Guns & Patriots

12 Concealed Carry Guns 12 Ounces Or Less

The S&W 340PD .357 Magnum, the Kel-Tec P-32 and the NAA .22 Magnum Pug make an excellent concealed carry system.

The question is often asked, “what is the best handgun for concealed carry?” There are many valid answers to this question and they usually begin with, “well, it depends on a number of factors.” However, in my humble opinion, there is one universally valid answer, and that is, “it is the gun that you have on you when you need it.” With that said, the purpose of this brief article is to make you aware of twelve handguns that are so easy to carry, that there is no excuse to ever go unarmed–never ever. This list of handguns spans a range of calibers: .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum, and includes revolvers (single action and double action) as well as double action semi-automatic pistols. They range in size from small to palm size, and they all come in under 12 ounces in empty weight. Thus, every one of the guns on this list is easy to carry in a jacket or pant pocket. In addition, every gun I have selected has proven ease of handling in reasonably trained hands, reliability, accuracy for the distance within which the gun is designed to be used, and ease of maintenance (i.e., field stripping and cleaning). There is a gun here for just about everyone.

I myself enjoy shooting small pocket pistols, so I shoot them often and as a result have gotten good at shooting them. However, here stands one essential caveat. Ultra-compact .32 and .380 ACP pocket pistols are not easy to shoot well. They require training and practice. One cannot escape physics. Tiny light guns bark and buck. People with big hands often complain that they cannot get a good grip on them given the fact that the grips are short and thin. Also, the sights on most of these pistols, if they even have sights, are tiny and difficult to use in the reactive situations for which these defensive pistols were designed. Once again, training and practice are the orders of the day.

.22 Long Rifle
   
#1. The Beretta Model 21 Bobcat is an ultra-compact double action/single action .22 LR semi-automatic pistol that features a 2.4 inch tip-up barrel, fixed sights, a frame mounted manual safety, and a magazine capacity of 7 rounds. It weighs about 11.5 ounces empty. This gun is easy to shoot and the tip-up barrel is a nice feature for those who have difficulty racking the slide to chamber or eject a round. This little gun is maximally effective with good quality high velocity .22 LR ammunition such as CCI 40 grain Mini-Mags, CCI  32 grain hollow point Stingers, or Aguila 30 grain Super Max hollow points. Hammer down, manual safety on carry gives you a double action first shot and single action subsequent shots. This makes this gun relatively easy to shoot for people who do not handle long and heavy double action triggers very well.  Street price new: Around $300.
   
#2. The Smith and Wesson Model 317 AirLite Revolver is a 9.9 ounce 8-round snubby with a 2 inch barrel, chambered for the .22 LR cartridge. It has an abbreviated hammer that does not snag, so it can be fired in either single or double action.  I have owned mine for years and have shot all types of .22 LR loads out of it. It has always gone bang when the trigger is pulled and is low maintenance. By that I mean it just goes and goes in between cleanings. This gun is combat accurate in rapid fire out to 15 yards. The trigger is smooth and light, and the gun is easy to handle and shoot—perceived recoil is a non-issue. The serrated ramp front sight and fixed notch rear sight are small, so outfitted with a pair of Crimson Trace Laser Grips, this gun makes a very handy personal defense package.  Street price new: Around $600.
.22 Magnum
   
#3. The North American Arms .22 Magnum Pug Mini-Revolver is a 6.4 ounce single-action 5-shot ultra-small revolver that packs a big fist. Squat and sturdy with a 1 inch barrel and a highly visible XS Tritium Big Dot front sight, the guns pebble texture rubber grips allow its owner to keep a firm leash on this puppy. Nevertheless, this gun is surprisingly easy shooting and accurate out to 7 yards. The single action trigger is light but not too light. Given that this gun is single action, and designed to be carried hammer down on one of five safety slots on the cylinder, this little pocket protector can be safely carried without a holster. Thus, the Pug truly can go anywhere with you—in a pair of gym shorts, a shirt pocket, or pant or jacket front or rear pocket. However, be careful if you also carry your keys in the same pocket. You do not want to snag the hammer. When the hammer is cocked, the cylinder revolves onto a live chambered round. This is the ultimate deep cover hideout gun. At close range, with proper shot placement, the .22 Magnum can probably get the job done. However, in Condition Black, this gun can only give you 5 shots and cannot be reloaded during the fight, as the gun has to be partially disassembled to reload. If you own this sturdy little Pug, there is just no excuse ever to go anywhere without a gun. As North American Arms, also known as NAA says, it really is “convenient, reliable and effective”.  Street price new: Around $325.
   
