Stop telling women to carry snubbies.

I am going to start this article with a disclaimer: I am probably going to tread on a few people’s toes here, and likely get a whole bunch of folks all upset. I could say Pardonne-moi, es tut mir leid, en moerse sorry…but I am not going to. The purpose of this blog is to tread on toes, slay sacred cows, and break all the eggs. So if what I say makes you unhappy, take a teaspoon of cement and harden up…or abuse me in the comments section. Whatever. And yes: this is going to be a little bit of a rant.

Having been in the firearms ownership and gun rights game for a while now, one tends to notice popular and recurring clichés that pop up in discussions regarding guns. Some hold grains of truth, and others are just outright bizarre or wrong. Among the latter is a little irritation that has grinded my gears and made me tear my hair out for years…and that is whenever the topic of which firearm is best for women to carry for self-defence arises, a certain crowd will inevitably cry out in unison: “.38 Special snubnosed revolver!”

No. Just no.

Has anyone in the peanut gallery which so impulsively disseminates this opinion more frequently than Lindsay Lohan checks into rehab actually spoken to a woman who shoots? Any woman who shoots? My guess as to the answer would be no. Because if they had in fact done so, I am willing to put my proverbial on the block that the majority of ladies would have told them that they are out of their minds.

Why am I saying this? Based on what information am I making these sweeping and, depending on who you are, frankly outrageous claims? Well, allow me to tell you. After having spoken with quite a few ladies in the shooting community, their ages ranging from early 20s to early 60s, the topic of conversation at some point or other turns to what they carry for self-defence purposes. No discussion about firearms is complete without it, after all. What I found incredibly interesting is that not one of the women I spoke to would even consider a .38 Special snubby as a carry choice. Even those who actually carry them, and there are a few, do not speak highly of the weapons. At all.

The reasons as to why these revolvers are so disliked are numerous, but the most prominent complaints are as follows:

  • Heavy double-action trigger. Anyone who has shot a .38 snubby can confirm this. It plagues accuracy, and is generally unpleasant…and sometimes even painful.
  • Short sight-radius. Makes aiming accurate shots at beyond contact-distance a chore, not to mention that some models lack any sort of decent sights at all.
  • Low ammunition capacity. 5 shots do not exactly leave you with much to work with when facing multiple attackers.
  • Reloading it sucks. Even with a speedloader. Not everyone is Jerry Miculek.
  • Sure, all handguns recoil to some degree or other. J-frame revolvers bite.

The end result of the above attributes is that the lady ends up with a gun that she doesn’t like shooting. In some cases she ends up with a gun she positively hates shooting. What happens then is that the revolver ends up in the safe, instead of being carried for protection, which defeats the entire purpose of owning it in the first place. If the gun is fun to shoot chances are the owner will enjoy practicing with it, which would make them more proficient, more confident, and more likely to carry the thing. Which is obviously what we want!

Should you take a brief glance at the firearms market today, you will notice an overwhelming abundance of compact, sub-compact, and pocket pistols available. A complaint regarding modern double-stack semi-autos from women is that some of their hands are too small to wrap around the bulk of the grip, and this prevents them from achieving a proper grip, which in turn prevents effective trigger and control manipulation. Fortunately things have begun to change: slim, single-stack, highly compact semi-autos are all the vogue at the moment. In South Africa we are blessed with a range of sexy options in this regard, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield and Glock 43 being my personal favourites. These are tiny, pint-sized little guns that shoot like service pistols. In 9mmP.

Semi-autos have better trigger pulls, superior sights, greater ammunition capacity, easier reloading, and better recoil control than snubnosed revolvers. And they are just as concealable, if not superior in this regard. There really is no reason why, with the variety of options in abundance today, anyone should recommend a snubnosed revolver as the preferred choice for a woman as a carry gun.

The reasons generally given by the self-proclaimed pundits as to why snubnosed revolvers are absolutely ideal for women are as varied as they are dubious. One is that women do not possess sufficient strength to rack the slide on a semi-auto pistol. Now listen to me, whichever troglodyte happened to utter this toxic nonsense; a woman is strong enough to give birth. If she is capable of squeezing something the size of a human infant from her vagina, she is sure as shit strong enough to rack a slide on a pistol! Another equally dubious “reason” is that women would get “confused” with the controls on the weapon, and the simpler the gun is, the better. Where there certainly is beauty in simplicity, the controls on a modern firearm are not exactly equivalent to the flight deck of the Space Shuttle. I have seen mouth-breathers whom I would serve ice cream to in a bowl (because I wouldn’t trust them with a cone) successfully operate a firearm…including reloading it multiple times. Women, known for their ability to multitask, will have absolutely no problem in this regard. Finally we can deal with the claim of concealability. To bust this myth, go compare the size and shape of a .38 Special snubby with that of a Shield or G43, and tell me which is more concealable. I’ll wait.

