How Accurate Should One Be With a Snubby?


Joshua M. Smith
September 3, 2007, 06:20 AM

I was doing draw and shoot speed drills yesterday with my Rossi M68.

The targets were simple 8.5x11" sheets of paper on an old tomato stick.

I noticed a couple problems.

Before I go further, I know the revolver's accurate. In SA slow fire, I can make a can dance around at 25yds.

At speed though, it's different.

I was shooting 5-7yds. The drill was to walk away from the target, turn and draw from the pocket, and fire. I would fire between waist and chest level.

Hits were 4/5 with my left hand (dominant hand) and 3/5 with my right hand. Both eyes were open. I had to work a bit harder with my right hand, but this is to be expected.

The real eye opener was when I used my two handed aimed hold. I did no better than when I did the point shooting with my dominant hand!

I think I need some remedial practice, perhaps with wadcutters.

Also, the sights are not what I'm used to - I would consider them vestigial at best. Same as on earlier S&W J-frames. I keep wanting to raise the muzzle so I can see the front blade.





is there any other snubby shooting tricks? How fast should one be able to shoot one of these things with 158gr standard pressure practice loads, and are there any new grip methods for revolvers out there? I use the "thumbs curled down on the grip, overlapping" hold for revolvers and I have always found that to be a hindrance to my shooting. I much prefer thumbs pointing forward.

I bought this with the idea that it would be a "bad breath backup" handgun, and that's still its main mission. But I'd like to improve to one hole at 5-7yds with aimed fire. I'm sure I can improve my point shooting and indexed fire with a bit more practice (I've not been doing enough of it).

Tips, tricks, etc. are welcome. And, what kind of groups should I be "shooting for?"


Josh <><

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September 3, 2007, 08:08 AM
I own and carry a S&W M683 and I understand what you're saying. When I first shot my snub nose I was lucky to hit the paper at 7 yards. The short barrel is a little unforgiving when we don't do our job. You must remember, shooting a SD handgun isn't like shooting a Bullseye match. You are reporting hitting between the stomach and chest while doing SD drills. The whole point is to hit SOM in a SD situation and you are already doing that. The DA trigger on a revolver is a lot heavier than what you would find on a pistol. Time will teach you to shoot it better. Just keep up what you are doing and you should improve. BTW, I keep my thumbs over each other pointed forward when shooting a revolver, even a snub nose revolver.

I found shooting the revolver with snap-caps helped me a lot. I was able to see what I was doing wrong (pulling to the left) and correct it. The added benefit is a smoother trigger after 500 pulls or so.

Good luck shooting the snub nose well but I think you are already on your way. Below is a photo of a target I shot, 5 rounds two handed from 10 yards:

September 3, 2007, 08:17 AM
Here is what I would recommend:

Start out at 3 yards, shooting at a 9" paper plate. If you can put all the rounds rapid fire on the plate, move back to 5 yards and repeat. When you are 100% at that distance, move back to 7 yards. Try some at 15 and 25 yards, but concentrate on 7 to 10.

Next range trip, do it all over.

September 3, 2007, 08:48 AM
Post a pic of the gun, or describe the grips. I have found one of the first things to do with a snnub nose revolver is to get rid of tiny grips in exchage for something like Pachmeyrs that fill your hand better. Then lots of practice at ranges from 1 yard to 25 yards. Then walking, turning and shooting after you first have the basics down. Revolvers are a whole nother animal from semi-autos, and snub nose revolvers a whole nother animal than larger revolvers.

All the best,
Glenn B

Old Fuff
September 3, 2007, 09:20 AM
Double action shooting with a revolver has become a lost art in this age of autoloaders. I would suggest that you go to and look for two books to start with

No Second Place Winner by Bill Jordan.

Fast & Fancy Revolver Shooting by Ed. McGivern

Both may be out of print, but are available as used copies. Note that original editions of the McGivern book are collector's items that command very high prices. However reprints have everything you need and cost far less.

