The Perfect ‘Rule 1’ Gun

The Perfect ‘Rule 1’ Gun
  I have always been a huge fan of following the ideas of “The Perfect Trail Gun” from Skeeter Skelton, and “The Perfect Packing Pistol” by John Taffin. It sings to my love of big bore revolvers. As a pure urban animal, my idea of camping is renting a high end condo at a ski resort in the summer. Even my big bore revolvers tend to be snubs and geared more towards the urban lawman for hunting felons than guns used by true outdoorsmen and set up for four legged critters. In the same vain I have been on the quest for the Perfect Rule One gun since I started to daily carry a firearm when I turned 21. Rule One of Gunfighting is to always have a gun on your person. This is easy to talk about, easy to pontificate about, easy to claim it is something you always do, and impossible to actually do. So knowing being armed with a firearm all the time is impossible to actually do, it becomes a goal of trying to carry on your person as much of the time as humanly possible.
  The older I get the more important it is to have a firearm on my person as often as possible. Age and injuries have limited my ability to both fight or flee to the degree I could when I was younger and much healthier. This makes it imperative that I am armed with a firearm as much as possible to protect both myself and my loved ones. I spend most of my time at home in gym shorts with a drawstring. Back injuries make anything with a belt a non-option for any level of comfort. So I need a firearm that is as light and as minimalist as possible. I need something reliable in a fight that has come to me, and is likely entangled. I need something with a trigger that is forgiving of unorthodox carry. This pretty much limits my option to a sub 16 ounce revolver. For most of my adult life that has been a Airweight S&W J frame or Colt lightweight D frame of some variety in .38 special. Fast forward to my life with severe arthritis in my hands and a worsening back along with some significant leg and feet injuries and that criteria has become a 13 ounce or less gun in a sub caliber. I have tried quite a few things. The Airlite S&W’s in .38 are hard enough in recoil for me that they are in the carry a lot and shoot a little category. Being I now carry these guns more than anything else, shoot a lot needs to be a priority. I have not had good luck with my S&W 43 C as a shoot a lot gun. I settled on the Ruger .22 LCR as my sort of go to for a small revolver (I also love the .327 LCR, but they are on the heavier Magnum frame that exceeds my weight limit for the gun). I will say this definitively at this point…If I have to stake my life in a fight on a Rimfire, it is the Ruger .22 LCR for a lot of reasons. I carry them daily as back ups and primaries in very restrictive work environments and I can shoot them a ton without hurting my hands. For my Rule One old man gun though, I have found what I think is “The One”.
The seven shot S&W 351C in .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire is a gun I have visited before. I never found one that could hit my three requirements for a gun to stake my life on (these requirements are courtesy of a mentor who has been a huge influence).

1. Sights I can See-The 351C has a great sight set up of a single white dot front and u notch rear. Very fast, and robust and snag free. Perfect for the application.
2. A trigger I can manage-this was always the 351C’s issue. Every single one I previously handled at a gun shop or gun show had horrible triggers. I know they need to be heavy to be reliable, but incredibly heavy and terrible is a no go. I tell folks if you want one of these, make sure you can try it before you buy it in person.
3. Disturbingly reliable…this is a toss up with many of the S&W J frame rimfires.

