The Ultimate Carry Revolver: Pt 1

Posted on December 20, 2010 by


I first started carrying a gun about three years ago. Back in those days it was a Mossberg 88 with an 8-round capacity and a top-folding stock. The thing was a beast to shoot, but I could shoot it. I was 18 at the time and in personal sales, so I spent a lot of time traveling to and from customers’ houses in a lot of not-so-great neighborhoods. It stayed, stock folded, in my merchandise bag, or sometimes in a bag of its own designed for tennis rackets. Sure, it wasn’t the most practical concealment weapon, but it’s what I could legally do at the time and it saved my life on at least one occasion.

Fast forward a couple of years, and as part of one of my current jobs I legally conceal carry a handgun between 2-3 days  a week. It’s been good practice for “real” concealed carry (by which I mean all day, every day). I guess I should say right now that I personally believe in always carrying a gun when it is legal to do so. I have too many people I love and too many people who look to me for some level of protection to do otherwise. I realize not everybody feels that way, and it’s a personal choice (and a topic for another post).

During this time (anxiously awaiting the arrival of my concealed handgun license) I have been slowly saving and planning for what I consider to be my “ultimate” carry gun. It’s not the carry gun that works best for everybody – I don’t believe such a gun exists. But it is the gun that works best for me.

First off, I am a “wheelgun apologist.” I own semi-automatic pistols as well (including a very fine, very impressive service “hi-capacity” 9mm), and I will be the first to say that they are excellent choices for both service and personal defense. However, given the choice I generally prefer a good double-action revolver. It’s largely a matter of training, practice, and comfort.

So the perfect carry gun for me is going to be a revolver. As cartridges go I happen to have a liking for the .38 Special and it’s older brother, the .357 Magnum. In the right loadings the .38 Special can be a very potent self-defense cartridge (I prefer Buffalo Bore’s take on the “Chicago load”), and nobody has ever accused the .357 Magnum (aka the “King of the Streets”) of being underpowered.

I am a big guy, so carrying a handgun that is a little larger or heavier than what would be commonly considered a “carry size” gun is just fine. I want something heavy enough to shoot full-house magnum loads easily and accurately. And I don’t want a snub – 2″ barrels are not long enough to take advantage of the high-pressure magnum rounds. Besides, I already have two.

This is a fairly specific list of requirements, and I didn’t reach it overnight. Once I knew what I wanted I proceeded to look around for the gun that met my wants and needs. The first gun that caught my attention was the Ruger GP-100, with fixed sights and in a 3″ barrel length. The GP-100 is an especially durable, overbuilt design, with a reputation for being able to digest especially powerful loads that would be too harsh for other guns.

After doing a little bit of research,  though, it seems that fixed-sighted 3″ GP-100’s are a good deal rarer than S&W K or L-frame guns in the same barrel length. Since these guns are excellently made and since they fill a similar niche, I set my sights on one of these. After several months of saving, planning, and waiting, I was off to the gun show to find a good deal on a used K or L-frame, cash in hand.

What followed was a combination of frustration and elation. First, the frustration: Apparently, 3-inch L frames are gold; or at least worth their weight in it. A very beat-up 2.5″ 686 (the rear sights at the very least would have to be replaced – they were almost completely chipped and dinged away to the point that they were no longer usable) was going to run me a cool $575 out the door. And, to make matters worse, that was literally the best deal on any used K or L-frame at the show. Interestingly, a brand new 686 in the same barrel length ran only $610 before tax (which was just a little beyond my price range).

The elation: A 3″ fixed-sight GP-100, NIB, for $510 out the door (including sales tax). Not only was it the gun I’d originally wanted, but it left enough of my savings for a box of premium defensive hollowpoints and a holster. I couldn’t be more pleased.

My only complaint is that it came with some truly massive Hogue rubber stocks. These are extremely comfortable, but one of my requirements for the grips on the “Ultimate Carry Revolver” is that the grips be wood (so that they don’t grab clothing) and have a small enough form factor that they will conceal well under an untucked shirt or concealment vest. As of this morning there is a pair of rosewood Eagle Secret Service grips in the mail, which should remedy this problem.

The trigger pull on the GP-100 is quite nice for an out-of-the-box gun. It is long and smooth, and quite manageable. I may have the trigger lightened at some point, but at the moment I’m not really planning on it.

Somewhere in this gun’s future there will probably be hammer bob and dehorning. I’d also like to install a hi-visibility front sight. For now, though, I’ll be satisfied with switching out the grips. As soon as the new ones get here, I’ll be getting the GP-100 out to the range to put it through my typical trial for function and accuracy, as well as making sure it can pass the “five-in-five” drill.

It’s not the perfect gun for everybody. Certainly, some people would find the cylinder too wide to conceal, the gun too heavy to wear all day, or the double-action trigger pull too long to shoot accurately. And this is fine since not every gun is for everybody. But for me, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Ruger GP100 3" bbl & 2 Safariland speedloaders

Ruger GP100 3" bbl & 2 Safariland speedloaders