.357 Revolver as a SHTF Gun? Really?

   02.28.17

.357 Revolver as a SHTF Gun? Really?

I recently read a post on r/Preppers arguing that the .357 revolver is the ultimate SHTF handgun, and I haven’t disagreed with a post or its comments that much in a long time.

But before I rip into this post, I should note that at AllOutdoor we have at least two fans of .357 revolver as the ultimate survival gun: Pat Cascio is one, and Major Pandemic is the other. So, in the spirit of offering a diversity of views, here’s my contrarian take.

I’m not going to go point-by-point and do a takedown of the original article, but I just want to make a few counter-points of my own to all the Rick Grimes wannabes out there who fantasize about striding across the post-apocalyptic wasteland with a shiny .357 revolver swinging from their hip.

Da Bears

First, let’s talk about bears. Most of the case for the .357 Magnum over 9mm NATO seems to rest, I kid you not, on the possibility that you might run into a bear and have to take it down with your handgun. (What is it with this bear attack fantasy?)

I’ve been on a number of fishing trips in Canada’s Yukon territory with some very experienced Yukon Guides, one of whom was on the board of Canada’s equivalent of our wildlife and fisheries department. These guys have killed many bears and guided many bear hunts, and they have a standard joke about hunters who carry revolvers in case they run into a bear. The joke is that the revolver is best used on yourself right before the bear grabs you.

I’ve been hunting and fishing all my life in black bear country, and with guys who do bear hunts in Alaska and the Yukon. Outside the context of that stock joke, I had never heard of anyone seriously intending to use a revolver on a bear until I started reading prepper articles extolling the virtues of .357 Magnum. Of course, I’m sure there are real-life handgun bear hunters are out there who slay bears with .40- and .50-caliber hand cannons; I’m just saying it’s a niche thing–like jumping off of tall buildings with a parachute, or climbing without a rope–and not, y’know, an actual plan for how to get by in the apocalypse.

If you’re that scared of bear, bear mace is apparently quite effective, and you won’t have to give up your Glock to use it. Or, move up to a higher caliber, but of course then you miss out on all the other supposed survival advantages of the .357 chambering. But whatever you do, please don’t put all your eggs in the .357 basket just because you’ve imagined that you might, at some point over the course of your travels in post-apocalyptic wherever, run into an angry bear from which you simply can’t escape.

And should you decide that you want to taste bear meat and all you have is a .357 revolver, just let it go. If you do open fire, there’s a good chance that Darwin will have his way with you, shortly.

Hunting

Here is something that’s not widely appreciated by preppers, especially beginning ones: unless there is a really, really, really rapid die-off of the human population, the amount of wild game everywhere on this planet will rapidly go to zero in the first weeks after a SHTF event.

Here in North America, there just aren’t enough wild game animals to feed 330 million desperate, starving humans who are looking for their protein fix because the machinery that transforms petroleum energy and irrigated crops into farmed meat and then moves it to the grocery store has stopped working. Game that isn’t managed disappears super fast; even the Native Americans were aware of this and actively practiced game management despite their relatively tiny populations.

So depending on the cause and rate of die-off in the human population, how big an impact the initial SHTF event has on the animal population, and other variables, there are a shockingly large number of SHTF scenarios in which hunting for food is not really an option beyond the first few weeks.

This means that the real use of guns in a long-term SHTF scenario is likely to be for protecting your livestock, or (if you go that way) for shooting at the guy who’s protecting his livestock. To put it plainly, in a full-blown SHTF scenario, guns are for man-killin’.

So this business of planning to use the .357 revolver for SHTF hunting–I don’t even know what say. I mean, yeah, you could use it on deer or wild hogs (assuming you’re good enough to get in close and hit one), and then load it up with .38 Special for smaller game. But realistically, in any world where you have a chance to support yourself on game, there will be tons of rifles lying around for the taking.

Ultimately, like the bear scenario, the “I might be forced to hunt with my .357 revolver” scenario is just a silly prepper fantasy. Handgun hunting is a fun sport in a world where we can all buy food at the store and we’re looking for a challenge. But no matter how good you are at it, we both know that if your belly was empty you’d reach for a rifle.

Reliability

Everywhere you go where men are serious about killing other men with handguns, from drug cartels to third world child armies to elite Special Forces units to police departments, you’ll find that the weapon of choice is a 9mm striker-fired, polymer-framed pistol. Not a stainless .357 revolver.

Why is this? Well, have you ever taken a revolver apart and looked at the lockwork? It’s no joke. A Glock is lighter, simpler, and easier for gunsmith and non-gunsmith alike to repair in the field than a revolver.

Also, about that huge aftermarket for S&W 686 or third-party Ruger GP100 parts. It doesn’t really exist, does it? That’s because as ugly and unsexy as plastic fantastic pistols are, they’re designed to be modular and easily maintained by non-specialists, and your .357 just isn’t.

What to Use?

I’m so, so sorry, I truly am, but the “ultimate SHTF handgun” is not a .357 Colt Python, or that hot new Ruger Redhawk. No, the sad news is that this title belongs to the modern, striker-fired, polymer framed 9mm NATO pistol, from Glock, Smith & Wesson, or one of the other companies that makes a good one. And I say this as a die-hard Sig fanboy who carries and adores his P239 SAS Gen 2.

Yeah, this is tragic news because, like you, I prefer to shoot almost any other handgun over a plastic, striker-fired pistol. But do yourself a favor and ditch the Walking Dead fantasies. You’re not going to do your SHTF hunting with a handgun, nor are you going to fight off a bear with it, nor is a revolver the gold standard of reliability in a long-term grid-down scenario.

If you shoot your handgun in TSHTF, it’ll be at another human who’s probably shooting back, and in that case you’re going to want all of the advantages of weight, capacity, and reliability that a modern 9mm semi-auto affords.

Addendum: Of course the revolver has its place in a SHTF arsenal, especially the .357 revolver. But just not in a primary “one handgun” role. Let it not be said that I don’t appreciate a good stainless wheelgun, or think they’re worthless. My argument here is pretty specific: a .357 revolver is a great gun, but it’s definitely not the “ultimate survival gun.”

Read More