How to buy the right revolver

Posted: Jul 10, 2006 12:00 AM

In my last column, I recommended several semi-automatic handguns along with commentary about the potential uses of each. I did this because so many readers asked for specific advice about pistol purchases. But, just in case there is any confusion, I have never suggested that a person’s first handgun should be a pistol. In fact, I believe everyone should own a revolver first.

In today’s column, I offer my suggestions for revolvers in various calibers. These recommendations are presented roughly in order from the first revolver one will need to the last revolver one might need or, in my case, simply want. Many readers will start a collection at the top of this list and stop somewhere in the middle after their basic needs are covered. Again, I hope the following recommendations are helpful:

Ruger 22 long rifle/22 magnum single action revolver. I hope everyone reading this column will agree that every shooter needs at least one single-action revolver. I selected this one first because a) I believe that shot discipline must be instilled beginning with the first gun purchase, and b) the first revolver should be capable of delivering .22 long rifle (LR) cartridges.

The .22 LR is a cheap, accurate round that allows a person to get comfortable shooting before moving up to the more powerful cartridges. By simply changing out the extra cylinder that comes with this Ruger shooters can step up to the .22 magnum (Mag), which travels about 700 feet per second faster than the .22 LR. This round has just enough power to stop rabid little varmints in their tracks. In other words, you might want to enjoy this one in woods, not just at the range.  

Smith and Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum. This is an easy choice as far as I’m concerned. The .357 Magnum is a good round for security needs. It also fires the more affordable 38 Special rounds for use at the target range. Finally, it’s not a bad sidearm for hunters to carry in the woods. The four-inch barrel is best for most uses although someone seeking a .357 carry weapon should look into the Model 640 snubnose.  

Smith and Wesson Model 629 Classic .44 Magnum. This where the fun really starts. First of all, this revolver is good for home defense when loaded with the slow and heavy .44 Special round. But the hot .44 Magnum round serves a much different purpose. For example, this model – especially the one I recommend with the 8-3/8” barrel - is ideal for hunting those smaller, tastier hogs in the 100 pound range. It is also ideal for those 50-yard brush shots you’ve been taking at deer with a 30-30 rifle. Why not make things a little more interesting with a 240-grain soft point loaded in this rugged handgun? Or step up to a 275-grain Remington hunting round to go after a black bear. After all is said and done, this might be the most enjoyable and versatile handgun in your collection.  

Taurus 4410 Tracker SS. Taurus has come up with an idea that seems a little strange at first. This revolver shoots five rounds of 45 Long Colt ammunition, which is a very good round for home defense. But the gun also takes 410 shot shells. This combination works well if you live out in the county and have a snake problem and don’t want to break out the 12-gauge because you still fear hitting something in the periphery. It might come in handy the next time you reach into your trash can and hear a raccoon snarling back at you. If you’ve ever been in that situation – and, I promise, it isn’t fun - you know you could have used this versatile little weapon.  

Smith and Wesson Model 357PD. This .41 Magnum revolver is an ideal lightweight backpack gun for serious hunters. The .44 Magnum version has way too much recoil in this lightweight model. The .41 Magnum is more manageable and still packs enough of a punch to handle almost any problem that would cause you to reach for your backup weapon.  

Ruger .480 Revolver. Sometimes the .44 Magnum just isn’t enough to take down a monster hog. But this Ruger .480 packs plenty of extra punch. This round is somewhere between the .44 Magnum and .454 Casull in terms of power. Since I don’t go after Grizzlies in Alaska, I really don’t need the .454 or the even more powerful 500 S&W. The .480 Ruger isn’t so powerful that an experienced hunter can’t handle it. In terms of raw power, few people will need to go higher up than this anyway. If you do need more power, you’re probably too experienced to be taking advice from me.  

I’m sure that this list is incomplete and will result in hundreds of emails from gun enthusiasts whose favorite revolver was omitted. If you’re one of those people, please contact me at my website ( After all, I might be willing to reload and fire off a more accurate and powerful sequel.