CA Guns & Hunting: Handguns

CA Guns & Hunting: Handguns with a purpose

BY STEVE COMUS/Cal. Guns & Hunting Guns EditorPublished: Jul 05, 2018

One of the best ways to consider handguns and which model may work best is “purpose.” What is it going to be used for? For example, there are target models, hunting models, personal/home defense models, and the list goes on.

For most shooters, there is no need for an esoteric, thoroughbred handgun that is designed exclusively for a single purpose. For those who do need such a gun, the discussion needs to be much more detailed than room here allows.

Best choices for most shooters are the mid-size handguns chambered for cartridges ranging from .22 long rifle to 9mmP or .38 Special/.357 Magnum. That is because the guns themselves fit most hand sizes and the cartridges do not deliver significant recoil.

Fortunately, the options are seemingly endless, and sizes can go from micro to mega. That’s why it is best to decide what the gun will be used for, and then check out the applicable models.

Each year new handgun models are introduced, but this is one of those years in which there doesn’t seem to be anything earthshakingly new on the scene. Rather, it is a year when the industry puts forth numbers of what are known as line extensions. These are existing models that have something added, something changed, etc. – like maybe another barrel length, a different handle color or design – things like that

One such pistol is the Ruger 3253 .380 Auto. A quick look says this is a handgun with self/home defense in mind, but the applications don’t need to end there. It also is a prime candidate for informal plinking or casual “target” shooting. Some of the features include:

— Popular and incredibly compact LCP®.

— Rugged construction with blued, through-hardened alloy steel slide and black, one-piece, high-performance, glass-filled nylon grip frame.

— Safety features include internal lock, manual safety, magazine disconnect and patented loaded chamber indicator that allows for visual confirmation of a loaded or empty chamber. The gun also includes: one 7-round magazine.


RUGER LC380 IS a handy little gun that works fine for concealed carry, or informal plinking.

Ruger 3253 .380 Auto specifications:

— Capacity: 7+1

— Barrel Length: 3.12"

— Width: 0.90"

— Weight: 17.2 oz.

— Overall Length: 6"

— Height: 4.50"

— Suggested Retail: $539.

Another new offering is the Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory target model. This model is constructed on a single-action, enclosed hammer-fired, blowback semi-automatic design. It comes chambered in .22 LR, the SW22 and comes with a match-grade, interchangeable barrel with a simple one-screw takedown design.

Some of the features include:

— Target sights
— Bull barrel
— Beveled magazine well
— Target trigger with adjustable trigger stop
— Picatinny-Style rail
— Stainless steel frame
— (2) Ten-round magazines included


S&W VICTORY model .22 target pistol can be a serious handgun for target shooting, or can be a lot of fun plinking.

cgh_comus_framesizesFRAME SIZE VARIES among handguns. Here are the five revolver sizes currently offered by Smith & Wesson. They are, from top, the J, K, L, N and X sizes. Applications for the various sizes range from concealed carry J-frames to serious hunting X-frames.

S&W MODEL 500 is a big, serious hunting handgun. Here, author practices with the big iron.

Smith & Wesson SW22 Victory specifications:

— Caliber: 22 LR

— Capacity: 10+1

— Barrel Length: 5.5" / 14 cm

— Overall Length: 9.2"

— Weight: 36.0 oz.

Fit should be paramount when considering any handgun because if it doesn’t fit, the shooter will not be able to use it as effectively as a gun that fits. Different folks have different size hands. A handgun can just as easily be too small as too large. People with large hands often have difficulty shooting some of the really small handguns well.

There is nothing like actually shooting a particular handgun to figure this out, but lacking an opportunity to actually shoot one, it is advised that the shooter hold a particular handgun in his or her hand before making any decisions.

Another consideration is whether a semi-auto or a revolver makes the most sense. Semi-autos can be thinner and usually have interchangeable magazines. That’s nice. But the shooter also must be able to manipulate the slide, which sometimes is a challenge for some people. Best to check out a specific model when it comes to these kinds of things.

Revolvers are not as mechanically challenging as semi-autos. For example, a double-action revolver can be put into action simply by pulling the trigger (no slide to pull back and release). However, some folks have problems with heavy trigger pulls as are typical in double-action revolvers when shot double-action.

The point here is that handguns are extremely personal pieces of equipment, and what is perfect for one person may be bad for another.

Once the right size is chosen, there is the matter of hitting the target. Handguns can be difficult to shoot well. There are three things to do to be able to shoot any handgun better: practice, practice, practice.

