Sight picture on 38 snubnoses.


July 21, 2003, 12:23 PM
Kind of a complex issue to describe but I will try.

I am curious about what the mental sight picture should look like when aiming one of my 38 snubnoses. If you lay the gun down on its side, you will notice that the top of the front sight is higher than the rear "sight" (which is embedded in the top of the frame).

I have always been told that the sight alignment picture should be that both front and rear sights should be equal (height wise) as you are aiming. Well, if this is the case with these snubbies, then you would actually be pointing the gun about 1 or 2 degrees DOWN because the top of the front sight is higher than the rear "sight" embedded in the frame.

Any ideas? So do snubbies require a different sight picture since the rear sight is embedded into the frame? If so, what should the sight picture look like?

So how many folks did I confuse here?

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Brian Williams
July 21, 2003, 12:55 PM
The reason the front sight is higher is due to the fact the bullet is not out of the barrel before recoil is causing the gun to kick back and the muzzle to rize. The difference is greater in guns with long barrels, big bores and slow moving projectiles. Look at some of the front sight heights of some of the Mod 25s and 24s of S&W. If you put one of them upside down on a flat surface and put a rod in the barrel you will see how much the barrel points down or up in the position it is in. Or try it with a level on the sights and a straight edge on the barrel and look at the difference

Pappy John
July 21, 2003, 01:19 PM
I only own one snubby, so my experience is somewhat limited, but I do have to hold a millimeter or two of front blade above the flats of the rear to hit an X-ring with my 642. Actually its more like, have the shot cluster centered around the X.:rolleyes:

Jim March
July 21, 2003, 05:05 PM
The top of the front sight is *supposed* to line up with the two tops of the rear sight when you shoot. Most snubbies come regulated for 158+P ammo, and will shoot dead on with that stuff if they're any good - to make that happen, the front sight is indeed deliberately taller so that recoil of THAT load will make it right. This is how mine behaves :cool:.

If I run lighter and faster ammo, it'll be off a hair vertically but not to where it'll make a diff out to 7 yards or more, so I don't worry about it.

July 21, 2003, 06:53 PM
Your description of the sight picture for "snubbies" is correct.

Most will shoot to POA this way with 158gr LSWCHP, though not all, and only you can determine which particular loads (cartridge brand, bullet weight, whether standard or "+P") will work best in your particular gun.

I've had five different J-frame "snubbies", and they were all different in this regard. One that's .357/.38 Special likes only 158gr Federal Nyclad in .38 Special, another wouldn't shoot ANYTHING accurately, one shot all 158gr loads to POA, another shoots 158gr LSWCHP slightly right of POA (won't shoot center no matter what load is tried), and another has adjustable sights and therefore shoots everything with appropriate sight adjustment.

Some folks apparently have snubbies that shoot to POA with lighter (eg, 125gr) bullets, but my experience has been that they always shoot low with the lighter bullets.

Get your self a bunch of different .38 Special loads, and shoot 5-shot groups till you find the one your particular pistol "likes" best, then keep a supply of that one on hand!

Good luck.

Pappy John
July 21, 2003, 07:25 PM
Exactly, Sawbones. I use a 125 gr load in mine. Ergo, having to raise that front sight just a bit. It's an older "no dash" 642, so I try not to pummel it with heavier bullets.

Drifting Fate
July 22, 2003, 01:30 AM
Technically, mine shoots about an inch and a half low with 125+P loads.

But, please, this is a J-frame, and an Airweight at that. Sure, it will print nice little groups at 7 yards if I am patient. But, this is esentially a contact distance weapon we are talking about. Yes, yes, it will do more. I've even won a few bets about head shots at 25 yards, but it's really a silly and highly dubious ability.

While I live by the Gunsite mantra of "Front sight, Press" - J-frames do very well with the Cirillo "over the top of the gun" method since the realistic ranges are so limited and the sights so small.

July 22, 2003, 01:59 AM
I test fired my new 442 last week.

