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Americans who carry a firearm for self-defense aren’t like you, or the people in the video above. In the main, they don’t go to the range. Ev-a. They’re don’t learn how to bring their weapon to bear from concealment, or master the finer points of marksmanship, or consider basic combat tactics. They don’t study the legal use of lethal force. They shove their gun in their pocket or purse and call it good. As I said before, it is what it is. But if there’s one thing I’d recommend to these law-abiding non-gun gun people it’s this: buy a hammerless snubbie . . .

If you make something idiot-proof, Mother nature just builds a better idiot. So I’m not going to say that a snub-nosed revolver—or any wheelgun or any gun full stop—is idiot-proof. But a revolver is the most idiot-proof of the handgun genre.

Open the gate, insert bullets (pointy end forwards), close gate, hide weapon. Remove weapon with one hand. Point and click. I mean, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Run. (Or continue running.) Done. No magazines, no racking, no “I didn’t carry a gun today because it’s not comfortable,” no external safety, no fuss, no muss.

Quick digression. Despite its rep, a snubbie is an incredibly accurate weapon over long distances. In the right hands. Just for S&Gs, here’s an expert shooting a target with a snubbie from 100 yards.


OK, back to reality. For the average non-gun person, a snubbie is a wildly inaccurate firearm. In the midst of a major league adrenalin rush, the snubby wielder forgets all the training they didn’t have. They don’t aim. Shots go everywhere. Which is why the average snub-nosed revolver shooter should consider the weapon a binary defense system.

Option A) get as close to the bad guy as possible—up to and including pressing the revolver against the attacker’s body—and then shoot. Option B) run! What about Option C) shooting the snubby while you’re running away? Excellent idea! And much easier when you’re firing the weapon one-handed (as you should). Not so binary now, eh Mr. Bond? Yes, well, let’s talk trigger control . . .

When push comes to shove, the average snubbie shooter treats the trigger like a slot machine handle. Make that five slot machines handles in a row, all pulled really fast. This multiple shots in rapid succession strategy is not a bad plan—provided there’s just one bad guy (good luck reloading) and the snubbie owner’s close enough that all five shots hit their target.

[Legal disclaimer: only fire as many bullets as you need to stop the progress of an active and credible lethal threat.]

The main problem with this “technique”: recoil. Hemingway fans note: as the gun fires, the snout also rises. The shooter should wait a fraction of a second for the snubbie’s muzzle flip to finish and the gun to settle back to its original attitude, so they can place the follow-up shot in roughly the same location as the first supersonic sortie. Nope. They’ll pull the trigger mid-rise. Each shot will land progressively higher.

If you start shooting a snubbie at center mass (chest level), there’s a good chance the second and definitely the third and following shots will fly over the attacker’s shoulder. That’s not much help in the stopping power department and a major PITA in the lifelong guilt and civil lawsuit arena. So start shooting the snubbie at the bad guy’s belt buckle and allow the gun to rise with each shot.

Zip ’em up!

I hate to sound flip about this. The idea of creating a line of gunshot wounds on another human being at bad breath distance is horrific. But I find the idea of dying at someone else’s hands (other than a kindly Kevorkian at the end of the proverbial day) worse. A man’s gotta do. As does a woman.

And there you have it. Carry a snubbie. Move in or run. If you shoot, aim for the belt buckle. Done? Run. It’s not a weapon system or strategy I’d recommend for TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia (who don’t need me to recommend anything, really). But I reckon it’s a viable plan for most of the people most of the time. No foolin’.

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  1. It’s what I carry, and what I generally recommend anyone with less training carry. I’m a former Infantry sergeant. A semi-auto is a better firearm on every front but two, and unfortunately those two are the only ones that count. Reliability and simplicity. If you have a safety, you will forget to disengage it. If you have a slide stop, it will catch. If you have a hammer, it will get something wedged in it. You’re not going to consciously use your sights, and your trigger control is going to suck. Get a weapon that reduces all of these things. Train as much and as best you can, but realize that you’re never as good as you think you are, and stress is the ultimate ruiner of shots.

