I'm stumped with snubs


September 24, 2005, 07:22 PM
I picked up a S&W 640 awhile back for CCW. I've been practicing with it with standard pressure 158gr .38's for awhile, but I just can't get it down. I know the revolver's sights are accurate, because from a rest and with careful trigger pull, I can keep everything inside a 4" circle at ~10 yards. Firing from a standing position, even 'staging' the trigger, I'm lucky if I keep it on the paper sometimes. Most of my shots are going right and high.

Even with .38's, it chews up the webbing on my hand in less than 50 rounds. I can get a shooting glove for practice, I suppose. I have to keep a very tight grip to maintain any kind of accuracy. Squeezing that hard, and with the gun beating up my hand, I'm developing a pretty bad shake sometimes.

Right now the gun has the standard rubber boot grips on it. I can maintain a firm grip on these, but I wonder if I should just move up to larger grip that covers the backstrap. It's hard to find a dealer that has a decent set of grips in stock to try out.

Can anyone give me some advice? It's a nice revolver, and I'd hate to sell it off because I couldn't adjust.

TIA, jmm

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September 24, 2005, 07:24 PM
I like a little larger grips myself.


Standing Wolf
September 24, 2005, 07:56 PM
I'd say you need larger stocks, probably stocks that cover the grip frame's back strap. .38 special loads should not chew up anyone's palm.

September 24, 2005, 08:06 PM
I think there must be a problem with the fit of your gun to your hand. I recently bought a Charter Undercover 38 that weighs 16oz empty. I shoot non +P 158gr out of it and the recoil to me is very mild. My gun came stock with a set of Pachmayr rubber grips which I'm sure do a lot for the comfort (see attachment).

I'd try new grips first. Pachmayr is a good place to start.


If that fails, you might try 148gr wadcutter target loads. They're lighter than the 158gr loads and are supposed to be decent for CW.

Good luck,


September 24, 2005, 08:16 PM
You have discovered the problem with easily concealed handguns. If it is small and light enough for comfortable carry it's often very hard to shoot accurately and with comfort.

Sure, you can hang big handles on it, but it becomes less concealable. I just figure these small guns are carry often and shoot infrequently models.

One problem may lie in your technique. It sounds like you're trying to shoot this revolver like a target pistol. I have found that my best shooting with the small "hideout" guns happens when I don't concentrate on the trigger pull. I just focus on getting that front sight on target and rolling the trigger. I find I shoot best if I don't think too much.

High and to the right sounds like you're jerking the trigger. Common when we are anticipating painful recoil. Try to keep the front sight centered on the target and pull the trigger straight back. Dry fire a lot and practice keeping the front sight on the mark while drawing the trigger straight back. Get to where you can do it without thinking about it.

Shooting is an acquired skill. Nobody is born a great marksman. You improve through practice.

September 24, 2005, 08:36 PM
I think with snubs (as a generalization) we need to accept that they will beat us up a bit - most so of course with lightweights and .357.

That said - if that is your carry platform choice then, do enough practice to get adequate results, and no more.

If then 'in extremis' you have to use said platform - you will be so hyped up that five shots of ''bruising'' potential will go unnoticed! ;)

Remember too - chances are ''bad breath'' distance for a confrontation so - if you can in effect connect COM at 5 to 7 yards - you'll be OK! :) It'll more likely be 3 yards or less!

September 24, 2005, 09:15 PM
At 10 yards I'm more of a threat with a snubby if I throw it at you. That's why when I need to carry something small, I carry a .32. I give up a little power but gain a lot of accuracy from the extra inch in the barrel.

September 24, 2005, 09:24 PM
I was having similar problems with my Taurus 605 - I got a conbat grip to replace the boot grips and saw an immediate improvement in my groups and comfort with the weapon. Makes a big difference. Lots of dry-firing with snap caps has helped my trigger squeeze alot too.

September 24, 2005, 10:43 PM
It's got to be the way you are holding it!!

There is no hammer, so we can forget hammer bite.

From the pic on the S&W site, the grips seem to be long enough!!! How big are your hands?? That may be the problem!! It might help if you could post a pic showing us how you hold the gun, especially in relationship to your hand size. For whatever reason, you are holding it to high on the stocks. The back end of the pistol is what is smacking your hand.

September 24, 2005, 11:03 PM
I have it's hammered brother, the Model 60. With .357 loads I can see you feeling like your hands are torn up or at least worn out after 50 rounds but, with .38's I can't see that. Try different grips and make sure your wrist is tight when shooting. If your wrist is rolling back, more so than your arm moving up, I can see where the gun might rock back more in your hand.

