Firearms

Snub Nose Magnum Revolvers — Unequivocal

2 snubnose .38 revolvers with speed loaders

With the great and growing abundance of concealed carry permits, as Americans exercise their rights and commons sense, and with a political climate that currently nurtures such progress, armed citizens are flexing their political muscles and choosing to be responsible for their own safety. This is in contrast to those who look to the government for their safety and bleat like sheep at every emergency. Choosing which handgun may be an easy enough choice for seasoned shooters, but quite a few of the new generation of handgunners are newcomers to the one handgun.

2 snubnose .38 revolvers with speed loaders
Snubnose .38 revolvers have a place. They are good hideout revolvers, and some are pretty accurate. The author feels the .357 Magnum short barrel revolver is a better choice.

Many are steered toward a handgun that doesn’t fit their skill level. A 9mm or .40 compact isn’t for everyone. However, the novice and very experienced shooter alike often choose the revolver. They are well armed when they do so. The revolver still has the image of the more reliable of the handgun types.

The snubnose .38 is a reasonable choice, however, the snubnose .38 is seen as less powerful than the 9mm pistol. This is overcome by the power of the .357 Magnum revolver. When comparing the types, the advantages of the revolver have to be plain to make the short barrel revolver an attractive choice. Reliability is one advantage.

A further advantage of the revolver is that the revolver can be placed against an opponent’s body and fired repeatedly as a contact weapon. The automatic pistol would jam after the first shot, tying up with blood or clothing material blown into the slide. It may also short cycle due to a less than perfect grip.

3Speed holster with Taurus 605 .357 Magnum revolver inside
This Taurus 605 .357 Magnum revolver is carried in a 3Speed holster. This is a great deep concealment rig.

For a weapon to be used at conversational distance, the revolver’s reliability in this scenario is a big plus. A further advantage would be in a struggle for the gun—and this happens often—the revolver can be advantageously grasped by the handle, while the gun grabber has little to hang onto in the case of a short barrel revolver. While all of these advantages apply to the snub nose .38 Special revolver, there are better choices.

An alternative to the .38 is the .357 Magnum revolver. The .357 operates at almost three times the pressure level of the .38 Special. The Magnum operates at some 40,000 copper units of pressure compared to 18,000 for the .38 Special, and 20,000 for the .38 Special +P. This gives the magnum a great advantage in power, and the ability to use heavier bullets than the .38 Special. .357 Magnum revolvers are nearly as compact as the snubnose .38, but with a heavier frame and a heavy barrel, offer a good platform for the magnum cartridge.

These handguns may also chamber the .38 Special. A .38 Special +P load is a good choice for the beginner for use in his or her .357 Magnum revolver. Control is superior to the standard size .38, and the shooter may move to the Magnum revolver after sufficient practice.

Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum barrel detail
The Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum is among the strongest handguns—ounce for ounce—every built.

The obvious mechanical advantages of the revolver as related to reliability, the ability to use the weapon with a less than perfect grip and at point blank range, are compelling sales features However, in the end, the ballistics are a selling point as well. There has been a myth circulated for some time that the snub nose .357 Magnum is no more powerful than a good .38 Special, as the Magnum loses velocity when fired in a short barrel. This is far from accurate. The Magnum does lose velocity when fired in a two- to three-inch barreled compact revolver, but it remains far more powerful than the snubnose .38 Special as the accompanying table shows. The .357 Magnum considerably outperforms the .38 Special by any measure.

With these revolvers, recoil could be grim to the uninitiated. Recoil energy approached 12 pounds in some revolvers, compared to six to eight pounds in the 9mm and .40 caliber handguns, and a slight four pounds with .38 +P ammunition. This is a sharp jolt not to be underestimated. The person deploying this revolver must engage in practice and use the proper techniques to master this revolver.

Modern magnum revolvers such as the Ruger SP101 are designed with every advantage toward making the revolver controllable. The factory grips on these revolvers are among the best ever designed. If you are able to find a Smith and Wesson K frame revolver at a fair price, the 6-shot Smith and Wesson is even more controllable, albeit a bit larger.

Use a proper holster such as one of the Galco inside the waistband holsters and you will find the snubnose magnum very concealable. The revolver is simple to use—simply draw and fire. The Ruger and Smith and Wesson each have smooth double-action triggers that lead to accuracy.

Another advantage of the revolver is superb accuracy. The Smith and Wesson Model 19 I often carry has been in service for four decades. A combination of excellent high visibility sights and a smooth trigger make for fine accuracy. As just one example with the .38 Special Fiocchi 125-grain Extrema, this revolver has cut a 1.5-inch 25-yard group for five shots. The .357 Magnum revolver isn’t for everyone. For those who practice, the Magnum revolver offers excellent accuracy, reliability, and proven wound ballistics.

Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum Revolver

Load Velocity

.38 Special

Winchester USA 110-grain JHP 910 fps
Hornady 110-grain Critical Defense 970 fps
Fiocchi 125-grain Extrema 820 fps
Winchester 158-grain SWC 780 fps

 

.357 Magnum

Winchester USA 110-grain JHP 1170 fps
SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain JHP 1201 fps
Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense 1183 fps
Winchester 145-grain Silvertip 1020 fps

25 Yards – Solid Benchrest Firing Position

Handgun Ammunition 5-shot group

.357 Magnum Ammunition

Ruger SP101 SIG Sauer 125-grain JHP 2.5 in.
S&W M19 1.5 in.
Ruger SP101 Hornady Critical Defense 2.0 in.
S&W M19 1.75 in.

