(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Phil Twiss
We’ve all heard that we should be wary of the man with one gun. But were would that man’s one gun come from… Would it be a new out the box that everyone carries, GLOCK, SIG or Smith & Wesson? Or would it be rare/semi rare gun store/pawn shop find from the past (but not that far past). Maybe a proven gun that was the GLOCK of the day back when it was top dog in all the gun mags.
Call it my vanity or contempt for those who chase after the current plastic being run as the next GLOCK everyone must have, but I wanted something different, but proven over time in the hands of those who make a living with the gun. So I set out on my quest for my first and maybe my last CCW.
As a CCW, it had to meet the same standards regardless of age or rep in the gun mags. For me, the list of must-haves isn’t that long. It had to be…
· In a caliber with a proven efficacy that’s easy to find at either the ammo counter in Wally World or the back road gas station (yes, in my part of the country, we can still get a box of 12 ga/9mm with a Slim Jim and a Coke)
· Able to shoot what was on hand (given the Obama/Hillary scares)
· Accurate, at least enough to hit more than miss
· Dependable as the sunrise, because the fight was going to be with the gun on my side, not the one working through the break-in rounds. I have never understood how a new gun must be fired 400 to 500 rounds to become dependable.
· “Idiot proof”, sorry, “simple” enough for even the wife to use, clean, and hit more than miss
· Something with an intimidation factor. It has to look like a gun, not a multi-color toy without the red muzzle cap. Now using a gun to intimidate is a big no-no…if not the dumbest thing you ever did on your way to the penitentiary. But there are countless instances where a felon was dissuaded from his evil ways by the good guy’s equally evil weapon. To me, all the better to have a gun that doesn’t need to prove its capability than to have a gun that requires dropping the hammer.
I have to stop this list thing before David Letterman calls wanting a royalty check. Anyway, back to the story.
I had just gotten a bonus check from work and wanted to put it to use on something I had wanted for a while, the CCW that wasn’t just like everyone else’s at the local shop. I had the bright idea that a revolver of any kind would give me the ability to shoot anything I had at hand without needing 400 to 500 rounds to make it reliable. I thought a .357 revolver would give me options (.38, .38 +p, and .357 mag) in one gun that could match my ability and pocketbook, all at the same time.
Heck, if I found a well-used (not used up) gun, it may have already been given the “many rounds over many years” trigger job to boot without the gunsmith bill. So off I went looking for the well-used, but not used up gun. I wanted to keep it local, so big box and on-line sources were out. I started going to the local shops in quest of the gun that met my list and budget.
One of the shops carried, for the most part, long guns but they had two small cases in the middle of the store for revolvers and pistols. Not many, but they were constantly changing. The day I found it, I asked the owner if he had any .357’s. He said, he had just traded for one, but it was rough and in the sonic cleaner. He told me it was Smith & Wesson 66-4 with a 2.5 inch barrel. Hmmm, pretty semi-rare and the virtual definition of a GLOCK back in its day. A couple of minute later he brought it out.
The grips and the action were still too stiff to move, but it was the CCW I was looking for (clean, bright barrel, no damage to the crown or cylinder, no Hillary hole and not a MIM part to be found). I knew from my past searches that the shop would have a good price, but would this be the well-worn not worn out CCW for me? He asked me to let him finish the clean-up before we talked about interest or price. Yep, I wanted it and would be back. Long story short, it cleaned up nice and ran like the well-oiled machine that most Smiths are after being carried and shot for years.
Finding bits and pieces for an out of production gun can be frustrating. But it didn’t take too long to find a grip (Hogue Bantam grips) and holster (Galco Combat Master) to make the largess K frame fit into my daily CCW.
Now to the gun. Some say that the K-frame was nice in .38 but a failure as a .357 with reports of forcing cones failing under hot loads. The small flat at the bottom of the barrel has been reported to fail. But as studied, by Jeff Quinn this failure seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
And with exception of extensive 125 gr and under loads, the guns seem to have held up by using .38’s to practice and heavier 158 gr loads to carry. This works for me shooting .38’s and whatever .38 +p /heavy 158/180 .357 mag loads for carry. I don’t see it as deal killer given that I’ve seen the same warning on some of the new light weight .357 J-frames.
In fact, 130 gr .38 is more like shooting a loud 22 in 2+ pound gun. I’m not going to go on about its accuracy. It’s a snub nose revolver. In the hands of most, it’s minute of man at bad breath ranges. But really, would you want to explain more to a judge and jury if it ever comes time to use it to get out of a jam?
Its size and weight make it good enough for hot .357 loads and accurate enough to practice with .38s. But it’s the intimidation factor that wins the day for me.
Press the release and open the cylinder (talk about your no tool field strip) swab out the cylinder, barrel and a little oil on the matting surfaces and you’re ready to go. No springs, pulling the trigger, pins or levers to leave those idiot scratches.
The stainless steel frame is great for an all-weather, go anywhere gun that can be polished back to new without much effort or cost.
It’s not without its detractors, mainly due to limited round capacity. But as a CCW, I’m both legally and criminally responsible for every round I fire. So like I said before, it’s all the better to have a gun that does not need to prove its capability than one that requires dropping the hammer.
Specifications: Smith & Wesson Model 66-4
Caliber(s): .357 Magnum, .38 Special
Weight: 2.25 lb. (1.02 kg)
Barrel length: 2.5″
Capacity: 6 rounds
Fire Modes: SA/DA
MSRP: $850 new, a lot less used
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * * *
Timeless, with an intimidation factor to boot.
Ergonomics: * * *
Can be an effective CCW with a smaller grip, heavy belt and an outside the waistband holster.
Reliability: * * * * *
No problems, any .38, .38+p or .357 with limited rounds under 125 grain. No different than modern light weight .357 Smith J-frames.
Accuracy: * * *
Good enough to hit more than miss.
Customize This: * * *
Not that easy to find for older models, but really doesn’t need much to do the job.
Overall: * * *
It’s a doable CCW with the ability to shoot whatever is at hand at minute of man targets at bad breath ranges. Combined with an intimidation factor, that may get you out of a jam without dropping the hammer.