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Old December 28, 2012, 07:46 PM   #1
bedbugbilly
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3" or 4" barrel 38 spl - what should I be looking for?

I currently carry a Ruger LCR for CCW. I'd like to pick up something with a 3" barrel - 4" maximum for CCW on the belt once in a while. I'm a 38 special lover - more in to shooting standard and not +P, etc.

In the 4" barrel - I've been looking at possibly a Colt Army Special/Official Police or a S & W M & P. I have both of those in 6" barrel length and based on those, I'd lean towards the S & W.

I know that S & W currently makes a model in 3" length. K frame I believe? I'd be looking at blue rather than shiny. I also want SA/DA. That said, what are my options in regards to models? I like vintage revolvers so as long as it's tight and in good shape, I'd be happy with something used/vintage - or, if there is something new out there that is reasonably priced.

I don't care if the finish is 100% as long as if it is used/vintage, it is in good operating condition. What price range should I expect to pay for a fair price on either a blued Colt AS/OP or a S & W M & P with a 4" barrel?

Are there other brands that offer 3" barrel length that I should be considering as well? It may seem strange to some that I'd want a longer barrel over the LCR snubby but I primarily carry when I'm in AZ - have always carried OTB and usually have a shirt tail out which would cover the print of a 3" barrel (or 4" if I went that route with the more vintage Colt OP or S & W M & P)
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Old December 28, 2012, 08:49 PM   #2
bob.a
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I have both S&W models 36 (Chief's Special) and 37 (the airweight version) with 3" barrels. They are not common, but they are out there. Both of mine were blessedly of C&R age, which was handy. I also have a strong preference for the older revolvers, because of the attention to detail that they exhibit.

If five shots is not enough, Colt made the Detective Special in a 3" version as well.

If CCW is a goal, I'd personally prefer a small-frame revolver to a larger one. And like you, I find .38 spl quite enough cartridge. Buffalo Bore makes a self-defense round that is loaded and charged especially for short-barrelled revolvers of a certain age, in which you wouldn't want to run +P loads.
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Old December 28, 2012, 09:51 PM   #3
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I carry a 4" k frame in blue or a 3" in stainless.
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Old December 28, 2012, 11:22 PM   #4
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Ruger makes the SP-101 in 3" and 4" models. Will use the same speedloaders as your LCR, too.

If you want something larger with six shots, Ruger has the GP-100 & the Security/Service/Speed-Six revolvers on the new & used market.

All are good guns. Choose your favorite....
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Old December 28, 2012, 11:37 PM   #5
Jeff22
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3 inch chief special

S&W Chief Special 3inch HB

When I started as a cop (1981) most agencies around here carried S&W Revolvers, mostly K frames. Among the more knowledgeable shooters, the 3 inch Chief's Special was a very popular off duty & backup gun. I bought the first one I ever fired. (A friend made me a deal. I made the last payment on the day President Reagan was shot).

At that time the County Traffic Police was separate from the Sheriff's Department (they merged in January of 1982). Among the avid shooters there was one group that carried S&W Auto pistols. (Many of them carried Walther PP or PPK or PPK/S pistols as hideout guns); another group that carried Colt Pythons (with Detective Specials as hide-out guns) and a final group that preferred the Smith & Wesson revolvers, mostly 5 inch Model 27s. And ALL those guys had 3 inch Chief Specials for hideout guns.

I always thought the 3 inch J frames balanced better and looked cooler. .

I currently own an M36 with the 3 inch tapered barrel, an M36 with the 3 inch heavy barrel, an M60 stainless with the 3 inch heavy barrel, and a (now-discontinued) M650 3 inch heavy barrel in .22LR, that I use as a "practice gun" for the other two.

Originally, for service ammo I used the S&W Nyclad 125 grn "Chief's Special" load, later made by Federal.

Then I switched to the WW 158 grn Lead SWC HP +P and then to the Federal 129 grn Hydro-Shock HP. I was about to switch to the Speer 135 grn +P HP, but then the PD made a change in policy and mandated the use of Hornady Critical Defense FXT hollow points for any secondary or concealment guns, and so I’m using the 110 grain hollow points.

I usually carry the guns in a traditional leather holster with a thumb break retainer, and reloads are Bianchi speed strips or HXS speed loaders carried in a Safariland 371 split six speed loader carrier.
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Old December 29, 2012, 01:20 AM   #6
bob.a
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One point I forgot to mention when discussing the 3" Smiths: the extractor is longer than in the 2" pistols, so it will extract the entire fired cartridge case. (The 2" extractor range of movement is shorter that the 38 Spl case).

This might prove useful on rare occasions, when having something hanging up in your cylinder would be a Very Bad Thing.
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Old December 29, 2012, 01:50 AM   #7
Water-Man
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I sometimes carry a S&W Model 10-7 3".

Great balance and carries better than a 4".
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Old December 29, 2012, 04:12 AM   #8
Redhawk5.5+P+
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Quote:
Ruger makes the SP-101 in 3" and 4" models. Will use the same speedloaders as your LCR, too
+1
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Old December 29, 2012, 09:01 AM   #9
Bailey Boat
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IMHO.... The 3" S&W mod 60 is about as good as they come. It has adjustable sights, full underlug barrel and the carry ability of the famous J frame. PLUS.... it is chambered in 357 so ammo choice is up to you but I like the ability to use a wide variety......
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Old December 29, 2012, 09:01 AM   #10
CajunBass
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You mean something like this?

