Most preppers nowadays favor semiautomatic pistols. However, medium frame revolvers in .38 or .357 remain excellent choices for home defense, concealed carry, or use as a general utility gun.
A friend of mine who is by necessity something of a prepper recently picked up a used Smith & Wesson Model 64-3. The Model 64 is the stainless version of the old police standard .38 Special blued steel Model 10, AKA the Military and Police. The M&P has been in continuous production since 1899. This is his first centerfire revolver and he immediately fell in love with it for the ease of use and accuracy.
At the same my friend was buying his Model 64 I picked up another revolver, this time a used fixed-sight Ruger GP100 chambered for .38 Special. Both our guns are security company trade-ins.
Ruger designed the GP100 in the 1980s to take advantage of more modern manufacturing methods including investment casting. They also designed it to be more user-serviceable. Disassembly is a lot easier than the Smith & Wessons (not to mention Colt double actions) and the "peg" to which the grip attaches allows a wider variety of shapes to be used.
The GP100 a very robust gun designed to handle shooting an unlimited number of full-power .357 Magnums.
The shop where we bought them also had a few nickel-plated Model 10s, and for someone on a really tight budget, two or three Taurus Model 82s.
I chose the Ruger this time since I already have a passel of Smith & Wessons and also because it came with the compact rubber grip, AKA the "short butt." This is probably the revolver grip that fits my hands best and also does an excellent job of absorbing recoil.
Aside from easy availability of ammunition, .38 Special and .357 Magnum are straightforward to reload. Revolvers are not dependent upon magazines and can function with any bullet shape. They are ideally suited for use with cast bullets.
Guns chambered in .357 Magnum can safely shoot .38 Special but the reverse is not true (the .357 case is 1/10th of an inch longer but otherwise the same). If i could have only one handgun it would be a medium frame .357 Magnum.
For example, I recently received an order from Matt's Bullets:
The small box is one hundred 250 grain .452 bullets that I'll use in .45 Colt cowboy loads for my Pietta Remington New Model Army fitted with a Kirst Konverter. Factory .45 Colt ammo is rather expensive but now that I have a few hundred pieces of empty Starline brass, it makes sense to roll my own.
The large box is five hundred 178 grain Keith-style bullets to be loaded in .38 Special and .357 Magnum. I tried 100 of them last year and they shot really well in my S&W Model 28 and Ruger 50th Anniversary Blackhawk, loaded on top of 5.0 grains of Alliant Unique.
I'm looking at loading up some hotter rounds for use in the GP100. The 178 grain Keith bullets loaded to around 1000 to 1100 FPS will handle anything on two or four legs that needs shooting in Pennsylvania. They should perform similarly to the .38/44 round developed by Smith & Wesson in the late 1920s to improve the performance of the .38 Special against car bodies, and chambered in N-Frame "Heavy Duty" and "Outdoorsman" revolvers. They won't stress the GP100.
As I've mentioned in the past, the ability to cast your own is important for self reliance but I'll admit that buying them already made is a lot easier. That said, I need to get a Keith-style mold from Tom at Accurate Molds.
One of my favorite gun writers is Ed Harris (sometimes known as C.E. Harris). I recently discovered a web page with a collection of his articles, here. One in particular makes for good reading for preppers who might be interested in reloading for .38 Special and .357 Magnum in revolvers and lever actions, here. Another good piece of Ed's is Revisiting the Full Charge Wadcutter, hosted on Grant Cunningham's blog.
A lever action in .357 Magnum is an excellent companion to a .38 or .357 revolver that offers a lot of utility while not being on the immediate radar of gun banners. I got the chance to handle a new production Rossi 92 last weekend. The fit and finish looked good although the action was a bit stiff. That will improve as the gun is shot.