A message to all the snub-nose revolver haters: You’re wrong

The double-action revolver, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, isn't something to muck with (Photo by: Jim Grant)

The double-action revolver, much like the Wu-Tang Clan, isn’t something to muck with (Photo by Jim Grant)

Even if modern tactical trainers often overlook them, the revolver is still a force to be reckoned with. The modern revolver is a versatile tool with unparalleled reliability, fool-proof operation and the ability to chamber the most powerful handgun rounds made.

One of the most suggested, though difficult to shoot concealed carry weapon, is the timeless Smith & Wesson J-frame revolver chambered in .38 Special. Most new shooters, after their first shooting session with the pocket six-gun, declare the trigger is junk in double-action and totally unusable. They console themselves by reasoning that it’s a “belly-gun” or “contact pistol” that needn’t hit anything past arm’s length. The issues with this reasoning are innumerable, but suffice it to say that the gun is very capable of making hits on human-sized targets at 100 yards. The guns limitations aren’t mechanical, they’re operator-related.

Shooting a snub-nosed revolver for speed and acceptable combat-accuracy involves delving into a lost, dark-art: shooting a revolver in double-action. The mere thought of having to pull a heavy, mile-long trigger with the reward of a palm-slamming kaboom is enough to send shivers up a rookie’s spine.

Let me be 100 percent frank. Shooting fire-ball, dinosaur-slaying loads through your snub-nosed carry piece is as much fun as a trip to the dentist. Concerning this, I have both good and bad news. The good news is, there are loads designed specifically for snub-nosed revolvers. The bad news is, all the crazy-powerful rounds you’ve been putting through your snub-buddy are effectively identical to reduced loads in terms of terminal ballistics. This is due to the short-barreled nature of those revolvers. The 2-inch barrel, common on many defensive revolvers, simply isn’t enough space for all the round’s powder to detonate internally. All that unburnt powder ignites outside the barrel, resulting in increased muzzle-blast and recoil, with no gain in velocity or power.

For folks wondering about the utility of a .357 Magnum snub revolver, there is good news. The reinforced frame used by these guns ensures that a steady diet of .38 Special rounds won’t break the gun in your lifetime, even if you shoot everyday. Note to everyone out there mulling over if they should save their extra money and buy the more expensive extra snub-nosed revolver: don’t. Unless you intend to load it with nuclear loads or simply love pain there is no tangible advantage of having one.

If you’ve managed to tame some of that tremendous recoil, but the gun still causes pain with every trigger pull, invest in rubber grips. Offerings from Hogue and Pachmayr not only absorb more recoil than their arboreal brethren, they also fill the shooter’s palm better than the standard grips that ship with most snubbies. However, keep in mind that larger rubber grips tend to print more and makes drawing from concealment tougher.

Most snub-nosed revolvers won’t need a trigger job. However, for some users a 10-pound trigger law exists and they will opt to have one performed. Personally, I don’t believe a trigger job is necessary. Any user can overcome a heavy trigger pull with practice. Think of kitting out a gun like trying an exotic dish from a new restaurant: try before you request changes. Maybe your fries have enough salt already. Maybe your trigger doesn’t need any adjustments.

Now that you’ve tailored your snub-nosed companion to your liking, you’re ready to begin your journey to become a snub-gun Jedi Knight. If gun-trainers were pharmacists, they’d prescribe 200 rounds a week of dedicated double-action training at defensive distances from concealment while under time pressure. Then, at home with an unloaded gun that you’ve triple-checked in a room that contains no ammunition, practice dry firing 100 times a day, in a safe direction. At first, chose a time of day that you’re most cognizant. When you become proficient, alternate the time of day you practice to avoid complacency.

After two to three months of dedicated training you’ll notice that your snub-revolver groups have gotten much smaller and you can shoot all your handguns much faster. The heavy double-action trigger works like a grip-strengthener, greatly improving your grip strength and stamina.

The next time you’re at the range with your carry revolver and you overhear someone spout their so-called expertise on effective use of a snub-nosed six gun, you’ll be able to correct them with acta non verba, then spread the good word of the lost art of the double-action revolver.