Stuck between an apple and an orange...
I'm inviting you all to pick on me a little here. I'm picking on myself a little because I find this dilemma so very amusing.
I've known since the start of this year I wanted something else to go with my 642. That incident in Tyler, TX really got me thinking about something that's a little more confidence inspiring. I'll admit my 642 is 98% likely to take care of anything that might ever happen to little old me. I don't go running around looking for bad stuff to go down, but neither did Mr. Wilson.
I'll admit it: I shoot a larger gun better than I shoot a smaller one. I shoot better with a rifle than I do with any pistol. I shoot a K frame sized revolver better than a full size semiautomatic. I shoot a full size semiautomatic better than I can shoot a snubnose revolver. You're all going to yell at me and I know it shouldn't make a darn bit of difference what piece of hardware is in my hand, but the fact is that it just does. In any case the longer the barrel and the further apart the sights are, the more accurate I am with it.
So while the 642 is a great tool, and may indeed be an ideal tool for extreme close quarters, I wanted something a little more confidence inspiring I could carry whenever circumstances permitted. Due to my profession and lifestyle the 642 is going to be as good as it gets 60-70% of the time. I could explain why at length but would simply rather not.
My criteria were pretty loose when I started. It had to either have a 3" barrel (for a revolver) or a 4" barrel (for a semiautomatic). I had to think it was cool. It had to be a top shelf brand, not more than $800 MSRP, comfortable to hold and carry. It had to point well and have good sights.
I eventually decided I would kill two birds with one stone and try my first caliber that starts with "4". I've been a .357/.38/9x19 baby all my life and I still think that's all the calibers a sane person would ever need in a handgun, but I realize now that I am going insane and might as well concede to my own madness.
I like .38 but I don't want another .38
I like .357 very much but I quite frankly am developing concerns about muzzle blast and flash. I've become much more educated in the past year and one thing I soon learned was to expect to shoot in low light conditions. I know from firing .357 at dusk that even relatively mild loads put on a bit of a light show.
9x19 is an extremely easy caliber to live with due to its low price and light recoil, and it's probably the best compromise caliber, but I'm already carrying a .38. Why carry .38 and 9mm at the same time? It just seems redundant. If I'm going to carry a bigger gun I might as well be carrying a bigger caliber, yes?
The firearm will be used as is, box stock. No custom work, it will be a workhorse and not a baby.
I think I've got it down to two choices. I'm not committed to either yet and it'll be months yet before I purchase anything in all likelihood.
First contender: The S&W 396
Unfortunately I've never actually gotten to see an actual 396, but I have played with a 386, so I feel that's a very fair comparison.
- I have to admit I am developing a hankering for Smith and Wesson revolvers. I like them, darn it!
- The 386 fit my hand perfectly. It felt more natural than my 686 which I adore. I can only imagine the 396 would be very similar if not identical.
- The sights on this thing are awesome.
- I've always wanted to try .44 Special. It's just a cool caliber.
- It weighs nothing. Nothing. I swear it's like a feather. This would make it so easy to carry I might carry a larger gun more often.
-It seems to be a bit of an odd ball and a touch hard to get. I've yet to physically see one. Oh there's some people that would be happy to order me one, cash up front please, and I've played with its .357 chambered brother, but I've never actually gotten to see one in person.
-While certainly not an exotic caliber, 44 Special isn't nearly as widespread as .44 Magnum like I thought it was. Truth be told I would like to have a gun like this chambered in .44 Magnum just in case, but I've seen the market and I can't have my cake and eat it too.
- Bit of heavy sticker price but when I compare the cost of magazines to the cost of speed loaders it's not really that much more expensive.
- My only reload option is a speedloader. Speedloaders are tons of fun and I like to play and practice with them but the fact is that they suck to carry. They are wide and cumbersome and awkward to carry. Speedstrips are not available for this caliber. I don't believe it's necessary to have a high capacity but I do believe it's necessary to carry a reload.
- The greatest problem when considering a full size revolver for a CCW is a lack of holsters. The market follows the semiautomatic so much it's sad, with many great holster makers only doing 1911s and service pistols. If your revolver is any larger than a 640 your holster options suddenly thin out.
Second contender: The Springfield Armory XD40
- No external safety.
- Very, very smooth, glassy, I dare say buttery smooth, magazine feed and release with a very positive magazine catch.
- The magazines themselves seem easy to load and well made.
- Longer barrel than the 396.
- More common caliber that reminds me very much of .357 for some reason.
- This is truly a semiautomatic that answers my every little paranoia about semiautomatics.
-Not sure how I feel about that grip safety. Most people I've known who carry a gun with a grip safety (1911s mostly) have it pinned, and I don't know if I want to explain that on a witness stand.
-Sights are okay but not as good as 396.
-God it's ugly.
-If it were for home defense the light rail could be tremendously useful but for my intended purpose it's not useful. I hate not using this feature. It's kind of like having a truck with 4WD and never using the 4WD.
-Strong possibility of magazines being unavailable after Bush leaves office.
-Even after all that, it's still a semiautomatic that spits hot brass all over the place. That's exactly what I need is a hot brass casing in my eye or someone else's eye. :biggrin: Note: this "con" is facetious I'm not actually worried about that happening. I'm having a sense of humor about myself already sheesh.
- The 9mm version of this gun is plentiful. It's the .40 that seems to be hard to get for some reason. I would likely have to settle for the non stainless finish, which doesn't affect how the gun functions in any way but still it's a negative in my book.
- Fantastic ergonomics but it just doesn't seem to point as well.
They're both going to cost about the same in the end. I'm going to want several spare factory magazines for the XD40.
They're both going to require some retraining on my part. The 396's light weight probably makes it muzzle flip pretty bad, and the XD40's format isn't as easy to shoot. But then again any gun I own has its own weirdnesses and one thing about it I just don't like but accept anyway.
They're both very comfortable guns. While the 396 feels better in the hand, I think the shape of the XD40 will be easier to conceal and will ride more comfortably. I dare say the XD40 is the most comfortable semiautomatic I've ever picked up.
I thought you'd all find it amusing that I am torn between two offerings which have:
and I stress
in common beyond the superficial distinctions we could make.
See normally people are torn between two different Glocks, or two different Wondernines, or two different 1911s... not me. I'm torn between two offerings that no one in their right mind would be debating between. This would be so crystal clear for most people.
I'm actually laughing at myself. This is like debating between an Impala and a Titan. Nothing in common whatsoever.