David’s Early Gun Series #1 — Dad’s Smith and Wesson Model 10

My Dad’s .38 was the gun I carried on many adventures as a youth. I still treasure it today.

Posted 7/28/2021

Dad Was a Game Warden as a Secondary Function of His Job

Throughout most of his career my father was the Director of Fisheries for the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, now known as Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. It was the policy of then that all director level employees were also qualified as game wardens. Although my father never acted as a game warden to my knowledge, he had the badge and a gun. The gun was a .38 Special Smith and Wesson Model 10. Dad kept his gun in his sock drawer.

Dad’s job kept him away from home during the week but his gun stayed behind. I don’t recall ever asking him if it was okay if I carried his .38 with me on some of my exploring adventures, but I did dig it out of that sock drawer on many occasions.

One occasion I remember is kind of embarrassing but I tell it for its humor. As a kid I hated spiders. This hatred had its seed in something that happened to me on a camping trip near a small lake just a few miles outside of town. The dam and the low area just below the dam were populated by pine trees approximately ten feet tall. I was making my way through those pine trees and ran into a spider web with a large black and yellow garden spider in it right at face level. I kind of panicked and turned to run and ran right into another one which resulted in a one of those large black and yellow spiders being on my face. In full panic mode I swatted that spider and its web down and ran over the dam and into the lake, clothes and all. These spiders were 4 to 5 inches in size and very yucky. That’s why I hated spiders. Still do, for that matter, but I don’t panic when I see them.

My cousin Paul Moss and I were navigating Toby Tubby Creek in my dad’s fiberglass john boat. Paul was in the front; I was in the back. We were working our way under a tree that had fallen across the creek and as Paul passed under the tree a large spider fell off the tree and onto the bottom of the boat. Without thinking, I shot the spider with Dad’s .38. You should have seen the hole in the boat with little spider legs all around, floating away because water was coming in the hole. How stupid, to shoot a hole in the bottom of your boat just because of a spider. Fortunately, the creek wasn’t very deep, and we weren’t that far from our transportation. Whenever I think of the gun safety rule, “know your target and what is beyond,” I think of that spider and the hole I shot in the boat as being what was beyond my target.

David’s Photoshop Rendition of What He Remembers About Shooting a Hole in the Boat to Kill a Spider

When Dad was leaving his home and going to a nursing home during the last months of his life here on earth I told him I was taking his .38 home with me. He said, “Son, I don’t believe I ever shot that gun.” I responded, “That’s okay, Dad, I shot it a lot.” I was quite naïve about guns in my early days. I had a shotgun that I hunted with and a .22 rifle for plinking. Dad’s .38 was my only handgun for a while, until I bought a High Standard Double Nine revolver. After I got the High Standard, I left Dad’s gun in his sock drawer.

I flew helicopters in Vietnam, and we were issued Smith and Wesson revolvers as part of our flight gear. I remember thinking it was very similar to Dad’s gun, but some years later I read that the guns we were issued in Vietnam were Model 36s. If so, it was only a 5-shot where the Model 10 is a 6-shot revolver. I honestly don’t remember what I had in Vietnam. I carried an M2 Carbine in the helicopter with me and always considered it my primary weapon.

Dad’s Model 10 is a Model 10-5. You find that model number underneath the yoke when you open the cylinder. The -5 indicates Dad’s gun was made in 1962 and on that particular model the front sight width was changed from 1/10″ to 1/8″. I verified the sight width on our gun with my digital caliper and sure enough it is 1/8″. That front sight is ramped with ridges on the top side. Somewhere along the way I have added white paint on those ridges to help my eyes pick up the front sight when aiming the gun.

The history of the S&W revolvers leading up to the Model 10 is legendary. It started as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899 and was later called the Military and Police. It is a K-frame revolver in production since 1899. The Model 10 is a six-shot, .38 Special, double-action revolver with fixed sights. Over its long production run it has been available with barrel lengths of 2″, 2.5″, 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″. I’ve seen figures that indicate more than 6,000,000 of the type have been produced over the years, and it is still in production today. The one in the current catalog has a 4″ barrel and an MSRP of $762. That 6,000,000 production number makes the Model 10 one of the most, if not the most, popular gun in history. No telling how many police officers, game wardens and state troopers have carried the Model 10 and its variants in the line of duty. I know when I carried it on my hunting and camping trips as a boy, I never thought of myself as not having enough gun. If I weren’t spoiled to the round capacity of today’s double stack 9mms I might still consider myself adequately armed with my Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver. Notice how I subtly changed the label from Dad’s Model 10 to my Model 10. Dad is long gone now, and I no longer have to sneak the gun out of his sock drawer to use it.