  2. What’s the deal with the turn-the-gun-sideways shots in that video? I thought that was only for movie gangstas.

  3. I carry a S&W 642 with Crimson Trace (at least until I master carrying a larger gun concealed) – Never felt uncomfortable with it, slides right into my pocket in its holster. Done Deal. I am ever more convinced this is the conceal carry you should get if you only buy one gun.

    Nothing else goes into that pocket, by the way. No keys, no nothing. The relatively heavy trigger would probably not negligently discharge against a st of keys, but who needs a hole in the groin when in a defensive situation?

  4. Why oh why do so many defensive shooting schools feel the need to invent their own ‘signature’ moves, doctrines and shooting stances?

    Joe Grine and I were in a gun store/gunsmith shop a few months ago, and found ourselves being lectured by an arrogant tattoo-covered punk whom I presume was the owner. Basing his argument on nothing but the names of several (allegedly Delta Force) instructors we had never heard of, he insisted that ‘if you won’t to Gunsite in the 1990s, your training is obsolete, because things have changed so much since then.’

    What has changed, Mr. “I want my own Discovery Channel gun show”? Are we all waring personal force fields or carrying laser blasters? Bullshit: we might be carrying Springfields and Glocks instead of Berettas and Glocks, but the fundamentals of throwing lead at your adversary are still the same.

    This video, and so many others, make gunfighting look like a ritualized and stylistic interpretive dance. I’ll spend my time at the shooting quarry with shooters I trust, thank you very much.

    • “This video, and so many others, make gunfighting look like a ritualized and stylistic interpretive dance. ”

      BINGO! Very weird. Based on that video alone, I would NOT select that school / training.

      • Anyone remember Clint Smith’s article in American Handgunner a few years ago in which he railed against the rest the handgun on your chest while pointing it at your feet move? I think the article had a picture of Gabe Suarez doing the “dance” as Clint called it. I think it was Gabe Suarez, but I’m not sure because the man in the picture had a large smiley face pasted over his head.

  5. Geez, horrendous muzzle sweep of his shooting partner at 1:10. Damn dangerous “instruction” going on in that “class.” I use the terms “instruction” and “class” very loosely here.

  6. In my opinion, the .38 special snubbie is to shooters what the Bokken is to samurai. They’re both beginners’ weapons, soon forsaken in the search for more power or a keener edge. But anyone who follows the path long enough ultimately finds himself coming back to the beginning, with a J-frame in his pocket, or carving a wooden sword out of an oar…

  7. At around 0:41 in the video I wonder if Steve Doran is using that support hand thumb technique that was mentioned a few days ago, something to reduce the recoil bite of the little grip.

  8. Nice post. If a civilian shoots an attacker multiple times (like in the first video) rather than a double-tap I wonder how much harsher the anti self-defense laws would be on him? I had no idea that a snubbie could be accurate to 100 yards even for a pro.

    • You can shoot until the threat to your life is over, and you are permitted to shoot multiple rounds rapidly to preserve your life. Once the threat is over, no more shots are permitted. For “real life,” situations, there are no other guidelines that makes sense.

      I personally know of one SD shooting where the good guy pumped eight rounds — eight! — into the BG with no adverse legal consequences. I am also personally aware of a situation where the “good guy” fired twice. The first put the BG down. The second occurred a minute later and was the coup de grace. That “good guy” is now doing time.

  9. My carry gun is a series three Colt Detective Special. True, it has an exposed hammer, but it goes Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!. I can do MOPepsican every time at 7 yards.

  10. [Legal disclaimer: only fire as many bullets as you need to stop the progress of an active and credible lethal threat.]

    I would, respectfully, like clarification on this, as it is a line that keeps cropping up…

    In self defense under the assumption that our life (or the lives of loved ones or just strangers who happen to be at Luby’s at the wrong time) is in danger – are we “shooting to kill” or “shooting to stop” an attacker?

    My apologies if this is the wrong place for this discussion – if so, maybe we can discuss this somewhere else?

    As always, thank you.

