The Rock Island Armory 1911 GI .38 Super. The ballistics of the .38 Super has earned its nickname “the 9mm on steroids”. It was the first caliber and pistol platform I ever shot. By far, it is also my favorite pistol model and caliber to shoot. ⚡️
Gun Brand Info for new gun owners: Pistols and Revolvers
Given that more and more people are getting into firearms, I’ve decided to do a post informing the new gun people on what brands to go for and avoid.
Rule of thumb beforehand: Not every new gun is a good gun, always look in a used rack section of a gun shop before you buy new, as you might be able to snag very high quality firearms for less than retail price.
Colt: The oldest name in firearms for the US, Colt’s are mired by super high price tags that push them out of the buying realm of blue-collar owners. Older Colts tend to be more collector toys than actual usable firearms, and for the most part Colt products are overpriced for what they are. Some Colt products like the Cobra don’t fall into this pit.
Smith And Wesson: The second oldest, S&W has been a standard maker of relatively cheap firearms and is the go-to brand for everyone. Solid pistols and revolvers, and common in both used and new racks, S&W is a solid choice for balancing budget and quality.
Taurus: The Brazilian maker of pretty much everything, many new gun buyers are drawn to Taurus due to low prices, with many guns going in the sub-200 range. And while the guns work, Taurus is the kingpin of quality control mishaps both in Brazil and the US. Several of their guns have had massive recalls, ranging from faulty safeties, horrific quality issues and even construction so poor that guns can go off just by shaking them. Avoid at all cost.
Hi-Point: The American joke brand, Hi-Point pistols have been mocked by many gun reviewers for being cheap and “bad”, but that is just a joke more than anything. Hi-Points offer very good accuracy, and a cheap price which make them a good starting pistol.
Glock: The standard starting pistol for everyone, Glocks balance everything well enough to make them the jack-of-all-trades handgun.
Beretta: Kingpin for beefy, reliable handguns, and older models like the 92FS are cheap for the average joe. With a few dud designs like the Pico, the main lineup for Beretta is cheap, affordable and reliable, if it fits your hands.
CZ: Czechnology at its finest, CZ pistols are the same as Beretta, cheap, reliable and affordable.
H&K: German engineering means that H&K pistols are reletively expensive, becase H&K has a massive disdain for its customers. However H&K guns aren’t unobtanium, as many older models like the USP show up every now and then in gun shop used racks so keep an eye out.
SIG-Sauer: The opposite of H&K, SIG guns are very high quality with equally high prices to boot, but similarly older SIG guns will float into used racks for lower prices. Plus some recent SIG guns have had lower costs
That covers the basic handgun lineup in your local gun shop, please feel free to add more brands in more posts, and spread this around to inform those who intend to buy a pistol on what the basic brands stand for with quality.
Yes, from the kingpin of the handgun world, we come to the the kingpin of the revolver world. A gun who’s name alone means business. It’s the gun revered as the Cadillac of the Revolver Market. It’s big, blued, and just a bit subdued.
It’s the Colt Python.
It’s an icon of the police force, a force to be reckoned with and while it might not live up to the reputation of some revolvers, it just doesn’t need to.
The Colt Python was built in the 1950′s. Colt was riding off the success of the Colt Cobra and other such revolvers and thought to top the market, they’d make a top-of-the-line gun, a .38 Special Target revolver fitted with barrel ribbing, large target sights, smooth trigger, extra metal and was later changed to .357 Magnum, a brand new cartridge at the time. And in 1955, the Colt Python was released.
It came in bright satin nickel or Colt Royal Blue. Later the nickel was swapped out for Satin or mirror-polished “Ultimate” Stainless Steel. It came with wood or rubber Pachmayr grips and barrel lengths from the 2.5 inch snubbie to the 8 inch one for hunting. Though most you’ll find will be with 4 or 6 inch barrels.
And like any gun, they came in different models. These included the Python Hunter, fitted with a 2X Leupold Scope and 8 inch barrel. The Python Target, a model only in .38 Special. There were custom guns like the Colt Boa, Colt Grizzly, and Colt Kodiak. There was the lower cost Colt Troopers and Colt Lawman’s and there was the .44 Magnum caliber Colt Anaconda.
And on release, the Colt Python was a success with police and civilians across the world. Police Departments bought them, with 6 inch barrels to uniformed police and 4 inch to plainclothes officers. Highway patrol units from Colorado and California to Florida and Georgia had Colt Python’s holstered until their replacement in the mid 1990′s.
And not only cops, but a number of dictators and kings bought their own run of Colt Python’s. Anwar Saddat of Egypt, Sheik Zayed of the UAE, King Hassan of Morocco, King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Khaled and Fahid of Saudi Arabia, Hussein the First of Jordan had their own runs of Colt Pythons. Irish Crime reporter Veronica Guerin was killed by a Colt Python. The King himself, Elvis Presley was known to collect Pythons, with a number attributed to him floating in both Graceland and in private collections.
