My Favorite Handguns — A Rotating List

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, General

I have been shooting since I was nine years old. My grandfather taught me firearm safety and the .22 rifle. We kept a .22 for hunting squirrels and a shotgun for wing shooting or rabbits. The handgun was for personal defense.

Stag handled pistols

These stag handled Colts, a big gun and a small gun for concealed carry might well be the last to go.

My grandfather ran a country store and needed the Smith and Wesson .38 more than once—not counting dusting off snakes and a bad dog or two. When I was introduced to the handgun in my early teens, I became fascinated with the challenge of becoming a good pistol shot. There were plenty of good wing shots and good riflemen, but my grandfather was the only good pistol shot I knew of growing up.

My first handgun was a .22 caliber Arminius. I fired it until the vent rib feel off after many bricks of inexpensive ammunition. Today, the question sometimes comes up as to which is my favorite handgun, and not necessarily which one I will keep, but which one I will sell first.

I have a will and a good list of things, much to the relief of my daughter in law. She asked me in a nice way to make a list of some sort (and it isn’t just guns but old books, a vintage camera collection, certain oddities such as an early EKG machine and a shock treatment machine controller) for the estate. While any inconvenience my heirs have will be the least of my worries at that point, it is good to have a plan. I plan to liquidate that estate before going to my reward.

Bullseye 1911 pistol

This old Bullseye gun is a great shooter, and it may just fit the bill for the last gun standing.

One of my friends, somewhat my senior, isn’t doing well with liquidating his collection. I told him he has to decide whether to sell his nicest guns first or his cheapest guns. I am learning a valuable lesson as he tries to get his money from modern striker-fired guns—it isn’t going to happen. I am pretty certain my Colt Series 70 with stag grips is a candidate for the last gun, but another 1911 is even more likely.

If I sell my guns, I will get more for the Les Baer than four cheap guns. Some guns are very good, but aren’t worth much money, so I may as well keep them. I have not always made the best buys. I owned a rather nice Colt Single Action Army in .32-20. It had stag grips and a 4 ¾-inch barrel. I wasn’t happy with the caliber, and it didn’t shoot as well as my modern .357 Magnum Pietta revolvers. I sold it and was glad to have the money back in the bank. Others, I purchased for projects, and they were just tools.

On occasion, I have sold guns and other property I did not wish to, but they were the meal ticket at the time. Several financed a trip to Paris. I never missed them; they went to a good cause.

Sometimes it isn’t which you would sell but which you could sell. Some pieces just aren’t popular. You can always sell Colt, Smith and Wesson, and Ruger revolvers; they are not a dog on the market. My older friend purchased quite a few Glocks during the past few years. That’s fine, he likes them, but he is getting only a fraction of the retail price as he thins the collection.

Taylor’s Cattlebrand .45

The Taylor’s Cattlebrand .45 is a thing of great joy to own and use but not the most practical.

Best to buy guns for hard use, not investment, and know the difference. I have, on hand, a good selection of handguns for my work and ammunition testing. I sometimes have on hand inexpensive examples of odd calibers. I own a long out of production Heritage single-action revolver in .32 Magnum. This one has a short barrel and birdshead grips. It probably cost $200 when new. It is one of the all-time fun guns I have owned, fast handling, accurate, and easy to carry.

For rats, and perhaps coyote with the Buffalo Bore load, it is a great handgun. I would get little for it on trade. Another handgun I use often is an Uzi Eagle 9mm. I really like the CZ family and some claim these Israeli guns are the best of the tribe. As a reliable and easy to shoot 9mm that has never failed and is quite accurate, it would be a shame to let it go.

I grew up on revolvers and the primary reason we have a handgun is personal defense. The four-inch barrel Combat Magnum is a revolver that will go anywhere and do anything. It is a formidable defensive handgun and will take deer to perhaps 50 yards with the right load. The Buffalo Bore .357 Magnum 158-grain JHP comes to mind. With .38 Special, practice loads it is a joy to fire and use for recreational shooting.

baby Desert Eagle 9mm pistol

The Baby Desert Eagle 9mm is a great all around handgun. But, there are many good 9mms!

