Which is more accurate, snubnose revolver or sub-compact semi-auto?


September 18, 2007, 04:46 AM
I have seen lots of videos where people are shooting at extreme ranges (basically 100 meters) using various handguns and also snubnoses and sub compact semiautos. In general, according to what I have seen it apperas that snubnoses in general have much more accuracy potential than for example s-s semiautos.
I also have seen what Bob Munden does with his snubnose Smith&Wesson (shooting balloons at 200 yards). I donít know what people think about him, but as far as I have seen, he obviously got extraordinary skills.
So why it is so? Why a short barrel revolver might have more accuracy potential on long ranges than semi autos? Is that a fixed barrel? (I donít believe that fixed barrel offers practical advantages in accuracy over designs with moving barrels when we talk about realistic distances). Or specific combination of design and caliber works better. Or short and moving barrel dramatically affects accuracy at extreme ranges?
I personally had tried to shoot my .22 buck mark bullseye target semi auto at 100 meters and had no big problems hitting silhouettes either from rest or weaver stance (of course after adjusting sights and the weather was good without any cross wind).

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September 18, 2007, 06:53 AM
I think when you are shooting at those ranges, it is the shooter not the gun.

September 18, 2007, 08:13 AM
First thing you have to realize is that not all short barrelled semi autos and not all snub revolvers are created equal. Barrell length is not the only consideration, the overall length of the pistol as well as the sight radius is also critically important, you must also consider grips, hand size, and the characteristics of the individual shooter in relation to the ergonomics of the gun.
A general statement saying that X is more accurate than Y is impossible to make, the main question is; which gun are YOU better with. I have had numerous students that are more proficient with one or the other, but the make and model are critically more important than the pistol TYPE.
I have had students that cannot hit the broadside of a barn with a Kel Tec P11 and others who can group very nicely with a Smith J Frame revolver, conversly, I have had students who can group very nicely with a subcompact Kahr but cannot hit the broadside of a barn with a J frame revolver, find whats best for you and stick to it, consistency is the key. Don't fall into the trap of X is better than Y, find your X and stick to it.
Also keep in mind that the fixed barrel advantage is not limited to revolvers, examples of fixed barrelled semis.
1. Bersa Thunder .380
2. CZ83
3. Walther P22

so, accuracy is in the hands of the operator.

September 18, 2007, 09:15 AM
I think it has more to do with the shooter than anything else (but that kind of goes without saying.) I shoot way better with ANY auto, regardless of size, than a snubbie. I still love snubbies though, for me they are better for concealment, and they are more of a challenge at the range.

M2 Carbine
September 18, 2007, 09:20 AM
I think the accuracy difference is too close to call with two quality guns.

For me, at 100 yards the about 1 1/2 inch shorter sight radius of the subnose makes it more difficult to accurately shoot the snub than compact.

In this case I couldn't keep but about half the shots in the silhouette while standing using two hands.
The gun when shot over a sand bag will keep all the shots in the silhouette.

Due to the much better sights and longer sight radius, using this Kimber Tactical Ultra II it is easier to keep most of the shots in the silouette, when standing and using two hands.

September 18, 2007, 12:40 PM
nice targets M2 carbine :)

2 40SW

ofcourse I know that there are semi autos with fixed barels. I was speaking only about revolvers and major caliber semi autos.

maybe shooting at 100 yards or any other xtreme distance is a trick and to do this trick you must be a good shooter and have adequate handgun which fits you better.

September 18, 2007, 12:42 PM
Hard to say; I wouldn't want to make a blanket statement. The S&W 2" snubs are far more accurate than you'd think (statements like "unless the shootout is in a crowded elevator, they're useless" are BS). However, they are held back by substandard sights and a long/heavy trigger pull. Small automatics have more variables in play when it comes to accuracy; high quality ones are likely to be plenty accurate, while cheaper ones aren't going to have that kind of ability.

I'd say they're equally accurate ENOUGH for their purpose (defensive shooting within 7 yards), but I wouldn't be trying to make long shots with them unless I was just having some fun at the range.

September 18, 2007, 12:51 PM
and there is of course the ultimate thoughts when it comes to this discussion.

1. We know that 2 inch barrelled semis and snubs were not made to be bullseye guns and obviously not INTENTED for the 50 or 100 yrd line.

BUT, having said that.

We also have numerous examples of the INTENTED DESIGN exceeding its original intent and exceeding expectations.

but in the end, MY PERSONAL beliefs are that I generally don't like exceeding the manufacturers intent, obviously there are legitimate modifications such as softening the trigger pull, grips, etc, but my main point is accuracy. There are FINITE limits to what a gun can do, thats why we test them in RANSOM rests.

Futhermore , the guys who hitting plates with snubs at 100 yards are probably the best of the best, the question you have to ask yourself is that do you aspire to be elite, which is of course a noble endeavour, but some of these demos on film, well, what can I say, I am not Jerry McCulleck and I am no Brian Enos., I can group a few inches at 25 yards with my 1911 and that is good enough for me. You reach a point where you start to split hairs, and I do have alot of respect for the bullseye and benchrest boys, but they are going through alot more ammo than I am and I don't have a Smith & Wesson or Springfield to sponsor me. :p

September 18, 2007, 01:02 PM
I think when you are shooting at those ranges, it is the shooter not the gun.

Agreed. I don't know of many inaccurate guns. Most are as accurate as the shooter. If they are inaccurate is is defective and should be returned.