The Python wasn’t without some faults. The guns had a tendency to “wind down” with heavy usage. Effectively meaning the cylinder wouldn’t line up perfectly with the forcing cone, meaning anything from increase lead spray to the gun not working in DA mode. That and the fact most weighed more than competing S&W revolvers slowly showed Colt that these guns were becoming a money pit.
As the Colt Python was being replaced in Police holsters everywhere, Colt stopped main production of all revolvers, including Pythons in 1999. While their custom shop kept making guns, in 2005, the production stopped. And with that, the prices of Pythons soared to high prices, higher than usual. Your standard Python costs around $2,000 dollars. And while they have stopped production, they haven’t faded from memory.
Especially in film.
The Python’s long history with police make it a common sight for movie and TV cops, whether normal beat cops or high ranking detectives, the Python’s a common sight. And with it’s usage by movie cops and bad guys, it’s not an uncommon sight from zombie flicks to action movie drama. From the hands of McQ to Grimes, a Python is an perfect pistol. It’s big, it’s commanding, and if it’s a nickel/stainless gun, it’s shiny.
Course with fame in media comes fame in video games, and like the 92FS, the Python got a break because of a video game now revered as a classic.
They’re waiting for you Gordon…in the test chamber.
Half Life. The PC Gaming classic. A game that showed what gaming could do. With the Quake 2 Engine, Valve showed that it didn’t always have to be mindless violence, but can play a story on par with Hollywood.
You play Gordon Freeman, a mute 27 year old MIT graduate entering a day of work at the Black Mesa Research Complex. Within around 1 hour it goes from your average Monday to a DEFCON 1 situation, with aliens pouring in from every crack in the wall. And all you have is a crowbar, a HEV suit and a laundry list of firearms from the dead guards and HERC soldiers. The Glock, MP5, SPAS-12 and other guns, but none could really rival the Python.
The bottom of the blast pit gives you the satin nickel handcannon, and it serves as one of the games most solid guns, easily dropping zombies in one shot. And just like the MAC-10 and 92FS, this classic influenced a laundry list of other games.
The Python’s a relatively common sight in video games, with it usually in it’s royal blue finish. It serves as a games magnum, high stopping power, low magazine capacity and firing speed. It doesn’t need to fire fast or be quick reloading, cause 1 shot should be enough. From the arms of the Spy in TF2 to the darkened streets of Alan Wake, the Python’s sure to be there and still firing when others have failed.
And that is the Colt Python, the king of the revolver world. It’s had 50 years of production, and from the zombie filled apocalypse to the crazed factories of gravel fueled proxy warfare, it’s a common sight. It doesn’t need to be fast, it doesn’t need to be new, it just needs to work. And work it does.
“Hold back the night, turn on the lights, I want to dream… Dream about you baby”
The entire family of Colt’s fabled “snake” series revolvers. They are extremely difficult to collect since most have several variations with different barrel lengths, finishes and calibers. Some models can easily push $4,000+ in asking price. The snakes are so popular that even European and Middle Eastern kings and princes have received special custom made Colt snake revolvers. (GRH)
Colt Cobra (.32 Colt New Police / .38 Special / .22 LR)
Colt Diamondback (.22 LR / .22 WMR / .38 Special)
Colt Viper (.38 Special)
Colt King Cobra (.38 Special / .357 Magnum)
Colt Python (.38 Special / .357 Magnum)
Colt Boa (.38 Special / .357 Magnum)
Colt Anaconda (.44 Special / .44 Magnum / .45 Long Colt)
The Gumshoe: Colt Detective Special series - .38 Special
So yesterday I touched on the Smith And Wesson Model 10 revolver, probably one of the most common police guns, but there was another common design. This is the Colt Detective Special, and is probably the most iconic snub-nosed revolver.
So the concept of the snub nosed wasn’t a brand new idea in the 1920′s when the Detective Special was first made, many guns used short barrels like the Single Action Army and Colt Thunderer’s “Shopkeeper Models” as well as a number of ad-hoc models usually made by sawing the barrels down. But with the arrival of swing-out cylinders, there really weren’t any actual snub nosed revolvers, at least until the Colt Detective Special.
The Detective Special originally started as a modified version of the Colt Police Positive Special and besides being high quality sits size wise between a S&W “K” frame and the S&W “J” frame, like the Model 36. This allows it to have a 6 shot cylinder over the “J” frame’s 5. That gave the Detective Special and edge in the market and the Detective Special was made from 1927 all the way to 1995 before Colt’s post-bankruptcy model of whoring itself to the Department of Defense ceased all revolver production excluding the Colt Python.
Now to say that in it’s production cycle that the Colt DS sold well is an understatement, cause they sold like crazy. Besides police departments, a number of gangsters bought them, such as Bonnie Parker, who’s Colt DS is the one above. Gangsters liked it for it’s reasonable accuracy for a 2″ barrel gun, it’s 6 shot capacity and small size.