  Recently I found an example of a S&W 351C that came in brand new to my favorite gun shop, Jackson Armory. It had a heavy but manageable good trigger and I bought it to see if it could also be reliable. It has been 100% reliable with every single round I have put through it.
I have done a couple modifications. The Precision Gun Specialties Grips are perfect with it. They lock in my hands, especially one handed, they are very light, and very smooth for carry against the body. I added a metal ClipDraw to carry it without a holster inside my waistband. I am using either a Mika or Wilderness Tactical Force Option pocket holster if I am not carrying it inside the waistband. Spare ammunition is carried in a single Tuff Products Quick Strip. The way it is set up, the 351C and a neck knife is the first thing I put on when i get up and the last thing I take off everyday. I just got back from our vacation home and carried it a ton outside the house on short errands. It is my ultimate dog walking gun.
The caliber is interesting. It is a rifle cartridge coming out of a barrel less than two inches. As a small light bullet, recoil is minimal and it is super easy to shoot, but it barks like a bigger gun. All that blast and noise is a benefit for near contact shooting. In gel testing new high performance .22 LR loads are showing near equal to better performance to the .22 WMR….which is a game changer for the .22 LR. With that said, shooting steel with .22 WMR and .22 LR is a different equation. People are not steel, but when it comes to hitting bone, momentum is a thing. A big drawback to .22 WMR versus .22 LR is ejection in a revolver. The short .22 LR’s are ejected easily and very reliably get clear of the gun, it is almost the opposite with the .22 WMR. It is why I would prefer the .22 LR LCR if I had to get in a fight with one that may be extended. It is where I really place the difference in the .22 LCR as a gun well adapted for very restrictive, but dangerous non-permissive environments. My particular example of the S&W 351C is not something I would want to be in a gunfight with, but is great for a gun I can very rapidly deploy and shoot to counter a violent physical attack. If needed against an animal attacking my dog while on a walk, the .22 WMR is well established as a great round for small four legged animals.

  So…in the on going quest for the ultimate Rule One niche gun FOR ME, the S&W 351C has become my go to for this phase of my life. I have found I am in very good company from other old gunfighters in the same place. If your at the Santa stage of the game….be a dangerous and treacherous Santa.


  1. Keith Pratt on February 17, 2024 at 12:49 pm

    I have also started embracing this concept of being armed all the time and too have chosen the 351c except I opted for the Hamre Forge grip route.

    • BrYan on February 17, 2024 at 1:52 pm


  2. Alex on February 17, 2024 at 1:42 pm

    I bought a 351c last year but it had trigger binding issues and I ended up trading it away. You list great reasons why 22 magnum is good in one of these guns and I would like to get another 351c in the future.

    • BrYan on February 17, 2024 at 1:52 pm

      Yeah you have to be really selective on the rimfire J Frames.

  3. Mike on February 17, 2024 at 2:47 pm

    Great write up. I’ve got the 340 M&P and am thinking of a 43c but scared off a bit by some reviews. Is the 351c that much better made? Is the LCR in 22 LR a better choice for that caliber?

    • BrYan on February 17, 2024 at 2:50 pm

      Pro’s and Con’s to the 351c and the 43c. Inspect them both thoroughly before you purchase one.

  4. Bill on February 17, 2024 at 3:50 pm

    So the “always armed” credo, accomplished with a LCR in 327 but loaded down to 32 H&R. Light but effective.

    • Chuck Burnett on February 21, 2024 at 6:49 am

      We may have discussed this last year at TACON, what are your thoughts on the LCR in 22 WMR? I currently have and enjoy the 22 LR with the Hamre Forge grips and and keeping things the same seems to make sense. I also seem to remember your showing us your 351 that if I recall BrYan had smoothed up. Look forward to seeing you both at TACCON.

  5. Donald Campbell on February 17, 2024 at 7:16 pm

    It is my most frequently carried gun. So far 500 rounds fired with zero misfires.

  6. Chris Raymond on February 17, 2024 at 8:53 pm

    I have a 43c that I have had to hone the Chambers for extraction issues and I am having some misfires on Federal Punch form time to time. Can I smith my way out of the problem?

    • Bruce Hagen on February 19, 2024 at 10:55 am

      I have heard on some of the other forums that Punch has a 1 out of a 100 failure rate. That has not been my experience, but Punch is still a rimfire cartridge so it may not be the gun.

