Concealed Carry

If I Could Only Have One: Revolver Edition

Taurus Tracker Revolver

The old “if I could have only one gun” argument is among the most commented on and fun discussions.

It may even be enlightening. Heaven forbid we had to get by with only one gun. But the fact is, we do get by with one gun most of the time.

I carry one gun — sometimes a backup goes along. When going on a road trip or hiking, I carefully consider which piece to pack.

By extension, it is obvious these handguns might be at the top of the list if I were limited to only one gun.

In the coming series, we are looking at the one rifle, shotgun, pistol and revolver that might be the best choice for most scenarios.

This isn’t just a fun game, but a question that must be answered as we choose the best handgun for many uses.

For many shooters just beginning or on a budget, this is a tough question that must be answered.  

Taurus Tracker Ported Barrel
Barrel ports make the Tracker a pleasant handgun to fire even with heavy loads. 

A Note About Practicality

If you have to grab one gun and evacuate, you don’t want to waste time thinking about it.

You should have already made the decision and not be gazing into the safe wondering which handgun to deploy.

When it comes to revolvers, I have a few that I find trustworthy and well-suited to several tasks.

A six-inch barrel magnum is a joy to use and a fine hunting revolver. A two-inch barrel magnum fits handily into the back pocket.

Neither is ideal for every use. Just the same, if the SHTF, I think a .357 Magnum revolver might be the best choice.

Things hit with the Magnum stay down for the count. Practice loads in .38 Special offer low recoil and great accuracy.

They are good for small-game hunting. Magnum loads are well-suited to personal defense.

The different power levels available and the versatility of loads is appealing. 

Taurus Tracker Rubber Grips
Taurus has designed a set of grips that separate the steel frame from the shooter’s hand, making for a comfortable shooting experience. 

Primary Deciding Factors

If you invest the time and effort into mastering the magnum revolver, medium-size game may be taken cleanly with the .357 Magnum at modest range.

The best one gun should not be a fantasy gun you don’t own, but the best gun you own and the one you use the best.

I often carry a .45 caliber 1911 because it is flat, easy to conceal and offers good control.

But I carry the Smith and Wesson 640 Pro revolver because it is easily concealed, simple to use and has plenty of power.

Those who are familiar with small-frame revolver accuracy understand that a Smith and Wesson with a short barrel may be very accurate given good sights.

Magnum recoil may be controlled with hand-filling stocks that limit contact between the frame and the hand.

I believe that the shot that you are making is the important one, not a flurry of shots. The 640 is sometimes carried in the pocket when hiking.

Then there is the six-inch barrel Python. This revolver will chase a one-inch group all day. It is accurate to 100 yards with 180-grain bullets.

While I often carry it in the Galco shoulder holster, which distributes weight well, a 46-ounce revolver isn’t a daily carry.

So, while the short-barrel and long-barrel magnums are good guns, an in-between revolver with the four-inch barrel is the best choice for the one-gun person.

With the four-inch revolver, I may carry shotshells from CCI for snakes and small pests, and then the heavy-loaded Hornady XTP for maximum penetration. 

Taurus Tracker Revolver with Ammo
The Tracker is accurate with both .38 Special and .357 Magnum ammunition. 

If I Could Only Have One Revolver: My Choice

Some have personal defense at the top of the list and don’t get into the woods.

I get into places where feral dogs and big cats may compete for my territory. The magnum offers an edge in power.

If bowled over by an attacking animal, the revolver may be placed into their body and fired time after time without any danger of a jam.

The best gun to have when you have only one gun is the one that you shoot best and have the greatest confidence in.

After some thought and difficult decision-making, I decided that the revolver I own that most qualifies as a one-gun revolver is the Taurus Tracker .357 Magnum with four-inch barrel.

First, the piece features fully-adjustable sights. This makes it a hunting, target and recreational gun I enjoy a great deal.

Even though the Tracker isn’t a heavy-frame revolver, the cylinder holds seven cartridges.

The lockwork is smooth and easy to use well in double-action fire. The barrel features ports on each side to help control recoil.

This is one mild-shooting magnum. Another advantage is that the grips totally insulate the hand from the steel frame. Recoil is never painful.

The barrel underlug is strong and adds balance. This revolver is very accurate. I have fired several five-shot two-inch groups at a long 25 yards.