The suggestion to use larger stocks would be a good one, unless as it appears, you are using pocket carry. Then the size of the stocks would be obviously limited.

You can find additional information by using this forum's search feature and using the term "point shooting."

My last suggestion is to get a flashlight with a beam focus and push-button switch. In a darkened, but not dark room pick out an object, concentrate on it, then pull up the flashlight to shooting level while hitting the button. See if the beam hits anywhere near the object.

A revolver with a Crimson Trace laser sight works even better for this drill, and is an excellent aid in low-light situations or other circumstances where you can't use your regular sights.

September 3, 2007, 10:31 AM
How Accurate Should One Be With a Snubby?

I would think that the answer would be "As accurate as is necessary to meet the goals of why you are using a Snubby."
If you are carrying it for SD then you need to be able to hit COM at 7 to 15 yds. If you carry it to protect yourself from rabid squirrels, then you need to practice a little more.:D
If you just want to "target" shoot, then. maybe, a different gun would be in order.

September 3, 2007, 11:27 AM
I read this here a while ago and it stuck with me. Thanks to whoever said it.

"Be able to put five rounds in a five inch circle from five yards in five seconds."

September 3, 2007, 11:57 AM
I would say you need to at least hit that piece of paper consistently at 7 yards.
Ideally, you can do this point shooting, but for now work on making it happen with your sights.

I'd do some remedial work with a 4-inch revolver and just work on managing a smooth DA trigger pull. Pull straight back on the trigger with no hesitation. One smooth roll. It sounds like you are pulling off target a bit.

You're doing well. Just keep at it.

September 3, 2007, 12:11 PM
I was always in favor of longer barrels. My high school math teacher, an ole Dutchman, always used to say: "always scale - does the results make sense". Following that logic, I concluded that rifles are more accurate than revolvers, and therefore long barrel revolvers must be more accurate than short barrel revolvers.

Then I shot a friends snubby - a Colt. I thought it was 5 rounds, so I shot the first 5 rounds into a ragged hole at 7 yards. I went to hand it back to him and he said: "there is one more round". Dang, that one missed the hole.

That experience changed by thoughts about short barrel revolvers. I now carry a S&W Airlite in an Uncle Mike's pocket holster.

However, there is something to be said for a long sight radius with longer barrels.

Jeff Timm
September 3, 2007, 12:21 PM
Glassman recalled, "I read this here a while ago and it stuck with me. Thanks to whoever said it.

"Be able to put five rounds in a five inch circle from five yards in five seconds.""

The way I recalled it, it was the "standard controllability test." Via Mel Tappan out of Jeff Cooper.

25 yards, 10" Circle (paper plates work well too) 5 shots in 5 seconds from the leather.

For short body pistols I'd use that standard at 7 yards.

Who is out of practice. Sigh.

September 3, 2007, 12:29 PM
You should be able to put 40 out of 50 rds into the dark portion of a B-27 target at 21 the minimum.

In all reality you should be hitting paper plates at 10 yards without a problem.

people have different definitions of "combat accurate" but that is mine.

Old Fuff
September 3, 2007, 12:58 PM
"Be able to put five rounds in a five inch circle from five yards in five seconds.""

The Old Fuff (and maybe some others) posted that, and the issue was controlability and combat accuracy.

If you are under attack at that distance, survival may depend on instantly disabling the attacker in the shortest possible time, and if necessary being able to make quick but accurate repeat shots. Hits anywhere on the popular center-of-mass area may not do it, because even if a hit would be eventually mortal, it is not necessarily instantly disabling. No hit is unquestionably disabling, but one in the central nervous system is most likely to be, and that is the reason for the 5-inch standard.

Because no single hit may do what’s needed, quick, additional shots should follow, but if they are not accurately placed they may also fail. Again it is not a question about what is lethal, but rather what is instantly disabling.

