Question for snubnose shooters.


July 26, 2008, 11:30 PM
I'm thinking about getting a snubnose hammerless in .38 or .357. Just wondering what kind of accuracy you guys (and gals) get while shooting factory loads. It's for conceled carry so it doesn't need to be a tack driver but how does it do at 20 feet? Thanks.
Also, if anyone has a recommendations for a wheelgun please let me know.

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Standing Wolf
July 26, 2008, 11:40 PM
I've never owned a Smith & Wesson or Colt snub-nosed revolver that wouldn't hold a two-inch or tighter five-shot group at twenty feet. I can't hold groups that size any more unless I shoot from a rest, but the guns do just fine.

The accuracy limitations have very little to do with the guns qua guns and everything to do with fixed and/or poorly designed sights, small stocks or grips, and lawyer triggers.

July 26, 2008, 11:48 PM
All that's required for that range is pie-plate accuracy. That said, all of my snubbies will shoot 2-3" in S-L-O-W double action mode at that distance. Some significantly better.

Interestingly, my older Taurus 85CH shoots the smallest groups of the bunch - 2 Colts and 2 Smiths included.

I'd recommend buying the best quality gun that you can afford. If you plan to carry concealed, then weight can quickly become a factor and an Airweight or lightweight gun is definitely something to consider. The S&W M642 seems to be very popular. I'd suggest handling (and shooting) as many different guns as you can, and basing your decision on that and your wallet.

July 26, 2008, 11:48 PM
the guns themselves are capable of one jagged hole at 20 feet,the ability of the shooter is taxed greatly by the short sight radius and the heavy D/A trigger.

July 26, 2008, 11:56 PM
Hey there
Try before you buy. I have been shooting all my life. Well atleast after 5 years old .
I can not hit anything with any snubby.
My 3" Kmber Ultra Carry ? Yes I can. The 1911 style is easy. That subby will jump pretty hard. Follow up shots are extremely slow. Compared to an auto.

I had a .44 Bull Dog. Glad I never had to use it. 5 Shots from that thing and I was done. No control over the gun . I no longer wish to carry any small revolver.

July 27, 2008, 12:25 AM
20' is less than 7 yards, so i would expect all 5 rounds to be touching each other at that range. shooting at speed, i can usually keep all shots well inside a 3"x5" card

if you get back to 25 yards, i would think paper plate size groups would be about average.

the small snubbies really are the hardest wheelguns to shoot...but it's mostly because you think it is

July 27, 2008, 12:48 AM
Thank you for your input.

July 27, 2008, 06:03 AM
I recently went up in size with my carry revolver and went to a hammer. I couldnt shoot my little SW442 worth a darn. It definitelt wasnt the gun. It was really all rounds touching at 7 yards. BUT... the heavy long trigger pull was hard. Plus the light weight made the recoil uncomfortable. So I recently got rid of it and got a Ruger SP101 3 inch.

As for a carry gun the SW was hands down awesome. Its small, light, good caliber and reliable. For defensive situations it is one of the best carry guns.

BUT... if I wanted to carry it back up to my duty weapon, I would have to qualify with it and that wasnt going to happen. Plus, if I had somehow managed to squeeze by the qualification, the thought of me possibly having to make an accurate shot with it at range was unsettling. If I had bought the hammer model, it probably would be different.

July 27, 2008, 07:28 AM
I recently bought an S&W 442. In a pocket holster it is great for CC, especially in the summer. I have no doubt that it will do touching hole accuracy at 7 yards and pie-plate accuracy at 25 yards in the hands of a good, experienced shooter. However, the light weight and heavy trigger will certainly amplify any shooting flaws. If you get one, plan on firing it regularly to ensure that you can fire it with reasonable accuracy. The 442 is the one handgun I fire every time I go to the range because I carry it more than anything else and I can shoot everything else more accurately.

July 27, 2008, 07:50 AM
I recently bought a S&W 642 and I am impressed. It is very easy to carry and the first cylinder I put all 5 in a 3" circle, at 7 yards. It even got better as I continued to shoot. I have been carrying a mod.60 and that is equal to the 642 but heavier.

