The impractical yet lovable snubby

In 2006 I was part of the team that filmed the instructors at the first (and to date only) “Snubby Summit”.  This multi-day conference was devoted to the use of the snub-nose revolver and was the brainchild of Andy Stanford.  The world-class instructors captured on tape that week were Andy, Mas Ayoob, Walt Rauch (RIP), Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, Michael deBethencourt, Yelena Pawela, Paul Gomez (RIP), Clyde Caceres, and others (the videos are still available behind an LE-verification wall at here.)   It was a bunch o’ fun!

This is where I first met Tom Givens.  Tom showed up as the lone respectable dissenter.  He presented an extremely well thought out set of reasons why a small Glock (26 or 27) or another small semi-auto was the better choice.  Truth be told, there was nothing in his facts or reasoning that I could argue with, and I was forced to agree.

Yet I just like snubbys, particularly the S&W J-frames and the Colt D-frames.  It’s not even that they are what I grew up with (my foray into handguns in the early 80s was at the transition from revolvers to autos, and I “grew up” on both).  But they are like they classic men’s suits and fedoras of the 40s: classic, classy, and comfortable.  They feel great – both physically and emotionally.  I still use a J-frame as a coat pocket and ankle gun.

I’m not alone;there are lots of snubby fans out there. But most posts about the snubby – and J-frames in particular – recommend the all-steel versions because they are the easiest to shoot and (partially as a result) the most accurate at distance.  That’s true. Yet I think that the lightest possible J-frame is the logical choice – specifically the 342PD in Scandium/Titanium.  I think it’s like 10 ounces unloaded.

The point of carrying a snubby is that you want or need to reduce size because traditional belt carry of a service-size pistol isn’t practical or judged necessary.  If you want to reduce size then weight reduction probably also makes sense given where you’ll be carrying the snubby: usually in a pocket.  If you are carrying it on your belt, you might as easily carry a service-size pistol.  So I don’t see the point of an all-steel J-frame; it’s impractical given where you are likely to have to carry it.  (There are exceptions ; some people can carry an all-steel Ruger SP101 in a front pocket inconspicuously and comfortably, but they are unusual.)

There’s also an exception if we’re talking ankle carry, where more weight can be tolerated.  But schlepping a steel J-frame all day on my ankle gets to be a chore after a while (if I’m walking much), while I literally forget that I have the 342PD there.

Yes, an airweight J-frame is much more difficult to shoot well, but when you downsize your gun  in the first place you are inherently making the decision to truncate its effective distance.  Since carrying a small gun in the first place means that you are concerned with personal protection rather than flock protection, and personal attacks on civilians happen pretty close, that’s a reasonable decision.  I consider my 342PD to be a 10 yard gun; 15 yards if I have time.  If I need to make a realistic (target size/time frame/movement) shot at 25 yards I’m going to have far less odds with it it than I would with my FS M&P.  But of course if I have to make a 50 yard shot with my M&P I will also have quite reduced odds compared to making it with my AR.  Every gear/lifestyle/tactics/whatever decision you make is an odds play.

Finally, no matter what snub you carry, just don’t load them with +P, or God forbid, if they will take it, .357s!  Stick with the standard loads. That way you can hit what you’re aiming at and you can actually practice with them.

6 thoughts on “The impractical yet lovable snubby

  1. I would choose to coin a “snubby” as anything BUT impractical. The snub lends itself to be easily concealed, with a simple user friendly manual of arms, topped off by reliability.

    I will admit that a semi can be reloaded faster, but given the odds of me actually needing to reload, I opt for 5. I have a speed loader & speed strip both, giving me 15 rounds should I need such.

    It seems that so many attacks/fights happen in such close quarters, I feel a snub is great for such. A street-wise attacker sees me going for the gun and manages to make hand (or body) contact to the slide (by skill or accident) there goes my fight,,, the slide is out of battery.

    I can shoot my snub while nestled inside coat pocket,,, a woman could shoot from inside a purse. Try that with a semi and chances are you won’t get past the first shot.

    If forces are lining up against me, then yes, I want a rifle with a 30 round magazine. But for day to day save my bacon, the snub fits the task well.

    NOBODY is wrong here,,, it’s all in what you like, what you train with, and what you have confidence in.


  2. The thing I like about the “hammerless” J-frames (Centennial and the old Bodyguard) is, their shape makes them easier to draw from a pocket than any autoloader. That’s why Colt made the bolt-on hammer shrouds for the D-frames. The Glocks are bigger, blockier, and therefore printy-er (it’s my word, so I can spell it the way I want), and the tang and slide extending above and behind the web of your hand makes them harder to draw from a pocket holster (in my limited experience).
    The snubby advocates are kinda like the 1911-ophiles: traditionalists who find reasons to stick with the old ways and shun the newfangled whippersnapper toys. The difference is, the snubby advocates are right and the 1911-ophiles are wrong.


  3. I find it much easier to carry my 342 than a G26 while working as a grease monkey. The author has a good point about weight as a loaded model 60 weighs about the same as a Shield or G26. I’d be fine with a 642 but the tiny front sight is difficult for me to see and the pinned front sight on the 342 let me pop a more visible big dot on it.

    Good article


  4. Ralph
    Any chance you could post the Snubby Summit videos here or on youtube? They seem to have been removed from the web or access restricted to LE only. I saw them years ago and it is a wealth of knowledge.


    • Thanks for the kind words. That was a fun program to make.

      I have an orphan DVD (I think) but stripping it to a digital uploadable format is complicated and beyond me right now. Plus no time. The organization that made that program is no longer around so I don’t think they’d care one way or the other about it going up on YouTube if someone made it happen. I don’t know why PoliceOne has it behind an LE-verified wall. So right now I can’t help you — sorry!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s