This somewhat bedraggled Colt Single Action Army from 1905 chambers the .38 WCF, otherwise known as the .38-40. The true bore diameter of .38-40 arms runs around .401. Back when I was young and dumb, this old revolver was used to make up some potent 180 grain handloads that clocked up to 1200+ fps over the chronograph. Both gun and shooter survived and so that now it only sees mild factory equivalent cast lead handloads. Old published loading data though could make the .38-40 a real horse, suitable for most any reasonable handgun chore.
Colt Army Special from 1925 (top), chambered for .41 Long Colt. Bore diameter on this revolver actually measures .405. To picture the effectiveness of the now-obsolete .41 Long Colt cartridge, think .40 S&W with 200 grain lead bullets. (bottom) This mid-1970s Smith & Wesson Model 57 .41 Magnum offers a healthy dose of stomp to any target to which it is applied. Still a good choice for a sportsman, a shorter barrel might be the do-all and end-all of personal defense.
This early photo was an effort to be all "artistic" with a digital camera but shows an N-Frame Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum from 1980 (top) and his grandfather, a Model of 1926 .44 Special from 1931. The .44 Magnum represents all the power I personally want in a handgun. If even more is required then we're reaching for a rifle. The big ol' N-Frame .44 Special is one of my very favorite revolver and cartridge combinations.
The enormous, yet stately and elegant Colt New Service revolver is my very favorite Colt revolver model of all time. This New Service Model 1909 (top) chambers the .45 Colt. Built in 1910 it's still just as powerful, accurate, and useful today as it was over a century ago. Built like a brick outhouse, it'd be durable too but this one has an easy life these days though it sees range time with some regularity. Two old "Army buddies" from "over there," another Colt New Service, this time a Model 1917 and an N-Frame Smith & Wesson Model 1917. These chamber the .45 ACP, using clips or can use the convenient .45 Auto Rim cartridge without clips. The '17 Colt has seen holster time afield over the years. The more ratty-looking Smith & Wesson '17 that lived here before this one did as well. These revolvers are still really capable, some 96 years after they were produced. For home defense, these would still be first rate choices.
A .455 from across the pond
Speaking of manly in the extreme, a Webley Mark IV just exudes the manliness needed to police an empire. This revolver was turned out in 1899 and likely saw service in the Boar War as well as serving in some capacity in World War I. The revolver is fast and slick, having a double-action feel much like the New Service revolvers (seen above) and an excellent single-action trigger pull. The Webley top-break design has to be the fastest revolver of all to use with a speed loader. It's a very sensible design with outstanding ergonomics that have to be experienced to be appreciated. The .455 cartridge is a real short range thumper, flinging big-bore, heavy lead to as high as 750 fps. Think .45 ACP with 260-265 grain bullets. If it wasn't so stinking old, this one would do well as a self-defense choice. It fits N-Frame Smith & Wesson holsters perfectly.
I do love me some certain classic automatics, foremost being the 1911, the Hi-Power, and the entertaining Luger but I have a lot of enthusiasm for the revolver, medium and large sizes especially. Around here the stunted snubs are actually the least favorite of the breed. Anytime revolvers can be promoted, I'm your man.