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Old December 15, 2012, 12:56 AM   #1
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First handguns, my dad and I, recommendations?

Hey, so first of all, this is my first post on this site. My name's Alex. I'm a 21 year old welder, and for fun I work on anything with a carburetor, and grow competitive giant vegetables. I love anything old, not so much alot of newer stuff.

It's a somber day to be posting this question I realize, but no one I know was involved, and life must go on. I can't imagine how those families must be feeling, for them I pledge to be the most responsible gun owner I can be.

My dad has recently spilled the beans that for Christmas, he'll be getting the two of us handgun license classes. We've both always wanted to own a gun, and learn to shoot, and this year I guess he finally sold it to my mom. He's a lawyer (before you all side against me, I'm an incredibly honest guy, and I still strive to be as much so as him, they don't come better) and he's been threatened a small number of times over the years, in connection with cases. He's felt the need for a gun for protection for some time, and we've both been interested in getting into the hobby, as I said.

He's looking for a small modern concealed carry semiauto, but not one so small that he can't enjoy some target shooting. I'm looking for a practical revolver, with an affordable amount of history. I'd also like to get into reloading. He's 52, but still in great shape, 190 and 5'11". I'm 6'3", about 240, and also in good shape.

I've shot a Colt New Service in .38 Special, and found it pretty light, and pretty small in my hand. I have an old M1816/1835 Harper's Ferry musket, in .69 caliber, and love the big punch it gives (and casting musketballs). I'd like to get a New Service in .45 Colt. I'm hoping it's not inappropriately big? I like the round because it's a classic, and big things just generally suit me. I don't know how reloadable that cartridge is though, as far as cost, and case strength?

My dad shot alot of .22 rifles as a kid, as well as his uncles revolver, which was likely a .32, as he was a cop. I don't think he's shot anything in decades, and he does have a bad back.

What do you guys recommend for each of us? Would I be silly to get my .45? What should my dad look into?

Thanks for any input, Alex.
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Old December 15, 2012, 01:45 AM   #2
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Go to a range that rents stuff out and shoot as much as you can. Buy the one you like the best.
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Old December 15, 2012, 09:43 AM   #3
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^ Yes +1
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Old December 15, 2012, 10:00 AM   #4
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New Service revolvers are very collectible, and there's a premium for those chambered in .45 Colt. If you want a big Colt revolver, chambered in .45 Colt, I'd suggest you look for an Anaconda. They're not cheap either, but they're not almost 100 years old, and the mechanism is more modern and less complicated than the New Service.
For your dad, I'd suggest he handle a few models, and see what feels good. There are a slew of new compacts chambered in 9mm.
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Old December 15, 2012, 11:27 AM   #5
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There are a ton of compact and sub-compact autos out there that would fit the bill for your Dad. For carry I like my Glock 26 (9mm sub compact) and I have shot the Glock 19 (9mm compact). 9mm ammo is cheap and does not have alot of recoil so you can have fun with it, even out of a smaller framed pistol. I am a small guy and I can shoot the 26 all day long and not regret it the next day. I'm sure you will hear from people recommending Ruger SR 9 and SR9C, Springfield XD 9, Sig Sauer P228, try to handle if not shoot several before you buy. They are all good options. I just had 2 friends buy the XD 9 and XD 9 subcompact and they love them.

Right before you specified the New Service .45 Colt, I was picturing a Smith and Wesson .357 with a 4 inch barrel. Then you could target shoot with
.38's if you wanted, and there are a ton of options if you did get into reloading.

Only you and your Dad can decide whats right for you, but there are some options.
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Old December 15, 2012, 01:25 PM   #6
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Welcome to the forum, there's lots of good information here. The .45 Colt is an easy round to reload and it's a lot of fun to shoot. Since you're already casting your own musket balls pick up a mold for 255gr semi wadcutter or Keith type bullets and it'll be even cheaper to reload. Cast bullets work great in the .45 Colt and will usually shoot pretty well if you find the right bullet. You might want to consider going to a Ruger Blackhawk (Single Action) or Redhawk (Double Action) for added strength in case you decide you want to load the cartridge a little bit hotter than factory loads.