Revolvers make a great primary self-defense handgun and excel as a back up. Do you carry or own a snubnose? Share the model and your experience in the comment section.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (63)

  1. One cool thing is that they make revolvers in 22, 380, 9mm, 40 cal and 45 (as well as others I’m sure) that can be used as a back up to your auto and even use the same interchangeable ammo.

  2. I carried nothing but autos for as long as I can remember. I never liked revolvers even growing up I hated them. Once I got older and realized that I’ve never had to shoot anyone, nor is it a daily issue that a revolver would suit me fine. This is my preference and by no means a suggestion for anyone else. It’s just what I personally like. A 5 shot revolver is enough for me because I don’t plan on being a hero of say a bank were getting robbed as I’m not going to risk my life for an insurance company’s money. If someone else was likely to die I’d have to cross that unlikely bridge if and when I get to it. I carry a gun as a means to get myself out of harms way. I do not have a kids to worry about, but I do have my dog which I would also protect with my gun if necessary because she’s like my kid to me. This won’t likely be a scenario since I can’t take her into most places. I carry speed strips and a speed loader with up to 29 rounds. I carry 4 strips with all 6 rounds filled. Even though I have a 5 shot gun I carry, I may as well add the 6th round for more extra as it doesn’t interfere with reloading and the speed loader is even quicker. If someone walks up and puts a gun in my back, no gun is going to help me in that moment. If I go for my gun and they intend to shoot me, I’ll be shot. Situational awareness is a very important factor that some have and some don’t. Again, this is just what I like and I come from carrying only autos for a long time. Situational awareness is something that some people have and some do not though type of gun you carry is certainly not an indicator of how much attention you pay to your surroundings. I have a 5 shot 357 and a 7 shot 358 as well and 5 38 specials and I usually have 2 J frames on me so that’s 10 rounds readily available. I guess I just love old school weapons. However, if I had a kid or kids, I may think differently. To each their own, but I love my revolvers and they are pretty reliable. I’ve been at the range when a light primer strike happens in an auto and I have to recock the hammer to shoot (unless it’s a double action auto which I do own as well) or rack the slide again if it doesn’t go off. With the revolver, when that has happened at the range, I just pull again and boom. Then once I hit the last round, I pull the trigger a few times until that round comes up and it has always went off the second time for me every time, but that’s not by any means a guarantee that it will, but it’s still loaded and ready at least whereas a SA auto, you lose that round, but you have more to begin with in an auto. I have had jams with my autos as well, and never with my revolers, but that is because they have been ammo specific and certain rounds wouldn’t fire as well as others. I did have once with my Taurus 605, after shooting a few cylinders of heavy powerful 357 rounds it would lock up on one chamber every time through the cylinder. If I pulled, the trigger would not go back, but if I let off and pulled again it would fire. I worked it out with empty rounds in the cylinder and I just kept working it and it worked itself out thankfully. Since, I shot heavy rounds, but not those Buffalo Bore 180gr Magnum rounds and no issues. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages, it’s just up to the user to decide. Me, personally, I wish more people would give up on revolvers so the crazy price of the older Smiths and Colts would go back down lol! Whatever you choose to carry, be safe, God bless and I hope it works out for you and remember, paying attention to your surroundings may save your life better than your gun can. At least hopefully that’s how it goes. At least we all love guns and most love both kind, so if auto users don’t like revolvers, at least we can all agree that guns are awesome.

  3. I purchased my S&W 360 PD about one year ago and I love it. At 11.7/14.x oz. it is like wearing nothing at all. The size makes it work well in a pocket holster too. It does not get a steady diet of .357s when I am at the range but when I do shoot mags the soft grip it comes equipped with makes the recoil tolerable. I gave up five shots when I switched from my Glock 29SF but I have a couple of 5 Star speed loaders should I have the need. On speed loaders in compact revolvers I would recommend – Do no not go with the less expensive options, they do not work nearly as well as the 5 Star brand.

  4. Clothing, Blood and muck could effect the slide but just as likely if not more is the change in gas pressure with the gun against the body. Could cause a reycyling/ejection problem the you have a jam. Won’t happen with a snubby.

  5. Well aren’t you completely stupid.
    It has been repeatedly PROVEN , by such notables as Jeff Cooper and U.S. government that a pistols are far less likely to jam than revolvers.
    If you want to pimp Ruger, so be it. I’ll protect myself and those I love with my Semi-auto pistols

    1. I’d maybe give this to you on sand/mud torture tests, although no gun is immune to such conditions and very few perform well. The revolver is king in the draw/empty without malfunction. There are just so many fewer variables when compared to any semi auto. Imperfect draw, limp wristing, pushing out of battery, defective ammo, magazines, cycling obstructions, clogging… The revolver is nearly immune to these conditions when compared to the semi auto. The recover is much easier to deem reliable and simpler to use. They aren’t really simple mechanisms, but are simple to operate. The main disadvantage of the carry revolver is capacity/reloading. Statistically a non issue in most confrontations but it’s a clear disadvantage. I carried a taurus 605 with shrouded hammer with a clip draw attached successfully for years working construction, and will buy a Smith 649 eventually to replace it cause there’s few things as effective/thoughtless. That said, I do like to shoot/carry autos and would prefer a reliable full size double stack in an armed confrontation.

