Tuesday, February 9, 2010


The above guns are (top) The Smith and Wesson Model 396 Night Guard, a five shot .44 special. Underneath it is the venerable Charter Arms Bulldog, this one with a 3" barrel and a bobbed hammer for DAO.

At the Air Marshal link below, I discussed some of the merits which I believe in regarding large bullets that travel slowly and expand significantly to prevent overpenetration of the intended target.
Of course, there are many schools of thought on caliber vs. bullet size vs. speed vs. bullet type. I'm no expert, but I've investigated and studied numerous police, bad guy, homicidal, suicidal and accidental shootings. And although even the lowly .25 auto and .22 are quite deadly in the right spot and/or in the right hands ON the right victim, it seems that shootings with larger calibers more often result in one stop self defense shootings.
While the concerns of bullet over penetration regard planes here at FEDERAL AIR MARSHALS, the same concerns apply to most self defense situations in America. Whether at home or in the car or out in public, the protection of the general public is more important than the shooters personal safety. "No innocents get hurt", should be the credo of the self defense shooter.
I just think that common sense and what I know about physics and bullet behavior tells me that a top contender for the perfect home defense gun, behind the 12 gauge shotgun, is a .44 special or a similar (.45 auto or long colt) revolver. If loaded with one of the newer self defense loads featuring reduced recoil large high expanding hollow point bullets, you reduce the dangers of your bullet going into another room of your home or even outside of your home. The goal is for the bullet to stay in the target.
I have said that I owned two Charter Arms .38 revolvers in the early 1980's that I was not satisfied with. This is true. However, I've always been impressed with the Pathfinder .22 pistols they made back then as well as the .44 Bulldog. Just after I wrote the post linked above about Air Marshals, I ran into a friend, a member of the constabulary, who had just gotten a good deal on a Bulldog.
I haven't seen it yet, but my friend said he'd been wanting one for 25 years. My friend is a meat and potatoes big bore pistol man. He's carried as his duty weapon a Glock 21 since 1992, when he traded in his 1911A1 for the Model 21. But he's wanted a Bulldog for off duty for years, and now has one. I can't wait to see it.
I myself would like to check out one of the Night Guard Model 396 in .44 Special. A five shooter, it's got to be about the same breadth as a Colt D frame or six shot Smith. It's harder to find stats online as to revolver width than it is for semi-autos. I have not yet seen one in person but I am ready to be impressed, based upon what I have seen and heard.
Most of the Night Guard series, which are in a variety of calibers, are six shooters. This is particularly true of the big bore calibers. I'm glad they are making at least one five shot in .44 special.
Here's the specs for the Model 396:

SKU: 163423
Model: 396
Caliber: .44SP
Capacity: 5 Rounds
Barrel Length: 2 1/2"
Front Sight: XS® Sight 24/7 Standard Dot Tritium Sights
Rear Sight: Cylinder & Slide Extreme Duty Fixed
Overall Length: 7 3/8"
Weight: 24.2 oz.
Grip: Pachmayr Compac Custom
Material: Scandium Alloy Frame/Stainless PVD Cylinder
Finish: Matte
It's a super nice gun with very nice sights. It's a bit heavier than the Bulldog, but I'm guessing that weight might come in handy when shooting it. The grips also look good and like they are large enough to allow a full hand purchase of the grip. Although I've been hankering for a revolver with a 3" barrel, this 2.5" might be the ticket.
For years and years, the .44 Special was a top law enforcement and personal defense caliber in this country. I've always liked it's recoil in a revolver, as compared to magnum loads of the .44 and .41.
And of course, the .44 Special and it's breathren, the .44-40, were the favored caliber of bluesmen in Texas and the rest of the south. Witness the lyrics from this blues standard .44 below. I used to play this song with a band I drummed for, and always thought it a soundtrack to the often turbulent old time bluesman's life.

Well I walked all night long, with my .44 in my hand (2x)
Now I was looking for my woman, found her with another man
Well I wore my .44 so long, Lord it made my shoulder sore (2x)
After I do what I want to, ain't gonna wear my .44 no more
Now I heard my baby say, she heard that 44 whistle blow (2x)
Lord it sounds like, ain't gonna blow that whistle no more
Now I got a little cabin, and it's number 44 (2x)
Lord I wake up every morning, the wolf be scratching on my door
Of all the versions of the song that have been done, and they are legion, Howling Wolf and Johnny Winter's remain my favorite. I appreciate the works of those who came before and inspired them, often playing their blues on acoustic guitars unaccompanied by anyone. And the stories that are the blues and those who played it in the last century are sometimes sad ones, doused in alcohol and escapades and ending badly in violence and gunplay. And often, those guns were .44's or .44-40's.
Read more about the song here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty-Four_(song)


  1. No disrespect to the old tried and true .44; but the Smith & Wesson 340PD .357 MAG Airlite is what I carry.
    It's compact, light weight and very effective in neutralizing most threats.
    The Hornady 158 gr XTP JHP is an excellent round selection for personal defense.

  2. Thanks for stopping in, Black Ink. I've been reading your blog regularly.

    I vary between my tried and true Colt Cobra and a SW model 38. Or a Glock .45. But your choice is excellent. I've been using the Federal low recoil self defense rounds. In my .45, they are excellent.