I need small frame .38 recommendations.


February 10, 2013, 10:11 AM
I have a snub .38, an NOT looking for another. What I am looking for is a 3 or 4 inch barreled .38 but on a small frame. For example, I have a S&W model 36 and I have some Charter Arms Undercover .38's. This weekend I went to the gunshow looking for a 3 or 4 inch barrelled .38. I tried Ruger Security Six and Taurus model 82's and found that they're huge and weigh a ton. Too big. Medium framed is not what I want so, been trying to find a long barrelled small frame and here's what I've come up with, let me know if I'm missing anything.
S&W 36-3
Charter Arms Bulldog .38 from the 70's and 80's.
Rossi 33 and later model 68
Taurus 85. Yes, they made a 3 inch barrelled 5 shot 85, I just wish I knew the rest of the model number (if there is more to it).

Did I miss anyone?

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Gun Geezer
February 10, 2013, 10:15 AM
S&W Model 60. Only comes in a .357 now, but only the cylnder is a tad longer. Adustable sights, 3" barrel, and in a J-Frame. My wife has a 38 special Mod 60 I bought her some years ago. Very nice 5-shot stainless revolver.

February 10, 2013, 10:19 AM

I have a few revolvers and the J Frame Taurus 38 is great. 3" barrel, dead on accurate, no probs at all. Shoots better (for me) than my 2" snub J frame 38, not as good as my 4" k frame 357. It's my preferred ccw.
I found a used stainless, looked to have about 50 rounds through it for 190.00 excellent shape continues to shoot very well

February 10, 2013, 10:19 AM
I have the S&W Model 60 3" Bbl. .357 Mag.
The 3" Bbl. model is the only one of the 60's
that has the adjustable W&E rear sight.
It's all stainless steel, and has a full length
underlug on the barrel - also with this length
Bbl. it has a full length extracttor rod to get
empty cases out easily. It is 24 oz empty.

Though it's chambered for .357 Mag I seldom
shooot .357 and mostly shoot .38 Special. for
an HD/SD load, Double Tap +P 125 gr. GDJHP

Another option slightly larger/heavier than the 60
would be the Ruger SP101


February 10, 2013, 10:25 AM
I have a S&W 36 3" (Model 36-1) round-butt revolver.

Sweet little gun. However, they can be a bit pricey when you find them.

I'd go for either the Charter Undercover 3" or Taurus 85 3" you mentioned, as well.

I don't know enough about the Rossis to comment on them.

February 10, 2013, 10:34 AM
I want to get a S&W Model 63 3" Bbl. / W&E Adj Rear sight. to go
with my model 60 3" bbl. - the 63 was re-introduced a couple of
years ago, the "Kit" gun. .22 LR 8 shot cylinder The original 63
was a 6 shot cylinder. The 63 will be a good starter for my grand
kids. - oldest is 5 yrs so I've got time to find one.


February 10, 2013, 10:38 AM
3" SP101 38spc.


February 10, 2013, 11:42 AM
My personal experience with a 3" compact 38 revolver is a S&W Model 36-1. It's a fine little shooter. I'd recommend it.

February 10, 2013, 11:52 AM
Colt police positive, if you do not mind used.

February 10, 2013, 02:07 PM
I discovered this morning that Charter Arms makes a .357 mag pug that I can shoot .38's with, 4 inch barrel, but I prefer my guns blued, not stainless finish.

February 10, 2013, 02:28 PM
I have always had a special fondness for the S&W Model 36 with a 3" barrel and round butt configuration. I felt it just balanced better and gave me a slightly longer sight radius to work with. Fitted with a Tyler T-Grip adapter I thought it was a great set-up for taking along for while hiking through the woods.

I also had an older Rossi Model 88 with a 3" barrel that was very well made, though I believe it only came in stainless steel. A couple of years ago I bought a S&W Model 638 for a friend of mine that had a 3" barrel but it has an aluminum frame and stainless steel barrel and cylinder.

