[3/15/17] Multi-caliber firearms have great appeal. Here’s a look at five choices of revolvers and long guns that add versatility to your gun collection while making your ammunition dollars stretch further.
1. Any .357 Magnum revolver
The 357 Magnum load boasts a fast-moving, heavy round. Although I don’t subscribe to the notion of stopping power, at least as it compares in importance to shot placement, there’s no denying that this caliber delivers tremendous impact, and commensurate recoil. Ammo isn’t terribly pricey for self-defense at approximately 50 cents per hollow-point round, but for practice, it can be both uncomfortable and costly.
Pick up some 38 Special full metal jacket (FMJ) for practice and plinking, and your 357 Mag revolver will serve as both a range and self-protection gun. This cartridge is the same diameter, but shorter, with a smaller powder charge than 357. Using 38 Special is also a great adaptation to make shooting more comfortable for arthritic or injured hands.
The Ruger GP100 is a popular and proven full-size 357 Magnum revolver that most people find pleasurable to shoot, even using the bigger cartridge. Prices are typically in the $600 range for plain models. Ruger’s carry-friendly LCR (lightweight compact revolver) is also available in 357. Expect snappy recoil from that one using 357. The LCR is priced in the $400 range, with many bargains available.
Safety and shopping notes: The 38 Special cartridge can be loaded into a 357 Magnum firearm, but the 38 Special handgun cannot be loaded with 357 Magnum ammunition. Similarly named 357 Sig and 380 are calibers designed primarily for semi-auto firearms, and are NOT cross-gun compatible to 357 Mag/38 Spl.
2. Taurus Judge revolver
This hefty Brazilian revolver can shoot 45 Long Colt or 2.5-inch 410 shotshell loads, or a mixture thereof, from its five-chamber cylinder. It’s available in barrel lengths starting at two inches, up to 6.5 inches — and there may even be a few in circulation that are even longer; these are just the lengths I’ve seen students bring to class. There’s no getting around the big recoil with the big cartridge. Suffice to say, the two-inch barrel model should be avoided by people with achy hands.
The Judge is very popular as a home-defense weapon. Its weight makes it impractical for daily carry, though there are surely some folks who manage to do so. The 45 Long Colt is expensive to purchase; defensive loads often cost in excess of $1 per round. On the other hand, 410 gauge shells, popular for use with the Judge as a defense against venomous snakes, can be picked up for less than 50 cents per round.
Usually found in the mid-$400 range, prices vary widely with the Judge depending on features and finish. In my experience, they require more frequent repairs and maintenance when fired regularly, thanks to the stresses of high-pressure rounds cycling through a comparatively small weapon. Nonetheless, Judge owners who embrace the “bigger is better” philosophy seem to glean a sense of security from having this model in the nightstand.
Safety note: Responsible self-protection includes proper target identification. None of the models mentioned thus far include an auxiliary light rail. A flashlight is therefore a needed accessory for dim-light defense. For most people, handling and flashlight and a 40-ounce loaded revolver are mutually exclusive activities.
3. Bond Arms derringers
Moving to the physically smaller end of the spectrum, Bond Arms of Granbury, Texas, makes a line of derringers with barrels ranging from 2.5 to 4.25 inches. Not only do the barrels range in length, but they range in caliber, as well.