Overall, when it comes to the one-gun theory, I do not feel limited at all with the Taurus Tracker. 

What would be your one-gun revolver? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (46)

  1. I love my Colt Python with a 2 1/2 inch barrel. It is such a sweet shooting gun and very accurate for close shots. I wouldn’t be using it to hunt, obviously, but it is great for personal protection.

  2. I love your choices, mainly because that’s what I carry and at night in the little safe by my bed!! Kudos!!

  3. Good article.

    One of the most critical points made was the reliability of a .357 revolver in a critical situation. My first handgun was a Ruger stainless Security Six .357. It was a great gun. I eventually sold it for a song to a good friend (an Oglala Sioux and former 82nd Airborne trooper) who was a Smoke Jumper in Montana because I wanted him to have a reliable gun when he jumped into the backcountry to fight fires in circumstances where he might encounter terrified and potentially aggressive wildlife.

    I still miss that gun. but I am glad I did what I did and passed it on to someone who I felt both needed and deserved it.

  4. 4″ original (early production) Python 357 mag.

    If you choose a ported barrel, I hope you never have to fire from deep retention (flame your ribs) or fire from you pocket (ignite your garment).

  5. While a Model 13 .357 magnum would be my first “only one gun” choice I think my second choice would be my 3″ Model 629 .44 magnum. With 180 HP loads it would be good for defense. With light lead loads targets, self defense, and small game are doable. Shot loads would be useful for pests and small game. Magnum loads would be good for whitetails and bear. That gun carries very nicely.

  6. OK here goes. I am going with the tried and true 1911, rugged, easy to conceal and reliable. With one exception, I would go 10mm. I have a Dan Wesson and a Kimber Camp Gard and both are exceptional weapons for selfdefense and small to large game with good fast and flat long range power and accuracy to at least 100 yards and further depends on the shooter. One round to carry so there is no confusion switching bullet types in the dark or under stress because you will never be fully prepared for what surprises you. I prefer 180 grain jacketed hollow points to do everything needed. For a coiled rattlesnake all you have to do is hit the body (in one coil and out the other) and it is out of commission, trust me on this, snake rounds don’t work. My every day carry is a Kimber micro 9 with extended mag I have 8 rounds of Hornady 147 grain jacketed hollow points and would be very comfortable if I had to just depend on that too.

  7. Having been a double action wheel gun guy all my life it would be hard to chose just one to take and leave the rest of the children at home. My S&W mod 66 and I have been close friends for many a year. I shoot it better than any double action revolver I have ever picked up or owned. BUT, I also love my S&W 686+. With a 3in bbl and a round butt it carries well. And it’s nice to have that extra round. BUT, the one gun that is in my bug out bag is a Ruger Blackhawk convertible. Yes it’s a single action, the only one I own, but I have my reasons. 1st, it’s a Ruger, built like a tank. It has a 4in bbl, so its not to long to carry or hide. 2nd, it came with 2 different cylinders, I can fire 3 different rounds out of 1 handgun. 38/357 and 9mm. In my bag I carry 2 speed loaders, yes, speed loaders stuffed with full house 357mag loads in them. Why speed loaders for a side gated wheel gun you ask. Organization, I know where my rounds are and they are easy to access. A full house 357mag load is good for personal protection, and you can take med size game out to about 50 yards with a well place shot. I also carry 2 SKS strip clips. I’m not sure everyone knows this, but a 38/375 round fits very nicely onto an SKS strip clip. 1 clip has 10 rounds of CCI snake shot. Good for snakes, birds and small game at close range. The other has 10 rounds of 38 FMJ’s. Good for small game. The FMJ’s will not blow up a bunny. And last but not least, I carry a Glock 19 mag with 12 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense rounds in it. Again the mag keeps my rounds in order, and if you practice a little, you can speed load a side gated single action revolver pretty quick from a 9mm mag. The last thing I like about my Blackhawk I leader from Wyatt Earp, it makes a darn good club if need be. So there ya have it. Why a double action wheel gun guy has a single action army in his bug out bag.

  8. I will go with my Dan Wesson 44 mag with the 4″ and/or 6″ barrel , ported barrels and either 44 special or 200 grain corbon 44 mag rounds.

