How do I aim a S&W .38 Chief's Special?


February 6, 2011, 09:57 PM
A relative has given me a S&W .38 Chief's Special airweight model 36. It has a tall front blade with an integral notch in the rear. I'm used to 3-dot or adjustable sights and I don't really know how to line up the sights on this gun. I usually shoot at around 20-30 feet when target practicing. Is there a method to using sights like this, or do I just have to keep shooting until I find the correct height of the blade in the notch?

This is the gun:

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February 6, 2011, 10:20 PM
The front sight blade is square on top. The topstrap of the frame has a groove in it. Near the back end of the topstrap, just in front of the cut for the hammer, there should be a square U that fills in part of the topstrap groove. It's not very big, but that is the rear sight. Center the front sight blade in that U, line up the top of the blade with the top of the topstrap - make them level with each other - and put your front sight in the center of the target. That should get you where you want to be as far as hitting your target. Shoot it a bunch until you know where it hits relative to your placement of the frontsight, and you should be good to go.

Good luck!

February 6, 2011, 10:51 PM
sixgunner described the sight picture well; I have found that most fixed sight revolvers are regulated for a six o'clock hold - you rest the bottom of the target on the front sight. Of course choice of ammo can make a difference here, so by all means try both ways to find your revolver's point of aim.

Here's a link that shows a graphic....

February 6, 2011, 11:15 PM
My Model 10 using the classic 148gn HBWC over 2.7gns of Bullseye load needs the sights leveled and then held to the center of the bull instead of the 6 o'clock hold. This puts the holes at POA out to around 18 to 20 yards for my gun. If I were to try that 6 o'clock idea my shots would all be at the 6 o'clock position below the center of the bullseye.

February 7, 2011, 02:17 AM
Just to add, that Chief's special was sighted in at the factory with 158gr bullets. I would suggest buying 158gr ammo just to start out for practice. Also, with the sight picture so well described above use a 6 o'clock hold.

A short barrel revolver is a very accurate handgun but it can be difficult to shoot well in the beginning. They have a heavy trigger and are less forgiving because of the very short sight radius. With enough practice you will shoot it well. I do suggest buying a set of snap caps and practice your trigger control by dry firing.

February 7, 2011, 07:14 AM
Your #36 is inherently quite accurrate. The factory grips are small which aids concealment at the expense of shootability. A set of Pachmayr grips will give your hand more purchase to maintain the sight picture through the double action trigger pull. Their Compac version is my personal choice for shooting J-frames. It covers the backstrap and provides a place for the the pinky.

February 7, 2011, 09:22 PM
How do I aim a S&W .38 Chief's Special?


February 7, 2011, 11:32 PM
Start with man sized target at 7 yards.
Fire single action to get an idea where it is shooting.
Don't aim too hard, just try to hit the center.

Then graduate to double action pull.
This will be hard at first but it gets easier.

Do not use +P loads until you can put the regular rounds where you want them.

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