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I’m relatively new to the concealed carry routine. A few random violent encounters in the District of Columbia turned me on to guns and concealed carry. While I don’t exercise my rights in the aforementioned gun-free zone, I tote at least one gun in the freer states of the union. The Smith & Wesson 642 has been receiving a lot of love on this blog and it’s about to receive just a little more . . .

It’s simple to use and just plain easy to carry. For a short trip to the convenience store or jaunt around the block with the dog, there’s nothing better in my opinion. The gun’s diminutive proportions also make it easy to stow in a lockbox under my driver’s seat should I need to venture into smaller, more isolated, non-governmental gun-free zones…unlike the aforementioned one. Speer Gold Dot 38 +P short barrel are my go-to rounds and I carry a few extras on speed strips in a Tuff pouch (a neat little product, I high recommend it for J-frame users).

With the weather turning in my northern Virginia habitat I decided to run a little experiment…carry a second, larger gun. The Smith & Wesson 686+ three-inch was my first hand gun purchase. I bought it because I’m a contrarian and I wanted to try something different. I’ve since become a fervent member of the .357 club.

I own both revolvers and semi-autos, but I find that I shoot the former better and have a lot more confidence in its presentation and manual of arms. The Hogue grips have been a revelation. They manage the recoil of moderate .357 loads, provide a phenomenal grip and their clipped end aid in concealment. Perhaps just as importantly, my girlfriend is a pretty good pistolero with the 686.

So, why not carry two guns just in case the zombie apocalypse happens when we’re at the grocery store? Two guns are better than one in an emergency. Given my rather large frame it’s surprisingly concealable. A dark t-shirt and jeans is more than enough. That being said, I’m tall and t-shirts and sweatshirts are often just a tad too short. So I have to bend at the knees instead of the waist lest I flash the two pounds of steel I’m trying to hide.

A holster from Tucker Gunleather carried at 4 o’clock paired with a Blackhawk rigger’s belt help to schlep this beast around. Also, strangely enough, the 686’s smaller sibling helps distribute the weight. Despite the help, the 686 has still taken some getting used to. The biggest hurdle to get over is the mental block, telling myself that no one is looking at me. But I suppose that’s a larger CCW issue.

Until it’s once again shorts weather, I think I’ll stick with this effective, if heavy pairing.

(See the rest of the posts in this series here. Send your What I Carry and Why submissions with a photo to [email protected] with WICAW in the subject line.)

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  1. “So, why not carry two guns just in case the zombie apocalypse happens when we’re at the grocery store? Two guns are better than one in an emergency. ”

    Because no reason, that’s why. I carry two guns, frequently, and I don’t carry revolvers.

  2. It’s Virginia, so what if you show a little. Few would notice anyway. My dog got her leash wrapped around the grip of my XD/m and yanked it out on a summer day in
    Bluemont Park. Nobody noticed.

    Also glad to see that you are not deterred from carrying the gun you prefer because of size and weight. Tori Richards should help you cover it up in the summer.

  3. A good belt makes all the difference when toting a revolver. My 1.75″ thick leather Galco belt makes carrying a 686 a pleasant affair. My metal reinforced “tactical” belt? Not so much.

  4. When I’m not working(work gun = sig 938) I’m usually packing a Ruger GP100. It’s not as heavy as people assume once you’re used to carrying it.

    The Sig 938 is my most frequent EDC because of the M-F job but my off work guns change from time to time between Beretta 92fs, CZ 40-p, RIA 1911 or the GP100. All have proven to be 100% reliable for me and I’m very comfortable with the manual of arms for each.

    Glad to see the revolver getting some love here.

  5. Back before I developed tinnitus, I was a huge .357 fan. If we are accepting the idea of penetration as a requirement for pistol round terminal performance, the .357 has it in spades.

    • I’ve always found the .357 so ridiculously loud out of a revolver, that I’ve concluded it really is a rifle round. Some tacticoolities on an old lever and it, if loaded hot, makes for a pretty good 7.62×39 impersonator ballistically, cowboy Kalashnikov style.

  6. I love autoloaders for fun and plinking, but I carry a revolver (Ruger SLR 3″) for “Town wear”. I’m not expecting any trouble and stay out of places that cater to large crowds, so the fact that I would have to use my speedloaders, to supplement my meager 5 round capacity, does not bother me. The reliability of a revolver makes up the difference of not having huge amounts of lead at my immediate disposal.
    Don’t mean to start up the wheel gun versus auto debate, just stating my preference. I always have the little mouse gun in my pocket for back up. Not sure how much “backing up” it is capable of, buts there if I need it.

