A Snub For Home Defense?

I can hear the chorus of self-proclaimed “operators” now . . .

“But, but, but . . . you’ll get kilt! Are you crazy?”

Well, I might be, but not because I think a snub makes a good home defense gun.


There’s a couple things that got me thinking about using snubs for home defense, recently.

The first was an email from a reader, expressing his frustration with a collection of assorted trainers who discouraged him from relying on a snub revolver for defense, and particularly home defense. The “experts” seemed to be of the opinion that a five-to-six-shot gun just wasn’t up to the task, and he needed something with more capacity. In his words:

I think you may be the first trainer whom when I mentioned that not only is my EDC a J-Frame and my primary HD-handgun they didn’t immediately tell me I was crazy more or less and encourage me to get a high-capacity pistol . . . their immediate reaction was I couldn’t possibly be protected with merely a J-frame.

Hmm . . .

The next thing that got me thinking about it was an experience I had last week, running a group of avid shooters through simulated home defense scenarios, as part of a training day for our gun club. The role-playing shooters were “armed” with my SIRT pistol, and were required to respond to a variety of unknown contacts and odd situations at the “front door” of their home. Some of the scenarios escalated into lethal force confrontations, while others turned out to be non-threatening.

Some of the issues that crept up during the simulations had me thinking back to the letter from our frustrated RevolverGuy friend, and I wished he’d been there to see how his snub would have been a pretty good solution to the problems I’d observed.

Why the snub?

The snub isn’t necessarily the first gun we’d think of, when we’re imagining a “home defense weapon,” but it’s really not a bad pick, at all. Like every gun, it has its strengths and weaknesses, but I think, on balance, it has a lot going for it as a home defense tool.

Like what,” you ask? Well, here’s four reasons that make a pretty good argument for the snub, in my opinion: Accessibility; Concealability; CQB Performance, and; Safe Stowage.

We’ll take a look at these, one-by-one.


Gunsite alumnus Mark Moritz is often credited with establishing the “first rule of gunfighting,” which is, “have a gun.” One of the greatest attributes of the snub is that it’s easy to carry, and this dramatically improves the odds that you’ll actually “have a gun” when trouble strikes at home.

I’d venture to say that most people who carry guns don’t make a habit of carrying them in their homes, but there’s really no better way to ensure you’ll have access to a firearm in an emergency. Trouble can arise and develop quickly, and leave you no time or opportunity to fetch a gun from another location. Even if you’re lucky enough to get to a stored gun, the time you’ll spend getting to it can’t be used for other important tasks, before the threat attacks–like warning, rounding up, and moving family members, calling 911, or moving to a position of cover or tactical advantage.

In one of the simulations I ran for my fellow club members, I put the gun in a “lockbox” that was stored about five yards away from the door, where they were positioned at the start of the role play. It was interesting to see how some of the role players struggled with whether or not they should leave the problem at the door to go arm themselves (which involved a panicked and bleeding neighbor, desperately asking for entry/help, with the role player unsure of the circumstances that led to the injury). I could see their mental struggle play out in physical terms, as they began to move towards the stored gun, then changed their mind and quickly returned to the door (only to repeat the aborted attempt again, in some cases).

Indeed, 38% of my role players elected to handle the potentially dangerous problem unarmed, because they felt like circumstances prevented them from leaving the door.  This happened to work out for them, this time, because I had previously determined that I would “branch” this scenario into a no-threat (with the neighbor seeking help from a nasty kitchen knife cut), but it could easily have gone another way, had the injured neighbor been fleeing from a knife-armed attacker that was soon to reappear, after the door was opened.

The students didn’t know what they were dealing with, when they opened the door, and you wouldn’t either, in a real-life scenario. We never get all the information we’d like, before we have to choose in circumstances like these.

Carrying a gun on your person makes you better prepared to deal with challenges like that, and might allow you to be armed in a situation where it’s not possible to get to a stored gun. And what gun (of reasonable utility) is easier to carry than a snub?  The small size and light weight of the snub enable you to carry it comfortably all day long, giving you no excuse to be unarmed, even when you’re just loafing around the house in shorts and a t-shirt.

Score one, for the snub!


There’s a number of “front door” scenarios where it would be wise to approach the door with a gun on your person, or even in your hand, but you wouldn’t want it to be readily visible.

Since a number of push-in, or home invasion robberies begin with an innocent-looking ruse to get you to open the door (or at least get you near the door), it’s wise to treat unknown and suspicious contacts with great care.  The first and best tactic, of course, is to not open the door, and deal with the person by speaking to them through the closed portal, but in the event that you’re compelled to open the door, or the contact decides to force the door, you’ll probably want your gun on your person, not halfway across the house.

But what if the person really is a FedEx deliveryman with a package you didn’t expect, or an upset, teenaged girl whose car just broke down, or a scruffy young man looking for his lost dog? How about a police officer at Zero-Dark-Thirty, looking for a fleeing suspect that hopped a fence and might be in your yard? You certainly don’t want to greet them with a gun in your hand, out where they can see it through a side window, or such. There’s no good that can come of that.

So, we have to temper access with discretion. We want the gun close, perhaps even in our hand (because the fastest draw starts with the gun in the hand, right?), but we don’t want it in plain sight, where it will offend or scare an innocent. That kind of mistake can make a situation go from bad, to worse, very quickly.

Placing the gun in a holster underneath your clothing is a good tactic, and offers a lot of advantages, but may slow your access. Holding the gun behind a leg or your back is also a useful tactic, and improves your presentation speed, but it’s less discreet, and you completely lose the use of that hand for other tasks, until you find a safe place to put the gun away.

What if you could already be “at grip” on your gun, using normal body language that doesn’t look threatening, and be able to quickly release the gun and use the hand for something else if the situation turned out to be non-threatening? Wouldn’t that be neat?