  6. The problem with the 357 snubby is that is is the same power as a 9 mm with much more blast and recoil. I chose a S&W model 60 with 3″ barrel instead. Instead of 400 ft# of energy, I can get 787 ft# of energy. The 357 with a 2″ barrel is a waste of powder. The recoil and noise make you think it is a powerhouse, but it is not.

  7. Ok, time to eat your hearts out guys – I have a COLT MAGNUM CARRY .357, Python trigger works, 6 shot, stainless. Smoother than silk in double action, breaks like glass in single. The BEST OF THE BEST 2″ BARREL Revolver that I have ever found or read about.

  8. I have been searching for a Kimber K6s .357 Magnum revolver ever since I first read about it in a number of the gun magazines to which I subscribe. At a recent gun show, in Waco, I found one, and it is everything that the reviews said it is. It is a beautifully executed piece of machinery, being the size of a J-frame with a six chamber cylinder. It is brightly polished, and has absolutely no sharp edges or corners. It is truly a gem of a snub revolver. I noticed that it has blue neoprene grips on it made by Crimson Trace, so that piqued my curiosity, and much to my delight I found that Crimson Trace does market a laser sight for it in the form of LaserGrips. I currently have a set on order, and once I have them mounted, I suspect that I will have a truly magnificent piece of firearms craftsmanship that will likely be my very favorite snub revolver.

  9. Sorry to hear you got sucked into that Scrap & Worthless was a better gun. I tried the EAA Windicator .357 Snubby, but the trigger was not good for me. Love the SP101, the only gun my wife feels confident with.

  10. I used to have an SP 101. I wished I still had it. I traded it for a S&W 638, huge mistake! Someday I will have have another SP 101. I recently purchased a new EAA Windicator .357 Snubby. It’s a great gun for the money! It was less than half the cost of an SP 101! It’s not as refined, or quite as accurate as an SP, but It gets the job done. I would recommend it to anyone who wants an affordable snubby.

  11. The SP 101 SN ‘with the spurless hammer is what I carry loaded with snake shot. Has saved me several times. Fantastically tough gun, carry it in very dirty conditions.

  12. I have had a Ruger SP101 hammerless .357 magnum snub nose by which I swear by.

    only twice in all the time I have had this revolver, did I have to reach for it, freeing it from its holster, but not having to aim and shoot. [did enough of that stuff while doing ‘robust military service’]

    easy to clean, very smooth action, and accurate, [if I am ;aiming’ it] out to about 3-5 yards.

    but actually it is a ‘belly gun’. or, my ‘Heaven Help Me’ ‘gun’.

    I am in my sixties, with multiple disabilities, and want to feel safe. I practice fire with it monthly, believing that practice makes perfect.

    being a disabled military veteran citizen, I do NOT go looking for trouble.

    and like I said, the two times that trouble appeared to have looked for and found me, having it at the ready, precluded severe harm to me as well as possible death.

    thank you very much Ruger Firearms Company. ‘ya done good’ by me.

    1. I’m right there with you, no I’m only 59, I started out with a very bad disease, that’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older.

      Knees are completely shot, so quote on quote running away, is not an option!

      I carry a full size CZ 85 Bravo, and I had an SP101, I would like to kept it, but financially all I could do was trade it, for some money and another gun, so that I could finally afford my CZ!

      Had I my druthers, I would once again carry a Smith & Wesson model 60 3 inch barrel, in great shape. It is a jframe if I remember right, and it shoots as smooth as silk.

      My CZ I carry in an el cheapo (but comfortable $15) shoulder rig, because I shoot great follow-up shots because of the CZ slide design, and the bullet choice for the all metal frame and slide.

      My choices would be 3 inch barrel, in the Smith & Wesson model 60, or the Ruger SP101, or that new Taurus Allsteel Snubbie.

      The laws of physics cannot be obviated, and the force of recoil must go somewhere: I prefer to let the weight of the revolver take part of the recoil, rather than letting it go all the way through my hand and into my wrist!

      It Is My Hope, but I will one day be able to afford a CZ 2075 Rami, and a Smith and Wesson bodyguard Shield model and 380 ACP, with a green laser; which would be my pocket pistol, otherwise known as a mouse gun!

      We old folks have a lot of problems, as do we crippled folks, but regardless of what our problems are, and our political beliefs are or our religious beliefs are, none of us deserve to have the hell beat out of us, where the windup in a wheelchair or in a pine box.

      A good snubby, are bona fide pocket pistol or Mouse gun, fits the bill for this crippled up old man!

  13. Many a Viet Cong was taken out of commission by the S&W Combat Masterpiece Model 15 revolver which was previously in service by the Air Force Security Police and a snub nosed version carried by air crew members including B-52 crews. Do not count it out.

