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1. S&W J-Frame Revolver


S&W J-FrameThe J-Frame M&P Scandium alloy frame is available with an external hammer or in double-action only with no hammer.

It’s said that guns guys talk about 1911s, shoot Glocks, and carry a J-Frame. The current group-think opinion on the Internet is that this handgun is a bad choice. Sorry, but I don’t follow the herd. Want the truth? More often than not I grab my Model 340 S&W in .357 Magnum when I am heading out the door.

I carry it in a Blackhawk pocket holster. Yeah, the one the Internet Tactards say will get you killed on the street. It’s easy to conceal and simple to carry. That means I’ll have the revolver with me, which counts for a lot with carry guns. A surprising number of the hardcore shooters I know do pretty much the same thing.

2. Glock G17


Glock G17The GLOCK 17 Gen4 RTF2.

Created by a 50-year-old manager for a car radiator factory in Austria, this pistol shocked the world. The simple gun had only 34 parts. Everything except the barrel, slide and a few small internal parts and springs was made of plastic. Even the magazine was plastic.

The gun was cheap to manufacture, priced well below the competition, and it changed the handgun world. The gun holds eighteen 9mm cartridges and became the darling of the “I need a lot of capacity” crowd. The Glock G17 is the carry gun of choice for millions.

3. Ruger 1911 Commander


1911 CommanderRuger SR1911 Commander size.

John Browning’s masterpiece is more than 100 years old and remains one of the most popular fighting pistol designs in the world. Many experienced shooters prefer it to the plastic Tupperware guns that dominate the market, partly because they still believe that physics apply and a big cartridge hits harder.

They also know that it’s a sin to chamber a 1911 in anything other than .45 ACP. The full size 1911 is a bit heavy, the Officer size a bit unreliable; the Commander size is just right.

4. S&W M&P Shield


S&W ShieldS&W M&P Shield in .40 S&W. The sights are Trijicon HD Night sights and I have a Crimson Trace LaserGuard mounted on the gun.

This gun created an entire new class of handguns, bridging the gap between the micro pistols and the much larger “sub compacts” of the day. It is small, lightweight and easy to carry. Yet, it’s almost as easy to shoot as most full size guns. The Shield is chambered in grown up cartridges like the 9mm and .40 S&W so it provided the best of all worlds. Now that it’s available in .45 ACP, it just might well be the ultimate carry gun.

5. Ruger LCP Pistol


Ruger LCPRuger LCP .380 ACP.

About the time “shall-issue” concealed carry laws started sweeping the country, the little polymer frame .380 ACP guns became popular. It started with the Kel-Tec P3AT. Ruger announced their LCP in 2008, and with the force of the Ruger marketing machine behind it, the LCP became the most popular handgun in the world for a while.

It went on to launch a revolution of micro .380 handguns. The tiny gun is lightweight, inexpensive and comfortable to carry. The .380 ACP is not a powerhouse, but it’s often enough.

6. Ruger LCR Pistol


Ruger LCRRuger LCR .357 Mag.

This is the J-Frame for the masses. Ruger developed the use of polymer manufacturing for this handgun and brought the cost down well below the S&W handguns. Like any Ruger, the quality is excellent. The Ruger LCR is a very popular, reasonably priced double-action revolver. This gun makes use of polymer in the frame, which keeps both weight and cost down, yet it can handle a powerful cartridge like the .357 Magnum. It’s offered in a wide range of cartridges, from .22LR to the .357 Magnum. Mine, of course, is in the latter, and it’s held up well to a lot of shooting. It’s a small handgun that is easy to carry, chambered for a very powerful cartridge, and priced so a working man can easily afford it.

7. Glock 23 Handgun


Glock G23GLOCK 23, with Crimson Trace Lightguard light.

This is Glock’s “Commander” size handgun. Smaller than the full size guns, it makes carry easy without compromising power. The Model G19 in 9mm is probably more popular, but a lot of gun guys still believe in defensive cartridges that start with a four.

The G23 in .40 S&W has a 14 cartridge capacity in a compact package that is comfortable to carry all day. It’s the choice of a lot of savvy gun people for an everyday carry gun.

8. Glock G43 Handgun


Glock G43Glock G43.

The S&W Shield started a revolution in carry guns, by making a small, compact, lightweight handgun in full size cartridges. When the new category grew too popular to ignore, Glock jumped in with this 9mm handgun. Like all Glocks, it’s reliable to the point of being boring. This small, lightweight handgun holds six in the magazine and one up the pipe for a seven round capacity.

9. Smith & Wesson M&P


S&W M&PSmith & Wesson M&P 9mm.

The Smith & Wesson M&P (Military and Police) is probably the second most popular handgun in the polymer-frame, double-stack, striker-fired pistol category. When you consider that the M&P was introduced in 2005 and that Glock had a 20 year head start in the market, running a close second to the Austrian wonder pistols is a pretty remarkable achievement.

There are many features on the M&P that I prefer over the Glock, like the grip angle, trigger and metal magazines. Plastic magazines have a tendency to stick in the magazine well when you try to eject an empty; metal mags behave and fall out. It’s also American made, which counts with a lot of gun buyers.

10. Charter Arms Bulldog


Charter Arms BulldogCharter Arms Bulldog in .44 Special with Hornady ammo.

The Bulldog had its 15 minutes of fame when David Berkowitz, also known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, used one during his reign of terror in New York City during the summer of 1976. That story is yet another illustration that it’s not the gun but the shooter who determines if a gun is used for good or evil. It was just a pity that the good people of New York were not allowed to have the same gun.

Who knows, it might have ended differently and a lot of young people could have grown old. I have a Bulldog today and it’s a lot of thump in a small, simple revolver. At 21 ounces, this gun is a little larger than the smaller .38 Specials, but it uses the much larger .44 Special cartridge, which can be a formidable round for defense. With some of the newer ammo, like Hornady’s Flex-Tip loads, it’s an excellent personal-defense cartridge.

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