M2 Carbine
September 18, 2007, 01:06 PM

maybe shooting at 100 yards or any other xtreme distance is a trick and to do this trick you must be a good shooter and have adequate handgun which fits you better.

Not really any trick. Just hold the sight picture and squeeze.

You just have to know where your fixed sight gun is shooting and adjust your point of aim or adjust your adjustable sights.

For instance, my little Beretta Minx 22 Short shoots down and left so far at 100 yards that I put a bullseye high and right for an aiming point.
The sights are right poor, so out of 14 shots I missed the silhouette 5 times, including the two shots in the aiming target.
Fun shooting.:)

M2 Carbine
September 18, 2007, 01:21 PM
And for interest this what a Makarov will do.
Well no that's not right.
Due to my less than steady hand and very fuzzy target I figure a younger decent shooter can easily improve on these targets by more than 50% anyhow.


September 18, 2007, 01:25 PM
Keep in mind that Bob Munden is not shooting balloons at 200 yards.
He is shooting fairly large Steel Plates, with balloons taped to them.
The bullet splash off the steel is breaking the balloons.

Still, it's darn fine shooting!

As to the intrinsic accuracy of a S&W snubbie as opposed to a compact or sub-compact centerfire semi-auto?
In the hands of an excellent pistol shot, the S&W snubbie will win every time.

It's sights are fixed, and don't move with the slide, which doesn't always end up in the exact same place every shot. Nor does the barrel flop around inside the slide.
Even semi-auto's with fixed barrels suffer from sloppy slide mounted sights.

But not all S&W snubbies are created equal.
Out of several I have owned over the years, I only had one that was truly spectacular at long range. It would keep all it's shots on a 5 gallon bucket at 100 yards, and probably 2 or 3 out of 5 at 200, all day long, as long as you did your part.

All the others have been good, but not that good.


September 18, 2007, 01:29 PM
My P11 Kel Tec is one of the most accurate mini autos I've ever fired and it shoots 3.5" 25 yard groups off sandbags. Most I've fired do good to put 'em into 5 or 6", especially .380s for some reason. I've never owned a snub that wouldn't shoot 3" groups at that range and my little SP101 will shoot 2" groups with a few loads, 2.5" with .38 WC.

The accuracy winner by a knock out is the snubby revolver. Indeed, most revolvers are more accurate, sometimes MUCH more accurate, that equivalent autos. That's why they make better field guns and hunting guns, not to mention they can chamber more powerful rounds than your typical auto. Hard to get a carryable package in an auto that will shoot with a .44 magnum, for instance. The 10mm is about the limit and it barely exceeds what a .357 magnum can do and the .357 will be more accurate most times just because of its revolver platform. This is not to say there aren't some exceptions. My Ruger P90 will shoot 1.5" at 25 yards with most loads, for instance, but as a general rule, the revolver will be more accuate in equal application.

September 18, 2007, 02:39 PM
That depends upon the gun, the ammunition and the shooter.

Given two good shooters, one armed with an RG revolver and the other with a Walther PPK/S, the Walther shooter has the edge.

Given a lousy shooter with a PPK/S and a good shooter with an RG, the RG man probably has the edge.

Anybody's going to shoot an RG with good quality ammunition better than they'll shoot anything else with crappy ammunition with undersized bullets.

September 18, 2007, 02:49 PM

I saw an AAR on a back-up gun class

Most had either wheelguns or baby glocks

The instructor said it almost felt like the baby glock shooters were "cheating"
because they all scored so much better than the snubby shooters on the ddrills (based on speed AND accuracy)

Important to note that these drills involved fighting with the weapon.....not just punching paper

September 18, 2007, 03:18 PM
Accurate? Both.
Easier to shoot accurately? Auto.


September 18, 2007, 08:57 PM

Generally a good revolver will be more accurate than most autos. Then again, it can vary based on specimen.

I just got a new (for me), early 60's nickle Model 36 snub that is showing very good accuracy potential. I hope to go out and shoot it at longer ranges soon. So far, I got to fire three cylinder's worth during lunch break, right after I got it, and then a little longer time at the range last weekend. Here's what the first cylinder yielded at 10 yards, standing unsupported.

The group was < 1.2" and dead on. At 100 yards, this would represent a 12" group. I'm sure I can do a little better, especially if I shoot it from the bench. The key to long range shooting (besides good technique and careful sight alignment, is developing a head knowledge of exactly how far your bullets will drop at various ranges and learning how to compensate for wind drift.

At 200 yds. with my favorite 300gr., hardcase lead flat nose bullet, from my 6" S&W M29 .44mag. drops 34 inches. Once you learn what 34" looks like you can float gallon milk jugs all day long! It's really not that difficult once you know the bullet drop!

Here's another target from my M36 snubbie last Saturday. Once I dial in the right load I think I've got a "keeper!"

I'll also try to post some long range results once I can get around to finding my Lee Auto Prime parts to load up small pistol primers. Dang it . . . I've misplaced the parts!

Here's a SUB 1 7/8" GROUP at 25 yards last Saturday from the Model 36. Most full size autos will not do this . . .


September 18, 2007, 08:58 PM
Double post. Oops.

September 18, 2007, 09:05 PM
the RG man probably has the edge.
Until the gun blows up in his face. :D

White Horseradish
September 18, 2007, 09:31 PM
In a small gun with poor sights, the fit to the shooter's hand becomes a lot more important. With that in mind, revolvers can be fit to the shooter much more easily because the grip shape and size is not restricted by the magwell.

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