I recently heard some advice from a group of fitness experts that went something like this: Some types of exercise are better than others, but if you want to stay in shape, just find an activity you enjoy. If you don’t like the kind of exercise you’re doing, you probably won’t stick with it and any exercise is better than no exercise.

There’s a lesson there that I think carries over into the world of defensive firearms. Watch the video below for my thoughts, or keep reading for the full transcript.


 


A lot of you guys have been asking me whether I’m still carrying the Beretta PX4 Compact that I reviewed about a year ago. The truth is that between doing reviews and other research, I don’t usually carry the same gun for very long. I still think the PX4 is a great gun and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, but I have not been carrying it.

For the last few months, I’ve actually been carrying a Smith & Wesson 3953. These were discontinued several years ago along with all the rest of the old Smith & Wesson metal-framed semi-autos. Unlike most of those guns, this one is double action only instead of double action/single action. It’s a compact single stack 9mm with an 8-round magazine. This gun is almost the same size and weight as the PX4 but it holds about half as much ammo. So it would be fair to ask why I’m carrying something outdated like this when there are other options that are obviously so much better.

I could give you all kinds of little reasons why I think this gun is a better choice for me right now than a higher capacity double stack or a modern pocket-size single stack. But ultimately, the reason I’m carrying this gun is that I just really like it. It’s reliable and accurate, and I have found that I shoot it really well. It’s like a 9-shot 9mm revolver with a really nice trigger. When I’m at the range and I actually find a few minutes to spend on some real focused practice, the 3953 is the gun I want to shoot, so that’s the gun I’ve been carrying.

Some people look at their defensive firearms without any emotional attachment at all. It is just a piece of safety equipment like a fire extinguisher or a seatbelt. As long as it works, they don’t care what it is. I admire that, but I have a difficult time adopting that mentality myself. Most of us who spend any significant time developing defensive shooting skills also view shooting as a hobby. There are a lot of times when that hobby is at odds with the goal of personal protection. Most shooters would probably rather buy another gun they don’t really need than spend that money on a case of practice ammo or a good training class.

But shooting for fun and building self-defense skills don’t have to be mutually exclusive — those two things can compliment each other. In the case of your carry gun, for example, if you enjoy shooting that gun, you’re going to be a lot more motivated to practice with it. On the other hand, if you have a hard time getting excited about going to the range because black plastic is boring to you or because your carry gun is too small and it’s hard to shoot — those things are going to keep you from practicing.

I think it’s probably better to trade that gun in for something that interests you, even if it means giving up some minor perceived tactical advantage like losing a few rounds of ammo capacity or slower split times or going to a smaller caliber. Or, you know, if covering your gun with a fuschia leopard print Cerakote is going to get you excited about taking it to the range, that might be money well spent, too.

I certainly have some opinions about what kind of guns are going to be ideal for most people but I am willing to ignore a lot of that as long as it’s reliable, safe, and it helps motivate somebody to be a better shooter.


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  • Ron Hatfield Jr

    the TSWs are nicer.

    • They’re pretty cool, but I don’t really need a rail on a carry gun and it’s difficult to find holsters for them.

      • MIke

        Where did you find your holster for the 3953? I have a 6946 that I would like a holster for and am about ready to just make one myself

        • I got mine from JM Custom Kydex, which is where I get most of my holsters. He makes one for the 6906, which should fit your 6946 just fine.

          • MIke

            Awesome, appreciate the answer

        • Matt

          Had a 3953 for a long time. Traded a Walther P1 for it, I think. Uses the same mags as my 3914, and I was lucky enough to find a Summer Special holster for them both at a gun show (it was LH, which I am, and why it was so inexpensive).

      • Ron Hatfield Jr

        you can take the rail off…

        • Yeah, but then why am I paying double for the TSW version if I don’t want the rail?

          • Duke Bradford

            The TSW had several other differences, in addition to the rail, that made them superior to the standard model.

          • WCOG

            The DAO TSW guns have a different trigger from the standard DAOs too, essentially it’s a 3913 that’s been converted to DAO. That provides double strike capability with the drawback that the trigger is consistently heavier. There’s a strong argument to be made for either system, obviously it’s down to personal preference.

      • Duke Bradford

        They made pre-rail TSWs. Neither my 3913TSW or my 4013TSW have rails. I don’t see a need for a rail either.

  • Rod De Leon

    I find that if I’m going to carry something every day, I have to like it. And, for me, that means something I can identify with and can appreciate, even form a kind of a bond with. So, in my case, that doesn’t mean something that rhymes with and looks like a block. I think there are many more people who feel this way than are willing to admit it, or there wouldn’t be a veritable cottage industry of custom slides, frames, striker plates, and finishes for the aforementioned “block.” As far back as the Bronze Age, and likely even into the Stone Age, we have been decorating our weapons and tools. For what other practical purpose than personal satisfaction? It’s not frivolity. It’s important. I figure as long as you don’t end up fighting your gear, carry what you like.

    • “As far back as the Bronze Age, and likely even into the Stone Age, we have been decorating our weapons and tools.”
      That is a very good point. I had not considered the historical tradition of embellishing weapons and tools, but you’re right — you see it everywhere in historical artifacts from all cultures.

