Need some help shooting snubbie


October 5, 2007, 11:32 PM

I just picked up a nice Colt DS, a 3rd gen model in nickel finish. This is my first revolver to shoot in about 20 years since I had a S&W .22LR. I've been shooting my HK P7 for fun all these years.

So I took the DS out to the range and was shocked at how bad a shot I was with it either shooting DA or SA :-0

It seems to shoot quite a bit high and quite a bit to the left -- like 8" to 10" inches high and left at 50 feet. It shot like this in both DA and SA. I shoot right handed. Once I started holding it down and to the right in SA I hit some good groups, but not consistently.

Are there some training exercises I should go through to become a better revolver shooter?

I'm sure that most of the problem is with me and my trigger pull.
(I surely hope that it's me and not the revolver!)

Any advice on becoming a better revolver shot with a snubbie would be most appreciated.



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October 5, 2007, 11:36 PM
I would certainly start much closer on a new gun. Like 20 feet. Them move back. 50' is quite a ways for a snubbie. At least I think it is.

Jim K
October 6, 2007, 12:38 AM
A Colt is a bit hard to shoot DA since the trigger stacks, but you can overcome that with practice. I think the secret of shooting a snubbie well is to grip it hard. You just have to control the gun. Then the exercise is the same as with any handgun - line up the sights and squeeze the trigger.

To see where the gun shoots, fire it from a sandbag rest (rest your wrists on the bag - no part of the gun should touch the bag or the bench).


October 6, 2007, 01:14 AM
Repeat. Over and over.

October 6, 2007, 01:22 AM
Close your eyes. With the gun unloaded, position it in your hand so you feel where you think it's going to shoot straight. Then open you eyes. If you not lined up to POA, I am guessing that the problem is in the gun's grip, not your grip on the gun.

Hogue's or Pachmeyrs, or something else. Try a different grip on it, and see if it fits your hand better. I had to put a Hogue on the S&W 64, and a pachmeyr on the taurus snubbie, to get them right. it is normal. If it still won't line up POA by feel, then trade it in and get another snub. Most of the time, low light SD shoots are the norm. You need to know where the gun points by feel.

October 6, 2007, 12:17 PM
Glad I'm not the only one who's having trouble mastering the "art" of the snubby.

When I got my Taurus model 85 a month ago and took it to the range, I was stunned at the terrible results I shots mirror yours. 6-8 " high but mine to the the right. This at 7 yrd.

SIGHT picture is CRUCIAL! It is critical that in lining up the front post with the rear notch it looks like this --- NOT _-_. The front post must be level with the rear notch , not projecting over it. Otherwise, the shots WILL go high. Pulling to the left or right I think boils down to concentrating hard on squeezing the trigger with even pressure....not suddenly pulling it. Otherwise, yeah the shots will go left or right .

Two things even the odds a bit:

1) Select rounds of 158 gr - either +P or standard pressures.
Snubbies like most revolvers are regulated to shoot POA with that weight

2) Daub some florescent model paint (ie Testors - get it at WalMart for a buck) on the front
sight to help in lining it up on the rear notch. Crude, but effective.

October 6, 2007, 12:33 PM
All good answers.

The snubbie can be humbling to folks.

They magnify the slightest of handgun grip and trigger control problems.

They generally have the smallest and narrowest of sights. Just as bad, they have a very, very short distance between front and rear sights.

They are also finicky about which brand and load of ammo they "prefer," and also which bullet weight will hit at the true "point of aim."

That being said, once "dialed in" with the correct ammo and shot with flawless technique and great, great attention to sight picture alignment, a snubbie is theoretically just as accurate as any other revolver used for defense . . . in the hands of a skilled shooter.

Again though, the slightest error makes huge differences in accuracy.


Generally, if you find your point of impact of the bullet remains high after you CAREFULLY sight it in FROM SANDBAGS . . . then you know you've got to use a LIGHTER bullet that will naturally shoot to a lower point of impact.