February 10, 2013, 05:22 PM
Colt police positive, if you do not mind used.
That would be my recommendation as well.

Mat, not doormat
February 10, 2013, 05:34 PM
I'd go with a 3" Smith Model 13 round butt. Or possibly an SP101.

February 10, 2013, 05:43 PM
I'll third that opinion, Colt PPS is a fine revolver.

Gary A
February 10, 2013, 09:37 PM
Just in the past couple of years Ruger has begun to offer their SP101 with adjustable sights and a four inch barrel. Pretty nice gun.

February 11, 2013, 02:40 AM
Another owner of the 3" 36-1 RB chief's special heavy barrel (reportedly produced at the request of NYPD's Frank McGee) here. As others have said, it's great. Fun little shooter.

I've seen the 3" Taurus 85, and talked directly to more than one owner who loves them, but never shot the 3" bull myself. I did have a 2" model 85, and it worked great, so I'm sure the 3" is an even better shooter.

February 11, 2013, 03:01 AM
The S&W Model 60 would be my suggestion.

February 11, 2013, 03:51 AM
I used to have an old Charter Arms Undercover with a 3" barrel. I never fired it, and don't believe it had ever been fired, but it was a nice little gun. The tiny grips were about worthless, but that's easy to fix with a set of the neoprene grips that Charter puts on their new guns. It's a five shooter by the way.

However IMHO, it's pretty hard to find a 4", 38 much more compact and lighter than a Smith & Wesson Model 10/M&P with a tapered barrel. This one is an M&P from 1955. The slender tapered barrel makes a big difference from say even a Model 10/64 with a heavy barrel, or a Model 15, or a any of the medium frame .357's.


But a Colt Police Positive would have a slightly smaller frame, I admit.

February 11, 2013, 07:49 AM
I have both a 4" SP101 and a 3" Model 60. I prefer the Model 60, but the SP101 isn't a bad gun at all and I'd buy another if I needed and could find one. I just prefer the J frames.

February 11, 2013, 12:28 PM
Small frame 3" 38 special. Smith and Wesson did produce the M-37 with a 3" barrel, I don't know if they still produce these. If you can find one it may meet your needs.

Best of luck..

February 11, 2013, 01:20 PM
I know how it is, you find one revolver that fit's all your perceptions of just what "your" carry gun is and mothing else will do! You have wants for a duplicate, just a little different but yet still the same.
I'm that way with my S&W Model 36 It's just what my buddy had years ago and when and when I shot it, I fell in love! Here it is about 30 years later & I finally found a Nickled, bobbed Hammer (DAO),Uncle Mikes gripped version for just "ME"!
Now a "J" Framed .3" .357 would also fit your bill, but for quality's sake, I'd stick with the S&W!
Yhat'll narrow your search down and with today's Post Obama Panic, prices will be about 30% higher just cause they can charge it! Don't be shocked.
I think everyone has that "ideal" revolver for many reasons and shying away from this "standard" will only leave you disapointed...

February 12, 2013, 06:28 AM
There was also a 5 inch barrel .357 magnum Model 60 made a few years ago with adjustable sights.
If you are looking for something to target shoot with then that would be a good pick.

February 12, 2013, 07:34 AM
Now a "J" Framed .3" .357 would also fit your bill, but for quality's sake, I'd stick with the S&W!
Um, the five shot S&Ws *are* J Frames.

February 12, 2013, 10:59 AM
Colt Detective Special 3 inch, sure are fine shooters if you don't mind used. I agree with the model 36 round butt as well. My most carried small frame is a SP-101 with a 3 inch barrel.

February 12, 2013, 11:30 AM
Charter Arms Bulldog .38 from the 70's and 80's.

I have a Charter Arms Police Bulldog .38 that dates from the 80s.

It's a 6-shot .38 with a 4" barrel with blued finish.

I stumbled across one in almost mint condition at my LGS for $249, so I grabbed it. Great lockup and shoots fine. It's a very light gun and the frame size is comparable to a Colt Detective Special.


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