Over the past couple of decades, the ultra-compact .38 Special snub nose revolver has lost a lot of ground to compact 9mm semi-autos for a couple of reasons. Generally speaking, 9mm has typically dished out more energy than standard .38 Special loads. And yes, the compact semi-autos offer more capacity—especially now with the advent of micro-compacts.
Why a Snub Nose Revolver Makes a Solid Option for Concealed Carry
Even more recently, slide cuts for mounting optics have also given the 9mm semi-auto another advantage. Specifically because most (not all) snub-nose .38s don’t offer that capability.
Even with all of that, there are still a number of reasons why an ultra-compact .38 Special revolver is still a viable option. And sometimes, it’s the only option.
1 – Revolvers Are Simpler
For one thing, revolvers are much simpler than semi-autos. Hand one to an absolute newb, and they can usually figure out how to load and shoot one quickly. There are not a lot of buttons, levers, or safeties. Just pull the trigger.
2 – Long Trigger Pull of Revolvers, Like the Snub Nose, Helps Prevent Accidental Discharge
Inexperienced shooters may also benefit from the longer, double-action trigger pull. This offers an extra measure of safety with additional protection against accidental discharge.
3 – Revolvers are Not Ammo Dependent
Another advantage of a revolver is that its operation is not ammo dependent. There’s no slide to cycle or feed ramp for the round to travel up and get stuck.
It makes no difference if it’s a soft point, hollow point, wadcutter, or standard ball. If it’s the right caliber, it can be fired in a modern revolver.
4 – Revolvers are Generally More Reliable
Revolvers are also generally more reliable when not maintained regularly or even outright neglected. This is an important consideration when carrying in locations where a lot of dirt, lint, or debris is present. Like in a pocket, purse, or even an ankle holster.
One of my favorite methods for carrying a backup while wearing casual/athletic clothes with no belt is in an ankle holster. One that I’ve really grown to like using with Smith’s J-frame revolvers is the Galco Ankle Lite holster.
5 – A Hammerless Revolver Can Be Fired from Inside a Pocket
For those that are carrying concealed, a “hammerless” snub-nose is a great choice for coat-pocket carry. The gun can be fired reliably from inside the pocket because there’s no moving slide to get hung up while trying to cycle. Likewise, there’s no external hammer to catch on material inside a pocket.
This allows for a stealthy level of readiness because you can have your hand on the gun in your pocket. But all anyone sees is that you simply have your hand in your pocket—a common sight in cold weather.
6 – Snub Nose Revolvers are Effective for Close Defense Encounters
Finally, another big advantage of a revolver comes into play with extremely close defensive encounters. If you’re at contact distance with an assailant, a revolver will still operate properly if the barrel is pressed into the aggressor.
Doing so with a semi-auto will likely push back the slide. This puts the pistol out of battery so that it cannot fire.
This story is an excerpt from the Kimber K6xs vs. S&W Model 42 Tale of the Tape article in the upcoming Nov/Dec issue of Combat Handguns. Make sure to subscribe today at OutdoorGroupStore.com to be one of the first to read the whole story.