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Advantages of the snub nosed revolver?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by The Real Hawkeye, Nov 14, 2006.

  1. I like them. Always have, but I carry a Commander proportioned 1911 auto pistol. Could those of you who carry a snubbie tell me what the advantage of a two inch barrelled revolver is? The only one I can think of is pocket carry, but that's only the case if you have some sort of adaptor to cover the hammer, or cut the hammer spur off. Is there another reason for them?
  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    You are correct in thinking that other then pocket or ankle carry it's hard to justify a snubby. But on the other hand you can carry one that way when anything bigger won't work. They are reasonably powerful if the user is a good enough marksman to place his or her shots under stress. They are reliable as any handgun can be, and if necessary can be fired through a pocket without having to make a draw.

    Under the usual rules of engagement concerning the use of Deadly Force, one cannot draw and fire unless they are themselves attacked. This gives an obvious advantage to the attacker. Because of it's short overall length a snubby can be brought into action quickly and simply pointed as the trigger is pulled. In the real world an instant reaction is critical to survival, and in such an environment the snubby has its place.

    I think your new toy will soon teach you some lessons… ;)
  3. Jim March

    Jim March Well-Known Member

    I would argue that the snubby wheelgun is the dominant type of firearm in fights that happen at a range of 5 feet or less. Definately by the time you're at 3ft or less (grapple range). The snub is difficult to grab away from you, fires with no safety to trip first and unlike most autos cannot go out of battery on muzzle pressure.

    Muzzle contact firing radically increases the ballistic efficiency of even mild loads such as 148gr target wadcutters. The target is first filled with the barrel full of cold air, then the bullet, THEN the hot burning gasses behind the round. ALL of that goes into the target. It ain't pretty. This turns standard pressure 38 into the damage capacity of the best 357s or 45ACPs - or more.

    This is why a LOT of pros who have carried autos as their primary weapons use snubbies as their backup.
  4. Preacherman

    Preacherman Well-Known Member

    Whew! Where to begin! So much to say, so little time . . . :D

    Let me begin by clarifying what I'm talking about. I'd classify a 'snubby' in the classic sense as having both a short barrel (less than 2½") and a small frame (i.e. S&W I- or J-frame, Colt Detective Special/Agent/Cobra, or the various equivalents from other manufacturers). I own and love K-frame S&W's in short-barreled versions, but I wouldn't consider a 2½"-barreled Model 66 a "snubby" in the same sense that I'd consider a Model 642! The larger short-barreled revolvers certainly have their place (I'd consider the 'top of the heap' in .357 Magnum carry revolvers to be a 3" barreled Model 13 or Model 65, with second place going to a 2½" barreled Model 19 or Model 66), but due to their larger size and increased weight, they can't really be considered for pocket or ankle carry.

    So, given my definition of the 'snubby', I'd say it has a whole lot of advantages.

    1. Weight. You can get a snubby in a weight that suits you, from all-steel, through Airweight (aluminum frame), to titanium or scandium alloys. You'll find the lighter weights great for carry, but their recoil is harsher than the steel-frame guns. I know some folks who like to carry full-house .357 Magnum loads, but want the convenient size of a snubby, and don't want to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. For them, the steel-frame snubbies are just about perfect - enough weight to soak up the worst of the recoil, but still small enough for the pocket or ankle. For folks like me, who want light weight for pocket carry and are prepared to accept the higher recoil, an Airweight 442 or 642 is a great choice. (As a personal aside, I injured my back very badly in February 2004. I had to undergo two surgeries, including spinal fusion, and I've been left with some permanent limitations and nerve damage. During my recovery, I couldn't carry on the belt - it hurt too much! On the other hand, twin Airweight J-frames in a shoulder holster combo worked just fine . . . light enough to carry, a gun easily available to either hand, and no reloads to worry about if five rounds weren't enough. Love my Airweights! :D )

    2. Size. A snubby drops into almost any pocket. (If the pockets of your trousers are too short, cut the bottoms open, add an inch or two of material - anything will do, no-one sees inside your pants when you're wearing 'em! - and sew them up again.) It also fits into ankle or shoulder holsters with ease and minimum 'printing'. (If you want to carry on the hip, I'd suggest a larger gun. Since you'll deal with printing and other problems in that location anyway, there's not too much difference between a J-frame and a K-frame, provided a good holster is used.)

