Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

HANDGUNS

The Middle Ground Revolvers

The medium-size revolvers are probably the most versatile.

This category would include the S&W K and L-Frame guns, Ruger GP100, Dan Wesson 715, a bunch of guns from Taurus, and all the triple Cs. I suppose you could also lump many of the single-action revolvers into this category, including the Ruger Blackhawk and many of the imported Colt clones, but a single-action revolver is even more limited as a defensive survival gun.

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This S&W .357 Magnum revolver holds seven shots.

Common cartridges would include .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .45 Colt, and even .44 Magnum. That last one, the .44 Magnum, would be the S&W Model 69, which is the new five-shot L-Frame handgun.

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The S&W M-69 .44 Magnum is a light and easy-to-carry handgun suitable for defense and foraging.

These middle-of-the-road revolvers strike a balance between ease of carry, power, and function. The Model 69 holds five shots, some of these guns hold seven or eight, but most of these guns will be six-shooters. Compared to a lot of magazine-fed pistols that’s pretty low capacity. Plus as noted, a revolver is slower to reload. They simply don’t make a lot of sense in an urban setting as a primary defensive handgun. The capacity is too low if you have to deal with a riot or multi-shooter attack. Yes, they can do the job, but there are better choices.

That said, these medium-frame guns make a huge amount of sense for preppers who are in a retreat, or live in a rural or wilderness setting. The odds of dealing with multiple attackers are lower, while the powerful cartridges allowed in these guns are far better for hunting, foraging, and dealing with livestock. If you have a bad guy or two show up, they hit just as hard on two-legged vermin as they do with four-legged predators.

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A .44 magnum is powerful enough for defense against two- or four-legged vermin.

The primary advantage of belt-carried revolvers is that they can be chambered for much more powerful cartridges than most semiauto handguns. The .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, and the .45 Colt (if handloaded) all work for shooting hogs and deer-size game. They will put down rogue or dangerous livestock and work well for killing livestock for butchering. They are also very effective for personal defense, except for the limited ammo capacity issue.

The slightly larger S&W N-Frame guns as well as the Ruger Redhawk and Taurus Large Frame revolvers also fit the same criteria, except they are a bit heavier to carry. Of course, they are a bit tougher as well, so (at least in theory) they will hold up longer to a lot of shooting. They are often in even more powerful cartridges.

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This custom .44 Magnum by Ken Kelly at Mag-na-port International is a very effective carry gun for all predators, two- or four-legged.

The magnum cartridges like the .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, or .44 Magnum balance nicely with a 5- to 7-inch barrel. This provides a long sight radius for hunting and other shots that require some precision. The longer barrels milk some velocity out of the cartridge and the added weight helps counter the recoil. My first .44 Magnum was a S&W Model 29 with a 6 ½-inch barrel. It’s Dirty Harry’s gun and to this day it’s my all-time favorite.

But don’t rule out a shorter barrel. Elmer Keith, the father of the .44 Magnum, preferred a 4-inch barrel. I thought that would be a beast, until I shot one and learned it is not. I have found that even shorter is fine.

While I have been with the same woman for nearly forty years, I am much more fickle when it comes to guns. My latest “favorite” .44 Magnum is a custom Model 629 revolver that Ken Kelly at Mag-na-port worked over for me. I find this lightweight .44 is very handy to carry both for urban and wilderness settings. I have carried it in Alaska for protection against brown bears and in the city as protection against bad guys. I never felt compromised in either setting. I have a handload that pushes a 300-grain cast bullet to just over 1,000 ft/s, which I carry in bear country. For urban predators I usually load the gun with Hornady, .44 Special 165-grain FTX, Critical Defense ammo.

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The gun is designed for concealment and power. Ken Kelly reworks the grip frame to a round-butt, K-Frame design. He then cuts the barrel to 2.5 inches. The package, of course, includes Mag-na-port recoil reduction ports. Ken works his magic to fine tune the action so the double action is slick and smooth and the single-action trigger is crisp and clean.

One of the great things about a .44 Magnum revolver is that it can also fire .44 Special ammo for urban concealed carry. The recoil of this .44 Special ammo is very mild in the Mag-na-port handgun, on par with a 9mm. I shot several ten-yard drills with this ammo and my best split times, that is the time between shots, ran about 0.22 seconds. The average for splits was 0.24 seconds. That’s four shots in less than one second. That’s with my sixty-year-old arthritic hands and is about as good as I can do with a revolver, so it is representative of what the gun can do in the hands of the average shooter.

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This custom .44 Magnum is based on a S&W M629 and was modified by Ken Kelly at Mag-na-port International.

With Federal full-power .44 Magnum Personal Defense 240-grain Hydra-Shok loads my split time averages opened up to 0.28 seconds. Still not bad, considering the level of power. That means I can put six .44 magnum shots on the target in less than 1.7 seconds. Not much on Earth can walk away from that.

I carry the gun in a Galco Combat Master CM135, left-handed holster. While not heavy by .44 Magnum standards, the revolver is not a flyweight. It tips the scales at 2.5 pounds empty, which is exactly the same as my S&W 1911. But, it’s more comfortable to carry all day due to the smaller footprint. It also hides well with the short barrel, bobbed hammer, and the round butt. I carry my reloads in Safariland speed loaders, in two Galco belt holders. This gives me the ability to reload quickly for twelve more shots.

This is a custom gun, but Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Taurus and perhaps others offer short barrel versions of their powerhouse revolvers in big cartridges. They are designed and marketed for carry in bear country and they make a good “carry” gun for those who prefer a revolver and need a little extra power now and then, no matter where they live.

One caution about any of these powerful revolver cartridges; they are very loud, no matter what the barrel length. That is something to be aware of before you are forced to shoot for your life. If you fire one without ear protection, particularly inside a building or a vehicle, it can be very disorienting. I always keep earplugs handy and put them in if possible, but in a survival situation you may not have time. However, if you are prepared mentally you can stay in the fight. A small loss of hearing is a fair trade for staying alive.

If you are planning to survive what’s coming in a rural setting and if you plan to forage and perhaps have some livestock, then you should look at owning one or more of these revolvers.