04 April 2011

Practical Survival Firearms Pt 2 of 3

 The second installment of three. This one concerning handguns. Also, I will be discussing long-term fiream storage on my show tomorrow due to popular request. I know it hasn't been too long since we discussed it but it IS a timely topic under the circumstances.


Handguns provide yet another platform for some very heated discussions as to what’s best for what purposes: revolver versus semi-auto; single-action or double-action; stainless steel or blued; short barrel versus long barrel; 9mm, .40, .45, .38, or .357. There are also arguments over whether it should be carried “strong side” (i.e., on the side corresponding to your predominant hand) versus “crossdraw,” and the shoulder holster versus the tactical (hip or thigh) holster. And there’s always the night sights issue. It seems the things people find to argue about are practically endless. Let’s try to address a few of them.
Whether you should carry a wheelgun (revolver) or a self-feeder (semi-auto) is a matter of personal preference. Both have their good and bad points. The revolver is somewhat slower to reload and, in most cases, has fewer shots to offer. But there are no magazines to lose and they are mechanically fairly simple. Another thing to consider is that revolvers are offered in much more powerful calibers than are most self-feeders, if that is of concern to you.
In order to reload the double-action revolver with any degree of rapidity, one must use speedloaders. These are nifty little cartridge-holding devices that can release a full load of cartridges into the cylinder of your double-action with the twist of a knob or the push of a button. They are not quite as fast as changing magazines in a semi-auto, but run a very close second with practice. The best speedloaders on the market, in my opinion, are those manufactured by HKS. They are incredibly rugged and reliable. In contrast, reloading the single-action revolver requires removing and replacing cartridges one at a time. An alternative to this would be to have another cylinder or two fitted at the factory for your gun. This will allow you to change cylinders for a more rapid reload, but is not really cost effective. When buying revolvers, stick with top name brands such as Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Colt, and Taurus. My personal favorite is Ruger. Their revolvers are extremely rugged, moderately priced, and more than adequately accurate.
Modern manufacturing techniques, advanced metallurgy, and the advent of space-age polymers have made the semi-auto pistol every bit as reliable as the revolver, and in many cases just as accurate. Modern semi’s are available in a number of different finishes, such as stainless steel, electroless nickel, Parkerized, and, of course, blued. Stay away from nickel or chrome plated guns. They are pretty durable, but once the plating chips, the chip increases in size until the gun must eventually be refinished. The last decade or two has also brought us pistols built on a polymer frame. The most notable of these is the Glock. The Glock was the one of the first of the “plastic” guns, and is virtually indestructible. The polymer that Glock uses is 17% stronger than steel and 83% lighter. In the standard Glock, there are a total of 36 parts, including the magazine, base plate and follower, 3 pins, and no screws. The Tennifer finish on the metal parts is more durable than stainless steel and nearly as hard as diamonds. Needless to say, Glock is also one of my personal favorites.
The debate over which handgun caliber is best is as old as the calibers themselves. The bottom line is shot placement. If you don’t hit your target in the right place, it doesn’t matter what you use. Two of the most popular calibers are 9mm and .45. The 9mm has more penetration than the .45, but the .45 has more energy. My personal favorite is the .40 S&W, as I think it has the attributes of both. But none of these has quite the power of the .357 magnum, let alone the .41 mag or .44 mag.
For carry, I prefer a crossdraw holster for my hunting revolvers, and a beltslide for my daily carry gun, which is a Glock. The crossdraw allows easy access to the gun when driving or riding a horse. The lighter, shorter semi-auto in the beltslide is not even noticeable and I can wear it in any situation.
Tritium night sights are definitely a plus in low-light operations. They offer a very clear, precise sight picture even in total darkness. Tritium is a radioactive substance that generates light--but don’t worry, you would have to ingest something like 30,000 sets of them in order receive as much radiation as one dental X-ray. Most of these sights offer a 12-year half-life, which means that they will be half as bright in 12 years as they were when they were manufactured.
The handgun’s role in the survival arsenal depends a lot on how proficient you are with it. Although a handgun shouldn’t be considered your primary weapon, you should be competent enough with yours that if it was all you had, you’d still be able to feed and/or defend yourself. Generally speaking, the average effective range of most handguns is about 50 yards. That being said, depending on caliber and type of gun, you can easily stretch that distance out past 100 yards with practice. A good, accurate .22LR handgun, such as the Ruger MK II or Single-Six, is indispensable for small game hunting. Most handgun calibers are also suitable for deer-sized game if you are close enough and place your shot well. I am not, however, advocating that an inexperienced handgunner go after deer, except in an emergency. Also, you would be well advised to buy a handgun with some kind of protective finish, or (with respect to self-loaders) a polymer frame.
Whatever sidearm you choose, use the right ammunition for the job. For defense from most animals (including two-legged varmints), and also for hunting medium-sized game, a good hollowpoint is the most effective--although there is considerable evidence that some of the flat-nosed, hard cast bullets are also very effective in the hunting field. For larger dangerous game, and for smaller edible game, a solid bullet such as some FMJ’s, and most hard cast bullets, are the better choice. They’re better for dangerous game because they offer more penetration, and for small game because they don’t destroy as much meat as a hollowpoint.

Cope Reynolds (Desertscout)
Southwest Shooting Authority
Listen to Cope live on The Watchmen.fm Mon thru Fri, 10am to noon Mountain time!
Podcast: The Shooting Bench

Colts and Kimbers are what you show your friends.
GLOCKS are what you show your enemies!

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