Thoughts On The Snub Mindset

We’re fans of the snub revolver here. For reasons that we’ve discussed in detail before, we think it’s a useful tool for many of the self defense situations we’re likely to encounter inside and outside the home.

However, we’re also cognizant of the snub’s limitations. While the snub does some jobs better than other guns, the qualities which make it useful in those scenarios can also be a detriment if the circumstances change. That’s the nature of selecting a firearm for defense—it’s a balancing act, where you trade off some qualities and capabilities for others, and you never get 100% of what you want. We’d all like to choose a gun that carries like an Airweight, has the legs and accuracy of a long-range target rifle, points like a finger, and recoils like a .22, but hits like the Hammer of Thor.

Reality Check

Alas, it doesn’t exist, which is why we make trade-offs and learn to live with them.

That “learning to live with them” part is something we don’t talk about often enough.  I daresay we’ve done a pretty good job of addressing it in these pages, in the past, but we still spend the majority of our time and effort looking at equipment, here on the blog. It’s easy and fun to talk about the “hardware,” but when the conversation turns to “squishy” things like mindset, awareness, tactics, and skills—the “software” that allows us to put the hardware to good use—it becomes more like work, doesn’t it?

Without the proper mindset, training, and tactics, this snub is pretty useless, by itself.

Indeed, but if we want to turn the gun into something more than a talisman, we’ve got to put in the work, so it seems like a good time for us to make a deposit in that bank, and talk about some of the things, other than equipment, that keep us safe.

The model

Regular readers of the blog, and of my book, are familiar with the “Priorities of Survival” model that Massad Ayoob has taught as part of his Lethal Force Institute and Massad Ayoob Group curriculums for decades. In brief, Ayoob lists the following priorities, in descending order, with the most important first:

Mental Awareness and Preparedness




All of these are important to your survival, but the ones at the top of the stack have a greater impact on your ability to survive a lethal attack than those at the bottom. An alert person armed with a mediocre gun will generally fare better than a clueless, distracted idiot armed with an expensive blaster, eh? Similarly, an average shooter who uses good tactics will generally fare better than a highly skilled marksman who uses poor tactics. What good are shooting skills, if you never get the chance to use them because you failed to use available cover, and got shot, right?

Right. So let’s spend a little bit talking about those top priorities, as they relate to a shooter armed with the popular snub revolver.

Golden advice

My brother said something to me once, very early in my experience of carrying a gun in self defense, that made a big impact on me.

I was carrying a snub revolver exclusively, at the time, and I was asking him about his own experience, carrying a similar gun. He lived in a state with carry laws that were much less restrictive than mine, and had unlimited discretion in what he could carry. Sometimes he chose a compact auto, other times the snub revolver, but in the course of our conversation, he made a statement about making that choice that stuck with me, all these years.

“When I choose the snub, I know I’m limiting my tactical options—there’s some things that I can’t do now, some shots that I shouldn’t take, and I have to remember that before I step out the door.”

Hmm . . .


What is it, about the snub, that might limit our tactical options, as my brother discussed?

The first thing that jumps out at us is its limited capacity, and the time it takes to reload the gun. When you have a gun that only holds five or six rounds, and takes upwards of four or five seconds to reload (maybe less, if you’re highly skilled, maybe much more, if you’re not, you’re using a slower loading tool/method, or you’re injured), you will be at a distinct disadvantage in an extended, high-volume gunfight.

Five rounds is probably enough . . . until it isn’t.

The late Dr. William Aprill once told a story (start at 38:00, then again at 4:10 in the next episode) about a highly-skilled competitive shooter and self defense trainer who volunteered to take on four armed robbers, while armed with a five-shot snub revolver.  Even if we acknowledge and appreciate this person’s aggressive mindset and demonstrated skill at arms, might we agree that his equipment wasn’t well-suited for the task, and it might have been a better tactic to summon help, rather than voluntarily engage such a superior force? 1

