Girls and Revolvers

Breda and Mike took Breda’s mom to the range this weekend, and a rather predictable thing happened.  The gunstore clerk recommended a .38 Special Airweight snubby as an ideal defense gun for Breda’s mom.

Now, make no mistake, I have nothing against .38 Special snub nosed guns.  But for the life of me, I’ll never understand why so many people are under the impression that these guns are the bee’s knees for first time shooters and women for self-defense.  It’s an extremely difficult gun to learn to shoot well – the sight radius is small, recoil can be unpleasant when shooting +P self-defense loads, the trigger pull is long and difficult to master, etc.  I’m not saying that women can’t or shouldn’t carry snubbies, but for the life of me I’ll never understand why people think that it’s such a great gun for “first time CCW” people.


  1. I don’t think a little .38 is ever a _bad_ choice for carry. That’s usually my initial recommendation too.

    They are difficult to shoot well, but they are easier to carry than big “real” guns. That’s why they are good… because a fashion-conscious woman (and men) will be much more likely to actually carry it. My wife likes her snubbie for the same reason she likes her Glock… it is simple to operate and it never fails. But the .38 can be worn under a light t-shirt, while her G19 is too big.

    It is a different story for someone who is going to dedicate significant time to training, spending money on a good holster and belt, and design their wardrobe around concealed carry. A lot of people just want a gun they can toss into their purse/pocket. I’d bet you the latter is more common than the former.

  2. I can’t explain it, but I can tell you that a lot of first-time shooters want to start with the snubbies even if no one has directly told them that’s the way to go. The meme is embedded now.

  3. For the most part, I’m with Caleb on this one. With newer shooters that are choosing a first CCW gun, I generally just point out the “fewer methods of malfunction:more ammo comparison”, and then just recommend they choose what feels good in their hand and has a trigger they like.

    In the end, after handling a range of firearms, the only ones I’ve seen choose a revolver for their first were those who just thought maintaining a semi-auto would be too complicated.

    Personally, I’m a bit biased against revolvers as carry guns simply because, after all of these years, I still can’t shoot them worth a damn in double action (at least not at any reasonable speed). I can get better groupings shooting my subcompact glock or my Springfield Operator 1911 with one hand than I can with any revolver I’ve tried. That long, heavy trigger pull just completely kicks my butt.

  4. I’d also point out that in most self defense situations, your groupings at 10 or 20 yards won’t mean diddly. Snubbies are well-suited to being defensively fired at point-blank range.

  5. I think it’s 100% size of the gun. It’s sort of intuitive that a smaller gun is going to be easier to handle. It’s counter intuitive that a bigger pistol (up to a point) is easier to shoot.

  6. Some of the various models are. They make one of those flyweight snubbies out of unobtanium alloy for .357 Magnum.

  7. I have a snubby but it’s not an airweight, which to me always translated as “big ass recoil even from a .38”.

    My Taurus 651 in .357 mag (but loaded with .38+P) is my “anytime” carry gun, if I’m just running out to take care of a quick errand, or otherwise in a hurry. I clip its IWB on my belt, it conceals easily, and off I go. If I’m going to be out of the house several hours visiting several different locations, I’ll take the time to strap on the Springfield XD compact (.45 acp) or my Glock 23.

    The Taurus 651 used to be my “car” gun, sitting in the glove box, but I swapped it out for a 4″ Taurus Tracker, a .44 mag but loaded with .44 special (and empty chamber over hammer, so only 4 shots); It takes up a bit more room in the glove box but it fits, and it earns its keep, so to speak.

    What I like about the Taurus 651 is that it’s light, compared to the XD, and so comfortable I barely know it’s there. The XD, yeah, I know it’s there; XD with 2 spare mags–big time heavy. With the XD or Glock, it’s relief to take them off when I get home at the end of an evening out; On the other hand, I have been known to lounge around the house still wearing my Taurus 651 after coming back from somewhere for a few hours before finally taking it off my hip and putting it away in the nightstand.

    Firing .38s from my Taurus 651 is tolerable. Firing the .357 mags it’s designed to shoot feels like slamming your fist down moderately hard onto a car’s hood (firing .44 mags from the Taurus Tracker 4″ feels similar, which is why I prefer shooting .44 specials through it instead). I think I’d be faster with follow up shots using .38s vs. .357 mags. I also have a spare 5 rounds of .38s in a speedloader that I always carry whenever the Taurus 651 is my carry gun. I know it’s far from the optimal carry choice, but for a quick trip to the grocery store or to go get the mail, it does the job.

  8. My every day carry gun is a Beretta Jetfire in .25 ACP. When it comes to a defensive firearm, I’m less concerned with stopping power than I am with the “am I going to actually carry this gun” factor.

  9. I suppose an airweight for a beginner is just fine. As is a 67′ Stingray Vette with nitrous boost is just fine for a first car 🙂

  10. I have recommended the .38 airweight as a first time defense gun before.


    First, the folks looking were on a budget and I’ve always got airweights for under five bills, where the 60s and 640s are usually a good bit higher. Second, the folks I end up showing it to have exhibited problems racking slides on other guns, even with the push method. Third, I have always recommended starting out using light wadcutters for a defensive load and easing into it. Wadcutters *do* work beyond their numbers on paper as far as capability goes.

    I also tend to make sure that if above is true, that the customer can actually pull the trigger on the pistol.

  11. I believe that there is also an assumption at work that the customer will neglect to learn to use the gun and will certainly never maintain it. In which case, the revolver will be more likely to function correctly for the owner if it’s ever needed.

  12. I suppose that’s a valid point, my problem with that is why assume that she’s going to toss it in her purse and forget about it? Why not teach her how to run a semi-auto (assuming she has the whole “slide racking” thing) and teach her how to maintain the gun?

  13. For my wifes first gun I got her a Rossi .357 with a 4″ barrel. She’s shooting 38 +p’s out of it for sure and she’s getting real good with it. Might not be a great carry gun but it could be a decent purse gun, especially with the huge purses she like. But anyways, she doesn’t carry, yet.

    The one time she lit off a .357 out of it, she very carefully put the gun down stepped away and said, “Nuh-uh.”

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