July 27, 2008, 08:13 AM
I think "fit" is a factor. I'm a newbie with a 642 and this gun just feels great. At 21ft, natural point (not using sights), I can draw and empty the gun with 5 shots staying in a 10" diameter. With practice I expect to improve on this. (Of course, the group is tighter if I aim each shot.)

In shopping for my 642, I came across a number of folks who said it did NOT fit their hand. So if possible, try before you buy.

July 27, 2008, 09:09 AM
I've concealed-carried & practiced with a Charter Arms .38 spl snubbie for about a year. While the CA is no where near the quality of a S&W, it will readily place shots within a 2" group at 20' from a rest (at least for me).

Based on my experience, I have to agree with Clint Smith who said a snubbie is truly an "experts" gun. It is very difficult to shoot on target, off hand. I've been working on it for a year, & still not great. I can drive nails at 25 yds with my 7 1/4" Buckmark one-handed without a rest, but I'm real lucky to land one round out of 6-7 into a 3" target at 25 yds with the CA snubbie.

Guess I'm just not a real great shot anyways. But the CA Undercover is a fine pocket gun & I carry it just about all the time. It's so much more convenient than my Ruger P93D to carry. And I believe in the advice that the gun you're carrying is 1000% superior to the canon at home in the drawer.

Good luck.

July 27, 2008, 09:43 AM
lightweight frames and I can't shoot worth squat

steel frames and I can group'em DED dead at 20'

July 27, 2008, 10:46 AM
If I had bought the hammer model, it probably would be different.

it has been my experience that the models with hammers really aren't any easier to should be shooting all shot DA anyway.

i started with a M-60 (spur hammer), went to a M-38 (shielded hammer) and finally ended up with a M-642 (internal hammer)

the 642 has been my most accurate J-frame. i did eventually have the action tuned

The Lone Haranguer
July 27, 2008, 10:47 AM
The accuracy limitations have very little to do with the guns qua guns and everything to do with fixed and/or poorly designed sights, small stocks or grips, and lawyer triggers.

Agreed. We are really talking about two different concepts here. The guns are not inherently or in and of themselves inaccurate. What they are, is harder to hit with.

It's for conceled carry so it doesn't need to be a tack driver but how does it do at 20 feet?
With a Colt Agent and a Ruger SP101, cocked to single-action and slow fire, I could shoot into 2-4 inches, the edge going to the Colt. A DAO S&W 640-1 was all over the place. Rapid fire double-action - as the guns would actually be used "for real" - was worse. Except for the Ruger, .38 Spl. +P also had some bite and bark to them.

The one edge of a "hammerless" snubnose revolver is its more streamlined and rounded contours for drawing from a tighter pocket. Otherwise I prefer the Kahr PM9 for this role, and no longer own any of the above revolvers.

July 27, 2008, 10:53 AM
I'm an average pistol shot, not a tack-driving range rat.

I can shoot my full-size revolvers pretty well even out to 50 yards, though. But my S&W 642 is a challenge. I've gotten to the point where I can get all 5 shots into a 6" circle rapid fire at 10 feet. That's probably good enough for its intended purpose. But it's required a good amount of practice. Carrying a snub means changing your shooting habits, for sure. They're a different little beast, but one that isn't too hard to tame if you're willing to practice. Just make sure you're using standard 38 rounds for practice. The +P will leave the web of your shooting hand with a stiff reminder for several days afterward. ;)