Another issue with the snub is its practical accuracy. By definition, snub revolvers have abbreviated barrels, with a correspondingly abbreviated sight radius, that makes it more difficult to be precise.  Snub sights are also typically harder to see, and frequently suffer from regulation issues, throwing the bullet to a different point of impact than the point of aim.  Additionally, the small frame of a snub can negatively affect handling qualities, and the lopsided ratio between trigger pull weight, and the weight of the gun itself, can make it harder to hold the gun steady on target.  All of these factors combine to make it more difficult to hit targets—particularly if they are small and/or distant–with precision when you’re shooting a snub. The gun usually has great, inherent, mechanical accuracy, but it’s often hard for shooters to extract it, in real-world conditions.2

That precision becomes even more important when we consider the ballistic performance of typical snub ammunition. While it’s possible to fire some relatively potent rounds through a snub revolver (I’m thinking of 9mm, .327 Federal Magnum, .357 Magnum, etc.), a great many shooters tend to carry less energetic loads, that produce less felt recoil (.22 Magnum, .32 Long, .32 H&R Magnum, .38 Special wadcutters, etc.). This, combined with the slight energy loss incurred by the use of a shorter barrel, can make it harder to deliver fight-stopping energy on target, especially after penetrating intermediate barriers. It’s useful to remember that even Magnum ammunition, as powerful as it is, is only handgun ammunition, and handgun ammunition is basically “low energy” by definition. We rely on handgun ammunition to do the job because handguns are easily portable, but if we really wanted to assure ourselves that a well-placed round would terminate hostilities, we’d be talking about more powerful rifle and shotgun cartridges, wouldn’t we?

Factors like these encourage us to think about snub revolvers as guns designed to get us out of trouble, instead of guns that we’d choose to get into trouble, as friend Darryl Bolke reminds us. If we were looking to get into trouble, we’d definitely be looking at a larger gun—probably shoulder-fired—with greater capacity, power, range, and practical accuracy, and we’d be looking to have a bunch of friends with us, who were armed the same way.

Dealing with limitations

The snub is a good choice for our typical self defense mission, though, and it’s a lot easier to carry around than a squad of rifle-equipped Marines on your back. For many of us, it’s a great fit for the types of dangers we’re likely to face in our everyday lives.

However, we do acknowledge its limitations, and we try to minimize them by emphasizing the higher priorities in Ayoob’s survival model. By placing greater emphasis on things like mental awareness and preparation, and using good tactics, we try to tip the scales in our favor so we don’t have to rely on our skill at arms, and aren’t impacted as much by the limitations of our equipment.

Consider the top priority of Mental Awareness and Preparedness. By paying attention to our environment, we try to detect and anticipate dangers with enough lead time to avoid them, if we can. We couple this heightened awareness with a prepared mind—one that has already made certain decisions ahead of time, so we don’t need to make them in the heat of battle.

This is an exercise that’s beneficial to us regardless of what we carry, but it becomes even more important when we’re armed with a weapon that may be insufficient to deal with certain threats. Recall the story we discussed earlier about the highly-proficient shooter who chose to close with, and engage, a force that was superior in numbers and armament with his five-shot snub revolver. We’ll presume that his awareness was high, as he was able to detect the robbers staging for their attack on the jewelry store, but he had clearly not prepared his mind to answer the question of which scenarios he was, and was not, going to involve himself in while he was armed with a five-shot gun.

You’ve got a five-shot snub. Quick: Do you engage, or get the heck out of there? Figure it out now. Image from

It’s one thing to be forced to defend yourself with a snub revolver when you have no ability to escape or avoid the threat, and a different thing entirely, to jump into the mix when you have a choice to flee, summon help, and be a good witness. If our hero had been a patron in the store, and the four robbers had come in firing, then he would have had no choice but to respond with his snub revolver, using his best tactics and skills to stop the threat, even though they outnumbered and outgunned him. However, was it a smart idea to take on four guys with four guns, knowing he had just a fraction over one round per man, when he could have just called the authorities from a position of safety?

We can’t anticipate every possible scenario and preplan our responses, but figuring out what our “lines in the sand” are—the things which will obligate us to act, even if the tactical situation is not in our favor–is an important part of carrying a gun for self defense, and it becomes even more critical when we’re carrying a gun like the snub. Figure these out ahead of time, because there will be no time to do it when “the balloon goes up.”


Our choice of tactics is also very important, and influenced by what we carry.If we had that squad of rifle-armed Marines we were talking about in our back pocket, we could choose from a different set of tactics than we could if we were by ourselves, armed with only a snub.