Suppose it was my daily carry gun. How up to the task is it? To start with, I’d have to change holsters or change belts. Dad always kept the gun in the holster that he got with it, which is an FBI model made by Bucheimer Clark and perfect for carrying the gun discreetly under a vest or shirt tail, but it’s made for a smaller diameter belt than the ones I wear, which are made for carrying a gun. I wish that wasn’t the case because it’s a really nice holster. I did find a nice OWB holster from ComfortTAC that fits it fine and allows me to carry it in the three o’clock position, which is comfortable for me.

The FBI Holster Dad Got When He Got His Gun

Suppose trouble comes and I need to use the gun to defend myself. Six rounds of a good .38 Special hollow point should be enough, right? That would depend upon my ability handle the gun and hit what I’m aiming at. The grip seems a bit large compared to the rest of the gun, but it’s a standard K Frame squared grip and it’s perfect for controlling the gun. A .38 Special round is not without significant recoil and the Model 10’s grip is designed to handle that recoil. It also facilitates quick sight alignment when bringing the gun up to a good shooting position. The trigger is very interesting. Double-action trigger pull is over the 12 lbs. limit on my Lyman® trigger pull gauge but the single-action pull averages 4 lbs. 2 oz. Even though the double action pull exceeds 12 lbs. it’s a smooth and an easy pull in my book. If you have time to cock the gun, you’re going to be much more accurate than with a double-action trigger break.

The Model 10 Is Plenty Accurate as this 10-Yard Target Demonstrates

People say short barrel guns aren’t accurate, but my Model 10 dispels that theory and I’ve seen others shoot tight groups out to 15 yards with their snubby revolvers such as the Model 10 and Model 12 from Smith and Wesson. I can put six rounds into a 4″ circle at 10 yards with my Model 10 with almost any of the ammo I’ve tried. When using the gun in a defensive posture I usually load it up with Underwood .38 Special +P 140 Grain Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator or Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special +P 110 Grain FTX. The gun shoots tight groups with either of those. Since they are +P they’ve got a bit of recoil to them, so I don’t do much pleasure shooting with those loads. For target practice I like shooting lead or FMJ 130 to 158 grain rounds of what ever happens to be available. The Model 10 doesn’t seem to care.

Some of Dad’s Old Rounds — Still Good and the Model 10 Likes Them

We don’t shoot the Model 10 often, but my grandkids always enjoy having it included in any of our outings. Because I have double-stack 9mm, .40 and .45 semi-automatics, carrying the Model 10 for personal protection rarely occurs to me. Writing this article has caused me to think about it again, so I plan to give it some outings over the next few weeks. Hopefully, I won’t have to use it, but if I do, I’m sure you’ll hear about it and I’m sure it will have done its part.

M&P®9 SHIELD™ EZ® No Thumb Safety Crimson Trace® Red Laserguard®

Somebody in Smith & Wesson’s engineering department must know me. It’s as if they said, “Let’s build a gun for Freeman. We need to provide enough firepower for him to feel comfortable carrying it for personal protection. Let’s help him with his eyesight by putting a laser on it that’s easy to operate. And speaking of easy to operate, you know the trouble he’s been having racking his slide and filling his magazines? Let’s fix that.” And so they did. Of course that’s a fictional scenario, but only the part that has my name in it. They built this gun for folks like me who want to be well-armed but are dealing with physical issues that make it difficult. The EZ designation on this Shield is the real deal. It is easy to rack and filling the magazine without a mag loader is a piece of cake. Another nice touch is the 1911-like grip safety, making a manual thumb safety unnecessary.

Shield EZ Rack With Laser
The profile of the Shield EZ is similar to other M2.0 Shields, but the barrel is .65″ longer.

This is a different Shield. I know this because I have an M2.0 Shield and I took them both apart to compare. I wanted to know how they made this gun so easy to operate. This Shield could easily be called an M2.5 because it has a different operating system. The EZ Shield is not striker-fired; it has an internal hammer. In essence, it’s single-action only because racking the slide cocks the hammer. The internal safety you would normally call a striker-block safety is a firing pin block safety on this Shield.

The internal hammer is part of the system that makes the EZ Shield easy to rack.

All of the M2.0 Shields have an excellent grip texture that allows for a secure grip. S&W’s advertising says the grip texture is optimized to size and recoil, and I’d say that’s about right. The Shield features an 18-degree grip angle, which we all know John Moses Browning figured out long ago was perfect for aligning sights and mitigating recoil. The S&W fish scale pattern cocking serrations are on the rear of the slide with an abbreviated version on the front. This gun has standard three-dot white sights but is also equipped with a Crimson Trace laser attached to the trigger guard and operated by a push-button switch positioned on the front of the grip where it can easily be activated by the middle finger or your shooting hand. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and the Crimson Trace laser comes with a tool for adjusting it for windage and elevation. It comes from the factory adjusted for 50 feet, which left it shooting high at the 10–12 yard distances we were shooting from at the range. It was easy to adjust using the supplied tool for that purpose. The laser’s lithium battery has a life of over four hours. There is also a master on/off switch should you wish to deactivate the laser for some reason.