Now besides various versions of the DS made over the years, such as the First, Second, Third and Fourth, genius naming on Colt’s part, there were a number of different models. The first was the “Fitz” Special, designed by John Henry Fitzgerald and usually made from Colt Positives and Colt DS’s, involving lobbing off the hammer spur and the front half of the trigger guard for a quick draw.
Fancy. Now there also was the Colt Commando Special, a modified later model made between 1984 and 1986 during a strike at Colt’s Manufacturing plant. There also was the
Colt SF-VI/DS-II, a modernized model that replaced the DS, making it stainless steel and removing the need for hand-fitted parts. Besides that, the only other offshoot was the Colt Cobra.
So the Colt Cobra was an offshoot made from 1950 to 1981, effectively being a Colt Detective Special with a special alloy frame designed by ALCOA, and this gun served as a cheaper option to the Colt Detective Special and had a number of offshoots like the Colt Agent, Colt Viper and infamously bad Colt Aircrewman. Rather famously, a Colt Agent fitted with a hammer shroud was used by Jack Ruby to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas.
With all these models, Colt DS’s, Cobras and other models are a relatively uncommon sight on the used market, usually going for decently higher prices over S&W and Charter Arms snubbies, but with a long history and being of very high quality revolvers and while you shouldn’t ever fire +P or +P+ out of them, they’re very fine guns, and cinema seems to think so.
The Detective Special line has seen it all through a number of movies, cop dramas, criminal tales, future sci-fi, everything. From the Lizzies of The Warriors to the decadent streets of L.A. Confidential, from the junkie to the journalist, it’s a very common sight. It’s small shape fits any actor and while not everyone who handles it knows the exact perfect firearm etiquette, you can’t deny the Colt Detective Special is a cinema favorite.
And that is the Colt Detective Special, one of Colt’s most common guns ever made. It’s a design dating all the way back to the Roaring 20′s and even though more modern guns have entered the Colt’s playing field, they can’t beat it out just yet. It might be out of production, but it’s legacy will be living on for years to come. From Elvis Presley to Bonnie Parker, it’s the perfect fit for any situation.
“Cause there’s music in the air and lots of lovin everywhere, so give me the night.”
How to Choose a Defensive Handgun, Part V: Caliber
The next consideration is the caliber of your handgun.
The bigger the caliber, the greater the muzzle blast and recoil, and the longer it takes to get the muzzle back on track in between shots. At typical self-defense ranges, you can usually shoot faster and more accurately with lower calibers. On the other hand, the bigger calibers offer slightly greater stopping power.
In ascending order of power and recoil, the common defensive calibers are the .38 Special, the 9mm Parabellum (also known as 9mm Luger), the .40 S&W, the .45 ACP and the .357 Magnum.
There is an endless debate over which caliber is the “best.” For example, the 9mm is a fast and light bullet, while the .45 is heavy and slow. Theoretically, the speedy 9mm would penetrate obstacles like car doors or windows better, while the .45 would hit with a heavier punch.
In fact, there is little practical difference among these rounds, which are all proven killers. Before making your purchase, you should personally experiment with each (by renting or borrowing guns) to see which works best for you. For example, even if the .45’s recoil is “heavier,” some people prefer the feel of the .45’s thumping recoil to the .40’s snappy and sharp recoil.
I don’t recommend the use of any caliber smaller than the .38 Special (such as the .380 Auto and the .22 LR). If you want to push the envelope, the .380 Auto would perhaps be marginally acceptable at close ranges.
Rounds more powerful than the .357, such as the famous .44 Magnum and the .50 AE for the Desert Eagle, are not practical for self-defense. With these monster rounds, the recoil is so great that you lose precious time getting the muzzle back on track.
Pictured above is a Colt King Cobra .357 magnum, which was intended as a less expensive version of the high-end Colt Python. It’s not made anymore, but it’s still possible to snag one from collectors.
.357 Magnum revolver made by Colt and part of their discontinued lineup which were all named after species of snakes. The King Cobra was not the only .357 revolver in the family, the Python shares the same caliber but is larger than the King Cobra. Generally a good condition King Cobra with its box and paperwork can be anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. (GRH)
Although Colt is known for their snake revolver series, there were two bear-named revolvers. The Colt Kodiak uses the Anaconda frame with a ported barrel and was chambered in .44 Magnum. The Colt Grizzly uses the Colt King Cobra frame but with a Python barrel and was chambered in .357 Magnum. Due to their limited production run both are very difficult to find and often command premium prices. Some examples have sold for $5,000+ based on condition. (GRH)
One of Colt’s legendary revolvers that was available in several of the popular magnum calibers. A special limited edition run of Anaconda’s were made but renamed as Kodiak, a distinction shared with the Colt King Cobra, that had a variant named the Grizzly. (GRH)