I put on Pachmayr Compact Pro's for a smaller than factory grip since I use it for carry. Notice how there is a smooth transition from the grip to the back strap as opposed to the factory rubber. Maybe that's contributing to your problem? Maybe not?



September 25, 2005, 03:13 AM
Most of my shots are going right and high. Small guns are really grip sensitive.


September 25, 2005, 02:14 PM
denfoote wrote:
It's got to be the way you are holding it!!
Ok, I'll buy that. Here's the way I've been holding it.


Is this the way you're suggesting I hold it?



September 25, 2005, 03:00 PM
I have a S&W 642 (5-shot hammerless .38) and although I'm a southpaw, I was experiencing the same thing (high and right) that you are. When I first got this gun, I'd be lucky to put 4 shots out of 5 onto a paper plate at 10 yds.

After lots of practice and a few tweaks, I'm able to consistently get 3" groups around the point of aim at the same distance, firing 5 shots within about 10 seconds. Here's what I did:

Grip and grips:
Grip it as you show in your bottom photo. Don't even bother to try to get your pinky onto the grip - it wasn't designed for it. I also found that firm pressure downward with your thumb (but not too much) makes the recoil easier to control.

I use the stock S&W grips. I tried a set of Crimson Trace laser grips that were slightly oversized but ended up taking them off. They made the gun too bulky to carry in my pocket, and they didn't help me to hit anything. The laser was nearly impossible to see outside during the daytime.

I don't know about your's, but the trigger on my my 642 required the strength of a mule to pull it. It was also not what you'd call "smooth". Smoothing and lessening the trigger pull gave me the single biggest improvement in accuracy.

Instead of a trigger job, here's what I did. I took off the sideplate and grips, then sprayed solvent into the action. Be careful which solvent you use - there are plastic parts and you don't want to dissolve them (for example, do NOT use lacquer thinner). I used some carb cleaner that was safe for plastic. Just spray it in and let it pour on out. This removes all of the oil and lube in the action. Replace the side plate, put in some good snap caps (I used Zoom) and dry fire it about 1000 times. By removing the lube and dry firing it, you accelerate the break in. After dry firing, remove the sideplate and grips and spray again with solvent - the solvent should run out black (or at least very dirty). Lube lightly with quality oil (for the record, I use Mobil 1).

Next, I replaced the stock hammer and rebound springs with reduced power springs from Wolff.

CAUTION: If you do this, fire 100's of rounds with whatever ammo you intend to carry - in different temperature and humidity conditions - before you trust your life to the gun.

The factory springs are selected to fire any ammo under any conditions, as well as to meet any regulatory requirements for trigger pull. (Thanks Tom Riley). I used the reduced power ones from Wolff and have yet to have a FTF with any ammo under any conditions (over 1000 rounds). The gun now feels like it had a trigger job.


I just focus on getting that front sight on target and rolling the trigger. I find I shoot best if I don't think too much.

Bingo! Also, with the lighter, smoother trigger, it's easier to stage. I just briefly stage, then concentrate on keeping the front site on the target as I increase the pressure on my trigger finger. I shoot best if I'm (slightly) surprised when the gun goes off.

Good Luck!!

September 25, 2005, 03:26 PM
Your grip should be a combination of the 2 photos. Grip it high on the backstrap like in your first photo. With the small grip you'll only get the 2nd and 3rd finger with the little finger underneath like in the bottom photo. Gripping it low on the backstrap like in the 2nd photo will cause a great deal of roll.
It also appears you may be reaching around with your grip but that just may be the angle of photo and the shape of your hand. When properly gripped and you point the weapon it should line up straight with your forearm.

Bart Noir
September 25, 2005, 03:43 PM
Here's another thought, which I actually didn't think. I will try to "parrot" something that Mas Ayoob (I think it was him) wrote about this model snubbie. Since the backstrap goes up higher than normal J-frames, so also should the grips. He wrote that having grips that go up all the way on both sides of the backstrap will result in a wider and less brutal surface pushing back on the web between your thumb and trigger finger. You can also move your hand higher around the back of the grip, and thus lower the barrel in your hand, so the muzzle flip will be less.

Now, if only I could tell you which company makes such grips, but I can't remember. YOYO for finding them. But if you do, please post.

