The science is settled

The “snub-nosed revolver for a new shooter” meme rears its head again.  This particular horse has been beaten and beaten, and yet whenever a female shooter posts it there will invariably be 1 or 2 people that insist that a snubby is a great gun for a new woman shooter.

It’s not.  In fact, it’s not a good gun for a new shooter period, man or woman.  Because both my co-author and I have touched on this repeatedly, I’ll just do the bullet points version of why a snubby is lousy for a new shooter, period.

  • Short sight radius
  • Heavy trigger
  • Unpleasant recoil

That right there is a cocktail of “how to get someone to never go shooting again”.  Yes, snub guns are lightweight and easy to conceal – which are wonderful virtues if you actually practice with the gun.  If you just drop a snub nosed revolver in your pocket or purse and never practice with it, you might as well just carry a piece of wood that’s shaped like a gun and painted black.  It’d be cheaper than buying a real gun, and will be just as useful as a gun that you don’t practice with.

Update: See, I told you it was settled.


  1. I’d say a snubby is generally not a good choice for any new shooter, however I still think the best first gun for anyway, man or woman; is the one they are going to keep practicing with.

    I guess for some crazy folks out there a snubby might fit that description.

  2. Lightweight snubbies are nearly as bad as the Taurus Judge IMO. They promise people something that can’t be delivered to the novice shooter, though I’d stop short of saying you’re better off without one than with one.

    Too bad manufacturers are making so much money off of them. I can go into any gunshop and find several examples of these atrocities and find almost none of the fine midsized revolvers that ARE good. Go figure.

  3. Not even theoretically true.

    90% or more of self-defense incidents: no shots fired.

    That doesn’t mean a piece of wood would be good enough. It needs to be realistic enough to fool the criminal. Even airsoft guns – or an unloaded revolver – don’t look right from the muzzle end. Having a real, loaded gun does get you an awful lot of utility, which you do not get from anything else. And it’s not much more expensive than a good model. It’s worth it to get that 90%+.

    In the remaining single-digit % of cases, firing the gun is often a deterrent even if no hits are achieved. And it’s possible for someone with no training to get hits simply by accident.

    What tiny percentage of the time will having a perfectly-fitted gun you’ve spent hours practicing with make a difference?

    If your goal is simply saving lives, you’d be better off worrying about your tire pressure or getting some cardio. You’re far more likely to need to swerve to avoid an accident or avoiding heart disease than you are to get into a gunfight where the fraction of a second or extra couple of inches of accuracy make the difference between life and death.

    I realize this is heresy, but there’s a difference between whether or not something is fun, and whether or not it makes a significant contribution to public health and safety. This will be my 4th day in a row going to the range. But I fully admit that I’d probably increase my life span more by spending that time at spin class instead.

    And speaking as someone who’s married to an actual scientist who deals with public health issues, it bothers me when I see gun people making public health arguments that don’t hold water. It reduces our credibility.

      1. I thought that was hyperbole.

        You know, hyperbole is the worst thing ever!

        Now THAT is sarcasm.

      2. Well, that’s progress. Not so long ago you were making the same case in all earnestness. Sarcasm is a step. At this rate, it won’t be long before I have a new ally in promoting the the “Liberator Strategy” of crime prevention: getting as many guns as possible into as many hands as possible, by any means necessary, so as to maximize the chances of a criminal looking down the wrong end of one.

        1. Actually, I still believe that if you’re going to carry a crappy gun and not practice with it that I’d rather you carried an airsoft or a piece of wood, but that’s mostly because I don’t want to get killed when some idiot has an ND with a gun they’ve never trained with.

          1. Huh. I haven’t heard that argument since Arizona passed no-permit carry last year. “Untrained people with guns! There will be blood in the streets!” But at that time it was coming from the Brady crowd. And of course, as with all their predictions, it didn’t come true. Turns out our street cleaning bills haven’t gone up at all.

          2. I know they’re anti-gunners, but there’s no reason to be harsh. They actually showed some signs of intelligence: once that fear of theirs was disproved, they stopped making that argument.

          3. For some reason, you struggle with this idea, so I’ll explain one last time. And I do mean “the last”.

            1. Everyone (excluding prohibited persons) has a right to keep and bear arms.
            2. Anyone who is mentally willing and physically able should be allowed to carry a firearm for personal defense.
            3. If you make the personal choice to carry a firearm, you have accepted that you are preparing for an extremely improbably event (i.e. using that firearm in self-defense).
            4. You can better prepare for that extremely unlikely event by training with your firearm. This has the dual benefit of making you more likely to survive a violent encounter and less likely to create a liability hazard to your fellow citizens.
            5. All people who carry firearms would benefit from training and practice, but should not be REQUIRED to take it to carry their gun.

            That’s it. Very simple. Simply passing out guns to every Tom, Dick, and Harry is a bad idea, if for no other reason than a firearm carries a tremendous amount of responsibility with it, not to mention the lawyer attached to every bullet that gets fired.

