The Ideal Concealed Carry Gun: Myth or Reality?

Idea Concealed Carry Gun
Idea Concealed Carry Gun
The Ideal Concealed Carry Gun: Myth or Reality?
The Ideal Concealed Carry Gun: Myth or Reality? – Photo Courtesy of Eleewaahmad

I have searched and am continuing to try to discover the ideal Concealed Carry (CC) gun for myself, like many do. This is proving to be a very challenging task with a lot of dynamic variables, like when Al Gore “created” the Internet or when Thomas Crapper developed the flush toilet. Is there really a one best or ideal gun for carry purposes? The starting place for me was to define the characteristics and features of what I preferred in my carry gun. Note that these are my “wants” and NOT “needs.” I listed them and divided them into three categories… my strongly-preferred features, my preferred features, and my would-like-to-have-but-not-mandatory features. I have learned after spending a big chunk of money changing my CC gun and criteria about 5 times each over the last 3 years, that you cannot always pay attention to what your friend prefers, what the “experts” select, or even what is the “latest and greatest” new CC firearm to hit the market. Also, a high-dollar price tag and cost in general are not always related to what is the best CC gun for YOU or any individual, given individual likes and dislikes, hand and finger size, muscle strength, usual attire, work or play environment, preferences, etc. One would logically think that there must be a certain minimum round capacity, a specific type of powerful caliber, a particular trigger press range, an ideal weight and size, an optimal revolver or pistol, a best method of carry for a certain gun, a revolver or semi-automatic that has a great sight radius, a best type of sights, etc. Bottom line: there is a tradeoff among the characteristics and features of the firearms on a short list for anybody… and there is NO perfect CC gun that meets all universal standards. So we all must make tradeoffs and COMPROMISES (not in quality, but) according to our personal set of values, preferences, likes and dislikes, body style and strengths, purposes, etc. Accuracy is a major factor to keep in mind.

So what gun do you prefer for CC? What are the considerations and where does one begin? Do you want a 1911 with a Single Action Only trigger with about a 4 psi light and short press with an external safety? Do you even want (or need) an external safety for a CC gun?  What are the safety, accidental, and negligent discharge considerations? Is safety really only in your mind and the way you train? What about capacity? Seven or eight rounds or 12 to 15 rounds? Will there be a single or multiple attackers and what will you probably need for self defense? How about a Double Action Only trigger with a 6 to 8 pound long and heavy press, with no external safety? Do you consider a small 2-inch barrel snub nose, lightweight revolver with its concealability advantage enough to override the lower recoil of a bigger and heavier gun? Steel, alloy, or polymer barrel and/or frame? For CC do you want (or need) a 2 inch, 3 inch, 3.5 inch, or 4 inch barrel? Can you CC your favorite single-action 1911 with a 5 inch barrel? Is diameter width more important than barrel length for concealability? So many complex variables and considerations.

Here are just some of the characteristics and features that I considered for my CC gun (NOT in any priority order):

  1. Concealability- overall size and dimensions- full-size/compact/sub-compact;
  2. Weight and Design of gun;
  3. Trigger Type and Press- action and pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure applied;
  4. Rounds or Capacity;
  5. Barrel length;
  6. Concealability- gun width-diameter;
  7. External Safety or not and safety features;
  8. Amount of controllable Recoil (given personal medical concerns-wrist);
  9. Available holster, magazines, etc.- type and quality for your type of carry and lifestyle;
  10. Ergonomics for your personal comfort and effectiveness (e.g. grip type, pinky-finger extensions, hand fit);
  11. Available Ammo and cost (at this writing an UNKNOWN factor);
  12. Accuracy and Reliability out-of-the-box, without trigger jobs, new sights, etc.
SpringfieldEMP 9mm- 1911 Style
SpringfieldEMP 9mm- 1911 Style

Note that caliber was omitted from my list because I believe an individual should carry the highest caliber gun that they personally can most comfortably shoot ACCURATELY. I believe that ACCURACY is far more important than the type of gun, caliber, or equipment you carry, so proper training and practice are critical for any carry gun. I accept that all calibers can kill with the proper ammo and precise shot placement. Sadly, I recall when Senator Robert Kennedy was killed with one .22 LR shot to the head, the assassination attempt on President Reagan and the shots to Mr. Brady from a .22LR, and other murders with .22LR guns.

