Posted by: WebHobbit | January 23, 2012

Auto vs. Revolver – former wheel-man changes tune

    .38 Special +P

I’ve been a wheel man for MANY many years. This was primarily for one reason and one reason only – my very small hands. As a short man ( 5ft 4) with short fingers I have always found most popular defensive auto-pistols uncomfortable and pretty much impossible for me to shoot and point properly due to the brick-like grip dimensions. The Glock was out as was all the other double column “wonder-nines” and their ilk. The 1911 fit fine and I could shoot the low-pressure 45ACP fairly well but I was never very comfortable carrying cocked and locked and I don’t feel like chamber empty is a smart way to carry either. So after a lot of experimenting I ended up in the revolver camp. And that’s where I stayed for a LONG time. The revolver allows for a virtually unlimited size range of grips. With the revolvers slim grip frame I could choose an open back-strap design like the Bantam:

This would allow for a VERY close trigger reach which works well for a person with small hands.

I started out with a .38 Special J-Frame Centennial. I read a lot of Masaad Ayoob so naturally I wanted to load up with the legendary FBI load (158 grain +P soft lead hollow-point). And I often did. The problem was the load is all but impossible to find. So my replacement was the 129 grain +P Federal Hydra-Shock. But the more I read (a lot of Marshall/Sanow – I even have the hardcovers) I found myself wanting MORE POWER. So I moved up to the .357 Magnum.

    .357 Magnum

According to the experts and actual street shooting statistics there is no better hand-gun launched man-stopper than the 125 grain .357 Magnum semi-jacketed hollow-point moving at somewhere between 1300 and 1500 feet per second (depending on specific ammo brand and barrel length). BUT that kind of performance comes at a fairly high price and I don’t mean dollars. I’m talking PAIN – pain in the ears due to the insanely booming loudness and pain in the hands from the mighty recoil.

Even with a lot of practice I found this just too much of a beast for a carry load in a small frame 5-shot revolver. So I switched to the “second best” loading – the 110 grain .357 Magnum semi-jacketed hollow- point. I would alternate that loading with the Remington 125 grain MEDIUM velocity Golden Saber also in .357 Magnum. I was fairly content with this carry load…although not exactly “pleasant” to shoot it was OK and I could hit OK with it at close combat (25 feet) range. A frequent reader of the “gun rags” it was drilled into my head to “practice with what you carry” or at least something close to that. So I would train with Winchester white box 110 grain Magnums or equivalent handloads. Well the all steel Smith and Wesson Centennial didn’t care much for the Magnum practice and after 7 years and only about 700 rounds of Magnums (and 300 or so mild .38s) the little gun was “shooting loose”. I sent it into the Smith & Wesson service department and they informed that:

“J-Frames are for personal protection & are not intended to take to the range and shoot magnums a lot”

See here for all the details from when it happened in the summer of 2003:

I let them fix the gun and I sold it off having lost all faith in Smith and Wesson. I switched to the tank-like Ruger SP-101 and never looked back.


Fast-forward to the summer of 2011 and my buddy Elmo turns me onto his new auto-pistol – a Springfield Armory XDm in 9mm. I was skeptical at first “another 9 mm brick-grip?”. But he assured me I should try it. He explained that the guns come with a user replaceable back strap piece in 3 sizes and the smallest size should fit my trigger finger perfectly! So I took his gun to the range and I shot that gun better than ANYTHING I’ve ever shot and by this point I’ve shot an awful of different handguns! As far as I am concerned this is a revolution in handgun design. In one gun I can now have a modern easy shooting piece that can fit a variety of people’s hands. I’ve never been a GREAT shot but with an XDm I am a very GOOD shot.

I now own 3 XDms (2 compacts and one full size) all in 9mm and I love ‘em.

With the 9mm I am in a much better place in so far as ammunition selection. I like the Speer Gold-dot jacketed hollow point in 124 grain weight at +P velocity I also use the Federal HST in the same weight and also +P. These are rated at around 1,200-1,250 feet per second. Ballistically this puts them nipping at the heels of some of the best .357 Magnum self-defense loads and far above anything in .38 Special. Yet even with this “warm” load I find the guns no louder as far as blast/noise than the .38 Special and even EASIER to shoot. Other than their beautiful classic lines and pop-culture nostalgia the Revolver holds nothing for me anymore. I am no longer a wheel man.


  1. Got the 3.8 compact on Christmas of 2012, I have yet not been able to find time to go to the range, but I have ordered a second 19 round mag and a grip extension for the 13 round mag, so I HOPE I get to shoot it soon!


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