Revolver, Auto, Derringer?

Whether You Have To Spin It, Shuck It Or Break It Open,
The Choice Of A Concealable Defensive Handgun Is Yours.
; .

Variety is the spice of life (left to right): The SCCY CPX-1, the Bond Arms USA Defender and the
Taurus 617 represent the spectrum of today’s concealed carry options.

When it comes to personal defense handguns, a person’s innate proclivities are put on display. Some folks swear by revolvers while others will fill their hands with an autoloader or nothing at all. There is a third slice of the gun-toting population who just wants to be a little different from everybody else. Fortunately we live in the most evolved consumer culture in all of human history and the market offers something for everybody.

The gun press is awash in technical discourse proposing to mine the virtues and liabilities of countless specific firearms. Here are some representative samples.

As we wanted an arm providing decent capacity as well as an appropriately powerful chambering, we chose the Taurus 617 as our representative revolver.

The 617 isn’t particularly expensive, employs an intuitive manual of arms, and packs 7 rounds of .38 Special or .357 Magnum. Given quality ammunition and a reputable pedigree, a revolver should shoot every single time you pull the trigger no matter what. There are no switches to manage or sequences to remember. A wheel gun is the classic point and click defensive interface.

Reloads are generally quicker and easier on an autoloader but any mechanical action can fail and there is sometimes an added degree of complexity implicit to carrying an autoloading handgun.

Accessorizing is a bit more straightforward and it is generally easier to hide an automatic pistol underneath light clothing. There are also considerably more options in today’s marketplace for autoloaders than wheelguns.

As our representative autoloading champion we chose a SCCY CPX 9mm. This lithe little gun has a reliable pedigree and, with a round up the pipe, offers 11 shots on tap. The CPX-1 features a manual safety. The CPX-2 does not. In either configuration, the gun is monotonously reliable and very reasonably priced.

Given the innate popularity of autoloaders, accessories for them are plentiful. The ArmaLaser TR-10
laser sight for the SCCY CPX-2 (left) is compact and effective. Note the CPX-1 (right) features a manual safety.

Pressing the spring-loaded release on the left side of the Bond Arms Defender’s frame allows the barrels
to be swung up and open. Will was impressed with the .45 Colt/.410 configuration— particularly when
Winchester’s PDX1 shotshells are part of the equation.

Bond Arms Derringer

Options outside the mainstream are both extensive and often unusual. I have in my personal collection a pen gun no longer in production that looks like a writing instrument in dim light yet breaks open to form a single-shot .22-caliber handgun. It is a neat novelty but in a real fight I might sooner have a club.

When it comes to modern, 2-shot derringers, Bond Arms brings flexibility and impeccable quality to the table. Barrels exchange in seconds with an Allen wrench and there are 25 various chamberings.

The company catalog includes all of the accepted defensive options—9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .38/.357 and .45 Colt/.410—all providing a wide power range. For those more interested in a handheld howitzer, Bond Arms has a Defender variant in .45 Colt/.410 that will handle conventional birdshot, slugs, buckshot or even Winchester’s PDX1 defensive loading. The PDX1 fires either two or three of what Winchester refers to as “Defense Disks” along with a cloud of plated BB shot.

While recoil is indeed a handful with the stouter loads, I’ve shot quite a few Bond guns and the width of the grip and its innate ergonomics make for a not unpleasant experience.


A crossdraw holster for the Bond Arms Defender allows comfortable carry, even in an automobile.

There are dozens of carry options for revolvers. This rig from Crossfire Holsters is stable, secure and readily accessible.

To the Range

All of these guns come with strengths and liabilities. In weighing these factors, you need to determine what best suits your particular situation. Recoil management is a function of cartridge energy, gun design, and the surface area of the grip. A powerful cartridge plus a thin grip equal pain. All three of these handguns do a good job of mitigating felt recoil.