  9. If I were limited to one revolver, it would have to be either my Smith & Wesson Model of 1905, 4th Change (pre-Model 10, with transfer bar safety) with 4″ tapered barrel and butter smooth action or my Smith & Wesson Model 10-8 with 4″ heavy barrel and not quite butter smooth action. Though I prefer the aesthetics of the tapered barrel, both are well balanced, highly accurate, durable, and easily controlled. They both wear Pachmayr Gripper Professional grips.
    Prior to the onset of arthritis in both hands and tendon problems, I would occasionally shoot No. 10 sized juice cans at 125 yards resulting with all 6 rounds placed in the can. Nowadays, my practice is limited to 25 yards and less. Both guns shoot better than I do now.
    My favorite revolver that I own is a Smith Model of 1905, 2nd Change (pre-Model 10, no transfer bar safety). It has a 6″ tapered barrel and an action that is smooth as silk. It actually wouldn’t be a practical option for SHTF as it is 109 years of age.
    All three guns prefer bullets that weigh 158 grains, no matter the bullet configuration. Groups with lighter bullet weights open up.
    Each of these is chambered in the venerable .38 Special.

  10. Old guy that I am, pushing 69, my favorite chest-rig revolver, while elk and deer hunting, is a Colt Trooper Mark III, with 4″ barrel, 357 magnum. I bought it in the late 70s from the head of security of Montgomery Wards main store. It’s rugged and fast out of my Hunter holster. I wouldn’t go hunting without it!

  11. I love wheel guns, though for carry, I need something small without giving up too many rounds, so I go semi-auto.

    Had an SP101, but I just couldn’t bond with it. Could have probably had the trigger worked on, but better things came up for my preferences.

    I’ve got my 38 special with the bull barrel. I’m the most accurate with it of all my handguns. With the +p rounds I almost always use at the range and at home in hollow point, I’m very comfortable with its stopping power and most importantly, my wife can handle it.

    If not for the current difficulty in finding, and being able to afford it, I would go with my 629 chambered in 44 special. I admit it – am an avowed Smith and Wesson revolver fan. Love those triggers, and basically everything else about them.

    Long live the revolver!

  12. I have to agree with Ben, if I can only grab one on the way out the door. I grabbing a Ruger 3 inch SP-101 in 357 magnum

  13. Back when I was more physically able, my one revolver choice would have been easy: my 4″ Ruger Speed-Six .357. Lots of advantages to the 357 as discussed. The Ruger was rugged, easy to keep running and hit where I pointed it so didn’t need the possible risk of adjustable sights. I could conceal it, well sort of, in a pancake or shoulder holster under a loose sports jacket.

    At this point in my life, I probably don’t need a “hogslaughter” or deer hunter weapon. Self protection (and an occasional load of snakeshot) is the one and only need I have now. Of what I have my old 38Spl Model 60 fits those needs, although I might prefer the 3″ version. If I could buy new, something like a (nonexistent of course) 3″ 638 in 38 might call to me. If a 38+P won’t do the job on a bad guy, I’m not at all sure that the .357 will really do that much better. Yes, a 357 has more KE than a 38, but most of that extra KE takes the form of extra penetration which is going to be wasted on the air beyond the bad guy’s back.

  14. If I could only choose one, it would have to be my Colt King Cobra 357 Mag with 3” barrel. But my Kimber would be a close second.

  15. I’ll be the second to comment on Dan Wesson 15 4”, vented heavy in 357. I really prefer the balance and accuracy. Mine goes back to the mid seventies. Will never let it go!

  16. Got a Dan Wesson 6″ HB, S&W 686 6″, and Taurus Tracker3″ all in .357, all GREAT revolvers, but my carry hiking revolver is the fantastic Taurus, also has 7 shots, and an extra 9 mm cylinder!!!

  17. I’ve owned the Taurus 627 and it’s an amazing tack driver for the price. I sold it a few years back, and I find myself trying to buy it again – regret that sale out.

  18. I’m partial to my Taurus Judge Magnum with 6.5″ barrel with my across the chest holster. It’s surprisingly light for a revolver of that size. I will also handle +P 45 colts loads up to about 800 ft lbs energy without any trouble. My .410 loads that it’s rated for can actually generate more that that. Can you imagine five 000 buck shot pellets (36 caliber each) exiting one’s barrel at 1,100 ft per second. Nothing could stand in the way of that.

    This revolver can also ring steel at 100 yards all day long.

