Snub-Nose Revolvers: Everything You Need To Know

Feature | Snub-Nose Revolvers: Everything You Need to Know

The snub nose revolver is a handgun most people either love or hate. And those who hate it are usually those who bought one too soon, had their inexperience as a shooter highlighted, and made the unfortunate assumption these historical beauties were to blame.

If you’re considering buying your first stub-nose revolver, take a moment to learn as much as you can about it first.

Snub-Nose Revolver: To Buy or Not to Buy

Isn’t the 6-Shooter Obsolete?

Not by a long shot!

Granted, most of us are looking for a concealed carry weapon. And many people will recommend you opt for a semi-automatic pistol as your CCW.

If you’re someone who prefers pistols over revolvers, then it’s probably in your best interest to stick with what you know best.

A CCW isn’t for the cool factor, after all – it’s there to act as your self-defense tool.

But if you’ve got some experience with long-barrel revolvers, then you’ll already know the 6-shooter is far from obsolete.

And you might find a snub-nose revolver is exactly what you’ve been looking for in a CCW.

Arguments Against


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Okay, let’s start with the negatives.

If you’re a new shooter, then the snub-nose revolver’s small size, short sight radius, and low weight are going to be an issue.

You’re going to have difficulty keeping on-target, especially when the powerful recoil kicks in.

Another factor likely to throw most shooters off is the considerable muzzle flash. It often goes unnoticed.

Considering most self-defense situations happen in low-light conditions, it can hinder target recovery between shots.

All of these are going to amplify a lack of skill that, quick frankly, you don’t need when starting out. It’s just going to frustrate you and possibly cause you to give up.

Another issue with snub-nose revolvers as a CCW is the smaller stock isn’t as comfortable in your hand as a larger revolver’s.

For this reason, square grip stocks – which are larger and more comfortable – are popular, either as part of the revolver’s design (such as with the Colt Special) or as an optional modification (as with the Smith & Wesson Chiefs Special).

However, that larger stock makes the snub-nose revolver bulkier and harder to conceal carry.

Add a speedloader to the mix and you’re going to have a hard time hiding the bulge.

Arguments For


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While revolvers, in general, lack the larger capacity and easy-quick-reload advantages of semi-automatics, they have a few other traits that make them more suitable for some shooters.

One of those factors is the overall simplicity.

There aren’t any de-cockers, safety levers, or slides to rack before a revolver is ready to fire.

This can be a huge advantage for some shooters, especially those unable to rack a pistol’s slide when the pressure is on, whether due to age or injury.

Another major advantage the snub-nosed revolver has is if you don’t go for the larger square stock, they can be easier to conceal.

This is especially true if you opt for a model with a bobbed or concealed hammer.

As always, though, the ease with which you’re able to successfully conceal-carry any handgun will depend on your level of comfort, your body, and your wardrobe.

But there’s a reason many undercover cops prefer using a snub-nose revolver over any other firearm — it can be much, much easier to conceal.

One final advantage worth mentioning is the snub-nose revolver’s ability to remain loaded for years at a time. This isn’t always true, of course, but it is for most models.

Unlike a semi-automatic, you don’t need to worry about magazine or recoil springs weakening over time.

This also means you’re going to be less tempted to constantly load and unload your snub-nose revolver. And that’s a very good thing for the shelf-life of your ammunition too.

Talking Caliber

When it comes to revolvers in general, they’ll typically chamber and tolerate most loads that fit. But snub-nosed revolvers require some special attention.

If you’re just starting out with a snub-nose revolver, you’d be well-advised to start off training with a light target load and slowly work your way up.

This way, you can build a resistance to the sharp recoil impulse.

As a general rule, the heavier and harsher the rounds you’re using, the more of a beating your snub-nose revolver will take.

Eventually, this can lead to the cylinder wall and top strap shattering under the pressure build-up.

This might sound like something that only happens with older revolvers, especially if you’re able to get your hands on a police trade-in (which is becoming increasingly difficult).

However, some testers had it happen to them with brand-new revolvers within a month of their initial release – and that includes high-quality models, like the Smith & Wesson J-Frames from the 1990s.

As a good rule of thumb, keep the Magnum loads for the bigger models, like a Smith & Wesson N-Frame or a Ruger.

Instead, stay within the +P range and the .38 your snub-nose was designed for.

If in doubt, defer to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

The Decision Is Yours

At the end of the day, whether you do go for a snub-nose revolver as your primary or secondary concealed-carry weapon or you stick to the semi-automatic pistol, is up to you.

You need to weigh the pros and cons based on your experience and expectations.

If you do go for a snub-nose revolver, remember to train accordingly. Some people will advise you to stick to practicing with short-range targets, but this can really limit you.

Don’t be afraid to set your targets at 15, 20 feet. You’ll pick up on any errors a lot quicker and be able to correct them at the range rather than risk your life discovering them too late in a defensive scenario.

What do you think about snub-nose revolvers? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section!

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