Smith and Wesson Model 66–perfection in stainless.

All I know is that this .357 Magnum revolver of mine and I go way back together.

It was an impulse buy, initially. I’d had an FFL (Federal Firearms License) back in the early 1990′s, but when President Clinton revamped the rules to wipe out most of the small home-based dealers like me, I had to let it go. I’d thought that it had expired at the end of the previous month, but when I was wrapping up my paperwork one day, I realized that it was actually still valid until…this very day! Shoot–I could still buy another gun with it! But if was almost 8pm EST on a Saturday. Where could I find one?

Then it hit me… An outfit called J&G Sales in Arizona had Saturday hours and might still be open. They already had my FFL on file. On a whim, I called them and they confirmed that as long at the FFL was still valid at the time of sale, they could sell and ship me whatever I wanted. Then they told me that they were about to close and that I had to hurry up if I wanted something.

I grabbed a Shotgun News and flipped to their ad. As I was looking at it, I saw that the used Smith and Wesson revolvers were on sale, so I snagged this one for $199.00. It was the official “last gun” on my FFL. That’s really the only reason that I bought it, truth be told.

But then it got here. It was nice. Solid, and with clear sights and a smooth but crisp trigger…it was everything that the old military surplus guns I’d traditionally bought were not. I fell in love with this revolver.

I took it out and shot it a fair bit. I liked being able to shoot the high-powered .357 rounds interchangeably with the cheap .38 Special loads. But I was still a fan of semi-auto pistols, so I didn’t really use it for anything serious for a while other than employing it as a nightstand gun. It was great for that because it has no safeties to fumble with in the dark when you’re waking up to the sound of glass breaking. It’s like an instamatic camera…just point and shoot.

But then I went out to Colorado for a summer to go to school. I lived in a camper and I brought a few guns for recreation and self-defense. Since I also had a Rossi .357 lever-action rifle at the time, it was only natural that I bring that and this handgun, so that I would just have to stock one caliber of ammo in the tight confines of my truck. And what a great pair they made. I hiked the Rockies all summer with that pistol on my hip, knowing that if it got wet (as it often did), the stainless finish would protect it better than any blued or parkerized gun. I also knew that it was powerful enough to stop most predators, both four- and two-legged.

This pistol even helped me educate an anti-gun girl on that trip. I’d hiked way up a mountain one day, arriving at a scenic overlook that was also accessed by a jeep trail. As I enjoyed the view, two jeeps filled with what appeared to be college kids showed up and got out. They were enjoying the view too, all except one girl, who kept looking at me, and particularly at my pistol. Finally I said something to her and she asked me why I was carrying the pistol. Her tone wasn’t hostile–just curious. We got to be talking and of course she had never owned or fired a gun and her family–in Boulder(surprise)–didn’t approve of guns. So I asked her to imagine a scenario just like our present situation, where none of us on the overlook had a gun.
“Now what would you do if I turned out to be some raving axe-murderer?”
“Well,” she said, “we’d just get back in the jeeps and drive away.”
“Sounds great,” I replied. “Now what do I do if you all turn out to be the raving axe murderers? And what would you be able to do in my shoes?”

She paused for a moment. “You know, I honestly never thought about it like that…”

And I could almost see the light come on.

Now I can’t tell you that she ran right down to the local gun shop and bought an Uzi, nor can I boast about how I offered to take her shooting and spent the rest of the summer shacked up with her. This isn’t Penthouse Letters, Hot Guns issue. I just have to report truthfully that we talked a bit more and then parted company forever. But I do believe that she went back down that mountain with a few new thoughts in her head. Maybe they took, maybe not. One can always hope.

Between the rifle and pistol, I fired nearly a thousand rounds of ammo that summer. That rifle I could take or leave (and I ultimately sold it) but this pistol became a trusted, reliable partner on subsequent camping trips and hikes.

Now that I have a CCW, this pistol is one of my preferred carry guns, ranking right up there between my All-American .45 1911A1 and my Jedi-quality HK P7 or Browning Hi-Power. I love my P7 and my Hi-Power–I really do–but I also love stopping power, which is why I prefer the .45 or .357. A friend of mine ( a “nine lover”) frequently points out that 9mm has been the military and police standard cartridge in most of Europe since before World War Two. However my belief is that while 9mm seems to be just fine for shooting Europeans, here in America, our bad guys need a little more to knock them down, and when you hit something with a .45 or a .357, it usually stays hit.

So this pistol today occupies high place in my armory. In fact, if I had to choose just one pistol to keep for the rest of my life, it’d probably by this one over any of the others. It’s simple, rugged, and the wide range of ammunition available for it allows it to fill many more roles than most other sidearms. I love this gun and trust it absolutely.

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