Meet the snub, carried in a pocket holster. The snub allows perfect concealment, normal posture while you’re “at grip” (who doesn’t walk around or stand with a hand in their pocket?), and makes it easy to transition to and from “grip” without anybody noticing.

Slick, and, as an extra bonus, it also helps to meet that “accessibility” requirement we talked about, since it’s easy to carry a snub around in a pocket holster all day.

Score two, for the snub.

CQB Performance

I almost hesitate to use a military term like “CQB” here, because it’s not an exact fit, but Close Quarters Battle is a useful way to describe the close-proximity, potentially-entangled fight that is likely to develop when a fight breaks out between two people in the threshold of a door.

In a fight like this, a small and compact weapon, which doesn’t rely on a reciprocating slide to operate, has a great advantage.

Long barrels generate velocity and energy, and generally improve your ability to hit distant targets with precision, by virtue of the improved sight radius, but in a close-quarters fight, a gun with a long snout can be a detriment.  A long barrel is more easily deflected, and is easier to “get inside of.” It also offers a lot more for your opponent to hang onto, and provides him increased leverage, when he’s trying to wrest it from your grasp.

640 Pro Series

A snub revolver is harder to dodge and harder to get your hands on, as an attacker. It’s also harder to take away from its rightful user, because the user has more gun to hang onto than you do.

The revolver’s operating system also offers significant advantages in close range fights. A savvy (or lucky) opponent can certainly prevent a revolver from operating if he gets his hands on it, but the revolver is much more resistant to malfunctioning from accidental contact, or an unstable firing platform (poor grip, unlocked wrist, etc.), than a semiauto pistol. The pistol’s slide must be allowed to operate freely in both directions, without interference or energy theft, to make the gun capable of firing the next shot–which can be difficult to guarantee, when you’re within reach of your attacker.

As another plus, the revolver is much more likely to work again, after a contact shot is fired. You can jam the muzzle of an autopistol into a target and fire one shot, if you’re lucky enough not to push the slide out of battery, first, but it’s somewhat unlikely that the pistol will properly cycle and allow you to make a follow up shot in that scenario. If the actual contact with the target doesn’t interrupt the proper cycling of the slide, it’s very possible that the bodily matter which erupts from the wound, or bits of the target’s clothing, may interrupt the free travel of the slide, back into battery.

A revolver is much more resistant to these effects. Pressure on the barrel will not disable the gun’s action. Additionally, the barrel acts as a “stand-off” between the target and the moving bits of the gun’s action, keeping them from getting entangled in the target or its clothing. As a result, the probability of making a follow-up shot, after a contact shot, is quite high with a revolver, and, as an extra bonus, the jet of gas which propels the bullet out of the muzzle will dramatically increase the wounding and stopping potential of the gun, when a contact shot is fired. That makes the snubby hit much harder than you’d normally expect it to.

Less dramatically, but no less important, the snub revolver is also quick to present, out of a holster. A snub revolver will “clear leather” (or the edge of a pocket) much faster than a gun with a longer barrel, and this might allow you to get that first shot off sooner, and gain a crucial, tactical advantage.

Score three, for the snub.

Safe Stowage

As we’ve previously noted, there are situations where it might be prudent to bring a gun to the front door, which could later evolve to make the gun unnecessary, or undesirable. Under these circumstances, the home defender will need a way to safely stow the gun.

The best place to put the gun, of course, would be in a suitable holster.  However, it’s unlikely that the defender will have a holster, unless the gun was already being worn. A gun that is recovered from off-body storage will likely be brought to the door in hand, without a holster.1

Consider one of the scenarios that I gave my students. A distraught and bleeding neighbor appears at your doorstep, seeking help. You get your gun from storage, and respond to the door with it in hand, because you don’t know if there’s a threat out there to be concerned with. Later, however, you determine that it’s safe for you to open the door, and provide medical assistance to your neighbor.  The question is, what will you do with the gun, before you open the door?

Some of my students chose to stuff the gun inside their waistband, or into a pocket, in this scenario. The problem with this course of action, is that the gun is relatively unsecured, and could easily slip out and fall as you do other things (like render aid). Additionally, stowing the gun where it’s still visible may present a problem, if you didn’t want the other person to see it.

Perhaps most importantly, it’s not safe to shove a gun like a striker-fired pistol into your waistband or a pocket, because it’s too easy for the unprotected trigger to be inadvertently pulled, causing injury. Please don’t do this with your Glock 17.

Some students in the scenario chose to simply put the gun down, to free up their hands. The problem with this course of action is that the gun is no longer in your immediate control, and it can easily be accessed by an unauthorized person (like the injured neighbor’s young child, who followed Mommy to your home), who may–due to stress, unfamiliarity, or stupidity–negligently fire the gun while handling it. It could also “walk off” with someone who accessed your home in the commotion. 2

So, the best course of action seems to be to safely stow the gun on your person, where it’s under your immediate control, is not visible to other parties, and is still accessible if you need it later. If only there was a gun that made this an easy task . . .

If you said, “the snub,” then give yourself a pat on the back.

Most pants and jacket pockets are big enough to hold and conceal a snub that you don’t want to have in your hands right now, and while we’d always insist on a good pocket holster for routinely carrying a snub revolver, you can put them into a pocket without one, in an emergency, with an acceptable level of safety (as long as the gun’s external hammer, on models so-equipped, is not cocked). The relatively long and heavy double action trigger of a decocked, or double-action-only, revolver would be difficult to pull by accident (as long as there were no foreign objects in the pocket, like keys, which could work their way into the trigger guard), and provides a sufficient level of safety for exigent circumstances.

Of course, as we mentioned before, a snub carried in a pocket holster wouldn’t even have to leave the pocket, to start with.  You could just leave it there, if it wasn’t needed, and nobody would be any wiser.

