The Correct Snubnose Caliber


Uncle Mike
September 12, 2009, 02:59 PM
What, in your opinion, is the best self defense caliber/cartridge from the poll list that you would use in a snub nosed revolver such as the Smith and Wesson 'Night Guard' snubby revolver.

What is the basis of your decision to use this cartridge? :D

What make and model of snub nosed revolver do you prefer...S&W, Charter, Ruger.....

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September 12, 2009, 03:07 PM
I'll vote for either 38 special or, if you can find one, 9mm.

I have read (no link, sorry) that .357 mag out of a 2 inch revolver barrel produces no better ballistics than a 9mm out of the same type of gun; most of the power is wasted as noise and flash. 40s, 44s, and 45s are nice but generally not available in a small package.

September 12, 2009, 03:09 PM
+1 on the 9mm revolver. but since there was no choice for one i voted for 38 spec +

September 12, 2009, 03:16 PM
J frame... Corbon 110grn +P @ 1050 fps is a great load even in a 1.875" bbl. It ain't your grandpaw's 38 special. ;)

In my 3" bbl SP101 I go with 357 mag, Corbon DPX 125 grn @ about 1350 fps. The extra bbl length and heft of the Ruger makes it worthwhile to carry in the Magnum caliber. I wouldn't shoot 357 mag in a J frame. You don't get that much more performance relative to the recoil...

September 12, 2009, 03:20 PM
.38 Spl.

"Best self defense caliber/cartridge in a snubnose" seems to indicate CCW or pocket carry.

None of the larger calibers you listed qualify because they are universally L or N frame size and are just too big.

The full-charge .357 Mag kicks too much in J-Frame guns for most people to handle them with any accuracy.


September 12, 2009, 03:31 PM
.38Spl +P 135 gr Speer Gold Dot, Short Barrel, out of a Ruger LCR.
Shoots point of aim with minimal recoil. Very light as far as carry.

September 12, 2009, 03:34 PM
Any of those would work. I am fond of .44 Spl myself. ;)

September 12, 2009, 03:53 PM
For snub ...38SPL

September 12, 2009, 03:57 PM
I voted 38 because of size, but I to like a 44spl S&W 296.

September 12, 2009, 04:11 PM
that you would use in a snub nosed revolver such as the Smith and Wesson 'Night Guard' snubby revolver.

Outside of a short barrel the Nughtguard is not much of a snubby in my book. It's a L frame which is a bit chunky and generally the cylinder, frame, and grip size dictate concealabilty. I think of a J frame or Detective Special size gun when I think of snubs. I might stretch that to a K frame.

I voted 38 special.

The full-charge .357 Mag kicks too much in J-Frame guns for most people to handle them with any accuracy.

I also agree with rc.

Vern Humphrey
September 12, 2009, 04:21 PM
My experience is the .38 Special is the hottest cartridge you can comfortably shoot from a snubbie. I have shot many different snubbies in .357, and they range from spicy to downright painful. The only snubbie I've found really workable in .357 is the Ruger SP 101 (and I advise the 3" barrel version.)

If shooting is painful, you will either not practice (and lose when the chips are down) or you will practice and develop bad habits (and lose when the chips are down.)

September 12, 2009, 04:26 PM
D frame Colt

135gn Speer Gold Dot's or
110gn CorBon DPX Barnes Bullets

fits my hands, fits my carry, close quarters effective

Vern Humphrey
September 12, 2009, 04:32 PM
When I carry a revolver, that's what I carry -- a Colt Detective Special.

September 12, 2009, 04:34 PM
357, can fire 38s and +Ps as well.

September 12, 2009, 04:35 PM
I'm ruling out my nearly 3" Speed Six as a true snub. I would think an under 2" barrel is really "snub nose." A Colt DS, Ruger LCR or J frame smith. With that in mind the .38 Special is the ideal choice even after a century. The best round is the 158 grain LSWCHP.

