Goldilocks Guns

This one was too small for the caliber.

This one was too large for my hand. If you can’t reach the trigger with your finger, you might have a problem firing the pistol.

This one was juuuuuust right. And belonged to a very good friend, who also really likes the pistol and has no desire to get rid of it.

So I went out-of-town for the weekend, and part of the reason to go was to try to find a better-for-my-purposes handgun than the two I currently have. One is wonderful for target shooting and basic practice, but it is a .22 single-action and larger than is easily concealed. And it is not designed to be reloaded quickly. Really not designed to be reloaded quickly. It’s a sweet revolver, though.

My Precioussssss.

Then there’s [cue movie announcer voice] The Snubbie. It is easier to conceal. At least, it is shorter than the .22. However it is rather fat, is a .38, and is a snub-nose. The lower weight/caliber ratio means that the recoil can be a little fierce. Not as fierce as some of the polymer-frame pistols – those are just too mighty for my small wrists, thank you.

Kinda like this, but different grips, not as shiny, and used.

And then there’s hand size. I have an average-sized palm and short fingers, with small wrists. A Desert Eagle is safe from me. A .45 with nice fat round grips is also safe from me, as I found out at the gun store. I could barely touch the trigger with my finger. Not an ideal situation, as you can imagine. “Hi Ms. Rabid Coyote. Please stay there while I get a tri-pod so I can fire my self-defense pistol. Thanks! ‘Preciate it.” Bang.

Not quite this bad, but close.

Ah, no, not ideal.

The .38 kinda-snubbie that I really wanted to try is a very nice gun with a good solid heft to it, so the recoil is not as bad as that from [announcer voice] The Snubbie. But the trigger pull was really heavy, and my grip did not work with the frame, so I managed to shoot high and right. But based on what I thought I was doing, I should have been pulling left. Score one for “Alma’s just gotta be different.” I tired out quite quickly, also not a good thing when you are trying to get very comfortable and pretty good with a handgun.

And then there was the Goldilocks Gun, a .357 revolver with nice rubber grips, a neon sight, that fit my hand, had tolerable recoil even with high-power self-defense loads… And belonged to someone who liked it as much as I did. Oops.

I’d also “played with” various semiautomatics the day before, and discovered that, while things have gotten better since I was first bested by a Glock twenty years or so ago, I’m still not quite strong enough to quickly, smoothly work the action on most semi-autos. And I really like revolvers. Really like.

So, now I know what works, what does not, what triggers and pull weights I like, which triggers don’t work for me, and that I also really, really like a different friend’s antique revolver that he has absolutely zero interest in letting me take home. And that is a wee titch bit too big for my hand. (OK, it is more than a little bit too big.)

This is major progress.

About my shooting skills? Ah, I’m safe, and my groups shrank from 8″ clusters to 4″ clusters. And they were clusters. My reloading technique is vastly improved, I now know some bad habits I’d picked up that I need to get rid of, and my stance… needs work. But I kept every shot within minute-of-berm, and there were no mutters of “Did that round even stay in the county?” And to my knowledge, neither of the very patient instructors needed adult libations to recover from the experience of working with me. To my knowledge.

In all seriousness, I needed the lessons, and both gentlemen are very good instructors. Our goal is a safe, proficient Alma with a firearm that works for my hands and that I can and will use if needed. Heaven forefend that I ever find myself in a situation where I need to use it. I think we are well on the way.

And I know what I need to work on. *SIGH*

Homework. Or rather, rangework.

29 thoughts on “Goldilocks Guns

  1. Get a few snap caps, and it can be homework, too. Useful for practicing the motions until you get things smooth. And best of wishes with finding your grail gun. It can be a never ending quest, for few of us are truly worthy of ‘that perfect gun.’ It couldn’t possibly be that our opinions (and bodies) change with time, or that the steel is always bluer on the other side of the counter.