Score four, for the snub!

Wrap up

Now, please understand that I’m not saying the snub is necessarily the best all-around choice for home defense, only that I think it’s a good choice, and there are many benefits to considering one. It’s certainly not as bad a choice as our RevolverGuy friend’s trainers had led him to believe it is.

Admittedly, if the Mongol hordes were battering my door down, I’d probably want something with more power and capacity than a snub.  Actually, I’d want some concertina, a bunch of emplaced claymores, some close air support, and a bunch of armed friends, but it’s what you get that makes you fat, not what you want, so I’d probably have to settle for my shotgun full of Federal FLITECONTROL.

But the snub will get me through most of the scenarios I’m likely to face, and would be a heck of a lot more useful than the scattergun for many of them. It might not demand a lot of respect from the tacticool crowd, but the snub sure deserves it.

It’s a real strong choice for home defense, and it will likely do the job if your mindset, tactics and skills are up to snuff.

In truth, they’re more likely to be deficient than the gun, eh?

Be safe out there.



  1. This brings to mind a potential suggestion. If you’re going to store a gun off-body, perhaps it’s a good idea to store that gun with a holster that can be quickly donned, regardless of the type of clothing you are wearing? Doing so might allow you to put the holstered gun on, and respond with your hands free, or at least give you an option for safely stowing the gun if it proves to be unnecessary. An inexpensive, clip-on holster, pocket holster, or fanny pack holster, could be worth a fortune in a case like this. Just a thought;

  2. A better alternative might be to safely unload and clear the weapon, before setting it down. In this fashion, it couldn’t be fired without taking deliberate action to load it, first. It still wouldn’t do anything to protect the firearm from “growing legs,” and walking off with an unauthorized person, but at least it would be less dangerous, sitting unattended—not “safe,” just less dangerous. Of course, it would also be less useful, if the situation evolved and you needed a gun, again;

Author: Mike

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is a bonafide revolver nut, a certified law enforcement instructor in handgun, shotgun, patrol rifle, less-lethal, and diversionary device disciplines, and the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, the definitive study of the infamous, 1970 California Highway Patrol shootout in Newhall, California. Mike wrote the "Tactical Analysis" column at Police1.com for 8 years, and enjoys teaching both armed citizens and law enforcement officers.

79 thoughts on “A Snub For Home Defense?”

  1. I think it’s partially a matter of perception or, if I may be blunt, ignorance.
    When I was an instructor at a major multi-agency LE academy back in the mid-2000s, most of the trainees who went through the school had never fired a revolver. Our curriculum included a two-hour familiarization class on revolvers so they’d know what to do with one if they came across it in the course of their duties. I think a lot of private instructors today also have little or no real experience with revolvers, and regard them as one step above flintlocks. All of the factors you describe do in fact make snubs (I prefer the term “2-inch,” but I’m really old school) revolvers viable, if not ideal, self-defense or home-defense options. There is also the fact that by far most self-defense situations that happen in a public place the number of rounds fired is zero. That may not be the case in the home, though. ( I’m thinking of trading my .31 Pocket Remington for a 9mm LCR, so I can blow any assailant’s lungs out. Do the lungs come out in one piece, or do they spray out in little pieces? I’m worried about cleanup.)

    1. I think you nailed it. They don’t know what they don’t know.

      I’ve got a super secret box of Black Talon Rhino Extreme KTW Lungbuster ammo in my stash, but I’ve been afraid to shoot any of it, for fear of changing the weather patterns in my AO.

  2. My LCR 9mm snubbie does double duty as a carry gun and a house gun. Since I retired it goes where I go. No unsecured gun left behind to get stolen from the house or the vehicle. Only one gun to secure when the grandkids show up. I practice with it regularly. All my 357 revolvers and long guns are retired to the gun safe.

    1. Dave, I’ve got an embarrassing number of guns that never seem to leave the safe, but my snub sure gets a ton of mileage. I like your system!

  3. There is a reason the J-Frame .38 Special has been Smith & Wesson’s “Bread & Butter” for decades on end. For up close and ugly, it is one of the best tools for the job !

    1. When experienced folks like you say that, we should all be listening.

      Does that make you some kind of ballistic E.F. Hutton?😆

  4. First off, I love your revolver love. Always been a revolver fan even though I like semis too. Very good points about a snub’s ability to be out of the way but ready for use if needed. It makes me rethink keeping my j frame a little more accessible in the house.

    1. Thanks Daniel! I love my bottom feeders too, but I think our revolvers just do some things a lot better. I’d be very happy if I got some folks thinking about, and questioning, their ideas about home defense guns with this piece. Thanks for writing!

  5. Great points and food for thought, Mike.

    This post reminds me of the old saying – “If everyone is thinking alike, then someone probably isn’t thinking.” I sometimes fear we (the shooting community) have become far too rigid and stagnant in what we believe should be in the well-stocked toolbox.

  6. Great article, Mike. Such sound thinking. I’ve carried a snub in my pocket around the house for 30 years, for all the reasons you wrote. Discrete, comfortable, easy, and should be able to handle just about anything that comes up, at least up to my own abilities!
    Suggesting a “snub for home defense” may draw scorn from the tacticoolers, but who cares. The true thinkers work it into the home defense plan, as there is no single tool/tactic/arm that can handle every situation. Well done, Sir.

  7. A S&W .38 snub (mine’s the Airweight) loaded with wad cutters is the perfect all-around self-defense weapon. It’s size and weight just about guarantee you won’t leave it on the dresser at home when you go out, and, when you’re actually at home, that you will have it on your person. It simply never gets in the way, summer, fall, winter, or spring!

  8. A few years ago I made the decision to carry a pistol with me at ALL times; including when I’m at home.

    It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever need it, living as I do at the end of a private road, outside of a very safe small rural town; where the ‘crime’ is on the order of ‘Will the person who took my daughter’s bike out of our front yard please return it!’

