Snubnose Revolvers – The Golden Age Is Right Now

Alien Gear's Sam Hoober makes the case that there's no time like the present for snubnose revolvers or wheelguns and the people who carry them.

Handgun Revolver Cylinder Wheelgun
Snubnose Revolvers – The Golden Age Is Right Now
Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober

U.S.A.-( Obviously there's a glut of polymer-framed striker guns on the market, but what some people might not appreciate is there are also a great number of really good snubnose revolvers around as well.

Given the march of time, advances in materials and also design, a person might even dare to say that right now is the golden age for snubbies in terms of what you can put in a revolver holster these days.

There's a fantastic selection out there to fit any budget or desire, and new models coming to market with regularity with more innovative features that could not have been envisioned when the snubbie revolver was first popularized.

Not Your Father's Concealed Carry Revolver

The Golden Age Of Snubnose Revolvers
The Golden Age Of Snubnose Revolvers

The concealed carry revolver used to be 5 or 6 shots of .38 Special – .32 in some models or even .22 Short for some vest pocket guns of the late 19th Century – with a 1.8-inch to 2-inch barrel, blued steel or nickel, wood grips and that was about it for some time. Smith and Wesson's J-frame was quick to introduce some innovations, such as DAO or shrouded hammers as well as lighter-weight alloys such as aluminum or titanium.

There are few pistols easier to learn than a double-action revolver and with good carry ammunition, a .38 Special snubbie was almost all the gun most people would need everyday carry and arguably it still is.

But today's snubbie handgun has SO many more available features compared to yesterday's models. Unless a person has totally swore off revolvers, there is a snubnose to fit almost any and every sensibility and budget, from bargain-basement guns that will go “bang” with every trigger pull and little else to 21st Century wheelguns that would have been unimaginable even 20 years ago.

The Snubnose Revolver Of Today

The snubnose revolver of today is a far more diverse breed than ever before. Chamberings have broadly remained the same, and there are certainly plenty of Plain Jane models in blue steel carrying 5 of .38 Special +P are out there. There are also .357 Magnum models as well.

However, caliber selection has also expanded to include .32 H&R and .327 Federal magnums, the latter being capable of near .357 Magnum performance with less recoil.

Blue steel and lighter alloys abound as well, but the dawn of the 21st Century has introduced polymers into the mix, as polymer-framed revolvers such as Smith and Wesson's M&P Bodyguard 38, the Taurus Poly Protector, and the Ruger LCR and LCRx.

Ruger LCR with Crimson Trace LG-415G Lasergrips
Ruger LCR with Crimson Trace LG-415G Lasergrips

Blade front sights and trench rear sights have given way to fiber optics, tritium night sights and Crimson Trace lasers.

Such is the enduring popularity of the snubnose revolver in the concealed carry market that Colt saw fit to revive the Cobra with modern appointments. Kimber designed and released the K6s, one of the most attractive and easy shooting compact magnums on the market.

Really, a person who wants a CCW revolver has an embarrassment of riches for choice. Desired features and price tag is really all a person has to settle, as there are snubnose revolvers to fit any budget. Bargain-basement revolvers from Taurus, EAA and Rock Island Armory/Armscor are out there for a relative pittance to the $1,000+ range for Kimbers, Korth revolvers and some of S&W's more exclusive offerings.

It really is the golden age of snub revolvers.

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.

  • 31 thoughts on “Snubnose Revolvers – The Golden Age Is Right Now

    1. While semi-autos can be very reliable under ideal conditions, a quick, improper grip is all it takes for a malfunction. Revolvers rarely fail to fire and some can carry more than the usual 5 – 6 rds. I’m comfortable with a revolver, but prefer .44 Spl to .38. I carry speed strips and / or speed loaders. You are responsible for every shot you fire; concentrate on “HITS”. Don’t fire unless you are positive of a hit on your intended / identified target. Practice with equipment you carry including reloading devices and holsters. Know the law.

