburned flakes of powder here can be eliminated by avoidance of oil at this location and turning the muzzle skyward while ejecting fired cases.
  • On S&W revolvers, there is a tendency for the sleeve that forms the forward portion of the extractor rod to shoot loose - even after the change to a left-hand thread, circa 1960. As soon as you detect this, carefully unscrew the sleeve, degrease the male and female threads with a solvent such as acetone, then apply a drop of a temporary Loctite (e.g., 222) or nail polish to the male thread before reassembly. The other thread that merits this precaution, when it is found to have worked loose, is the one for the slotted nut that holds the thumbpiece (cylinder release) to the bolt. These threaded parts, along with the side-plate screws, strain screw and the screw that holds the rear sight in place if the revolver is fitted with an adjustable sight, should be checked on every cleaning.



The Defensive Firearms Tripod

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Role of the Wrist Point Shooting Shooting with Flashlights Night Sights and Lasers The Naked Emperor
Deadly Force? A Winning Attitude Just Say Nothing? S.P. Wenger Credentials Useful Links

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Show Low AZ 85902-4227

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