September 12, 2009, 04:43 PM
I rarely carry a revolver, and even then sometimes not a snubnose. When I do, its a standard pressure .38 Special or a .357 Magnum. Almost had a S&W in .32 Long last year, but someone bought it just before I got back with the cash. Oh well, wasn't looking forward to ordering new dies and brass anyway I guess:(.

Dollar An Hour
September 12, 2009, 05:01 PM
Since .357's can fire less powerful .38's it's a win-win.

IMO if you can accurately fire .357's with quick follow-ups then that trumps the .38. It took some practice with .357 Medium loads like Remington Golden Sabre, but I'm comfortable with it.

September 12, 2009, 05:06 PM
Get it in 44 Mag, and then you have the option of carying 44 special and if you ever want a snubbie 44 mag later you've got one.

September 12, 2009, 05:16 PM
When you cited a Night Guard, I assume you do mean

1. A Scandium / lightweight--

2. and a compact / J frame.

IOW, a revolver that weighs nominally 13-15 oz. With those parameters, I recommend 38+P. If you include the heavier guns--from about 20 oz on up--then I'd recommend 357 Mag.

Jim H.

September 12, 2009, 06:22 PM
when the OP cited the "Night Guard", i understood he was refering to an L-frame wheelgun

if you're going to an L-frame anyway, you mind as well get the biggest controlable round in that frame my choice is the .44 spl

my S&W M-696 handles very well with it's 3" barrel and is more controlable than any might have something to do with it being Mag-Na-Ported.

loaded with the CCI Blaser 200gr Gold Dot, it's like shooting a 158gr non +P .38 spl out of a lighter K-frame

September 12, 2009, 06:30 PM
Why get the 44 spl, get the 44 mag and carry special, at least you'll have the option for 44 mag loads. Also if you handload 44 spl and it is a little too hot the gun it rated for 44 mag anyways.

September 12, 2009, 07:17 PM
.38 special in a Smith 642. If I carried anything larger and heavier then it will be a full size auto.

642 light, fits in pocket holster just fine and is a reasonable balance of power in a easy to carry package.


Uncle Mike
September 12, 2009, 08:08 PM
The Night Guard revolvers are K, L, and N frame guns, depending on the caliber.

I agree the J frames are better suited for less aggressive cartridges such as the 38 Spl. or the 45acp or 9mm.

Years ago I had a Colt Detective Special...sold it and was going to replace it but...
what a stupid move!

We sell a lot of the 642's and the old stand by model 60's.

September 12, 2009, 08:19 PM
I voted 38 spl. I think it is the best balance between power and control-ability in a sub 2" barrel. I would not buy a revolver that shoots auto cartridges like 9mm/40/45acp... too many compromises IMO. I would stick with a cartridge that was designed for a revolver.

I currently use a S&W 637 or a Ruger SP101, but there are many good choices out there. The LCR is calling to me lately. I'm just waiting for the honeymoon phase to end.

September 12, 2009, 08:34 PM
I voted .44 Special. My reasoning is that CC of a N-frame, while possible especially with a light weight Night Guard, is not the easiest thing in the world, mostly due to the size of the cylinder. The L-frame cylinder is significantly smaller than the N-frame one, and a short barreled round butt L-frame really isn't much bigger than a similarly set up K-frame.

I'm thinking that my next CC gun is going to be a 396 Night Guard .44 Special. I'm not worried about ammunition costs since I handload all my .44 Special ammunition, and I'm a fan of the big, heavy bullets in a primary weapon.

I have both J-frame Airweights and SP101s in .357 Magnum. IMO the SP101 is the best snubbie magnum platform, while the J-frame is the best for .38 Special.

Now, if I can just find the money for the 396 I'll be set.

September 12, 2009, 08:56 PM
After carrying light caliber semi-autos for some time, my wife finally decided that she wanted the perfect balance of size, power and reliability... This is what she chose:

Her Gold Dot 138gr +P carry ammo is the perfect match for the 2" barrel. The Gold Dot 135gr +P round was created at the request of the New York City police department to provide officers with the best possible ammunition for their backup weapons. What makes it the best? Speer designed a round that would fully exhaust the propellant in a 2' barrel, which allows maximum velocity and reduced muzzle flash in a snubby. This combined with a larger fast-expansion hollow-point cavity, makes it PERFECT.