    2. I prefer the 3-inch, round-butt K Frame in .38 spl. they can take +P without discomfort and have better sight radius. I would be first in line if S&W came back out with the 9mm in that configuration that they made for the French and Israeli police.

    3. I had a S&W .357 snub nose for all of two weeks. I’m 6’3″, 275 lbs and have large hands. I’m no “wimp”, but I found the gun to be too punishing to my hand to consider keeping. I figured if after 6 rounds of. 357 magnum I couldn’t feel my hand, how was I going to practice with it so I could become proficient with it. So, I took it to Cabelas and traded it in on a Springfield XD .45ACP. I must admit though, I have a S&W 38 special snub nose in my queue at So, I am not completely out of the market for a good snub nose.

      1. @Austin Richards, Why didn’t you just buy some lower power ammunition. You could have just shot .38 wadcutters out of your S&W .357; and then for carry, loaded it with .38 special.

        1. @Wild Bill, Unfortunately, I had the same thought about 10 minutes after I left the store. Definitely not one of my proudest moments.

        2. And .357 in a snub is a waste anyway. The short barrel does not allow for the bullet to attain any significant velocity increase that the .357 has over a .38. Mostly you have just a huge muzzle flash from the “unused” powder that hadn’t burned in the barrel and just burns in a flash at the muzzle. That extra flashing powder does not increase the velocity of the bullet one bit. It just goes up in fire and smoke. It looks cool but that’s about it. Longer barrel makes a huge difference with the .357. Stick with .38 or even .38 +p in a snubby. Leave your .357 for your 6 or 8 inch barrels.

          1. Why would the gun kick harder with a .357 than a .38? I have a SP101 that shoots .357 a lot harder than .38s. Will keep my SP101. I am 5’6,” weigh 145 lbs, 79 years old and am comfortable with it.

    4. I carry a semi-auto as my main weapon but also carry a S&W titanium air weight 38 as a back up. If my first line of defense fails you can find it on the ground as old reliable takes up the fight. The performance of modern semi-auto pistols is amazing. There is just something comforting about a good old wheel gun.

      1. @Chuckbone, I think that is a great idea. No one is going to agree with this idea that I have been kicking around in my head, or even like the idea, but here it is. Many people have a semi-auto as a primary weapon, and a small revolver as a back up gun (hereinafter: bug). I am thinking that that is backward.
        If you use a semi-auto as a primary, you will be picking up evidence until the police arrive. If you use your revolver first, you might have an opportunity to get away unidentified, and having left no embarrassing evidence behind.
        If you have to go to your semi-auto as your bug, due to a longer engagement or more skillful opponent, then you haven’t lost any opportunities, and you are going to a more modern weapon, until the police arrive.

        1. @Wold Bill, Your thoughts about wheel gun primary, and the reason for such makes sense until one takes into consideration the world of mass surveillance in which we live. There is also the “unseen” witness with the itchy camera phone at hand. These days, the odds of getting away unnoticed is pretty slim. Personally, I think I would rather be the first to call 911 and do my best to “secure the scene”.

          1. WildBill, your idea is real good. Never been in a situation to employ lethal force and the wheel gun may slow me down enough to counter increased adreniline flow. Dang it! Now I will be forced to train in reverse order of deployment. LOL! What a great problem!

          2. @Austin, It is just a thought. I wasn’t going to use it myself. But…. if … I …did, I might shoot out of my pocket, and not give anyone my name on the way out. But it is just a meritless… thought.

    5. Bias against the old reliable revolver is a irritation to me. I have many time found young fellows steering elderly men and women to the latest “gee-wiz” semi-auto at shops and gun shows, even after the potential buyer talks about diminished hand strength or seems unclear on the operating instructions. I have interrupted on occasion, asking the purchaser to attempt to rack the slide. Many time their grip strength just wasn’t up to the task. I have advised that I have had hand problems and found that a simple revolver works best for me and anyone who used a cap pistol as a youngster will know how to use it without confusion. Laser sight grips are also great for those of us who experience problems with aging eyes focusing on close-up sights and more distant targets.

