The Snub Nose Revolver is Not Dead

Author Doug Gilmer schools us on why there is still a place in the self defense world for the Snub Nose Revolver.

Snub Nose Revolver Text
The Snub Nose Revolver is Not Dead

ammoland-logoU.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- I've carried a snub nose revolver for 25 years, first as a back-up to my duty revolver and now my duty autoloader. I'm not ready to give up on wheel guns. Unlike many younger people in law enforcement who have never held or fired a revolver, I am comfortable with a wheel gun and recognize its versatility, dependability, and carry-ability.

The snub nose revolver is still a good choice for concealed carry, the following are reasons why it should not be written off as dead.

Ruger LCR Snub Nose Revolver
Ruger LCR Snub Nose Revolver

Snub Nose Revolver ~ Concealment

Fobus Ankle Holster : https://goo.gl/lD35c2
Fobus Ankle Holster : https://goo.gl/lD35c2

Early in my law enforcement career I was taught to carry a five-shot revolver in my front pocket. I have yet to find a handgun better designed for this type of concealment.

The fit is natural and a good pocket holster will help keep the gun up right in the pocket and will break up its distinctive outline.

Of course the snub is also right at home on the ankle, tucked in the waistband (using a good ankle holster), on the belt, or elsewhere. It just works wherever and however you decide to carry it.

Snub Nose Revolver ~ Simplicity

There is no complicated manual of arms or immediate action/failure drill with a revolver. If you squeeze the trigger and the gun doesn't fire, simply squeeze the trigger again. No safety, no damaged magazine to rip out and replace and no slide to work. Just aim and keep squeezing the trigger until your desired outcome is achieved. (DRT)

Old school snub nose revolvers.
Old school snub nose revolvers.

Snub Nose Revolver ~ Reliability

It’s not easy to make a revolver malfunction. There is no worry over “limp wristing”, no magazine to malfunction or come unseated, no failures to feed or failures to eject. If the revolver doesn’t function its likely the result of improper ammo, exceptionally poor maintenance, or improperly installed custom parts such as hammers or springs.

In 25 years I’ve never seen or heard of a revolver failing with the result being a good guy losing a gunfight.

Snub Nose Revolver ~ Better Trigger Time

When is the last time you saw someone at the range blowing through five (or six) rounds from a revolver, dumping the empties, recharging the gun, and repeating the process over and over. Unless you were watching Jerry Miculek chances are you haven't.

I often watch shooters with their high capacity magazine fed autoloader blow through 50 rounds in no time and still not make good hits on the target. The revolver slows us down and makes us focus on what we are doing wrong and allows us the time to correct our mistakes. Revolver shooters don't have the “luxury” of high capacity. Sight alignment, sight picture, proper grip and the right amount of finger on the trigger are all critical.

Don’t buy the argument snub nose revolvers are not accurate. “Accuracy” issues are typically shooter incurred issues. My snub nose qualification course requires shooting out to 25 yards. With practice, this is no problem.

Four snubs or Snub Nose Revolvers
Four snubs

Snub Nose Revolver ~ Power Factor

While the snub nose revolver is generally thought of as a 38 Special or 357 Magnum, they offer greater diversity. Depending on one’s shooting ability and need for power, a snub nose can be had in 22 LR to 500 Smith & Wesson. The upper size limit for discreet, concealed carry ends with the potent and popular 44 Special and chambered in five-shot revolvers such as the Charter Arms Bulldog. The smaller the cartridge, typically the more rounds the gun will hold in its cylinder. If a 5-shot 38 Special is too much to handle, maybe a seven shot 22 Magnum, a snub nose cartridge idea championed by none other then famed lawman Bill Jordan, will work for you.

The upper size limit for discreet, concealed carry ends with the potent and popular 44 Special and chambered in five-shot revolvers such as the Charter Arms Bulldog Snub Nose Revolver.
The upper size limit for discreet, concealed carry ends with the potent and popular 44 Special and chambered in five-shot revolvers such as the Charter Arms Bulldog Snub Nose Revolver .

Snub Nose Revolver ~ You Wont’ Leave it at Home

Tuff Quickstrip Orange 6 Round .38/.357 Caliber
Tuff Quickstrip Orange 6 Round .38/.357 Caliber : https://goo.gl/IGkdBr

The first rule of a gunfight is, have a gun. Any gun beats no gun. Unlike with your full size, 16+ round master blaster, when there is no good concealment option you won’t be tempted to leave the snub nose at home. It can simply go with you anywhere and anytime you are legal, fulfilling the #1 rule of a gun fight.

