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)

  • John R

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    Thanks for the article. My choices would be much the same as yours. My S&W 627 Snubbie and a 1911. Not sure which one as I have Kimbers, Sig’s, Springfield’s and S&W’s. Be a tough choice they are all very good 1911’s.
    While I’m in the mindset to liquidate my collection before I hit 70 there’s always a good chance I might not hit 70. As we all know tomorrow is not guarenteed.
    That said, would it be feasible for CTD to do a future article on how a spouce
    of the deceased can liquidate a collection without getting burned?
    Happened to be visiting a gun store a few years back and remember the owner gloating on how he brought an exquisite collection from a hapless widow for pennies on the dollar. Never went back, but I did learn a valuable lesson.

    Reply

  • James Higginbotham

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    well.
    i have two gun safes loaded with my firearms.
    the wife asked me one day what should she do with them if something happened to me?
    i told her to keep them until some of the Grand Kids were older then give most of them to them.
    i also told her to keep a couple of the handguns for herself because i wouldn’t be there to protect her.
    i wont say how many firearms i own but it’s a lot, with the ammo for all of them and a lot of that as well.
    also i wish all here a HAPPY NEW YEAR IN 2018.

    Reply

  • Bohica66

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    Great article Bob and a nice array of handguns. Not a proposition any of us older guys like to think about. So, what do you do, pick a time when you can no longer get out and shoot and begin to sell things off, or hang on and let an executor do it? I doubt I’m much different than others in that I have some guns that have very little monetary value, like the first 22 single shot I got when I was 13. Value, not much, memories…….priceless.

    Reply

    • bob campbell

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      Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  • Mike Beckham

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    Good article about his favorite handguns. I have been shooting handguns since I was about 12, and started with my grandfather, just like the author. My first experience was on a Colt Cobra, with a 2″ barrel, and a S&W model 10 with a 4″ barrel, both in .38 special.That experience sold me revolvers at the time.Many handguns have come and gone since then, in almost every caliber. Today I would have a hard time parting with just three of them. They are a 4″ model 10, and a 6″ S&W 686 (357), and a Hi-Power in 9mm. The .38/.357 handguns are a great all around caliber and they match my Henry .357 lever. The Hi-Power is a pleasure to shoot and accurate, and ammo is cheap and plentiful.I would feel well-armed with any of them. A good .22 revolver or auto is also desirable for plinking or small game hunting.

    Reply

  • Retired Navy Spook

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    I don’t have a huge gun collection, 7 handguns and 6 long guns. If I had to pick a favorite it would be a Browning Hi-Power made in Belgium in 1967. As much as I enjoy shooting my Colt 1911, I enjoy the Browning even more. It stands to reason that the same genius designed both.

    I’ve already stipulated in my will that my grandson-in-law, who is a sergeant in the Army, will get all my guns and ammo, and it’s not likely that I’ll be selling any before I take that final dirt nap, which is good because it would be hard to pick a least favorite.

    Reply

  • Dave

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    First to go? That’s a tough question.
    Last to go? That’s a tough question too! That must be why my “collection” keeps growing…..I have a tough time parting with anything! Maybe it’s because I live in California. Want a brand new Colt? I’m sorry….can’t have one. There are zero Colt handguns on the California roster of “approved handguns” so no dealer in California can sell a new Colt. There were…..but Colt stopped paying the annual fee to keep their guns on the roster. The roster only includes “safe” handguns. Yep, manufacturers pay dearly to have their guns tested so California can make sure they are safe. Every model, every color. Stop paying the annual fee, and the gun drops off the list. It’s no longer “safe” I guess. Sounds a little like legalized extortion. Oh….you want a black Wilson Combat CQB? I’m sorry…you can only have a green one. We haven’t tested the black one to make sure it’s safe. How about the latest new pistol from Nighthawk Custom? Nope…never. Why? Because it does not have the REQUIRED feature of microstamping. What??? Sorry, Nighthawk, Colt, Wilson, Sig, Springfield, everybody…..your new pistol doesn’t stamp the required identifying information on each casing, in two places…..too bad. It’s not gonna be sold here. What was the question? Oh….last gun standing……right. I think I’ll just keep them all….even the ones I don’t like. Well….maybe I’ll just sell one to cover the cost of the license that I’ll need on January 1, 2018 to be able to buy ammunition to feed my guns. Not everything is that bad though. The fine for texting while driving is only $20. The weather is nice too…..

    Reply

    • Retired Navy Spook

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      Dave,

      I got the biggest chuckle from your post. I have a life-long friend who just moved from eastern Pennsylvania to southern California after her husband was transferred there. She says it’s like another planet. You have my sympathy.

      Reply

  • Don Harand

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    Luger 9mm is the best gun to shoot, nothing compares.

    Reply

  • John Mathew

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    hand guns are more classy,I really admire Ruger Blackhawk specially the design. I really liked your article, it kinda remind me of my old times.

    Reply

  • Karl

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    I have my G19 G31 and G32 glocks which I like bjt my favlrites to shoot ate my Ruger SP101 357 mav a d my Ruger Match Champion 357 Mag revolvers

    Reply

  • GlockGuy

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    As long as it’s a Glock or a 1911

    Reply

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