PS: The other problem that COULD have occured is if the firearm you purchased is worn out or has been shot loose with lots of +P loads by the former owner. Look for signs of "keyholing" on your distant targets once you get it more "dialed in" at closer ranges.

I sight all my handguns in initially at only ten yards . . . and for very, very good reasons.


October 6, 2007, 04:19 PM
Thanks for all the great answers!

I was shooting 156gr. SWC ammo.

This Colt DS hasn't been shot much at all. The barrel looks real good and it is very tight in lockup.

However, I have noticed that when pulling the trigger in DA there is a real rough spot at the very begining of the trigger pull. It feels as if there is a burr or something that is completely stopping the trigger from begining its movement. Once past that point, the pull is smooth (albeit very heavy) to release. I had a friend fire it yesterday and he confirmed my feelings about the trigger. I don't remember the trigger feeling this way after the first time I shot the DS, perhaps shooting it made a problem a bit worse. :-(

I think that I will have to find out if there is a good revolversmith somewhere in Wisconsin to look at it before I can begin trying out different grips & bullet weights.


October 6, 2007, 04:37 PM
Back to the basics,

Sight alignment,

Trigger Control

Master that and you can shoot any revolver or automatic.:)

Use snap caps and dry fire at the TV for 2 hrs each day.

Use std velocity ammo and by at least 5 boxes of different brands and grn bullets.

Practice and come back and give us a report. :D

October 6, 2007, 05:31 PM
The action may be dry. Disassemble, clean the action, and lube the revolver.

October 6, 2007, 08:36 PM
Welcome to the forum...

When I first got my snub nose .38 I was new to shooting. The first 5 rounds I fired didn't even hit the paper from 30' away. I bought snap caps and dry fired 500/600 times to learn trigger control. The added benefit was a much smother trigger too. I then went out and shot live ammo and a lot of it. I shoot at least 400 rounds a week of .38 Special, at least 100 of those rounds in the Snub Nose. I've gotten a little better since then. I totally disagree with anyone who claims the snub nose revolver is for short distance shooting only. Anyone who says that IMO is not willing to do the work required to become proficient with their handgun. Anyone willing to do the work can shoot a snub nose revolver just as good as a semi-auto pistol out to 25 yards and better.

Be patient and practice and I'm sure you will do very well shooting your new revolver. Below is a target I recently shot with my S&W Model 638, 5 rounds, Double Action, two handed unsupported from 10 yards (30 feet) out:

October 6, 2007, 10:19 PM
Your biggest issues are going to be:

1. Grip, and
2. Trigger Control.

The grip is small, so you have to really try to hold on and don't worry about using your other hand to hold on.

The next thing is trigger control. With the sight radius being so short, any push or overpull to either side with your finger is going to push that alignment off when you try to shoot.

As opposed to using a large target bull, try a large piece of butcher paper from about 15 feet with a square about the size of a file card painted on it. Silver or grey are good colors. Note where you are aiming, holding to the bottom of the figure. Use a sandbag first and then try with two hands standing. Vary the ammo, too, by weight of bullet, brand, etc... Find what the gun likes. When you get the shots to gather around the figure at 15 feet, make a note of what shoots best and how you have to hold the sights to get into that figure.

Now do the same at 25 feet all the way to 25 yards, probably the best far working distance for a snubbie (yes, I know all about Bob Munden and his 100 and 200 yard Snubbie shots - practice like him and you can get that good, superb expert. I can do it to 100 yards, but have not tried 200 yet)

Just in case somebody wonders if I am bragging here. In a small way, I am. I couldn't hit bullseyes with a snubbie (though I owned two at the time) until a fellow by the name of John Linebaugh came to town and taught me. That was three years or so ago, and as of next week, I'll be 52. Old Dogs can learn new tricks! :p

The Doc is out having prescribed a remedy now. :cool:

October 6, 2007, 10:21 PM
Nice grouping there ArchangelCD.