Powerful guns, with high capacities and extended effective ranges, give us access to a different set of tactics than low powered, limited capacity, short range guns. The former may allow us to overwhelm an enemy via aggressive fire and maneuver tactics, whereas the latter won’t really support that, so we have to match our tactics to our available equipment to maximize our effectiveness.

There’s a tool for every job. This one is designed to protect you from your most likely threats, not to fight off the Mongol Hordes.

When we’re talking about the snub, that generally means we have to get closer to our attacker (to ensure we can hit what we need to the first time), ensure we have an unobstructed line of sight (because our ammunition isn’t great at dealing with intermediate barriers), and limit the access that other attackers may have to us (because it’s even more important to keep threats “on line,” and deal with them one by one, when we’re working with a tool that has limited capacity, range, and power).

To accomplish these things, we think about tactical considerations like:

      • Maneuver. “Getting off the X” and putting ourselves in a superior tactical position–preferably behind cover–that allows us to place effective fire on the threat, and minimize his ability to return the favor, is critical. Working the angles to defeat the threat’s cover and “choose your shot” is very important with a weapon that has limited ability to penetrate intermediate obstacles, and limited capacity. Similarly, closing the distance, rather than increasing the distance, may be important when you’re armed with a shorter-range weapon like a snub–especially if the threat is armed with a long-range weapon, like a rifle. Closing the distance may also allow you to thwart their draw or get your hand on their weapon, which may provide an opportunity to disable it (especially if it’s an autopistol);
      • Ambush. One way of effectively closing the distance is to “wait your turn,” and ambush your opponent when they’re in range and you have the tactical advantage. We might keep our armed status hidden, for example, and wait for an armed threat to approach within range, and turn their attention away from us, before we present our weapon and fire;
      • Surreptitious draw.  The fastest draw is one that starts with the weapon in your hand, and a pocket-carried snub offers a huge advantage in this respect. You can already be “at grip” while looking like just another guy with his hands in his pockets, which plays well into the tactic of biding your time for the right opportunity to launch your ambush on your attacker. There’s no need to telegraph your move from across the room—where your attacker’s weapon or tactical situation may give him an advantage over you, and allow him to engage you sooner—if you can wait to strike at close distance, at a speed which will deny him the chance to stop you before you’ve pulled the trigger;
      • Target selection. When you’re armed with a firearm that has limited capacity and power, your target selection becomes even more important. It’s of even greater importance to hit your target in the spot that will do the most damage, and terminate the threat in the least amount of time and rounds fired. In some situations, this may force you to favor a more difficult target area, like the head, instead of the more traditional target area in the upper, center chest, when you’re armed with a snub. Hitting this more difficult target may require you to make other tactical choices, like closing the distance with the threat, and waiting for your best opportunity before taking the shot;
      • Second gun. Because snubs are small and light, and slow to reload, it may be a useful tactic to carry two of them, and plan on drawing the second gun in lieu of reloading the first;
      • Battlefield pickup. In some rare situations, a snub may be useful as a means of acquiring a better weapon. A properly-executed ambush may give you the opportunity to take an attacker’s more capable weapon and use it against the remaining threats, particularly in an age of Complex, Coordinated Attacks by terrorists, urban street rioting, and criminal assaults carried out by large gangs of armed people;
      • Break Contact. Perhaps the best snub tactic of all involves using the gun to create an escape path, and getting away from the threat. We don’t necessarily need to vanquish the foe, we just need to escape to a place where he can’t hurt us, any longer.

These are just examples, of course, and not hard-and-fast rules. The situation will dictate the tactics and the decisions, but the key is that your equipment (and your skill with it) may influence or limit your tactical options, and the savvy defender will think about that ahead of the battle.

fire discipline

We’ve touched on this a little already, but it’s important enough that it deserves a special mention.

You are responsible for every shot you fire, so it’s critical that you exercise fire discipline when shooting in self defense. Unlike the bad guys, we don’t get to haphazardly spray a bunch of bullets, without care for the safety of those around us. Instead, we have a moral and legal obligation to make sure our aim is true, and our target is legitimate, before we fire each round.

