Recommended Sidearms: Semi-Automatic & Revolver

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.45 M1911A
Commander Classic, Bobtail

Dan Wesson (CZ)

Dan Wesson 1911 Bobtail

The Dan Wesson rendition of the Combat Commander variation on the 1911 .45 Automatic Colt Pistol.

The Combat Commander is the civilian version of the "United States Pistol, General Officers', Caliber .45, M15" introduced in 1972 with a barrel about three-quarters of an inch shorter than the standard 1911 designed by John Browning and adopted for U.S. military use some 61 years earlier.

As rendered by Dan Wesson, it boasts: Classic lines. Smooth edges. Sturdy stainless-steel construction. Tight assembly. Slim profile. Skeletonized trigger and hammer. Beveled mag well. Flawless performance. Solid reliability.

It carries commfortably in an inside-the-waistband holster in the small of the back, tight to the waist in a pancake holster on the strong-side hip, or snug to the weak side in a cross-draw/driver.

With an only slightly extended magazine, eight rounds are available without reloading. Locked and loaded with a re-charged magazine gives you nine. An extra magazine can be carried discretely. An expended magazine can be replaced quickly and easily.

What's not to like?

Okay, so there's the price. When last offered (early 2010), the retail price suggested by the manufacturer was right around 1600 (USD). But when this particular Bobtail was purchased, maybe five years before that, the MSRP was closer to 1100; and the actual out-the-door price was closer to 1000.

I would never suggest that the current owner could sell this pistol for 1600 now. But, then again, I can pretty much guarantee that he does not want to.

LaRoe recommends it as his Pistol of Choice.

.38/.357 Magnum Snubnose
2.25-inch SP101


Snubnose Ruger SP101

Ruger's SP101 series of double-action revolvers seem to get their highest marks in firearms forums for durability and reliability.

You will sometimes see proponents of more expensive revolvers in the .38/.357 magnum chambering express confidence that their wheel guns are durable enough, given that they do not intend to fire .357 magnum loads all that often; and their thread kin routinely respond in chorus: "and who would want to do that anyway?"

You will sometimes see proponents of more exotic revolvers of the snubnose variety boasting about how much lighter their pocket rockets are than the Ruger alternative, sometimes adding an anecdote about how badly bruised their hand was when they thought they would go ahead and send a couple of .357 rounds down range just to see what it felt like; and their thread kin routinely respond in chorus: "yeah, me too, aren't you glad you don't have to do that all the time?"

And all agree that if circumstances warranted — read: bears, zombies, bad guys or aliens attack — they would happily load their sidearms with .357 rounds and fire them come what may.

What I have not understood is why a person would pay extra to live with those limitations in the meantime.

Meanwhile, in the SP101 threads, posters are sharing stories about accidentally running over their pistols with the pick-up truck before spending the rest of the day at the range splitting logs with .38++ and .357 loads.

I exagerate.

A little.

The SP101 gets its lowest marks in weight. Weight is good while the bullet is leaving the barrel, when it is absorbing recoil and mitigating muzzle rise. The whole rest of the day: It is something you have to schlep from place to place while it pulls a strap into your shoulder or stretches your belt out of shape or drags your pants down.

The SP101 carries comfortably and is easily concealed by a jacket or un-tucked shirt on the weak side in a cross-draw/driver holster. It does not carry comfortably in the waistband at the small of the back when sitting, and it does not conceal well on the strong side hip.

Addtionally, as a small revolver, the rounds available without reloading are limited — just five; reloading is awkward; speedloaders are bulky. Also keep in mind that a 2.25-inch barrel provides a lot less sight radius than a 4.25-inch barrel. In other words, mathematics and geometry dictate that, with a snubnose revolver, you will be less accurate and you will have fewer rounds.

All that having been said, this is the sidearm most frequently carried by its current owner, who happens also to own a similarly sized semi-automatic. So, go figure. Plus LaRoe recommends it as his Revolver of Choice.

The best resource on the rich history, mystique, myth and legend attendant to the 1911 pattern pistol, on or off line, is The Sight M1911.

An excellent article on selecting your first 1911 pattern pistol is Hilton Yam's Choosing Your First 1911, Some Thoughts For the Beginner.

The best resource on the colorful and checkered history of snubnose revolvers is Syd Weedon's The Snubnose Files.

The best on-line firearms forum is The High Road.

The best source for in-the-waistband holsters is High Noon Holsters; in particular, see the Bare Asset and the Mr. Softy.

The best source for gun belts, crossdraw/driving, pancake and shoulder holsters is Fist.

Disclosure: LaRoe Dot Com earns commissions on sales resulting from users following links from LDC to Amazon.

A fun and informative, but by no means exhaustive or deep, "coffee-table" book about pistols:

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