#4. The Smith and Wesson Model 351PD AirLite Revolver is a 10.8 ounce 7-round “Chiefs Special snubby with a 1.875 inch barrel, chambered for the .22 Magnum cartridge. It has a small external hammer that is relatively snag free, but which enables the gun to be fired in single or double action mode. With its HIVIZ Fiber Optic Red front sight, blackened aluminum alloy frame and cylinder, and wood grips, the gun is pretty.  This gun is also very reliable–it goes bang whenever the trigger is pulled, and like the Smith Model 317, is low maintenance. However, this gun has a very heavy trigger with a fair amount of creep. This affects one’s ability to engage in accurate rapid fire, especially at distances past seven yards. Perceived recoil is a non-issue.  Street price new: Around $625-650.

.32 ACP

#5. The 6.6 ounce Kel-Tec P-32 is a double action only, locked breech semi-automatic pistol with a polymer frame, steel slide, 2.68 inch barrel and a 7 + 1 capacity. The lightest .32 pistol ever made, the P-32 is thin and attractive and a trend setter; it is the first of a line of ultra-modern, ultra-compact ultra-light polymer .32 and .380 semi-auto pistols. It has low perceived recoil, a light smooth trigger and excellent accuracy at 7 to 10 yards and in. This little gun even locks open on an empty magazine and magazine changes are easy to accomplish making emergency reloads possible. My extensive experience with this gun is that it is very robust, reliable and fun to shoot. I have not had a hiccup out of two of mine after 500 rounds spent with each without any cleaning—not that I recommend not cleaning your guns. Street price new: Around $260.   

#6. The 11.5 ounce Seecamp LWS .32 ACP is dimensionally the smallest .32 ACP on the current market. It is a double action only, flush hammer fired, fixed barrel, retarded blowback, all stainless steel semi-automatic pistol with a magazine capacity of 6 rounds. The gun is a literal work of art—a family heirloom. It is precision designed like a piece of fine jewelry, a fine Swiss watch. But, it isn’t just beautiful. It packs a wallop and shoots with reliability and accuracy. However, this gun is not for everyone given its unique features. But tell me, what gun is? The Seecamp has no sights. It is designed for very close-in point shooting. It also has a magazine safety; that is, it will not fire with the magazine removed, nor can the slide be retracted without the magazine in place. The magazine release is European style, at the bottom rear of the grip. It does have a rather limited diet however—it is ammunition finicky. My .32 caliber Seecamps reliably handle Winchester Silvertips, Winchester Q4255 71 gr. FMJs, Hornady 60 grain SJH/XTPs, Speer Gold Dots, Federal Hydra Shoks, and Magsafe frangibles. The Seecamp is smooth, consistent and pleasant to work. It needs to be kept clean and well lubricated. Street price new: Around $525 to $550.

.380 ACP

#7. The 8.3 ounce Kel-Tec P-3AT is a double action only, locked breech semi-automatic pistol with a polymer frame, steel slide, 2.7 inch barrel and a 6 + 1 capacity. This pistol was developed by Kel-Tec from their highly successful P-32. The slidestop was eliminated and the magazine capacity reduced to 6 rounds due to the slightly larger .380 cartridge. Like the P-32, the P-3AT is thin and attractive and a trend setter; again the first of a line of ultra-modern, ultra-compact ultra-light polymer .380 semi-auto pistols. Almost exactly the same size as its older sibling, the P-32, the P-3AT has slightly greater perceived recoil, a slightly heavier but roughly equally as smooth trigger as the P-32, and good accuracy at 7 to 10 yards and in. Sans slidestop, the P-3AT does not lock open on an empty magazine, but nevertheless, magazine changes are easy to accomplish making emergency reloads possible. My extensive experience with this gun is that it is very robust, reliable and fun to shoot. Its little white sights are visible and usable, and this gun will eat anything in .380 ACP. As is the case with my P-32’s, my P-3AT’s keep working even without cleaning–not that I recommend not cleaning your guns. Street price new: Around $300.
   