July 27, 2008, 11:41 AM
Are you asking about inherent accuracy or practical accuracy? The first is how small a grouping a firearm can make at a given range under ideal conditions. Most all short barreled revolvers are capable of very good to fine accuracy. Practical accuracy is how well the gun can perform when YOU shoot it in real shooting conditions. Short barreled, small framed revolvers in .38 spl or better are not easy to shoot in the mode that is required for self defense. That is double action shooting. I think it takes more time and practice to learn to operate a "snub nosed' revolver with any degree of skill than to learn to operate most autos or bigger revolvers. Most revolvers of that type have small grip frames, small sights, short sight radius and many have a stiff DA trigger as they come from the factory. I learned to shoot for defense with a DA .38 revolver back in the ancient days when I became a police officer. I like and carry a short revolver most of the time...The advice about going to a range and trying some is good advice. To learn the DA trigger, you may need some help from someone who is competent at doing that...Good Luck

July 27, 2008, 11:49 AM
At 7 yards, being able to keep all 5 rounds at minute-of-person shouldn't be to much of a task at all, even under rapid fire. That's good enough for any carry weapon.

July 27, 2008, 12:15 PM
Just recently shot my 2.25" barrel Ruger SP101 loaded with Buffalo bore 158gr JHC .357 Magnum at seven yards into a single .357" hole, before witnesses, slow fire.
"No brag, just fact", as dear ol' Walter Brennan used to say on The Guns of Will Sonnet. (Boy, I'm dating myself!)

OK, maybe it was a .359" hole. ;) The point is, it was one hole made by five individual rounds, not a "cloverleaf". I can do the same with certain of my .38 Special S&Ws too, with certain loads, eg, a particular 649 shooting Remington 158gr+P LSWCHP.
Some of the guns are certainly capable of excellent precision. Finding or making an accurate one (that shoots to point of aim, that is) can be a bit of a trial, though, and I've got a few that have good precision but poor accuracy.

As others said, adequate accuracy, quickly, is the raison d'etre of these little guns. Phrases like "three rounds in three inches in three seconds at three yards" apply (or supply the integer of your choosing if you don't like three :)).

July 27, 2008, 01:13 PM most likely to be the fit of the revolver in your hand. For myself, I find I can shoot a smaller group with my two-inch S&W 640-1 revolvers, with Big Dot front sights, than I can with a three-inch Ruger SP101, with the factory grip, because the S&W Centennials are fitted with Craig Spegel Boot Grips, which stabilize the small-frame revolvers in my hand, unlike the too-skinny-for-me factory grip on the SP101. (Since the SP101 is a teaching gun, it normally wears the factory grips. If I need to shoot it myself, I switch over to a set of boot grips from Badger Custom Pistol Grips (

As to the question of sight radius, I'm not the world's best shooter but, once I had the chance to see how much of the front sight I needed to hold above the top of the rear-sight groove, I used to hit man-size rocks, consistently, at about 120 yards, at the now-defunct San Gabriel Valley Gun Club, with two-inch J-frame S&W revolvers.

July 27, 2008, 04:12 PM
Most snubbies are mechanically more accurate than most shooters. A good action job will go a long way towards improving one's accuracy.

July 27, 2008, 04:49 PM
spwenger is dead on - it's the fit that matters most.

I've shot a number of revolvers over the years and many of them snubbies. What I shoot best right now is a Ruger SP 101 2.25" and a Taurus 851BUL that weighs in at a mere 17 oz. Both of these fit my hand better than any other revolver I own in their same category, but my S&W model 10 is close behind and an older S&W snubby is on my wish list.

To illustrate - I recently took a friend of mine shooting who is considering getting his Ohio CCW. He had never shot a handgun of any type prior to our range trip. We went through the preliminary safety discussion and range rules, then I gave him some instruction of the following guns: XD 45, Ruger SP101, Taurus 851 BUL, S&W Model 10. I gave him about 150 rounds for each one and let him shoot whatever he liked. He liked them all, but quickly settled in on the Taurus. Shooting +p loads he was able to hit a 6" target consistently at the 7 yard range. When I asked him why he picked the Taurus, the fact that it fit better was his reason. He did not like the 357 magnum loads in the Ruger at all, so almost everything he shot was 38+p.