CC of Semi-Auto Pistol or Revolver

H&K P30 9mm- DAO-LEM
H&K P30 9mm- DAO-LEM

Recognizing that it is a very personal and individual decision selecting either a semi-auto or revolver for CC, consider the  many pros and cons. Your opinion is just as good as mine or others, probably better for your given circumstances, hand size, medical condition, preferences, etc. I just want to share my ideas about what works for me so as to help you with your CC decision. You probably have other factors to add to mine. Maybe you want to have 3 or 4 CC guns and rotate them for CC (like I do), but make a decision about what is your “go-to” top priority CC gun? Here are the pros and cons I considered for both semi-autos and revolvers for CC.


  1. Easy concealability- thinner width & NO cylinder bulge
  2. Holds MORE cartridges-number of rounds capacity
  3. Faster speed of reloading with already loaded mags, saves time- no putting cartridge in each chamber
  4. More accessories available
  5. Rugged finishes & almost indestructable (e.g. melonite and tennifer)

CONS: More mechanicals to operate; must rack slide (there is a technique to help- see my related article); inoperable until clear stoppages

Ruger LCR .38+P Special
Ruger LCR .38+P Special


  1. Simple operation with fewer functions
  2. Great reliability with less mechanical operations
  3. Usually less expensive to purchase
  4. Fewer moving parts so less sensitive to lack of cleaning/maintenance

CONS: Must put round in each cylinder; speed reloader requires much practice; reloading is very dexterous operation & takes more time; holds LESS rounds; must reload more often; not as rugged as semi-auto regarding grit & grime

MY PREFERRED Features and Characteristics for CC Gun

S&W M&P 9mm Compact
S&W M&P 9mm Compact

Hope this saves you some time and effort or is a starting point for you to add and subtract your preferences. Given my priority for accuracy, frequency of practice, training time, and desire for certain features, I want to share MY preferred features by category (not in any priority order within each category.)

 Glock 19 9mm- Gen 3
Glock 19 9mm- Gen 3


  1. Accurate out-of-the-box, without gunsmithing (trigger job, other sights, different barrel, etc.)
  2. Reliable
  3. Compact size and dimensions (not sub-compact or full-size) for better ergonomics & versatility
  4. 3 to 4 inch Barrel (helps with accuracy)
  5. Capacity of 9 to 15 rounds (not counting chambered round)
  6. Lighter Trigger Press (about 5 psi or so)
  7. Low Recoil (due to my carpal tunnel medical condition)


  1. Steel frame for better accuracy
  2. Comfortable carry Outside The Waistband (OWB)- my preference
  3. Medium Total Weight (26 oz or less)
  4. Easy to reload

Desired-NOT Mandatory 

  1. Cost $1,000. or less
  2. Readily available and reasonable cost accessories
  3. External safety (not a strongly desired or must-have for me)
  4. Interchangeable backstraps
  5. Match-grade barrel and trigger (depends on gun)
  6. Grip safety (not a strongly desired or must-have for me)
  7. Night sights (or fiber optic front or luminous)
Kimber Compact Custom .45
Kimber Compact Custom .45

Other CC Guns Considered

Ruger SR9 9mm
Ruger SR9 9mm

Walther P22
Walther P22

Springfield XDm Compact 3.8- 9mm
Springfield XDm Compact 3.8- 9mm

Sigs: P232-.380 and P238- .380
Sigs: P232-.380 and P238- .380

Glock 26- 9mm
Glock 26- 9mm

Sig 938- 9mm
Sig 938- 9mm

To help you whittle down the large number of options and get started, here is a summary chart of just some (14) of the carry guns I considered. I am very fortunate to have 6 carry guns that I rotate among, depending on the situation, potential threat/danger, weather, my attire, available ammo, wrist pain, and my whims. Love it! Have fun!

Concealed Carry Gun Features

I hope my ideas and some of the options I considered will help you in making your Concealed Carry gun decisions. Remember there is no one BEST or PERFECT concealed carry gun, but the one that is best for your set of wants, situations, and preferences. SUCCESS!