      Thanks for providing a forum for me to express my opinions. I believe them to be well founded.

      1. @Florida John, Your point is well expressed, and someday lack of grip strength will be something for all of us to contend with. Personally, I just can not get over “the loading up the box magazines for long periods of time won’t effect the spring” issue. I suppose it is just me, but I find all of my revolvers loaded and all over the house. My semi-autos are loaded with one round in the box magazine, nothing in the chamber, and, also, all over the house. Oh, and welcome to the site, great comment.

        1. I inherited my Dad’s rifles which had 4 mags loaded since 1967. 50 years later, all mags worked perfect and the ammo was flawless.

      2. Your advice is spot on. I am a woman with very small hands with some arthritis. A friend steered me to a S&W Airweight .38. I had so much trouble pulling the trigger that I had gentler springs put in and that solved the problem. I also had Crimson Trace laser grips put on to help with my nearsightedness. Next I bought a Kimber .45 and I can load it but racking the slide is a little difficult but a friend says that the slide will loosen with use, which is great because I love that gun.
        Interestingly enough, I bought an AR-15 and have no issues at all. Love that gun as well.

        1. @LesW, Have you thought about that little Beretta Tomcat or Jetfire, the one with the break top? The barrel flips up. You put one round in it, and close the barrel down till it locks in place. Then you insert the magazine.Then it is ready to fire. No racking the slide necessary. Very little hand strength required.

          Now, having given a thumb nail sketch for purposes of brevity, please be sure to follow all standard safety rules (e.g. always point it in a safe direction particularly while familiarizing or loading, keep your finger off the trigger particularly while familiarizing or loading, etc).

      1. You are right. One guy said it kicked to hard, another said it wouldn’t hit harder than a 38. Wish we could show him a few things. Am 79 years old, 5’6″, 145 lbs, and love my SP101.

      1. You are correct about .357 in a snubby not being fun to shoot. Heck it is punishing and painful in many lightweight revolvers!

        1. Hogue Grips. They eaze the pain. Small hands , arthritis, old guy. It is kinda heavy but it isn’t bad with a good holster and belt.

    6. They look like a fun in the dark–maybe you will not have to shoot to convince someone to leave you alone. They are super reliable. They have a ton of effective power with today’s ammunition–stuff like G2 Research. If you need more than 5 or 6 shots it is not self defense.

      1. Ok, “Bill Ruger”. You are apparently unaware that thugs run in packs now days. Or maybe you think that they will just run off when you pull out your five shot snubby.

        1. You are right. One guy said it kicked to hard, another said it wouldn’t hit harder than a 38. Wish we could show him a few things. Am 79 years old, 5’6″, 145 lbs, and love my SP101.

    7. I’m old enough to say that “what goes around comes around”. My first pistol purchase back in 1972 was a Walther PPKS– which promptly jammed (FTE) the first time out. That was enough to make me sit back and consider what I felt comfortable with for concealed carry. Although semi autos have made remarkable strides as far as design and quality, jams can still happen at the worst possible moment. I still collect firearms of all persuasions but my concealed carry consists of a Ruger
      LCRx in .38+P backed up by a NAA .22 magnum. My car guns are S&W Model 66 (686) and Taurus Public Defenders. The possibility of both jamming is almost nonexistent and if I find myself out of the fight a companion/bystander can pick up either — and with little coaching — can step in and provide needed assistance.

      1. LV, went to both sites and got further confirmation in my belief that NRA is another great organization that went from ideas to lets make lots of money. NRA is the lesser of the evils we have to choose from. I will carry what I want regardless of NRA preferences. Lets hope at least some of our dues go to proper purposes.

      2. Look at the guy in the picture in your second link with his finger on the trigger while barely getting clear of his holster and make a decision about the quality of the training they are offering. Extend that to the quality of their “advice” about firearms and their thoughts on what one can bring to their training classes, ie no wheel guns or 1911s.

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