Today many considerate it necessary to carry the most powerful cartridges in the smallest and lightest gun. In particular ultra-light snub nosed revolvers chambered in .357 Magnum being the worst example. For most users this unquestionably delivers power, but at the critical expense of accuracy and speed.

Hence the drill, which shouldn’t be especially difficult with the right combination of handgun and cartridge.

But if you try it you may discover otherwise.

So, did the Old Fuff dream all of this up on his own. I’d like to say so, but no. I first learned of it during a conversation with (I think) Col. Rex Applegate – who was in a position to know.

September 3, 2007, 01:14 PM
Run toward the target as you are firing.

Your hit count will improve.

Oh wait. Maybe they won't let you do that "at the range."
That's kinda why range-practice isn't perfect practice.

standing next to each other, unharmed. Amazing as it seems,
none of the Fourth Man's shots appear to have hit anybody.
Jules and Vincent exchange looks like, "Are we hit?" They're
as confused at the shooter.

That **** wasn't luck. That ****was somethin' else.

Vincent prepares to leave.

Yeah, maybe.

That was...divine intervention.
You know what divine intervention is?

Yeah, I think so. That means God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

Yeah, man, that's what is means.
That's exactly what it means! God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

I think we should be going now.

September 3, 2007, 01:17 PM
Here is what I would recommend:

Start out at 3 yards, shooting at a 9" paper plate. If you can put all the rounds rapid fire on the plate, move back to 5 yards and repeat. When you are 100% at that distance, move back to 7 yards. Try some at 15 and 25 yards, but concentrate on 7 to 10.

Next range trip, do it all over.

Shooting a D/A revolver, even a very expensive one, is an acquired skill, ESPECIALLY if you're used to shooting an M1911 or similar semi-auto.

Practice a LOT, especially dry firing.

The hardest part is developing a smooth trigger squeeze whch doesn't move the sights. If you have or know somebody with a .22lr D/A revolver, you might want to start with that. That way you can shoot enough to learn the general technique without spending $500. to do it.

September 3, 2007, 01:53 PM
Thanks for that "rule of fives" posting. It is something that made perfect sense when I read it and has been my drill since then. I practice it with a 642 every time I go to the range (almost every week) and am happy to report that I am now successful each time. You gave me inspiration which has led to confidence. Thanks again.

September 3, 2007, 02:05 PM
You should be able to group them within the plam of your hand. If you are aiming center mass and can get a group of 3-4" you're doing fine. place your hand anywhere on your chest and see the damege. even if you're off by teh length of your fingers tour shots will be lethal.

September 3, 2007, 02:26 PM
It's just a matter of learning the basics and practicing. You have the right idea to drill as close to SD conditions as you can. That means not giving yourself time to readjust stance or arm position. I make a point of putting myself out of proper stance and concentrate on bringing the revolver up and commencing fire the second it's on target. After a few thousand rounds it's second nature.

I don't put much faith in dry firing. I'm sure it's useful for competition level shooting, but I find the only quality practice I get is at the range with the same hotness of ammo I use for self defense. With a magnum snub in particular, learning to roll and time yourself with the kick is a critical skill. You're actually training little muscles in the process.

With some older snubs, such as my DS or a Model 36, I've found that positioning my little finger of all things has a huge impact in accuracy. By getting my finger in the right place, it lines the revolver's sights up perfectly so everything is good to go when I'm up on target. I'm sure they designed it with just such a method in mind, but before discovering it at the range I had never heard of it.

September 3, 2007, 03:42 PM
How accurate? Put 5 bullets on the silhouette at 7 yards rapid fire, ideally with 2 or 3 in the center

September 3, 2007, 04:02 PM
I think most j frames could benefit greatly from a good action job or a lot of dry firing (especially the concealed hammer ones). That can make a huge difference in being able to shoot better.