The laser fits seamlessly to the trigger guard. Front serrations are there for a press check if that’s your habit.

The 9mm EZ Shield has an overall length of 6.8″ and a height of 4.75″. With the Crimson Trace laser and an empty magazine it weighs 23.8 oz. It ships with two 8-round magazines. The magazines have what seems to me to be a lighter spring than normal for a 9mm, and they have a load-assist tab similar to those on .22 caliber semi-automatic pistols making magazine loading not quite the chore it is on most 9mm pistols when you have hand issues. The trigger is crisp with an average 5 lb. pull on my Lyman gauge. There’s a bit of take-up, but it’s smooth and the break is clean with a tactile reset. The grip safety requires a high, secure grip to activate, but you should be doing that anyway. There is a tactile loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide, something I miss on other M&P handguns.

The EZ Shield’s barrel is 3.65″ long as opposed to the 3″ barrel on the standard M2.0 Shield. The single recoil spring is longer and smaller than the double recoil spring on the standard Shield. The magazine is not compatible with the magazines from other Shields. The slide lock is slightly smaller but is easy to operate. Takedown on the EZ Shield does not require a trigger pull or pushing down a small internal lever to disengage the sear. Just lock the slide back, rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees and push the slide off the front of the frame. The recoil spring is a small, single spring with a strength that is balanced to provide consistent operation of the firearm and easy operation of the slide by people with hand strength issues. My wife and I both fall within that category, and we both found the EZ Shield easy to load, easy to rack and easy to shoot.

Because it’s hammer fired, not striker fired, takedown does not require pulling the trigger.

Reassembly had me going to the manual to figure out why I couldn’t get the slide to go back on just as easily as it comes off. It turns out that the rear end of the recoil spring assembly is not round. It has flat sides and must be oriented so the flats are on the side and the round portions are in the up and down position as you place the assembly back in position on the barrel. There are a couple of other tips for reassembly. If the hammer is up, push it down and do not depress the grip safety while removing or installing the slide.

Whenever I’m evaluating a gun for a review, I like to put it into the hands of several shooters whenever possible. My perceptions may be somewhat slanted according to my likes and dislikes and having input from others helps with a more objective review. Having more than one gun to evaluate on any given range trip also helps balance perspective. Being in the midst of the COVID-19 shelter-at-home period, several of my family members were more than anxious to head to the country in a private environment and shoot some guns. When it came time to shoot the EZ Shield, I was most interested in my wife’s experience with the gun because she has more hand issues than I do. We are both heavy keyboard users because of our professions and are somewhat convinced that keyboard and mouse use is as much an issue with the chronic pain in our hands as aging. For the past few years, I’ve been concerned that she hadn’t felt comfortable with any gun we have other than a lightweight revolver.

I didn’t try to persuade her to load the Shield’s magazines because in real life she doesn’t have to. She’s got me plus sons and grandsons to load magazines for her. But she’s got to be able to shoot the gun, and when I handed her the loaded Shield to shoot, shoot it she did. With just a bit of coaching from our youngest son who is an NRA Certified Handgun Instructor, she was putting rounds on target quite easily. After shooting the gun a bit, she announced she would like this to be her new carry gun, leaving me trying to figure out the logistics of getting another one for me to carry.

The Shields magazine has an assist tab to help with loading. The internal spring is easier than on most magazines, which also helps.

Four of us took turns with the EZ Shield going through several brands of range and defensive ammo. The Shield didn’t seem to care what we fed it. Accuracy was on par for a carry gun and there were no malfunctions of any kind. When it was my turn to shoot, I was just as anxious to try the new Gold Dot Carry Gun ammo as I was the EZ Shield. I didn’t Chrono anything, but I sure was pleased with the groupings I got using the Gold Dot ammo.

The Crimson Trace laser doesn’t interfere at all with carrying the EZ Shield in my Bianchi 101-16 Foldaway holster. The EZ Shield with the Crimson Trace laser also fits easily into an Uncle Mike’s size 16 Sidekick Ambidextrous nylon holster. There’s no doubt in my mind this is a serious personal defense handgun that can easily be carried and up to the challenge should it be needed, whether or not you have hand issues. If you do have hand issues, I urge you to give this gun a try. The S&W engineers must have been working with people just like you and me when they designed this gun.The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!

I found the Shield with the laser attached easy to carry in this Bianchi Foldaway holster. It is normally covered by my shirttail.

The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!

Summertime Carry – What?!!