The Doc is out again. :cool:

October 6, 2007, 10:37 PM
I had to change my grip completely from the way I shoot my XD9 (left thumb behind and perpendicular to my right thumb) and hold on tight. And, the sights have to line up like The Shootist pointed out: this ---, not this _-_. After I did that, I found that I could shoot my 642 very well.


"Phydeaux, bad biscuit!"

October 6, 2007, 10:52 PM
Thank you Doc.... I didn't post that to show off but to show MikeZ it can be done with a lot of practice.

October 7, 2007, 12:28 PM
Thank you Doc.... I didn't post that to show off but to show MikeZ it can be done with a lot of practice.

Yeah, practice, that magic word. Wish I had more time to do that! Showing off is for entertainers. What you were doing is teaching by example!

The Doc is out now. :cool:

October 7, 2007, 12:57 PM
Shooting high is a result of letting too much front sight up, a common mistake new snub shooters make.

October 7, 2007, 01:07 PM
+1 dry fire

another okie
October 7, 2007, 01:07 PM
Lots of good advice there. I often carry a lightweight Taurus snubbie, which takes regular practice to stay reasonably accurate with. Two gadgets you can spend money on which help me:

1. I bought an almost identical Taurus in .22. Cheap practice.

2. I put crimson trace laser grips on my carry gun, which allows me to see where the gun is pointing in practice. If you plan on using it in real life, make sure you practice both with and without the red dot.

October 7, 2007, 01:31 PM
A snubby revolver will humble you, if you haven't shot one before and your DA shooting skills aren't clean.

If you let it, the DA revolver, especially the snubby, will teach you more about shooting technique than any other type of pistol. Dry fire practice and light load practice before full-power loads are very helpful.

Dry fire for at least 5 minutes every night. That can help tremendously.

Go slow. Trigger pulls should be slow and smooth. Roll through it. Get smooth. Once you are smooth going slowly, then you can start increasing the speed.

October 7, 2007, 10:48 PM
A few posts have mentioned snap caps while dry firing. It's my impression that you don't need snap caps unless it's a rimfire. Wrong impression ?
Also, there has been mention that most snubs are designed to shoot 158 grain. I've been using 125 grain WWB +P self defense loads in my 642. I've only practiced once (haven't had the gun long) and the results were less than impressive. Is this the wrong load to be using ?
What's a good 158 to practice with without going to the $1 per round premium loads ?

October 7, 2007, 11:06 PM
You usually don't need snap caps to dry fire a .38 but when you are going to fire it 500 times in one sitting that will abuse any gun needlessly. For the price of snap caps they are well worth the money.

As for snub nose .38 revolvers being designed for 158 gr rounds, not so. Fixed sight .38 Snub nose revolvers are sighted in at the factory using 158 gr bullets so they will usually shoot PIA=POI with 158 gr bullets but will shoot fine with other weight bullets. All you need to do is practice enough to find where you have to aim to hit the spot you want and repeat that aim point.

Since you carry 125 gr rounds I suggest you practice with Remington 130 gr FMJ UMC rounds. They will shoot close to your 125 gr bullets and won't break the bank since you can still find them for $12.99 a box of 50. Winchester White Box ammo is just as good for practice if you find them cheap.

October 7, 2007, 11:21 PM

I cleaned and oiled the action and now it pulls very nice. I also picked up a set of snap caps and have begun to train.

I'll post a shot of my results later this week (assuming I've made any progress ;-)

Thanks again to all for the great answers and advice. This is an excellent forum.


October 8, 2007, 01:35 AM
Hi again,

Snubbies CAN shoot well . . . they just pose more of a challenged to concentrate well on the sights vs. longer barrelled handguns . . . but technically shoot just as accurately as longer barreled ones.

Here's my S&W M36 .38spl. snubbie results at 10 yards, into a one inch black square, standing, unsupported:

October 8, 2007, 08:56 AM
I never cared what other officers I worked with said about nickle-finish guns ("Oh, they'll see you in the dark and shoot you!"), I just love the looks of them. :p Nice Model 36 there S&Wfan!

Oh yeah, good shooting, too.

The Doc is out now. :cool:

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