    Ah, memories. The most dangerous (to us) trooper I ever worked with. She had a master’s degree and negative common sense. She also was so small and weak that she had great difficulty racking the slide on an M9 pistol – Beretta 92. I can still see her holding the pistol with her left forearm against her torso, finger firmly on the trigger, with a dozen men diving out of the way as she struggled to load it at the range.

    I can also still see her standing above me, axe raised with both arms over her head, blade towards me, as I held the tent stake. I had only showed and explained how to use the flat side of the tool to pound tent stakes a dozen times in the previous fifteen minutes, so why should I have expected her to understand? I dove out of the way as another trooper on the team tackled her. The axe blade ended up buried in the dirt a foot on the other side of the stake. At least she didn’t cut the ropes.

    • She sounds like whoever taught Sen. D. Feinsteine firearms handling skills… Breaking two of Col. Coopers four rules in less than two seconds of TV footage, and demonstrated why security always stands behind the politico with the gun. Far behind, and ready to dive for cover.

  2. Not to worry. We’re working hard on finding another copy of the gun you like. Progress report to follow in due course. Meanwhile, you’ll just have to come and visit more often, to get in some more range time!

  3. Interestingly enough my CC gun is a polymer framed 357. In fact I got a bit of jolt when reading Larry and Mike’s Dead Six; because the emergency gun the MC picked up and carried throughout those novels, is the same one I carry every day. It probably wouldn’t work for you, although it isn’t as light as you would think when you hear polymer frame (I have an Utra light 44 magnum that is four times the size and about the same weight) but it is a bit lighter than a similar steel framed revolver and barks fairly good with 357 rounds. Also shoots badly high, although its fixed sights are dead on with 38s.
    I own a couple of semiautos, including a target pistol, but I to prefer revolvers, and they tend to be very reliable. The bottom line when you start looking into calibers that have noticeable recoil is that you need one that fits your hand comfortably and is comfortable to shoot. I’ve shot guns that had tremendous recoil, but because they fit well they weren’t uncomfortable to shoot boxes of ammo through at a setting, I’ve shot others in milder calibers that you fire once and hand back to the owner.

    • > ultra light 44

      The S&W with the scandium alloy frame?

      I’ve been lusting after one of those for a while.

      • Actually the Taurus. The original S&W ultra lights had an issue after two or three hundred rounds (since fixed) that the Taurus did not. Also I love the grips on the Taurus, they fit my hand like they are custom designed for them and the rubber is both ‘tacky’ for a sure grip and forgiving under recoil.
        The S&W has long since cured their issue and the guns are near enough to each other that with identical grips they can’t be told apart. I will say that I shot a S&W ultra light with wood grips once (actually three times, because I’m a glutton for punishment) I was not impressed, the grips were not forgiving and did not fit my hand well.
        I would buy whichever fits you better, with one that fits well like mine I can fire a couple of boxes of full power loads through it comfortably, and they are a delight to pack. Open carry is almost a necessity though, because while being fabulously light they are as bulky as any magnum framed pistol and bulkier than many.

  4. Yep, come on back and we’ll get those groups down to 2 inches 🙂 You did well, and were patient with us, which was appreciated too! 😀

  5. Revolvers have two major advantages:
    They are very tough– less likely to be screwed up by living in my diaper bag.
    They scare two-legged coyotes a LOT more, for some reason. (this is also why I didn’t go with the pink polymer lady’s gun; I got something that looks like a black and white detective would carry it)

    • I can think of a third reason: better triggers.
      (With the caveat that “better” is completely subjective. And that I’m not a gunsmith who can detail the differences, but merely note my experiences.)

    • I think, from what little TV watching and non-sci-fi movie viewing I’ve done recently, that the people on TV who carry revolvers are really, really serious. Everyone and his bro carries a semi-auto. And half of them fire sideways. *facepaw*

      • Have you ever read the story about how that started? I read an article by a gun guy working on a movie where the director wanted 2 guys firing side by side; due to safety reasons (brass hitting the other guy), they had the guns turn sideways, and voila – a new trend was started!