Limited ammo capacity is a chief complaint of the snub revolver. Most compact, snub nose revolvers in service calibers (38 Special, 357 Magnum, 44 Special) hold five or maybe six shots. I always carry reloads, at least two speed strips or speed loaders or combination of both.

Tuff is now making eight-round Quick Strips for the 38/357, appealing to owners of larger N-frame Smith and Wesson revolvers, but they work great for the five-shot snub as well.

Carrying two eight-round speed strips gives one 16 extra rounds or over three full reloads for a five-shot revolver. If its an option, the classic “New York” reload (carrying two revolvers) works well and is the fastest option.

Smith & Wesson 640 Pro Snub Nose Revolver
Smith & Wesson 640 Pro Snub Nose Revolver

The snub nose revolver isn’t the primary gun you want if you are raiding drug houses, or taking down a terrorist cell, these however, are not tasks encountered by everyday citizens much less all but the most highly trained professionals. As a civilian, concealed carry is for personal defense in a pinch and the snub nose fits this role well. For law enforcement officers, the snub nosed revolver is a great solution for a back-up gun in high stress situations or off duty use. No matter who you are, the snub nose is a good, reliable solution.

Colt Cobra Snub Nose Revolver
The New Colt Cobra Snub Nose Revolver

About Doug Gilmer:

Doug Gilmer is a law enforcement and military veteran with over 25 years. With experience and assignments operating throughout the United States and around the world in a variety of investigative, protective, tactical and direct action roles. He is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fly-fishing, hunting with a handgun. As well as backcountry adventures, and volunteering with various outdoor themed wounded warrior events. He has been a frequent contributor to outdoor media. For for several years with numerous articles and photos published in a number of media channels. He is a member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association as well as a former board member and executive officer.

  • 27 thoughts on “The Snub Nose Revolver is Not Dead

    1. This type of handgun and caliber has been promoted by top defense shooters for CC use for many years to include Mass Ayoob. It is fast, a dumb gun and very effective, especially with today’s ammo like G2 Research! If it is for self defense the key is not to shoot and try to get out of the mess, if you must shoot and your life is in immediate danger (enemy is close) a couple of shots should do it, much more and you are in trouble unless you are a cop. If you need a high-cap semi and extra magazines for concealed carry you are in the wrong gun fight and why are you there (that’s sarcasm for the trolls).

      1. No one ever came out of a gunfight saying that they had too much ammo. I do like my revolvers though, and regularly carry one around the house. In this day of terrorist attacks and crazy spree shooters, it’s prudent to have something with plenty of ammo in it.

    2. Great article making all the points that caused me to add a snubby to my carry rotation. I did go with a Charter Arms Pitbull in 9mm Luger because it is so very easily available and has a large selection of ammo types. I did have to relearn some technique but found it easy to adapt especially if you learn to COUNT YOUR SHOTS! I use six-round quick-strips and worked out reloading with lots of drills using snap-caps.

    3. There are good Snub Nose Revolvers around and anyone of them is good for concealed carry and personal defense. One I heard of is the Colt Magnum Carry, a .38/.357 Revolver, action is very smooth, six shot cylinder and very hard to find now. The new Colt Snub Cobra comes very close to The Magnum Carry. I go by the rule: “Colt made the FIRST REVOLVER and has only gotten better since.”. Some other revolvers are more affordable but the old rule applies: “You get what you pay for” – some very little sights, five shots, rough trigger, etc. Do your research and try to shoot some at a Shooting Range to find one that fits you and you can handle well.

        1. Wild Bill, I think you and I are reading from the same books and know the same information. I just remember the FIRST RULE OF FIGHTING: It does not matter what you carry or how you carry it to defend yourself, KNOW WHAT TO DO AND DO IT WELL. THE SECOND RULE: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE (Old saying: I would never like to fight a person that knew only one kick and had practiced it 10,000 times, unlike a person that knew 1,000 kicks and had only practiced them 10 times.). Have a good day Wild Bill.

            1. Wild Bill, Looked up some Youtube segments on the new Colt Cobra .38 special and it seemed to be very good. Maybe you would like to take a look also and then tell me what you think. Why it was not made to also shoot .357 Magnums is a question only Colt knows. By having more than one type of ammunition the versatility and use would be enhanced. Anyway have a good day Wild Bill.

    4. Doug: Where were you a police officer; Mayberry? First of all, one NEVER carries ANY handgun in ANY pocket if you want to stay alive. You need a stable platform to draw your weapon from (read: secured- not pocket- holster) instead of fishing around in a pocket. Secondly, ANY 22 caliber weapon (along with the 25 ACP) is WORTHLESS for self defense purposes; ‘famed lawman’ endorsement aside. Finally, a revolver will malfunction if the ejector rides over the rim of a cartridge (which has nothing to do with ammo, maintenance, or springs). You can clear same with a ball point pen if you carry a pen that will fit through the cylinder of the revolver you carry.