    So the likelihood I’ll ever need to defend myself in my home is slight. Sometimes I feel kind of silly always going armed.

    > OTOH, the only way to *make sure* you’ll always have a gun, should you need it….
    is to *always* have a gun.

    So there’s always a pistol in the righthand front pocket of my pants (or bathrobe). If I’m headed into town, it’s usually a SIG P365 in a Bear Creek Leather pocket holster.

    But around my place, I carry a snubbie: a 2″ Smith & Wesson Model 12-3 with the hammer ground off. The first round to come up is snakeshot, on the off-chance I encounter a trespassing rattler in my garden; followed by five rounds of Buffalo Bore Outdoorsman hardcast. (Which highlights another advantage of a revolver: it’ll accomodate snakeshot.)

    > I do think that being *always* armed— including in your home— is good habit to encourage gun-carrying good guys to adopt. Especially in the case of those who live in places where being attacked at home is not out of the question. I’m guessing that for many concealed carriers, their time spent unarmed at home represents their biggest ‘window of vulnerability’.

    Like carrying concealed, it requires a bit of adaptation to your routine; but once you get used to it, it’s no big deal.

    And yes: snubbies are ideal for that purpose: light, easily concealable, less likely to jam in a close-quarters situation; and with enough ‘punch’ to give you time to get your hands on a more serious weapon, in the unlikely event that 5 or 6 rounds aren’t sufficient to solve your problem.

    1. Thanks Bill, that’s an interesting comment about the “window of vulnerability.” If we spend most of our time at home, that does influence the odds of something happening there, doesn’t it?

  9. Being a desert dweller, I wear shorts year round, and a 340m&p is in my pocket from dawn till lights out. It becomes a backup when I go out, but at home it answers the door with me, takes out the trash, watches TV, etc. I figure if the zombie hordes are knocking, I can fight my way to a bigger gun nearby.

    1. I’m told the desert heat keeps zombies away, but after living in several deserts for years, I’m not so sure about that . . .

  10. And don’t forget, Mike:
    before blowing-out his assailant’s lung with a single shot of 9mm, the *truly informed operator* will first fire a “warning shot” into the air with his 12-gauge; which is almost always all it takes to send him running. No need to unleash the devastating power of the 9mm if it’s not absolutely necessary.

    (And if your neighbor comes to your door a few minutes later, complaining about the new hole in his roof, you can explain to him: “Hey, relax! Chill! It was only a warning shot!”)

    It’s too bad Mr. Biden wasn’t around when Evan was writing his Stopping Power books; there’s clearly a lot Evan just didn’t know!

  11. Snubs are all I have, anymore. For where I live, where and when I go out, my LCR in .357 Magnum, my 642 and 442 (no-locks) are more than adequate. I wear the LCR working around the yard, keep it next to the bed and carry the S&Ws when I’m inside or out bopping around town. Does your excellent (as usual) piece make me feel vindicated? Not at all, but it sure does jibe with a lot of my reasoning. I’ve got the 642 in a Galco Stow-N-Go on me as I type. I’ll be linking this to Snub Noir’s and The Snub Club’s facebook pages if you don’t mind!

    1. Not at all, Bill. Thanks for sharing and for your kind comments. It seems like there’s a lot more folks carrying these guns than the “In-Crowd” would think. Wish I had a no-lock 642 like yours!

      1. Sir, Mr. Michael J. de Bethencourt (all of us know him and his site) beat me to the link. At the moment. your piece is awaiting moderation over on Snub Nose Club. Not at all germane to the home defense conversation, but you know the no-locks are out there. Don’t give up! I refuse to purchase a weapon with that “feature.” My distaste for the reasoning behind the lock has saved me a lot of money that has been spent on overpriced ammo.

  12. An excellent and thought provoking piece. For the discrete front door answer the pocket carry works wonderfully for me. Taking the firing grip and maintaining it is not at all threatening but is lightning fast if and when needed at contact distance. That mode is where the S&W Centennial design really earns its pay, in my opinion.

  13. Nice article. My father was a fed in the 70s, and 80s and carried a 2″ model 19 but had a 38 spl as a backup. I have his model 19(nickel) as my nightstand gun, with a tactical flashlight. That being said, I usually put my Smith 340 PD in my coat or pants pocket to run an errand. Who makes the leather pocket holster in the 5th picture? Thanks, keep up the great website!

    1. Thanks Brent! I’m super glad to hear you’re keeping your dad’s Combat Magnum in service. I’m sure that would make him happy. The holster is a Bianchi Pocket Piece that I modified by cutting away the “push off” tab for your thumb, on the body side. I found that it interfered with getting a firing grip on the gun. After a little bit of razor blade surgery, it has served me well. The skirt on it is narrow enough that it fits some pockets that my other holsters won’t.

  14. Mike, I just am not going to carry my Kimber around the house. Period. And it carries well all day. Your threat-level and preparedness, as a retired armed professional, may change that calculation.

    My solution? Locking heavy-duty storm doors. Slows down and intruder and in the bleeding-neighbor scenario, gives me extra time to call 911… and figure out my next move, my first inclinations.

    Sad to say, but we do not open a door to any stranger. Let them knock.

    The storage box need not be locked either, if we are home. I have needed to grab a gun several times to dispatch a Copperhead. We train for that and have it down to 30 seconds. We also carry walk-in talkies.

    Outside is another matter, and I do carry on the farm, OWB with a revolver. Tell the bad guy it gets pointed at that “six is not enough.”

    1. Wheelgunner, we all have to chart our own path, and I wouldn’t presume to force my decisions on others. I think the storm doors add an excellent layer of security, whether you’re armed or not, and your admonition about keeping the door closed to strangers is excellent. How many push-in robberies could have been avoided if folks had just kept their doors shut? A whole bunch, I bet, maybe most of them.