For your Dad, I'd have him look at the Ruger SR9C which is a compact 9mm. 9mm is about the cheapest to shoot of all the centerfire autos which affords lots more practice and the Ruger SR series of handguns has been getting good reviews from most owners. A range that rents handguns might be the best bet for him so he can get a chance to shoot them before he lays down the cash. In my area there's no rental ranges within a reasonable drive so I don't have the luxury of test firing before I buy, you may run into the same situation.


Last edited by stu925; December 15, 2012 at 01:32 PM.
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Old December 15, 2012, 01:40 PM   #7
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I know that this is a little off what you’re asking, but my suggestion for a first gun would be something in a 22 LR. Learn to shoot before you buy something to carry.
The main reason is price of ammo, Box of 525, 22 LR for 21$ at Midway. Cheep 38 special at the same location has 50 for 19 $.
Start with a 22 and make yourself a better shooter for little money. Start with A Ruger MKIII which has a SRP of 379$. It’s one gun you will never be without once you own one.
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Old December 15, 2012, 02:31 PM   #8
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The big, classic rounds are my favorites, also, but they are not the best for carry, IMO. Your .38 Special is better for that, and if you don't like your Colt, an S&W Model 10 (The Military & Police) will satisfy. I think someone above suggested an S&W .357 Mag with 4" Bbl, and a good bet there would be a Model 19. You get a bit of historical interest with that one and you can shoot .38 Specials in it all day, and a few magnums when you like. If you want to handload, this is a very good way to go.
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Old December 15, 2012, 04:04 PM   #9
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I say shop around, and then suit yourself, and let your father find the right one, or ones, for him.
There are many different guns out there, so go and try as many of them as you can. Then, when you decide, decide where you want to buy. Online, or from a local gun store.
New or used.
And remember, nobody likes to have just one.
You don't have to keep any gun you buy forever. If you buy this or that, and after a while don't like it, sell it. And get something else.
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Old December 15, 2012, 05:23 PM   #10
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You will see better results faster with a semi-automatic handgun. Revolvers pose some interesting carry problems. Carrying spare ammunition securely, yet concealed, can be a challenge. Shooting small revolvers accurately can be a serious challenge.

As mentioned previously, go to the range and rent different guns. Fire at least 100 rounds through each gun you rent. However, it is far more important that you get some training prior to purchase. I recommend you buy a few private range lessons and then attend a two day defensive pistol class using a rented gun. You will learn quite a bit in those two days. You'll have an idea regarding the attributes you find desirable and undesirable in a handgun. Your father may come to a slightly different conclusion.

9x19mm and 45 ACP are great starting cartridges. Both are adequate for self-defense and can be used for action pistol shooting. 45 ACP is easier to reload, but commercial 9x19mm ammunition is far more economically priced. Furthermore, there is a much wider range in gun size for guns chambered in 9x19mm. Even the smallest handgun in 45 ACP will be much larger than a Kahr PM9.

If after this you have no idea what to buy, just get a Glock 19. They're highly reliable and accurate enough for most uses. If you decide you dislike it, you can always sell it for approximately what you spent.

If you have to get a revolver, then buy one with a 4" or longer barrel. A 4" barrel is still compact enough to more easily manage concealed. I very much dislike S&W's current offerings due to some problems in build quality (inspect carefully before you buy and use the "Revolver Checkout" document available on this forum). I prefer either the Ruger GP100 or the Ruger SP101. Both are reliable, accurate, and easy to work on. S&W has much more variety, but you'll have to put up with cruddy MIM parts, THE LOCK, two piece barrels (in many models) and so forth.

Last edited by tomrkba; December 15, 2012 at 05:31 PM.
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Old December 15, 2012, 05:45 PM   #11
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Double action revolver in .357magnum for a first handgun to learn on is my choice.

Used is fine or new. Something with a 4 inch barrel. Smith &Wesson,Ruger,Colt,Tuarus. Lots of used deals to be found, lots of great new product to be had.

.357 allows you not only shoot the magnumcartridge but also the more affordable .38 special. Revolvers also force you to focus more to marksmenship. Also revolvers have far-less fail to fire/functional issues

Semi auto compacts I recogmend a .40sw cal. again in a manufacturer that you find and like most people gravitate towards the Glock series.. Myself I like Springfield and Smith and Weesson.