  • Greyson

    Outdated or just reflective of different priorities?

    As a revolver guy, I really wish DAO semi-autos were more mainstream. I get why they are not more popular, but I like the idea of a higher capacity option with a trigger that is still like my regular gun. Maybe I’m just weird and outdated (wouldn’t be the first time that accusation was leveled at me).

    • retfed

      I agree with you. I’m a big fan of DAO autos. I’m an Old Revolver Cop, and when my agency switched to autos, they switched to DAO autos, just because of the trigger similarity with revolvers. But the magazine disconnector on the old Smiths is a deal breaker for me. (My agency used DAO Berettas, HKs, and Sigs.)

  • ViolentlyShiny

    I like your taste, Chris. I love the 3rd Gen Smith & Wessons they are all around sexy and have a great feel to them in the hand. I’ve been carrying a Model 915, soon going to be picking up a 6904 for better concealment.

  • kyew

    Well said! I would add that you should carry what you want regardless of what other people say, too. It’s your life you’ll be defending, not theirs. Their opinion really doesn’t matter. If you like (and shoot better with) a .22, carry it, by all means. The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t carry anything.

  • Getoffmylawn

    I agree. Plenty don’t like revolvers for EDC. Low round count, slow to reload, and just plain old technology. I love my .357 magnum. It is what I shoot best with. It is what I am most confident with. It feels like it is part of me. This makes it superior, for me, to any other gun out there. Sure there are better guns, but they don’t resonate with me like my 4″ DW 715.

  • JohnnyV

    Don’t forget, S&W 3953’s are proven brown bear stoppers.
    You sound like an DA junkie. I am too. Just got a Sig P250 Sub-Compact because…the trigger.

    • JohnnyV

      Forgot to mention, S&W made a model that held one less round, those grips were for that model.

      • The Chief’s Special 9mm aka CS9 had a shorter grip and barrel and 7 round mags. It was only sold with fat rubber Hogue grips and not the slimmer plastic grips like the 3953 and 3913. The grips on my 3953 were modified by the previous owner for unknown reasons which is why they’re shorter at the bottom, but they don’t affect the way the gun shoots for me.

        • JohnnyV may be thinking of the rare “TSW Tactical” series. These frames came without the rail, but also had the frame notched out to match the bottom of the stock . With the latter, you then had the option of an even shorter carry magazine that lost one round over the standard model.

          The photo below shows one of the 3953TSW-Tacticals with what appears to be the legacy 8-rd magazine instead of the flush fit 7-rd model.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/576ce80868b0b3db26aae8ffd042fa461d8e3a76b873f9e1b4092777cfccd7bc.jpg

          • JohnnyV

            Yep, a TSW model. Only one I’ve seen with short magazine was a 3913 TSW.

          • Very interesting. That’s the first I’ve seen of that version of the TSW. My grips have what look like faint tool marks on the bottom, so I assumed the previous owner had modified them, but the cut was also unusually clean, so I guess it’s possible it was a factory modification and the grips came off one of these pistols.

          • Duke Bradford

            I have one of the 7 round 3913TSWs, great gun. It is my second favorite carry semi-auto second only to my 4013TSW.

  • Mike D

    I’m old school and I agree with this article. I just bought a 6904 ( my first 9 I’ve owned in a long time) I wanted a 9 similar too my 39s and 59s I had in the past. I didn’t want a plastic 9, no fun in that. Got a great deal on a mint 6904 and grabbed it. I like the DA/SA also. And the fact that they are accurate and reliable. Like the man said, an emotional attachment to gun helps you use it more. I have many handguns, both pistol and revolvers. Some I don’t care for that much and they just sit in the safe. I have several big bore snubby revolvers that see more range and carry time than mostof my handguns. There is nothing wrong with these old style handguns. They will get the job done as easy as a new one.

  • trjnsd

    I like shooting and carrying my old S&W 6906, a “double-single” version of yours. My first automatic was a Smith 39; I’m sorry I sold it. That was sold to buy a 59, and I’m sorry I sold that too, to buy a Sig226. I love the Sig and carried it into the dark alleys for 20 years, but still carry and shoot the old 6906 just as well. It points well, is always reliable and is light enough to carry all day and night. Add to that, it was given to me when I retired so it cost me nothing. That’s several hundred dollars I can spend on ammo for practice!

  • Jeez Louise

    I would like to have a single stack 9mm 3913NL myself.

    • cesalt

      I have one, and it’s very nice indeed. The 6906 is my go-to at home, though.

      • Jeez Louise

        Sounds great!

  • Carlo Virgilio

    What a breath of fresh air…a good ole S & W pistol that goes bang and makes the bad guy fall down…what’s outdated and weird about that? I think that gun is beautiful.

  • James

    i have a 4006 and 4516tsw that i’ve both shot for years in IDPA. They are solid as a tank, 1911 heavy, accurate and have a sweet single action trigger. I’ll never willingly part with them. I’m still waiting for that 1006 trade in at the local gun store.