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Posted on September 16, 2019 by in Training

Are Snubnose Revolvers Viable for Concealed Carriers?

Are Snubnose Revolvers Viable for Concealed Carriers?

If you conceal carry, you should, by very definition, be looking for viable defensive firearm options.

The typical small-framed short-barrel revolver – sometimes referred to as a snubby – has a short sight radius. The sights are often disparaged as vestigial. Snubnose revolvers come with a five to six-shot capacity, and a heavy double-action trigger pull. For most people, they have an uncomfortable recoil when used with 38 Special Plus P or .357 Magnum ammunition.

Snubbys are marketed as the perfect defensive handguns for novice female shooters. These pistols are relatively lightweight and “feel good in the hand” in a gun shop, even though they can be uncomfortable to use.

Why Would a Concealed Carrier Buy a Snubnose Revolver?

The small-framed, short-barreled revolver is growing in popularity as a viable defensive firearm for certain situations. These situations might include lounging around the house, doing yard work, performing a quick errand in an area where crime is low, or for commercial air travel, when someone wants to don a loaded handgun (in the restroom, for example) before exiting the terminal. That being said, I’m not a big fan of handling a semi-automatic pistol while sitting on the toilet!

As always, concealed carriers should be familiar with state and federal rules governing concealed carry. Snubnoses might also be an acceptable choice when dressing for hot weather, and concealing a larger handgun and magazine pouches proves challenging.

Do the positives of snubnose revolvers for concealed carriers outweigh the negatives – especially when our lives are on the line? I think the answer is yes, but only if concealed carriers understand the limitations associated with a firearm that doesn’t hold much ammunition. Keep in mind snubnose revolvers are slow to reload, and require a reasonable skill level to effectively fire from more than a distance of a few yards. For me, to make a snubby work, a gun owner will need to invest time in firearm education and training, and get lots of practice in with their short-barreled revolver.

Snubnose Revolver Education

First, learn to shoot a bigger handgun reasonably well. Then transition to a snubby. While I believe a medium-frame revolver would be best, a larger semi-automatic pistol will work too.

Regardless, the concealed carrier will benefit by learning the critical fundamentals necessary for placing rounds on target. These fundamentals include grip, sight picture and alignment, trigger management, follow-through, trigger reset and sight realignment (with a larger handgun).

Research how to set a snubby up properly. This setup might include an action job, where a gunsmith carefully polishes internal components, and perhaps installs a slightly lighter hammer spring and trigger return spring. A gunsmith can also enhance the visibility of the front sight (with a dab of bright automotive enamel paint, for example).

Choose ammunition that functions consistently (ignites primers) and is capable of performing reasonably well without subjecting the shooter to a heavy recoil. Also, select ammunition that shoots to the point of aim of the handgun. Fast, lighter bullets may hit low and slower. Heavier bullets may hit high. It’s difficult to predict how a particular snubby may shoot a bullet. The best way to confirm bullet performance is to test your gun out.

Consider picking ammunition that can reliably penetrate 12 or more inches of calibrated ballistic gelatin, covered with several layers of denim (simulating clothing). Use hollow-point bullets that have a reputation for expanding, or lead bullets (wadcutters or semi-wadcutters). Wadcutters will likely not expand, but they tend to be more effective in stopping threats than a solid round-nose bullet.

Concealed carriers should research holsters and reloading devices like Speed Strips or Speedloaders to determine what works best for them. I use a JM Kydex appendix holster, as well as a DeSantis pocket holster for my Smith & Wesson 442 .38 Special. I typically carry two Speed Strips holding a total of 10 rounds in my front left pocket.

Training with a Snubnose Revolver

An 8-16-hour training course, performed under the watchful eye of a qualified instructor who knows how to run a snubby and is skilled in instructing others on how to use this kind of firearm, will teach students the nuances of operating a short barrel revolver.

A good trainer will run students through lots of drills, and with any luck will test trainees on their ability to deploy these weapons. Students need to know how to handle situations where no other options remain viable except the threat of lethal force or the actual use of force.

Practicing with a Snubnose

CCW Safe members are part of a relatively small sub-set of concealed carriers willing to put in the effort, time and money to prepare for life-threatening situations and scenarios. After training on the range with a larger pistol, get your snubby ready, then carefully put 10-15 rounds downrange, focusing on everything we’ve discussed here today.

When I practice with a snubnose, I shoot lots of one-shot drills. If I’m not putting those rounds where they need to be, I work on one-shot drills until I’m where I think I need to be. A sloppy first hit or complete miss doesn’t mean much on the range, but in the real world, it can kill you.

Are snubnose revolvers a viable defensive tool for concealed carriers? For many concealed carriers willing to put in the time and effort to shoot one competently – and who are aware of their limitations – they are. Like any firearm, training, preparation and familiarity with your weapon is key.

Knowledgeable instructors I can recommend who teach snubnose techniques include Greg Ellifritz, Darryl Bolke, Wayne Dobbs, Hany Mahmoud, Chuck Haggard, Massad Ayoob, Claude Werner, Michael de Bethencort, Grant Cunningham and Tom Givens.

Steve Moses

Steve is a long-time defensive weapons instructor based out of Texas who has trained hundreds of men and women of all ages for more than two decades on how to better prepare to defend themselves and their loved ones. Steve has completed over 80 private-sector and law enforcement-only defensive weapons and tactics classes, and has trained civilian and law-enforcement officers in six states. Moses is a reserve deputy, former member of a multi-precinct Special Response Team, competitive shooter, and martial artist. Steve has written numerous articles for SWAT Magazine and other publications. Steve is a licensed Texas Level 4 Personal Security Officer and Instructor who was Shift Lead on a mega-church security detail for seven years, and has provided close protection for several former foreign Heads of State. He is currently an instructor at Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Krav Maga in Tyler, Texas and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group (