When learning to shoot Semi-auto's people tend to shoot fast,with is a good skill to master after the basics are mastered. SEmi Auto's have a higher possibility of failure to fire/functional issue than revolvers.

When it comes to reloading type of pistol only has a tiny bit to do with successful learning. But loading 38 special is pretty much is the cartridge many have learned to handload first.

The primary difference between the two platforms is that many fail to remember that a semi-auto pistil is ready to go again after the preceeding shot. The hammer is cocked and waiting for a single action (lighter!) trigger pull. THis is where many of the UD's occur, some with devastating results.

*(UD Unintentional Discharge)

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Old December 15, 2012, 06:06 PM   #12
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The professional trainers around here recommend a mid-size, mid-weight 9mm for a first semi-auto and a mid-size steel .38 Special revolver.

They also strongly suggest going to a professional instructor, before one decides on a specific brand or model of the above.

PM Pax(she is a pro instructor and mod here on TFL) and she may be able to recommend a competent instructor in your area. I know she always recommends instruction classes for new shooters, so she may be able to point you in the right direction.

PS: Welcome to the forum.
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Old December 16, 2012, 08:41 PM   #13
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Sorry, I was unclear, my dad plans to carry pretty often, I probably almost never will. Weight and size aren't big factors for me. I was just asking if a .45 would be too much to handle as far as recoil.

The classes we're looking into have range instruction components, but I'll keep the private lessons in mind. As far as renting a few different guns before buying anything, that's a great idea, there are alot of ranges around me.

It sounds like he should be looking into 9mm's, and for me a .357 is an interesting idea, being able to shoot .38's too. I'm still leaning towards a .45, but you guys are right, I've never even held one, I need to do some hands on research. I would be looking for a longer barrel though, 4 inches minimum, I'd been thinking 5.5". The 7.5's are cool looking, but I'd think they'd get heavy and unwieldy pretty quick.

Thanks for all the tips, I'll pass everything along, and start getting a tangible feel for some of the options I'm considering. Alex
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Old December 16, 2012, 09:56 PM   #14
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Being a big, young, healthy guy yourself, I don't think recoil would necessarily be a problem for you. The guns tend to be fairly heavy which soaks up recoil, and if you reload (as you already said you plan to), you can make some very mild rounds as you initially get familiar with the gun. Also, you can buy factory ammo intended for "Cowboy Action Shooting" that are milder than standard loads. (that's one of the pluses of don't have to worry about light loads causing cycling malfunctions)

As for the 357 suggestion with the option to shoot 38's, that's a very good idea, but it's less relevant for people who load their own ammo.

Last edited by idek; December 16, 2012 at 10:06 PM.
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Old December 17, 2012, 02:45 AM   #15
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Take the classes first. That is if guns are available to try.

For a first handgun I recommend a .22lr. If you can afford one a S&W M617 or M41. The Ruger Mk III or Browning Buckmark are good medium priced handguns.

A .22 is cheap to shoot and easy to learn with. They are also fun.

Take your time picking out a centerfire handgun. There are lots to choose from and the odds are you're not going to be happy if you buy quickly.
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Old December 17, 2012, 07:44 AM   #16
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I would advise against any adequately powerfull centerfire pistol in a compact format. Too much recoil to learn to shoot with. The small size makes handling more dangerous and is more likely to get pointed at the wrong things while loading/unloading. A small, short handgun is much more difficult to index on target for inexperienced shooters. Just a whole list of reasons NOT to go directly to the compact noise makers.
I won't disparage your father's profession but assume he has the resources to buy and learn to shoot with a small caliber (22lr) and increase bore diameter as skill increases. It would also indicate he can likely afford some "professional" training(I use that term liberally since many trainers are dufus individuals just sucking money from others even less knowledgeable than themselves).
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Old December 17, 2012, 12:28 PM   #17
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You might want to consider a pistol that allows you to change calibers. Many Sigs, CZ (if you can find the kits), CZ clones (EAA for example). Grab-a-gun has an EAA with 45/.22lr kits for a good price.