The Taurus 617 offers uncompromising reliability in the absence of even rudimentary maintenance, though it is a bit heavy. The .38 Special option makes for relatively inexpensive, low-recoil training, while the same gun stoked with .357 Magnums is a proven manstopper.

I attended an unfortunate young man in an urban ER many years ago who all but removed his right foot when he accidentally discharged the .357 revolver he was stuffing into his pants. Given his level of intoxication, his injury might have actually saved him from something worse later.

The downside is revolvers are relatively wide and bulky. Reloading can certainly be done quickly, but running a revolver tactically requires a lot of practice. The double-action trigger pull on any revolver will typically be long and fairly heavy, even though consistent. The bright side is the nature of the trigger makes an external safety superfluous.

An autoloader will nearly always be easier to conceal than a wheelgun. In the case of the SCCY CPX, the gun feeds from a stubby, double-stack 10-round box magazine. There are thinner concealment options on the market, but I like the slightly wider grip and subsequent recoil mitigation. The double-action-only trigger of the CPX-1 and CPX-2 is entirely adequate for acceptable combat accuracy. The CPX-2’s trigger is the equal of the revolver’s and also negates the need for an external safety, so long as basic gun safety principles are religiously adhered to.

Reloads are breezy. Stroke the magazine release and slap a fresh mag in place. Hit the slide release and you have another 10 rounds ready to go. The pistol comes with a spare magazine as well as interchangeable floorplates both with—and without—a finger rest. The SCCY CPX has all the features you need without the fluff you don’t.

Reliability is always a consideration with an autoloader. It is breathtaking how much lint a gun can attract after a couple of months of bouncing around in your pocket, so regular cleaning is a must. However, I have found the current version of the CPX to be utterly reliable with trivial maintenance.

With the Bond Arms USA Defender, a cam automatically cycles between the barrels. The hammer must be manually cocked but the subsequent single-action trigger pull is more pleasant than our other contenders. With the Defender, you only have two rounds on board, but in the case of the .410 those rounds are devastating at close range. Most any reasonable caliber is available as a drop-in addition so it customizes to the shooter’s individual needs better than most anything else. There is also the coolest cross-draw holster that tucks the gun away fairly painlessly, even under shorts and a T-shirt, or while driving.

So, what’s best for you? I honestly have a tough time making up my mind and regularly use that excuse with my bride to expand my gun collection. Regardless of your particular platform, you need to practice with the gun until you can retrieve and operate it in the dark without a lot of conscious thought. Considering this means time on the range, it hardly qualifies as work.

Model 617
Maker: Taurus USA
16175 NW 49th Ave.
Miami, FL 33014
(800) 327-3776

Action: Double-action revolver
Caliber: .357/.38 Special
Capacity: 7
Barrel length: 2 inches
Overall length: 6.625 inches
Sights: Fixed
Grip: Synthetic
Weight: 28.3 ounces
Finish: Matte stainless steel

CPX-1, CPX-2
Maker: SCCY Industries
1800 Concept Ct.
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
(800) 729-7499
SCCY Firearms

Action: DAO auto
Caliber: 9mm Parabellum
Capacity: 10
Barrel length: 3.1 inches
Overall length: 5.7 inches
Sights: 3-dot, drift adjustable for windage
Grip: Synthetic
Weight: 15 ounces
Finish: 2-tone matte stainless/polymer in various color schemes

USA Defender
Maker: Bond Arms
Box 1296
Granbury, TX 76048

Action: Single-action, break-open derringer
Caliber: .45 Colt/.410 (2-1/2-inch .410 chamber)
Capacity: 2
Barrel length: 3 inches
Overall length: 5 inches
Sights: Fixed rear, blade front
Weight: 19 ounces
Grips: Rosewood
Finish: Polished stainless steel

ArmaLaser Inc.
5200 NW 43rd St.
Suite 102-123
Gainesville, FL 32606
(800) 680-5020

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