© 2013 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at
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"Col Ben" is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as "Expert" in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben recently wrote the book "Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection" (second printing) with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at Contact him at
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There is no universally perfect CC gun or carry method.

I use a Glock 27 in a Kydex OWB concealment holster for concealed carry, along with a spare mag in my pocket. This was the best compromise I could some up with for ME. Even though it’s a compact, I still find it bulkier and heavy than I would ideally like. Having said that, I like the way it shoots (feels good in the hands and I can hit what I aim at pretty easily). .40 cal ammo is in abundance.

I tried different guns and carry methods (IWB, concealed carry clothing, shoulder holster) and finally settled on this method. I know another guy that carries a .22 semiauto IWB so there are all kinds out there.

Mike Brickman

Great article, Colonel! As a firearms instructor for over 25 years, I am constantly asked this question by students new to CCW…

Selecting a carry handgun is like shopping for shoes…What I want/need is unlikely to fit you, your lifestyle or body type, or your carry circumstances, and vice versa…It is a very personal selection…

But your article gives those new to CCW a reliable set of criteria upon which to base his/her choice…The complete selection process laid out in one source document…
A very valuable teaching tool indeed….

Dan Ess

As you mentioned, it’s not so much about caliber, but about accuracy. If you cannot be accurate, if it’s too bulky to carry easily, uncomfortable to shoot, too expensive a round to practice with; what’s the point of buying it? You need to be able to operate all the controls easily and it should feel good in your hand. Then think about how you want to carry it and as you mentioned, in different types of weather wearing different types of clothes. Bottom line, 5 rounds you carry, whether 22LR of 44 Magnum are better than 5 you do not carry. There are a lot of excellent firearms for all types of carry available. Some that I like: S&W M&P Shield 9/40, Springfield EMP 9/40, Kahr K or MK 9/40, Ruger LCP & LCR series. Sig 938, Bond Snake Slayer IV, NAA Black Widow, S&W J-frame revolvers.

el jefe

I can help a little. It all depends –
I personally lean toward a 1911 style – for dependability. I carry a full size 1911 (I am not small) IWB – or a 1911 Officers model in a shoulder rig.

If it is hot here in the south, I have started carrying a small 32 acp – like a CZ-50 or Bersa 32 or 380 for ease of conceal.

Depending on the situation, weather and manner of clothing – I have more than one option to choose from.


Choose a hand gun you WILL carry daily. Practice with it. If you don’t carry it daily it will NOT be there when you need it.


actually, there is a perfect cc gun, its compact, light, easy to carry, and has eniff power to blow away anything on 2 or 4 legs. Its the glock 29 and the badass 10 milli.


I’m still a undecided novice.. My biggest concern is the gun going off in my pants!.semi-auto’s I’m afraid of jamming under rapid fire or duress. revolver may have less ammo but once you start firing, everyone’s running for cover. Great article. These are the top notch fire arms recommended. Don’t want a side arm (afraid someone will see it). Don’t want one inside the pants (barely can button them as is). Like the small 380 for concealment but question accuracy.compared to what is recommended.


I have owned and shot various firearms for 50 years, and still see new ones that I think “might” be improvements over what I already own! I currently carry an older SW 6906 that a local friend adapted to laser grips. This is a deadly little pistol, and meets my current needs. I don’t know how anyone could be disappointed with Glock or SW pistols, although there are a huge number of other makers for individual choices. One thing is certain–a shooter will select a pistol and holster, and soon find another they like better! keep what you have and PRACTICE!


Nice article, I am all ways asked what is the best gun to carry in my CCW classes. They always ask what I carry because if you teach they will assume what you carry would be the best and in my opinion it is the best, but, as you said for ME, not everyone. I all ways tell them the same thing, buy one good gun, it must fit you and the intended use, it must be absolutely reliable, carry it all ways every day, and practice every chance you get.

SGT Big Dawg

After going through the same kinda thing for years I carried a Para Wart Hog but have now replaced it with for me the perfect CCW handgun the new Springfield Armory’s XDs and it will be my last until/unless I wear it out.