        • That doesn’t surprise me. When I sub for the drama teacher, I study one of the posters for a modern Romeo and Juliet, counting the guys who are going to have 1) misfeeds, 2) busted wrists, 3) loose the pistol because the recoil will rip it out of their grip, 4) shoot their feet. I think three of 12 might possibly be able to get a second or third round off.

        • > brass hitting the other guy

          There’s the famous brass-pelting scene from “The Gods Must Be Crazy”…

  6. I have been REALLY fortunate twice, and picked up a Dan Wesson .357 both times. They are finally making them again, but the new ones seem a bit too pricey to me at $1,558 list. I just looked, and saw a couple of used items on Gunbroker for around $600, which I think is an okay price.
    The BIG advantage: The firearm is designed to easily swap barrels and grips. Of the two I’ve purchased, one has a 4 inch barrel, the other a six inch barrel. However, other barrel lengths are available, from 2.5 ” for concealed carry, all the way up to 10″ for hunting. The grips can be full size, or small for concealed carry.
    They are very accurate, and because they are nice and heavy, none of us have any problem shooting full power .357 loads, although .38 specials are very nice.
    If you get a chance to look at / fire a Dan Wesson .357 revolver, see what you think.

    • Forgot to mention: I bought my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, a Ruger SR22 as her carry pistol. She’s a little bitty lady, with little bitty hands, and she can manage to rack the slide on the SR22 with no problem.

    • I have fired one of the Dan Wesson 357’s and very much liked it, and a friend has a 22 magnum Dan Wesson revolver with the 10″ barrel that is a sweet pistol to shoot. Even with the short barrel and smaller grips though I think the Dan Wesson 357 is to large of a frame to conceal easily. Really, really, nice pistol though.
      Ruger, Taurus, and Smith & Wesson all make small five shot 38’s, both with light frames and with heavier steel frames, that are concealable. Taurus makes a 357 on just about the same frame, and I believe S&W may be starting to also; and they have quite a lot of extra punch over the 38. They do make 38 Special +P ammo now, but make sure it is save to shoot in your revolver before you try it. Some of it is quite hot and not all guns are capable of safely handling it.
      I personally like an exposed hammer, but if all you are going to use it for is close range defense work a hammerless (bobbed) double action revolver has less to snag on loose clothing or straps and will reliably go bang when you pull the trigger, it won’t have as nice a trigger as a single action trigger though and will take considerably more practice to group with satisfactorily.

  7. It sounds like you like the Glock but have trouble racking the slide – have you looked onto any of the ‘slide racker’ upgrades? There are several upgrades that replace the slide back plate and add on extensions to get a better grip.
    Some of them allow you to rack the slide with an open hand so that grip strength isn’t an issue. One I saw has pin held in place with a spring loaded ball so that it can be removed, or switched left and right.
    Brownell’s has several ‘tactical slide rackers’ listed in their Glock parts section

    • Sib-in-Law now has the Glock. I’ve never fired one. I suspect if I were to go back to it, my hand size might be a problem, and the slide would still cause me grief. I have good pushing strength but not much pulling strength.

      • Glocks are an extremely reliable automatic, and I very much doubt I will ever own one. They feel like gripping a 2×2 and are not at all comfortable in my hand. The larger calibers are too big to be comfortable in my fairly good sized hands, and even the “compacts” feel much larger than other brands, so I doubt that you would find one that fits your hands.
        That being said, if they fit you and are comfortable to you they are a good choice, for a not ridiculous price you get one of if not the most reliable semiauto pistols ever made, and they carry lots of ammo. (one reason their grips are so large).

  8. That was fun! You should come back and do that more often! Especially now that I’ve hunt down the brand new and extremely poorly advertised tea house downtown!

  9. I started with revolvers when I learned to shoot handguns, competed in a revolver club, and I think my Model 19 is a really nice piece of work, but every time I did an analysis of reliability, weight, capacity, concealability, and the like, I came up with a semi-auto as the answer for concealed carry for me.

