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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda

Lou Salseda is a retired LAPD sergeant with 34 years of law enforcement experience. He is the chief instructor of TAC-1 Defensive Firearms Training in Santa Clarita, Calif., and is a consultant for law enforcement training and litigation.

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis

Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and former New York police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.

Small-Frame Revolvers: Still An Excellent Choice

Don't dismiss a wheel gun, which can serve an effective backup role.

July 02, 2010  |  by Brian Ostro - Also by this author

Smith & Wesson's double-action Bodyguard 38 offers a concealed hammer, ambidextrous cylinder release and is rated for +P ammunition. It weighs 14.3 ounces.

In an age where the word "tactical" populates every other page of the firearms print media, it's refreshing for me to encounter dozens of officers who choose small-frame revolvers as backups to their primary service pistol.

Small-frame revolvers have been around since the 19th century, but the features that make them attractive to officers and lawful concealed-carry citizens have surfaced much closer to today.

Probably the most important development has been the reduction in size and, more importantly, weight. Smith & Wesson pioneered the compact small-frame revolver and designated it the "J" frame. Smith & Wesson uses a letter system to denote frame size, with J being their smallest frame size. The J frame was an instant success, packing five rounds of .38 Special, and later .357 Magnum, into a compact cylinder and small frame.  Gunmakers such as Taurus, Charter Arms, and others soon followed suit and "cloned" similar platforms.

For an officer considering a backup gun, one of the major factors is weight. Smith & Wesson and Taurus have addressed these issues in the small-frame revolver by replacing heavier steel frames with lighter aluminum, titanium, and scandium metals. When properly alloyed, these metals are as strong as steel, lighter, and more corrossion resistent. This is a great advantage when considering placing one in an ankle holster, where weight and perspiration can take their toll over time.

In addition to weight, another major concern is capacity. Since these revolvers hold only five rounds to reduce the cylinder's bulk and profile, many officers are concerned about having the necessary firepower in a potential engagement.

These concerns should be put aside as the small-frame revolver is not meant to be your primary service pistol which gives you anywhere from 15 to 20 rounds of .40 S&W. The small-frame revolver is meant to be a last-ditch backup.

Furthermore, the capacity of the small-frame revolver can be enhanced by the use of speedloaders, which hold extra rounds of revolver ammunition captive in a circular platform that is calibrated to fit the dimensions of your revolver's cylinder. With the simple twist of a knob, the speedloader deposits addittional life-saving rounds into the revolver's cylinder. Speedloaders are available from all major catalog suppliers and cost $10 to $15 each.

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

shotmaster @ 7/9/2010 4:26 AM

The firearms industry has developed some awesome backup guns. A great holster for this type of weapon is the Stealth Defense Holster with the patent pending "strut" feature.

Craig Brenan @ 12/26/2012 10:26 AM

I am hunting for a small frame revolver for my wife. The problem is that she is very small (4'-11" and a buck twenty) and were a little bit up there in age. She has fired my S&W 357 (27-2) and my sons .40 Glock and the caliber doesn't seem to be the problem. It's just the weight and trigger pull. She has tried some Taurus and can't pull the hammer back. I'm looking for revolver about 24 ounces, with a light trigger pull and a 4 inch maybe 3" barrel so she can shoot at some targets a little further away. I would prefer 38 special or above for stopping power if ever needed. The gun does not have to be new model or even new for that matter, just something that works well. My other problem is, thanks to some doctors or I should say pharmaceutical company's screwing up my life, my limit is going to be about $400.00 area. Am I asking for too much? Any help please!
Thank you

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