Joshua M. Smith
September 3, 2007, 04:43 PM
Thanks all,

I learned to shoot on a Taurus PT92. I eventually tuned and tweaked it and now I can make it shoot five shot groups under 2" at 25yds. On a good day it will shoot sub-1", three shot groups at the same distance.

I'm thinking maybe I just got spoiled, though the practice ammo I've been using just became suspect today.

Grips are Pachmayers for those who asked.

Josh <><

September 12, 2007, 10:39 PM

A good snubbie is, technically, just as accurate as one with a 10" barrel. The bullet will go . . . well . . . the bullet will go exactly where it will in long and short barrels!

The shorter the distance between the front and rear sights, the easier it is for the HUMAN to make sighting errors, and this is one of the two challenges in shooting a snubbie well . . . you've REALLY got to pay attention to your sight picture!

Compounding this problem, most snubbies have very thin front sights and very rudimentary sights too. They are . . . well . . . harder to see and pick up fast!

The second problem in shooting a snubbie is in developing perfect shooting mechanics, since the trigger pulls are generally less smooth and are also heavier in pull.

However, with practice one can eventually shoot a GOOD, accurate snubbie very well indeed!

Here's a 10 yard, five-shot group shot Monday, from a 1964 S&W Model 36 snubbie I just bought. It was shot standing and totally unsupported and, with accuracy like this . . . that Model 36 is a real KEEPER indeed!

The group measured <1 1/4" for the five shots.

BTW, I strongly recommend using targets with black squares that equal 1" of square for each 10 yards of distance!

1. This ratio gives a perfect sighting picture on top of your sights, and the shape really allows the shooter to properly focus on the FRONT sight alignment with the back sights perfectly, while also aligning the front sight with the bottom of the square on the target perfectly.

2. The 1" to each 10 yard ratio works at all distances equally well on top of your sight picture.

This all greatly helps a shooter become a master at aligning their sights better . . . and on shooting tighter groups vs. using round bullseyes, etc.

Heck, when I see round bullseye targets I think of the game of Darts. When I throw a dart I don't know where the heck it will go. When I shoot my guns, I damn sure want to know exactly where that round is going!!! Darts is mainly luck, combined with some skill. Accurate shooting is skill, period.

3. Finally, these black square targets are easy to make. I make mine on Microsoft Publisher, and have 'em in 10 yard increments in different versions.

4. These sights work equally well with RED DOT and Holosight type sights, as well as laser sights.

For scoped guns, I'd use round targets to better help center the crosshairs though.

Hope this helps and folks . . . MAKE YER OWN!


Old Fuff
September 13, 2007, 09:35 AM
If you are aiming center mass and can get a group of 3-4" you're doing fine. Place your hand anywhere on your chest and see the damage. Even if you're off by the length of your fingers your shots will be lethal.


There is a grave misunderstanding (pardon the pun) between “lethal” and “instantly disable.” As an M.D. can explain, any wound that destroys the function of a major organ, or causes massive loss of blood, will probably prove to be mortal. However, as the FBI discovered some years ago in Miami, there may be a time lag between when the wound is inflected, and when the person blacks out and becomes non-functional. During that time – which can be a matter of seconds, minutes, or even more, an attacker can, and often will, continue the assault.

In Miami several Special Agents were wounded or killed, within a time span of minutes, by two bank robbers who were in effect, “dead men walking.” Eventually both of the killers expired, but not before they had extracted a high cost.

“Instantly disable” means exactly that. The wound may, or may not prove to be ultimately fatal, but after it is inflicted the attacker is unable to continue.

The closer an attacker is, the greater the likelihood they will be able to inflict a lethal wound, even though they have already received one.

Those who carry or otherwise use a handgun of any kind for personal protection should keep this in mind. Always shoot to instantly disable. Random hits on the center of mass isn’t always the best way.

September 13, 2007, 11:29 PM
Hey ArchAngel, you suck, you missed the quarter!

Just kidding, nice shooting actually. I wish I was that accurate with my old model 36 snub.