Hand-in-hand with this myth that snubbies are just fantastic for women, is the claim that you won’t need more than five shots anyway. Newsflash: we don’t carry firearms because we expect trouble to be over after one or two shots. We carry firearms for the worst-case scenario happening to us and our loved ones. This should include carrying sufficient ammunition capacity, within reason, should such a worst-case scenario event occur. If you seriously believe that worrying about ammunition capacity is only for the paranoid and delusional, I invite you to please familiarise yourself with the details of the 1986 FBI Miami Shootout. Officers were shot down as they attempted to reload their revolvers during the firefight, with one of the felons actually walking right up to an agent and shooting him at contact range as he was fumbling with his revolver. Surprisingly not all criminals turn tail and run when the first shots are fired, and the belief that they do has gotten people killed.

Now don’t get me wrong: I do believe that there is a place in the defensive toolbox for snubnosed revolvers. They have served their purpose well during their heyday, and have even survived into present day use despite modern semi-autos completely replacing revolvers in police departments around the world. What I do believe is that snubbies are most certainly not the tool of choice for women, and I am but echoing what women themselves have already figured out.

Don’t take my word for it, mind. Feel free to read a woman’s view on what she believes to be good guns for beginners, and go watch the YouTube channel of a local lady (Carla Sparrow) who has some spot-on information regarding guns and carrying them. I hope that more and more lady shooters come forward into the blogosphere and gun media so that cretins like myself can happily step aside, and leave the explaining as to what they like (and hate) to shoot and carry up to them. But for now, Carla, I salute you.

Molon Labe.


35 thoughts on “Stop telling women to carry snubbies.

  1. My 19 year old daughter has decided that she wants a carry gun. She has shot my CZ and her mothers Star DKL (9mm short). She has also fired full size 38 revolvers. As a joke I said to her we should get her a 38 snubby. She was absolutely disgusted with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Rifleman III Journal and commented:
    Well, as a retired cop, I had regulations to follow, and New York City, in the 20th century, until the final years of the century, had .38 Special revolvers. I never felt inadequate. I did, during most of my career, carry one or more back-up revolvers, until the job required proper business attire and I was chained to a desk, babysitting a bullpen of twenty-two detectives. The J-frame is nice. In fact, maybe because I have so many years experience with them, I find the pointability fast. I hit center mass up to 75 feet without any problems. The revolvers fire faster. Reloading is simple if, you know the drill. I have used all types of aftermarket grips on K-frame and J-frame, and actually prefer service grips on both, with a Tyler T-grip. The heavy triggers, 8.0 pounds, is for use with Winchester ammunition, as the factory stated their primers need 8.0 # strikes to go “bang”, and not “click”. Federal ammo, uses 7.5 # primer strikes. I always throat the weapon, time the cylinder. I check for cylinder shake and end shake, because the washers over firing time, will wear down and require replacement. If only an option of one weapon, I will take the K-frame, or j-frame. Experience is the difference, and that comes only by putting time in on gun ranges. I used the revolver in three shootings On Duty. 8-rounds fired/8-hits/7-dead gunmen. It was with my service revolver, a K-frame. A lot of iron, and there was relatively little difference in recoil to the J-frame. Keep the weapon clean. Inspect the weapon regularly and have a gunsmith inspect the weapon every six months or sooner if you shoot a lot. No big deal. Never liked the 9mm, and was in the pilot program. Maybe the 1911 .45 acp, spoiled me (?). I can empty the cylinder in two seconds (six rounds fired), and freehand, load in about four seconds. Not everyone knows how police shoot or are trained. My wife hates the recoil, regardless of revolver size, but, she has made up her mind, not to like the .38 Specials. The 1911, 10mm, and the N-frame .44 Magnum, both were a horror show when she tried them. Everyone has their own personal views and preferences. Guess, I’m what I was called, a “Dinosaur” (Almost Extinct – But Still Feared).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for writing this, I’m sharing it and I think I’ll even print a copy to keep in my range bag.

    With regards to the “pistols are too complicated for women” statement, What I’ve said to people about this in the past is “Can your wife drive a car? Because if she can master that a pistol is quite simple, hell she doesn’t even need to use her feet!”

