Am I Out Gunned?


by Steven L. Doran

photography by Steven L. Doran

January 15th, 2008




The snub-nose .38 revolver has really taken a beating over the last several years. In fact a lot of people who criticize the gun have never taken the time to even shoot one, or have only fired a few rounds. I have heard story after story about what pieces of junk they are and how they do not compare to any semi-auto on the market.

My first statement in response is always this: equipment does not replace training; so you can have the coolest and most popular gun on the planet, and it might as well be the biggest piece of junk there is if you do not know how to use it. Second, if it is not on your person it is less than useless. Third, since the person has never really fired a snub or trained with one, how do they come to that conclusion?

On the other side of the coin, they say a snubby is a professionalís gun, or I have been told the only reason you like a snub is because you are an anomaly. The average person could never shoot a snubby like that.

Any advice or comments I receive from any person who does not speak from experience or is just regurgitating what they heard from someone else always shows me just how ignorant the person is. 

The fact is a snubby is not a piece of junk, and I and others like me are not anomalies. Anyone can learn to shoot anything. There are some differences in shooting a snubby. But there are differences in shooting semi-autos and full frame revolvers.

I love the snub nose revolver because they are easily concealed on many different areas of the body. The ones I own are extremely accurate, and I can assure you I do not feel out gunned in any situation I approach with one, unless I am going up against a person with a rifle. Then I would feel outgunned with any handgun and if possible I will retreat to even the odds, and no I am not retreating to get another handgun I am going for a rifle.

For a personal defense handgun you can not do any better than a snubby if you take the time to learn how to shoot it.   I would also go as far as to say that if you can learn to shoot a snubby effectively that it will make you a better shot with any hand gun you pick up.

The only draw back with this firearm is that it will take you a bit longer to reload than a semi auto.  However gun fights are rarely like what you see on TV.

Most of the time a reload is not going to be necessary during the fight. The purpose of that handgun any handgun is to break contact with the bad guy. Not standing around in the open waiting to get shot.

In a gun fight you should be shooting and moving to a better position as soon as you put a few rounds into the threat, and if you have to shoot again, it should be from a different angle if possible.  This should be done when using any handgun.  Unless your opponent is on something, crazy or just locks up when he realizes he picked the wrong person to screw with that day and you have not killed him. I can assure you he is heading for the hills and trying to get away from you once rounds start coming his way.  He is not going to just stand there either. If you practice your reload it should not be a problem at all.   More ammo does not necessarily make you more effective.

The thing I remember most when I first started in law enforcement is you never ran into another copper that was not armed. He always had his snubby with him.  These officers were required to qualify with the snub, and were just as capable with it if not more so then they were with their duty weapon, not for any other reason than they took the time to practice.  

I never heard any competent officer or shooter say I hate this gun and can not hit anything with it.   If I did hear comments like that the person typically hated having to deal with any gun including a full size weapon and never took the time to practice. And of course their were always those who purchased a new gun each week, and what ever they had at the time was better, cooler and more unique than anything you ever owned.   

When departments made the switch to the semi-auto a lot of officers quit carrying off duty they dumped their snubby and stuck there duty gun under the seat of their car or in some other location where they could not get to it after the newness of carrying it all of the time wore off. The general public typicality follows suit and they begin to purchase what the police are using and wind up doing the same as the officers, not carrying.

Since this article originally came out I have had a chance to talk to some persons I hold in high regard and are very well thought of in the law enforcement and gun community. One of the comments I received was from an individual who pushed that officers be required to carry their duty gun at all times, now feels it was a mistake, for two reasons. The first is that the officers do not carry their duty gun off duty, and go unarmed.  Second if they do carry a snub they do not make it public and rarely practice with it because they do not want to hear negative comments from other officers. 

Another trend I saw was and I still see it today is persons carry some little semi auto. They do not carry a spare magazine for it and they are so small they are  a pain to draw and shoot not to mention they are extremely unreliable if they are not cared for with kit gloves and most persons who carrying them do little or no preventive maintenance. Further they have major reliability issues when properly cared for. So how can they justify the change? .

My snubbies have never failed to fire, have never had a feeding problem, I do not have to use some special brand or type of ammo to get it to work in fact I have way more ammo choices, lint or other debris has never caused it to fail to function. I can not say that about the compact semi-autos I have seen other people carry. Every single one of them has had some kind of a problem at one time or another.

I have purchased a few my self to play around with to see how they performed and all of them have had some kind of an issue. My snubbies have worked well and have never had a problem since the day I removed them from the box. 

You also have to get away from looking at manufacturers' ballistic tables and start looking at the morgue tables.   The snubby allows me to carry the ammo of my choosing from the manufacture of my choosing that I know works well in dispatching a threat.  Not because they say it does based on a ballistic gelatin test. But because I know it does based on its performance in the field time and again.   I can not always do that with a semi-auto.  I have been stuck carrying ammo I did not care for because it made the gun more reliable.

So for me the snubby has always been a tried and true reliable weapon and is my constant companion both on duty and off.  It is my back up when I carry a primary and my carry gun when I do not.  Unless you see me completely naked, which would frighten even the most hardened of individuals, I can assure you there is a snubby with me at all times.

Steven L. Doran

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The author's first snubby, stainless steel, Smith & Wesson Model 60 with a ground off hammer spur. I prefer this modification verses a hammerless or shrouded model. I can still cock the hammer if need be and it is not as bulky as a shrouded hammer.  



The author purchased this snubby as it was often carried as a third gun and I liked the fact that it weighs next to nothing and still performs as well as the stainless. The only draw back is trigger pull. The stainless is nothing short of flawless



Two of the snubbies pictured here belong to the author, the third to his old partner who prefers a full hammer spur and larger grips since he always carries the weapon in strong side thumb break holster.



The author finds that the addition of a big dot front site helps to place shots more quickly on target when under stress.  



The author prefers the t-grip because it aids in controllability with out adding any bulk to the grip.