Last summer I was riding as a passenger in a friend's pickup when we observed a sedan veer off the highway and collide with a guardrail. I told the driver to make a U-turn so we could check on the sedan's occupants.
Once my friend turned the pickup and approached the collision, both occupants had exited the sedan. The passenger walked away from the scene, while the driver paced back and forth, yelled, vomited, and entered/exited through the open passenger door numerous times. He appeared to be fighting an imaginary opponent.
By this time, several citizens had stopped to see what was happening. I called dispatch from my cell phone and briefed them on the situation. I explained that I was an armed off-duty police officer, and I described what I was wearing so responding deputies would not mistake me for a bad guy.
After hanging up with dispatch, I saw the crazed driver rip off his shirt and rapidly approach the passenger side of a vehicle occupied only by a female driver, who had stopped to offer assistance. The man's waist and hands were hidden from my view, but I could tell that he was trying to open the front passenger door of the female's vehicle. The female leaned over to lock her door to prevent the irrational driver from entering.
Fearing that the subject was armed and desperate to flee the scene, I reasoned that he may attempt to carjack or possibly even kidnap the female. For this reason, I drew my Taurus Model 605. It's a .357 Magnum revolver that I store within my inside-the-waistband holster, and I wear it in the appendix carry position. I withdrew my badge/wallet from my left rear pants pocket and displayed my badge to the subject as I pointed my revolver at him and ordered him to put his hands up. I walked quickly toward the subject in hopes of backing him away from the vehicle so I could position myself between him and his potential hostage, the female driver.
Although the subject did not comply, when I made my way around the rear of the female's vehicle, I could see that the subject was not holding a gun, so I holstered and closed distance. I grabbed the subject's arm and took him to the ground. From there, I ordered him to a prone position, patted him down and determined that he was unarmed. I, along with a couple of big dudes eager to assist (including my friend, the driver of the pickup), hovered over the subject until deputies arrived.
After the subject was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, a "Good Samaritan" asked why I carried a snubnose revolver. "That's not very powerful, is it?" he asked. He assumed my revolver was loaded with .38 Special rounds. What the curious bystander failed to comprehend, aside from the fact that my snubbie was loaded with .357 Magnum rounds, was that during the hottest part of summer in California, carrying a concealed full-size semiauto pistol isn't very practical. Admittedly, my snubbie might not have been the ideal gun for the job, but because it was comfortable enough to wear with cargo shorts and a T-shirt, at least I was armed. In this case, my snubbie was the best gun in the world because it was in my hand when I needed it.
If you're considering a snubbie as your concealed carry gun, you need to account for its strengths and weaknesses as a defensive firearm. First, decide which type of snubbie and holster is right for you. Then you need to understand how to deploy, shoot and reload your snubbie, because it can be a peculiar gun to master. At a minimum, you should consider the following before carrying a snubnose revolver for personal protection.
DAO Versus DA/SA
Most firearms instructors recommend a double-action-only revolver for personal defense. This is generally good advice for several reasons. First, it's possible for an exposed hammer to snag on your clothing while you're attempting to draw your snubbie. If you're lucky, this would be only a minor hindrance that slows your draw, but it could be much worse, resulting in you fumbling or even dropping your revolver.
Another attribute often cited in favor of DAO revolvers is that the trigger pull is consistent. When firing a revolver in single-action mode, the trigger pull is considerably lighter, which detractors feel is problematic and could result in the shooter unintentionally firing the revolver. Regardless of the condition of your revolver, you must keep your finger off the trigger and out of the triggerguard until you've made a conscious decision to fire.
With double-action-only revolvers, there's no need to decock, a maneuver that could be difficult for a new shooter to perform under the stress inherent in a real life-or-death confrontation. Of course, the act of decocking a revolver is quite simple, and with practice it should not present much of a problem.
While they are a minority in the tactical arena, some instructors prefer a revolver with an exposed hammer so it can be cocked in order to achieve a much lighter trigger pull. This affords the shooter considerably more accuracy because the lighter/shorter trigger pull is less apt to cause the shooter to inadvertently alter the orientation of the gun when firing. As an example of how much lighter the trigger pull is in single-action mode, my Taurus Model 605 has a trigger pull that is close to 11 pounds in double action, but just two pounds in single action.
