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The Ultimate Defense Handgun by Lt. Eric Windmoller

Posted by Gunner on January 19, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008


The Ultimate Defense Handgun…

Not very often does a week go by that somebody doesn’t ask me a gun question at work. Normally, it’s a kid asking about the gun we carry or the type of caliber used but occasionally it’s an adult who wants to know a little bit more about owning a gun for home defense or wanting to get some opinions on a gun that he’s seen in a gun shop.

 Now, of course, I’m going out on a limb here writing about the “best” defense handgun someone can buy, but this is my considered opinion.

99% of the time when I’m asked about handguns for defense, I’ll recommend a revolver. Specifically, a Smith and Wesson .357 revolver. Yes, many people think a revolver is outdated…they’ll talk about lack of ammunition capacity compared to all the super “wondernines” that hold 20 rounds of 9mm. They’ll talk about how hard it is to shoot in double action compared to the single action triggers of 1911s and they may even gripe about the weight of an all steel revolver compared to the polymer semi-autos out on the market today. They’re all valid points and I never try to sway anyone one way or the other, but if they ask me what type of gun I would carry and depend on with trouble on the line, it will always be this…

 This is an older NYSP police trade in I picked up from a gun show about a year ago. It is my constant companion. It’s a 3 inch K frame S&W model 65 .357 magnum. I have since replaced the hammer with one that can be thumb cocked and replaced the ground down cylinder release because I thought the one pictured was just plain ugly. It holds 6 rounds of .357 and weighs about 32 ounces. On the reverse side I have installed a Clip Draw so the gun can be worn without a holster inside the waistband without the risk of it dropping down below the belt line.

 I recommend the Clip Draw to anyone interested in carrying a concealed handgun to eliminate the need of bulky holsters ,etc. CLIPDRAW  They are fairly inexpensive and make carrying a handgun much more comfortable. They are available for many guns including semi autos.

 When I first started in Law Enforcement, the majority of departments here in Georgia still carried revolvers. I qualified in the Police Academy with an old S&W Model 10 (pretty much exactly the same as the 65 except it’s chambered in .38 Special only and was blued instead of stainless) and the first department I worked with issued us Model 65’s with a 4 inch barrel and square butt. I enjoyed the gun so much that I bought my own and when I changed departments, I continued to carry the 65 until the Chief made us all go to Glock semi-autos. When I found the 3 inch 65 above, I knew I had to have it for an off duty gun and am glad I bought it. The shorter barrel and round butt grip makes it a touch easier to conceal and you still have all the benefits of the full size 65 such as fixed sights that won’t chip or break and the quality of Smith and Wesson parts, most notably the trigger pull which is unrivaled in my opinion in the revolver world.

 For practice, the gun can fire .38 Special ammunition, which is much easier to shoot and less expensive than full power .357 Magnums and is ideal for a new gun owner to learn with. The simplicity of a revolver is also a good selling point. There’s no safety’s to worry about…you pull the trigger and the gun fires. In all my years of shooting, for work and for fun, I have never had a revolver malfunction. Obviously, things can happen and one can break but I can say that a revolver is much more reliable than any semi-auto I have had experience with. For the person that wants a gun for protection with no desire to ever take it out from under their mattress until they need it, a revolver is ideal for that scenario. While I discourage that idea, it’s pretty common knowledge that the majority of gun owners do something very similar. It’s very easy to find near new guns for sale in the used gun display case because they’ve never been shot by the previous owner who for whatever reason decided to pawn or sell the gun back to the gun store.

 Smith and Wesson has discontinued the model 65 along with many other of their K frame sized guns and replaced them with L frame guns…guns that make the frame a bit heavier and are able to stand up to a steady diet of powerful .357 ammunition. There is a picture of an L frame gun in my photo section labeled S&W 586 if you’re interested in seeing the difference between frame sizes.

 So, when my life might be on the line and I need something I can trust that will work 100% of the time, a revolver is the way to go for me. I also carry speed strips of extra ammunition that can be easily reloaded and with practice are very fast. Speed strips are also very flat and are easily carried in a pocket for easy access. Practically speaking If the first 6 rounds don’t do the job your in trouble!

  My two cents worth: I agree with Eric on choosing a revolver not only for a new shooter but for the experienced police officer. Many people do in fact believe the revolver to be a relic from a past age but the revolver in the configuration of Eric’s with the rounds butt and three inch barrel you would be hard pressed to find a gun faster to get into action. If you think a revolver is outdated talk to Jerry Miculek who has won competitions going against semi auto shooters! Jerry shoots for Team S&W. Jerry shoots an N frame S&W with a 5 inch barrel using moon clips to fire 45 acp.

  The potency of the .357 magnum is also above and beyond any other caliber for the handgun. My old favorite the 1911 with the best ammo achieves a one stop shot rating of approximately 90% whereas the .357 125 grn JHP earns the highest rating at 97%! Mastering the double action trigger pull of a quality revolver such as this S&W is fairly easy to master with practice. In the real world the civilian licensed to carry a weapon or the off duty officer is very unlikely to be confronted by multiple attackers so the revolver is very much a viable choice. In addition carry at least two speed strips or speed loaders and you are well protected. No matter what you choose to carry practice, practice, practice. No matter which gun you choose if you buy a gun and never fire it or fire it once a year you are not protected! The S&W K frame like the model 64 or 65 as well as the former issue US Customs model 686 3 inch revolver is an extremely practical carry gun and outside of the 1911 my very favorite!


Craig Spegel grips

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One Response to “The Ultimate Defense Handgun by Lt. Eric Windmoller”

  1. P.E. said

    From a retired cop & firearms instructor this is an excellent review and write up. When I first started in police work (1977) our academy firearms instructor recommended the model 65. We had to purchase our own revolvers so that’s what I bought. I had mine tuned at S&W back when there was same day free service for Cops. Drop if off, go have lunch, come back 🙂 They put a model 66 hammer on it (wider) did an action job and installed a red ramp sight. A few years later when our department finally issued us revolvers they issued model 65s and I stupidly sold my original one. When they issued us Sig 9mm, they allowed us to buy our issued guns for $100 and I did. I still have it along with a 3 inch which is my EDC. I had Smith do the “combat revolver package” on the three inch (check their website under gun smithing – it’s worth it!). I have also had my 4 inch customized – action job, red ramp, bead blasted, etc. As Lt. Windmoller stated, I give the same advice to someone looking for their first handgun.

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