Best One Handgun To Own – What If You Had to Pick Just One?

By Doug Gilmer
What if you could only have one pistol? What would the be best one handgun to own?

The Ruger GP100 is arguably the strongest, 357 Magnum, double-action revolver made today. And I think it is the best one handgun to own .
The Ruger GP100 is arguably the strongest, 357 Magnum, double-action revolver made today. And I think it is the best one handgun to own . (Photo from Ruger)
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- What if you had to choose to live with only one handgun?

This handgun would have to fill the roles of self-defense and hunting. Obviously, this is a very personal choice and is dependent upon a number of conditions which will be discussed below.

I am also not out to start a “handgun selection war” with the readers. However, if by choice, financial reasons, or because of political and legal and decisions you or I were ever forced to choose just one handgun it begs thoughtful discussion. Here are my thoughts for just one handgun.

My pick for the best one handgun to own would be a Ruger GP-100 in 357 Magnum.

The GP-100 is a built like a tank, will last forever if well maintained, can stand up to a steady diet of hot loads and has a good action. They handle well and are generally accurate if the shooter does his or her part. The 357 is a logical choice as it can fire everything from mild 38 Special wadcutters to heavy 180-grain hard cast loads. It can effectively handle small game, big game (within reasonable limitations), and self-defense from both two and four-legged creatures. While it’s a large handgun, with a four-inch barrel and a good holster, the GP-100 is still concealable. There is no task in my part of the U.S. the 357 cannot handle if I do my part shooting it.

Best One Handgun To Own 2nd Choice: Smith & Wesson 627 Revolver

The Smith & Wesson 627 offers an eight round capacity in its large, N-frame. (Photo from S&W)

A close runner up to the Ruger GP-100 is the S&W 627. I’ve always liked S&W revolvers and carried one on duty for years. Also available as the 686+ with a seven round cylinder, the L-frame Smith is a formidable handgun. If ammo capacity is your primary concern, the S&W 627 holds eight rounds of 357 Magnum in its larger, N-size frame.

While the GP-100 may be slightly stronger, any of the aforementioned revolvers would likely outperform and outlive the shooter. If ammo capacity is not a concern and concealability is, a five-shot, 4” barreled Ruger SP101 may be the route to go.

Best One Handgun To Own 3rd Choice: Ruger Redhawk

If I lived somewhere where big toothy creatures roamed I might opt for something a bit different. Perhaps a Ruger Redhawk in 45 Colt/45acp, a Ruger Redhawk in 44 Magnum/44 Special, or maybe my L-frame S&W Model 69, five-shot 44 Magnum/44 Special.

One’s environment has as much to do with handgun selections as any other factor. One has to consider where his or her travels will take them and what threats they are most likely to face. If big bears are a regular threat then I want my handgun to be chambered in a round beginning with “4” and able to fire hard, deep penetrating bullets weighing 200 grains or more at 1000fps or more.

CCI Shotshells in 44 Magnum/Special and especially those in 45 Colt are impressive performers and work well on small game at short range. The revolver is definitely versatile.

The Smith & Wesson 69 is a five-shot 44 Magnum built on an L-frame. Its cylinder will handle long 300+ grain bullets with ease and its easy to carry. (Photo by Doug Gilmer)
The Smith & Wesson 69 is a five-shot 44 Magnum built on an L-frame. Its cylinder will handle long 300+ grain bullets with ease and its easy to carry. (Photo by Doug Gilmer)

Best One Handgun To Own 2nd Choice: Single-Action Comments

I am not disparaging single-action fans. I own several and love to shoot and hunt with them. I also understand the limitations of a single-action in defensive scenarios and the inability to rapidly reload them. With that said, if it works for you, great. My single-action caliber selections would likely remain the same as mentioned previously with my double-action revolver choices. From a versatility standpoint, a Ruger Blackhawk chambered in 357 Magnum can also be ordered with a 9mm cylinder meaning one gun can shoot 357 Magnum, 38 Special, and 9mm. This level of versatility is hard to beat.

