Front of Galco Combat Master with S&W 325 TR. Molded for specific firearms, the barrel, cylinder and most of the trigger guard are covered. Entire perimeter of holster is double stitched.
As much as I like auto-pistols and believe they are generally better suited to self-defense, I confess to being an avid closet wheelgunner. The revolvers I like best are large ones. One of my favorites is the Smith & Wesson Model 325 Thunder Ranch (TR) chambered for .45 ACP.
One drawback to a large revolver, especially if it’s going to be carried for self-defense, is weight. The 325 TR weighs 32 ounces unloaded. Compare that to an unloaded Glock 19, which tips the scales at a tad over 23 ounces. That extra half-plus pound begins to tug on the belt and can become uncomfortable after a full day.
The answer is a quality holster. One of my favorites is the Combat Master belt holster from Galco. Available for revolvers and pistols, the Combat Master is a traditional pancake design made from premium steerhide. The revolver’s orientation in the holster has a slight butt-forward cant that, coupled with the pancake design, holds the revolver close to the body and makes it not much—if any—harder to conceal than a full-size auto pistol.
The Combat Master is molded to fit the specific model of handgun it is ordered for. The holster fully covers the barrel, cylinder, and most of the trigger guard. It has a raised portion on the rear of the holster that keeps the hammer from abrading clothing or skin. The holster is double stitched next to the handgun and the entire perimeter with tough nylon thread.
The belt slots accommodate belts up to 1¾ inches wide.
Back side of Combat Master shows raised portion to cover the hammer.
The 325 TR comes with Hogue Monogrip stocks (grips). In general, they are very good, but in my opinion rubber stock is just a too bit “tacky” for concealed carry.
While visiting the Lyman Products booth at the 2016 SHOT Show, I noticed the just-introduced Pachmayr Renegade laminated wood stocks. They have a round butt profile and, when coupled with the pancake design of the Combat Master, will hardly print though clothing at all. I replaced the Monogrips with a set of smooth Rosewood Renegade stocks and have no plans to go back.
Full-moon clip and Galco Speedloader case. Tool at lower right makes it easy to unload spring steel moon clips.
I’m a big believer in carrying spare ammo, and this is even more critical with a revolver than with an auto-pistol.
Being a rimless cartridge, the .45 ACP will not engage the revolver’s extractor star. The original solution to this back in World War I was spring steel half-moon clips that held three rounds to facilitate extraction. In the years since the “War To End All Wars,” quarter-moon (two rounds) and full-moon (six rounds) clips have been used, with the latter being the most popular. A full-moon clip will load a revolver as fast—some think faster—than any speedloader.
Galco 2x2x2 Ammo Carrier holds six rounds spaced so two cartridges can be easily withdrawn. Six-round QuickStrip can be used by dampening the leather, inserting QuickStrip and leaving overnight to dry.
If you reload, an upside of using moon clips is that the spent shells stay together, making them easy to pick up.
Another option is to use .45 Auto Rim (AR) rounds. This round is essentially a .45 ACP, but with a rim to engage the ejector star.
When I carry the 325 TR, I use a Galco Speedloader case to carry a full-moon clip with .45 ACP rounds in conjunction with a Galco 2x2x2 Ammo Carrier with .45 AR cartridges. The 2x2x2 Ammo Carrier spaces the rounds so that two can be easily extracted from the case for a reload.
I also use the 2x2x2 Ammo Carrier with a six-round QuickStrip from Tuff Products. As bought, the 2x2x2 is too tight to accept a loaded QuickStrip. I dampened the leather and forced the loaded QuickStrip into the cartridge loops and left it overnight to dry. The result is that a loaded QuickStrip withdraws easily from the pouch.
Galco SB5 belt with Combat Master holster and spare ammo carriers. Author believes a good belt is the foundation for all other carry gear.
It has been said that the perfect shot begins in the holster. I would go one step further and say it begins with a good belt designed to carry the handgun. The SB5 Sport Belt from Galco is one such belt, a sturdy belt made to hold the weight of a handgun. Fully lined with premium steerhide, the belt has a solid brass buckle and is available in 1¼-, 1½- and 1¾-inch widths. I wear the 1¾-inch version for maximum support.
None of these products are cheap, but neither are the firearms I carry. And no price can be placed on quality gear when your life is on the line.
SMITH & WESSON