M2 Carbine
September 13, 2007, 11:41 PM
How Accurate Should One Be With a Snubby?

More accurate, and faster, than you are now.
Don't settle for good enough. Good enough isn't good enough.
Keep trying to improve.

Time is too slow and the group is too big. (but it ain't bad.:D )

Group is inside 4 inches but I can't break five seconds.:(

September 14, 2007, 01:53 AM
But my primary handgun background is with semi-autos, typically 1911s.

Based on the experiences of friends with carry permits and LEO professionals, I'd determined that the best advice for a civilian with typically a low-threat lifestyle was to get a gun light enough to to carry all the time. Further, since I am getting older, I figured a revolver would be a better option--as we've been discussing here.

I knew I would need a lot of practice with whatever lightweight revolver I would get. Since I reload, I knew I could build practice ammo. So, I ended up getting a 340 (38/357, 13.3 oz) for carry and a 640 (38/357, 24 oz) to practice with and to use for reloading development. Both are equipped with CT laser grips.

I started out shooting the 148-gr WC loads in the 340, and carried the FC 110-gr. 38 Spl (not +P) 110-gr. PD loads. Once I figured how to handle these small snubbies, and I could the five-and-five drill with the FC load in five seconds with the 640 and in seven seconds with the 340. That was after about 200 rounds (mostly light reloads similar to the FC 110 PD load) in the 640 and 80 rounds in the 340.

I targeted getting fully acclimated to the Speer 38Spl+P 135 gr. load, and I have no intention of shooting the 357 hot stuff. To that end, I used the Speer reloading data sheets for this load to work up handloads using 1) the Speer GDSB135JHP (same bullet as in the factory ammo), and then sorted out a similar load using lead 140-gr TC bullets. Now I'm in the process of moving these replica loads over to 357 cases, but maintaining the same subjective recoil characteristics of the 38+P GDSB135 load. (Call them 357 lite; and it makes for much easier chamber cleaning.)

Either of those Factory PD rounds--the FC or the Speer--costs about $1.00 each to shoot. I can build the GDSB reloads for about $.24 each, and the lead 140 reloads for about $.12 each--and that includes a ten-reload amortization of new Starline 357 cases. I've also built slightly-lighter loads that help me acclimate to the Speer Factory load and / or the replica reloads.

The point is, shooting a lot with the appropriate cartridge will help one acclimate to all the issues of successfully shooting small snubbies while developing proficiency at the same time. My hand is noticably stronger than when I started, I now have callouses in the right spots, and I can shoot a cylinderful in the 340 and even get a speedloader in to shoot another five. It's not pleasant--I dunno if shooting the 340 will EVER be pleasant or fun--but I can do it without too much pain.

Today, as I finished up load-development tests for AA#5 and AA#7, I ended up shooting 200 rounds in about 1 hour and 15 minutes--all of that was aimed fire, not defensive drills. Other than the box of Speer factory ammo I used, I figure the other 180 rounds cost about $22.00. I shot about 30 rounds in the 340, and 170 rounds in the 640 and a 65 (3" barrel, with a hammer) I just got to supplement the DAO guns.

Note that I do not intend to carry the reloads; I just want to practice a lot--and that's what the reloads are for.

So, learn to reload and practice a lot--with the right load.

Jim H.

ryan b
September 14, 2007, 11:17 AM
I shoot a m36 smith that is very accurate and fast shooting I do not shoot from the hip except at very close range i fire from the concealed position and come all the way up to eye level

September 14, 2007, 12:18 PM
I targeted getting fully acclimated to the Speer 38Spl+P 135 gr. load, and I have no intention of shooting the 357 hot stuff.
I noticed in your post you were using .357 cases for reloading so as to not have to clean powder ring.FYI the .357 speer short Bbl factorys are not much hotter than the .38+ps, I had my mom(read recoil sensative) switch to them in her model 60 for that reason.

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