By the same token, a semi-automatic handgun is a great choice for defensive shooting and even for hunting. My various Glock 10mms see time in the field each year and I love my Glock 17 and Glock 26 for defensive work.

While 9mm ammo is plentiful it is not an effective big game hunting round. Sure, it’s been used to take deer and one well-known outdoor writer recently used one to stop a bear attack in Alaska. but it’s not the best for this type of field work. There are better choices.

The 10mm Ammunition is an effective fight stopper and hunting round but ammunition can be hard to find off the shelf at times and practically speaking, you are limited to shooting 10mm, unlike revolvers which can often fire at least two different cartridges without modification. I have a strong affinity for the 10mm and while it can do so much, if forced to pick just one handgun, I believe I’d default to the revolver.

Shotshells work best from a revolver and add a new level of versatility.
Shotshells work best from a revolver and add a new level of versatility.

Have you ever considered your “one handgun choice”? There are no wrong or rights; only you can make the call on what you believe would best suit your needs. Thankfully, we are not limited to owning only one handgun (at least for now) but this is still a good exercise to consider should for some reason scaling back becomes a necessity.

Agree? Disagree? What would be your one handgun choice?

 

About Doug Gilmer:

Doug Gilmer is a law enforcement and military veteran with over 25 years of experience and assignments operating throughout the United States and around the world in a variety of investigative, protective, tactical and direct action roles. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fly-fishing, hunting with a handgun, backcountry adventures, and volunteering with various outdoor themed wounded warrior events. He has been a frequent contributor to outdoor media for for several years with numerous articles and photos published in a number of media channels. He is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association as well as a former board member and executive officer.

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my site

Bless you-ty-Could you add some more detail?|

Alan
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Alan

I did have to pick one. I picked the springfield XDM 3.8 compact .45 It can go full size and 12+1 with the mag extender. Go conceaed with a 9+ 1 mag. Has a match barrel and beefy innards so I don’t worry about shooting critical duty or some other +p or super if I feel like it. Positive load and striker indicators were a nice plus. Can go 460 rowland and you can spit 22s out of it with an adapters. Yeah the 22 adapter kinds sucks but… My only regrets are no thumb safety (though I like the… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

I guess my other stuff was erased. About Florida I used to live in Alabama as a child and we used to go to Florida on spring break. You floridians are lucky to have the prettiest beaches in the world! So black bears in the swamps. Wow! I believe it. I loved that camera hunting thing you mentioned that’s so true

Yosemite
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Yosemite

The “hand protector” is called a “Beaver-tail” Don’t ask me why…I did not name it. I guess t is because it is wide and flat maybe??? I have a .380 that I sometimes carry..it slide bites too. BUT it is accurate for my needs and I have gotten to ignoring it (when shooting on “the range”), as one must do in moments of need….and carry on to get the job done…. I cannot imagine dropping a firearm for such……train and practice as you will…if you want to live through such a situation…..you do what you have to do….Perhaps one day… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

Floridians typo

Chloe
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Chloe

Slide bite sucks I went and bought a kimber supermatch Bc they have the hand protector built in. Just as you say a must have. And I can only shoot my original 1911 my rock island a couple times before looking for leather gloves. Like I said before you make excellent points.

