Based on the myriad choices of revolvers still available in gun shops and from manufacturers’ websites, semi-automatic pistols aren’t the only firearms used for concealed carry. The typical snub-nosed revolver still holds a prominent place in the handgun market despite semi-autos’ ability to deliver more firepower per ounce downrange.
Revolvers really shine in close-quarter engagement. I particularly like to carry revolvers over semi-autos when there is an extra need to be discreet. The majority of snub-nosed revolvers today are concealed hammer or “hammerless” designs. A concealed hammer is easier on the hand when fired because the backstrap essentially extends to the top of the gun. The lack of an exposed hammer or cycling slide also means nothing can snag or impede the operating parts as you fire the revolver. Here we have what I consider to be the best revolvers for concealed carry.
Smith & Wesson M&P .38 Special Bodyguard
Introduced in 2014, this new M&P revolver co-opted its name from the original Model 38, 638 and 649 Bodyguard revolvers. The new Bodyguard represents a significant departure from the standard S&W J-frame snub-nosed lineup.
With an MSRP of $440, the hammerless M&P Bodyguard is the least expensive of the current J-frame lineup. This is due in part to the modular frame design. The upper frame portion is aluminum while the lower grip portion is polymer. The barrel and cylinder are both stainless steel. S&W re-engineered the trigger to improve ergonomics and ease of pull. My trigger gauge measured the pull at 8 pounds, 14 ounces. And it is extremely smooth, making it great for those with hand strength issues.
The new Bodyguard’s most unique feature is the ambidextrous latch release mounted just below the rear sight channel. Either thumb can push it forward easily. No other revolver has that feature.
Smith & Wesson: Smith-Wesson.com
Colt Revolvers: The Night Cobra .38 Special
I was rather distraught when Colt stopped production of its D-frame revolver series in 1996. But I was equally overjoyed when they announced the reintroduction of the Cobra series of .38 Special snub-nosed D-frames 21 years later thanks to the miracle of CNC machining. The results were worth waiting for.
While the original Cobra was aluminum-framed, the new Cobra is all steel. Also, the original Colt Cobra was a single model. Today, Cobra represents a six-model lineup of revolvers.
Featuring six shots and unlimited use of +P ammunition, the double-action-only Night Cobra utilizes the buttery smooth Colt Linear Leaf Mainspring design. Colt re-engineered it to provide all their revolvers with the same trigger pull as the recently reintroduced Python. The Night Cobra features a bobbed hammer for a smoother snag-free draw from under a covering garment. The Tritium dot front sight and a plain rear sight channel has proven to be a great combination (even for older eyes).
The Night Cobra and its stablemates are worthy of concealed carry. The Night Cobra’s MSRP is $899. The basic single-action/double-action Cobra is $699.
Ruger LCRs (Lightweight Compact Revolvers)
Despite its unconventional look for a concealed hammer snubby, the Ruger LCR possesses one of the best double-action triggers on the market. Ruger designed the LCRsfrom the ground up to accommodate female shooters or shooters with hand-strength issues, and the trigger pull proves it.
Chambered in .22 LR, .38 Special +P, 9mm, .357 Magnum and now .327 Federal Magnum, the LCR ranges in weight from 13.5 ounces to 17.2 depending on caliber. The LCRs have pinned, replaceable ramp front sights. My favorite configuration is the plain white bar front, which is quite visible under most light conditions.
The LCR’s frame is constructed of aircraft aluminum or stainless steel depending on caliber. To keep the weight down, the fire control system is housed in polymer. The minimalist cylinder is stainless steel, as is the barrel. The LCR is an excellent 21st-century snub-nosed revolver. MSRP is between $719 and $829 depending on caliber.
Charter Firearms USA .44 Bulldog
Charter Arms today has an extensive line of .44 Special (and other caliber) revolvers available in a wide variety of configurations. The classic blued steel and walnut, exposed hammer five-shot .44 Special Bulldog is my favorite Charter revolver. A shrouded hammer model is also available. The classic Bulldog .44 features a 3-inch barrel that provides an improved sight radius for the fixed black sight. And at 20 ounces, all-day carry is easy.
The .44 Bulldogs are admittedly a handful to shoot … even with the original 246-grain RNL load. And the manual warns against loading the Bulldog gun loads designed for hunting. Those are hard on both the gun and the shooter.