This applies to us, no matter which firearm we are using, but it takes on special importance when we’re carrying a gun with limited capacity, as is the case with most revolvers. If you can’t get the job done with the first five or six rounds in your revolver, then you may not get another chance, as it’s highly unlikely that you will have the time, distance, and opportunity to complete a revolver reload, in extremis.

So, beyond the moral and legal concerns, there are very real tactical concerns about volume and precision of fire that affect us, as revolver shooters. Part of developing the “snub mindset,” then, is accounting for how the limited capacity of our revolvers impacts the Tactics and Skill components of our survival model.


Remember, again, that equipment is an important priority in our survival model, but our awareness, preparation and tactics are even more important, since they may eliminate the need to use our equipment at all.  In the worst case, if force becomes necessary, our awareness, preparation and tactics may put us in a better tactical position to use that equipment, and provide a better chance for success.

We tend to focus a lot on the gear in the greater gun culture, but it’s your awareness, preparation, and decision-making skills which are of greatest importance to your success.

So, put the first things first, and be safe out there.



    1. Of course, you could have an autopistol and a belt full of increased-capacity magazines, and it wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be any different, right? Perhaps it’s not a wise idea to get yourself into situations where you need to rely on your equipment to get you out of trouble that you could have avoided in the first place. This is the essence of the “snub mindset,” is it not?  It makes sense to avoid confrontation regardless of what you’re carrying. The best way to guarantee victory in a fight is to  avoid getting into a fight, so act accordingly!

    2. We’re not in the camp that believes the snub revolver is a “phone booth gun,” that’s only useful at arm’s-length distances. We practice with our snubs out to 25 yards pretty regularly, and occasionally push them to 50 yards, because it’s still reasonable that you might be forced to engage a threat at that distance, and the skills you hone at the longer range will pay dividends when the target is closer. Having said that, we’re honest enough to recognize that it’s harder to perform with a pocket-sized snub at these distances than it is with a larger gun, and acknowledge that most snub shooters simply don’t practice beyond a handful of paces. The snub is not a “phone booth gun,” but there’s a lot of “phone booth shooters” out there, carrying snubs. No matter how you slice it, the small, compact size of the snub is both one of its greatest advantages, and one of its greatest disadvantages. For those shots that require a higher level of precision, the snub is not your frontline choice;

    3. Our tactics are also influenced by a realistic assessment of our skill with that equipment. Knowing whether or not you’re capable of making the shot is critical, and will have a profound influence on where, when, and if you will engage. If the distance is too far, the target too small, or the window of opportunity too tight for you to make the shot, then you need to know that. If you understand it, you can employ tactics to remedy the situation and create a proper opportunity to fire, but if you don’t understand it, you’ll risk harming an innocent with an errant shot, or identifying yourself as a target to a bad guy who is beyond your reach, even though you may not be beyond his. Training, then, is essential to support both the Tactics and the Skill priorities in the model.

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 for 8 years, and enjoys teaching both armed citizens and law enforcement officers.

52 thoughts on “Thoughts On The Snub Mindset”

  1. Retired after thirty two years LEO in a lower crime New England town, some task force stints in high crime areas, fortunately never been in a gun fight.Started my career with a revolver, and a snub off duty, still carry a snub. Thanks for this very good article and a great ” refresher course” for us old timers.

    1. Yes Sir! Glad you enjoyed it, and glad to hear the snub is still keeping you safe. You can’t argue with 32+ years of success. Thank you for your service on that Thin Blue Line.

  2. I think a lot of the trainers in the GWOT era have unwittingly done a disservice. A lot of the training I’ve done and seen is focused on high volume shooting. Mag dumps then reload.

    I can appreciate fire superiority as an 0311/SAW gunner but as a private citizen I’m not mag dumping into a threat at the supermarket. It’s not Fallujah and I’m now a subscriber to don’t shoot faster than you can assess.

    If needed I can still get A zone hits with 0.25 splits with my m66 but I honestly think that the higher capacity guns don’t really add much benefit and can give people a false sense of security.


  3. Ryan Knuth makes a very good, and somewhat disturbing point about the current (last 15+ years) generation of ‘combat experts’ teaching civilians basic defensive methodology. It is a far cry from being a baby trooper with a .357 revolver, dump pouches and one set of bracelets.

