For a few reasons, I've had snubbies on my mind lately.
First, and most important, we were given a taste of Summer weather. That means no over-garments, and that means my trusty .357 snubby has been staying home lately. See... it lives in my vest, in a Nemesis holster. I put the vest on, my backup piece is automatically there.
I miss that...
Secondly, given the ammo supply situation, I find myself shooting my revolvers quite a bit more. Slower, more deliberate, and the reload process tempers the speed at which my ammo meter drops.
With the recent addition of a S&W Model 36 to the stable, carry options have once again expanded just a bit, and the following thoughts come to mind......
Despite the staggering number of choices amongst
semi-auto pistols for personal protection, there are still a large
segment of the population who prefer revolvers. Even those who swear by
one auto or another often have a small revolver as a backup. Why? Because they work. It's not new technology. Most
are not fancy. Almost none have any kind of external safety to remember
under stress. They just..... work. Pick up a double action revolver,
squeeze the trigger, and if it's loaded there will likely be a Bang. If
not, squeeze the trigger again and try the next hole.
have been around the personal defense scene for many generations, and
for concealed carry, the shooting public seem to have settled on the
snub-nose for everyday carry. Short, small, relatively light, and
utterly dependable, a snub nose has been in the pocket or holster of
many an officer or shopkeeper since the 1940's. Even earlier, lawmen
were cutting down larger pistols and making their own snubbies, the
easier to pack some protection as they patrolled city streets. J. Edgar
Hoover required his agents to be armed at all times, and demonstrate
proficiency with the little snubby on a regular basis. There's a wide range of caliber choices for those packing
a wheel gun, but two still hold the position of top dogs by a very wide
margin. The .38 Special, a round that's been chambered in pistols
since 1900, and has been in wide use since the 1930's. The other, the
.357 magnum, developed from a desire for a more powerful version of the
.38 special, and that's exactly what it is.
almost exactly the same as the .38, the .357 is made just a little
longer so it will not chamber in a .38 Special hand gun. This prevents
the high pressure .357 round from being mistakenly fired from a .38
special gun.... and also gives us a wonderful choice. This closeness in
dimensions means any firearm chambered in .357 will also shoot the .38
Special, allowing the shooter to have a much cheaper, quieter, and
gentler round to practice with and enjoy. While point of impact will
change quite a bit between the two rounds, this is of little concern at
typical self defense practice ranges of 30-50 feet.
to the point, for our discussion, the .357 offers a substantial boost
in velocity and energy when compared to the .38 Special. Even the '+P'
version of the .38 made for modern pistols does not come close to
equaling the power available from the .357 loaded to full pressure. The higher pressures of the .357 Magnum requires a
somewhat beefier build to the pistol, but weight and size comparisons
between snubbies of both calibers show them nearly the same. The choice facing us is not really one of weight or
dimension, but power. Control ability and muzzle blast come into play,
as does recoil. The .357 does not get it's nearly doubled energy over
the .38 Special without a cost. While a .38 snubby might be relatively
comfortable to shoot for most people, the same pistol in .357 has a
..... 'snappy'.... recoil that nobody sneers at for long. Perhaps
that's why so many revolver shooters enjoy the ability to practice with
.38 ammunition, but carry defensively with .357 Magnum rounds in the
is a point Carteach agrees with. Given the choice between the same
pistol in .38 Special and .357 Magnum, it only makes sense to buy the
magnum version. One can then always shoot the lighter .38 loads, and
even carry them if desired. I consider it a cost-free option, as the
magnum pistols are generally no larger or heavier than the .38 version
these days. As for 'stopping power', that has always been a nebulous
term. The fact is.... pistols don't generally knock people over. They
punch holes in them, and if nerve centers or major bones are hit, the
fight is generally over. Otherwise, pistol level rounds just punch
holes and mess things up. Yes, they will eventually knock down just
about everyone.... but that notion of a bad guy hit with a bullet from a
pocket pistol, and immediately doing a double backflip over the railing
and falling into the volcano.... only in the movies.
same reality holds with both .38 Special and .357 Magnum. The only
real difference between the two is velocity and energy. Both, kept to
proper bullets for their velocity, have excellent track records in self
defense. The .38 Special holds it's defensive position well when
stocked with the old FBI load..... a 158 grain hollow point lead
semi-wadcutter bullet. This bullet punches holes, and messes things up,
and that's all that can be expected. The .357 Magnum, with it's higher velocity and energy,
makes bigger holes and messes up more stuff. As simple as it sounds,
this difference is significant. Very significant. As a result, the
.357 Magnum has a substantially better first shot drop record in
If one can
deal with the recoil, muzzle blast, and control issues of the .357,
there is no reason not to choose it over the .38 Special. As said.....
one can always just stoke the pistol with .38's instead of .357's.
That said..... The Fat Old Man would not feel undergunned with the
ancient .38 Special, given an understanding of it's limitations. There's been a representative sample in his collection for many, many years indeed. It fills a niche nicely, serves it's purpose without fanfare, and has the most important feature possible in any defensive weapon..... it works.