Yosemite
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Yosemite

Chloe, The GP100 has a different type frame up set…it is pretty easy to disassemble……not sure about parts breaking in them. I personally have not heard or seen 1 ever need any repair…..of course that means nothing. It is a heavy frame and seems to like it will stand up to a lot of abuse…..Only WEAKEK POINT I can see would be the adjustable sites…MIGHT be subject to POSSIBLE damage,,, I have field stripped and put a 1911 .45 ACP back together blind folded…..I have learned how to disassemble the slide and replace the firing pin and spring and extractor… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

Oh yes we have big cats! Mountain lions so say the least. The gp 100 is the same size of my smith and Wesson 686 that blew up at the range on my hand as my husband who shot it first clumsy bastard with a 357 mag load trying to sight a tasco pro point laser scope and dropped the damn thing. It looked like he threw it a big pussy. We had to stop the firing line to retrieve it at it landed on the other side of the table. We did as do a pre check to make… Read more »

Chloe
Guest
Chloe

Sorry I realized I wasn’t clear when my husband first shot the sw 686 it was a brand new gun just bought and he put a scope on it. We go to range and he shoots it one time and drops it. We clean it and then put it in safe for five years. Now divorced me and a friend get it out I tell the story of pussy dropping it and we decided to clean it and take it to range- to get rid of the bad vibe the gun had- so we clean it make sure it’s aligned… Read more »

Yosemite
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Yosemite

Thank you for your kind comments. I piddle around here and there and do what I can. I am not even close to being a gunsmith. I agree on meeting a new friend. Always welcome. As for the incident with your former Hubby/Ex…..I am sure you said it best LOL. Not much I can say about that situation. I am most glad to share my knowledge (such as it is) with anyone that may or will find it of help or useful. Most glad to be here. I will help anyone I can, IF I cannot, I will admit is… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

Another question to all those who recommend a revolver? If we are in a case where we only have one gun and we are to be the only source to repair it. Wouldn’t that put a lot you out as 99 percent of revolver work is done by gunsmith not the average joe. As a semi auto is simple and I hate to say it can be put together by a blind man.

Chloe
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Chloe

How does everyone feel about picking a fold up ar style bolt action free floating long barrel. In a 338. It does disassemble as a precision rifle would. It does have a pistol grip and can easily be switched to just pistol grip with a simple click and yank of the buttstock and it’s a folder that comes apart anyways. Look at a rpr. rifle for example. One could easily say this could be all in one firearm.? Any thoughts? Or a hunting pistol in a easy to find cartridge? Basically the same thing except the rpr is advanced and… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

Dan Richard yes us older farts remember I will in 1983 when they first produced the de in 357 magnum,

yosemite
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yosemite

ONE HANDGUN AND ONE ONLY…..Granted the Glocks and etc., can have other caliber kits….The 1911 has .22LR kits . Even the Desert Eagle has kits (Or did) for .357 Mag,.41 Mag, .44 Mag. Then there is the .50 DE. The Desert Eagles can be quite finicky at times and they require or DID after about 150 rounds or so. I had one .357 SS with a 4 digit serial number… Accurate and could take head shots at 100 meters easily and get two rounds off before a revolver could. Was very heavy to carry….I loved “Big Bird” but hit a… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

Yosemite-Not a lot of barrels just higher quality like match barrels yes. And the quality of gun like a kimber supermatch 2 can shoot +p all day long

yosemite
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yosemite

I only said SOME EXTRA BARRELS….NOT A LOT of them…. also extra springs for regular or lighter loads. One handgun to last for many years…I recommend other spare parts as well. Small do not take up much space and are very easy to replace in 1911s….. I DID say A LOT of EXTRA magazines for any semi auto AND CALIBER , AND MAKE SURE that all of them work and release properly. I have several fail right out of the package….I forget the make at the moment been quite a few years ago. Better to find out on the range… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

Actually you said best to have some extra barrels. You misquoted yourself sport. Read your original paragraph you actually said best to have so extra barrels. That’s why I replied not just extra or a lot or barrels but high grade barrels like march barrels.

Chloe
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Chloe

Also from the beginning I didn’t mean to be offensive as I did take the time to read your comment and respond to it with agreeing that you do need to have a steady stream of parts coming in order to keep that one firearm in working order and your made a brilliant point about the multi chamber guns like glock 20 and 21 are basically the same specs to you can use interchangeable parts if your also replacing the recoil spring to a proper tension and also exchanging the firing pin/parts to proper parts will save on jam and… Read more »

Yosemite
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Yosemite

I did didn’t. OOPS!! My bad. I also made some other errors….like with the Desert Eagle…I meant to say it needed to be thoroughly cleaned about every 150 rounds among others.

