Not a lot of revolvers make what I consider great nightstand or full-blown, apocalyptic-scenario sidearms. Those that do are double-actions in .357 Magnum caliber, with 4- to 6-inch barrels. Much as I love the bigger .44 and .41 magnums, they are just too hard for the average shooter to shoot well and shoot quickly. Good medium-size, steel-frame revolvers in .357 Magnum are powerful, easy enough to shoot even with full-house loads, accurate, and reliable. Here are a few of the best.
Capacity is six rounds, and weight is a hefty 40 ounces. Like most revolvers, GP100s don’t have a light rail, so pair it with a good tactical flashlight. Though suggested retail for the blued model is nearly $700, and the stainless model tops $750, street price is usually much lower. It’s a lot of gun for the money.
Smith & Wesson Model 686 Plus
All 686 models are constructed of stainless steel, and are robust and durable enough to pound nails with and then go outshoot your buddies at the local bowling pin revolver match. Weight of the 4-inch model is just over 38 ounces. Paired with a good tactical flashlight, it will serve yeoman’s duty on your nightstand. They aren’t cheap: suggested retail price is $849. The only double-action revolver that could possibly be better is its suped-up, combat-configured sibling, the S&W M&P R8.
Smith & Wesson Model M&P R8
Best Starter Kit for Concealed Carry:
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Designed from the ground up for duty carry and combat, the eight-shot cylinder is cut for moon clips (which allow shooters to reload very quickly), but functions just fine with loose rounds too, courtesy of the rimmed design of the .357 cartridge. Built on a scandium alloy frame with a stainless cylinder, the M&P R8 is light—only 36 ounces— and is completely finished in matte-black.
I once ran a series of rather challenging tests on an M&P R8, and it performed impressively in every department. One of the most memorable was the series of 100-yard groups I fired with a handgun scope mounted; they measured between 3.5 and 5.0 inches with a variety of ammo—very good accuracy indeed.
Pushing the high $1,200s, it’s not cheap, but it will be accurate, smooth, and tough. Get a handful of moon clips for it, learn to use them, pair it with a good light such as SureFire’s X400, and you’ll have one of the most unstoppable nightstand and SHTF guns anywhere.
The Python has two Achilles’ heels. The first is the flat mainspring, which gives it its legendary smooth action but is more prone to breakage than the coil springs in competing designs. The second is an unfortunate byproduct of time: Pythons haven’t been made for many years; most are coveted and protected to the point where they are not shot much any more, and as a result, gunsmiths adept at tuning, timing, and repairing them are becoming few in number.
If you drive a classic convertible, carry a pocket watch, and smoke a pipe, your only real choice (aside from a vintage Colt 1911 semi-auto) is a Colt Python. They cost, but they bring refinement and charisma to the defensive revolver world.
Part 1 covered the best semi-auto choices for the nightstand.