USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- If you buy essential oils on the lower rungs of the quality ladder, the worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be out a few bucks and feel a bit slimy. Oh, and your friends will think you weird for investing in magic oil in the first place. If you buy a self-defense gun that doesn’t rank above the midpoint of the Gunsumer Reports Annual Ballistics issue, it might cost you your life. And for cheaping out on so important a decision, your friends might arrange for Cardi B to lip-sync the Baby Shark song at your funeral.
I got to thinking about guns we’ve seen come and go over the past few years that earned a place on the worst self-defense guns list. To be fair, some of these have perfectly good uses for other things; I just wouldn’t want to bet my life on them when better choices are readily available.
Taurus Model 85 View
This tiny .38 Special revolver had minutes of engineering invested designed to make it as light and concealable as possible. Unfortunately, the resulting product looked very much like a gun from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The proportions were… caricature-ish.
The cylinder could only get so small as it has to fit five rounds of .38 Special. Engineers created the “bulk” reduction by doing torso removal surgery on the grip and amputating the barrel. Seriously, the grip is about the size of two .38 cartridges duct-taped together. I’m not exaggerating much. The overall result looked something like a 55-gallon oil drum with a grip taped to one end. Sound extreme? So was shooting this abomination.
And therein lies the real reason the Taurus View makes the Worst Self-Defense Gun list. It’s dang-near un-shootable. And I mean that in all ways. Recoil? Painful. Shot control? Nope. Practical accuracy under stress? About on par with throwing tequila salt over your left shoulder 19 shots into a raging Cinco de Mayo party. If anyone out there can hit the broad side of a barn with one, I’d like to give them my Justin Bieber Challenge Coin.
One more thing. For no discernible reason other than being different, the side plate was made of transparent plastic so you could see the trigger action operate. Right.
I always try to be a nice guy, and I rarely, if ever, troll the internet just for the fun of it. And I’m not trolling here, really. Even still, I suspect there may be plenty of folks who disagree with me about these revolvers named after government officials being appropriate for self-defense.
I don’t think they’re the absolute worst self-defense option; I just don’t get the appeal. At all. Yes, you can fire .45 Colt and other traditional cartridges through them as they have rifled barrels, but they’re not particularly good at that. Not nearly as effective as purpose-built centerfire cartridge revolver.
The marketing appeal is that it can shoot both .410 shells and standard cartridges. You can even load them in the same cylinder. On paper, that sounds kind of neat. For self-defense use, it just doesn’t add up for me.
While I’m not volunteering to be shot by a .410 bird, buck, or slug load, they’re not known as deep penetrators with sufficient mass to stop a large mammal target, like a crazed human being or a Yeti. Will it make a mess? Yes. Is it lethal? I’m sure it is. Will it stop a determined attacker as effectively as a quality hollow-point centerfire offering? Maybe. Maybe not. If you made me bet, I’d side with the reams of data supporting the performance of revolver cartridges like .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, and the like.
Now, in fairness, would I want one? I actually had one at one point, but I sold it. It seemed to have potential as a field or snake gun, but other than that, the compromises just didn’t do it for me as a self-defense option. Trying to be all things, I just found it didn’t do any of them particularly well.
A few years ago, I think Taurus did a Fear and Loathing at the Shooting Range ride-along with Hunter S. Thompson. Clearly, the outing involved copious amounts of LSD. Don't get me wrong we love the Taurus brand, but yes, they make the list once again with the Curve.
At first glance, you might mistake the Curve for the Kimber Pepper Blaster spicy goo launcher. It’s a globular design with a marketing twist, or curve, that redefined the term “pointless gimmick.” The frame was curved—the idea being that the grip area would better wrap around your body and conceal more effectively. If you were right-handed, I suppose that might work in theory. Lefties got the benefit of extra printing and gun exposure.
Sticking to its minimalist design aesthetic, the company ditched sights—altogether. In fairness, they painted crossed lines on the back of the slide and included an integral laser.
When I saw the release on this one, I bleached my eyeballs and retired from the shooting industry for six months. It didn't do anything better than a million other pistols except be bent.
Pocket .22 Revolvers
One of the fist gun “stores” I used to frequent was more of a storage unit. It was legal, and duly authorized and approved by the BATFE, but it was located in an industrial park mostly filled with rows of rental spaces populated by auto body shops, countertop fabricators, and the like. You know, working businesses, not retail stores or places with showrooms.
Anyway, this place was a Class III dealer stocked with some of the most interesting surplus rifles, pistols, ammo, and automatic battlefield pickups you can imagine. The interior in no way resembled a shop. No counters. No glass cases. No counters. No cash register. Few if any shelves now that I think about it. Just a bunch of stuff piled on the floor and hung on the walls. It looked more like a neglected self-storage unit before the auction. Yes, it was glorious. There had to be a few hundred-grand worths of firearms and ammo in there at any given time.
The owner was a big guy. While large, and not so mobile anymore, he had that tough biker gang look so most people wouldn’t have wanted to mess with him. He was extraordinarily friendly, and one day while chatting about the new shipment of hollow-projectile 7.62x54R training ammo, I asked how he protected himself and his business. I figured he had some beefy pistol or machine gun hidden away that I hadn’t noticed. With a big smile, he pulled out one of those microscopic single-action .22LR revolvers from his shirt pocket and said, “This.”
I was a bit stunned, to say the least. Here’s a guy sitting in the biggest gangland robbery target in the city, day in and day out, in an invisible location, protecting the premises with a 5-shot mini-revolver with a whopping one-inch barrel. The strategy seemed to be on par with popping Orange Tic-Tacs for birth control, but what do I know?
Don’t get me wrong; I love those tiny wheel guns. They're well-made, infinitely concealable, and lots of fun. I just can’t imagine using one for primary self-defense. Backup? Sure. They’re perfect for that role.
As far as I know, his puny revolver never failed him. Then again, he never faced an armed robbery attempt.
If having leftover ammo after surviving a self-defense encounter disturbs you, then perhaps a two-shot handgun solution makes sense. If you’re willing to run the risk of being stuck with unused ammo, there are plenty of better options out there.
These flat derringers made a big splash a few years ago, both for their brick-like design, thin profile, and legal battles over whose idea the concept was. The pistols were available in a variety of calibers. As I recall, you could even get one chambered in 7.62x39mm. Yes, the standard AK-47 round.
There’s nothing inherently dysfunctional about these derringers. They work. They’ll fire two shots with ease. Depending on the model, there are a couple of spare rounds stowed away in the base of the grip. If you’re in the middle of a fight for your life, it’s doubtful you’ll have the opportunity to unload, access those, and reload. At least you can bequeath those leftover rounds to your children should your initial two rounds not prevent your demise.
I guess my problem with these is that they egg on the very dangerous false sense of security. “Hey, I have one shot to stop a threat and one as a spare in case there are two attackers!” That’s optimistic at best and doesn’t account for misses, failures to incapacitate on the first shot, and a zillion other potential outcomes that are far more likely.
Fun and Games
So, I may have had a little fun making jabs against some of the more non-traditional defensive firearms, but the underlying reasons are legit. If you’re going to rely on a firearm to help save your life in a worst-scenario encounter, don’t fall for gimmicks. It’s not worth the risk. Think about things like ease of shooting effectively under stress. Ability of the designated weapon caliber to inflict fight stopping damage—quickly.
And last, but certainly not least, carrying enough of that ammo to ensure getting the job done.
Tom McHale is the author of the Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.