Snub cylinders Colt vrs S&W


July 25, 2006, 10:32 AM
History says that S&W sacrificed one round to win size, a smaller cylinder containing 5 chambers instead of 6 would give an advantage of a smaller revolver over Colt. My question is just how much smaller is the j frame S&W compared to colt DS or agent? is it worth the sacrifice? or it aint that much difference and your better of with six bullets and a tad larger revo?:confused:
Mu guess is that there is a big difference or the jframe S&W would be out of production but I have never compared side by side one to the other. If you have some pics to compare bring then on!!!:)

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R. W. Simms
July 25, 2006, 06:42 PM
Not so big a difference, really. There is a tiny bit of dimensional difference, but I don't think it's enough to proclaim one to be superior over the other in absolute terms.

Cylinder dia.-----1.40 inches---------1.30 inches
Barrel length-----2.1 inches----------1.9 inches
Height-----------4 inches------------4 inches
Weight (empty)--14 oz.--------------14 oz.
Capacity---------6 shots-------------5 shots

The weight comparison is for alloy framed guns, but the other dimensions are the same as above for Colt D-frame and S&W J-frame steel snubbies. The Agent is about 1/4 inch longer and 1/10 inch thicker. Not much difference, but the Colt Detective Special and Cobra models do have longer grip frames than the Agent. The shorter grip frame is why I prefer the Agent.

In the early 1970's my first CCW was a vintage Colt Detective Special. It was compact enough for my needs, but it was heavy to carry and the hammer snagged on clothing. Eventually I sold it and bought a S&W 638, which I carried for over 20 years. I loved the 638 for its snag-free draw and easy carry but I never felt like I could hit with it as well as I should. It was and is a confidence issue.

I always wanted an older Colt Agent with the factory installed hammer shroud and finally found a nice used 2nd generation at a gun show last year. I put a Tyler T-grip on it but, other than that, it is completely stock. I can shoot 4-inch groups at 25 yards with this Agent. It's all I can do to keep all the shots on a piece of typing paper at 25 yards with the Bodyguard. Granted, 25 yards is kinda long for a snubbie, but if I practice at that distance I shoot better at the shorter distances when I have to.

So, for me the Colt works better and is what I now carry. However, since I don't have a bias for Colt against S&W (or vice versa) had I been able to shoot the Bodyguard better than the Agent then the Bodyguard would still be my carry weapon (after all, I carried it for over 20 years). I say use whatever gun works best for you. I think it is important to note that the dimensions on the two guns are so similar that I cannot feel or observe any real difference when either gun is on my hip or under my arm. I'm not a big guy either at 5' 10" and 160 lbs.

Just as I think the size differences are insignificant, I also don't think the 5 vs 6 rounds issue should be a show stopper. Accuracy and hit probability carry more weight with me than capacity.

Finally, the J-framed S&W's really took off in the '60's and '70's more as a reaction to price than specifications. My 1970 Gun digest shows S&W J-frames priced from $84-$90, depending on the model. Colt D-frames were priced from $104-$112. Even back then Colt was pricing themselves out of the market as a result of their labor-intensive design and Ruger was just getting started in the revolver market. Eventually Colt just gave up and left the small-frame snubbie market to their competitors. It's a shame, too. They had some nice revolvers.


July 25, 2006, 10:42 PM
Another feature I like about the Colts is they have a full ejector rod throw because of the way it locks up, longer than a S&W snub, even my 649 that has a longer barrel.

Didn't the later generation Colt Cobras get re-designed to have the same short grip as the Agent, but Colt just put full size grips on it and screwed on a barrel that said Cobra?

July 26, 2006, 02:16 AM
I've handled J-frames, I'm considering a Colt Cobra. The Cobra doesn't feel bigger at all. But it won't handle +p.
A .1" difference might mean a more noticable bulge. Depends on how you conceal. But it didn't look like a real issue to me.

July 26, 2006, 12:21 PM
I could be wrong, but I think All D-frames had the same size grip after 1971( or maybe 72).:confused:

And they were shorter.

July 26, 2006, 01:04 PM
R W Simms, thank for the specs!!:D and thak you all for the feedback.
Looking at the specs it does not seem like a big diference, maybe one extra shot does not look like much but if you ever need it then you will know, plus if you carry two speed loaders thats 3 extra rounds. Well anyways the Colts have a better appeal to my they look better, better finished etc. Too bad the Cobra wont handle +P. I guess I will look for a colt and make it my carry piece.

July 27, 2006, 12:14 AM
Yes Colt later standardized their D-Frame grip frames. The Agent was then produced with stocks that were the same length as the frame. The Cobra and Detective Special had stocks that extended past the frame to mimic the older models. That's why the later Cobra weighed one ounce more than the Agent.

S&W became king of the hill on the late 1970s when Colt suddenly ceased ALL production of D-Frame revolvers.
By the time they realized just how stupid that was and reintroduced the Detective Special and Diamondback they had lost so much of the market that they could no longer compete.
Though they tried by developing the SF-IV and the Magnum Carry.
They might just have regained their position but once again Colt managment proved that even though cream rises to the top, stupidity floats.

Sadly, 20 years later Colt still hasn't got a clue.

July 27, 2006, 01:52 AM
S&W may have become dominant in the market by then, but Ruger found a way to compete. Colt just didn't stick with it.

July 27, 2006, 05:12 PM
Why did colt not stick with it? and is it true the snubs will be back in production?

July 29, 2006, 11:30 AM
Here's a pic: S&W 37 and Colt Cobra

Texas Colt
July 29, 2006, 05:40 PM

I've seen in other posts, articles, etc. that the later Cobra's can handle +P ammo just fine. I just can't remember where I saw it... sucks getting old!

I regularly carry a Cobra loaded with Speer's new Gold Dot Short Barrel HP ammo. It's a great combination.

July 29, 2006, 06:00 PM
Towards the end of Cobra production +P ammo was becoming popular.
Colt's announced their Alloy framed Cobra and Agent revolvers were good for a certain number of +P rounds and then they recommended the gun be sent to them for inspection of frame stratching.

I only know of one person who did this and her gun came back from Colt's stating everything was fine, there was no stretching and it was good for another X number of +P round before it should be sent back once again for reinspection.

I've personlly put several thousand rounds of factory and handloaded +P (and a dozen +P+) through a Cobra with no measurable effects.

Jim K
July 29, 2006, 10:26 PM
Some of the advantages of the Colt are cancelled in my old favorite, the S&W Model 36/60 3" barrel, square butt. More weight and a longer ejector rod. Of course, the S&W is still 5 shot.

But prior to the S&W Chiefs Special (Model 36), the main competition for Colt in concealable revolvers was not the I frame Terrier (predecessor of the Chiefs) but the 2" barrel M&P round butt, which has the K-frame cylinder at 1.45", larger than the Colt PP at 1.39". Not a lot of difference, but there were many folks in those days who would swear up and down that the S&W was thicker by at least 1/4 inch. Somehow, and against all reason, it just looks bigger.

So the S&W Chiefs was not competing only against Colt but against their own larger, six shot, M&P.

Actually, S&W was going after a different market. The market for the Chiefs Special (so called because it was introduced at the IACP convention) was high ranking police officers who worked mainly in civilian clothes, were almost never involved in actual shooting, and whose gun was as much a badge of office as a serious weapon.


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