  19. I’ve had a 44, 41, and 357 tracker and loved them all. I agree with the 357 being the best all around one gun scenario. I’ve taken deer, hogs, vermin, and held off the occasional vagabond with zero complaints or malfunctions!

  20. I only have 3 wheel guns, so my choice is simple. My GP-100, 6″bbl, .357. The other 2 are a Single Six 22lr/22wmr convertible, and Super Redhawk .44 Mag.

  21. I grab the Dan Wesson Model 15 4″ heavy vented barrel I carried when I did police work. My handgun instructor at the Academy called it a “cannon” compared to the S&W .38s the rest of the folks had, but after a few thousand training rounds, I feel competent enough to get they bad guy (or at least blow them over with the concussion). And I can put 12 rounds downrange in 15 seconds reloading with loose rounds.

  22. I do believe that I will just stick with my old Smith and Wesson N-Frame 520 (sometime referred to as the NYSP 520). With its large frame, fixed sights, and 4 inch barrel, I find this .357 to be stable and accurate at reasonable lengths. Once accustomed to the fixed sight, one can make the adjustments necessary to be accurate at most lengths within the effective range of the pistol.

  23. I have a Ruger 8-shot .357 Redhawk which is fun as hell to shoot, but heavy enough to manage recoil. Great reliable firearm.

  24. I’m with Gary Point. I’ve had my S&W 686+ w/ 4″ brl i .357 mag. for … a very long time (decades). I don’t carry it as often as I once did, but for a one gun choice; well there’s just no decision. The 7 shot cylinder and the hammer block style safety (allowing carrying with all chambers loaded), in addition to the performance of a .357 mag. make this a no brainer for me. Mine is a bit too old to accommodate moon clips, and this is my only negative (but I’d never have it milled).

  25. I’m grabbing two, jus sayin, it can be done! But for this discussion, I’m grabbing my Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .454 casull, “strong enough for a man, but made for a grizzly.”

  26. If I’m stuck in a situation where I can have Only One Gun and I have to choose out of mine, first choice is my Taurus model 66. 357/38, with seven rounds in the cylinder it adds that extra surprise for the seventh tango who thinks it’s only a six-gun.
    Second choice is my Sig Pro SP2009. Simple takedown, decocking lever, and its chambered in the most common handgun caliber in the world. 15 round capacity doesn’t hurt either.

  27. If I had to choose one handgun it would be my Ruger 3 inch SP-101 in 357 magnum. It is built like a tank and shoots accurately with medium recoil.

  28. Easy pick, S&W model 586 with4″ barrel. Love the sights and trigger. I put on Pachmayr grips. You can bury me with it. Don’t want to meet the Devil empty handed. Throw a couple speedboaters in the jacket pocket for his minions. .

  29. My favorite go to Revolver is the SW 686 plus…….
    – 357 Magnum
    – 6 Inch Barrel
    – 7 Shot

  30. I purchased the same revolver for my daughter for a graduation gift after AF basic. She was stationed in Washington state and loves the outdoors. When deployed overseas I was asked to keep it for her and got to take it to the range a few times. Liked it so much I had to purchase one for myself

  31. If I could only own one handgun, for me it’s the S&W M69 4-1/4” barrel in 44mag. Small enough to carry easily, and quite versatile with magnums, specials, and shot shells. I did replace the sights and worked the trigger a bit, it’s quite accurate as is and recoil is much more manageable than I originally anticipated. It’s probably my favorite firearm period and good at everything but duck hunting lol!

  32. I am old school. My hunting revolver is a single action FIE 5.5 inch in 44mag, have fired 10,000 + rounds only problem wan extractor screw backed out but lock tite fixed that have shot dear and bear with right loads

  33. I think the Taurus Tracker is a fine choice but why not go with the model that comes with the 9mm cylinder? Then you can shoot .357, .38, and 9mm out of your one gun.

  34. My SHTF wheel gun is my Taurus Judge. The ability to carry multiple different rounds from .45 colt and 410 buckshot down to #8 bird shot makes for a universal everyday carry. This is the gun in my night stand drawer that I grab in the middle of the night, when needed.

  35. My One Only revolver is a S&W model 617-6. It is a superb double action than holds 10 rounds and is far more accurate than I am. One can reasonably pack many extra rounds and you will not be deafened if the situation does not allow donning ear protection. Ammo is cheap enough to allow lots of practice. Our society is increasingly urban and more powerful calibers present the problem of over performance. The one gun issue will always be a compromise and no gun is going to do everything well. My revolver will most likely be used in a rural/urban situation for pest and varmint control. I’ve owned and shot many popular caliber revolvers and while this choice is not considered appropriate by many I feel it will adequately meet the most likely need.