    The only issue I have seen often is that some women really struggle to properly rack the slide. What I’ve seen that makes it difficult for them is :
    * A difficult slide, like the narrow CZ slides
    * Insufficient hand strength
    * Unfamiliarity with the process making them hesitant
    * Trying to be gentle while racking the slide, pulling it back slowly makes it a lot more difficult

    So if she hits a combination of those things, even the push-pull method has hit and miss results.

    Other than that, what you’ve said is spot on, almost all the women I’ve done training with prefer shooting pistols over revolvers of any kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If I may add my 2c opinion. I do agree with u. I carry a compact 9mm every day. I also started with a 38 as self defence but soon realised it is not sufficient. All your reasons mentioned already why a snubby is not the best choise is very valid. I do believe that should a lady not feel comfortable with a 9mm she needs to receive some practicle training where se will build her confidence in using such a firearm. As soon as she realise she CAN shoot with it and rack it the correct way, there is no turning back. I have noticed that often the male partner “makes the decision” on behalf of his female companion because he thinks she will not be capable to handle a 9mm and she trust his opinion especially if she is a first time gun owner. It also boils down to confidence in handling your carry on weapon.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I own a gunshop and i can almost every time blame the husband for this nonsense!
    Almost every couple that i deal with the husband tries to convince his wife and me that the 38 snubby is the way to go!! No no no no no no no, i end up upsetting the husband and convincing the wife not to listen to him.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As an experienced lady shooter I can confidently say that I would rather not shoot at all if my only choice was a 38 snubby. It is an antiquated piece of rubbish that will do more damage to a bad guy if you threw it at him. I agree with all the reasons mentioned by the author. I also agree 100% with his recommended alternatives the S&W shield and the Glock 43.

    Ladies, don’t let your husbands bully you into getting a revolver! It’s an old chauvinist concept that pistols are too complicated for women. If he tries to make you buy one it means he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
    Get a pistol and practice with it, they are easy to use and you’ll actually enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As a lady firearm instructor, I always encourage my learners to only choose their firearms after they have finished the training. I have an absolute passion in teaching woman to shoot and teaching most woman is very different compared to teaching men. A lady thing guys, don’t even try to understand it. Most ladies come to class with a revolver in mind and once finished choose a pistol for some of the same reasons you mentioned in your article. Firearms are like shoes, you need to choose one that suits you and the purpose for what you want it. Once they relax and realise that they can shoot a pistol and sort out any malfunction with ease, they become confident and now being informed and trained can make a much wiser choice. Different techniques work for different people and if the slide is an issue I ask them to try a double movement technique that works for my 11 year old daughter who does tactical shooting with a 9mm Shadow. Hold the slide firmly at the back in your non gun hand, with all four fingers over the top, pointing the handgun in a 45 degree angle towards the floor (safe direction) and with your gun hand firmly around the grip (trigger finger straight and off the trigger) this is done fairly close to the body just above the waist and then punch down fast and hard. If you take your strong hand and punch down you are a lot stronger than using your weak hand and pulling something back. For many this action seems to be easier and it works. Some people punch down and pull back at the same time and that works for them. Such a slight difference, grip is exactly the same and yet wala they master it. Many husbands give their wives their revolvers so that they can get something else. Hahahaaaaa. The bottom line for me is that woman need to be informed and PROPERLY TRAINED by a professional before choosing a firearm. Only twice in my career have I strongly recommended a revolver and that was to a lady who had bad arthritis in her fingers and another lady who only had one hand. Ladies, this is a fantastic sport and being able to protect yourself and your children is every woman’s right! Choose wisely, be safe and have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I carry a charter arm .38 I like it because it fits well in my hand and on me. I shoot accurately with it but my grouping is not as close as I’d like, my grouping with my guys glock and any of our long guns is tight exactly like I want. I don’t like the feel of the glock in my hand. As for the reloading I have gotten very quick actually better without a speed loader then with. I have agreed to look for a auto that I like better but I’m a revolver girl and I’m good with my carry choice. I agree though with the things you said but I think that our firearm should be your choice hopefully not overly influenced by other means.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The only point I can agree on is capacity. That said, I love my S&W .38 special. The double action doesn’t bother me and with a little gunsmithing it can be lightened up considerably if you need to. I have no problem using it like a single action which makes it a bit more responsive. Sights? Really? Unless you’re on the range who the hell looks down sights? It’s instinctive, point and shoot. What we, as women preparing to defend ourselves, really need is training in real scenarios. Things happen fast and you need to instinctively be able to hit your target on the move. If you’re standing around looking down sights you are a target. And there’s nothing like the reliability of a revolver. Ok, rant/abuse over. Got to go clean my Ruger Vaquero .45 LC single action 6 revolvers. Got a mounted shooting competition next weekend. Hope my horse gives me time to look down sights for every target. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You use the 1986 FBI Miami shootout as an example as to why an armed citizen needs a higher capacity firearm than a snubbie? Is that all you got? Give me a break! If you can’t come up with actual instances where an armed citizen’s snubbie wasn’t adequate then you are no better than the “self proclaimed pundits” that you mentioned.