#8. The 11.5 ounce Seecamp LWS .380 ACP is dimensionally the smallest .380 ACP on the current market. Like its older sibling the LWS .32, it is a double action only, flush hammer fired, fixed barrel, retarded blowback, all stainless steel semi-automatic pistol with a magazine capacity of 6 rounds. Like the LWS .32, this pistol is precision designed like a piece of fine jewelry, but it packs a larger wallop with the larger .380 cartridge. Perceived recoil is stouter than with the .32 and the trigger feels slightly heavier. This pistol has the same unique features as its .32 caliber sibling (no sights, a magazine safety, and a European style heel magazine release.  The ammunition finicky .380 Seecamp seems to prefer Winchester Silvertips, Speer Gold Dots, and Federal Hydra Shoks. It needs to be kept clean and well lubricated. Street price new: Slightly pricey and hard to get at around $850. 
 
#9. The 9.4 ounce Ruger LCP .380 was one of the biggest hits when it was first introduced at the 2008 SHOT Show. The LCP which stands for “Light Compact Pistol” has a glass filled nylon frame, a blued steel slide and a magazine capacity of 6 rounds. It is similar in size and appearance to the Kel-Tec P-3AT, equally as attractive, but somewhat more rounded at its edges. The LCP adds a manually operated slide stop so the slide can be locked open, although the slide doesn’t lock open on an empty magazine. In April of 2010, Texas Governor Rick Perry brought spotlight to this weapon when he used it to bring down, with one .380 ACP hollow point, a coyote that was menacing him and his daughter’s Labrador retriever during a morning jog. So much for those who disdainfully minimize the immediate effectiveness of the .380 ACP cartridge.  My two personal LCP’s are ultra-reliable, accurate, and easy to learn to shoot effectively. Like the Kel-Tec P-3AT, they will eat anything in .380. Their trigger is easy to learn to control—slightly longer and lighter than the P-3AT’s trigger.  Street price new: Around $310.
   
#10. The Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 is an 11.9 ounce trigger cocking, double action only, hammer fired .380 ACP semi-automatic pistol with a 2.75 inch barrel and a 6 + 1 capacity. It has a polymer frame, a matte back stainless steel slide with a melonite protective coating, and sights that are actually usable. In addition, this state of the art ultra-compact pistol has a frame mounted manual safety and an integrated laser sight operated by an on/off button on the right side of the frame in front of the trigger guard. The gun also has a slide lock lever and the slide does lock back on an empty magazine. This is a lot of gun in a very small package. I have not had my copy long. Heck, the gun just debuted. Thus far, this pistol has proven reliable with different types of hollow point and FMJ .380 ACP ammunition. The trigger is smooth but long. It takes some getting used to, but when you do master the trigger, this gun is an accurate shooter. I really like this gun.  Street price new: $425. to $450.
   
#11. The Kahr Arms P380 is an 11.3 ounce double action only, slide cocking, striker fired locked breech, .380 semi-automatic pistol with sights that are actually usable. It has a 2.5 inch Lothar Walther barrel, a black polymer frame, a stainless steel slide, and has a 6 + 1 capacity. This gun is an excellent shooter with the smoothest trigger of all of the guns reviewed here. That is not surprising—it is a Kahr Arms. The P380 is pleasant to shoot and very accurate out to 15 yards. Perceived recoil is manageable. This ultra-compact pistol handles smoothly and on point in rapid fire—more like its larger caliber, larger sized Kahr cousins (e.g., the P9). However, this gun, like Kahr’s other pistols needs a break-in of at least 200 rounds. This pistol also needs to be kept clean and well lubed. It is also more ammunition finicky than its competitors, the Kel-Tec P-3AT and the Ruger LCP.  Price is on the more expensive side.  Street price new: $550. to $600.

