Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why a snub nose revolver for a novel shooter?

Anyone that knows a bit about guns knows that a 2” revolver is probably the hardest handgun to master.
There’s significant muzzle blast, and frankly, its VERY hard to shoot accurately at medium-long ranges.

S&W Model 12 38 Special.
Works? Sure. Are there better defensive handguns? Absolutely.

My logic behind recommending such a gun is the following:

1)Even though revolvers can take less abuse than autos, and they are mechanically more complex, their operation is more simple. Loaded cylinder, pull the trigger and it fires. No safeties or empty chambers.

2)The short barrel gives you less sight radius, but it also leaves less grabbing surface to take the weapon away from the victim.

3)No problems regarding failure to feed or extract. A trained person may solve this in less than a second without even thinking, but an inexperienced shooter wont have this training, and just keep pulling the trigger.

4) Sure, not nearly as accurate as a Glock, specially when shooting fast and at greater ranges, but this inexperienced person will sure use it as a true last resort, likely when the attacker closes in and the range will be extremely close, even contact range.

Capacity? 5 or 6 rounds. In my opinion, not enough to keep up with the weaponry found around these days, but plenty for a basic self defense situation.
Power? 38 Special inst exactly a dragon slayer, but its something an elderly lady can handle. Most people find 9mm easier to shoot, yet again in self defense shooting people don’t feel much recoil when under such stress.
Its surely not the weapon I’d recommend to anyone that will take the required training to truly be a capable firearm operator, but it is what I’d recommend to a person that wants to be armed, but for some reason wont be training the amount needed to stay proficient with a Glock.
About Glocks vs all other handguns. Maybe 10 years or 20 years from now there’s going to be a better weapon. Today its impossible to find one that performs better when you take all variables into account.
A good buddy of mine and die hard 1911 fan finally ended up with a Glock when an instructor he respected told him that if the Glock didn’t “feel” as good as his fancy 1911, then he should adapt to the Glock. The Glock is worth the effort. :-)



cryptical said...

Hi, great post. A lot of folks carry a snubby as a backup gun, the S&W 642 is a favorite.

For ammo in a snub you'll want to look for either LSWC (lead semi-wadcutter) or Speer makes some Gold Dot 135 grain especially for snubnose pistols. Because of the short barrel most rounds don't develop enough speed to open up the hollowpoints on contact.

Don Williams said...

1) I think accuracy in shooting is highly important -- the brain is a small target and so is the heart and pelvic region. Anyplace else and the attacker may take a minute or so to stop --which is a very long time if he is cutting on your abdomen with a knife.

2) Some people have problems shooting the 38 snubnoses accurately. Squeezing the heck out of the grip while working to make the trigger finger working independently can help. Depending upon the person, they may want to look at special, fatter grips. Also, the Colt Detective Special has 6 shots vice the Smith and Wesson 5 shot Chiefs Special and the front sight seems a little fatter to me.

3) Something that can get people in trouble with the Colt 45 automatic is believing the stories about its high reliability.

The old MILITARY 1911 45s are usually very reliable --because they were made that way. They rattle when you shake them because of loose tolerances which ensure build up of gun powder residue and dirt won't stop the slide.

4) To pander to civilians however, Colt started making 1911s with much tighter tolerances to get slightly better accuracy -- the Series 70s, the Series 80s, the Gold Cup target model,etc. In my experience, at least some of those models can jam easily if shot 50 times or so and not cleaned.

The Series 70 can usually be fixed by replacing the spring loaded collet bushing (at the front of the barrel with the older, solid ring and by sanding down the barrel to get a looser fit. Sanding the rails on the frame and the bottom of the slide to get a looser fit there can also help. Probably best to have a knowledgable gunsmith do this. Groups may open up a bit but the gun will be more reliable, in my opinion. Of course, you should not trust any gun for self defense unless you have put a few hundred rounds through it without problems.

parabarbarian said...

Get a set of Crimson Trace grips. I was amazed at the difference they make in accuracy. Combine that with the 125 gr low antimony nyclads from Federal and you might be very surpised at what a snubby can do.

Anonymous said...

I learned the value of a Glock at Front Sight - brought my HK USP .45 and Glock 30 and alternated during my two day handgun class. No comparison!!! Glock all the way!!! Now my main firearms are a Glock 21 and 30.

Anonymous said...

Not a glock fanboy. Get a gun that feels good in your hand, and learn how to use it. I never heard of a self-defense shooting that required more than 10 rounds, though I suppose it is possible.

I sometimes carry an old Smith .38 special with 158 grain lead round nose bullets, and don't feel undergunned. That combination was a cop setup for decades.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with a snub nose .38

Those who believe thay'll be engaging targets with 15 rounds at 25 yards are living in dreamland. Even if you win the fight, you'll lose in the court room trying to argue that lethal force was justified at that distance.