    • I’ve been shooting for a tad more than 50 years. Military, hunting, target shooting. More than once been to the cop range with cops.(I’m not, nor have I ever been, a cop). In all that time I’ve only ever seen one revolver break. A S&W mod 19 that was fed magnum loads only.

      All other revolver stoppages I’ve seen, including one on my 442, have been ammo related. And few of those.

      Every time I go to the range I see an auto loader malfunction. Every time. Amo related. Parts breakage. Mag related. The list is endless.

      Ever see anybody fumble a grip and drop a loaded mag at the range. No pressure, no life and death and they dump their mag.

      I prefer a revolver. I have two autoloaders that have never failed me. But I still prefer a revolver.

      I don’t want a debate either. But for mortal folks that just want to protect themselves without having to spend every dime and spare moment being taught by an “ex”seal how to operate operationally the revolver works.

      • I agree.

        From a gunsmith’s standpoint, revolvers have more complicated failure modes inside them. Cared for properly, revolvers have very few issues that are the fault of the shooter. Semi-autos appear to have simple failure modes – but they evidence them across more models, more calibers, more designs than revolvers.

        Semi-autos have several failure modes that are completely the fault of the user. You can limp-wrist them. You might not operate the safeties correctly. You might bend your magazine feed lips up dropping the mag during a change. Double-feeds really take down a semi-auto when you’re pressed for time. On and on.

        Revolvers? Point and pull, and keep pulling until you hear “click.” Then reload. Worst user-fault failure is something like bending the crane on a reload.

        Don’t get me wrong – revolvers do have issues. As they wear, revolvers’ issues might become expensive (hooray for me, in theory, but I tend to under-charge for all my time on revolvers because, well, I just like revolvers), but for many people who don’t want to train how to handle malfunctions rapidly, and who won’t ever put more than a thousand rounds on their gun (which is a LOT of people), I truly believe revolvers make better defense guns. They “just work” in more cases, in more presentations (eg, weak hand vs. strong hand), they don’t need upper body strength to rack the slide, etc. Lots of shooters claim “Yea, but you’ve got only five or six rounds out of a revolver!” and my response is “From what I see at our range, there’s lots of newbie shooters who have trouble getting to shot #2 or #3 out of a CCW semi-auto – and that’s mostly user error.”

        • One point that is seldom brought up is that a wheel gun doesn’t need you to take out a second mortgage on your home to buy enough ammo to break it in.

        • That jewelry guy in L. A. that was in so many shootouts. He told of one where he was wounded and his own blood made his Sig impossible to fight on with. He dropped it and pulled his wheelgun and survived still another fight.

        • I have a Smith .357 340 PD and I’m a little concerned about bullets jumping their crimp within the case and tying up the cylinder. I’m not sure how often that happens, and I haven’t seen it on the range, but shooting .357 through an air weight seems a little like using a bullet puller. For reference I’ve currently got my 340 loaded with 158 grain JHPs from the Buffalo Bore tactical short barrel line.

        • A81. Valid concern. I had a 158 grain LSWCHP +p load jump loose and bind up the cylinder. I was told that jacketed bullets don’t have this problem. I put standard pressure 158 grain jacketed hollowpoints in my 442 and haven’t had any problems since.

          Just goes to show you. Practice with your carry loads. Find out any potential problems before the shtf.

        • Get a set of calipers. Measure the OAL of your ammo. Load up a cylinder with your carry loads. Shoot half of the rounds in the cylinder (I’m assuming six total, so shoot three rounds). Stop. Unload the remaining three rounds, and re-check the OAL on all three remaining rounds. If you see the bullets walking out, stop, and start investigating whether you have a roll crimp on your bullets and whether your bullets have a proper cannelure groove in them. This is one of the huge differences between shooting a proper rimmed revolver round and a semi-auto handgun round held in a revolver cylinder with a moon clip or some such. Revolver rounds use a roll crimp into a cannelure in the bullet in order to keep the bullet from walking out. A taper crimp might not hold your bullet in place as well.

          If you see an identical OAL, mark your unfired three rounds, put them back into the cylinder, put in three fresh rounds, and time the cylinder to fire only the fresh rounds. Repeat the above exercise a half-dozen times, measuring the three marked rounds after each three rounds fired. If you see no bullet walking after 7 * 3 (or 21 total recoil impulses), I think you’re good to go.

  7. My 637 has some chipping clearcoat issues, but it is my favorite everyday carry gun. Winthrop leather holster IWB and a good stiff belt and you don’t even know its there. Sold me on the speed strip holder, bought one. Belt space is more open for me than pocket. Really liking the revolver renaissance going on, may pick up a new 4″ S&W 586, love the old wood and blue 357’s.

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