Yosemite
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Yosemite

GRRRR I am answering these backwards and I can’t go back and edit…..No worries all is well. Over the years I have known a friend or two that have burnt out barrels on rifles from “hot loads”. I could have used your eyes last night to proof read my statement……LOL I have no reason to get hot headed. I do have a reason to keep my cat away from me when I am typing and derails my train of thought and my fingers as well. The main issue I have with going with semi-autos ..are the magazines…..even with being able… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

I live in bear country in north west part of the USA. I don’t ever support the harm of innocent animals however if a bear is charging at you at thirty miles a hour and you have three seconds to react before he’s on top of you ripping into your skull while your alive. The sound as your skull pops from the pressure of his jaws and the wet feeling coming from everywhere and the cold that hits you is crazy. Trying to operate a firearm and be accurate at this time is almost a Hail Mary. As we think… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

I have to say I have been posting on this blog about this subject for almost a year now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a post go for so long…. I was one of the original posters that started the whole argument over the subject of revolver or semi auto. Before that it was just what handgun, the whole cylinder alignment kaboom issue was my first post. Lol. My second post was about how caliber didn’t really matter as you can kill a deer or elephant or rhino with or a gator witha clean shot through the eye socket.… Read more »

Yosemite
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Yosemite

We so have some Black bears in the area of the Swamp (Okeefenokee Swamp National Park). I have not actually seen one. They had one go through a small town one late evening that rambled on about it’s business and did not act aggressive or harm anyone or any thing. Years ago there use be Southern panthers/cougars / Florida Panthers, that have been hunted to almost extinction. Like you I do not believe in killing unless it is a threat or I am hungry and need food….I used to hunt a lot but after I got out of the USAF…..I… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

What do you think about the f-n 5-7. I just picked one up new in two tone? It was a deal of the century so I purchased it. I was curious with you being in the Armed Forces if your familiar with it or ever seen it used in combat? Btw Thank You for your -Chloe Service!

Yosemite
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Yosemite

Hi ya and THANK YOU!!! I would do it all over again, IF I could!!! The FN5.7 came out long after I got out in 85. That being said I have a friend that has two of them and keeps teasing me about trading and some cash for one of them. He brought them down and A LOT of ammo and let me handle it and shoot it. I fell in love with it even it’s bulk but it was light and accurate. RECOIL???? WHAT RECOIL??? LMAO…..Something most people don’t think about is WHY the round was developed. It was… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

We have coyotes here that take away pets like cats and dogs. Even dig Dogs like a yellow lab are targeted. Even in the city like San Francisco my friends dog was roped in by a coyote acting like he wanted to play and ropes the lab close and then was attacked by a pack and the dog was killed and drug backnto din and became dinner for the coyotes. I’m a a actual southern girl born in Alabama. We used to spend our spring break on the Florida beaches. I bet y’all hated us. Sorry, but you Floridias have… Read more »

Yosemite
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Yosemite

I live in Georgia on the coast, not to far from Florida. We have coyotes here. I hear them from time to time but never see them. Fla does have pretty and beautiful beaches……THAT being said do a search on Cumberland Island National Park/Seashore in Georgia. Beautiful does not begin to describe it….Granted Sanibel and other places along the Gulf Coast (I call the panhandle LA…….Lower Alabama, so NO I didn’t hate y’all LOL)) have their attraction……Cumberland is a very special , pristine, and unique place and not many like them left around….Look it up and let me know what… Read more »

Chloe
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Chloe

Also known as the peacemaker the original colt 45

Chloe
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Chloe

Absolutely not Black powder. Mine is 1873 colt and it shoots 45 long colt.