          4. I understand your assertion. What I don’t understand is why you keep making it even after reality has conclusively disproved it. When we actually tried it, Tom, Dick, and Harry proved to be relatively responsible individuals who, on balance, use their guns for good far more than for negligent discharges that kill someone. So it turns out to be a very good idea.

            Who should I believe? You? Or my lyin’ eyes?

          5. Except that we didn’t give Tom, Dick, and Harry guns. They made the adult decision to carry them, and by and large accepted the responsibility associated therewith. You have a serious case of selection bias. People that actually carry their guns are much more likely to take the responsibility seriously, which means they’re more likely to at the very least practice with them. Start handing out crappy guns to everyone, and you’ll get a situation more like law enforcement where there are plenty of documented cases of NDs that have killed or endangered bystanders.

            I do not want anyone to carry a gun that isn’t willing to accept the legal and ethical obligations that come with it.

          6. So you’re not worried as long as Tom, Dick, and Harry buy the guns themselves? It’s not so much about the practice, it’s about the resolve and acceptance of responsibility demonstrated by making the purchase. Awesome! Even more progress. I guess that means I can call up Tom, Dick and Harry, and take a road trip to Prescott to pick up some surplus $199 CZ-82s.

            Of course, eventually I’d like to get you down to $0 as a sufficient demonstration, but I think that’s enough progress for one day.

          7. Actually, the CZ-82 is one of the few cheap guns that I’m totally okay with people buying, because it has a demonstrable track record of not sucking.

            For the record, I’m not worried as long as the people who want to carry the guns make the decision themselves to carry the gun. No one should carry a gun that isn’t willing to accept the legal and ethical responsibility that comes with the possibility of ever having to use that gun. People that choose to carry daily also tend to be more responsible, which follows that they then seek out training and practice.

            Just giving guns to everyone to “increase safety” is as laughable as the Brady Campaign suggesting that legally armed citizens will cause gunfights and bloodbaths.

  4. Was that bit about a piece of wood painted black an intentional call back to an earlier post?

  5. Shouldnt the trend line on that graph be reversed?

    Right now it is showing a high skill level requirement for snubbie use, and I was assuming it was meant to be satirical???

    1. As silly as the graph is, my actual point is that j-frames are hard to use, and the graph reflects that. I’m just making my point in a fairly humorous way.

  6. I will say one positive thing about snubbies: they are fantasic for dry-fire pracrice. When female students walk in with a 357 snubbie, bought by her husband, I really like to push that aspect. Then there is at least a small chance that they’ll get some practice in.

    1. I don’t understand how they are any better for dry fire than any other gun?

      1. If you can dry fire well with a double action snubbie you can probably pull the trigger on a striker fire pistol pretty decently. Plus, it’s a good forearm strength workout.

  7. Nice to see someone with 10X my experience saying the same thing I did in my post.

    Now, when’s the next Glock vs. 1911 battle? 😉

  8. In other news, it’s really nice to see you and breda team up on something again. Are y’all gonna get the band back together?

  9. I’m surprised nobody has posted:
    She blinded me with SCIENCE!…

    Then shot me with a SNUBBIE!

  10. Caleb, I agree with you on the J-frame….but I’ve found few people of either sex who couldn’t handle shooting .38SPL through a 3″ K/L-Frame .357 “snubby”….plus they don’t have to put out the extra money for magazines that an auto requires.

    Besides, anyone who can figure out how to cycle the slide of an auto should be able to figure out a DA trigger….or how to cock a hammer for a SA trigger….

  11. My aged mother has a snubbie 38SPL given to her by my two brothers. She keeps it in her car and sometimes carries it holstered in her purse. She shoots it about once every 3 or 4 months for practice.

    When she visited me a while back (I live in another state), I took her shooting. We started with a Ruger 22LR Mark II pistol. She loved it. She loved the lack of recoil. She loved the longer sight radius that allowed her to hit the target dead center, again and again. She even loved the stainless steel look of the pistol, compared with her blue S&W snubbie.

    Now she has a 22 pistol for practice and plinking and a 38SPL in her car. And I have a newer Ruger 22.

  12. No no no. The color is all wrong. We’re recommending snubs for new women shooters, right? That block of wood should be painted pink. Must keep with the meme.

  13. Holy Trigger Pull, Batman!I’ve been shooting since the 1970s and carrying since the 1990s. I had the devil of a time with the trigger pull on my new J-frame S&W Bodyguard. The trigger pull was ridiculous. when I checked out, one of the range guys noted : “It looked liike you were having a tough time.” I said, yes, it’s a new Smith and Wesson with a ridiculously stiff trigger pull. I returned the gun to the factory and they were nice enough to smooth it out for me. Beware new guns. As Tom Gresham likes to say, if you have a new gun, dry fire it a few hundred times to help smooth out the trigger pull. Go, Tom, go!

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