  14. Age, Hand Strength, & Arthritis have changed how & what I carry. I have what I consider serious Semi-Auto’s in .380 & 9mm with 3 Revolvers. In Florida especially during the summer the size & bulk matters as well. My first F/A in early ’80’s is a S&W M&P Model 65 .357 3″ Ported, firepower reliability are high priority. I use speed loaders nearby & still practice. In 90’s got a S&W S/S Model 640 2″ from their Custom Shop rated in +P with a Top Ported Barrel & very smooth trigger. Until I got it & practiced I thought that a small barrel wasn’t one accurate at 25 yards. Concealed Hammer which opens up shooting options, being ported more controllable, and one that has been 100% under all conditions. Sure if I was in a multi-person defense I’d also like my Berretta Model 92 Hi-Cap 9mm which I do carry in Winter with a Jacket. The best firearm to carry is one with stopping power, comfortable, accurate & reliable which is what the S&W Custom is. I also carry the S&W Model 65 with .357 Magnum, but when I also have the S&W 640 with me load both with 38+P Critical Defense. Grips make a real difference as well depending on your hands. I have a Pachmayr Grip for the S&W Model 65 & an Uncle Mike’s Boot Grip for the S&W 640.

  15. “A further advantage of the revolver is that the revolver can be placed against an opponent’s body and fired repeatedly as a contact weapon. The automatic pistol would jam after the first shot, tying up with blood or clothing material blown into the slide. It may also short cycle due to a less than perfect grip.”

    How would blood that was blown into the slide cause a semi-auto to jam?

    1. Bronson,

      You were kidding right?

      What part of the word ‘blockage’ do you not understand?

      Blood is a very viscous commodity, and slapping something sticky in a slide is not, what I would refer to as an act of intelligence!

      Revolvers on the other hand operate completely differently, obviously, than a semi-auto.

      It’s going to take a lot, I repeat a humongous amount, of viscous material to clog up a snubby revolver!

      Snubbies were designed to be used when you are looking eyeball-to-eyeball into the person you’re about to shoot! I State this because that’s how blood is actually going to get onto the revolver, or the semi auto!

      This stuff may sound like Theory to you, but trust me it’s not Theory!

      Basically, think of it in these terms: the situation is such that you are about to lose your life, you’ve got a pine box right there beside you, and there is a very unpleasant person who is determined to put you in that pine box!

      So the question is this, which tool that you get to use only once, are you going to choose, to make sure that you do not end up in that pine box??

      In such Close Quarters, I’ll take a Snubby!!

    2. Clogging the action of a semiauto pistol…..or even a revolver….. with biological debris and clothing may be a consideration in employing one’s firearm in a contact shot. That said, however, the principal reason that semiauto pistols can fail in contact shooting is because pressure of the muzzle against the body of the intended target can…..and usually does…..push the slide far enough out of battery to render a disconnection of the firing train (trigger-trigger link-sear-hammer/striker) thus resulting in a malfunction and failure to fire.

    3. James,

      That is one of the best explanations and post I have seen.

      Very good analogy!

      Best,

      Bob Campbell

  16. I love my Revolvers. I have a S&W Mod 66 357 2 1/4 inch barrel, a S&W Mod 60 357 2″, A Colt Detective special 2″ 6 shot and a Coly Python 4″. Depending on the weather and time of year I choose which to carry. When I worked as a Police Officer I carried the Python before we transitioned to semi-autos, and I always carried a S&W Mod 37 38 2″ as my back up. This model has a shrouded hammer.

  17. That question isn’t “is the revolver a good choice”, but is it the best choice…. A chronograph will show tha the snub nosed 357 loses enough velocity(with a 2 1/2″ ) that it has little advantage over a plus p 9 mm load in a 3″gun. Many people feel that a Glock 43 or a Kahr pm9 is easier to hit with,as well. Easier to load,and holds more rounds…and reliability? If they weren’t reliable,law enforcement wouldn’t use them….Hey…I love revolvers….one of my favorites being a 3″ m 60 S&W, but it’s just not my first choice in defense

    1. Neil Tressler,

      All things being equal, from a paper point of you, I would agree with you!

      However, in the real world paper positions don’t cut it, and such things as blood getting in a slide, or the slide jamming for fail to feed or fail to extract, all lead me to the conclusion that a snub nose in an eyeball to an eyeball situation, it’s still the best choice!

      Remember, according to FBI crime data, the average distance in an actual firefight is 7 to 10 feet!

      This would lend one to believe the semi-automatic would be the best choice! However, as you may have noticed Marxist bugs are out in force these days, and they tend to show up at the most inopportune moments!

      These days, you don’t have just a one-on-one situation, you’ve got two three four or more thugs facing you at arm’s length!

      I’m a beat up old cripple, and the fact is that in such a scenario of being caught out in the open, with a bunch of Anti Trump Marxist thugs, is a situation that is real, if you live in Portland, or Seattle,or LA, or anywhere on the Eastern seaboard, but also even in the heartland of the USA these days!

      So basically, if I had my druthers for a backup piece, I would choose a Model 60 3 inch barrel in the small of my back or in my jacket pocket, as my first choice if I do not have that 7 to 10 feet of distance between me and an assailant!!

      Thus, if a bunch of young thugs in masks and hoodies are rushing me because they’re out to hurt anybody that might be pro-Trump, or God forbid a capitalist, then I’m going to choose the Snubbie!!!

      The reason is clear: chances are those bunch of punks will have my sorry crippled but down on the ground: I’ll have to shoot through my pocket in order to stay alive!