  15. Another great article Mike! Very thought provocing. I too have been confronted about my firearm choice as our revolverguy friend has and told my K frame or J frame is not enough gun for modern threats. I shrug them off, because I know I am confident with my equipment and tactics. I know I practice with my revolvers more than the other guy with a hi-cap who is criticizing my choice. We all have to adapt to our environments and routines. While i do sometimes carry at home, I also put my 442 (no lock) in a kydex IWB holster in the nightstand where I can quickly clip it into whatever pants or shorts I may have on.

    On a side note.. be watching for the email on the 66-8. I would like to bounce some thoughts off of you. Thank you Sir!

    1. I’ll keep an eye out for it, Mark. Glad you enjoyed the article, and I like your routine of keeping the gun in the holster like that.

  16. I don’t have your training, but I learned from growing up in a bad (as in, terrible) neighborhood that awareness is 90% of avoiding trouble. I wish more gun owners (whatever their gun) would read your advice, sir! They’d not look at a firearm as a talisman who ward off trouble. One has to train not only to shoot it but to get it when needed–quickly.

    Grant Cunningham’s book on defending one’s homestead with a rifle offers that sort of advice on storage, retrieval, and use. I’d love to find a similar book for handguns.

    1. Wheelgunner, Grant just published an updated edition to his book, Defensive Revolver Fundamentals that will be right up your alley. I’ll be doing a review of it in these pages soon. Lots of great advice on those topics you mentioned.

  17. This is an excellent article, a well-written and thought provoking topic. Here’s something I notice wasn’t mentioned as a possible benefit; works well in the dark. Consider for a moment that due to inclement weather like a massive snowstorm/flash flood, the power goes out for your entire neighborhood. (something that has happened to me, the whole subdivision had no electricity for five straight days during a freezing cold October week)

    Let’s say you got a few dusty cobweb-coated candles lit and a flashlight that doesn’t attach to a headband or your glasses, and you can’t charge your smartphone’s light. Then there is a knock at the door in the middle of the night and instead of it being a neighbor asking for help, it’s someone who decided to take advantage of the power outage who is up to no good.

    If you have one hand occupied with a source of light, that only leaves you one hand free for everything else. Should you have to draw and use a semi-auto with only one hand, it could malfunction and you’d have to drop your light source to clear it. Maybe the magazine accidentally drops and you can’t immediately see where it landed in the dark, perhaps it stove pipes but the ambient lighting is too dim for you to notice in the heat of the moment.

    Here’s where the snub nose gets yet another win; you could fire it without the need to clearly see it in the dark, especially if you have to use it with one hand while the other held a light source. And since you aren’t looking down at a j-frame during a CQB, it wouldn’t matter if it were a blade, bead, or fiber optic sight in this scenario. Do you agree this could be a fifth argument in favor of using a snub nose for home defense?

    1. Jeb, I think you make an excellent point that we need to be comfortable operating our chosen handgun with just a single hand. I wouldn’t rule out the autos completely on this matter, as I train and teach the operation of these guns with a single hand, to include fixing stoppages, but that takes time that you may not have. It’s definitely an advantage that the revolver is less likely to have a stoppage that needs fixing to begin with.

      Shooting an auto with just one hand on the gun increases the possibility of a stoppage, since the gun has less support. I’ve also seen a lot of folks cause a stoppage in their autopistol when working with handheld flashlights, either due to direct interference with the slide, or just because their form broke down and they didn’t provide a good platform.

      The fact that a revolver is immune to many of these problems is a definite advantage, as you suggested.

  18. Jeb is right. The night after Hurricane Isabel, we had our first and worst of 11 dark nights. I heard motorcycle races nearby and lots of gunfire, including full auto. We kept our snub, shotgun, and 1911 out.

    Luckily, by night three the police were back in force and the traffic lights were on again.

  19. Three years ago I walked to my mail box, 300 ‘ from my front door, and as I retrieved the mail I began to walk back to my front porch. An old ratty truck came to a screeching halt with the occupants loudly laughing. The driver hit reverse and I picked up my pace while walking out thorough my yard away from the drive. They came up my driveway, exited the truck, and began walking toward me hurriedly. I have some shrubs beside my drive and I had maneuvered to where it was between me and the drive. I quickly realized I was not going to be able to get back to my house so I turned to face them. Two of them had exited the vehicle and were coming around the trees coming at me. The driver had already cleared the trees and his buddy, 6′ 4′ 250 was coming on strong.

    The driver “shouted” at me do you have any work for us, which I said clearly and loud NO. He never slowed at all, but kept closing ground. Told them I wanted no trouble and for them to leave. By now he had clinched his fist and had come to within 40 feet of me with his buddy 60’ . I put he mail under my arm , squared to face them, put my hand in my pocket and grasp the 7 shot snubby by the grip and crouched to get ready for the fight which I knew was coming. I was 72, just had knee replacement, and have bad health problems from my time in Viet nam. They are 25 ish, big muscular, and now driver was gritting his teeth and had pulled his fist up into a fighting position and was now 20 feet from me closing fast. As I crouched the buddy from behind said, “Come on Bob, it ain’t worth getting shot over.” The driver never missed a step and continued on as I began my draw stroke. I knew I was going to be forced to defend myself. When the grip had cleared the pocket holster and started out the top of my pocket he stopped. Started cursing me, stomping the ground, spitting at me, and I started backing toward the house again.

    The 3rd guy was hysterically laughing while just stepping out. He was either drunk or high.

    Had I not had the snubby, I have no doubt, I would have been beat to a pulp, or possibly killed, in my own front yard that morning.

    I am in total agreement with the snubby in the pocket “at all” waking hours. I know it saved my bacon on that morning.