    3. Convenience. You're likely to leave a larger gun behind if you have to dress up to wear it. A quick run to the convenience store for a gallon of milk for the kids? Is it worth the hassle of putting on a cover garment, attaching the holster, etc.? Many won't bother . . . and that's dangerous, because you never know when you'll need your gun. A J-frame in a pocket holster drops out of sight, and is always available when you need it.

    4. Reliability. I've owned Kahr and Kel-Tec small pistols (eight at last count), and never, repeat, never got any one of them to pass the two-hundred-round test for reliability (i.e. two hundred rounds of your chosen carry load, through that gun, using those magazines, with zero failures or problems of any kind. One problem, and the test begins again from Round 1.) I insist on a gun passing this test before I'll trust my life to it. Any quality snubby in good condition can pass this test, any day of the week. (To be fair, so can the 'baby Glocks', the 26 and 27, which are almost snubby-size. I carry the latter, too.)

    5. Ease of use. I train disabled and handicapped shooters. Many of them don't have the hand or arm or upper-body strength to shoot a pistol without 'limp-wristing' it, causing feed and extraction problems. One doesn't have this problem with a revolver. (The heavier double-action trigger pull can be a problem for some of them, but an action job can fix this easily - besides, most small semi-auto's also have heavy double-action pulls, and most gunsmiths won't do action jobs on them.) Also, if someone isn't going to train often with their gun, a revolver is dead stone simple. No magazines to fiddle with, one can see in an instant whether the gun's loaded or not (no 'loaded chamber indicators' to worry about), operation is a cinch, etc.

    6. Power of loads. This won't affect most people, but it's nice to know you can get some genuinely effective anti-personnel loads in a snubby. .38 Special +P, .357 Magnum, even .44 Special if you're willing to go to a big snubby like the S&W 296 or 396 - all are effective, much more so than the typical loads in pocket pistols (.22, .25, .32 or .380 ACP). Sure, a pocket pistol in 9mm. or larger caliber will do just as well, if not better . . . but most of the pocket pistols I see are in the smaller calibers. I'd rate the .32 H&R Magnum as ballistically superior to most .32 ACP and .380 ACP loads, and that's the smallest centerfire round you'll find in a snubby!

    7. Aids to shooting well. Most small firearms have lousy sights. Snubbies are no exception. However, there's one accessory that changes all this . . . the Crimson Trace laser grip. They're made for S&W and Taurus snubbies, and IMHO, they're a must-have accessory for these small guns. They make sighting much, much easier, so much so that if you tune the laser, you can take a head-shot with confidence at 25 to 50 yards, if that's what you want to do. I regard them as essential, and have them on my daily-carry snubbies. They're the best thing since sliced bread for these small, deep-concealment firearms . . . and there's nothing, repeat, nothing like them available for small pistols (again, with the exception of the Glock 26 and 27, for which Crimson Trace makes a model of their laser).

    That's my $0.02 worth, anyway. YMMV, as always.
  5. pedaldude

    pedaldude Well-Known Member

    everything seems to have been covered pretty well,

    I think the advantages that the snubby holds over a pocket auto are what have let it survive for so long after the disadvantages that should have made them obsolete especialy now that pocket autos are now getting into .380 and 9mm chamberings.

    I don't plan on producing mine unless the trigger needs to be pulled (and arguably you could still shoot it without anyone seeing it if you are willing to put some holes in your clothes) but a snubby would and has made a pretty decent contact weapon and should still be able to perform it's primary purpose afterwards.

    being able to fire from a pocket or purse/satchel are my main reasons for choosing an enclosed hammer snub. A bonus is that I won't have to worry about shooting 500 rounds of carry ammo as well as seeing what loadings that a certain pistol likes, or finding out how often I need to clean the gun before it starts to be finnicky, I like to shoot alot more than I like to clean also I can always shoot more cheap ammo than expensive.

    Also it's a lot easier with a revolver to save your brass at the range and you don't get distracted by that slide moving back and forth not to mention the occasional case in the face.