    • Shooting to stop. That is ALWAYS your story for any DGU, and it is one that should never change, no matter what.

    • The legally correct answer is that you are shooting to stop the lethal threat against you and yours. It means that you pump as much lead into the attacker as you need to in order to stop the attack, and no more. That does not mean that you are shooting to wound, nor are you shooting to kill. And if your shooting is righteous, it makes no difference whether your attacker goes to the hospital or the morgue.

    • Don’t shoot to kill….shoot to stay alive. Sometimes it’s your mindset that will keep you out of trouble after shots have been fired. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories where someone was completely justified in a SD shoot but kicked themselves in the ass with some stupid John Wayne qoute while talking to the police afterwards. Remember ANYTHING you say can be used against you.

  11. The Centennial revolvers are not truly “hammerless.” In reality they have hammers, which are enclosed within the frame. Still, snubbies are incredibly accurate for such small guns.

    In the hands of a world-class shooter, a snubby with a competition-style trigger and handloads can be 100 yard accurate. I don’t believe that Annie Oakley herself could make a 100 yard snubby shot with a factory S&W trigger and self-defense ammo. For most people with standard (unmodified) triggers and hollowpoints, it’s a five yard gun and a great contact weapon.

  12. Hmm, makes me wonder: in the post-shooting analysis, is a pocket revolver going to look less “scary” to a jury (or DA) than high-capacity wonder-nine? Is something that grandpa used to carry going to look as bad as something modern, black and evil?

    Not only that, but it’s kinda hard to go around half-cocked with a hammerless. As in, one, no SA trigger (see endless arguments elsewhere), and two, see above, as few would go out looking for trouble today with a 5 round revolver (unless if they’re Son of Sam).

  13. With just a little extra effort and good training, I think a snubbie can shoot well within a “minute of bad guy” at a range any self defense shooter will be able to lawfully shoot.

    Other than suppressing a sniper, I cannot imagine a scenario where one would need to be able to shoot farther out than 10 yards in a lawful shoot.

    I can be convinced otherwise…

    • The BG is 25 or 30 yards away, firing his 1911, and you have no concealment, cover or safe escape route. Or maybe you’re 25-30 yards away from the shooter, while he’s is lining up your child who is waiting for her ice cream from the Good Humor man ten feet from the BG. Or a maniac with a Glock is walking around Virginia Tech shooting people indiscriminately. You fire with your snubby from 25 yards or more and shoot him dead. Even in the most unfriendly jurisdictions like Massachusetts, those would be clean shoots.

      There are many scenarios where a 25 yard shot or longer would be lawful. It’s just that such scenarios rarely occur. But rarely doesn’t mean never. Still, we train for the likely case, not the rare case. The likely case is a SD shooting at three to five feet.

    • Let’s face it, most of us don’t carry enough ammo to suppress any kind of large offensive attack. Two mass shooters would most likely not be a good outcome for the average CCW-er. Luckily, most mass shooters commit suicide when they meet resistance.

  14. I have to wonder: in this day and age, would a pocket revolver look less “scary” before a jury (or DA) than a modern, black and evil, high capacity semi-auto? [Never mind legalities, I’m just going after appearance, in case it all continues on going to hell after everything went to hell in the first place.] Something that one’s grandfather used to have can’t be that bad, right?

    Continuing on, it’s kinda hard to go around, half-cocked, with a hammerless. Never mind the missing full cock, these days it’s kinda hard to show you were looking for trouble, when you were carrying all of 5 rounds (unless if you’re related to Son of Sam).

    I dunno. The above reasons are not why I carry a hammerless (albeit in the form of an LCR). The uber-simple operation, relative reliability, and ease of collecting brass for reloading is what drives me to the tried and true. Seems most incidents are solved with just a couple rounds, also.

  15. Note in that first video when the pair of guys are doing their little gun-fu thing the guy closest to the camera lasers the other guy’s body from head to hips. Also note the prevalence of bullet marks in the walls on the sides of that practice facility and that people are standing next to others while shooting in there…


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