I enjoy the Single Action Army-type revolver more than almost any other handgun for pure shooting enjoyment and pride of ownership. I own two engraved Pietta revolvers, one in .45 Colt and one in .357 Magnum, and another nickel .357. I also own a Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt with a .45 ACP cylinder built on the small XR3 grip frame. These are good revolvers, but in the final equation would be the first to go, as they are less versatile than the double-action .357 Magnum.

I hope that I will spend my last days, many years off, in a cabin in the mountains and while a SAA .45 seems good if I am whittling the collection down, then versatility would be at a premium. Therefore, the question isn’t always which you would sell, but which you would keep. I am never happier or more impressed than when firing the Les Baer .45, particularly with my own handloads. But in the safe is a wonderfully fitted pistol built with a Caspian slide and Essex frame. A friend and mentor and I built this pistol together. It was state of the art 20 years ago and the fitting, trigger action, and accuracy are excellent.

The National Match barrel and barrel bushing are tight, but I can field strip it with my fingers. When we were done with the project, my friend offered to purchase the handgun and wave the gunsmith fee. I felt that it was the thing to do, and now that he is gone and I own the pistol, it has a certain place of honor in the gun safe. Therefore, the four-inch .357 makes a lot of sense as the last gun but then again, I am a 1911 man.

Ruger Blackhawk revolver

The Ruger Blackhawk is a great gun and would be among the first to go!

Newt’s .45 would be the last to go. I broke it out this week and fired a 1.5-inch group at 25 yards from the Bullshooters rest with the Federal 230-grain Hydra Shok JHP. That is excellent, and on occasion, the pistol has done better and worse, mirroring my ability. That will be the keeper.

So, that was pretty simple. The four-inch barrel .357 may make the most sense as the last gun, but the last gun will be the .45. A sense of history and emotional attachment trump practicality.

What would be your first and last to go? Share your answers in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

View all articles by Bob Campbell


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Comments (15)

  • 70's Operator

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    I got rid of all my crap guns over the last year. Sold the Glock’s, NEVER liked the triggers. The over-rated S&W’s….gone. Long guns, shotguns, handguns all gone. Except one of each. I kept the Canik TP9SA. Best pistol I’ve ever shot. Kept the custom 10.5″ scoped SBR. The outstandingly accurate Anderson RF-85, 6.5 Grendel, and a very sweetly tuned Catamount Fury II with the Kushnapup conversion on it. Couldn’t think of anything else I would need. All ranges covered.

    Reply

  • Dogtired

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    I try to buy all my guns at fire sale prices so if I have to sell one off I never take too big a hit. New Springfield 1911 Commander for under $400? Yes please. Sig P226 with Crimson Trace grips for $375? Why not? Ruger Blackhawk 357 w/a 6″ barrel for $225? Much obliged. Etc., etc. I periodically check on the prices of the ones I own to see what they’re selling for online. I think if I had to sell, I’d be doing ok.

    That said, my goal is to gift each of my four kids a standard capacity gun in 9mm and one on 45 or 40. One full size and one compact. Also one 380 or snub nosed 38 for a deep conceal/back-up gun. While I’m at it, probably a 6″ or longer wheel gun for hunting, defense, or whatever. Aaaaand that about taps me out.

    It’s possible that there may be a few I inherit some day. If that happens, the equation may shift. Also possible health or finances could meet with an unforeseen catastrophe.

    If the need arose, I’d sell off the easiest to replace for the least price first, if we’re only talking handguns. Long guns? I have a beautiful Remington 700 ADL or whatever the acronym was that meant “really nice walnut stock” chambered in 25-06, a customized 6.5 Grendel, 458 SOCOM, SxS 16 gauge, and a couple others I could give up without shedding too many tears and pool together a few thousand to see us through for a while. I really like each one, but I love my wife and kids far more!

    Last to go…probably my Smith and Wesson 6909, stainless Blackhawk 357, Savage 111 30-06, homebrew AR 1:7 16″ 556, and Winchester 1300 12 gauge. Simple, ample ammo, and there’s probably not many problems they can’t solve. The rest would go on no particular order that I could spell out. It would depend on the market and the dollar amount needed.

    They are, after all, tools; possessions that I like to hope don’t have to big a hold on me.

    Reply

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