Choosing a gun for concealed carry is an important decision that often requires hours of online research and in-store browsing. There are dozens of choices to make ranging from major decisions such as caliber and weight to minor personal preferences like color and finish.
However one factor often overlooked, especially by inexperienced shooters, is the overall design strength of the firearm.
With the move towards lighter aircraft-grade alloys and polymer plastics, finding a rugged, dependable gun for concealed carry is no easy task. Yet every search should include the Ruger SP101.
The Ruger brand has always been synonymous with strength and the SP101 is no exception. This revolver is constructed of pure stainless steel and has the weight to back up a .357 load. Some of the lighter alloys and polymer fabricated guns in the heavier calibers really punish the shooter when fired, but the 25.5 ounce 2 ¼ barrel model of the SP101 is by no means a burden to shoot. That little extra weight on a .357 adds stability during firing.
Despite many debates to the contrary, snub nose guns are just as accurate as any other pistol and perhaps more so. In his article “Ruger SP101” at USConcealedCarry.com, author George Hill relates how he turned the tables on his fellow police academy trainees when he showed up at the range with a short-barreled Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver:
“The snickering turned to respect when I outshot the entire class with it. The snub forced me to concentrate on the basic shooting fundamentals and focus very hard on the front sight post. That was the difference. That’s also why so many people say these guns are inaccurate.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
The specs on the Ruger SP101 are fairly standard for a snub nose. The overall length is 7.0 inches, with a height of 4.8 inches and a width 1.4 inches. The cylinder capacity on this gun is 5 rounds and the trigger pull is a slightly heavy 5.5 pounds.
The specs change with some of the many options available for the SP101. Barrel lengths come in sizes from 2 ¼ to 4 inches. The gun can handle five different calibers ranging from the .22 up to the .357 Magnum. There is also a wide variety of ammunition that the SP101 can chamber without flinching, including super light target loads, shot shells, and heavy hunting loads.
The Ruger SP101 also is available with fixed or adjustable sights, another aide to accuracy. At the range, the SP101 was extremely accurate at self-defense range. All rounds stayed in a tight half-inch grouping, and as is expected with a revolver, there were no misfires or jams.
The Ruger SP101 is a tough, reliable firearm with enough stopping power for almost any situation. It is definitely worth looking into for a concealed carry choice.
Charter Arms is a home-grown firearms manufacturer known primarily for producing a variety of small snub nose multi-purpose revolvers. The Connecticut-based armory’s revolvers are similar in design to the legendary Smith & Wesson J-frame, with a few distinctive features that make the Charter Arms’ guns stand apart.
The Charter Arms Pathfinder .22 follows in the company tradition of being a reliable and affordable revolver.
Available in either .22LR or .22Magnum, the Pathfinder .22 is a great introductory revolver for new concealed carry permit holders or for those interested in improving home defense.
The .22 caliber ammo is an excellent learning caliber and as author Scott W. Wagner points out in his article “Charter Arms Pathfinder .22 Snubbie: An Affordable and Reliable Revolver” at USConcealedCarry.com, it helps inexperienced shooters determine if they can handle a heavier caliber:
“Not everyone can handle harder kicking rounds in revolvers this size. I would much rather have somebody learn quickly to be extremely accurate and comfortable with a .22, than to be apprehensive and marginally accurate or worse with a .38.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
The specs on the Pathfinder .22 add up to an impressive firearm. The revolver is a six-shooter with a 2-inch snub nose barrel, but a four-inch barrel is an available option. The frame is stainless steel with a matching stainless finish. The Pathfinder .22 is available with either two-inch or four-inch adjustable sights.
As with all of Charter Arms’ guns, the Pathfinder .22 is an easy take-down. The barrel, lug, and sight are one solid piece. The sideplate design and frame mounted firing pins make for quick field stripping and cleaning. No kid gloves are needed with the Pathfinder .22, either; it is made to be manhandled. The gun weighs 19 ounces and fits easily into any J-frame style Smith & Wesson holster.
At the range, there was a problem with Remington Yellow Jacket semi-wadcutter hollow point loads for testing; they ended up hitting the target sideways. Not good. CCI Mini-Mag and Federal high velocity hollow points worked without malfunction with excellent accuracy, which poses another reason to run various types of ammo through your new firearm. Recoil was negligible.
The Pathfinder .22 has the look, feel, and weight of a much bigger gun, which allows for gains in proficiency at .22 ammo price. The Pathfinder .22 retails in the $370 range, making it significantly less expensive than a comparable Smith & Wesson. However, the Pathfinder provides a dependable and accurate home and self-defense option.
When reading reviews about the latest and greatest firearm on the market, the term “bore axis” is often used to describe a part of the gun’s operational system. The gun may be characterized as having a bore axis that adversely affects accuracy or as having a low bore axis that makes the gun easy to shoot.
Basically, bore axis is a great example of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The force of the bullet discharging and speeding through the barrel creates an opposite force backwards until it is stopped by your hand on the grip.
At that point, the hand acts as a fulcrum for the barrel and the backward force continues upward, causing what is known as muzzle flip.
This all may be all well and good, but how does Newton affect the operation of your favorite concealed carry piece? Author Tamara Keel explains how the bore axis of your gun can affect accuracy in her article “Bore Axis of Evil” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“The higher above your hand the lever of the barrel is, the more mechanical advantage it has, and the harder it becomes to control this motion. Therefore, gun designers try to find ways to bring the barrel line, or ‘bore axis’ down closer to the shooter’s hand.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Pistols generally have lower bore axes than revolvers because revolver barrels tend to sit higher above the shooter’s hand due to the extra height imposed by the cylinder. Some revolver companies are attempting to rectify the issue. Chiappa Firearms created a new .357 Magnum that’s designed to fire from the bottom cylinder rather than top, basically eliminating the revolver bore axis problem.
The Chiappa gun is the latest in a series of modifications attempting to alleviate the bore axis problem. Early 1911 model grips were too high and resulted in hammer pinch. Colt modified this with a rounded spur on the hammer.
Over time, local gunsmiths incorporated upward machined “beavertail” safeties, as well as reducing the area where frame and trigger guard met to allow the hand to be higher on the grip. Eventually, these modifications became standard-issue on all 1911’s and helped it earn its reputation as a low bore axis weapon.
The easiest solution to bore axis issues is simply adjusting your grip. Owners of the Smith & Wesson “Centennial” revolvers discovered that they were able to significantly reduce the bore axis by simply moving their hand higher up on the grip. Try it on your favorite conceal carry weapon and notice the improvement in comfort, control, accuracy, and reduction in time between shots — a crucial element in a self-defense scenario.