One good value is to buy a Sig P226 .22LR (about $500) then buy a 9mm kit ($300). It ends up being much cheaper than buying the Sig as a 9mm plus a 22 kit. If you're not happy with the 9mm kit, you can up the caliber and sell the kit. Many other Sig models can be similarly tweaked. I believe a few other large brands recently have come out with similarly switchable caliber pistols.

In most cases (though there are exceptions), changing calibers is no more complicated than what you do when you clean your gun -- just remove the slide, recoil mechanism, barrel and replace with kit. You can go back and forth as much as you like.

If you want to shoot a lot, consider ammo prices (standard target):
.22 = 3-4 cents per round
9mm = 18-25 cents per round
45 = 35-50 cents per round

As for which pistol, it all depends on what works for your hand and your needs. Like others suggested, go to a range and rent some guns. There are also some ranges/stores around that will give you free range time & rentals if you are there to test guns before purchase... That's what I did with my first pistol. I must have shot 15 pistols over 3 weeks before deciding which to buy.
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Old December 17, 2012, 10:05 PM   #18
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Since you mentioned your preference for a revolver, that you are a relatively large guy, and your interest in a Colt New Service in .45 L Colt; consider finding a S&W model 25 or model 625 in .45 LC.
It might be cheaper, and you might like it.

I hope you enjoy the learning experience you have embarked upon.
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Old December 17, 2012, 10:26 PM   #19
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Big hands are best suited to big revolvers, anything smaller and the grip may be too scimpy.

I would have suggested a .357 because of versatility, but if you want a .45 ACP revolver I see nothing wrong with that at all.
The .45 ACP revolvers can also use the .45 Autorim cartridge, which doesn't require half moon clips.

With recent government orders for new 1911 pistols, and huge quantities of .45 ACP in stock plus new contracts for ammo, there should never be a shortage of surplus milspec .45 ACP.

Theres also a very wide range of handloading components for this cartridge.

A Colt DA revolver can become worn , especialy becoming loose at the crane if abused, but a decent pistol smith can tighten them up.
Mainsprings are high quality and not heavily stressed.

The S&W revolvers don't show looseness as obviously, and soldier on despite rediculously high round counts.
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Old December 18, 2012, 03:22 PM   #20
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Posts, choices....

When you decide to buy a firearm, you must consider several factors.
First, I'd suggest you buy a used or good condition LE trade in revolver in .357magnum or .38spl +P. A DA only sidearm in stainless steel with a 3" or 4" barrel. Most US police agencies now use semi auto pistols but there are still a few police revolvers out there(S&W model 10, 65, 66; Ruger GP or Speed Six).
If you want a new or NIB(new in box) revolver buy a Ruger GP100 4" or the DA only SP101(5 shot .357magnum). The 3" S&W 686 .357magnum plus or 7 round is good too. Ruger is marketing a great Talo 4" .357magnum revolver for approx $650.00 USD. That would be a great buy for your use(s).
If you really want a mid size semi auto, start with a DA only model like a Beretta PX4 C model, a P224 or P229R DAK or a S&W SD in .40/9x19mm.
I wouldn't buy a Glock XDm Kahr or a single action(SA) until you are ready.
I'd also learn & understand the local gun/use of force laws. Join the NRA and/or a local gun club to practice with.
Check for good cleaning products & gun care items.
Most weapons can be cleaned with CLPs like LPX Gunzilla Ballistol or Weaponshield. Do not use a lot of oil/CLP. A small bottle can last a long time.

When you buy or carry your weapons, don't be brash or make threats. Keep a low profile & learn to control your emotions. As stated often too, do not drink alcohol or take medications if you are carrying a loaded weapon.
Be fully ready to explain or justify your acts if you are in a lethal force event. Many DAs, criminal investigators or lawyers(civil) would love to rip you to shreds.

stay safe & enjoy the shooting sports;

PS: Btw; only use FACTORY made ammunition for protection or carry. No handloads or reloads. Law enforcement officers or court officials could make that a issue too. Avoid the legal hassles & just use proven, well made rounds.
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Old December 18, 2012, 04:53 PM   #21
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45 colt is not too much to handle at all. When I was learning on my large S&W (great company by the way) I was shooting 38 special through it (you can do that in a .357 revolver) and at the time I was concentrating so hard I couldn't tell the difference when a similar model in 45 Colt was handed to me. They can be loaded VERY hot if so desired or pretty mild from what I understand. A used steel S&W revolver is great as a lot more hand fitting and attention went into it and was one of my first guns. A friend of mine uses a large 45 Colt revolver for home defense. Big bullet.

