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 PoliceOne.com 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.