.38 Special and .357 Magnum
   
#12.  The Smith and Wesson Model 340PD and its sibling, the Model 360PD, are 1.875 inch barrel, 11.4 ounce, scandium frame snubnose revolvers chambered for both the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge and the .38 Special +P. The only difference between the siblings is that the “Centennial” Model 340PD has an internal hammer while the “Chiefs Special” Model 360PD has an external hammer. These snubbies hold a special place in my heart and a regular spot in my pockets. These are the ultimate concealed carry handguns in terms of fulfilling all of my criteria: powerful caliber, not ammunition sensitive, light weight, small profile, fits in a pocket, a pleasure to carry, ergonomic, natural pointers, good shooters, very reliable, accurate in trained hands, easy to maintain, long lasting, and pretty. Street price new: $815. to $850.

My Three Personal Favorites
   
You cannot go wrong with any of the 12 guns we have discussed. I recommend all of them, but which ones you may wonder are my personal favorites? I own all of them and I even have multiple copies of the ones I like best. So, which do I like best? Here are my “Top 3 Picks”. Please understand that it was hard for me to pick a “Top 3”. My selection criteria are a mix of objective and subjective factors. My objective factors included: caliber, reliability, trigger characteristics, and the gun’s handling and accuracy in my hands. My subjective factors included: my desire to own more than two copies of a gun, my frequency of actually carrying a gun, as well as perceived recoil, ease of carry and concealment, ease of maintenance, and beauty in the eyes of this beholder. Also subjective was my algorithm for combining these criteria to choose my “Top 3 Picks”. The truth is I like all 12 guns, or else they would not have been included in this article.

#1. Well, by the sheer number I own, my frequency of every day carry, and my love for these guns, I give the #1 spot in “my book”, and in my pocket, to Smith and Wesson’s Models 340PD and 360PD scandium AirLite snubnose revolvers. It’s a beautiful thing to carry in your pocket five .357 Magnums, or five 38 Special +P’s, in a reliable 11.4 ounce gun that always goes bang when you pull the trigger (and six reloads in a Bianchi Speed Strip), and to be able to forget it’s there. These pretty guns just want to be in your pockets. With no external hammer to snag on clothing, the 340PD (one of S&W’s “Centennial” models), if need be, can be fired from one’s pocket—quite a handy feature to have for self defense in a close-in lethal force confrontation. I have owned my 340PDs and 360PDs for years and have shot all types of .357 Magnum and .38 Special +P loads out of them. They have always gone bang when the trigger was pulled and they are low maintenance. By that I mean they just keep shooting without even a hiccup in between cleanings. These guns are combat accurate in rapid fire out to 15 yards. In fact, they are more accurate than the shooter. The gist is that their owner must practice with them. As with any gun, especially these little ones, you must learn the trigger, the use of the sights, and the gun’s handling characteristics and recoil pattern.

#2. I give the #2 spot in my book to the Kel-Tec P-32—6.6 ounces of personal protection smaller than my loaded key ring. This accurate, reliable, sweet shooting little piece puts 8 rounds of .32 ACP at your immediate service as soon as you need them. With a spare magazine, that’s 15 rounds—not bad for a 6.6 ounce gun that is utterly reliable, accurate, and easy and fun to shoot. 

#3. I give the #3 spot in my book to the NAA .22 Magnum Pug Mini-Revolver. With this gun, you do not even need a holster. You can totally hide the gun in your hand, which can be a great tactical advantage in certain situations. Also, it is safe to carry this gun in a jacket side pocket, pant back pocket, or in your gym shorts, at the ready in any situation. I really like that. Given the existence of this little jewel, there really is NO reason to ever be unarmed.
   
So there you have it from me, the “mousegun guy”. Watch your 360 and stay safe.

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  • http://twitter.com/clydereid Clyde Reid

    After seeing and handling a Ruger LCP .380 is was going to purchase one for my wife and possibly another for myself. The day before I was going to make the purchase the owner of the one I had looked at gave me some information that disturbed me.

    The owner had some problems with the trigger not engaging when she pulled the slide to load the chamber. She had a friend, who is very knowledgeable, take a look thinking she may have been doing something wrong. He had the same problem, not every time but very often. After seeing this he contacted some others he knew had purchased the same Ruger LCP .380. One of them said they had to fire over 50 rounds from that particular gun before it started opeating without the problem.

