.38 Special Snubbies for Civilian Carry

Discussion in 'Centerfire Pistols & Revolvers' started by Pistolenschutze, Nov 8, 2005.

  1. OK, boys and girls, let's see if we can get the ol' argument juices running at full tide. Don't mind the noise and gunsmoke, just charge toward the sound of the action. In the words of the immortal Bard of Avon, "Lay on McDuff, and damned be him who first cries, 'hold, enough!'"

    It is my contention that the .38 Special +P round, loaded in a high-quality, J-Frame, snub-nosed revolver, is the best possible combination available for concealed civilian carry. I assert this because of this weapon combination's obvious virtues:

    1. It comes in a small, very handy, highly concealable package. My own choice is the S&W 637 loaded with Speer 135 grain Gold Dots, though other revolver and cartridge combinations may be equally effective. I back this up with an HKS Speedloader containing five additional rounds.

    2. The .38 Special +P, is a highly underrated cartridge, particularly by the self-proclaimed "expert" gun writers, most of whom are more concerned with keeping their editors (and advertisers!) happy, than with practical firearm applications in the real world. A solid, well-placed hit from a .38 Gold Dot will ruin anyone's day.

    3. The vast, vast majority of self-defense shootings occur at less than ten feet, thus a point-and-shoot weapon like the snubbie is ideal, assuming one bothers to practice with it regularly. But then, regular practice is necessary whatever weapon is used, from a .22 to a trench mortar. Why carry a bass drum when you can carry the baton?

    4. A snubbie is so light in weight and easy to hide, one hardly knows its there, and no nervous little old ladies fainting dead away if they happen to catch sight of that big honkin' .45 Colt 1911 strapped to your waist, cocked and locked, no less. "A consumation devoutly to be wished," as Shakespeare said. I say, reserve the 1911s for use in the trenches in case the mortar ammunition runs out!

    5. No whistles and bells to manipulate, and no stove pipe jams to worry about. Just point that little critter right and squeeze the trigger. If it doesn't go "bang," pull said trigger again! Physics will take care of the rest.

    OK, before you folks start dropping Willie Pete around my position, range finding for a full bombardment from at least three full batteries of 155s, let me state for the record that I actually love the .45 1911, own two of them (along with a Glock 30), have shot them more over the last 30 years than any other handgun, and gladly relied on one for 13 months in Viet Nam as my constant compaion. All I'm really asserting here is that the .38 special snubbie, all factors considered, is the best possible balance in terms of fire power, portability, and control for civilian carry.

    OK, gentlemen and ladies, fire when ready. I shall hunker down in my bunker and calculate counter-battery fire. :D

    --Pistolenschutze
  2. mtnboomer

    mtnboomer New Member

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    The .38 Spl. snubbie is perfectly fine for concealed carry because, as you stated, most doneybrooks happen at arm's length. I wouldn't use the +P ammo as it tends to have heavy recoil in the smaller guns which would make follow-up shots difficult and the added muzzle flash may blind you temporarily in low-light situations (not a good thing!). I would go with 158-gr hollowpoints at standard velocity and let the heavy projectile's penetration do the job.
  3. Thanks for the comments, Mtn. I do disagree with you somewhat on the use of +P ammo, however, although your point is certainly well taken in some circumstances. Personally--and I agree this will vary from individual to individual--I don't find much difference between the recoil of +Ps and that of standard pressure ammo in the short-barrel .38. I use them in a S&W 637, +P rated Airweight (aluminium alloy frame, steel barrel and cylinder) and don't find the recoil punishing. Just make sure your snubbie is rated for +P before you use them. Most of the revolvers made more than 10 or 15 years ago are not, and using +P can throw the revolver out of time or even bluge the cylinder if the weapon is not of the highest quality. I've found also that putting excellent grips on the weapon make a big difference too. I usually dress mine out in Pacmayrs or Uncle Mike's Boot grips, both of which tame recoil quite nicely.

    One point you might want to consider regarding the use of +P ammo in the snubbie is the particular round I indicated I use for carry purposes. The Speer 135 grain .38 +P Gold Dot is a relatively new round, and one which was designed specifically for use in the snub-nosed revolver at the request of the New York City PD. Speer took their standard Gold Dot bullet and redesigned it so that it would expand reliably and pentrate to FBI standards when fired from a 2" snubbie barrel at the less-than-optimal velocities that can be generated from that short barrel. The laboratory testing clearly indicates that it will work precisely as advertised, though it hasn't been on the street long enough yet to have significant empirical data available from actual shootings.

    --Pistolenschutze
  4. stash247

    stash247 New Member

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    My S&W M337PD sees a wholesome diet of 140 gr wc ammo, because whoever picks it up will not be terrorized, by recoil; that it is in my pocket, 24/7, somewhat limits the group of shooters. Still, if I am out of action, a gun that runs might save my a**; and runs, for all is a plus.
    I am a shooter; recoil is, for me, a secondary issue, as is muzzle blast, which is often confused with recoil, by novices: neither occur, in a 2" gun, to any significant degree, with a target load, such as this.
    My preferred carry load is a 1100fps, 200 gr , hard cast .45 bullet, but there are times when this simply doesn't fit into the picture; shift back to the .38 Spl.
    At 21' or less, range, target/shot placement is the issue, not power.
    Anything that allows better shot placement is a plus, and low recoil, no flash, is at the top of my list, when it gets tough, and really personal.
    Of course, I'd prefer a .45, but, there simply ARE times, when it does not fit in, and, for these, the J frame Smith does exemplary service.
    Just my .02.
  5. AGB