Bart Noir

September 25, 2005, 03:55 PM
grimjaw, You need "lead-away" cloth for that cylinder. :neener:

September 25, 2005, 03:59 PM
pezo, I haven't cleaned it since yesterday at practice. Bad on me for taking pics of a dirty gun. ;)


September 26, 2005, 02:42 AM
It's not so much how you hold the gun that affects point of impact, but rather how the gun and your hand move as you pull the trigger.

Since I popped the ball off my left elbow it's now held on with screws. On days when the pain is worse my groups tend to wander because I'm not getting a good smooth trigger pull. I have a good grip and a nnear perfect sight picture. It's pulling the trigger that causes it all to go awry.

Old Fuff
September 26, 2005, 09:07 AM
Back in the dark days before we were enlightened, S&W and most other revolvers came with stocks that fit the frame and on J-frame revolvers were very small. These afforded the maximum amount of room on the forestrap to support one’s fingers and still be of a size that would fit in a pocket. So far, so good.

But then came +P and hotter ammunition, and if that stuff was fired in a little gun with standard stocks most people would get whacked on the knuckles by the back of the trigger guard.

So the grip-makers came out with designs that filled in the space under and back of the trigger guard so that it couldn’t rap the shooter’s knuckles. They also extended the length to maintain room for (usually) three fingers.

But this compromised the gun if it was carried in the pocket, in an ankle holster, or in a boot. So the stocks were shortened and finger grooves added because most folks were down to supporting the revolver with only two fingers.

If one is using the original style grips with no filler behind the trigger guard they can grip the gun higher and the recoil is more straight back, and therefore controllable. The higher the line of bore is above the hand the more the tendency of the recoil to twist the muzzle up, which effects the accuracy of fast repeat shots.

As someone once said, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

The Old Fuff generally doesn’t like finger grooves because they never seem to fit his hand. When they do they may help.

My solution on pocket guns is to revert to the older style of grips so that I can obtain a high hold and support three fingers. Having a solid grip is essential in accurate, fast double-action shooting. I then go to lighter loads to avoid rapping my knuckles. I have also made stocks that are the same as the factory one’s but have a palm swell and fill in behind the backstrap.

I am sure that those that feel the need to go with nothing less then a .357 Magnum in the lightest possible gun will bulk at my suggestions, but most of them can’t hit the broad side of a closet if they’re inside and the door is closed. This is especially true when it comes to fast repeat shots.

Anyway, to each his own, but stopping an assailant has a lot more to do with precise placement of the bullet then raw power.

September 26, 2005, 12:38 PM
but most of them can’t hit the broad side of a closet if they’re inside and the door is closed.
I'll have you know I can not only hit the broad side of a closet, but the door too! :) And occassionally from the outside!

Old Fuff
September 26, 2005, 02:16 PM

I will with reluctance, accept you as an exception to the rule. But understand that I can’t get too generous with this sort of thing ... :neener: :D

September 27, 2005, 02:42 AM
Just practice. You will get better. My first two pistols chewed up my hand pretty good but eventually my hands got a little tougher. My 357 doesn't doesn't bother me. I can shoot a couple hundred rounds with no discomfort.

I think you should have someone let you shoot something with a little more recoil to it. When you go back to shooting with the 38 it will feel less painful.

For your accuracy I think you are having a trigger pull problem. Just do some dry fire practice and some more range practive. You'll come around.

October 4, 2005, 02:13 AM
I've received the S&W J-frame combat grips. They do give me a much firmer grip on the gun. They cover the backstrap, especially the portion of the frame that used to eat my thumb. They let me get a lower grip on the revolver but still have all three fingers on it. They aren't much thicker, but they add an inch or more to the base of the grip. It will only fit large pockets now, making a holster a necessity.


Which I guess brings me to the point again on why didn't I just get a Ruger SP101 w/3" barrel if I was going to holster the gun anyway? It's not that much longer that the 640 in its current configuration.

If it shoots like a champ now, I'll just try carrying it for awhile and see what I think. Range report tomorrow.


October 4, 2005, 02:29 AM
I tend to agree with Old Fuff. My wife's M37 airweight is only about 14 ounces and I really like it with the old standard stocks. I can really clamp down on it. Recoil on that is snappier than a 640 and still manageable. Just get a solid grip on the gun and squeeze through *without* stopping.

An old revolver trick you might try to work on your trigger control and follow-through--"ball and dummy". The classic way was to load 2 adjacent chambers on a 6 shot gun, skip one chamber, and put the third round in. Spin the cylinder without looking at it, close it, and do six hammer falls. If you find yourself flinching on the unexpected empty chamber, work harder on your technique. Also known as "skip loading", and the greatest self-teaching device ever. Also stretches your ammo supply.