      Try that with your Glock, or a Beretta 92, 94, or 96! Try it with a 1911 Commander or government model!

      You might get the first shot to go off, but those follow-up shots are going to be a real mother!

      So, take a moment, take a deep breath, grab an nice crystal glass of whatever your favorite booze is, kick back and consider these finer points of staying alive!

      You’re welcome, have a nice day!

  18. Yes. Stubby wheel guns all the way. And never forget the .327 Federal Magnum. Although as mentioned in the article, practice with its recoil is a must!

  19. Let me begin by saying that my first issue and carry gun was a S&W model 19 4″. However, as a veteran handgun instructor of more than 20+ years, and a SWAT Medic for many more, the revolver is usually not my recommendation. It is much more difficult to shoot well and slower putting out multiple rounds on threat even at ranges less than 7 yards.
    It is also much easier for an opponent at contact distance to tie up the action and render the gun useless by simply grabbing the cylinder and preventing it’s rotation. Gun can’t go bang. Try it!
    Also, that long double action trigger makes it more difficult to keep sights lined up during trigger press.
    Modern semiautomatic of reasonable caliber and a grip large enough to actually hold onto during rapid multiple shot engagement are my preferred recommendation for most new and intermediate students.
    The street is changing as indicated by post incident shooting reports. We are shooting more rounds now and about 50% of the time you will be facing more than one opponent.
    A five or six shot revolver just don’t cut it unless you cut your shooting teeth on one and can reload very fast while moving.

    Sorry, can’t agree with the premise of the article.

    Border Tactical Training Team

    1. Sir,

      Thanks for reading. Excellent points, certainly for defense against gangs and multiple opponents you have a valid point. Just the same, for reasons mentioned in the article, revolvers are sometimes a good choice.

  20. I actually carried the S&W 629 with a 3 in barrel and combat grips, it was my daily carry for 6 years, i loved that 44 mag, i shot that gun every weekend to make sure i could put rounds on target, at 25 meters my shot group was about 2″, it was very expensive to shoot, but sooo much fun

  21. @Steve Scott: Steve, I hope you don’t depend too much on the display of a firearm to discourage a criminal. Yes, in some cases it does but not always. Just ask any cop who has been on the job for any length of time how many times a subject has offered to relieve the officer of his firearm and insert it in a body preface of the officer. Ask him how many times a subject has actually attempted to relieve an officer of his firearm. Maybe other more peaceful part of the country it doesn’t happen, but the news here carries at least one story of some officer involved in a struggle for his weapon a week. While logic tells us that it is best to flee someone who has a firearm displayed, too many times criminals operate under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both and their judgment is seriously impaired. Then we have the serious problem of too many folks who years ago would be confined to a state mental hospital for care and treatment running around at loose ends until they finally have a psychotic breakdown and are no longer functioning in anything that approaches a rational mode. The old saw of just racking the slide will make them run away just isn’t based on reality.

  22. Thank you for your reply Wiburn, I await your research on the shorter barrel .357. If needed I will go with the 4″.

  23. Actually, my favorite snub-nosed revolver is a S&W N-frame custom in .45 ACP that a good friend built for me many years ago. Heavy enough that the recoil is negligible. I started life as a S&W Model 20 .38 special and a duty weapon for the Pueblo Police Dept. (Engraved in mainspring housing)
    It is rough- finished in sandlasted grey Parkerizing. I use full-moon clips in it.

  24. Speaking as a 62 year old 113lb woman, with weak wrists and arthritis, I will say that I have decided to mostly carry my Smith and Wesson 642, which is a 38, or the sig p238. The Smith does have enough recoil to cause pain if fired many times. But I can handle it for the five shots it holds. It is an up close weapon, and if I can’t resolve the problem up close with five shots, I am probably in more trouble than I can get out of anyhow. I simply cannot conceal or handle a 357. Even in my model 19 with a short barrel, I use 38’s. The Sig p238 has a slide that I seem to be able to consistently operate, which is something that frequently proves difficult with other semi-autos. So, depending on what I am wearing, those are my choices.

    1. Kathy,

      Please take a look at the 380 ACP round, in a Smith & Wesson Shield M&P model with a green laser.

      It’s basically a pocket pistol, and as you remember the 380 ACP is also called a nine millimeter short!

      The federal HST line of ammo provides excellent results in 380 ACP, nine millimeter, and the other calibers that you can get in that line!

      I carry a full size 9 and my magazines are loaded with 147 grain Federal HST jhp. Those .38 width bullets expand to nearly three quarters of an inch upon impact!

      The expansion rates on the 380 ACP are not quite that good, but still phenomenal! The addition of that green laser allows you to shoot faster than bringing up a regularly sighted pistol to your eye level!

      Basically, the laser allows you, in computer terms, to point and shoot! Further, the 380acp is a super low recoil round.

      Go to tn9outdoors on YouTube and take a look at his ballistic gel test. What you will find is some phenomenally excellent ballistic results that will provide you with the information you need to make a wise choice, should you need to go to a 380 ACP.