      1. @Clark Kent, Now just settle down. I was never a police officer, but I can quite handily shoot my snobby and my Walther from out of my coat pocket. Short distance, of course, but no malfunctions, and it has the advantage of your opponent not seeing that you have a pistol pointed at him. I never said anything about .22 caliber. I have a stable platform.
        I don’t much care about the techniques that your agency limited you to. And I don’t much care about your opinion of my techniques. You do what you want. I will do what I want.

        1. Dude, switch to decaf before you stroke out.
          I believe the author was referring to carrying a backup in his pocket. That’s not really ideal, but it works, and a lot of people, LEOs and not, do that.
          I carried a backup in my pocket for years, and in the wintertime I often carried my primary (a 3-inch Ruger) in the pocket of my heavy coat, so I could zip it up and not freeze to death, and still have a gun handy. A colleague of mine used to regularly practice shooting his 638 through his pocket. He used an old windbreaker, and he advised me that it was best to wear a leather glove on your off hand so you could put out the flame when the jacket caught fire. He and I worked in a large city with a lot of crime, and we’re both still here.
          I’ve heard of the rim-under-the-star malfunction, but I’ve never seen one in over 40 years of shooting revolvers. I have seen ejector rods back out enough to prevent opening the action. (I don’t think the star-rim thing counts as a malfunction, since you can’t close the action when it happens. I think of a malfunction as something that happens while the gun is in use, if you follow me.)

      2. @Clark Kent, Ooops. It appears that I owe you an apology. I thought that you were writing to me. I was rude, and I regret it.

    5. I carry a Sig P225 A-1 9mm, and as a back up gun a Kimber K6S, 357 magnum, and have several other guns in my EDC Rotation, there will always be a place for revolvers in my life, the snuby’s are really a great way to go, first and foremost they are reliable, and easy to carry, an with practice you can hit your target with ease, my small gun revolvers are from Kimber , Ruger, and Smith & Wesson, and at some point I will get the Charter Arms Bull dog 44 special..

    6. Well Mr. Clark Kent….or should I address you as Superman? Why would it matter where Doug was a LEO? They have crime in Mayberry too. I would have to disagree with you regarding pocket carry! If I’m carrying my shrouded hammer revolver in my jacket pocket… I do NOT need to draw it to get it into use. I can shoot the bad guy right thru my pocket while they’re drawing their firearm, I will probably already have a couple of rounds into them before they can get it out. And, if they already have theirs out I get the element of surprise working for me. Also, your claim that .22 and .25ACP are, in your words, WORTHLESS for self defense is pure hyperbole. Shot placement is what wins gun fights, NOT the AMOUNT and SIZE of the rounds you’re sending the other way!! One well placed shot to the forehead trumps 5+ missed shots from a big bore….and that’s a documented fact. We’re all not SUPERMAN like yourself, so we need to defend ourselves in a way that we are comfortable with.

    7. Good article . Gave lots to think about . One of my best friends , a police officer and former marine , carry’s a wheel gun as his primary and he is teased by the young bucks on the force . Maybe old Billy knows something they don’t . Think I’m going back to my Colt Cobra .

        1. Street Glyder, I think Michael DeLacey may have been talking about Ruger LCRx or Redhawk in .357 Magnum Revolver flavor. Both will serve you well into the future.

    8. One out of 3 of my handgun projects that come through the doors are revolvers. I see everything from grandpa’s old police positives to modern alloy frame units. They will always have a place. A word to the wise, they are not as strong as people think they are. You drop a revolver you can do as much if not more damage to it then a semi-auto pistol. Most the time they can be fixed, but don’t be fooled into thinking they never need checking or to be adjusted.
      BTW, I really like them and believe every one should have two or three or more………..
      Lynn
      L&L Gunsmithing LLC

    9. Having read the article (most of which I agree with), and all of the comments to date…here’s my stand. My CC is a Colt 1911 Government, and my backup is one not mentioned above, a Taurus 605. Most importantly, as others have said, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I’m good out to 25 yards with my 1911 (that’s the most distance at my local range) and out to 15 yards with the Taurus. Anything further than that, I should have brought my rifle. YMMV

      1. Good for you Paladin, I see that you have invested the time and practice to take care of yourself. It does not really matter what you carry to defend yourself with it’s the ability to shoot well, hit the intended target, and lastly the WILL TO DEFEND YOURSELF IF EVER NEEDED. I can tell from your post above that you have learned your lessons well.

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