SGT Big Dawg

I should have included that I also found the last holster that I will have to buy for my XDs in the Crossbreed IWB holster.

Mr Bob

I can see that it’s all very much what someone prefers. I’m in love with my SCCY.
At 15oz. it’s light, compact and once the springs in the magazines are broken in, holds 11+1, one more than advertised. Trigger was a little iffy at first, but it’s smoothed out nicely.


Finally! Someone admits that “there is NO perfect CC gun that meets all universal standards” and doesn’t preach about which gun I SHOULD carry. Thank you!


Col Ben’s article is great and important to all of us, but is particularly important and critical to those citizens who are in need of a firearm to protect themselves, their families and property from the despots of the world. Most importantly his effort to provide firearm training is imperative if you are a first time firearm owner… Remember…GET THE TRAINING IF YOU GET THE GUN!


I used almost the exact same criteria when I selected the SIG P239, which I carried for years. Last year my Ruger SR9C replaced it due to its higher capacity and trigger safety.




I always tell people get a gun that just feels good. The only requirement I have is that it takes high cap mags also if you fall in love with one with an external safety get to where you feel confident enough handling the gun that you can holster with the safety off. More then a few have been

shot because they missed the safety on the draw

Dan Ess

Yes I am sure that has happened; it is also true that many have shot themselves while holstering or unholstering their weapon, because the safety was not on.


Since most defensive use of any firearm is usually within 7 yards, accuracy is not a major concern.

Dan Ess

Accuracy is important no matter how close you are. People miss at 7 yards, people also continue to come at you (possibly shooting as well), when you do not hit them somewhere that causes immediate severe pain, loss of mobility or heavy loss of blood and onset of death. Most first shots will not do any of the above, unless you are accurate.


I think the five most important criteria for me were:

1. Will I carry it? Meaning will it to be small enough and comfortable enough to carry everywhere all the time?

2. What is the largest caliber I can comfortably do that?

3. Can I shoot it accurately?

4. Does it have a reputation for reliability?

5. Can I afford it on a limited budget?

The Kel-Tec PF9 fit the bill for me. It does take a lot of practice to shoot accurate followup shots. And I mean a lot. But just to prove it to myself I used it exclusively on the marksmanship portion of my Texas CHL class and passed.


PF-9 is a great gun! Full 9MM power with small size and small price… It’s not a target pistol by any means but deadly accurate at combat ranges. I now mainly carry the Springfield XDS as I love .45 cal, it’s a winner! I still carry the PF-9 when I feel the need and have recommended it to many new CHL folks… Take Care. RAS

Seymore yo

Revolvers do not jam, but I prefer my .32 auto, Hungarian Feg.

Alastair Parker

they don’t jam but i have had cylinders lock up before. I hate that argument.

Alastair Parker

i love my FEG too btw lol


My first Concealed Carry gun was a Smith &Wesson 629 classic with a 6.5″ barrel. The second was a Smith model 19 with a 4″ barrel. I liked the longer barrel of the 629 better because I carried in a Simply Rugged Sourdough. The longer barrel kept the gun from shifting around. I could carry inside the waistband or outside. I realize I live in a fantasy world, and dress how I want to every day. But we all need to get off the “concealed carry gun” thing. If you shoot a mouse gun well, carry one if it makes you happy. I tried a Colt Detective Special for a while. I shot the N frame so much better it wasn’t funny. Faster, more accurate, easier to reload……and I never found a holster for the Dick special that wouldn’t move around……No barrel to keep the gun anchored.
The Col. is on the right track. Find something that you shoot well with and learn to live with it. Darn if I wouldn’t trade my 1911 in on another N frame now that I think about it….

don from wisc

What a great article! Instead of some know-it-all telling you what to carry, he lists the pros and cons of several guns. My own personal opinion is that I’m not going to be in a prolonged gun fight where I need a lot of rounds, and I’m not going to need to shoot a long distance. I carry a S&W Airweight .38 with hollow points. If I need more than 5 rounds, I’ll probably be dead by then.


I couldn’t have said it better. As a retired law enforcement officer after 28 years of service, I carry a simple S&W Bodyguard revolver for the same reason. Mechanical simplicity, light weight and easy to carry. Almost all encounters take place within 7 – 15 feet and require only a few shots. I carry a few extra rounds just in case but if you need more than that you really need additional help more than additional rounds!