I am honestly bewildered by the plethora of articles about concealed carry in the summertime and how you if you want to carry when the weather is hot you have to get one of those little mouse guns or pocket guns. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the first rule of a gunfight is to have a gun. Right. To me that sounds like the first rule of winning a boxing match is getting in the ring. But a 100 pound woman with no training getting into the ring with a heavyweight champion boxer is not going to win. Likewise, an untrained, civilian with a pocket .380 is not going to win in an altercation with a hardened criminal on drugs armed with a .45 caliber handgun.

Honestly, folks, it’s not hard to carry a decent size and caliber handgun, no matter the season. Wear shorts. Just wear shorts with belt loops. Wear a short-sleeve, lightweight shirt. But get shirts with a pattern to them, preferably in colors other than white. If you’ll do that and follow the suggestions I’ve made in earlier blogs and which I’ll repeat here, you can be well-armed regardless of the season. A gun at your belt does not care how long the pants legs are. A gun covered by a shirt tail does not care how long the sleeves are.

Yesterday I watched a family go into a restaurant. Dad, mom and boy of about 12. Dad was armed. How do I know? Well, I don’t know for sure, but he was wearing cargo shorts with a big bulge in one of his thigh pockets. “He’s got a gun in that pocket,” I thought when I watched them walk. He even looked like a gun guy. My next thought was, “where is he going to find a bad guy who will wait for him to unzip that pocket and pull his little gun out, orient it and get it pointed in the right direction?” My very next thought was that the clothing he was wearing would have been just as conducive to carrying a .45 Springfield Operator 1911 as the clothes I was wearing. His shirt was white, but it was a tactical-type shirt, with a long shirttail worn outside his pants. His shorts were khaki, 5.11-style shorts. Those shorts have belt loops. His combination of clothing would carry and conceal in the same way mine does.

IWB Holster

The image on the right is a cutaway showing where the gun is in the image to the left. Notice this is not a big guy.

THE SEASON DOES NOT MATTER WHEN IT COMES TO DEFENDING YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES. Once again, here’s how a guy can carry a big gun. A guy that weighs 130 pounds or a guy that weighs 300 pounds. This method works for both.

  1. Buy a good gun belt.  It can be a 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 inch wide, two layers thick, leather gun belt or a 5.11 Tactical Sierra Bravo Duty belt. It just needs to have enough thickness to support the clips from the holster and to support the weight of the firearm.
  2. Get a good IWB holster, custom made for your gun. I’ve used Crossbreed SuperTuck, WhiteHat Holsters, D.M. Bullard Leather, Alien Gear, Galco KingTuk, and MTR Custom Leather holsters. They all work well.
  3. Find the best position on your body for comfort and accessibility. Most of the holster manufacturers recommend the 4:00 position. For me 3:00 works best for semi-automatics and for some reason 11:00 in a cross draw position for revolvers. That’s commonly called appendix carry.
  4. Unload your gun and practice drawing until you can do it smoothly over and over. Don’t worry about speed, worry about smoothness. The speed will come with practice. Break  your practice down into steps:  a) uncover, b) grip, c) draw, d) rotate, e) join hands and extend.  Do this over and over until it becomes muscle memory.

Now, you may actually have a chance should you encounter an unpleasant situation where someone wants what you have and is willing to kill you for it, regardless of the season or length and weight of your cover clothing.

Three Things You Must Know if You’re Going to Carry a Concealed Handgun

By David Freeman

Texas law requires a curriculum for potential Concealed Handgun License holders that covers much of what you need to know to carry a firearm safely and legally, and the Texas CHL curriculum goes into more detail than the programs in many other states. Within the limited time we have available, we at Texas Gun Pros try to add more in the area of practical aspects of carrying a concealed handgun than the law requires. In reality, it’s an area that requires an ongoing focus of attention.

I like to break down the things you need to know into three major areas:

  1. You must know the law where you are carrying. This may or may not be your home state. When traveling, you need to familiarize yourself with the laws in the states you’ll be passing through or spending time in. As a minimum you need to know:
    • When and where you can carry
    • The use of force and deadly force
    • What’s expected of a CHL holder during a traffic stop
  2. You must know you can stop an assailant without harming innocent people. This involves being observent and careful, being proficient with your handgun and having the right ammunition as a minimum.
  3. You must know what to do after a shooting incident. This includes calling 911, what to say and what not to say, when to tell your story and to who, and dealing with the emotional aftermath, especially if it’s a fatal shooting.

You learn the basics of these things in an initial CHL class, but walking it out in daily life requires a commitment to read, study, practice and stay mentally alert. That’s one reason we offer additional programs such as the NRA Personal Protection Inside the Home and Personal Protecton Outside the Home classes. If you don’t see these on our current class schedule and are interested, let us know.