September 12, 2009, 09:48 PM
My vote is for .38spl +P. That's what I carry in my 36 and I've never felt under-gunned.

Using .357mag or some of the other heavy hitters makes snubbies unpleasant and can induce flinch. Seems the best to me would be .38spcl, .44spcl, and .45acp. The cylinder just gets too big with the .44 and .45's for my taste.

September 12, 2009, 10:00 PM
.38 special in a Smith 642. If I carried anything larger and heavier then it will be a full size auto.

+1. The perfect answer. IMO.


September 12, 2009, 10:26 PM

You have a very large selection of loads to choose from.

September 12, 2009, 10:32 PM
I can't vote because I perfer .38 Special non +p. I use FMJ in my two-inch Model 10 and 158 gr. LRN in my Model 60 Chief's. For some reason the Model 10 doesn’t like the 158 gr. LRN as far as accuracy goes.

September 12, 2009, 10:36 PM
Why get the 44 spl, get the 44 mag and carry special

because the M-696 is an L-frame and all .44 mags that i am aware of are N-frames

Brian Williams
September 12, 2009, 10:37 PM
9mm in my 942, a 642 with a 940 cylinder.

September 12, 2009, 10:41 PM
From a J frame or Colt Cobra .38 Spl. +P 158 gr. LSWC

From a K frame snubby .38 +P as above or the .357 158 gr. at around 1100 fps. Very controllable, allows for rapid follow up shots, less muzzle flash.

N frame snubby .44 Spl.


September 13, 2009, 01:59 PM
Recently got a Ruger LCR. I chose the .38+P vote because of that. I can consistently hit 25 yrd black with it, even with quick draw-shoot action. I've shot the same style and same .38 round from 2 other makers but had much tougher time holding on target. This LCR grip makes the difference. I feel the 45 is a much better self defence round, but you are limited on the options to carry! I'm assuming this vote is based on the best option, when also dealing with concealed carry issues. I've shot many (not all) the others and consider them to hot to handle reliably in a 2" snub.

September 13, 2009, 03:16 PM
i picked 38 but would have picked 9mm if it was there

September 13, 2009, 05:22 PM
You forgot to include .45 ACP and .45 LC as an option...Lol...

But...ultimately...I'd say, whatever one is easy and familiar with, where one can draw and have well placed shots, with alacrity...

And if one's hands are large enough, then, a large Frame .44 or .45 is certainly an option.

Probably, .38 Special, having diverse loadings and Bullet types readily obtainable, and being usually a comfortable size Revolver for average-size Hands, remains the most appealing choice generally, for a self-defence-carry 'Snubby'.

September 13, 2009, 06:01 PM
9mmepiphany, I'm a big fat guy so I forget that everone can't hid an N-frame :neener:.

I often carry a S&W model 29 with a 3-inch barrel and I forget its there

September 13, 2009, 06:33 PM
I'm a big fat guy so I forget that everone can't hid an N-frame

hee hee, i'm getting there...i try to keep stuff from poking into my love handles :rolleyes:

it's been awhile since i carried a N-frame. it was a 8.375" M-27 and i packed it using an Alessi Fieldmaster. it carried the gun vertically, butt the pouch pivoted foward during the draw...very sleek

September 13, 2009, 06:37 PM
Charter Bulldog Pug in 44 Special loaded with Corbon 165gr bullet 404 ft/lbs. Been thinking about the Speer 250gr Gold Dot at 900ft/sec. At the time I purchased the revolver that Corbon load was all I could get beside the Federal 200 gr LSWCHP, 360ft/lbs. I purchased both just to have some ammo on hand.

September 13, 2009, 06:40 PM
I'm a big fat guy so I forget that everone can't hid an N-frame

One of the perks of being a fat guy.

Others are I am more buoyant in water, I'll survive thin people in a famine, and I am warmer in the winter.