    If you have any further information about this I would appreciate a reply at redeemed@reidnet.com

    Thank you,
    Clyde

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q7Q6UR4MU7MSDRW3PGDBLR2CAY snidely

    I believe you misunderstood what round he was referring to. The buck shot loads are exactly that – BUCK shot. Not the little snake loads. It has 3 or more .36 cal. (00 buck shot) lead slugs or balls (depending on the type) in each cartridge. Using these is like getting THREE shots off with one pull of the trigger!

  • Brewdog1

    Thanks for your input, could you provide me with the name of the 38/357
    buckshot ammo, and where I might acquire some. I would like to check this
    out myself, and have had no luck with google to locate it. Thanks

  • sharpdoc

    I am surprised by all the PPK lovers here. I have owned 2 of them, they’re beautiful Rolex like guns, but I sold both. Boat anchors. They are way too heavy for the power(22.4 oz!!) Both of mine were prone to jamming, magazines tend to fall out without warning. Plus the straight blowback action made them unpleasant to shoot. I love either my Mustang PocketLite 380 or the SW 340PD .357 depending on the shape and style pocket I’m carrying in. Wilson Stealth Officers .45 when clothing allows. Great article.Enjoyed everyones comments

  • John Miller

    I think your wrong, My son was killed with one shot of a 22,  Its dumb ass opinions like yours that get people to buy guns too big for their abilities. If I shoot you once with a 22,  I know it will slow you down enough for a 2, 3 or 4th rd.,,,,  IF your not smart enough to run after the first shot..
        I carry anything from a .22  up to a  9 mm, and I have a special bullet for one person……..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RNZLK4IOBDBQQWTQ2MWEQW422E Brian W

    There isn’t any buck shot with three 00 because it won’t fit in that size case. there is in 410 as in The Taurus Judge or Thompson Contender. You can also “make your own”. as I like to do. I found a suitable brass case in the 460 Ruger.  $10 buckshot rounds are also commercially available in 2 3/4″ and 3″. There is  Russian 3″ brass cased round in 000 that seems to really hot, If you use the 460 Ruger you don’t need a press just a tool for seating the primers (such as from Lee) I use black powder 45 cal wad with mine.

  • shortcut_al

    I bought a Tomcat for my wife. It is a great gun, very reliable and quite accurate. The only issue I have with the Tomcat is the amount of strength required to work the slide. With the hammer down, my wife does not posses enough strength to pull back the slide. The only way she can use the gun is to first cock the hammer and then pull back the slide. In my opinion, that is one too many steps to have to take in a self defense situation. The upside to this is that I get to carry it, and I can now get her another gun.

  • shortcut_al

    Thanks so much for some great information. I just started looking for a handgun for my daughter and for my wife. My daughter will be turning 21 soon, which in my book, means the concealed carry birthday. I bought my wife has a Barreta Tomcat awhile ago, which is a great gun but the slide takes too much strength for her to operate without first cocking the hammer. Your article gives me some great guns to research. And, just to weigh in with my opinion regarding size and caliber, I have two opinions. First, size matters. A larger frame handgun will be of no use if it is left at home due to being uncomfortable to carry. Second, I have seen what a self defense .32 round does to a milk jug of water. I’ll take the results of a well place .32 over a poorly placed .44 any day, or night of the week. Thanks again for a great article.

  • Laughing_As_I_Bleed_To_Death

    I call b.s. on this one… There is no possible way that your friend shot somebody in the face 3 times at close range with a .22 and it only caused cosmetic damage. As a ballistics expert with a state police crime lab, I officially call this post out (even though it is two years old) as ridiculous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stininkey-Skunkenheimer/100000911253538 Stininkey Skunkenheimer

    Re: “North American Arms .22 Magnum” it is so small, that one day I saw a copperhead, and ran inside to get my .22 rifle. The whole time I had the .22 magnum (first round snake shot) in my pocket, and didn’t even realize it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.james.50702769 Steve James

    I don’t know about that. Anything is possible with a .22 especially if the shots were glancing. There was a case in NY city years ago where someone was shot several times in the head and didn’t even know they had been shot until they went to a doctor for prolonged headaches. The bullets had struck the thickest part of his skull and had literally bounced off his head. 3 point blank, direct hits and I agree with you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000271552442 Rodney Mims

    I bought a Bersa Firestorm 380 over ten years ago when I worked for the Department of Corrections and needed a carry self defense weapon. It has taken a licking and it is still kicking. For a pistol that cost me less than four hundred dollars it has fulfilled it’s need quite well.

