Favorite Firearms, Part 1: The Model 60

In more than 30 years as a firearms fanatic, I have run across several weapons that I must list as favorites. Some are attainable, many are not. I’ll do a series of posts about them, scattered amongst other posts about who knows what. The first I’ll discuss is one I’ll likely own until I no longer reside in this world:

Smith and Wesson Model 60

Photo from Smith and Wesson's website.
Photo from Smith and Wesson’s website.

The venerable double action revolver. In this example it’s a pocketable, 5-shot .357 magnum. This was the first handgun I bought. I still have it, and still enjoy shooting it. It’s the only handgun of my collection that has ever actually served duty to dispatch something of the living. It performs admirably every time.

While the 2 1/8″ barrel with fixed sights may not seem like an optimal setup to most, you must understand that this gun – mine at least – hits its mark at point of aim, as long as you do your part and don’t wobble.

At 24 ounces empty, it’s no ballerina. The new scandium frame models from Smith make this old stainless-steel 60 seem absolutely obese. But I guarantee you’ll be done shooting one of those ultralights after a cylinder of trigger pulls, if not before. The marginal heft of this piece makes it comfortable and fun when shooting .38 special, and manageable with .357 magnum. (For those unaware: revolvers chambered for .357 magnum can also shoot .38 special, but not vice-versa, as .357 is a longer casing than the .38 special.) It’s not too heavy, however, to stick in your front pocket during walks around the back 40, in case of snakes. It has never failed or had any issues whatsoever, and makes a beautiful perfect pattern with CCI .38/.357 shotshells (ratshot or snakeshot as it’s commonly called).

You’ll also notice in the picture that it has an extended grip, to accommodate the pinkie finger. This helps manage recoil when shooting hard-thumping .357 magnum loads as well. Plus, it’s just a more comfortable, natural feeling grip than the stubby two finger grips most of the J-frame and other compact revolvers use.

The last obvious advantage of this revolver I’ve already mentioned: it’s all stainless steel. Very little maintenance and easy cleaning are the cherry on top of a near perfect all around handgun. For shooters with little experience, who perhaps are intimidated by manual safeties and slide release levers of semi-auto pistols, or for shooters who value simplicity and efficiency and want something that can be concealed for self defense, or easily toted for protection against snakes and other vermin in the wild, the Model 60 remains an excellent choice, as it has been since 1965.


For plinking and practice, I prefer to shoot .38 special for reduced recoil and less of a dent in the wallet. My favorite, consistently reliable and reasonably accurate .38 plinking loads are:

American Eagle FMJ 130 gr which are a Federal Ammunition product, or its direct competition, Winchester USA (“white box”) FMJ 130 gr.

For defense, I used to carry .38 special +P loads, as they seemed nearly as powerful as most .357 but kicked much less. Now, however, I decided it’s silly to own a .357 and not keep .357 in it, as long as you can handle the recoil. There are circumstances where recoil is a real issue, and I will discuss that in a later post. For now, my favorite .357 magnum defensive loads are:

Speer Gold Dot 125 gr JHP is a time tested man-stopper that isn’t as expensive as some others, and in its 125 grain configuration is not too bad in the recoil department. Remington’s Golden Saber (brass jacketed hollow point) also in 125 grain is a sure-kill with proper aim. Recoil will be similar to the Gold Dot, but Remington’s Sabers can be a little more expensive.

The beast of loads, that I used to always carry if I had .357 loaded, is Federal Premium Hydra-shok 158 grain JHP. These hurt. I started shooting them years ago after asking a cop who was still sporting a .357 revolver what ammo he used. This, he said, was what most departments across the country issued. Good enough for me, I thought. Turned out, good enough to turn my palm red and give me a headache from the sonic blast across my forehead, a side-effect of the short barrel as well. I’m still convinced that nothing, at least not human, could remain standing if it took a hit in the chest from one of these bad boys. They just hurt too bad to be fun to practice with, so I’ve moved to the lighter, 125 grain loads mentioned above. If I had a 686 Plus or a GP100 as a nightstand gun, however, I’d probably still be shooting the 158 Hydra-shoks.

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