He did well with the SP 101 also, but did not like the fit as well. For myself, I prefer the SP 101 over the Taurus for normal carry. The Taurus is a great pocket gun, and fits my hand better than any other lightweight revolver I have held. From an accuracy standpoint, at 7 yards I can keep all or most rounds on a paper plate in rapid fire with either gun, slow fire all or most on an index card.

July 27, 2008, 05:14 PM
I own 3 snubies. A S&W Mod 12 Airweight, a Colt Detective and a NICE customized 3” Colt Police Positive.

If you care about accuracy, then a snubby is not your thing.
Of course they can be accurate, but to me working on serious accuracy with a snub is like cutting a branch with a Victorinox…it can be done, but it’s not what the thing was intended for.:)

It’s the hardest gun to master in terms of accuracy, and I’m not saying it like” Ohhh…wow! That guy is SO accurate with his snubby”.
But more like “oh, look at that guy.. going for snail slow target practice shots with a gun that was intended for fast, VERY close self defense”

If you want something accurate, go for a 4”, or at the very least a 3”.
Yes, even if a 2” snubby is surprisingly accurate when shot in SA, or in extremely slow DA using a bench rest for support.
2” is for contact shooting, pure last resort self defense when the guy is on you.


July 27, 2008, 07:29 PM
i've never understood why folks think that a SA trigger stroke is so much more accurate than a DA one on a J-framed snubby. all the shorter trigger stroke does is give you more o a chance to jerk the trigger.

one of the finest snubbies out there are the old Colt D-frames. the Det. Spl. has a grip about the size of a Ruger Sp-101 and yet gives you an extra shot. it's action can be tuned beyond anything you can imagine on the ruger or S&W J-frame..the longeer trigger stroke is actually an advantage in the smaller guns.

you can become an amazing shot if you learn to shoot a 2.5" Colt Diamondback or a 2.5" S&W M-19

M2 Carbine
July 27, 2008, 08:04 PM
I'm thinking about getting a snubnose hammerless in .38 or .357. Just wondering what kind of accuracy you guys (and gals) get while shooting factory loads.
I like the 2 inch revolvers.
I shoot very few factory loads but my standard reload is comparable to the standard lead factory load.

A quality 2 inch revolver, like the S&W J Frame, will shoot as accurate as anything else if the shooter does his job.

I'm just an average decent shooter, so you can figure a good shot will do better.
Here's a few of my targets using the little revolvers, you can get an idea of how well the short barrel guns shoot.

I like using a timer. I'm trying to break 5 seconds with all hits inside the 3 3/4 inch black circle.

This is a little unusual and of course I DON"T RECOMMEND this kind of shooting.:D

This was about 10-12 yards using a S&W K Frame that I bought in 1960.

Using a Crimson Trace laser equipped S&W J Frame. Point shooting from the hip. (I do a fair amount of laser practice).

The inexpensive Rossi 38. Fast as I can (accurately) shoot.

And finally the S&W Model 60 at 100 yards. No misses, but I was cheating by sitting down. (The white pasters are a Beretta Minx 22 Short)

Peter M. Eick
July 27, 2008, 08:09 PM

Here is what I did with mine at 15 yrds offhand. 50 shots relatively quickly. I find the little DS's kind of fun to shoot like this.

July 27, 2008, 08:39 PM
Eyes closed while squeezing the trigger?? What's the point of this?

July 27, 2008, 08:55 PM
I have an SP101 .357 mag.. It took me about 2 months to get the right load. I ended up with 158 gr. JHP winchester in front of 5.0 gr of unique, I can put this load in a quarter sized circle at 15' and within the 7 ring at 75'.

Good Luck


M2 Carbine
July 27, 2008, 09:51 PM
Eyes closed while squeezing the trigger?? What's the point of this?

I have my own ranges so I can safely do most any strange thing that come to mind.:D

Once in a while I'll do the eyes closed thing to check how steady I'm holding the gun and how smoothly I'm squeezing the trigger.

Or like the day I brought home a new CZ40P (40 S&W) from a gun show and immediately tried it out.
The gun was pointing so naturally for me (10 yards) that I put up a fresh target and shot five rounds with my eyes closed.