Less than 15 feet and 3 rounds is HIGHLY more likely. And anyone who can't center-mass at 15 feet might as well turn that gun on hiself and stop wasting everyone else's time.

What's called for is a simple, reliable, accessible hand gun. My 686+ holds seven. I only need two.


Greg in CA said...

Glock pistols have some strong design advantages buyers should know:

1) Safety in trigger. Saves precious seconds when needed remembering where safety is, checking on/off, pressing/pulling switch, etc.

2) Smooth shape has no sharp edges (sights, slide grips, hammers, finger grooves, etc) to snag clothing when time is valuable.

3) Simple design. Disassembles in seconds into 4 parts for cleaning, unlike many other guns that have a dozen or more separate parts to clean.

4) Unbeaten durability. No other pistol has proven itself as well in lab tests along with years of service with police. Fewer parts & wider tolerances.

5) Polymer body (plastic) saves weight. Others use this now but Glock was the first & has the most experience with polymer blends, formulating for rigidity versus flexibility, integrating steel rails for the slide, etc.

6) 'Tenifer' metallic finish. Makes Glocks exceptionally tough & resistant to corrosion from powder, hands, salt air, etc.

Obviously pistol choice is personal, but newbies should know the facts before purchasing.

Ryan said...

They are not bad guns. Beat the heck out of a right hook or a can of make.

KeithC said...

An addition to the "plus" column is the psychology of non-shooters. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS MENTALITY but I *have* run into it enough to acknowledge that it's out there. Semi-auto pistols hold some sort of bizarre, mystical "scary factor" whereas a "cop gun" like a .38 revolver seems to be met with borderline nostalgic acceptance. TV cops and detectives carry them so they *must* be "good guy weapons".

As I said, I don't get it but I've seen it. I have introduced new shooters who would literally hold a G19 at arms' length like a dirty diaper but would listen and learn on a S&W M60. And if that's what it takes to get them to wake the hell up and have *some*thing beyond harsh words, 9-1-1 and a bat, so be it.

As you said, there are better choices but the best choice is having and learning to use any gun at all.

Idahoser said...

If you care about someone and you want them to be armed, but they're just not "gun nuts", then you are doing them a dis-service recommending a semi-auto for them. People who like guns can and should use semi autos. People who just want a gun should stick to revolvers. Not that a person who likes guns should shun the revolver- but you know why you're making the choices, you've done the research and practice and study and think about such things. Your wife does not. Get her a revolver, and if the day comes she needs to shoot someone, she may get the job done. With a semi, she is more likely to fumble, or leave the safety on, or eject the magazine, or fail to fix a jam, or any number of things that wouldn't bother us he-man gun nuts. She just... wants... a gun.

Anonymous said...

One day I think I know which gun to get, other days I'm not so sure.

I already have a .38 Special, so a 357 mag revolver makes some sense.

The Ruger 357 mag seems like it has the Sig357 beat in terms of reputation, ballistics, and conceal ability, especially after reading this article:


But Ferfal has, "done that, been there" and the multiple shots in a hi-capacity magazine makes sense too.

The stats from the past (of criminal behavior and armed encounters) are no indication of what things will be like in the future.

What's the maximum number of guns you would carry? A .380 in a leg holster, a .38 Special in a belt holster, and a Glock under one arm and a 357 mag under the other arm? Heh, little too much?

Have you tried the Sig Sauer 357? I saw a reference here putting down German guns, was this the gun that was meant by that comment? I haven't read anything bad about the gun and view it as equal to the Glock, is that wrong?

If only I could open carry my AK, or even my shotgun, but then I'd want to hang grenades off the ends of my bicycle’s handlebars like I heard an old man did in Eastern Europe in the old old days, nobody would mess with you then, eh?

Greg in CA said...

Agree that revolvers a better choice of pistol for many beginners than semi-auto's.

A friend recently asked me to help him buy a pistol & teach him to shoot it recently. I talked him into a Glock, & he picked the .45 caliber since he is a large guy whose hand fit that large gun.

Anyway, my friend is large, smart (attorney) & muscular (lifts weights) but calls himself 'mechanically illiterate'. On our first shoot he loaded bullets into the magazine backwards, then asked me why they didn't fit. He didn't adjust his earplugs so his ears rang for 3 days. The target clip on a returning cable at the range hit him in the forehead when he didn't move out of its swing path.

He's gotten better, but for people like this a revolver may be a better choice since they can see how the bullets load and cycle through. Easier to load bullets into the cylinder than pressing down on the mag spring of an automatic. Revolver chambers are always loaded, so no pulling a slide to load or clear, which often mystifies beginners. Smaller barrels are easier to handle, etc.