    AGB New Member

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    Pistolenschutze,

    I have a S&W .38 spl airweight like You described, 5 shots. The only ammo I use in it is the very same one I use in my S&W model 52, a midrange wadcutter. With it the gun works quite properly and is usefull, with the regular .38 ammo I see it hard on recoil and totally uselles since it is real hard to aim it. I have this gun for a long time, it was a gift from my father, he got it thinking he was making a good deal. He never shot with it. I did almost 20 years after I got it. Don't give it much value. Would rather use another gun.
  6. lead

    lead Well-Known Member

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    I am a big S&W fan, but I have to admit, I really like the Colt Det. Special platform, a nice snubbie that carries 6 rounds.
    38spl. has probably been carried by more people in the U.S. then anything else and does the job well.
  7. Lead, I certainly won't quibble with your choice of the Dick Special in place of one of the S&W Js. It is a fine weapon indeed, though a bit larger and heavier than the J-frames. Alas, Colt, in its infinite wisdom, doesn't produce it anymore (nor much of anything else except the 1911s!), so the only way you can get one is in used condition. Quite frankly, if I encountered one in excellent condition (always a consideration with a used weapon), I would be sorely tempted to snap it up just on general principle, as much as I like my Smith 637. It seems to me that Colt is really missing a bet in not producing that little jewel anymore, especially in light of the current interest in handguns useful for CCW purposes.

    --Pistolenschutze
  8. Smoky14

    Smoky14 Member

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    Nowhere NM
    2cents worth: SP101 in 357mag, the first shot means the most, why not use a gun of the same size with known effective round. Even med vol 357 far out performs the 38spl.
    Smoky
  9. You make a good point, Smoky. The Ruger SP101 is a fine, highly reliable revolver, though I would argue it is significantly larger and heavier than the Smith J-frames, especially the Airweights. It has to be heavier since it is designed to handle the high-pressure .357 mag ammo! Actually, I own both a Taurus 605 small frame snubbie and a Taurus 617 7-shot medium frame snubbie in that caliber. The 605 is not much larger than my J-frame Smith, though it is quite a bit heavier. I often carry it or the 617 when I'm in a situation where I think the power of a .357 might be necessary for some reason, like hiking in the Rocky mountains where bears and cougars could theoretically be a problem, as well as two-legged preditors. I could, of course, carry the T605 loaded with .38 +P ammo for everyday use, but why bother with the heavier revolver when the lighter, far more comfortable S&W 637 will do the job just as well?

    As for use of .357 ammo for self-defense as a separate issue, I think it comes down more to a question of personal preference than anything else. Personally, I find .357s and small-frame, snubbie revolvers to be generally a bad combination, except under very narrow circumstances such as I described above. Recoil, muzzle flash, and the sound they produce is something fierce. Follow-up shots are therefore much more difficult. Also, out of a 2 inch barrel revolver you really don't gain enough extra velocity from the .357 over the .38 +P to justify the additional problems it creates, at least in my opinion. Please don't misunderstand me, the .357 in unquestionably the most effective man-stopper out there if properly loaded. I just think the caliber is better confined to revolvers of at least K-frame size or larger and with at least a 4-inch, and preferably a 6-inch, barrel.

    --Pistolenschutze
  10. 45Smashemflat

    45Smashemflat Active Member

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    I use a S&W 337 - Ti Lite. I carry +P Golden Sabres or Fed Hydras. The five shots are backed up by two Bianchi Speed Strips of 6 apiece. I have speed loaders, but they don't hide as well as the Speed Strips. As on a different post - Rule number 1, have a gun. That big ol' 1911 that's just too heavy to strap on today does no good in the safe with you on the road. The Smith, on a light string around the neck, even hides out while jogging....
  11. punchie

    punchie Member

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    The wife's carry is a S&W 649,357, snubbie with Hogue Mono-grip loaded with 38s. The first two as Mag-safes and the last three are some old IMI Samson 124 gr +P+ 38s. She has a very good selection of 'carry' purses and fanny packs so the extra weight of the 649 doesn't bother her. The rather heavy (for its size) 649 does seem to help her with controlability and comfort and she is quite accurate with this combo.
  12. The 649 is a fine weapon, Punchie, I agree, and the additional weight of the steel does help with control. My wife finds my Taurus 605 (loaded with standard pressure .38s) much easier and more accurate to shoot than my Smith 637 loaded with +Ps. By the way, what has been your experience with the Mag-Safes? I've heard a lot of pro and con about those, but I've never carried them in any of my weapons. The M&S experiments seem to indicate they're quite effective, but others I've talked to don't seem to like them much.
  13. Laserlips

    Laserlips New Member

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    Dec 19, 2004
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    I've got pistols, and I've got revolvers, but generally when all is said and done I wind up using a revolver for cc..

    Enclosed is a BIG picture of four of my favorites.

    Best Wishes,
    JP[​IMG]
  14. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

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    Minn-eeee-sota, ya, sure, you bet!
    My normal carry gun is a Lightweight Commander in .45ACP, however, during the summer "light clothing" season, it's sometimes not all that concealable, so I switch to my S&W Model 49 with +Ps.

    While I don't feel undergunned carrying the Smith, I certainly have more peace of mind with the extra 3 rounds, better stopping power, and greater accuracy of the Colt.
  15. rangerruck

    rangerruck New Member

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    taurus makes a 2 in snubby with all rounded smooth corners in 357 mag that an off duty p.o. show me, he ws carrying it in his front jeans pocket, and i had no idea! it was better than the 38+ im sure.
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