Get a .357 and run .38s if that's your preferred initial load. That way you don't have to buy a second revolver simply to run the magnum round. (obviously this flies in the face of buying more guns, but it makes more sense )
Buy once, run both.
we need to know what purpose this revolver will serve to know which one will best suit your needs, for concealed carry a bodyguard is a good choice but its one of the worst if you plan on mostly using it on the range since it is a double action only. in general, smiths are great revolvers. J frames are great for concealed carry, K frames are better for target/plinking duty. the new smiths are ok but I look for the older ones that still had hand fitted parts and triggers like glass.
A j-frame sized gun will not be that fun to shoot, and will probably discourage you from practicing as much as you need to.
Unless you're camping/backpacking, don't let your decision rest entirely on being able to fire .357, either. The only time you'll ever shoot .357 is 10 rounds when you first get the gun, and maybe another 5-6 when a friend asks to shoot it.
Speer gold dots do admirably out of a j frame. No need for 357 IMO.
I'd get a j frame with a shrouded hammer. That way you can shoot it single action as well as double, but still have a no snag design. They run about $350 brand new.
I will submit a somewhat contrary view and suggest a Ruger Single Six 22 or else a Heritage Rough Rider 22 with the 22 LR and 22 WMR (Magnum) cylinders for about half the price of the Ruger. I suggest either with the 6-1/2 inch barrel. You can shoot a 22 LR all day for little money and the magnum will be an alternative to give you some variety. Later you can move on from the 22. Who would want only one gun? After all, was this not a request for a first handgun suggestion?
I'll only back up what others have said.
Medium-ish frame .357. GP100, an early Ruger Security/Speed/Service-Six, or a Smith Model 19, Model 66 (one of my personal all-time favorite wheelguns), Model 586, Model 686. The K-frame Smiths are a great, especially if you're going to carry. Slightly more slender, and you can get a 2-1/2 inch barrel with a round-butt grip. An alternative in a, "medium" frame that's easier to carry, the SP101 is a solid choice, but holds five rounds, if that makes a difference to you.
You can rip through boxes of .357 with little fanfare, or go with .38 Spl for a very comfortable powder-puff piece.
I own a factory custom Smith 442 now, and I'm putting it on the block. It's a nice carry piece, but there are others that are also concealable (Yes, I have a permit.) but way more comfortable to shoot. I want something I can spend a good amount of time on the range with, and a lightweight alloy frame snubnose is not an optimum piece for that.
"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." -P.J. O'Rourke
The Model 19 is a wonderful revolver. I still regret selling mine in 2.5" for reasons that make no sense now. I am looking for another K-frame S&W in .357.
However, Model 19's are getting tough but not impossible to find. You can add a few more to increase your chances. There is the Model 66 (stainless version of Model 66), the Model 13 (w/ unshrouded barrel), and the Model 65 (stainless version of the Model 13). I've been hunting for a Model 13 3" for years. That was the 1980's FBI issue and might be the perfect S&W .357 wheelgun.
Much, much easier to find are the Ruger SP101 and Security Six. I am not a Ruger guy but these are great revolvers and well worth looking at. Same for the Colt Trooper & Lawman.
I bought a Ruger sp101 (2.25" barrel) chambered in .357 & love it.
Thats my primary carry right now (rotate between the SP101 & my Glock 27).
FYI: I carry 2 speed loaders when carrying the SP101 & have practiced using them.
The Bridgeport shooting range also offers a SNUB NOSE tactical training course too. I havent gone yet, but they need X amount of people so sign up to start the class. The NRA instructor there said they do it once every 6 months.
Last edited by VEEDUB_FAZEVR6; 03-28-2012 at 03:36 PM.
TONS of goodies for sale (mk1, mk2, mk3, mk4, and maybe even mk5/6 content):
For a first revolver get a Ruger GP100 or SP101. In .357 Magnum these guns shoot like a dream.
"We're society's crowbar. They hate us, they never want to acknowledge the dirty jobs they give us to do, but when the job is done they never throw us away - they just slip us back in the toolbox until they need us the next time. And there will always be a next time."-Jim Hooper. Beneath the Visiting Moon: Images of Combat in Southern Africa
If you have a medium sized hand it's really the perfect frame size. In trying out a Super Redhawk and I realized just how much bigger the 44 Magnum is and how perfect the size of the GP100 is. Go to a gun store and hold a few. If you are looking at S&W also check out Taurus... They feel almost identical.