October 2008

Mixed Bag in Self Defense: ‘Partner’ Handguns Fight It Out

Springfield’s Mil-Spec is a quality reproduction, but you might prefer modern. Walther’s PPS could use less innovation. The Redhawk locked up. S&W’s 431PD 32 Mag. is going bye-bye.

We recently read The Book of Two Guns, The Martial Art of The 1911 and AR Carbine, by Tiger McKee. McKee is the proprietor and headmaster of the Shootrite Firearms Academy (shootrite.org) located in Langston, Alabama. Printed in long hand with illustrations, McKee instructs and inspires the reader to consider what skills are necessary to effectively use the handgun and rifle weapon interdependently, as well as in transition from one to the other.

With the two-gun concept in mind, we decided to go ahead with a story we’ve been considering for some time—evaluating two pairs of handguns that could also be used to work effectively in tandem, in this case, two revolvers against two pistols.

In each pair, we picked one gun that was larger and better suited for primary carry, be it for duty or concealment. The other was significantly smaller and meant to be hidden in case of emergency. Each pair belonged to the same system, or as close as we could supply.

For primary carry we chose two 45-caliber weapons, Ruger’s $836 Redhawk 45 Colt Model KRH454 and Springfield Armory’s $785 Mil-Spec Full Size Stainless 1911A1. Paired with the Ruger revolver was the $450 32 H&R Magnum Smith & Wesson Airweight J-frame Model 431PD. To run with the Springfield, we added a $699 9mm Walther PPS semi-automatic, which was light weight and super slim.

We could have selected any number of pairs of handguns to fill out our test roster. It is interesting to note that our four guns are each chambered for a different caliber. Certainly when it comes to a primary gun there is more leeway in choice. But when it comes to deep concealment larger calibers demand bigger, stronger and heavier frames. Bigger bullets can also limit capacity. Therefore we felt that system and size was more important than matching caliber.

Our test ammunition was as follows. The 45 ACP was represented by Magtech 230-grain FMC, Hornady 185-grain JHP/XTC, and Black Hills 230-grain JHP+P ammunition. The 45 Colt test rounds for the Ruger were Winchester 225-grain Silvertip HP, Federal Champion 225-grain semi-Wadcutter hollowpoints, and Black Hills 250-grain roundnosed flat points. The 9mm ammunition was 125-grain HAP rounds from Atlanta Arms and Ammunition, Black Hills 124-grain full metal jacketed rounds, and Federal’s 105-grain Expanding FMJ ammunition. For the 32 H&R Magnum ammunition we chose Federal Personal Defense 85-grain JHPs, Federal Classic 95-grain lead semi-wadcutters, and Black Hills 85-grain JHP rounds.

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