Matt Cuddy
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Matt Cuddy

If I had one pistol to fight my way through flesh eating zombies it would be an 1878 Remington New Model Army in the .45 Long Colt conversion, with the loading door and extractor off the right side of the barrel. Good out to 100 yards every time.

Chloe
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Chloe

I have a 1873 s.a.a. Colt in 45 colt. And it is not my first choice at all. A good gun yes but not the best gun to only have.

Wild Bill
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Wild Bill

@Matt and Chloe, aren’t those black powder?

Gavin
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Gavin

My Colt combat commander in .45 ACP, loaded with +P+ 230 gr black talon hollow points, took me safely out of an armed confrontation with 3 armed felons, the first one dropped to a frontal heart / spine shot that took two vertebrae out of his back, the other spun around to a chest shot through his pectoral muscle and the follow up shot broke his back just below his neck,and the other got a very close head shot from the back of the neck through to the forehead,, a bit iof disinfectant involved, but 4 shots, 3 fucks, and… Read more »

Gavin
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Gavin

97bravo20, it’s obvious you have never fired a firearm in self defense , neither have you or yours, I worry for you with your sig sauer, you must get the biggest caliber gun, and a friend with a big gun and stand against those that will come with violence, and don’t rely on a nine mil, get something bigger,

Wild Bill
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Wild Bill

Niner seven bravo two zero?! Sgt get me the CEOI!

Chloe
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Chloe

I agree with you! I was the very first to defend the semi auto 45 on this site and I believe my Kimber 45 supermatch2 with Barnes tac ammo is not only very accurate it’s the most accurate 1911 on the market look it up . And also the rounds I use are hotter then my ten mm and darn near comparable to my 44. Mag. I also have revolvers that have become out of alignment with the barrel and the 357 round shot shrapnel and it hurt. No it wasn’t plugged barrel. Yes it had been dropped. And yes… Read more »

Wild Bill
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Wild Bill

@Gavin, I am just curious…how did you explain that “…very close head shot from the back of the neck through to the forehead.” If it was war, then no problem, but it sounds civilian.

RODNEY KLOMP
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RODNEY KLOMP

I think either a Ruger or Smith & Wesson in a 44 magnum would be a great choice

97bravo20
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97bravo20

I think the comments here have gone off thread. I’m guilty if this as much as the next guy. The original question was not what is your EDC, favorite pistol, what manufacturer has your loyalty, can shoot 10mm and .40, or any of the other trends appering here. The question was, “What if you HAD to choose only one pistol? What is the best one to own? I think the question is appropriate. In a imperfect world is there one pistol that could meet as many of the demands we put on our handguns? What are those demands? To me… Read more »

Dan
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Dan

97Bravo, great post and well developed position. While I’m a big fan of the .357 round I have to say that you make a solid argument for your choice of the Glock 23.

Mac
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Mac

My choice would have to be the S&W 686 4″, carried it for over 20 yrs as my service weapon in the SF Bay area, it NEVER failed the test

Dale
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Dale

You may want to try and find a S&W 610. 10mm but it will also shoot .40S&W. Sadly they’re pricey today and can be hard to find at times. Do wish S&W would make them again or Ruger would step up and make a 10mm revolver.

George
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George

I notice one manufacturer not mentioned that did go under but came back. Can’t speak for the new ones but the old Dan Wesson revolvers where unbeatable IMHO. I owned the 44 mag and it was reliable, accurate, and barrels where interchangeable.

RKLOMP
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RKLOMP

I agree George, I still have my vented heavy 44 hunter pack, it’s the most accurate handgun I own, Dan Wesson is Quality hands down, got mine in 1984…

RKLOMP
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RKLOMP

I’ve been carrying my Kimber K6S 357 magnum on a DeSantis Speed Holster as a back up to my Sig P225 A-1 , which I wear IWB, Appendix style, but the question to what one revolver I would choose, that’s a hard one, I guess it would be worn daily, so it would either be my Kimber K6S, or my Talo S&W 686 Plus 3″ barrel, either of these two can be EDC, They are both very strong, reliable and dean on accurate…all my other revolvers are great also, but too large for daily carry …

TomR
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TomR

S&W model19 in 357…does it all
Smoother and not Heavy

DJones
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DJones

I’ll be the CZ guy. Just because.

