Second Thoughts about Second Guns: The Snub-Nose Revolver

The first handgun I ever consistently carried was an S&W Model 19 with a 2-1/2 inch barrel. I truly wish I still had that gun, but unfortunately it’s long gone from my collection. I may have to look for another one someday… but for now the only revolver I own is a Ruger LCR chambered in .38 Special. Some recent reading, along with the arrival of colder weather that requires heavier clothing, has renewed my interest in the little snubby. Indeed, the small revolver seems to be an enduring constant in the consciousness of American concealed carry.

Taking advantage of an end of year sale, I ordered an appendix holster for my LCR from F3 Holsters to experiment with carrying a second gun. Contrary to what many might recommend, in my mind the revolver is an ideal second gun, as it meets the minimum requirements in terms of caliber, is easily concealed in a variety of ways with minimal printing, and is an excellent choice for close range confrontations. This last point is something that I had not fully considered prior to reading Ed Lovette’s book, “The Snubby Revolver.” Lovette’s book is now in its third printing, and contains a wealth of information. To paraphrase a few points that he discusses in the text, the small revolver is an excellent pocket gun, excels at contact distance conflicts, and is easier to retain in close quarters. For me, the snub-nose revolver generally prints less whether carried in a belt holster or simply dropped in a pocket. Indeed, a revolver can be fired inside a coat pocket, whereas a small semiautomatic pocket gun might jam or malfunction in that instance. Also, consider that while there are techniques that allow a semiautomatic pistol to be fired at contact distance, it is probably far easier and more intuitive to simply force the muzzle of a revolver into an assailant and rapidly empty the gun into them without worrying about inducing malfunctions. Further, in extremely close quarters where an assailant may try to disarm you and a fight over the gun ensues, a small revolver is generally going to be more difficult for an attacker to grasp and wrest from your grip, primarily because of its rounded shape and short barrel. Accuracy with the snub-nose revolver at longer distances is challenging, but close range encounters may be resolved with simple and instinctive point shooting where the rudimentary sights of most revolvers are not necessarily a liability.

Regarding Lovette’s book, I can definitely recommend “The Snubby Revolver” as an excellent resource for those considering a snub-nose revolver for concealed carry. The only real criticism I have of the material in the book is that I think his ammunition recommendations may be a bit dated. The Kindle edition that I read unfortunately has several minor errors in typesetting, with annoy ingly frequent spaces in the mid dle of words, but is otherwise an easy read full of practical advice and recommendations based on real world scenarios and experiences. Should you plan to purchase the book as a resource, I would like to ask that you do so using our new Amazon affiliate link. (Thank you for your support!)

My thoughts on the snub-nose revolver have also been influenced by the writings and videos of Claude Werner, the “Tactical Professor.” Check out his blog of the same title, as well as his excellent instructional DVDs. Grant Cunningham has also written extensively about the revolver, although I am admittedly less familiar with his work.

I am still undecided on exactly how or where I want to carry a second gun, and I doubt it will necessarily be constant or fixed. I think I first heard the idea proposed by a now deceased member (Anthony James) of the online forum Warrior Talk of carrying the revolver in an optimum position (appendix) to respond to close range reactive confrontations, with a second larger gun carried elsewhere on the body. Anthony’s point was that the second gun is better considered just that, a second gun rather than a “backup” gun. If the revolver is emptied and further shots are required, then a “New York reload” is readily available in the form of the second gun. For me, this probably means that I will wear the revolver in the appendix position and move my Glock to behind the hip. This configuration allows me to add or subtract the revolver as a second gun at any time and mitigates the training concern of carrying pistols in different positions, as there will always be a gun in the appendix position. As elaborated on previously, close range encounters favor the revolver, and if situations dictate a larger semi-automatic pistol (active shooter as one example), then the pistol can be preemptively drawn first. One distinct advantage of the F3 holster that I ordered is that it can easily be converted for left hand use, so I can also explore wearing the revolver opposite my pistol in the appendix position, easily available to my left hand.

Anthony also wrote about the concept of a “roving gun,” in which the revolver can be a gun that roves to and from different positions as dictated by circumstances. One example might be keeping my normal carry gear the same, but placing the revolver in an outside coat pocket for quick and easy access when wearing heavy clothing, or to be able to approach transition points with a hand already on the gun in the pocket. One last attribute of the F3 holster is that it is tuckable, allowing for a very discreet and minimalist option to still be armed when wearing a full size pistol is not practical. Unfortunately, I have found that most of my pants pockets are just not large enough to pocket carry a gun (I’m a small dude…), so I am relegated to tucked belt carry when the utmost of discretion is required.

Now, make no mistake, the small revolver is an expert’s weapon, but most small handguns are. Training and practice with the small revolver is mandatory. To that end, once my new holster arrives I am going to go to the range to shoot some drills to get a baseline of how I perform with the revolver as opposed to my Glock. Two drills that I’m specifically planning to shoot are Mike Seeklander’s 5×5 challenge and Ken Hackathorn’s “Wizard.” With its five shot strings of fire, the 5×5 seems easily adapted to the five shot snub-nose, and the “Wizard” drill only requires five rounds total and serves as an excellent metric of skill at arms.

If my experiments convince me of the continued validity of the snub-nose revolver, I will probably eventually seek out a lightweight alloy frame S&W. I like the LCR for what it is, but it is not quite as sleek and svelte as the J-Frame. In the meantime, I also plan to equip my LCR with a tritium front site from XS Sight Systems as funds allow.

Ultimately, what appeals to me about the snubby as a second gun is its overwhelming simplicity. Five or six shots, to be used in extremis, to potentially convert a very bad outcome into a survival story. Knowledgeable gun owners often criticize the stereotypical recommendation of a snub-nose revolver for women or inexperienced shooters. Reading on the subject has somewhat changed my perspective on this advice. Consider the individual that is not a “gun nut,” someone that is not going to seek out training, but is just going to buy a gun to keep at home, in the car, or in their purse. The gun may very well be relied upon as a last resort, in an extremely close range and violent encounter with the criminal element. In that instance, might it not be better to have a simple and reliable “point and click” interface that will work at contact distance? I’m not sure of the answer, but it is a question I struggle with for certain members of my family. Indeed, in the context of an extreme close quarters fight for my own life, it’s a question that still perplexes me. Truly, the more you learn, the less you know.

Readers, do you have any thoughts on this subject? Let me know in the comments below!

Update – 01/15/2016

As promised above, I took my LCR to the range today to see how I performed with it. As predicted by Ken Hackathorn in his description of the “Wizard” drill on Soldier Systems Daily, I failed the test with the snubby revolver… right now I am only comfortable with it out to about 7 yards using two hands. The F3 AIWB holster meets my expectations, and I am of the opinion that my planned purchase of an XS Sight Systems tritium front sight will benefit my shooting with the LCR, as the stock front sight post is difficult to visualize in the rear sight channel in the revolver’s current configuration. Stay tuned for further updates as I continue to explore relying on the LCR as a second gun.

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