      • Darryl Bolke on February 19, 2024 at 11:00 am

        I have not had any issues, but again, we don’t know who’s gun it is, modifications, condition, etc. the beauty of really working with these guns is being able to train with your carry ammo economically. You should be able to figure out quickly how reliable your gun/ammunition combo is.-DB

  7. Bruce Cartwright on February 17, 2024 at 8:55 pm

    Who makes the neck knife in the photo? It’s an interesting design.
    As to the 351C, Bill Jordan wrote about a similar concept in his book: “No Second Place Winner”. The 22 Magnum had just been introduced and he endorsed the concept of an Airweight J frame chambered for it. His thinking was that it would be a great pocket/off duty gun. While he didn’t call it a Rule 1 gun, I believe that is what he was talking about.
    Great article!

    • Ndbbm on February 18, 2024 at 10:20 pm

      Believe it’s a Fred Perrin. Emerson Knives makes a production version called a La Griffe.


    • Darryl Bolke on February 19, 2024 at 5:07 am

      It is a Fred Perrin LeGriffe. I carried these a ton when Emerson was making a licensed version. I also have some custom ones. What I currently put on the second I wake up and take off at bedtime is a custom Joe Watson micro Gamboa in SM100. If I could only have one knife…that would likely be it or my full size SM100 Gamboa. Cost and availability of SM100 now make it unobtainable.

  8. Bill Parmelee on February 17, 2024 at 9:42 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. Not that long ago I would have kept browsing and not taken the time to read it. However, now it hits home. It’s full of great info that I never thought I would never need. The pondering continues…..

  9. Darryl Bolke on February 19, 2024 at 5:09 am

    Age and injury does that to us amigo. You and I have a lot of the same issues at this point. We are paying debts for our youthful abuses and a litany of injuries.

  10. Mark Terbush on February 19, 2024 at 10:24 am

    Great read! Now I need a .22 snub! 🙂

  11. Bruce Hagen on February 19, 2024 at 10:43 am

    I bought a 43c in 2022 and had all of the common problems. It went back to S&W a few times. Lacking confidence in that gun, I bought another 43c in mid 2023 because it met most of my criteria for pocket carry (specifically weight). My Ruger LCR 327 and 22LR both were too heavy (leg injury). The 2023 gun ran perfectly with 400 rounds. I’m wondering if S&W has stricter Q&A for the 43c’s now being manufactured. Wanting to reduce the trigger pull for one handed shooting I took another big risk and had the action polished down from 15+lbs to 11lbs…300 rounds and no problems using Federal Punch and even 25 rounds of bulk ammo. Although, I do suspect that there would be issues with bulk ammo. I don’t use bulk ammo so I don’t care.

  12. Bill Whitter on February 20, 2024 at 9:33 am

    I like the concept of the 43c, but the known 43c issues have pushed off any purchase. Plus, my 351c took a ride back to the factory after locking up after a dozen rounds, although it has been fine for the next 500 rounds since then. Are 7 or 8 rounds too many for the design parameters of the J-frame or is it S&W QA? Or both? I ended up going back to 38 SPL to a 340PD with 38 SPL HBWCs. Still mighty light and has that sweeter 38 J-frame trigger, more recoil though and a step up in price.

  13. ED ELLER on February 20, 2024 at 6:52 pm

    I have a 3″ S&W 51 in 22 WMR, new in the box, but I can’t bring myself to shoot it. I may have to look into a S&W 351c. My S&W 432 and Shield PC are still manageable albeit a little more weighty options.

  14. Kenneth Brinley on February 21, 2024 at 8:57 am

    When I head out I usually reach for a 360, 351c, an LCR in .327 loaded with 32 mag or if I absolutely must, an LCP2 in .22LR.

  15. Bruce Smithhammer on March 26, 2024 at 1:32 pm

    I picked up a 351C as well last year, shortly before the Roundup, and threw some Hogue G10 stocks on it. Regularly carried in a Mika pocket holster. It’s so light and easy to carry that there is never a good reason not to have it on me. Mine has also been 100% reliable so far over several hundred rounds of mixed ammo, and it really likes the Speer GD short barrel rounds. I have no qualms carrying this little snubbie for SD, and certainly would never want to be on the receiving end!

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