my sidearm.


Smith & Wesson, Model 13, three-inch heavy barrel.

This is what rides on my belt when I’m dressed, and what’s sitting on the nightstand when I’m not.

It’s not a very remarkable or valuable gun.  They made tens of thousands of them between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s.  The backstrap and the underside of the triggerguard are worn down to a sort of dull-gray kind of color, and there’s wear on the barrel sides at the muzzle end that comes from holstering the gun a few thousand times over the twenty-five years since it left the factory.  It was made in 1983, right in the not-so-stellar Bangor Punta period at Smith & Wesson.  Except for the Pachmayr grips, it’s bone-stock.  Book value for a Model 13 in this condition is right around $300.  It only holds six rounds, and it doesn’t have attachment points for lights or lasers.  The fixed sights don’t glow in the dark, and it’s made of nothing but plain carbon steel, with all the weight and maintenance penalties inherent in that material.

However, when I pull this gun out of its holster, it feels so familiar to my hand that body and tool essentially become one once my fingers wrap around that Pachmayr grip, and my trigger finger indexes on the frame above the trigger guard.  I can reload the gun from a speedloader or a strip without looking at it, since my fingers can index frame and cylinder, eject the empties, and charge the six holes in the cylinder without me having to pay direct attention to that little dance.  When I pick it up, it feels right in a way no other gun does.

When we talk about guns for personal defense, we often get tied up debating capacity, caliber, size, auto-vs.-revolver, 1911-vs.-Glock, .45-vs.-9mm, and a hundred other arguments where people try to convince each other of the superiority of one over the other on the basis of paper statistics and anecdotes.  What seldom gets consideration in those debates are the intangibles: how the gun feels and points in the hand of its owner, how the sight picture is as familiar to him as the sight of his own face in the mirror, how the weapon is such a synergy of form and function in his hand that he can nail empty shotgun shells off the berm at twenty-five yards with it, or how its reliability and simplicity inspires confidence in him that is unmatched by anything else ever found in a gun store display case.

It may not be much to look at, and its monetary value may only be a few hundred dollars, but you’d have to be nuts to think that its owner would let go of it at any price, for any reason.  Some things cannot be adequately quantified by numbers on a spreadsheet, or valued by mere legal tender.


15 thoughts on “my sidearm.

  1. Kaerius says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Now those statistics, numbers, spreadsheets and anecdotes might have some value to someone for their first handgun, but second most important thing even then is how it feels in the hand, the first being that it will reliably fire.

    I’m actually beginning to consider joining a pistol club and getting my own soon(I’ve only shot rifles and shotguns before), though it will not be a carry piece(I live in sweden, carry is illegal, I live in a small and quiet city, the worst I’m likely to face is a mean drunk, and then my martial arts training is sufficient defence).

    So I’d be getting a range gun, currently looking at some lightweight and slim frame pistols(I have small hands). Kimber KPD looks promising, though I can’t find any reviews from people who’ve actually fired it… Springfield XD and Steyr M9/M40 also look interesting. But I’m in no rush.

  2. Kaerius says:

    PS: For a defense weapon, I also consider recoil a bigger concern than stopping power. I’d want to put at least two bullets in the creep quickly. If you want stopping power, just get the appropriate ammo, speer gold dot for example is almost a guaranteed kill(cops here use it, in 9mm, and to my knowledge every time they’ve shot someone with it, the person has died, despite medical aid, it’s rare enough an occurance that they shoot, that it makes the news every time).

  3. The barrel length is perfect for the application, the caliber is demonstrably efficient at its task, & you are comfortable with it.

    There is no finer handgun than the one you like & can use.

    ‘Nuff said.

  4. Trebor says:

    I carry it’s cousin, a 3″ Model 65. I just like the stainless finish better for carry.

    I do have a 3″ 13 as well and I will sometimes carry it if the 65 needs to be cleaned after a range trip or something.

    Those 3″ Smith K frames are the best carry revolvers, in my opinion.

  5. Regolith says:

    I’m not new to shooting, but I’m fairly new to buying guns, and so far both of my gun purchases have been decided on the feel of the gun in my hands alone.

    Last July I went to the gun store fixing to buy Mossberg, but decided to try it as well as an 870 “on” for size. Ended up getting the 870, because it felt more solid and mounted more naturally.

    Last Sunday I walked into the same shop intending to buy a Savage 110 in .30-06. Tried both the Savage and the Remington 700 before I made my choice, and ended up going for the Remy, again based almost entirely on how the gun felt in my hands.

    when I get around to buying handguns, I have absolutely no doubt that I’ll probably walk out of the shop with something other than what I intended to buy, because its how the gun fits you that is the most important “feature.”

  6. pdb says:

    What, no rail?


  7. Dan Brock says:

    It’s so cheap! How can you “smoke off” any bad guys with such a bargain basement piece of shit?

  8. dagamore says:

    the best defensive weapon is the one you are comfortable shooting. I also have a revolver as my bedside firearm, mines a Ruger .357 with .38slp +p rounds. It shouts to my point of aim with out any real thought and it goes bang every time i pull the trigger, and if it does not i can just pull it again and it will on the second try 😀

    good choice.

  9. Carteach0 says:

    Ayup, good points all.

    The single most important factor, and most boring, when discussing these things.

    It works.

  10. Tam says:

    What, no rail?

    A rail on a CCW gun makes about as much sense as a kickstand on a tank…

  11. Tam says:

    At the same time, a dedicated house gun, which is 99.44% likely to be used after dark, that could be fitted with an illumination device but isn’t, shows a certain lack of foresight on the part of its owner. 😉

  12. Andy Sparrow says:

    I have pretty much the same pistol, Pachmayrs and all, and concur on all points. Who needs adjustable sights when the fixed ones are nuts on. I usually don’t buy into FBI endorsement of a firearm, but on this one I concede the point.
    As to the light issue, when they first tried to sell those of us in boots on them, we dismissed them as target indicators(meaning they give the bad guys something to shoot at) Of course military and home defense have two different types of opposition, and yes, the current unpleasantness has changed that school of thought as they do help with searches after the shooting stops and NODs get turned off.
    Dan your sarcasm is going to get you in trouble some day. No wonder you don’t sell more knives! Love the EK.

  13. But, but, you don’t wanna SuperUltraBlastomatic Model 666 in .50AE with 19-rd mags and 64″ of available rail space???? Wouldn’t that be better than that old six-shooter?

    (If your answer ever inches anywhere north of HELLNO, I’ll gladly take that M13 off your hands;)

    This ain’t your first post on that gun, or the subject matter. I’m starting to think you like that thing…


  14. Gryff says:

    >It’s so cheap! How can you “smoke off” any bad guys
    >with such a bargain basement piece of shit?

    Spoken like a fool who reads too many magazines and has never put more than a single box of rounds down range. Chill, Dan. You turn dumbass when you try to type something clever.

  15. T.D.Rowley says:

    Found this post looking for a pic of the Mod 13. I have this exact same setup on my night stand. The 1st round is .38 spec shot shell and the rest are .38 spec +P. If you get woke up in the middle of the night with someone in your house, you want a gun that is an extension of your hand.
    Thanks for the post.

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