Hee Hee he :neener:

September 13, 2009, 06:59 PM
Hello friends and neighbors// .38 special +P

Ruger 27oz. sp101 SS .357 platform compared to

S&W 15 oz. 638 AW in 38 +P platform // compared to

S&W 13 oz. 360 .357 AW platform

I choose the 15oz. S&W model 638 AW bodyguard .38 special +P 5 shot

Marvin KNox
September 13, 2009, 07:39 PM
It seems to me that we are talking about a 5 shot J frame size gun most likely when we talk snubs. There are many other, of course. But most likely we are talking J frame, LCR, and such.

In those I prefer a little extra poop in the form of the milder .357 mags. But most are probably talking .38.

So my vote (for the vast majority of people) is 38 spl. +p's. Probably couldn't go too far wrong recommending Speer's short barrel 135 gr. Gold Dots as the absolute best choice for 80% of snub carriers.

I, myself, prefer the 125gr. DPX in .357 magnum cases.

September 13, 2009, 08:30 PM
I'm one of the crowd that voted +p .38sp. My snubby is an S&W Airweight 637. Its SD/HD load is Remington's +P 158gr LSWCHP, probably the best FBI load for snubbies because its bullets are of dead soft lead and are likely to expand. The Winchester and Federal versions are hard cast, and while useful in standard length revolvers probably will not expand when fired from a snubby. (Source: Stephen Camp's many articles on this topic).

At the range, I shoot std pressure 148gr wadcutters. I can handle about twenty-five of them before I really want to be doing something else. Now and then I'll end a range session with five of my defense load. Wow! But I know I'd never notice the kick in a real life situation. One of these days, I intend to try Speer's 135gr Gold Dots. A lot of people like them. I have Speer's 124gr Gold Dots in my Browning High Power, so I'm halfway there already.

Cordially, Jack

September 13, 2009, 10:59 PM
My OLD Charter Arms Undercover 38 sp.

September 14, 2009, 04:15 AM
I voted .38 +P, and have personally settled on either my 1976 36-1 J or my latest heartthrob, the S&W 12-3 in 2-inch guise. What a great carry revolver.

So far as load: death, taxes and the "FBI" 158 LSWCHP+P...

September 14, 2009, 05:01 AM
Most of the Night Guard revolvers are either a L frame or an N frame. The M315NG however is an actual K frame revolver which is very cool IMO. (in .38 Special)

September 14, 2009, 11:45 AM
Colt Magnum Carry. Remington 125 gr jsp's are pretty stout, but that's why it has that Houge monogrip.

September 14, 2009, 08:12 PM
I like big bullets because they make big holes. I picked .44 Special.

Dollar An Hour
September 14, 2009, 08:22 PM
But guys, if .38+P out of a 15 oz S&W J-Frame is "good" then .357 (albeit milder .357's) out of a 13 oz Sc S&W J-Frame is "better" provided you can hit your target and repeat. ;)

Carries lighter and hits harder, what's not to like?

September 15, 2009, 06:42 AM
you can hit your target and repeat

This is actually the problem, not everyone can control the recoil of a 357 with a 1 7/8" or 2" barrel.

The first shot might be accurate, but the second is either slower or lost.

September 15, 2009, 06:53 AM
I use the 642 for off duty and I think the .38 will do the job my HD is a 9mm so if I could fine a nice snub for 9mm I may go that way as I think the 9mm and .38 spl are pretty equal.

be safe

September 15, 2009, 06:57 AM
.38 will do fine.
It doesn't even have to be +p


September 15, 2009, 07:08 AM
.38 +p. I carry in a SW 642 because it is lightweight, small, and has enough power to change someone's bad behavior. I had a Taurus .357 5 shot, but it kicked pretty dang bad.

September 15, 2009, 10:31 AM
I think the .327 mag has a LOT of promise in this category, if you still consider a 3" J-frame a snubbie still. Six shots beats five, and the ballistics are about 9mm +P.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
September 15, 2009, 10:49 AM
.44 spl
.38 spl

go with snubbies like peas & carrots.

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