I did a little "long range" sighted fire. 10 yd shooting with the gun was kinda iffy given the lawyer weight trigger pull and the lack of SA capability but I sighted in the usual way and the gun shot pretty much to POA albeit in a big group (surely my fault), so I guess tradtional sight picture works.

However, if I had to shoot this gun in a hurry outside of nose pickin' range I would do what Drifting Fate put forward, line the top rib up and pull. I think this method will work real well with most sub compacts.

July 22, 2003, 10:00 AM
make sure the center one is indeed centered and pull da trigger! I've owned about 9 snubbies and, even though I have found them more difficult to aim quickly than the 3-dot sights on an autoloader, they can be nearly as accurate with diligent practice.

Again, I just line up the sights so they are all begin to look like "one piece," align the sights directly over the center of the target and let'er rip.

I've found that in almost all my snubbies, projectile weight makes a difference in the placement of groups. For instance..................

The lighter bullets (110 gr) usually group a little low on the target; the medium weight bullets (125-130 gr) hit almost exactly POA/POI and heaviest bullets (158 gr and up) hit a little high on the target.

Of course, take into consideration that a snubby with a 2" or shorter barrel is primarily used for close-quarter self-defense. I can't see a significant difference in the POA/POI for any weight bullet at, say 3 to 10 feet.

A final pointer: If your snub has a hammer, just imagine that is doesn't; practice shooting strictly double-action. It will improve your accuracy with the snub and all of your other guns as well.

July 22, 2003, 10:22 AM
Are their sights also designed for 158 loads?

July 22, 2003, 10:37 AM
The first time I took a snubbie to the range, I saw this apparent misalignment and decided to "compensate". I had figured that these sights were skewed for some type of "combat aiming". When I wasn't on paper, I took it to the dirt pit. OOPS. After trying to correct my aim in piecemeal steps, I finally got it to where I was hitting the mark, and the sights had become perfectly aligned... :rolleyes:


July 22, 2003, 01:03 PM
Well I was doing fine with all of you until that last post. Richardson....what are you trying to say? What the heck is "combat aiming"? Did your fixed sights somehow move on your snubby? Was this dirt pit over a sunken meteor, and affected your bullets flight someway? Seems murky.

July 23, 2003, 08:15 AM

It was murky.:) It was also my first time shooting a revolver, and the sights on this snubby looked so misaligned that I "adjusted" the sight picture (nothing on the pistol was adjusted, just the way I aligned/mis-aligned the sights). It was only when I started shooting into dirt that I saw how far off target I was (watching the dirt "explode" way above my misguided point of aim).

Sorry for the confusion,


July 23, 2003, 10:03 AM
Bacchus: I can only speak for my own experience shooting .357's of different bullet weights. That is, all the projectiles seem to hit pretty much in the same place, regardless of bullet weight. All my .357's tend to hit about one to two inches from dead center at the 2 O'clock position at about 7 yards (probably my grip and trigger pull in DA)

The .38 spcls seem to be the only rounds that change the POI, according to the bullet weight, whether shooting them through a .38 spcl or a .357 mag snubby.

Does that make any sense?

Brian Williams
July 23, 2003, 10:06 AM
Exactly, Sawbones. I use a 125 gr load in mine. Ergo, having to raise that front sight just a bit. It's an older "no dash" 642, so I try not to pummel it with heavier bullets.

Pappy John, I think that unless you are using reduced loads the 125's you are using are what the "K" Frame to "L" frame mess is all about. When every one was carrying the 158 grainers the "K" frame was fine but when the "hot" ammo came around i.e. the 125 grainers is when the forcing cones of the barrels started to crack. Therefore the "Powers that were" had the designers come up with a heavier frame than the K thus the L frame and the full under lug barrel.

Pappy John
July 23, 2003, 12:02 PM
Its a j-frame airwieght, Perfesser. 125 gr XTP .38 specials well under +P pressure. No worries.

Brian Williams
July 23, 2003, 01:13 PM
I have a Mod 60-4 that loves 125 gr regular loads. The hot 357s in 125 grains are the problem. I just wanted to make sure it was not the hot loads you were using.

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