The Wonderful Little S&W Snubby!

WE have two preferences for an ideal concealed carry handgun: The original Colt Commander Model (alloy frame, lightweight) in .45 ACP, and any one of the little Smith and Wesson .38 Special 5-shot snubbies.
Our preference would be for the little Centennial Model, that S&W reintroduced not long ago.

“What’s wrong with us,” one might ask. “Are we not aware that the little 5-shot revolvers can be had in the more potent .357 caliber? Why go with the .38 Special when that wallop-packing .357 can be had?”

We’ll be happy to explain.

One carries a 5-shot snubby for close range, very quick reaction defensive shooting. At close quarters combat distances (usually five feet or less; always within 20 feet) the .38 Special round will do its job if you do yours (that is, place the rounds where they belong). Modern +P and +P+ .38 Special hollow point bullets are very formidable when properly placed.

Our personal opinion is that the .357 round is a very poor choice for a two-inch barrel snubby. First, because the controllability of the .357 in a two-inch snubby is horrendous. (The kick of a snubby firing .38 Special ammunition can be stiff enough.) Second, because the actual ballistic performance of a .357 round fired from a two-inch barrel is not that different from the performance of the .38 Special +P. And using good combat point shooting, you’d likely be able to place a two-shot burst of rounds with the .38 Special before you could get that second round off with the .357. The .357 gives its excellent performance from a six or four inch barrel. That performance is affected significantly when the barrel is only two inches. If you absolutely insist on carrying a .357 when you need maximum concealment then we’d recommend finding one of the three inch barreled S&W Model 13’s or 65’s. These round butt revolvers at least offer a three inch barrel and more heft with which to assist in managing the weapon’s kick.

But back to the little .38 Special snubbies.

Alloy frame snubbies are very comfortable to carry. In .357 caliber a snobby would not be so pleasant to fire. We think an alloy framed .357 two-inch barrel snubby would be a very poor choice. You make your own decisions . . . but please keep in mind the circumstances under which you will be employing that weapon.

“Well, alloy framed .38 Special snubbies offer pretty stiff recoil, too. Besides, if you fire +P’s or +P+ ammo in them you’ll wear out the gun.

First, the .38 Special round fired from a two-inch barrel snubby ––– stiff as the kick may be ––– is not as stiff as that of the .357 round. Second, we believe that idea that you’ll “wear out your revolver” if you fire +P’s in it when the weapon has an alloy frame, is nonsense. (Besides, what’s more important to you ––– your life or your revolver’s?)

In any case, consider this:

Some time back the NYPD Firearms Unit conducted a torture test on a Smith and Wesson alloy framed .38 Special snubby. Five thousand rounds were fired through the little revolver and no damage whatever was observed to have been done to the weapon. Our suggestion: Use light loads when training, but fire at least 20 or 25 of the hot +P’s so that you get the feel of it. Then carry the hot loads for business. Your alloy framed revolver will last forever.

Remember also that the all carbon or stainless steel snubbies are very comfortable to carry constantly. They are light, and the recoil you feel with them is somewhat less than it is with the lightweight (alloy) framed models.

We may be accused by some of being old fashioned when we advocate some of these “weapons of yore” as it were. That’s fine with us.

Remember please that “newer” does not always or necessarily mean “better”.

Those little five shot snub-nosed revolvers have been around ––– and have always remained popular ––– for many, many years. No, they do not “dominate open competition”, and, whenever feasible and comfortable, we agree that it would be best to carry a full-size combat revolver or semi-automatic pistol. Yet, when the choice is to go armed with a powerful, reliable .38 Special snubby or be unarmed, because you can’t wear your customary .357 or .45 full-sized weapon, it would seem that wisdom lies in opting for the snubby.

P.S. The .38 Special round is an excellent one. It is a perfected cartridge, and certainly provides a great deal of punch . . . despite what some of the “experts” say. We have never found a detractor of the .38 Special who would permit us to shoot him with the round. Master your weapon. When you are able to employ your point shooting well with your handgun ––– and if your handgun is a .38 Special snubby ––– you’re set.