    1. Roger, thank you for your powerful testimony. I’m glad it all ended well for you, and hope you’ll never be in that spot again, but appreciate you sharing the lessons with us and emphasizing the value of a handy snub.

      Like so many of your fellow vets, you may not have heard it 50 years ago, so please allow me to say, “thank you, and welcome home.”

  20. Mike finally got time to set down and read your latest. Another very good read.

    In 1995 moved into a non uniform position and it had me residing in the Little Rock Metropolitian area. LR was bad then and has become much worse today. I settled on a Smith model 649 .38 Spl that had been enhanced by Cylinder & Slide. A friend gave me a Galco horsehide pocket holster and the combo worked so well that I am still carrying it today 27 years later.

    Before I was blessed to be able to rotate back to the relatively low crime Ozarks. I had got in the habit of continuing to carry the J even at home off duty. That habit continues in retirement. Never answer door without my hand in my pocket.

    Our world and our country has gone crazy. I pray that all the good folks here stay safe. Be ready.

    Thank you Mike.


    1. Thank you Sir, for your kind praise and your insights. I think your example is one we should all be paying attention to. It’s interesting that so many of the people I respect have independently come to the same conclusions on these matters. Hmmm . . . it’s almost like there’s a lesson, there, for the rest of us!

  21. Good stuff in this article and the comments, Mike. A snub revolver makes sense as the instantly accessible gun in this age where the majority of society is screaming for them all to be locked up. Mr. Reed’s mailbox trip is a good example as to why a gun on you around the house is a really good idea. If things get really sporty, your snub is available right now until you can get to that high capacity semi auto or shotgun. but it is one of few choices that can be comfortably with/on you even while dressed down and lounging.
    Small revolvers are good “nightstand guns” too, for many of the same reasons. A forgiving trigger in those seconds where you need to regain full consciousness and maximum retention benefits if an intruder reaches contact distance before you can react. Just like in the mailbox role, a snub gives immediate defense capability while you decide whether the shotgun needs to be retrieved from the closet. Thanks!

    1. Kevin, I’m really glad you mentioned that bit about the trigger. The DA stroke on a revolver definitely gives the revolver a big advantage as a threat management tool, because it takes more deliberate action/effort to pull that trigger through. I appreciate the striker-fired guns that are so popular now, and acknowledge they have many positive attributes, but their lightweight, short travel triggers are easier to pull unintentionally, under stress. The longer, heavier, DA revolver stroke could provide enough margin for error to avoid a tragedy.

  22. My preference is for the Colt D-frame, carries “six for sure” is very little larger than an S&W J-frame, but usefully more compact than a K-frame round butt. My EDC 1974 Colt Agent with shrouded ejector rod and Pachmayr Compac grips weighs 20 ozs loaded. My steel frame Detective Special weighs 24 ozs loaded with factory stocks and Tyler T-grip. In fall and winter I often carry the pair instead of a speed loader. My 4-inch Official Police resides in the travel GHB.

    1. Yessir, there’s a LOT to like about the old Colts. You’re fortunate to have access to a good ‘smith and the parts you need to keep them running strong. They’re just right, for the job.

  23. I appreciated the points in this article.

    To be honest, I mostly keep my M&P 340 ready at home for much of the same reasons. I have other firearms that most people would find “better”, but with 2 children and ammo price/availability, the revolver easily loads and unloads without causing bullet set-back.

    I think this to be an under appreciated attribute of the revolver.

    1. Indeed it is, Tim. If your personal routine involves lots of loading and unloading, the revolver will certainly allow you to stretch out the acceptable service life of the ammo.

  24. The snubby I carried to that mailbox on that spring morning was a Taurus Mdl 617, 7 shot, 38Spl/357 Mag revolver. It was loaded with Cor Bon Dpx in 357 Mag caliber ammo. I carry it in an altered Desantis Nemesis pocket holster. The throat of the holster needs the stitching removed, and my wife sows another seam to widen the throat so it will fit the 7-shot cylinder. The Taurus is a K frame size with a 2″ brl. I wear carpenter jeans which have large deep pockets, so I have no problems with the method of carry. I like these revolvers so well that I have 3 of them. I also like the 7-shot capability.
    Do not feel under gunned what-so-ever.

  25. Thanks for another great article on the many useful attributes of a snub nose revolver.
    I’ve been carrying S&W revolvers on a daily basis since 1981 – some 41 years. In NYPD my Chiefs’ Special (Model 36) was my off duty gun and my back up while on duty.
    When I was in Anti-Crime many times it was my only firearm due to the nature of plainclothes/undercover assignment. In retirement I traded that fine steel revolver (oh, the stories it could’ve told!) for a new stainless, airweight S&W 642 with a 2 1/2 barrel that’s rated for +P ammunition. A front night sight was recently installed along with a S&W three finger grip (I never liked the dangling pinky) and I load it with five rounds of Federal standard pressure .38 SPL wadcutter ammunition. I carry this gun here in hot, humid Georgia (with some +P JHP as reloads) and at the end of the day I park it in my nightstand.
    I pity the poor bastard (and his four accomplices) who try to break into my home in the middle of the night.

  26. My Model 10 is my preferred home defense revolver, but I’d feel comfortable using my 642 or Model 12 in a home defense scenario. I mean, I trust my life to them away from home, so why wouldn’t I do the same when I’m at home?

    1. “I mean, I trust my life to them away from home, so why wouldn’t I do the same when I’m at home?”

      BINGO!!! This is so obvious it shouldn’t even have to be said. But, some are just prone to miss the obvious so somebody has to say it. LOL!