If you learn to shoot with a revolver your trigger control discipline will be above average when you get into semi autos. Assuming you make progress - and you will.
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Old December 18, 2012, 05:14 PM   #22
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What the two of you can start doing now is going around to gun shops and asking to handle guns that are behind the counter. Mind the etiquette - don't point at anyone or out the door, trigger finger off, ask before you try the trigger...

Note if you like how it feels in your hand, if your dad's thumb can already reach the controls without shifting (mag release sometimes needs a shift) which sights you like better, how short or tall it is for carry, wide or thin.

See if there is a range that will let you shoot several good candidates. Label and keep the groups - which did you shoot better with?

Go to gun shows and hold as many as you can - don't be shy its perfectly normal. Maybe hand sanitizer is called for come to think of it.

If you've been looking at or other online stores remember you'll have to pay a store an FFL transfer fee - anywhere from 15-30 dollars. And shipping to the gun shop/ lisenced individual that would receive it.

These days carry of "compact" guns is not so bad with hybrid style holsters IWB. A sturdy belt typically wider than a dress belt if you can is considered standard too.

To look up later: Theiss holster, shielded holsters, old faithful holsters. Crossbreed. Thebeltman.

My carry semi-auto S&W M&P40c although 9mm would do just fine. Their newest (and somehow less expensive) creation is the M&P shield.

I shot the Glock 26 best at the range at the time but hates how it felt in hand. Wise choice? Only God knows!
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Old December 18, 2012, 06:40 PM   #23
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Show up at some gun club meetings and look at all the packers. See what they pack with the types of clothing they wear. Ask one of the chair members your questions. Like it was stated above, go to various ranges and shoot some of the guns they have. Before you go, learn about the preferred grip and how to size your hand up to the handgun so you don't end up with a dainty pistol with a hulk hogan hand size.
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Old December 18, 2012, 06:46 PM   #24
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So just to clarify, some of you are reading .45 Colt as .45 ACP, I'm not talking about ACP's, I'm talking rimmed, long, 1872, .45 Colts.

Mobuck, unfortunately career choice is no kind of magic bullet. Resources are very limited right now, especially in that "disposable" part of the equation. I'd put it pretty near impossible that my dad would spend this kind of money on something for his own pleasure more than once this decade. He will be investing in professional instruction for my whole family though, that's a safety thing.

Cogito, that's a great piece of information, convertible guns. That may well be something he'd like to look into. I'd look into that myself.

Mello, I'll certainly look into those S&W's, like everything else, but I really have a thing for the looks of a Colt.

Rainbow, exactly, when I've held my friend's .38 in the past, the grip just doesn't fill my hand, my fingers wrap around too far, which puts the trigger finger at an uncomfortable angle. I wear size 16 shoes, and I can never find gloves, my hands are extremely large. I'll have to hold one, but I see a bigger revolver fitting me much better.

Clyde, I will definitely be buying used. We're certainly getting familiar with the laws, we're in Massachusetts, so there's alot of them. What's the issue with over oiling; I've been known to do such things. I would ceeertainly never be loud about having a weapon, even one locked up at home, and good god I'd never take one near a bar! I hope to never have to use my handgun even on an animal, let alone a person, but of course if I ever did, it would have to be beyond the last resort, I think I'd already have to be wounded myself. I'm very level headed, and excellent in a crisis, if I ever drew it, I doubt I'd even have it loaded.

And Dyl, I've been taught from childhood not to point so much as my finger at something I'm not trying to shoot. I was always annoyed when my parents wouldn't let me point my cap guns at my friends, but I'm thankful for that early training now, it's total instinct. The ground is the only place for the end of a barrel.
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Old December 19, 2012, 07:32 PM   #25
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The nice thing about revolver grips is that you can get some to fit your hand.

You can have grips custom fit to you and your gun.

While some guns are just too small, it is possible to get grips made for a J frame that will fit some pretty big hands.
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