We get it. Today you’ve got so many high-tech concealed carry pieces vying for your attention it can get tiring. But let’s just take a break from all that for a moment and look at a few guns of a generation or three past, that, although dated, with the right loads and leather can still serve as viable personal protection guns (and have a long track record to prove it).
1. Smith & Wesson 39-2
This was S&W’s first entry into the world of 9mm pistols. A sporty, short-recoil double action semi-auto, it was designed with input from the successful Walther P-38 of WWII fame to compete in the 1949 US Army Pistol Trials. The Army decided to keep the nearly 40-year old M1911 deeming it still ‘good enough’ (they still do this today). With no interest from Uncle Sam, S&W put the M39 on the civilian market and it sold well, becoming the first popular US-made 9mm pistol. It was well received and used by several law enforcement departments as well as US Navy special warfare types in Vietnam. New York-based gun guru Paris Theodore used the ’39 as the foundation for his ASP platform, seen by many as one of the earliest EDC pieces ‘unseen in the best places.’
Today the design, while dated, is still functional. The M39 was not designed for JHPs (it was on the drawing board in the 1940s); nonetheless, it digests them rather well. As its a vintage gun steer away from lots of +P rounds and stick with standard pressure hollow points that have a rounded nose profile (as opposed to a straight-sided truncated cone profile), such as the Federal 115 grain 9BP and the 124 grain Gold Dot HP. With a good load and a spare mag stashed somewhere your offhand can get to, the Smith and Wesson Model 39 is still a viable carry piece.
2. Colt Detective Special
Going all the way back to the Prohibition-era, the Colt Dick Special was father of all of the modern double-action snub-nosed revolvers. Taking their already popular six-shot Police Positive and chopping it down to a more manageable bulge when concealed under a suit jacket, it was the original “personal insurance” for detectives and those who needed a little extra backup on a rough occasion. As such, Colt kept it around in one form or another for nearly 60- years, only finally closing the door on the line in 1995. Over the years they made special versions that were smaller (the 22LR Banker’s Special), cheaper (the Colt Agent), out of aluminum (Colt Aircrewman), and in matte finish with rubber grips (Colt Commando.) Smith followed example with their own 5-shot J-frame series, that has now inherited the snub nosed market by default.
Colt made these guns strong out of carbon steel and most (except for the Aircrewman) can handle a small quantity of today’s stout JHP loadings, but it’s generally best to stick to standard power rounds. Popular choices are the Gold Dot 125 grain and the Buffalo Bore 158-gr LSWCHP. To help tame the muzzle flip on this little snubby, you can go with a modern reduced recoil load like Hornady’s 90 gr FTX Critical Defense round. Drop a speedloader or speed strip in your pocket for a reload, and you are good to go.