  27. At the end of the day, the snub is a 1-perp gun. Unfortunately, we’re seeing way more confrontations involving more than 1 perp. The snub just doesn’t have enough capacity. I’ve seen way too many fights where 5 or 6 rounds just was not enough. Sorry. Great BUG, but it’s just way too limited for me to rely on as a primary. Accessibility – lots of guns just as carriable as the snub nowadays with more capacity (and better sights, and better triggers). Concealability – lots of guns just as concealable. Safe stowage? – this is what holsters are for. I will grant that the snub can shine where contact shots are called for, but even that can be mitigated (as the other above factors can be as well). Do I have a couple of snubs? Sure. Are they my go-to home defense gun? Hardly. Way better than nothing, but hardly optimal for me.

    1. I respect your opinion, Ariel, and I’m glad you have a different gun that you’re happier with.

      I have to say, though, it has not been my experience that there’s a lot of home-defense shootings that go into high round counts. When you set aside the outliers like the drug gangs trying to knock each other off, it seems like the bad guys are quick to flee when a home defender starts shooting. There just aren’t many fights where the invaders stick around to slug it out, and I’m just not seeing a large number of shots exchanged in the vast majority of the home confrontations that are reported.

      I have no problem with someone who’s more comfortable with greater capacity on tap, but I don’t think the numbers make a case that capacity is as important as we sometimes think.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and be safe out there.

      1. Good assessment Mike. It’s also been my experience that once the shooting starts folks tend to make themselves scarce even if their job is to get in the mix.

        Excellent marskmanship beats high volumes of fire every time. Not to mention the sad fact that there’s a lawyer attached to every projectile loosed by a homeowner.

  28. Well written article with sound thoughts. Could not agree more. I have lost count of demoing to people how hard it is to take away my snub in an entangled fight.

    Keep up the good work!

  29. Mike

    I’ve said before that I’m a revolver guy from way back. I can use the bottom feeders to good effect, but the wheelgun gets the nod now that I’m out of the spartan business.

    You make some valid points about the utility if the small revolver for home defense. Thanks for that. I share your concerns about the ease of discharging the striker fired pistols, especially under stress. That’s the main reason I choose the j frame as a constant companion. The little wheel guns are quite resistant to discharge when crawling around equipment while repairing it, or any of the other contortions of daily vigorous life. They’re just safer to carry concealed than a striker fired pistol. If one is carrying a duty rig, that advantage might be negated but it doesn’t invalidate your points.

    Ed Harris is right about the Colt D frames. I’d love to use them and it would be great for CZ to start producing the alloy D frames in quantity again now that they own Colt. Unfortunately there aren’t many guys who willing to work on the Colts these days and parts are getting scarce.

    1. John, it seems there’s no shortage of serious guys who have settled on the snub for daily carry. There’s a host of reasons that folks will pooh-pooh the idea, but there’s obviously something very compelling about the snub that these experienced folks, like you, appreciate. I think the rest of us should be listening to that.

      I tried the New Cobra and found that I didn’t shoot it well, but I thought it was well made and a valid option for those who could make it sing. An aluminum-framed version would indeed be nice, but what would Colt call it, now that they boxed themselves into a corner by using the “Cobra” moniker for an all-steel gun? Cobra Lightweight? New Agent?

      Yes, the lack of parts and qualified ‘smiths is a big downside to using the older Colts, but if you can find someone to keep yours running, you’ll be well-armed, indeed.

      Thanks for writing and sharing your experience. Always good to hear from you.

  30. Mike, as per normal, great article. A snub is a great home defense gun for the reasons you mentioned and more.

    I do think that that something people miss out on or don’t consider because they over think things is…it’s not the gun that makes a good “home defense gun” it’s the person holding the gun that makes the gun a good “home defense gun”.

  31. Sandy Garrett of Northern Virginia Gun Works is my Go-To guy who repairs and maintains my dozen or so Colts. So far as I know he is the last remaining factory-trained Colt gunsmith listed by the American Pistolsmith’s Guild. Several retired cop and Fed friends all use him.

  32. I keep a snub in the bed , below the headboard. Why? Because there’s zero possibility of firing it by mistake if I have to remove it literally undercover if somehow surprised during the night. It will work under the covers, too. But no matter how tired, confused, etc.– it’s not going off until I want it to do so.

    I won’t clear the house with it; it’s just to buy me time to get the Flitecontrol out of the closet…

    BTW, speaking of Flitecontrol, everyone really should go fire five or ten of those at paper/cardboard and make sure they perform as intended, with the choke in use for HD. I just unloaded a brand new Beretta 1301 that would scatter the shot about 3 out of five times. Some shots at 15 yards… two inch hole, as expected. Some shots– 16″ pattern. Would you use that indoors? I wouldn’t. Different choke; same problem– now I’m just wasting precious unreplace-able #1… onto the secondary market you go.

    1. Not “zero,” Frank. I’m aware of all kinds of negligent discharges that have occurred with revolvers! The heavy and long DA trigger on a revolver is an added layer of safety, but it’s not foolproof. All guns are dangerous and we should always treat them accordingly.

      Your recommendation about FliteControl is excellent. It’s a good load, but there are guns and chokes out there that won’t like it. A tighter choke can strip the wad off the shot column before it exits the barrel, leaving you with an irregular and expanded pattern.

      For those unaware, the tight pattern normally delivered by FliteControl is achieved by keeping the shot column and wad together, for a distance, after they leave the barrel. After the wad/shot travel downrange a ways, the fins on the FliteControl wad begin to cause enough drag to separate the wad from the shot column. This has the effect of keeping the shot column together for a distance beyond the barrel, and retarding the spread of the shot column, which translates into tighter groups downrange, at distance.

      If your gun strips the wad from the shot column inside the barrel, though, the shot column will begin to spread immediately after exiting the barrel, and you won’t get those tight groups downrange.