  36. I’ve got both the Ruger GP-100 in 4″ barrel and the Taurus Tracker with 4″ inch barrel and both in .357 Mag. Both are great shooters and are far more accurate than I am and since my normal carry is a 5-shot .357/.38 I think either/both would go with me in a one gun situation. I can hit what I aim at usually and both of those wheelguns also have laser sights when the light dims. As I get older, the larger magnums are a little harder to handle, so the .357 is fine. Power, controllability, and accuracy make it just right. Good article.

  37. for 44Mag,I’ll go with the 5.5″Redhawl
    Longer than industry standard cylinders allows 300+gr loads with 1.800 o.a.l.Same applies to GP100 357Mag. and SuperRedhawks

  38. I have a variety of handguns, including an original Python, Colt Gold Cup, Kimber Gold Match, various .44 magnums, various .22 revolvers and semi-autos, and a bunch of J and K frame.38 Specials. However, if forced to have one revolver it might very well be a S&W Model 13. The Model 13 is a K-frame, 4″ heavy barrel, fixed sight, .357 magnum. They are accurate and durable… a classic cop gun, like the Model 10, from days past. I bought that gun used for $125 when the cops were moving to semi-autos.

    I had no problem hitting bowling pins at 100 yards with mine. The sights cannot be broken (I’ve had several adjustable sights fail over the years — roll pin broke, windage screw broke, elevation screw frozen). In a training course for armed guards I was the only one with a revolver. I shot much of the week-long training with magnum loads and was by far the best shot in the class. The gun doesn’t snag on the draw. The gun is light enough and small enough to conceal under a jacket or sweater. The .357 magnum is adequate for whitetails — I’ve shot at least a half dozen with one. The .357 with 125 gr. HPs was the top “one shot stop” defensive round for years.

    If I had to choose one semi-auto it would probably be my Norinco 1911A1. I made a few changes to the gun to improve functionality and accuracy when I first got the gun: longer link, tighter drop in bushing, sear spring, slide stop, and filed the feed ramp to smooth it out (no need for a high polish… just get the annular machine marks out of it). The gun shoots almost as accurately as my Gold Cup and Gold Match without the risks of the adjustable rear sight — the roll pin on the rear sight on the Gold Cup broke. It’s a butt ugly parkerized gun but it has been reliable and has digested 10K+ rounds. I cannot recall a single stove pipe or failure to feed after the minor upgrades. I bought this gun new for $225 and put about $50-$60 in parts in it.

    These guns are among the least expensive guns I ever bought. They are utilitarian and of proven design… things you can depend on.

  39. Tracker in .44 mag is my choice. .44 spl for most applications, and .44 mag for those times when you need more power. S&W 5 shot .44 mag has a rep as not shooting classic .44 SWC lead bullets, but not an issue with the Traqcker. Only problem is finding a holster.

  40. I’ve always been a revolver guy. While I have several semi autos, my “one gun” would be a revolver, either 38 Special or 357 Magnum. My preferred barrel length is 3 inches, long enough for longer range shots, short enough for concealed carry. My current favorite is the Ruger SP101, though I’m thinking about a Ruger LCRx with a 3 inch barrel.

  41. Ruger GP100 4″ 357Mag or Ruger 5.5″Redhawk 45Colt.Both have adjustable sights,both can routinely digest stout cast loads[the RH with >300gr cast,the GP100 with 180-200gr]each wears Hogue Monogrips-and a lanyard stud,I have brightened the sights with paint-glaucoma&myopia.It would be a tough call which of the two,but I’d lean towards the GP100-can also get carbines in 357Mag

  42. No doubt a decent choice, Taurus does make a decent firearm and they don’t break the bank. But for a wheel gun, I settled on a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 magnum with a 7 1/2″ and large Packmayr grips. Simple in operation, easy to care for, accurate and packs plenty of punch. When I bought it 30 years ago I could hit 5 out of 6 quart oil cans at 100 yards (now I can barely see that far). I’m 6’3″ so I can carry concealed in a shoulder rig if I wear a long jacket.

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