Col. Ben – GREAT article and thank you for the excellent information. I own a few of the guns in your chart and agree with your synopsis, howevern you have made up my mind to buy a new one based on this article. Keep up the great work!

Another Ex-Fed

Just a minor quibble, but the trigger “press” expressed here should be listed as “pounds”, rather than “psi” (pounds per square inch). The typical trigger finger contact area is about .33 square inches, so 4 pounds applied to a .33 sq. inch trigger surface is 12 psi. while big, fat, (and impractical) target trigger with a .5 square inch trigger contact area transmitting the same 4 pounds to the sear would spread those 4 pounds over a larger area, resulting in 8 psi at the trigger surface. In either case, the same 4 pounds are required to release the hammer or striker.

Steve Rosen

I am quite amazed at the amount of technical data you packed into address the colonel doctor’s amateurish efforts to describe trigger pulls.


Good information for the article. I would suggest adding body type to the mix. Bigger guys can more easily conceal bigger guns. Slimmer guys – slimmer lighter guns. The holster makes a big difference as well as you noted OWB or IWB.

Adelbert Waldron

Excellent article. Informative and helpful.
I would encourage you to look at the Colt New Agent with Crimson Laser grips. Its has trench sites so there is no holster lag.
I am also a huge fan of the Sig P938 as you listed. Excellent pocket pistol.
The S&W 1911 SC E Series may be the all time best shooter though.

That said, I want a Sig Sauer M11-A1.


May I suggest adding the Steyr S9 to the list of considered CC pieces?

Auto vs revolver: One for primary carry, the other for BUG.

Accuracy: for SD 2″ @ 25 yds probably isn’t that important. Absolute reliability (or as close as we can get in the real world) is way ahead of target grade accuracy in any gun on which I would bet my life when things get ugly.


The BEST (if not perfect) carry gun is the one YOU WILL ACTUALLY CARRY !!
The caliber, model, style and all that are great criteria but in the end will you actually want to concealed carry it day after day ?? Juts my .02 cents… RAS

Paul Erna

Right with you. Living in Miami with shorts and a tee
shirt most of the time I had 25’s 22 mags, a few derringers along with a
Walther PPKS and both a 5 and 6 shot 38.
Around 1992 I first saw the
cigarette pack sized L.W. Seecamp 32 but I balked at the 600 bucks. A
month later I finally bit the bullet and bought it. Fits perfect in my
right front pocket. I always have it unlike the others I would leave at
home like the walther digging into me at the movies. Never been so
happy. I got rid of all my pistols except the 5 shot 38.


Glad you concur. Big & Bad gun doesn’t do much good if you leave it home cause it’s a pain to carry or conceal….Might wanna look at the SMARTCARRY holster, worn inside your pants. Looks a bit funny but works with shorts, swim suit, no shirt whatever. I’ve been using one for several years so I don’t have to “dress for the gun”… I have no connection to the company just think it really practical and invisible. Even my wife didn’t know i was packing until I told her… Take care. RAS

Paul Erna

I love the right front pocket.

I’ve been in 7-11’s at 3am and have had my 32 pointed at someone with my finger on the trigger and they never knew

Alastair Parker

hopefully it would have cycled lol

Paul Erna

LOL…I hear ya…but it’s nice to have the option to pull it out or shoot right through the pants


PERFECT = ~$150 Jimenez JA-22 new;carry w/CCI Velocitor; use life-time warranty to address any weaknesses; shoot 100 rounds twice/mo for a year, once/mo after; practice at 20 paces aiming & 5 paces pointing only from retracted stance. Keep the JA-22, add ~$300 Kel-Tec P-32 new w/life-time warranty; carry w/Fiocchi 73 grain FMJ (JHP defense loads pointless); same practice schedule. Carry a spare mag. Get accurate. Spend what you can afford on ammunition (if you can find it), not the gun. Keep your gun(s) clean and lubed. Keep your mouth shut. Nobody needs to know what you carry, where, or when. Pray you never need to draw it, and if in the end you do, that nobody dies.

