Michael deBethencourt Snub Nose RevolverThe “snub-nose .38” revolver, dating back to the Colt Detective Special of 1926, is a standard prop in noir movies. Most see it as an urban gun, something to hide under the suit in the dangerous streets of the big cities.  However, country folk like ‘em too.  Where I live nowadays, I often spot one in the jeans pocket of a workin’ man, or even the front chest pouch of a farmer’s overalls (where it’s pretty handy to get to, actually).

A general rule of little guns is that “they’re easy to carry, but hard to shoot.”  A Google or Amazon search should get you to some useful advice, such as the book “The Snubby Revolver” by my old friend Ed Lovette, who has “been there and done that.” Now we can add a small but meaty booklet by an old friend, Michael deBethencourt.

A lifelong martial artist, Michael is best known for his expertise with two weapons: the knife, with which he has developed his own simple, primal, and highly effective series of techniques, and the short-barrel revolver.  The reading matter in question is titled “Thirty Eight Straight Tips for Better Snub Shooting.”  The short-barrel Smith & Wesson .38 depicted on the cover sits under a fedora from the snub-nose .38’s heyday, appropriately enough.

While Michael and I differ on some things, as all instructors do – speed reload techniques for the revolver, in this case – brother deBethencourt gives you advice you can take to the bank. I’ve been in this game for a long time, and I learned some new stuff from “Thirty Eight Tips.” For instance, I hadn’t realized the JetLoader people (Buffer Technologies at www.buffertech.com) were making their super-fast loader for the J-frame Smith & Wesson.  I immediately ordered three, and they’ve become my new favorite speedloader for these little five-shot .38s and .357 Magnums.

You can order Michael’s monograph at http://snubtraining.com/thirty-eight-straight-tips-for-better-snub-shooting/, and you can get info on his excellent training at snubtraining.com.  In addition to knowing his stuff and imparting it superbly, Michael is a funny guy who uses his humor positively as “enter-train-ment,” and genuinely cares about his students.  He embodies something I learned from one of my mentors, the supercop Col. Robert Lindsey, and have shared with instructors I’ve trained ever since.  “We are not God’s gift to our students…our students are God’s gift to us.”


  1. Mas,
    The j-frame Smith has long been my constant companion. I have always been amazed at how accurate they are if you do your part. Currently have a 442 that rides well in my bib overalls’ breast pocket. One of the main reasons I carry it as opposed to a pistol is not having to worry about recovering spent brass, making deciding whether to take that shot at a rat or snake as I traverse my farm easier.
    I have settled on speed-strips for reloading after trying other speed loaders and finding it impossible to align with the cylinder due to the tight tolerances of the cylinder and frame on j-frames (not talking about grip interference) . If you tell me the jet-loader has eliminated this problem, I’ll order a couple tomorrow.

  2. Thanks for the tip-off, Mas. Glad you didn’t keep it under your fedora. See?

    The little .38 is my favorite small concealed carry pistol, because it is simple to operate and super reliable. Info on how to shoot better with it is always of interest.

  3. I never had much use for the snubbies, except as a purely self-defense affair. Mine’s a Smith 640 hand-loaded as hot as the gun can handle, and it’s really not good for anything other than sticking it in a BG’s gut and pulling the trigger. But it’s extremely good for that.

  4. deBethencourt’s work is on “…Better Snub Shooting”. The title of this post is “HOW TO SHOOT GREAT WITH A SNUB-NOSE .38”.

    “Better”!= “GREAT”. Is it really possible to “SHOOT GREAT” with such a short-barrelled gun? Can even the best shooter get a tight group with a snub outside close range?

    What is the best one can hope to do with a snub? At what range does even a well-practiced shooter have only a 50% of hitting a 6″ target? A silhouette target?

  5. @ Dennis

    My government issued Model 66, which I carried for 10 years, took quite a bit of tuning, and the 6 O’clock sight picture always shot high, and right, a little bit, requiring Kentucy windage, but I had to qualify with it every quarter, on a 25 yard Phrel Target, and it would shoot almost a clean 300, many times, if I did my part right.

    As I recall I had those one piece rubber grips on it, and used an H & K 5 shot speed loader for it.

    The alignment problem was only bad with waddcutters, so as long as I used round nose lead bullets, which they issued me, the reloads were good enough to get all my shots off, in the required time periods.

    The hard part on snubby, is to get a good DA trigger pull on it, and then really conscentrate on the front sight, and use a smooth trigger pull, and follow through. Took a harder that normal grip while doing it, is about all.