1955 Smith & Wesson M&P, 4" barrel, 38 Special.

Everything you need. Nothing you don't.



No problem at all to carry with a good pancake holster.
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Old December 29, 2012, 11:28 AM   #11
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Lots of choices here. Most responses are right on target. Another option if you can find one is a S&W model 13 3 inch barrel. Was used by FBI agents at one time. Very good handing and has that typical good double action trigger.
Howard
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Old December 29, 2012, 01:15 PM   #12
dscampbell
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My 3" model 10-5 ex Aussie police revolver. My favorite SW. I jut added crimson trace LG-307 laser grips. My carry ammo is buffalo bore 158 grain LSWCHP low flash.

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Old December 29, 2012, 03:43 PM   #13
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I prefer Colts, a Diamondback would be awesome.
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Old December 29, 2012, 10:37 PM   #14
Deaf Smith
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To me 3 inch is about it for general CCW revolvers. More than that and the barrel sticks into the car seat when sitting.



Even my N frame 3 inch 625-3 above isn't bad. And the 2 1/2 Combat Magnum is a real good one. The 2 inch Centennial is a good 'always' gun to have.

Deaf
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Old December 29, 2012, 11:45 PM   #15
mj246
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I'm a really big fan of my 3" S&W model 36 no-dash (tapered barrel) for CC once I get my permit. As a J-frame, the width of it is nice and slim for easy concealment (practiced around the house), and the extra barrel length plus full length extractor really make it easier to shoot and handle than a full-on snubby. (I also like the extra velocity the extra inch of barrel likely gives me compared to the 1 7/8" versions). I keep thinking that I could get myself a newer +P rated snubby that could conceal a little easier length-wise or upgrade to a mid-size 44 special without adding too much size, but every time I pick it up, I get that "this is the one" feeling. A little too long for pocket carry, but with the right holster, it will work in or outside the waistband all day long.

After a small session of head to head wetpack testing, I like the buffalo bore standard pressure 158gr lswc-hc (20c), with standard pressure critical defense for reloads in an HKS speedloader due to the full jacket and strongly tapered shape.


S&W 3" with Pachmayr Compac Grip

EDIT to add pic

Last edited by mj246; December 29, 2012 at 11:53 PM.
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Old January 1, 2013, 08:02 PM   #16
bedbugbilly
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A big "thank you" to everyone for the information, suggestions, etc.

I currently carry a LCR and am very comfortable with a 5 shot 38. I will be looking to see what I can find in a J frame and hopefully can stumble across one. If I run across a 4" M & P that is in good shape, I'd have no problems with that either.

I have a 4" Python - yea, I know a lot of folks love 'em but I really don't care for all the extra weight of the barrel and ejector shroud. That's why I'm thinking a more "vintage" model - such as the M & P with the tapered barrel, exposed ejector would fit the bill. However, I'll keep an open mind and see what I run across.

I have a more vintage M & P Target with 6" barrel - my first Smith. I enjoy the action and trigeer on it - just don't like the barrel length as far as CCW.

Thanks for the photos as well - gives me a good idea of what there is and what to look for!
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Old January 1, 2013, 09:10 PM   #17
tomrkba
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"Everything you need. Nothing you don't."

Ummm..Cajun...that gun needs either better stocks or a Tyler T-Grip, either a night sight or gold bead, and chamfered charge holes. A trigger job is optional, but I prefer to have them performed on the gun. In my opinion, these features are the minimum changes required for a self-defense revolver.

I think the OP will find a gun with 3" barrel to be a good compromise for carry. A four inch barrel will work just fine though.
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Old January 2, 2013, 05:37 AM   #18
CajunBass
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Quote:
Ummm..Cajun...that gun needs either better stocks or a Tyler T-Grip, either a night sight or gold bead, and chamfered charge holes. A trigger job is optional, but I prefer to have them performed on the gun. In my opinion, these features are the minimum changes required for a self-defense revolver.
There is a difference between a "nicety" and a "necessity".
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Old January 2, 2013, 10:11 AM   #19
tomrkba
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Stocks: required. I do not like the triggerguard smacking my knuckles.

Night Sight: Required for improved shooting at distance in low light. I will point shoot at short range, but not past 15 yards. Improving the sight picture is important.

Fixing the charge holes could be argued, but anything that speeds up a reload with flat tipped bullets is essential. This includes using different JHP bullets.

Trigger work is a no-brainer (and I am bumping it up to required after thinking about my last revolver class). If you want to argue against the benefits of improved trigger control, you are just being cranky.
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Old January 2, 2013, 10:18 AM   #20
spacecoast
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Quote:
Trigger work is a no-brainer
A smoothed trigger is definitely in the nice to have category, you would never notice the quality of the trigger in a SD situation. One thing you DON'T want to do is lighten the trigger in any way unless you enjoy the possibility of pulling the trigger and hearing a lonely "click".
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Old January 11, 2013, 10:57 PM   #21
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S&W M10 3" round butt. Promised myself if I could buy one of those I ain't never gonna buy no more guns.
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Old January 12, 2013, 04:01 PM   #22
DFrame
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Colt made some of their superb Detective Specials with a 3 inch barrels if you'er ever lucky enough to find one.
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Last edited by DFrame; January 14, 2013 at 12:00 PM.
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