  25. Wife and I are both in our mid 70’s and never leave the house without a snub nose, most of the time with .38 +p. I have been shooting revolvers sense the late 1950’s. Have a 4″ .357 six shot Dan Wesson loaded with .357 and two speed loaders that sits on the night stand every night and sleep like a baby. Have never felt out gunned with a revolver because when you pull the trigger, 99.9 % of the time you will hear a loud bang. Granted pistols are much better than they use to be but I am a revolver boy.

    1. I’m in my early 70s and have carried my Ruger SP 101 snub 358 mag for as long as I’ve had my concealed carry permit. It is always ready to be used to defend my wife and I and those I love. If I should need a backup I also carry a S&W Bodyguard 380 ACP . Both weapons are reliable and I can count on them in a life threatening situation. I use Hornady Critical Defence ammo in both weapons. When concealment is a problem I use a S&W Airweight 38 special, but only when concealment is a problem. The Ruger SP 101 and the S&W Airweight are in IWB holsters and the Bodyguard in a inside the pocket holster. These weapons, I believe, are more than enough fire power.

    2. Richard G,

      I used to carry Hornady Critical Defense, but then I watched several YouTube videos by tn9outdoors.

      He did a very scientific full scale ballistic testing scenario using various loads for the 9 millimeter, the 380 ACP, and the 40 S&W.

      I had originally chosen to go with a 115 grain or 124 grain Critical Defense in nine millimeter.

      However, after watching all of the ballistic tests, I chose the 147 grain nine millimeter jhp, by Federal in their HST line.

      The reason is that in my All Steel full size nine millimeter sidearm, the heavier bullet doesn’t give me all that much more recoil, but it does expand to nearly three quarters of an inch and only penetrates to 13 inches, using the FBI Denim and ballistics gel test!

      Penetration is an issue, because as you will know, we are responsible for every round that we shoot!

      Over penetration by any round has an excellent chance of hitting an innocent bystander!

      Please remember, according to FBI data the average distance in a real firefight is 7 to 10 feet!

      I’ve seen some data which says seven yards, which is 21 feet, but the bottom line is that if you’ve got a bullet that penetrates 16 to 24 inches, or more, that bullet will pass all the way through the assailant, and into some poor soul behind him or her!

      This is why I continue to go to YouTube to take a look at ballistics tests by reliable reviewers, so that I can continue to be on top of the physics involved, in life and death situations!

      Tn9 Outdoors also did a ballistic test on 380 ACP ammo, which is why, when I can afford to buy a pocket pistol, it is going to be the Smith & Wesson Shield M&P model, in 380 ACP with a green laser!

      Federal HST ammo is superb and delivers great transference of kinetic energy without over penetration!

      Let’s face it, being above the ground rather than six feet below it, even at this point in life, is still a good idea!

  26. Now retired, I frequently carry the S&W Model 66 that was my off-duty weapon before my agency went to Glocks in 1990. I have complete confidence in this revolver and my ability to hit with it. The biggest issue for me is inconspicuously carrying speed loaders when not wearing a jacket or vest. The untucked shirttail is the best alternative I have found so far. I usually get quite a few odd looks at the range, where revolvers -particularly snubbies- are rare nowdays, and the sound of a full-house magnum round stands out from that of the ubiquitous 9mm.

  27. Only problem with the Model 19 is, S&W recommended that neither it nor any other K-frame .357 be given a steady diet of full-powe magnum loads, due to wear issues. I read an article about the Model 19 a few tears ago (about the time the model was discontinued), and it was mentioned that the gun was originally designed for police use, with the intention that the officers would practice with .38 Special loads, and carry the full house loads on duty. Myself, I prefer to practice with the ammo I carry…

  28. As an older man who walks with a cane (Army vet) I understand that I am a target of opportunity for criminals. I NEVER leave my property without either a Ruger Speed Six .357 (winter clothing) or a S&W 60 .38 spl. (summer clothing) both are carried in an IWB Galco holster. Both of these revolvers are snubbies. Both are stainless, well made and I trust my life to them knowing they will do what they are designed to do as long as I do my part. For me, snub nosed revolvers are the best choice for SD.

    1. I am also a elderly gentleman that have weak hands, and a 357 would be to much for me, so I chose a 327, which has more power than a 38, and just as good as a 357

  29. I like the S&W older model 19 but I wish the blued magnums would supply a 3″ bull barrel. I do not care for some of the stainless models like the SP 101 for carry due to the lack of counter bore in the cylinders causing that unique rattle of bullets in those chambers. The blued models are a finished and more effective product. I’ve carried mine under extreme environments and I like knowing I can empty it on horizontal targets in a tight two seconds. The .357 great threat stopper. Speed strips help.

  30. I have owned a S&W model 60 since the 70’s and was always impressed with the accuracy from a 2″ barrel. Now the snubby remains in the safe until my wife uses it. I carry a Ruger LC9S, it has manageable recoil and I can hit what I aim at.

  31. Have SP101 3″ & 2 1/4″ plus LCR 1 7/8″ all in .357 Magnum. Using Remington 125 gr SJHP green box ammo I get superb expansion in all 3 of these guns in water jug tests. I do not find .357’s from any of these guns unpleasant & neither does a petite 120# niece. Wondered about muzzle flash in total darkness, so I videoed muzzle flash on the 4th of July in my backyard range. (Everybody here shoots all the time anyhow). To my surprise, there were no blinding flashes, not even with full house .357s. Bottom line, test your ammo (if you can) to see what works. Recently got some 9mm JHP ammo & it FAILED miserably; ran it in 3 different guns from sub compact to full size with same results. Actually took the recovered slugs to the vendor & showed them their product compared to 3 others that worked in all 3 different guns–they sere surprised & could not explain it. This has them launching an investigation into those loads. Do not presume anything, Test it in your own guns. I know, easier said than done unless your lucky enough to live somewhere like I do.

