At our recent hometown gun show, I had an experience that a country boy might call “déjà vu all over again.” As usual, I had a grand time visiting with the gun folks, sold a few things, but only came home with one gun that was new to me: a 1950s-era Colt Official Police in .38 Spl. with a 4-inch barrel. It was just about a dead ringer for the very first double-action revolver I ever owned.
I bought the original gun in Fort Worth, TX, so long ago that I was quite young. I don’t recall having won any big poker games, but I somehow must have had a pocket full of cash, because that Colt was soon paired with a floral-carved, Tom Threepersons holster from S.D. Myres out in El Paso.
Two things quickly became apparent about that Colt OP: One was that it was a robust, sturdy revolver and the other was that it, like most Colts of that era, was quite accurate. It was the springboard for my interest in double-action defensive shooting and point-shooting. Only real gun guys will nod their heads in understanding when I say that I have no recollection of when or why I let it get away from me.
By the time I pinned on a badge for a North Texas police department, my choice of sidearms had changed to an original 4-inch Colt Trooper. These old guns were really just an inexpensive version of the Colt Python, sharing the same internal parts. Several of the better pistol shots in our department were shooting Pythons, one of which had been modified by a Highway Patrol firearm instructor named Reeves Jungkind. He could smooth up the action of a Python so that you would swear it wouldn’t be able to bust a primer, yet they never failed. So, naturally, I had to have a Python for duty and PPC shooting matches. However, by that time, I realized that Smith & Wesson revolvers suited me best.
The double-action trigger pull of those Colts just did not suit me like the Smith & Wesson did. There wasn’t anything wrong with the Colts; it was merely individual preference.
The second reason for my change in revolvers was named Bill Jordan. Today’s shooters simply can’t imagine the influence that Jordan had on handgunners—especially revolver shooters. Among other things, Jordan prevailed upon Smith & Wesson to bring out a K-frame revolver in .357 Mag. Back then it was called the Combat Magnum, but today we know it as the Model 19.
It was a revolver that fit my hand better than any other. And, due to its size, it did as well in off-duty concealment as it did in a gun belt and holster setup. Years later, we found that the forcing cone could be damaged by continual use of magnum ammo. That didn’t bother me too much, because I fed my Model 19 with .38 Spl. +P ammo or handloads that stayed at the bottom edge of magnum power. Since then, I have never been without a Smith & Wesson Model 19, and even liked it so well I bought the first 2.5-inch variant I saw.
I truly found my sweetheart DA revolver. I used it as a city detective, carried it as a backup as a Texas Sheriff and packed it quite a bit of the time in my life as a gunwriter. Actually, I have two identical examples, one that I wear and the other that is always somewhere nearby. While we had some exciting adventures together when I wore a badge, today this classic snub gets used mostly on varmints and the occasional aluminum can that needs correcting. I couldn’t keep house without one.
You might have noticed that the personal pronoun has appeared frequently in this little trip down memory lane. That is because the selection of the personal-defense handgun—revolver or semi-automatic—is a “personal” thing. Just because I chose a Smith & Wesson over Colts and Rugers is nothing against those guns. It just means that the Smiths happen to suit me.
And there is the real lesson: Shoot good-quality guns, lots of different good-quality guns, and you will begin to realize that you simply shoot one better than the others. I wish I could show you a shortcut, but there really isn’t one. Lots of empty brass, lots of lead downrange and the answer will soon become clear to you. Hang on to that one like you did your sweetheart at the senior prom.