Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sat. Gunblogging: 5 Pistol Calibers

"Saturday Gunblogging" posts are posts with which I indulge myself by talking about (usually) the equipment of the shooting sports. These are often topics extensively covered elsewhere in the gun world, but whatever; I like talking about 'em.

Yesterday Kim had an interesting mental excercise posted regarding guns. OK, so it's more of a gun daydreaming kinda thing than it is any sort of intellectual heavy lifting, but it's good for some Saturday blogging. The question posed to Kim was this:
"If you could own just one handgun in each caliber, which one(s) would you pick?"
Hmmm. . . that IS an interesting question. Not the typical "if you could only own one pistol/rifle/shotgun, what would you choose" type question so many of us pose to ourselves so often. So it got the wheels turnin' in my head. First, like Kim, I had to decide what my favorite calibers are, since I could name my favorite handguns for EVERY caliber, but that would be one hell of a long list! So I'm going to limit myself to 5 calibers. Here they are:
.22 Long Rifle
.380 ACP
.38 Special/.357 Magnum*
9mm Parabellum
.45 ACP
So now that I have my 5 favorite pistol calibers on the record, it's time to get to the pistols themselves. By the way, I'm not taking price or availability into account at all in this list; this is pure desire, based on aesthetics, shootability, history, accuracy, reliability, and "intangibles," meaning that which can't be defined, a romantic ideal of a particular pistol, or in these 5 cases, a class of pistol. So here are my 5 favorite pistols of all time, chambered in my 5 favorite calibers of all time.

1) .22 Long Rifle: Ruger Mark III Hunter Stainless
I've talked about the Ruger .22 before, although then, it was more of the "budget" Ruger .22's I was speaking of. What I said then still holds true for me though: "I love Ruger Mark III's, mostly because of the fact that my father taught me to shoot with one, and thus I have a certain nostalgic attraction to the model." In other words, I like and respect other .22's (especially revolvers) but the Ruger will always hold a special place in my heart, especially the Hunter Stainless: beautiful metal, beautiful grips, those flutes down the barrel. . . Sweet.

2) .380 ACP: Walther PPK
This has nothing to do with 007, I just like this pistol. It feels good in the hand, it's accurate, it's reliable, it's classic. What more can one really want? To me, this is the classic "gentleman's pocket pistol." No über-plastic, just finely crafted steel. They're equally suited for backup carry or "governor's ball" use. I love 'em.

3) .38 Special/.357 Magnum: Colt Python
The Ruger GP100 might be a little tougher, the Smith and Wesson Model 19 may be (well, IS) more available, but the Colt Python is the epitome of wheelgun art, design, and function. Chambered in .38 Special/.357 Magnum, the Python is easily the most versatile pistol on this list, able to shoot match-winning runs at the range or put serious power on target for defense, or even hunting in a pinch. It's accurate, easy to shoot, utilizes a true combat-proven knockdown caliber, and has absolutely gorgeous looks. This is the only pistol I can think of that can give #5 below a run for it's money in the "if I can only own one pistol" department.

5) 9mm: Browning Hi-Power
Another classic of a handgun. Do you see a trend yet? This was Saint John Browning's final design and arguably his best.** 9mm, high-capacity, a super-comfortable grip, and one of the prettist auto-pistols ever made. I may prefer other calibers (see immediately above and below) but I do recognize the place in history and in contemporary gun culture the 9mm has. It's been around the block, so to speak, and has acquitted itself quite well. Would I carry a Hi-Power if given the choice? Probably not, but I wouldn't criticize those who would or do carry one. Do I WANT a Hi-Power, preferably of Belgian manufacture? Oh, God yes.

5) .45 ACP: The 1911
The classic manstopper cartridge and the classic pistol for which it is chambered. You didn't think I'd choose a GLOCK or something when I listed the .45 ACP as a favorite, did you?*** Hell no! The .45 and the 1911 have been proven (and are being proven) as the defensive handgun by which all other pistols are judged. They are reliable, they are beautiful, they command respect and authority, they have the mystique of being "the .45," they're accurate, and, man, do they feel great in the hand. I could have chosen a prettier model for the picture above, but I decided to go with MY Colt 1991A1 Commander, which I've had for over 10 years now. It's reliable (3 malfunctions in thousands upon thousands of rounds; 2 magazine related, and 1 ammo related [bad primer on reloads]), accurate (enough for combat/defense) and at this point, is like an extension of my body. I may buy or own other pistols for defense or range duty, or even someday buy a prettier 1911, but if I need a pistol right now, my Commander is always going to be the first one I reach for. . . and it's usually on my hip, by my bed, or in my glove box.

So there they are, my 5 favorite pistols of all time. My benchmarks for what all other pistols should aspire to. Sure, there are more modern designs; after all, the youngest basic design on my list was first produced in 1955. But some things cannot be improved upon without sacrificing something, be it aesthetics, reliability, shootability, etc. Now I have to figure out my next gunblogging topic. Maybe my 5 favorite rifle cartridges/rifles. . .

For now though, I'm going to the range with my dad. Few things in life are better than that.

*Unlike Kim, I'm including the .38/.357 as a single pistol.
**Yes, I know, after JMB died, his successor at FN, Dieudonne Saive, finalized the pistol.
***I don't hate GLOCK's, but they ain't 1911's; they're ugly and the grip angle is a little weird. If they weren't so daggum reliable and accurate, I'd hate them. But I respect GLOCK's too much for that.

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