Finest All-round All-round
In the March/April American Handgunner, Clint Smith has an interesting range test. He put six guns (3 autos, 3 revolvers) through their paces at ranges out to 75 yards. The neat part was that they ranged in size from a Colt Agent snubby to a S&W 29 in 44 mag and included basic pistols like the Glock 17 and semi-custom jobs like a Thunder Ranch 1911 from Les Baer.
Two things stand out. First, the small guns did surprisingly well at 25 yards. The Agent and Springfield Micro Compact shot 3" groups while the 4 inch S&W 19 held to 1.75" to lead the pack.
The other thing was that the S&W 19 was the best at all distances. It held to 6" at 75 yards. It's big brother (Model 29) came in at 10" while the TR 1911 did 8". The 1911 was Smith's favorite and it was designed to his specifications. Yet the 19 outshot it at long range.
Over time, i've come to believe that the Model 19 is the best all-round handgun for the largest number of people. You get the advantage of 38 SPL/357 Mag ammo. It's a nicer carry gun than N-frames or Rugers, especially if you want to carry it concealed. The workmanship is superb and gives you the smoothest DA trigger i've ever experienced. Smooth trigger=better accuracy, especially at long range.
The .357 is also a better long-range choice than any auto-loading round. Mid-range trajectory (100 yds.) for 125 Speer Gold Dot is only 2.8" while the 45 ACP 230 grain Gold Dot comes in at 6.9". In fact, even standard pressure 38 Specials shoot flatter than the 45 ACP in 230 grain loads.