    I can not count the number of training classes I’ve attended where high fire volume, mag dumps, and ‘tactical reload with retention’ was emphasized. High fire volume has its place, usually at the SAW level. Even in the revolver era, I never believed I was under armed, but I also understood the limitations of my equipment and had to behave accordingly.

    Avoiding trouble as a non MIL or LEO is tenuous at best; however, avoiding places where you have stupid people doing stupid things in large numbers is a safe bet to get home without incident. But even that is no guarantee (thinking about Atlanta’s MARTA rail system in particular). When Clint Eastwood introduced the world to Harry Callahan, the one phrase that still rings true today as then: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” And those limitations apply to the individual and his or her equipment.

    S/F Ryan

  4. Excellent article Mike, you touched on a lot of talking points I myself have made when I discuss my desire to own a snub nose revolver. While I do not have one yet, the fact that they are still being manufactured and sold today proves there’s a niche for them in our current polymer semi-auto obsessed society. Another argument I make in favor of carrying a snubbie is that generally, somebody who carries only a revolver typically isn’t “up to no good” these days. The way I see it, a KS6 or Model 36 or Detective carried in the pocket wouldn’t garner the same kind of suspicion and scrutiny as someone who open carries three Glocks on their belt like you see in so many “People of Walmart” pictures posted on Reddit.

    A snub nose revolver is a “backed into a corner” type of firearm and I believe you could make the argument that using in during a hostile encounter would be seen as purely a defensive move. Since you have a limited capacity, you err on the side of caution and can’t go charging into battle which could discredit someone’s attempt to portray you as the aggressor. They’re designed to get you out of trouble, not into it. I certainly wouldn’t take on bank robbers (plural) with only five rounds myself, that money is insured anyway. Let the police track them down days later and throw a flash bang grenade through their hideout window when they’re sitting on the toilet, no big deal right?

    Here’s an idea for a future article; could you touch on why revolvers are referred to as “Roscoe”? Also, if a company today were to create a revolver and title it The Roscoe, what sort of features do you picture it as having? If you can find some information about where the origin of that title came from I think that would make for an interesting read.

    1. That’s an interesting idea, Jeb. Maybe we’ll have to get busy on that! Hope you get to add that snub to your rotation. I think you’ll find it useful.

    2. I could see the “Roscoe” being a DA snub revolver with vintage lines like the Det. Special or the Colt Agent. With Tyler T-Grips.

  5. Thanks for the sage thoughts on mindset and the timely reality check, Mike. The review of these priorities was needed, particularly the part on fire discipline, and how capacity effects the tactics of those who carry a snub. Harumph, Sir.

    1. Thanks pal! As you well know, the software end of things doesn’t get the attention it deserves, sometimes. I’m glad we can shine a little light on it.

  6. I’ve carried high capacity auto pistols for over 28 years. I regard them as ‘get out of trouble’ guns as well as snubs. If 5 or 6 rounds isn’t enough, you need to re-evaluate what you’re doing! More ammo might not be the answer. It’s been said many times: when expecting trouble, bring a rifle or shotgun.

  7. The photo at the top, just below the article’s title, appears to show an early S&W Centennial with a grip safety. Maybe nickel plated? Nice piece.

    1. Spencer, it’s one of the newer 40-1 Centennials that ran from about 2008-12. My buddy owns it, and I just borrowed the picture.

  8. Good article Mike. You hit almost every one of the soap boxes I’ve developed in the last 30+ years as a police officer AND it appears you and I agree. So, two things:
    1) This article applies to all handguns, not just snubs. I believe you said as much in the article, but I could not pass up the opportunity to state that myself.
    2) A handgun is like a life preserver on a ship. If someone falls overboard, throw the life ring at them, throw it the best you can, and hopefully all will turn out well. If you have to protect your self with a hand gun, protect yourself the best you can, preparation counts, hopefully it will turn out well.
    Remember you have a handgun because a shotgun, rifle, division of marines, is hard/inconvenient to carry.
    Lastly, great job Mike, both with this article and this blog. Keep up the good work.