    I think it's all a case of horses for courses, a nice auto with a snub on deck seems it should cover most bases.
  6. RyanM

    RyanM Well-Known Member

    A lot of people seem to forget that snubnose revolvers are not particularly small. They aren't the equivalent size and weight to a tiny little .380 pocket auto, not by a long shot. A S&W 642 is 6.4" long, 4.4" tall, 1.3" wide at the cylinder, and 15 oz. empty. A Glock 26/27/33 is 6.4" long, 4.2" tall, 1.2" wide, and around 20 oz. empty. All you gain with a snubnose over a pocket Glock is lower weight and the theoretical ability to miss multiple times from inside a pocket (as long as the cylinder is free to turn), in exchange for having less than half as many shots of lesser power (even if you use a .357 magnum snubby, .40 S&W from a G27 will have better numbers than .357 mag from a 1 7/8" barrel) in a slightly larger package.

    In comparison, an NAA .380 Guardian is only 4.75" x 3.5" x .9" and 19 oz. empty. A Kel-Tec P3AT is 5.2" x 3.5" x .8" and 8.3 oz. empty. Both are far smaller than any modern DA snubnose. Not even close.

    Also, don't be fooled into thinking that you don't need to test fire a revolver just as extensively as an auto. There are just as many things that can go wrong with a wheelgun as a self-shucker. Maybe a part will break, maybe a particular load jumps crimp, maybe the timing's off, or maybe there's a tiny little burr on a part that can prevent the trigger from resetting occasionally (that last one happened to me once). Nothing is foolproof.
  7. AStone

    AStone Well-Known Member

    The attached image is of my snubbie:
    SW 642 with Hogue (full-sized) monogrips
    (replacing the stock 2-finger grips)
    in a Desantis Speed Scabbard.
    (I carry my EDC knife & keys in my pocket.)

    I wear it daily/nightly in my studio.

    (An 870P is just a few feet away.
    If I hear a disturbance, I'll go after it.
    If said disturbance is unannounced,
    I've got Mr. 642, loaded with Speer +P 135 gr gdhp).

    At the range, I can confidently & quickly
    put several rnds into COM at 5 yds,
    let alone 5 ft. (Ain't no thing.)

    It's light (I forget I'm wearing it),
    comfortable, fast, & controllable
    (after I installed those Hogues).

    This time of year, worn under fleece,
    it's quite concealable from visitors.

  8. Jim March

    Jim March Well-Known Member

    You definitely do need to test any carry gun, wheelgun or auto.

    But you don't need to shoot 200 of a given premium load to make sure it feeds correctly.

    The sole partial exception is the ultralight "unobtanium" guns. If your 357Mag weighs less than 20oz or your 38Spl weighs less than 15, yeah, you're going to need to check for "bullet pulling" and you'd best avoid plain lead defensive ammo (the various 158gr lead hollowpoint +Ps come to mind) as lead is slicker than copper.

    But you can establish the facts on bullet yanking with a given load in two cylinders full. Load the cylinder with the test round, shoot all but one, examine the last for any signs of pulling. Simple.

    There are quality loads out there specifically resistant to pulling. Speer's Gold Dot 135gr in both 38+P and "short barrel 357" come to mind.

    With autos you can't be sure any given specimen is going to feed a particular JHP shape, never mind a given make/model.

    My early model Charter Arms Undercover 38 runs 17oz and hasn't yanked a single slug. It's been tested with three different 158gr+P lead loads: Winchester and Remmie hollowpoints, S&B solids. No problems. The only one I'd worry about might be the super-hot BuffBore version and I consider those too much load for this gun anyways.

    The K-Frame gun that started this thread probably runs about 22oz. There is absolutely no way it's going to yank rounds. Period, end of discussion. Yes, you have to test the gun and yes, you should only carry quality ammo for business purposes. But if you do that, you've got something a LOT more reliable than any small auto.
  9. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    I don't have any warm feelings about any small auto. I've had several but they are not easy to slip into a pocket, even the Glock 27.

    The small revo just makes sense, and more importantly will be the one I'll carry rather than hassle around with something bigger. YUMMV
  10. Preacherman

    Preacherman Well-Known Member

    Oddly enough, shooting a snubby from inside a pocket is not something I worry about. Oh, I'd do so if a BG were within contact distance . . . but if I've let him get that close, it's my fault! Basically, you've got minimal accuracy from a pocket, and I think you'd be lucky to hit a man-size target at all at more than a couple of feet away. Also, a pocket holster will keep the butt in the same position all the time, making the draw easier - but it'll also cover the trigger-guard, making a shot from the pocket very difficult, if not impossible.