    I have not very big hands and short fingers, so a lot of the DA or SA/DA type pistols were slightly out of reach of my trigger finger. (And I have crab my grip a bit on the Model 19 as well). I can make them work (I fired Expert with the rather large Beretta M-9 in the USAF, which is not all that hard actually), but they were not optimal.

    The Browning High Power turned out to be a dream in this regard, it has some really fine ergonomics and is very concealable for a full-size service pistol, and still holds a double stack magazine. The contouring around the key area between where the web of the and goes and the single action trigger is well done and small enough that short little fingers can easily reach. A negative to me on the BHP for me is the slide safety. I prefer to keep things as simple as possible. If I ever win a bazillion dollar powerball, I will have someone design for me a polymer striker fired pistol in the BHP form factor.

    As far as the strength for racking the slide, I happily have not had a problem with that, but on full size service pistols with the heavier mass and longer travel of the slide, the springs don’t seem to have to be as strong to retard slide movement. So (to me anyway) they seem easier to manipulate. John and Vickie Farnam years ago started teaching a method of doing this that maximized using arm strength – basically locking the wrists and using both arms to push towards each other.

    I broke a part on my BHP and while working on repairs I migrated to the Glock 19. While it is a little less ergonomic than the BHP, I found it to be quite a good fit (and much better than my Gen 1 Glock 17) — plus it dispensed with the slide safety and the finish was far more durable, especially in Texas summer heat. I put the smallest backstrap on it, found the right holster, and have carried it for several years now AIWB. I trained hard with it with a group here in central texas, and the as time went on, pretty much all of us migrated to the Glock 19. It just hits a good combination of reliability, size, fit, usability, capacity, etc.

    Good luck on your journey for the right handgun, and it sounds like you are sold on revolvers, but you might take a little detour and try a Browning Hi Power and/or a Gen 3 or 4 Glock 19 with the adjustable backstrap. You might be pleasantly surprised.

    • I suspect that as time passes, I will “sample” other firearms. Right now I’m looking for something I know I can use out-of-the-box, so to speak. And I still need to get to the rifle range and see if my new glasses allow me to shoot long-guns again, or if the problem is insurmountable without some seriously strange optics (and seriously $$$$$$ optics).

        • Without the boomstick, it might be a wee difficult to diagnose the problem. (Besides my eyes being wonky. That’s pretty self-evident.)

          • Glasses and scopes are always a problem. If you have the money and time, and an optometrist with an open mind, you can take your chosen scope in and be fitted for lenses and frames that work with it. Granted, they glasses won’t be good for anything else, but it would help that one problem. I have computer glasses (as opposed to walking around glasses) that I can also use with a scope, as the focal point is much closer, and not in the bifocal area.

            Unless your eyesight is truly wonky, in which case, good luck, I feel for you.

          • Somewhat off subject, but what were your eyes like back when you flew? Are the vision problems a more recent development?

            • My eyes have been less-than-perfect since I was in grade school. When I was flying they were less-than-perfect, but age related changes have been happening faster, so I manage to be 1) near-sighted, 2) presbyopic [need reading glasses/bifocals], and 3) have an astigmatism that varies in strength. My problem was the last major shift 3-4 years ago made it impossible for me to use the sights on anything longer than a carbine, and that was a little shaky. I’ve had the new glasses for 6 weeks, so the prescription has finally settled in, and I’m curious to see what the results are.

            • My girlfriend had surgery on her eyes when she was four, and while she has better than 20-20 vision and the best night vision of any woman I’ve ever known; she could never be licensed to fly due to whatever surgery they had done (not sure what they did, but her pupils stayed dilated all the time before the surgery) seriously messing with her depth perception. It also causes her to have extreme difficulty using a gun with open sights.
              It just popped into my mind because we were talking about it the other day and she said both the Air Force and Marine recruiters were really interested in her in high school because she scored really high some tests for a potential pilot; until they discovered she could never fly. And at anything beyond point blank range she needs a scoped rifle.

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