  9. Another great article Sir! People comment all the time when they discover I choose my .357 over one of my Glocks about how the lower capacity of my roundgun puts me at a disadvantage. I try to make them realize that regardless of what I am carrying, my tactics and approach to any situation will dictate the outcome for me. I will admit, I do get hungup on “gear” at times but I always go back to a basic set up of a solid revolver, a good holster, a reload be it a speedloader or 2x2x2 pouch, and situational awareness.

    1. Friend Evan Marshall reminds us, “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.” I think you’re in great shape with that setup, Mark, because you put the mind ahead of the gear. We’re all enthusiasts here, and love playing with the gear, but keeping the priorities in order is the key to self-defense, I think.

  10. Superb content in this one. I too ascribe to the Bolke methodology mentioned about getting out of trouble and not into it. My days of getting paid to look for trouble are behind me. My only interest is defending myself and / or my family in the unlikely event that I am forced to. That type of business typically happens at just beyond arm’s length or less distance and that is square in the middle of the performance envelope for the snub, in my own opinion.

    Your commentary on ammunition selection is good as well. Tradeoffs become really important when it comes to the ammo we choose, and the upside of some ammo is not necessarily worth the downside. It becomes a very narrow range of choices that hit the balance point between terminal effect and shootability. But I would note, again with a nod to DB who mentions the actual quote, that Pat Rogers was fond of saying that the 158 grain round nose lead . 38 Special standard pressure ammo that he won fights with (and which one of my earliest LE instructors more than 45 years ago referred to as “sewage ammo”) was plenty enough to do the job so long as the shooter put them where they needed to go in order to get proper effect. Now I don’t carry 158 grain RNL, but I do my best to train to a standard where if it was all I had, I could do good work with it.

    1. That’s a great training philosophy, Frank. I think we’ve all been bitten by the “magic bullet” bug at one time or another, but Evan’s right when he says, “the three most important things about ‘stopping power’ are shot placement, shot placement, and shot placement.” I never knew him, but I’m sure Pat would have agreed.

      1. Thanks for the reply Mike. That philosophy, coupled at the hip with mindset which you touched on brilliantly in the piece, is what I try to teach when I work with students. I strive to be able to deliver similar results at 25 yards as I do at 3, the only real difference being delivery at different tempo. The history, as DB always reminds us, demonstrates again and again that the first person to put rounds in the optimum place on their opponent is who wins gun fights, regardless of distance. The great, perhaps apocryphal, Wyatt Earp quote about fast vs. accurate comes to mind from the history as well.


  11. Something Chris Baker said once at Lucky Gunner stuck with me: let the probable threat determine what you carry. For my most likely outcomes, a snub or compact semi would deter a bad guy and get me out of trouble.

    I would carry my AR if I lived in some dystopian Octavia Butler story, with a handgun as backup. But I don’t. Probable threats here? Nearly nil. A goon at the boat ramp, maybe. A poacher in the woods, where I have a long arm when hunting anyhow.

    For a home invasion, we have both a 4” barrel revolver and CZ-75 handy, with tritium sights on the latter, fiber optic on the former. And we plan accordingly: locking storm doors, flash lights, dogs, alarm system, phones handy. No one we don’t know enters the home after knocking.

    At our age, a late dinner Saturday night in town is unlikely. 530 Tuesdays are a good time to walk into a restaurant, anyhow.

    1. Ol+Wheelgunner, I’m now starting in on Octavia Butler. Thanks for mentioning a new (to me) author!

  12. I Pocket Carry a 7 shot Taurus mdl 617 38/357 revolver. It is a K frame size with 2″ brl. I am not looking for trouble only for a way out, and hope and prey I never need to use the snubby. Awareness is king although sometimes I am not as aware as I would like to be.

    My traveling pistol is a S/W MP 9C 2.0 when in the RV with the 7 shooter in the pocket. Fuel stops, while on the road, are getting much more dangerous, it seems. Turned 75 yesterday.

    1. Happy Birthday Pop Pop! A good thing about growing older is that your birthday cake has to grow in size, to handle all the candles. Hope yours was delicious.

      I think you’re definitely right—life is getting much more perilous these days. The good guys are under assault, and often seem to be in retreat. Meanwhile, the bad guys grow bolder. None of us can be totally aware, all the time, but we can all do our best. Keep your head up and stay safe!

