With the growing abundance of concealed carry permits, as Americans exercise their rights and commons sense, and with a political climate that currently nurtures such progress, armed citizens are flexing their political muscles and choosing to be responsible for their own safety.
This is in contrast to those who look to the government for their safety and bleat like sheep at every emergency. Choosing which handgun may be an easy enough choice for seasoned shooters, but quite a few of the new generation of handgunners are newcomers to the one handgun.
Many are steered toward a handgun that doesn’t fit their skill level. A 9mm or .40 compact isn’t for everyone. However, the novice and very experienced shooter alike often choose the revolver. They are well armed when they do so. The revolver still has the image of the more reliable of the handgun types.
The snubnose .38 is a reasonable choice, however, the snubnose .38 is seen as less powerful than the 9mm pistol. This is overcome by the power of the .357 Magnum revolver. When comparing the types, the advantages of the revolver have to be plain to make the short barrel revolver an attractive choice. Reliability is one advantage.
A further advantage of the revolver is that the revolver can be placed against an opponent’s body and fired repeatedly as a contact weapon. The automatic pistol would jam after the first shot, tying up with blood or clothing material blown into the slide. It may also short cycle due to a less than perfect grip.
For a weapon to be used at conversational distance, the revolver’s reliability in this scenario is a big plus. A further advantage would be in a struggle for the gun—and this happens often—the revolver can be advantageously grasped by the handle, while the gun grabber has little to hang onto in the case of a short barrel revolver. While all of these advantages apply to the snub nose .38 Special revolver, there are better choices.
An alternative to the .38 is the .357 Magnum revolver. The .357 operates at almost three times the pressure level of the .38 Special. The Magnum operates at some 40,000 copper units of pressure compared to 18,000 for the .38 Special, and 20,000 for the .38 Special +P. This gives the magnum a great advantage in power, and the ability to use heavier bullets than the .38 Special. .357 Magnum revolvers are nearly as compact as the snubnose .38, but with a heavier frame and a heavy barrel, offer a good platform for the magnum cartridge.
These handguns may also chamber the .38 Special. A .38 Special +P load is a good choice for the beginner for use in his or her .357 Magnum revolver. Control is superior to the standard size .38, and the shooter may move to the Magnum revolver after sufficient practice.
The obvious mechanical advantages of the revolver as related to reliability, the ability to use the weapon with a less than perfect grip and at point blank range, are compelling sales features However, in the end, the ballistics are a selling point as well. There has been a myth circulated for some time that the snub nose .357 Magnum is no more powerful than a good .38 Special, as the Magnum loses velocity when fired in a short barrel. This is far from accurate. The Magnum does lose velocity when fired in a two- to three-inch barreled compact revolver, but it remains far more powerful than the snubnose .38 Special as the accompanying table shows. The .357 Magnum considerably outperforms the .38 Special by any measure.
With these revolvers, recoil could be grim to the uninitiated. Recoil energy approached 12 pounds in some revolvers, compared to six to eight pounds in the 9mm and .40 caliber handguns, and a slight four pounds with .38 +P ammunition. This is a sharp jolt not to be underestimated. The person deploying this revolver must engage in practice and use the proper techniques to master this revolver.
Modern magnum revolvers such as the Ruger SP101 are designed with every advantage toward making the revolver controllable. The factory grips on these revolvers are among the best ever designed. If you are able to find a Smith and Wesson K frame revolver at a fair price, the 6-shot Smith and Wesson is even more controllable, albeit a bit larger.
Use a proper holster such as one of the Galco inside the waistband holsters and you will find the snubnose magnum very concealable. The revolver is simple to use—simply draw and fire. The Ruger and Smith and Wesson each have smooth double-action triggers that lead to accuracy.
Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum Revolver
|Winchester USA 110-grain JHP||910 fps|
|Hornady 110-grain Critical Defense||970 fps|
|Fiocchi 125-grain Extrema||820 fps|
|Winchester 158-grain SWC||780 fps|
|Winchester USA 110-grain JHP||1,170 fps|
|SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain JHP||1,201 fps|
|Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense||1,183 fps|
|Winchester 145-grain Silvertip||1,020 fps|
25 Yards – Solid Benchrest Firing Position
|Ruger SP101||SIG Sauer 125-grain JHP||2.5 in.|
|S&W M19||1.5 in.|
|Ruger SP101||Hornady Critical Defense||2.0 in.|
|S&W M19||1.75 in.|
Another advantage of the revolver is superb accuracy. The Smith and Wesson Model 19, I often carry, has been in service for four decades. A combination of excellent high visibility sights and a smooth trigger make for fine accuracy. As just one example with the .38 Special Fiocchi 125-grain Extrema, this revolver has cut a 1.5-inch 25-yard group for five shots. The .357 Magnum revolver isn’t for everyone. For those who practice, the Magnum revolver offers excellent accuracy, reliability, and proven wound ballistics.
Snubnose magnum revolvers make a great primary self-defense handgun and excel as a backup. Do you carry or own a snubnose? Share the model and your experience in the comment section.
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Chuck Matson says
I have been carrying my sp101 concealed for more than 10 yrs. now.
I carry a .38 snub daily. This is a pretty good article but there are definitely some things I disagree with in it. First there are .357’s that are the exact same size as the small frame .38’s. Second I prefer a 3″ barrel over a 2″ for a couple of reasons. The slightly longer sighting radius makes the 3″ gun easier to shoot and increases ballistics quite a bit. Third I believe that a good holster should allow the drawing and reholstering of the revolver with one hand.
Joe Durning says
I’ve been carrying a kimber revolver for a year now it feels more concealable & more comfortable
I carry a S&W Scandium 360 in my right front pocket in a Desantis pocket holster. Less than a pound loaded with Hornady 357 Critical Defense. Not a lot of fun to shoot with the 357″s, but a load of firepower in a small package. I have carried it long enough now I never think about it being there. I work around a lot of dirt and grime, but I never worry about it working. KISS. I carry a PX4 Storm sub compact when I want to have a few more rounds on board, but it feels like a loaf of bread after carrying the little Smithy.
waldo manning says
I carry a 38 charter arms,had to kill 2 dogs that were attacking my wife and i, on the apalatchian trail last year.The criticle defense +p loads were more than adequite as the dogs were over 80 lbs.each.As the gun only has 5 shots,aiming was critical.We each got bit,and had to have rabies testing,but was negative.Hate to think if i didnt bring my gun. Hope this helps,Waldo.