Smith & Wesson’s venerable J frame revolvers have long set the standard by which all other compact revolvers are judged, and with good reason. Any gun that has been in production for over 50 years has necessarily undergone a variety of changes, but the basic package being sold now looks very much like the Chief’s Special that made its debut almost 70 years ago. J frames have appeared in many configurations over the years, but for many (this writer included) the Model 60 is the zenith.
Close your eyes and let’s see how good your memory is. Quick, what’s a Glock 17? Easy; full-frame 9mm! Glock 27? Subcompact .40. And a Glock 37?
Huh? Is there even such a thing?
Long story short: this may be the best gun of 2018.
The EZ has the same basic profile as the more common Shield models, and you’ll feel right at home if you’re already used to the M&P line. The notable differences are the chambering in .380 ACP (previously the only Smith .380 offering was the bodyguard), the backstrap safety (just like on a 1911), the magazine with a built-in thumb follower (like on the Ruger Standard), and the very light recoil spring that makes the slide very easy to manipulate.
Old Italian police-issue Beretta 92F’s have been appearing on the market of late. Dating back to the late 1970’s and lacking the typical Italian hallmarks (which weren’t required when the gun is sold for law enforcement or military purposes), these guns can now be found in the $250 range. It’s worth noting that the magazine release on these is at the heel of the grip (instead of near the trigger guard) and they do have the dreaded import marks on them, making them somewhat less interesting to fussy collectors. But at just a few Washingtons more than a High Point, they are worth exploring.
I picked up one such pistol from Robertson Trading Post and was delighted to receive a gun in much better condition than many of the usual duty guns found at gun shows. There was some holster wear and the lanyard loop on the bottom of the grip was dented a bit, but I’m not sure that this gun has actually seen all that many rounds down the pipe. All in all, having a classic, all-metal niner for about $250 isn’t a bad deal at all. But is it worth it?
Taurus’s PT-111 Millennium G2 wades into the densely populated niche of compact polymer pistols at a price point that is hard to ignore. An MSRP of $300 and a street price of around $225 puts it a bit higher than Hi-Point cheap, but significantly less than other worthy competitors from Smith & Wesson and Glock. You’ll realistically be parting with at least three Benjamins for the Shield and four (or more) for the Austrian wunderkid, and that extra Benjamin saved with the Taurus is good for a healthy range trip (or two). But does the Brazilian really compete with the establishment?