Either thumb may be used to cock the hammer on your snubbie, but using your off-hand enables you to maintain a solid shooting grip with your dominant hand. And since the motion of your off-hand thumb cocking the hammer is more horizontal in nature, it is less apt to obscure your sights than if you were to use the thumb of your shooting hand.
When using a double-action/single-action revolver and a lighter trigger pull is not desired (as would be the case during the vast majority of lethal confrontations), the shooter simply pulls the trigger without cocking the hammer just as though he were firing a DAO revolver.
Advocates of DA/SA snubbies prefer to have the option of firing in single-action mode. For instance, if the driver in the case related earlier had taken the female hostage, I would have much preferred to shoot my snubbie in single action mode. When lives depend on pinpoint accuracy, the light single-action trigger pull is a tremendous asset.
If you choose to carry a revolver that can be fired in single-action mode, you need to be intimately familiar with how to decock the hammer. There are several techniques to safely drop the hammer without inadvertently firing a round. Regardless of the technique you use, remember to first point the muzzle in a safe direction.
The first step in the decocking sequence is to exert rearward pressure on the hammer to prevent it from dropping. Some prefer to use their dominant thumb to keep the hammer from falling, while others favor using the off-hand thumb and index finger to ease down the hammer. Others even place the web of their hand or a finger between the hammer and frame so that if the hammer accidentally drops with enough force to fire the revolver, the hand prevents the hammer from striking the firing pin. The next step is to pull the trigger, then release the trigger before easing down the hammer.
Small, lightweight revolvers can be carried in a variety of locations including anywhere along the waist or in an ankle holster. I prefer either appendix carry or pocket carry. Appendix carry enables you to easily conceal your gun wearing just an untucked T-shirt, and pocket carry requires only that you have a large pocket. Generally, pocket carry is not as fast as appendix carry when it comes to drawing your snubbie. The obvious exception is when you preemptively grip the gun in your pocket.
Drawing and Firing
When drawing from your pocket, use your thumb to cover the hammer (or where the hammer would be if there were a hammer). This not only reduces the odds of the hammer snagging on a garment, it creates a more streamlined profile of your hand, which makes drawing from your pocket that much easier.
Due to its compact design, small grip, short barrel, reduced sight radius and long trigger pull, a snubbie isn't the easiest gun to shoot. However, given that most gunfights occur at distances of little more than arm's length, these shortcomings are overshadowed by the snubbie's main attributes: simplicity, concealability and reliability. With a snubbie, you just point and shoot. There are no external safeties to manipulate, and there's no mystery as to whether the gun is loaded. Furthermore, clearing a malfunctioned revolver is as simple as pulling the trigger again.
In extreme close quarters, a revolver can be used to deliver a contact shot, where the muzzle is actually placed against the assailant to ensure a hit. This is a significant advantage over a semiauto pistol, which would likely be taken out of battery during a contact shot. However, a contact shot should be considered a last resort, because when you place the gun so close to your assailant, you become vulnerable to being disarmed. And if your adversary grabs the cylinder firmly, it will likely prevent it from turning or the revolver from firing unless it was in single-action mode.
One of the downsides to carrying a snubbie as your primary defensive firearm is that it typically holds only five rounds and is relatively slow to reload. To expedite the reload, a speedloader, Bianchi Speedstrip or similar device can be used. A speedloader enables you to load all five rounds into the chamber at once with the turn of a knob or push of a button (depending on which speedloader you're using). Conversely, the Speedstrip is designed to load two rounds at a time. If you've fired all five rounds, a speedloader would get you back in the fight with a fully loaded revolver. However, a Speedstrip enables you to top off your revolver in the event that you still have live rounds in the chamber.
Regardless of which reloading method you choose, practice! While the chances of you having to reload during a gunfight are minimal, if you do need to reload, time will be of the essence. Even if you don't have to reload during the gunfight, after the dust settles it's a good idea to top off in case additional threats emerge.
Snubnose revolvers are some of the most reliable and practical concealed carry guns on the market. They're easier than most guns to understand and operate, but due to their compact size, they can be more difficult to shoot. The shortcomings of the snubbie can be overcome with training, making it a viable option for personal defense.