  • jeffb

    really disappointing that this article doesn’t have a single picture of any of these guns.

  • FellowAmerican

    I own the Ruger LCP .380 and use the ‘clip’ system instead of a holster and given ammo advancements, it’s amazing how you can clip this thing inside your waistband and it all but disappears. Shorts and a T-Shirt are no problem.

    The trigger is a little tricky and I have to be sure to use the very tip of my trigger finger – if you slip into using the first knuckle, it’s far more difficult to fire and the trigger doesn’t travel all the way before you have to adjust your finger. Obviously not a problem you want to have if time is of the essence.

  • InotDnotR

    Taurus PT738 .380. 10 or 11 ounces around $275-300, with a lifetime warranty

  • Bill

    Thats why I carry a Sig ultra compact .45 acp. Because shooting twice is silly!

  • JT

    The article neglected to mention that the LCP is a P3at that actually works. The p3at has so many hammer spring failures that any google search would reveal them to be extremely unreliable guns. If all these people have perfect p3ats that never malfunction, why are there so many posts for these hammer spring failures? Would you want to depend on a gun that might break a critical spring unexpectedly and render the hammer unable to be brought to fire? Now search for the same failure in the LCP. You will not find it, because ruger uses better quality parts

  • Roy Odhner

    I own several handguns, and I’ve carried them all from time to time. However, my two NAA .22wmr mini-revolvers (a Pug and a basic model with enlarged grip) are the two I carry the most. Are there bigger and better calibers? Yezzir, there are. Is the .22wmr a nasty little beastie that is gonna get the job done with a round or two? Damn skippy it will. The Pug is a beautifully crafted and finely constructed self-defense weapon that is gonna get the job done. My two are flawless performers, and more than adequate to counter any threat that I’m likely to encounter as I go about my day-to-day business.

  • James Jones

    If you google The Miami shootout of the 80s you will see the reasons for the f.B.I. not using the 9mm any more. They hired someone to make a better cartridge and he came up with the 10mm but some of their agents couldn’t handle the recoil, so they necked it down to make the .40 cal. 10mm is a little snappy but incredibly effective. It’s just not for the small framed or limp wristed.

  • WeThePeopleUSA

    The smaller it is, the more likely it will be carried every day. It has to be reliable…revolvers like the Pug fit the bill. Most gun fights are over in less than 5 rounds or seconds for that matter. Find the gun you like and stay in practice.

  • BeGe1

    A better motto is that shooting once is stupid.

    People survive rifle rounds to the head. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna rely on a pistol to always stop in one round. .45 is a good round, but it’s still a handgun round. Understand its limitations and don’t let pride and wishful thinking get you killed.

  • BeGe1

    I’m sorry you were unimpressed (though since you didn’t give a single reason for being unimpressed, I can only assume the main reason was that you were too macho to like the idea of a .380).

    But I place my trust in people that actually study defense shootings. They’ve found that when correctly loaded with non-expanding ammo to achieve the proper penetration, both .380 and .32 create devastatingly effective wounds.

    I still carry my 9mm when I can dress around it. But I’ve seen the police reports and autopsies of enough people shot with .380 ball to know that I have enough gun when it makes more sense to carry the .380.

  • 11B10

    I’ve been very happy with the Charter Arms 38 Revolver. Takes a bit to get to the eye, but once there its sweet. I have Gold Finger.

  • ThisIsIllegalYouKnow

    Just so you know… some states do not respect an individuals right to self-defense… so deep concealment is ten times better than Dale Gribble’s Pocket Sand. If I am going through NYC in the Subways where cops are known and legally allowed to stop and frisk anyone, I’d prefer an NAA revolver I can slip in my shoe.

  • kyrobalal@hotmail.co.uk

    rat

  • WaltherJJR

    NO Taurus! Bad gun! Bad gun!

    JK, in reality I owned two and a friend owned one. ALL went back to the factory for MAJOR defects! He had a 38 snub the allowed a round to hit the forcing cone blowing it out of his hand. Read up on the latest recalls from Taurus. Save up the money and buy a S&W or Ruger.