With a 5 shooter just modify the procedure a little. Even putting one in will work just fine.

John C
October 5, 2005, 01:39 AM

I have a similar 640. I didn't have a problem shooting it, but then I got a 642, the lightweight version of the 640. It's 15 oz. THEN I started having the problems you described.

I did two things:

First, I switched the larger 640 grips for the smaller 642 (the 642's grips are for two fingers only). After shooting it with a full grip for a while, I got to know the gun and understand how it recoils, etc. I then changed back to the smaller grip and find that I can handle it better, having 'worked up' to the challenge of shooting it effectively with a tiny grip.

Second, I tried shooting it with a very high grip, but with my thumb straight out in front, resting on the trigger shroud. This dramatically added to the controlability of the pistol, at the expense of being able to see the sights. However, with a little practice you should be able to center-punch a target effectively. For short range shooting, this would be my preferred method when drawing and firing.


October 23, 2005, 06:10 PM
Well, finally had a chance to shoot the 640 with the combat grips. It did make a difference with the standard pressure .38's. I was able to handle the recoil of the revolver better. But I tried some .357's to see if they'd be any more accurate. I didn't even get off 25 rounds before I scraped the webbing of my hand off again. On top of that, I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn today, even with the combat grips. All my shooting was done at ~10 yards.

It doesn't make sense to me to switch to a larger grip than the combat. With the combat grip, the 640 isn't that much more concealable than my Makarov PM's, and I can thread needles shooting those, comparatively.

I think if I'm going to go with a snub, it'll have to be using .38's or .32's. Might as well get a revolver chambered for those rounds. I'm going to say goodbye to the 640. It was good while it lasted, baby. :(

Thanks to everyone for the advice.


October 23, 2005, 09:37 PM
If you are going to carry a revolver dry fire it. Smith used to recommend 3000 dry fires before loading it. Some dry firing should be done every week. Although I carry autos I still dry fire a revolver several times a week for hand strength.

October 23, 2005, 09:53 PM
Couple of things, +1 for Old Fluff, AND this is why I find the J frame .357s somewhat less than really usefull. I have used a 940 for BUG for some years now. Use some hot 9mm in it, and I am convinced I am getting as good performance as I would with a 357. I am a firm believer in training with the load that you will actually use. The J frame magnums make that somewhat not possible. It is hard to use full loads in 357 in a 13-21 oz gun for any length of time. On the other hand you can use a usefull combat 38 or 9mm load for almost unlimited periods without developing a bad flinch. Now I am sure that there are fols out there that can train full time with the 357 in a featherweight gun, but I won't, so I don't know if I can, but 40+ years of knowing what I can do tells me no.
Use a good 38 load, it will do just about do anything a 357 will for defense.

October 23, 2005, 10:13 PM
I don't think I'll ever be able to shoot a DA snubby as well as a small auto.

October 23, 2005, 10:31 PM
Let's face it. There are some "skills" that just require more dedication and effort to master than others.

You don't think John Fitzgerald, Bill Jordan or Jerry Miculek learned it all overnight do you?

October 23, 2005, 10:57 PM
When I got my 37, I had been away from j frame snubs for quite a while and tried to shoot it like I do my N -Frames- with the trigger finger engaging the trigger between the first and second joints. I was pulling shots all over the place until I moved my finger placement out to the first joint:


Dollar An Hour
October 23, 2005, 10:59 PM
I have used a 940 for BUG for some years now. Use some hot 9mm in it, and I am convinced I am getting as good performance as I would with a 357.

I agree it'd be great to practice with your carry load - but out of a snubby, is 9mm *really* superior to .38 +P?

October 23, 2005, 11:09 PM
the trigger finger engaging the trigger between the first and second joints. I was pulling shots all over the place until I moved my finger placement out to the first joint:Mec - how true!! My wife has just transitioned from revo snub to semi but with that and even the semi initially - she was not using near end of finger enough, and so poor and shakey strength/leverage.

In my Basic Pistol and Personal Protection courses I have students doing exact same too - it is quite common it seems sometimes. Once dealt with, accuracy leaps up to acceptable levels - it is of course IMO exclusively a DA trouble maker if gotten wrong.

October 24, 2005, 09:04 AM
Amazingly though agressive trigger finger placement Really Works with the larger framed revolvers-even though it is probably wrong.

I have seen some athletic women who don't have enough hand strength to cycle a da revolver- not common but it does happen.

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