  13. Great article. I have carried a 2 inch since 1965. I agree with your thoughts 100%. Could not have expressed it better myself. Thank you.

  14. I am 77 years old and have carried a j- frame .38 spe. nearly every day since 1980.
    I practice out to 25 yards and sometimes out to 50 yards. I shoot these revolvers more accurately than any semi auto.

  15. Good article. Very well put. There’s a lot to think about, not just when carrying a revolver, but carrying in general.

    Also, I’d like to extend my thanks for your past article on Greg Ellifritz’s Snubnose Revolver class. He’s holding one in May, and I signed my mother and myself up for it. I’m looking forward to it; hope my choice of a Taurus revolver won’t get me too many chuckles!

  16. Never underestimate revolvers. I started shooting them in 1968, when, as a brand new 2nd Lieutenant, the USAF issued me one to protect some very special documents and equipment. As an LEO, we were issued Glocks, but I still carried a snub or Glock 26 off duty. Your comments on tactics and off duty incident assessments were spot on, very wise advice, and what was expected of me when off duty. Being long retired, and getting older now, I still find myself carrying one or two snubs most of the time, and feel very safe doing so. Thank you for a brilliant article.

    1. Phil, it’s good to hear from a fellow Airman, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I wish I could find a cache of those old Model 15s they issued us. Thanks for all your LE/MIL service.

  17. Great article as mentioned many times but also applies to those of us who pocket carry the 6 or 7 shot flat autos (ie my G43 or Smith Shield or Kahr PM9). Do I carry a reload? Most days no since my pockets are full of other crap. When I travel? Either close to me or close to the gun. But that is only another 7 or 8 rounds. And in my training for CCW I was taught if its not about me or my family call my back-up (911) and be the best witness I can for the boy in blue.

  18. Absolutely a terrific article. This may be one of the best but still fairly succinct summation of pros/cons of a snub. I will be sharing the hell out of it. Well done.

  19. Whole lotta good thoughts in this article.

    TOM story: In the ‘limited ammo supply’ column, had a guy come into the gun store once, his carry gun was a little 5-shooter. He wanted me to check something on it, and when he unloaded it before handing it over, there were only four rounds on the counter. Asked him to take out the fifth round, he said he only loads four in the gun, with an empty chamber under the hammer; wouldn’t want to bump the hammer and have an unintended discharge, don’cha see. Since teaching is my primary Spiritual Gift, I put on my Gunshop Guru hat, and gave him a free short tutorial on the modern transfer bar safety feature, which his gun was equipped with. He listened politely, but was unconvinced; stated that if he needed more than four shots to protect himself, he was in real trouble anyway, and one more wouldn’t help. Didn’t appreciate my snarky comment that if he had to draw the gun, he’s already in real trouble. The plus side, though, was that his four rounds were a good quality hollow point.

    A belated Happy Birthday to Pop; I really miss you guys on the defunct Stopping Power. Glad to see some of you here. Ace

    1. Always great to hear from my Stopping Power friends! Thanks for checking in, Ace.

      Did he at least keep a rolled-up sawbuck in the empty chamber, like all them cowboys?

  20. Sorry to be late in reading this…excellent article, Mike! The list of priorities in descending order that You worked through, are critical to one’s successfully defending themselves in a confrontation. They are worth spending time and thought on, and should be a priority for us all. Many good perspectives in the comments too.
    It’s interesting that I completed my 4 year renewal of my CC Permit last weekend, and these same topics were addressed…but not in such a clear, well defined way. Well done!
    Kevin Massey

    1. Thanks Kevin, I’m glad you caught the article and found it worthwhile. I appreciate the kind words—It’s never too late to receive an attaboy from a reader!

      Be safe out there. Hope you’ll never need that permitted weapon.


  21. Another good article. I’m all for practicing to counter the most likely threat, and there are some people who have been forced to fight whilst being outnumbered and outgunned (thinking of the homeowner who fended off an attack by four dudes, one with an AR15, and all he had was a PPK—-there was another incident in an Internet cafe where two guys got the jump on the patrons only to run at the first shot from an grandpa with a small auto).