For most shooters, there are two distinct handgun categories: General-purpose (includes self/home defense, informal shooting, etc.) and hunting.

Logical chamberings for general-purpose handguns are “all of the above.” Literally, any chambering can work. Some might work better than others for specific applications, but all handguns can be used for defense and for informal shooting.

Generally speaking, any of the “tactical” semi-auto calibers are fine for general-purpose handguns. These include 9mmP, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. For revolvers, the .38 Special/.357 Mag. makes most sense for most folks.

However, that does not mean that the .22 long rifle, .22 Mag., .32 or .380 are bad choices. They can work fine. It is just that they are not as universally acclaimed as some of the others. The .380 ACP recently, however, is experiencing a whole new life and is becoming quite popular because it can be chambered in handy, and small guns don’t recoil a lot.

When it comes to hunting handguns, the rimfires are fine for small game like squirrels and rabbits, but for the bigger stuff like hogs and deer, if the handgun is used as the primary gun, .357 magnum is minimal, and a short-range proposition at that.

The .41 magnum works well, .44 magnum even better, but .454 Casull really does the job well. For those who want maximum punch, the .460 and .500 Smith & Wesson Magnums are good for about any game animal in the world. The .500 has been used successfully on elephant, for example. There is no effort here to discuss the larger “hand rifle” models that shoot what are essentially rifle cartridges. That is another discussion for another time.

Semi-autos come with metal or polymer frames. Metal frames generally are made of some form of aluminum or steel. Polymer frame pistols have frames made of some form of plastic, with steel barrels and slides. Which is better is a personal matter for the shooter. Both can work great. Also, some semi-autos feature strikers, while others have hammers (internal or external). Despite arguments among shooters about which is better, they both can work fine. This is more a personal matter than anything else.

There are three distinct categories of handgun sizes, with a number of sub-categories between. Sizes are micro, midsize and full size. In the semi-auto arena, micros are some of the pocket pistols chambered for .22, .25 or .32 caliber cartridges. These may be cute and handy but are limited in what they can do. They are, however, a lot of fun to shoot.

“Compact” models of semi-autos are today’s in-betweeners, and often the only difference between them and the full-size models is the size of the handle and length of the slide/barrel – the barrel and handle are a bit shorter on the compacts.

Full-size semi-autos are the main lines for most companies, although in recent times, as concealed carry evolves around the country, there is a spike in interest in the micro and mid-size guns.

Revolvers come in a wide variety of sizes, as well. Smith & Wesson long ago came up with designations for the different frame sizes for their double-action revolvers.

From small to large, the sequence of S&W frame sizes are J, K, L, N and X. The small J-frame revolvers are usually snub-nose propositions with short barrels. These are good for concealed carry and fit smaller hands very well. Chamberings range from .22 rimfire and .32 S&W Long to .38 Special and .357 Magnum.

K-Frame S&W revolvers are the mid-size that fit most shooters. They generally are chambered for .22 rimfire and .38 Special/.357 Magnum. L-Frame revolvers are close in size to the K-Frame guns, but the frame has been beefed up to handle a steady diet of magnum loads. N-Frame revolvers are truly full-size handguns and are chambered for the .38/.357 magnum, .41 magnum and .44 magnum. These make good hunting handguns. X-Frame revolvers are huge and are serious hunting handguns. They come in .460 and .500 S&W Magnum chamberings.

Not only are there many different overall-size handguns, but specific designs within each size can make a big difference on how the handgun fits a particular hand.

By customizing the handle, performance can be improved. In recent times, many of the polymer-frame semi-autos come with several different back strap inserts that can help the shooter make the gun fit the hand better. For revolvers, there are aftermarket handles of different sizes that can customize to a specific hand.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to choosing a handgun. Truth is that for those who shoot a lot, there is justification for having all of the different sizes to be able to match the gun to the specific application at hand. Regardless the decision, it is extremely important to be able to use whatever handgun is chosen effectively. That means practice and routine shooting sessions.

Shooters should pop off some rounds at least monthly. Weekly is better. That way, the shooter can get the most out of any particular handgun. When in doubt, shoot more. Bang, bang.

SEMI-AUTO HANDGUNS range from micros like the .25 auto at top through medium sizes like the Walther PPKS, center, to the full-size 1911. Purpose determines which is best for the job.

cgh_comus_polymerframePOLYMER FRAME semi-autos are popular and are offered in various sizes. The H&K USP Compact, top, compares to the full-size S&W M&P.

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