And sometimes the eyes closed thing is just for fun. I've always said that the TX concealed carry qualification is so easy that the shooter can pass it with their eyes closed.
So, not wanting to shoot (eyes closed) from 15 yards I gave away those 50 points (10 shots) and attempted to get the passing score of 174 by the time I finished the 3 and 7 yard strings. Before every shot or string I started with the gun lowered and my eyes closed. All shots are timed for the TX qualification.

I finished with 4 points to spare.:D TX uses a different target now and I think my score would have been higher with the new target.

Sorry for getting a little off your subject SomeDude.:)

July 27, 2008, 09:56 PM
I've got an old S&W Model 36 (no dash) Chief's Special I got through my lawyer, from someone going up the river. It's very accurate at '50, using the Federal 158gr. "FBI" load.

July 27, 2008, 11:05 PM
I don't mind my M85 Taurus hard to shoot well at all. The DA is the best I've ever felt out of the box except maybe for a Colt Python. It's smooth and light, maybe 10 lbs. DA shooting isn't hard to do well, just takes a little dry fire practice at first. I love shooting 6" plates off hand DA at 25 with my 2" Taurus. If I concentrate, I'll go five for five.

I shoot my Ruger P90 on the CCW qualifyer. Got to shoot an auto to be able to carry one. If you shoot a revolver, that's all they'll let you carry. I could shoot just as well with a revolver, though, in DA and almost as well with my .38. This year was the first I didn't shoot a perfect 250 score, 243. Threw a couple of shots at 15. :banghead: With the .45, you get one ragged hole in the X ring from 3 and 7 yards. I got to thinkin', at 15, I shoulda just shot under the target board. No way he could have known any difference. LOL That ragged hole is about 3" in diameter.

July 28, 2008, 01:45 AM
Smith & Wesson Model 649 Bodyguard (.357 Magnum/.38 Special)

The hammer is shrouded for easy pocket carry, yet it's not fully enclosed, so you can still fire it single action if desired.

Federal .38 Special Hydra-Shoks are an excellent choice for defensive ammo.

I don't know what your experience level is with snubbies, but if you've never fired one before, I would avoid .357 Magnum defensive loads. The recoil is not pleasant.

At typical self-defense ranges under ten yards, accuracy will be good, though I'd hesitate to call any snubbie a "tack driver". If you want to be consistent at around 25 yards, you better practice regularly.

July 28, 2008, 02:14 AM
i don't think it has been mentioned yet, but you should start with mild wadcutters. get your DA stroke down and build confidence with the gun before loading more potent ammo.

i highly recommend the Speer 135gr was engineered specifically for the 1.88" J-frame barrels for a LE agency

July 29, 2008, 12:03 AM
I bought my first revolver, a S&W model 60LS, in May 2007. In June 2007, I attended a Basic Firearms Safety & Defensive Instinct Shooting class. I saved my target:
3 yards, standing, off-hand, single action fire with Winchester .38 special 130 gr. FMJ ammo

August 2007 - 7 yards, standing off-hand, double action fire with the same ammo, Winchester .38 special 130 gr. FMJ:

July 2007 - Winchester .357 magnum 110 gr. FMJ (first time shooting .357's OUCH!):

August 2007 - 7 yards, standing, off-hand with Blazer .357 magnum 158 gr. JHP:

I'm a petite female with small hands, and the Lady Smith fits my hands perfectly. At distances greater than 7 yards, my groups get wider. I'm working on speed with accuracy. I also have a 9mm Colt Commander, my first 1911, which I'm still learning which ammo it likes best.

July 29, 2008, 01:57 AM
I carry and shoot an older Model 36. It weighs about 21 oz I think. I can shoot "DVD" sized groups at 7-10 yds.

I did about the same shooting my friends Model 40 hammerless "lemon-squeezer". It weighs about the same as mine.

I didn't do as well shooting his lighter 642. Maybe I could get used to it - but I prefer the heft and feel of all steel.

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