Well, after spending some time on this site, I really got the handgun itch, BAD. Y'all know what I mean. Its that "I NEED a new gun" feeling So I thought it over carefully, going back over the dozens of handguns I have either owned or fired at one time or another. Some old faves I have long since sold came to mind, but I can only get one new one. I am not wealthy, but I am willing to spend a goodly chunk of my SS check for a high quality gun. Here is what I came up with as a process for selection:

1. Revolver or Semi auto? Really hard choice right off the bat, but at 60 plus I still recall the vast amount of fun shooting i ever did was with the revolver. And I don't relish cleaning the semis and worrying about all those moving parts. So answer to number 1 is a REVOLVER. Simple to use and maintain, and extremely reliable.

2. Now that I had that settled, I looked back at my experiences and found I had an easier time deciding between DA/SA and SA. I had 2 Ruger New Vacs in .357, and they were fun, accurate and powerful. BUT...I want a revolver I can use for self-defense, and I am not proficient enough to use the SA as such. So for me, DA/SA is the way to go. I recalled a certain S@W L-Frame 696 in .44spl. 3" bbl 5-shooter that was a dream to shoot. They have been discontinued and replaced by the new Smith Big-Bore Snubbies that I believe are built on the larger N frame, and their looks don't appeal to me anyway. I also considered the fact that as a load in general, my beloved .44spl. is a nostalgia round, not a great selection to be found at your typical gun store/range, and I want a versatile gun.

3. I once owned a Ruger SP101 in .32 H@R magnum. It got it in the three inch barrel and it was a really sweet shooter (loved that gun). I had some folks try it out, and everyone seemed to enjoy the reduced recoil, accuracy and "feel" of that gun as I had replaced the stock grips with some Uncle Mike's Combat units. BUT...if you think .44spl. loads are scarce, there has been no serious effort that I have seen to make the .32 mag. into an effective SD round until the Federal .327, which I hear is both scarce and expensive. One thing I noted on the SP101 was that I really liked the 3" barrel. Sitting in a car with the Ruger holstered didn't cramp my style a bit, unlike my S@W 686 4 incher which I shot very well but always seemed to be just that silly inch too long.

4. So at this point I added up all the factors, and went down to my local gun store and ordered up a S@W Model 686 7-shooter with a three inch barrel. I am picking it up tomorrow. For me, this is as close to perfect as I can get. The feel of the 696 .44 I loved so much, the 3" bbl. from that gun and the SP-101 and a proven caliber in .357 mag. with gobs of options and the old added bonus of being able to use .38s. Now all I need is a speedloader, a nice holster and a bunch of ammo! And yes, I know the 3" is going to bark and kick a bit more than the 4", and some will consider it a big bore snubbie with reduced ballistics and more muzzle flash, but with all those .357s out there I'll experiment with various loads till I find one that works for me!
Can't wait.
Eli (thanks for letting an old ramble)