Roger T

Once again a great article from Col. Findley. I agree there is no perfect CC gun. It all depends on personal preference. I find that listing you needs and wants is the right place to start. I have also found that trying out someone else’s weapon is a great way to test if it will work for you or not. But remember in some states you can only carry the gun you have listed on your CC. So don’t just try/buy one without knowing your state rules and regulations.

Paul Erna

I’ve had a ton of carry guns. Living in Miami with shorts and a tee shirt most of the time I had 25’s 22 mags, a few derringers along with a Walther PPKS and both a 5 and 6 shot 38.
Around 1992 I first saw the cigarette pack sized L.W. Seecamp 32 but I balked at the 600 bucks. A month later I finally bit the bullet and bought it. Fits perfect in my right front pocket. I always have it unlike the others I would leave at home like the walther digging into me at the movies. Never been so happy. I got rid of all my pistols except the 5 shot 38.


I recommend a S and W M and P 9 mm for concealed carry for women as it has stopping power and worn in a belly band can be tucked under the breasts to conceal it – but baggy shirt is necessary. I don’t like ANY gun that has the hammer racked back when a round is chambered as all that hammer has to do is fall and a round will be expended. I don’t care if a safety is on or not – that is “hoping” a round will not go off and hope is not a good thing to depend on.


I don’t believe in 1 concealed carry weapon. I believe in 2, used at different times. For example I own a full size Beretta 92FS and a very concealable Radom P64.

When going to places where I know I am in more danger, I carry my full size Beretta and dress to conceal. However, dressing to conceal is not something easily accomplished every day for the rest of your life. Some days you need the gun to be easy to conceal, and because of that the rest of the time I carry my P64 (for which I have about a dozen different holsters/methods of carry) and make it fit however I need/want to dress.

Between those two, I have a full size Beretta during times I know I’m in more danger (for example, going to a larger city, or knowing I’ll be walking around at night), yet even when I can’t dress to conceal such a large weapon, I’m never without a pistol because my P64 fits whatever I want to wear and I’ll always have it on me.

By the way, I highly recommend the Radom P64 as a “deeper concealment” carry weapon. Very thin, very small, very cheap ($200), ridiculously reliable, shoots 9mm Makarov (which for the gun size is a pretty powerful round), and fits any PPK holster (same dimensions, same look even) which are very available. It comes with springs that are way out of wack and hard to fire, but a kit from Wolff Gunsprings fixes that and turns it into one of the better deep concealment guns you can get, and I don’t just mean “for the money”, the fact that it’s cheap is just a bonus. I can carry it 100% concealed in shorts/t-shirt with just a simple $10 IWB holster.


Maybe a little too much information. After all, how far away do you think a subject will be if you have to use leathal force? Trigger pull? With adrenalin hitting all time highs, the problem might be an early shoot. What works for ONLY me is a .38 (I carry, but its my wifes firearm) or my .357 Taurus revolver. I do not want to play with anything if I actually need a weapon…. point and shoot.
Navy qualified expert shot .45. 1970-1976


A bit confused.

Revolver PROS include “Fewer moving parts so less sensitive to lack of cleaning/maintenance.”

While CONS include “not as rugged as semi-auto regarding grit & grime.”


Steve Rosen

You flushed your credibility down the toilet when you described trigger pulls in terms of “psi”. On the plus side you may have a future in politics given the non-committal nature of this article.

Steve Rosen

Doc, you know that being a doc and all like that makes me wonder if you have ever heard of a practice called peer review. It’s kind of like proof-reading only better. You have one your peers, say another colonel doctor, read your article and he don’t just check for spelling and such. He checks to see if you said anything silly, like its got a 4 psi trigger.


Love my Glock 26, great carry and easy to handle….


The difference between carrying a Glock 26 and a Sig P938 is night and day. One feels like a brick in your pants, and the other you forget it’s even there.


I’ll second that! Leave the Glock for at home defense and carry the high quality P938 everywhere.
With top performing ammo like Speer +P Short Barrel 9MM that Sig is unbeatable for personal defense IMHO.


A revolver is not as rugged in regards to grit and grime?…. Um, NO