  32. I have owned many, many 357’s. Stay away from anything “Lightweight or Airweight” S&W, Ruger LCR… You will thank me !!! They sting your hands when shooting full house 357 loads. Like hitting a baseball or a golf ball when your hands are cold, Your first reaction is to want to open up your hands and you will drop it. I still have my Ruger Security Six Snub 357, a Ruger SP-101 – 2 1/2 inch 357, and I just purchased the New Ruger Redhawk 357 – 8 shot 2 1/2 inch. Weight is your friend when shooting a MAGNUM load. Mike – US Army Pistol Team 1974 – 1977.

    1. Excellent point Mike. I too have experienced the unpleasant recoil of the so called “light” .357 Nothing light about the recoil. Even as an experienced shooter i have found myself flinching at the recoil of these weapons. I have an old K frame S&W .357 and can easily group 6 shots in 8 inches at 20 yards shooting from an unrested position. The Smith soaks up the recoil very well. While I usually carry a .40 Glock Model 27 or my preferred Sig 226 .40 cal, i wouldnt hesitate to carry the good old reliable K.

  33. I believe in the right tool for the right job. The snub nose has it place. I have had my Ruger SP 101 for almost 25 years and still love it. I have always enjoyed the simplicity and reliability of the revolver. I will say for me it is more comfortable to shoot lighter 110 grain 357 rounds then any +P 38 special. I tried different grips but went back to the original factory as they are quite adequate, fit my hand and are easier to use with speed loaders with just a little work.

  34. First, let me say that I have never had a good opinion of short barreled revolvers due to their excessive recoil. The longer the barrel the less recoil. I had a friend in the NYPD that had a 2 inch S&W .38 special with which he could consistently hit a target at 200 yards, but most people are, simply, too small in stature or do not have the experience to do such. This article suggests a .357 snubby. I’m sorry, but one has to have very strong wrists to use this weapon unless they spend the extra money to buy a Chiappa .357 Rhino snubby. This weapon was designed with the barrel where the shell ejector is on most revolvers and because of the design, the recoil is very similar to a black powder weapon which is straight back rather then sharply upwards. Usually if carrying concealed a snubby is carried on ones ankle and it is for this reason that I prefer to carry a Model 19 S&W .357 with 6 inch barrel in a shoulder holster as it gives me 1/. complete concealment under a light jacket, 2/. range up to 150 yards, 3/. only medium recoil and 4/. I can get it into action faster than anyone can draw a weapon from a conventional side holster.

    1. A S&W Model 19 , 6″ barrel in .357 mag is an excellent weapon. I carried one as a duty weapon for many years. However it is no Concealed carry weapon!

    2. We are talking about defensive handguns. Why would you need to shoot at somebody 150 yds away. Are you talking about handgun hunting, because even then, the 357 should be limited to 60 yards on deer sze game.

    3. 200 yards with a snub nose .38— this type of shooting is mechanically impossible in a machine rest and factory fixture, much less in the real world—— our draw from a shoulder holster is faster, it seems, than trained shooters that have attended my classes—— I would think you do your shooting with a keyboard— these type of comments are ridiculous and clearly not accurate and those with experience recognize them as such—

  35. I tell newcomers not to agonize over their choice of pistol, as statistics and 35 years’ worth of the NRA Armed Citizen page make it obvious that armed self-defense is nearly always a matter of simply displaying a gun and confident demeanor. Shots are rare, with caliber and capacity being essentially meaningless. Most people simply don’t live the kind of life that requires any special equipment or skill in self-defense. I let my own mother carry a revolver, which is the highest recommendation I can give.

  36. I’m glad to see the .357 getting some new exposure. As a cop for many years it was the standard in protection. Even after being authorized to carry a 9mm, many officers opted to continue to carry the .357 due to weight, and bulk of a semi and 3 magazines each holding 15 rounds.
    I believe the popularity of one firearm over another is cyclic and now with a glut of good semi-autos on the market, some CCW’s will look for something a bit different. Who knows the popularity of the revolvers may peak yet again. Although now retired, if I knew I was to have to engage in a firefight, one of my old S&W Model 66’s would still be my choice of weapon. Although most of the real classic ones have become “safe queens” who know maybe they will start making them again the way they used to without all the safety gadgets someday……

  37. To state the obvious, at least to experienced shooters; when choosing a ‘snubby’ avoid the ‘light weight’ and ‘air weigh’t like a disease! ‘ When firing a magnum revolver, regardless of barrel length, weight is your friend. ‘Light weight’ make make for easier carry, but if forced to defend yourself, a light weight can and will hurt your had and probably arm, making you hesitate if a second shot is required.

  38. I carry a S&W M60-15 3″ bbl as my standard concealed carry weapon. It has a high visibility front sight & laser. Compact, reliable and accurate. I never feel outgunned. Gotta practice, always!