  11. The point of the original story and comment is whether or not an armed citizen with a 5 shot snubbie failed to defend themselves successfully because of lack of capacity. I don’t believe anybody in Nairobi had one. I have seen instances posted where armed citizen with them they have been successful but none where lack of capacity has been an issue. Obviously you are having a problem also since all you bring up are policemen, FBI, and Nairobi. It sounds like you are really reaching justifying my opinion of your journalism skills. It looks like the odds of winning 2 powerball lotteries are greater than an armed citizen needing more than 5 shots. If you are still worried about your safety with those odds then I also hope you wear a crash helmet and a four point seat belt when you drive because they will enhance your safety more than higher capacity handguns.


    • You are creating a straw-man argument because you are clinging to the erroneous belief that 5 shots is all that it takes to end the fight you may find yourself in. Where I am from the average armed robbery encounter involves multiple assailants all armed with modern weapons, including AK47 and R4 automatic rifles. Good luck facing those odds with a 5-shot snubby. Broaden your horizons a bit before talking down to people who don’t fit your narrative.


      • Where are you from then? I sure haven’t these same armed citizen stories even though I keep looking for them. That’s why I keep requesting actual examples of armed citizens not having enough ammo. If you go back to 1986 thirty years ago when you used the Miami FBI shooting as a starting point I would think you could come up with lots of actual examples to support your argument that an armed citizen is inadequately protected with a snubbie. So far you have not. How are you any better than the “self proclaimed pundits” you lambast if you can’t back up your argument with pertinent factual data? I personally don’t have a narrative. If you want to carry a semiauto fine. If someone wants to carry a snubbie that is also fine. Just don’t or use unreasonable scenarios to support your arguments if you can’t find actual evidence to support them.


      • This is a South African blog. To give a personal example, two people I know required more than 5 shots to end attacks on their lives: the one ran out of ammo for his 1911. There are many more cases like theirs out there, and not all of them make the news.


  12. I’m sorry you have to live in such a dangerous area. I live in Texas. Obviously we don’t have the issues you do. I don’t understand why you used the Miami shootout as an example when you could have used your examples in South Africa and kept it real. Keep safe.


    • No harm done. The Miami Shootout sits close to my heart: expensive lessons were learnt that day, and are being learned still. It truly echoes in eternity, if I may be so melodramatic. Stay safe.


  13. I agree with this article full heartedly.

    Also, revolvers to me in general are unsafe. Don’t get me wrong any firearm is dangerous if not handled properly etc, but revolvers have no external safety, which makes it prone to accidental discharges.

    I am not eagerly fond of Glocks for that same reason with their Action Safety Trigger, but atleast it offers some kind of safety feature.

    And reloading under stressfull situations are a nightmare if your adrenalin starts pumping and your shaking like someone with Parkinson’s even with speed loaders/moon clips you still have to align the bullets with the holes.

    Only pro’s a wheel gun offers are the big calibres they come in and the fact that they will fire everytime in the sence that they cannot suffer from FTF or FTE!

    This is off topic but the M&P Shield has a HORRIBLE slide stop, you have to be Superman to push that sucker down with your thumb, with that being said I’m sure its nothing a gunsmith or upgraded part could solve. G43 is definately the better choice in my opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Many years ago, my wife asked me to teach her friend, who had been given a .38 spl snubby by her husband, to shoot. She had tried it once before and said that it kicked too much. So I loaded some feeble powder puffs to start her off gently. She complained that my powder puff loads still kicked too much. She then asked to shoot my then EDC pistol. A Star PD, which is an alloy-framed lightweight sub-compact .45 ACP. Not exactly what you would think a recoil-shy lady should try. After a few magazines worth she pronounced that she loved shooting it. Long story short, she went home and told hubby to buy her a pistol.

    Liked by 1 person

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