For all practical purposes, the whole revolver versus auto debate has pretty much played out and further comment is pointless. There are, however, a number of things a snub revolver does very well. Perceived shortcomings will also be addressed, along with ways to overcome them.

For starters, the snub (2.5-inch barrel or less) revolver is an extremely size/weight-efficient package. The most popular snubs accommodate five or six rounds of .38 Special ammunition in a delivery system that can be carried on the belt, ankle or in a pocket. If given a reasonable amount of care, snubs are very reliable, which is something that cannot be said for like-size pocket pistols. Five shots are a very big advantage in extreme close quarters where the user may be firing with a less than optimum grip, unlocked wrist or the muzzle pressed up against an assailant. Its short barrel also makes it more difficult for an assailant to effectively disarm you.

The manual of arms for the revolver is simpler than that of the pistol. One can instantly verify its condition by opening the cylinder and taking a peek. Unlike a pistol, its ammunition reserve is entirely self-contained and is unlikely to be lost. There is no manual safety to disengage prior to firing or decocker to sweep after firing.

On the downside, a short sight radius and inferior sights are often identified as major liabilities. Fortunately, there are a number of technological solutions to alleviate this concern. Limited capacity is yet another reason why some folks shun the snub. True, a snub may only have one-half to one-third the ballistic payload of many pistols. For most self-defense situations, however, capacity is rarely an issue. In any event, the ability to reload under pressure may mitigate the capacity shortfall of the snub revolver.

Sensible Modifications

To the uninitiated, snubs can be very contrary guns to shoot to a high standard—particularly with users whose handgun experience has been limited to the autopistol. But by making a few simple modifications and putting in some practice time, good results can be achieved in fairly short order.

In the past, the factory splinter grips were far too small for most users and afforded poor control in rapid-fire. To rectify this situation, many end users simply fitted a grip adapter to their snub, which filled in the area between the rear of the triggerguard and the frontstrap. This trick allowed the user a far better grip on the gun without increasing external dimensions.

Most snub revolvers now come from the factory with a set of slightly oversized, soft rubber grips. They do fit the hand better and certainly diminish felt recoil but rubber often adheres to clothing and these grips can give you away should your covering garment ride up and expose your roscoe to the world.

Of course, aftermarket grips made of wood and other materials are available from a number of sources. Personally, I prefer “boot grips” that don’t extend beyond the bottom of the grip frame or make the gun harder to conceal.

Moving up top, let’s consider the sights. Most snub combinations consist of a milled notch rear sight and a serrated ramp front sight. This setup doesn’t exactly grab your attention in optimum light and is nearly impossible to define in poor light or when subjected to life-threatening stress. Additionally, the short sight radius compounds the slightest error into off-center hits or even a miss. Some may argue that the sights on a snub are not that important since most street encounters will be at very short range. To me, that represents quite a bit of wishful thinking and I wouldn’t want to bet the mortgage on it.

I’ve come to appreciate a high-contrast front sight that I can pick up in almost any light condition without corrective lenses. Some of the better choices include a fiber optic sight from HiViz and the Big Dot from XS Sights. These sights can be retrofitted by a reputable gunsmith to most snubs and are available as a factory option from Ruger and Smith & Wesson.

I wasn’t quick to embrace the concept of laser sights, but I’m now convinced they are one of the better accessories you can affix to your snub. Without question, laser sights will get you on target in poor light. Since most armed confrontations occur under less-than-optimum light, laser sights for your snub make tremendous sense. Snub grips with integral laser aimers are available from Crimson Trace and LaserMax.

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