  39. Ruger SP101 3″ (wife’s), SP101 SN Spurless Hammer, Ruger LCR; all in .357 Mag. Nothing but Rugers for us, everything else has been disappointing.

  40. I used to have a Ruger SP101 and there’s a backup piece or is an easy carry alternative for close to home trips, I prefer the revolver to a semi-automatic.

    However, snubbies have one serious drawback: five or six shots, compared to 10-13-15, even up to 20 shots out of some 9 millimeter semi pistols.

    If you’re headed on down to the local 7-Eleven, we’re off to the grocery store just down the block, a Snappy fits the bill with a couple of speed loaders in your back pocket or in your jacket pocket.

    But if I’m going to be out and about all day long going from place to place to place, I want something with considerably more lager to it; and I’m not talking Schlitz, Bud, or Fosters: I’m talking about having the mag in my pistol with it least 10 Rounds, though I prefer the 16 + 1 in my carry piece, with three more mags ready to go.

    I suggest that most folks who can afford it, buy a good snap nose for a backup for short-range carry, they are worth the money, easy to carry, and because they are so easy to carry, you’ll take them with you when you go, which means they can save your life.

  41. I own a charter arms bulldog in 44 special. Some days it’s my primary carry gun & other days it’s a backup. If I have only 1 choice I will always pick this gun to carry. I love it!

  42. I would like to add my 2 cents to Wilburn’s very nice article about 38 special and 357 magnum revolvers. I have owned a Ruger 357 Blackhawk for over 50 years, and have shot all kinds of ammo with it. There are two basic points I would like to point out:
    (1) All the revolvers discussed and shown in this article are double action revolvers. There is another world of revolvers that are single action, where you have to first cock the hammer back before pulling the trigger and firing it. For concealed weapons, the double action may be preferable to most, and are quicker to reload.
    (2) The is a very big range in ammo power for the 357 Magnum, more than almost any other caliber (at 4:1 ratio from the weakest to the strongest). My Blackhawk is a very heavy duty revolver and can shoot any pre-manufactured ammo, which means it can withstand the pressures. So, I would suspect that most of these stub nose 357 Mag revolvers cannot safely shoot the high powered ammo.

    So, to give you more detail on the ammo power issue, I have extended the charts given in the article to include the muzzle energy that goes along with the muzzle velocities that are shown.

    .38 Special
    MV ME
    Winchester USA 110-grain JHP 910 fps 202 ft. lbs.
    Hornady 110-grain Critical Defense 970 fps 230 ft. lbs.
    Fiocchi 125-grain Extrema 820 fps 187 ft. lbs.
    Winchester 158-grain SWC 780 fps 213 ft. lbs.

    .357 Magnum
    MV ME
    Winchester USA 110-grain JHP 1170 fps 334 ft. lbs.
    SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain JHP 1201 fps 400 ft. lbs.
    Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense 1183 fps 388 ft. lbs.
    Winchester 145-grain Silvertip 1020 fps 335 ft. lbs.

    So, in the above chart all I did was copy the one in the article and add in the muzzle energy ballistics. All of these .357 Mag ballistics are very low for the .357 mag ammo, so none of these should cause the stub nose handguns any issues. But you can buy .357 mag ammo with a muzzle energy of 907 ft. lbs., and this really kicks in my 6.5″ Ruger Blackhawk.

    So, if you are thinking about getting one of these stub nose handguns, keep in mind that you will need to very careful with the .357 Mag ammo selection. If you would like to see more about ammo ballistics for the 38 special, .357 Mag, and 24 more handgun calibers plus some rifle ones also, email me for a free ballistics file at vlavalle @ix.netcom .com.

    Vincent (02-03-2017)

  43. Wilburn, while I feel the same as you do about the .357 I do have some concerns that you pointed out a little. I own the S&W 686 plus in 2 1/2″ barrel and the Ruger SP101 also in the 2 1/2″ barrel. I was always concerned about the velocity of over penetration, unburnt powder, and the pedals not opening up on the defence ammo. Should I have bought the 3″ barrels instead? Because of this I carry my lighter weight j frames with +P ammo. Thank you!!

    1. .5 inch barrel doesn’t mean much.

      I am presently doing a bit of research on this issue.

      Stick with a good standard 125 grain JHP and you will be OK

  44. While I favor semiauto pistols for daily concealed carry, I do like to maintain revolvers in my automobiles for rapid employment from concealed carriers at the driver’s station, and both cars are equipped with S&W Governor six shot revolvers loaded with .410×2.5″ 00 buckshot. At home the bed has a hanging holster on each side in which reside a Chiappa Rhino and a Kimber K6s…..both in .357 Magnum. I figure that if I am going to purchase any revolvers that will fire .38 Special, they’d best be chambered in .357 Magnum for the flexibility that such chambering provides with regard to hot to medium to light loads.

  45. My EDC is a stainless 2″ barrel Taurus 606CH, which is roughly the same frame size as a S&W K-frame .357 (like the Model 19). I can say from experience that .357 loads are VERY unpleasant out of this gun (recoil is excessive – it does not have a ported barrel – and thus fast target re-acquisition is difficult), and the muzzle flash and blast is extreme (to say the least). My preference is to use .38 special +P loads.

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