    I'd rather bank on getting the gun out and using the sights, or a laser dot, to direct my fire.
  11. Hutch

    Hutch Well-Known Member

    The dimensions of the J-frame snubby vs. the G26/27 don't tell the whole story for pocket carry. The fact that the G26 is 1.2 at the muzzle and thru the butt makes it much more uncomfortable to pocket-carry than the 1.3 inch width of the J-frame cylinder. A J-frame just disappears in the pocket. IMHO, none of the other mouse pistols (Bobcat, Kel-Tec, NAA) has the dependability to stake your life on. Gimme my Smith.
  12. 2ndamd

    2ndamd Well-Known Member

    I think Preacherman gave a good account.

    I personally like the Ruger SP101 .357 mag. Dave Spauding has a good article about how the revolver may be the best home defense gun because it is so simple to use that any family memeber can use it.

    I would add to this ease of use that the old and infirmed can be taught to shoot the revolver by using both hand's index fingers. They can also put their support hand thumb behind their strong hand thumb and not have it get hit by the slide. Some weaker arthritic hands need all the support they can get.

    Revolvers rule.....IMHO.
  13. Dr_Kaufman

    Dr_Kaufman Member

    How much length do the hogue grips in nematocyst's post add?
  14. TX1911fan

    TX1911fan Well-Known Member

    Nematocyst's 642 looks huge, so the grips must add quite a bit.

    I carry my 340PD on my hip, outside the waistband. I have other alternatives, but I always go back to the snubbie. It's light, small and easy to conceal. I don't have to buy a size bigger clothes, or wear a jacket when it's 100 degrees. A t-shirt always covers it. If I have to go really concealed, I have IWB holsters, but they just aren't as comfortable.

    If the **** was really hitting the fan (e.g., a Katrina like situation), I'd probably strap on my .45 and have the 340 on my ankle, and be patrolling my front yard with my AR. But for day to day stuff, my snub is great for me.

    I carry it with .38 +P GDHP, made specifically for short barrels (.357 is ridiculous in a Scandium gun). Given that the vast majority of defensive gun uses either (1) occur at less than 5 feet, and (2) never require a shot to be fired, I don't think carrying a snub means I am under prepared.
  15. That's almost exactly, word for word, the line I use on people who tell me my 1911 .45 is not adequate for personal defense because of ammo capacity, and because I don't carry a spare mag with it, i.e., I need a .40 S&W with a high cap mag, and at least one spare to be really ready for a gun fight. :rolleyes:
  16. dasmi

    dasmi Well-Known Member

    Reliable, easy to conceal, and just plain classy.
  17. Confederate

    Confederate Well-Known Member

    I think snubbies are classy. I like mine to be no shorter thant 2.5 inches and find carrying them in an overcoat pocket to be convenient. In the older days cops looked for overcoats that sagged to one side as a way of detecting which people might have concealed weapons. Some of them then bumped into you using their hand to feel for weapons. With cell phones and such these days I don't think they do that as much, but New York cops were notorious for things like that. It still might be a good idea to carry a counterweight in the other pocket if you're going to carry that way.

    Snubbie revolvers also don't have the problem of cycling like autos, so they can be fired through an overcoat without jamming. (With a magnum, however, the blast could probably set you on fire doing so.)

    Revovers with 1-inch barrels don't do much for me. Waste of a good revolver.
  18. CSA 357

    CSA 357 Well-Known Member

    I like s&w snubs as in the k frames 19 66 but there are draw backs to them, i dont like not having a full size ejector rod, when i want the empty cases out of the way, i have never been able to shoot the short barrel guns as well as a 4 inch, but they carry so well round butts and 21/2 barrels look just plain sexy to me! i think the 3 inch k frame with round butt grips would be just about perfect! *csa*
  19. ronto

    ronto Well-Known Member

    I'm adequately armed with 5 rounds of .357 for any situation a CIVILIAN would find themselves in.
  20. sloman

    sloman Well-Known Member

    Funny thing!

    I was thinking today of just this subject and low and behold, there's a posting on it. I've carried everything out there and have had just about every type of handgun, but my everyday carry is still a j frame. Lightweight and dependable. Amen Preacherman! :)

    By the way, who makes a good tuckable holster for the j frame? Any one had an experience with one?

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