      FWIW, I’ve been reading about some QC issues with recent lots of FliteControl, which have resulted in large and irregular patterns. It’s not certain what’s causing this—A bad lot of wads? The wad getting crushed during assembly?—but it reinforces the requirement to adequately test your gear before you put it in service, as Frank noted. It’s not sufficient to rely on a brand’s reputation, and assume it will work properly. Test and verify!

  33. Revolver knowledge is lacking even at the local gun stores. At the range Saturday the person behind the counter wanted to clear our guns before entering the range. She took my nephew’s revolver, cocked it, then handed it back and said he would have to show her how to open it. Yet she had a semiauto on her hip. I opened both of mine for her. Scary.

  34. Great article but one thing you didn’t discuss is the mate factor. My wife while enjoying shooting is in no way a “gun guy”! I carry a Shield normally and she cannot even rack the slide let alone remember to click off the safety before going to work. I can give her any revolver and she can pull the trigger instinctively. When we had a neighborhood scare I took to leaving my 44 Bulldog within her arms reach. Hopefully after she pulls that trigger 5 times I’ll have my Shield as her back up. Not a woman hater by any means but for my wife the snub is a perfect house gun

    1. Thanks Bill! I didn’t intend my article to be comprehensive, and as we’ve seen from your comment and others, there’s a whole host of other arguments in favor of the snub for home defense!

      FWIW, friend Mas Ayoob has written extensively about your valid point in the past, arguing the snub revolver is a great way to arm another person who doesn’t have their own gun. Its simple manual of arms helps to ensure the borrower will be able to work it without instruction.

      Great stuff. Thanks for adding to this growing conversation!

  35. Another great “article”, man I’m old, and why I look forward to The Revolver Guy’s write ups! My EDC for the last 7 plus years is a 4″ 686+ because I’m big enough to do so however my 642 is always on me or when sleeping, in the nightstand! My second biggest frustration today, with the first being the anti 357 Sig crowd…maybe TRG could do a 357 Sig Vs 357Mag anathema article in the future LMFAO, is the lack of knowledge of revolvers or the outright dismissal of revolvers being relevant in self defense today. I even questioned my EDC for a short time and just had to realize that my past experiences have kept me alive and have brought me this far and a snubbie is far much better than empty hands. I always carry at home, so does the wife…we both have LE in our resumes with my wife still being current which is why we have a different perspective than most, and the night I went to throw out the trash at 9ish PM and there was a man with a flashlight between our and the neighbors house I had my 642 in my hand and ready to go before he even knew I was there, it was only an emergency AC repair thank God however anything could radically change in an instant! In my biased opinion I think every gun owner should have at least two revolvers, a snub and a full size, and train with them to be effective and responsible.

    1. Amen, brother! The snub revolver just does so many things right, that I can’t imagine being without one. Thanks for your collective LE service and for writing in with your testimony of the snub’s effectiveness. The other guys may never catch on, but we can be confident that we’ve made good choices with the snub.

      I actually like that idea about doing a .357 Sig / Mag comparison, but don’t have a .357 Sig to do it. My understanding is that it approximates 2.5” barrel .357 Mag performance, but it would be interesting to do the comparison to verify that. I always found the Sig to have quite a bark—it was pretty noisy when the guys from the other agency were shooting theirs, as we shot our .40s. That bottlenecked case makes life more difficult for those seeking to reload, and factory ammo is expensive, so it’s probably a better choice for a government agency than the individual shooter, unless he has a bankroll!

  36. Mike, I’m an old, retired fed- carried a Colt Detective Special for years and used it to defend myself one night in an alley. (Without firing it). My daughter has mine now, and I’m thinking about a new Cobra or night hawk- how do they compare in size to the DS? And what is your opinion of them? I liked the size, weight, and ability to quickly draw the old DS- much more secure feeling with it compared to my little Bodyguard .380 I have now.

    1. Hello Sir, thanks for writing! I wrote an article about a variant of the new Cobra that spends a lot of time talking about the baseline Cobra, which might be useful for you:

      RevolverGuy Colt Night Cobra Review

      I think the new Cobra is a very nice gun. It’s bigger in some dimensions than the older DS, particularly in the trigger guard area (a stretched out frame and trigger guard). It’s certainly a good chunk of steel, weighing more than competitors in this class (at 25 ounces, it’s 3 ounces heavier than a S&W 640 and 2 ounces heavier than a Kimber K6s). It has a very good fiber optic front sight. The action is smooth, and stacks like a Colt. Given your prior experience with the DS, I think you’d like it very much. I think I would personally feel more confident with it than the Bodyguard .380.

  37. I’d encourage anyone and everyone with a small snubby to try it in their pocket for a few days, all day, everywhere.

    In very short order its absence will feel very awkward and its presence will not be noticed – except for that warm comforting feeling of feeling it.

    Sadly, very few folks unfamiliar with the subtle superiority of snub revolvers will visit “The Revolver Guy”.

  38. I had a major computer crash and only just found your Snubby for home article.
    I’m 77 and have worked at refining the optimal civilian self defense gun for a long time. (Totally Subjective!)
    Lots of good tries from .40 S&W Sigma, .357 centennial,
    .22lr 317, and now S&W 43c.
    Ah! The .22 DAO 8 shot, CCI Stinger Fragmenting, action smoothing a lighter springs. (No lock)
    – minimum recoil, flash, & bang.
    – ALL the excellent reasons in your superb article!
    Many Thanks !
    A couple of references that you are probably very familiar with:

    Protect Yourself With Your Snubnose Revolver. By Grant Cunningham


    1. Thank you Sir! It’s always good to hear from folks who have experienced the journey and can share their wisdom about what they learned.

      Grant is a good man, and we’re fortunate to know him, here. We’ve reviewed the book you mentioned in these pages, and recently reviewed his latest one, too.

      Chris Baker is doing great work at LuckyGunner and we’re happy to count him as a friend, too.

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