    Protracted gunfights like the North Hollywood shootout seem very unlikely, even today. But if I see Robert Dinero’s crew walking into my bank I’m leaving.

    Dicken stepped up and saved lives. As Ayoob has said, Black Swan events do happen.

    But on the other hand, you will never be prosecuted for not jumping into a fight.

    I guess we have to find the medium where we fit comfortably.

  22. I love reading these stories and seeing the comments by the older folks; I started carrying in 1982. There were S&W, Colt, Ruger and Charter Arms revolvers that you could rely on. I worked for a Sheriff’s Office transporting prisoners from court to jail and prison. We had to buy our own firearm, I carried a S&W M15 at work on the hip with a S&W M49 on the ankle. This article is true to the tactics of the day. We carried speedloaders for the duty revolver and speed strips for the back up. I never felt at a disadvantage carrying a revolver; we shot weekly back in those days just to do it! When I left the Sheriff’s and went to prisons we were issued Colt Official Police and S&W Model 10. We were only allowed to carry 5 rounds with the hammer down on an mt chamber! We were issued dump pouches with 5 rounds in each pouch, you know how they fell out! We were issued 158gr RNL! Eventually, through documentation and training we were allowed to carry 6 rounds in the Model 10s, the OP were cut up and scrapped. I believe that a snub with good ammo is a good defensive gun. Sorry to go off target so to speak but police, sheriffs, prisons, etc; many had no concept of how a revolver worked, if they had a transfer bar safety system, etc. They made us carry revolvers with 5 rounds in a 6 round cylinder out of ignorance and lack of training. They had us carrying widowmaker ammo because there was no input allowed by those carrying it. I still like carrying a revolver with good defensive ammo.

  23. Excellent article and fully agree.
    A critical aspect of mindset is also confidence ( not arrogance- the line between the 2 can be small) and hard training to overcome some of the “ limitations” of your equipment so you know you can do what need be done, if it comes to that, is what produces confidence. The unfortunate reality is most snub carriers ( most gun carriers actually) simply don’t train enough to develop confidence in the skills needed to prevail.

  24. Hey Mike, do you happen to know where to get that 2 x 2 x 2 speed strip? I’ve never seen one like that where they’re separated for a six shot.

  25. Gunfight? I’m not a cop. I’m not a soldier anymore.

    It’s not my job to engage the enemy.

    My job is to boogie out of there.

    A J-Frame is good enough for that.

  26. Snubbies have no doubt saved many lives and stopped many crimes. I met a police officer who was off duty one day, walking down a sidewalk armed with a 5 shot J frame when a bank robber exited the bank right in front of him, dye packs exploding all over him and brandishing a Browning Hi Power. The cop drew his snubby and arrested the robber right there. He said he had thought about it a lot in the years since. The robber had several spare mags and was evidently prepared to fight. The cop told me “He could have easily killed me but he must have decided not to add murder to his charges.” So, the cop’s status as a LEO and the mere presence of the snubby was enough in that situation.

    At the other end of the spectrum, in the FBI shootout in Miami in the 80s, two FBI agents engaged the robbers (who were armed with a Ruger Mini 14 and a shotgun) with five shot revolvers. The first agent admitted that he simply emptied his snubby in the general direction of the bad guys and was then struck with the horrible realization that his rounds had no effect and he was now empty. He was reloading when he was hit in the hand and then again in the groin as the robber with the Mini 14 stepped over him.
    Another agent, who was SWAT trained, emptied his 9mm double stack auto at the robbers from across the street, apparently wounding but not stopping one of them. When he ran dry he pulled his snubby back up gun and fired one round, but immediately felt it was “not up to the job.” He holstered the snubby, reloaded his 9mm and continued the fight.

    All of the agents commented that they felt outgunned with handguns and a shotgun against a semiautomatic rifle. Three were hit while reloading. Even the “big gun” report of the rifle was intimidating. The agents employed the standard police tactic of attempting to contain the bad guys and wait for help, but the robbers employed military counter-ambush tactics, pinning the agents down with superior firepower and then flanking them. Nevertheless, the agents fought bravely and killed the two bank robbers, but at a terrible cost. So the agents’ mindset prevailed even though their tactics and equipment were not up to the task.

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