Hunter
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Hunter

This is a tough one. I own a Ruger American pistol Compact in 9mm that I absolutely love. But if I had to choose just one handgun I’m not sure if I’d go with my Kimber 1911 .45 ACP 5″ or my GP100 .357 with the 4″. I’m much more confident with my 1911 but that could be the hundreds of rounds more I’ve put through that, than the .357. Yeah, for one good, all around handgun, I agree the GP100 .357 would be an excellent choice.

Edwin Whetstone
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Edwin Whetstone

I would have a gunsmith shorten the barrel of my Ruger Super Redhawk ..454 to 5″. 45 Colt for self defense and magnum ammo for hunting. 300 grn XTP’s for most hunting and 325 hard cast Elmer Keith for dangerous game.

Redrican
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Redrican

My choice for pistol is the glock 10mm. My choice of revolver would be a S&W 25-5

Raul Alvarez
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Raul Alvarez

Glock 40 is a 10mm that will fire 40S&W, but it is not good for the extractor. Can use 10mm magazine for the 40S&W rounds. Can easily convert to 9mm, 357Sig, 40S&W, 45acp, by changing barrel, recoil springs, & magazines. Stormlake sells a 10mm/45acp conversion so that the slide does not have to be replaced because of different breechface dimensions. Magazine capacity is 13+1 for the 45acp(+2 if add basepad extensions) & 16+ rounds for the others. Threaded barrels are available and barrels can be found for around $125. The Glock 40 has a 6″ barrel and a 9″ barrel(non-Glock)… Read more »

Don Schimpff
Guest
Don Schimpff

My favorite is the Colt Single Action Army in 44WCF or 38WCF or 45LC. It worked well for the Cavalry and the Westerners. And they have only 5 moving parts.
\(corrected)

Don Schimpff
Guest
Don Schimpff

My favorite is the Colt Single Action Army in 44WCF or 38 WCF or 45LC. It worked well for Cavalry and the Westerners. And they have only 5 moving arts.

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Guest
Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sorry. It’s a lame question.. To me it’s like asking me “If you had only one grandchild who would it be?” In fact, I’ll go beyond lame: It’s stupid and insulting.

Mark Jala
Guest
Mark Jala

With all due respect, it is not a stupid question. For me, I’m looking to buy my first gun, and have been thinking about the GP100. Since I don’t have multiple guns, and may never have many, choosing a good one is important to me. The answers given have been very valuable.

Buzzy
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Buzzy

I carried a colt 1911 for 12 months in the jungle. I never cleaned it. Used a shaving brush to clean the slide and mags. Little oil and dust it off. Cleaned the barrel by shooting. It never misfired or jammed. It saved my life and can put a man on the ground no matter where you hit him. 9 rounds one in the chamber. Easier to load and faster to get off rounds then a revolver. Today I have 1911 Trophy Match Kimber. It’s my favorite , but I’d trade it for match Colt.

Marion Kipp Parris
Guest
Marion Kipp Parris

Ruger 7″ barrel 454casul / 45lc. From bear to whitetail. You can even hunt rabbits with shotshells. As for defense not much more is needed lol. I’ve got the double action. I do like the GP 100 357. Shot my only whitetail with a handgun with one. Put three in her chest and she still ran 40 yards. Hollow points.

Gregory Harris
Guest
Gregory Harris

I guess I’m a little different in this matter, I believe that if I could only have one gun, I would first find out what my Ammo situation is and what would seem likely to be available in the future. that would be my one and only, and with that one gun, I would be proactive in finding other guns and ammo.