  6. Great, of course, is relative. A great rally course run with a VW bug won’t be as great as one run with a Ferrari, and so it is with guns.

    I can normally count on 25 yard head shots with my backup snubbies. deBethencourt takes his snubby students out to 25 and 50 yards, and at the snubby course at Sand Burr Gun Ranch in Indiana, students have a chance to try their hand at 100 yard LaRue targets. Once the sights are right, you know the bullet drop, and you’ve got the feel of the gun, it’s surprising how accurate they can be.

  7. Thank you Mas. I think many people have a mental block when it comes to accuracy and short barreled revolvers. Many seem to think that because of the short sight radius they are inaccurate. I’ve owned several over the years and have never found that to be the case, if your sight alignment is good and your trigger pull is smooth you will hit your target. Concentration is key as they are less forgiving than longer barreled weapons.
    Rich, I don’t what is considered great, or for that matter, what others can do as I’m not a competitive shooter. For me, I hit 6″ round steel plates 100% of the time in 5 seconds from 7 yds., from the ready, every time. Faster than that their will be an occasional miss. I have to slow the time from the 15. I hold 6 inches easily, slow fire from the 25 yd. barricade on the silhouette, and yes, I can hit that same silhouette 5 out of 5 from the 100 yd. rifle bench holding right at the top of the head for center mass. No real group, but hits none the less.
    My disclaimer is I have my own range and this didn’t happen overnight. Sent a lot of rounds downrange. I just thought that if I was going to carry these short barreled revolvers, I should know what I could trust them to do. I’m satisfied.

  8. Rich Rostrom:

    I went to youtube and entered “snub-nose revolver at 200 yards,” and up popped Jerry Miculek and Bob Munden videos doing just that. I tried to paste both links here but failed. My fault I’m sure.


    I have two Smith & Wesson Model 60s which I love. One has a three-inch barrel and the other has a 2 and 1/8th inch barrel. They are nice and heavy stainless steel, so shooting .357 Magnum through them is tolerable; not pleasant, but tolerable. Revolvers are slowly fading away, but they will make great back-up guns until someone invents a Star Trek phaser. The beauty of the snub-nose is that it is so small and simple.

  9. I have 2, an old 36 and a 360. I had a taurus that I took in on a trade that I wish I’d kept because it was the perfect weight and was darn accurate too. But, I just can’t love a taurus and ended up trading it for a 3913. The 360 is super light and shoots fine but it is painful. The 36 is mid 60’s vintage and like new so I have retired it to the safe for my son’s to appreciate one day. At 13 Oz loaded the 360 is hard to beat.

  10. Every gun owner should have at least one .38 snubbie of some sort for a backup piece. I currently have a S&W 37 and 38, both finished in Teflon with Uncle Mike’s boot grip stocks. I’ve carried both at the same time in Uncle Mike’s vest holsters attached to the straps of my Second Chance vest when I worked in bad areas during my years in patrol, and just one when I was transferred to a nicer neighborhood. The guns are simple to use and powerful enough for close range use.

    As far as accuracy, both S&Ws could make head shots at 25 yards, but does take a longer time as the small sights are more difficult to see. I once had a 1970’s Colt Cobra which could bounce 12 oz soda cans at 50 yards all day long when fired single action. I have settled on Bianchi speed strips for reloading as they’re compact and easy to carry. I can’t see packing bulky speedloaders for a backup gun.

    Since both of my current S&W are alloy framed guns and the older models (I do not, and would not have) any S&W with the internal/infernal lock, I shoot light loads for practice using 158 grain lead bullets with a light charge of Bullseye powder for a velocity of approx. 750 fps. I keep them loaded with Speer .38+P 125 grain Gold Dot and shoot off the five rounds in the guns at the end of every year and reload them with fresh ammo.

    I don’t carry my snubbies much nowadays as I prefer my Kimber Solo and Kahr Covert in .40 S&W as they’re more powerful and easier to shoot. However, the snubbie is the perfect gun for ankle holster use because of it’s shape. It’s cylinder fits right behind the ankle bone and it’s lower height and rounded corners make it much more concealable than any medium framed pistol. Personally I cannot carry any pistol other than a .25 auto in an ankle holster due to extreme discomfort after awhile.

  11. NOW YOU’RE TALKING!!! 😀 A J-frame has been my EDC for several years, since I pocket-carry exclusively. When I do MY part, I can hit a torso-sized plate fairly consistently at 100yd. Such plinking is a great confidence-builder, and is FUN!

  12. I want to order this, but first I have to know what a “Monograph” is. WIll it play on a phonograph or do I need a telegraph?

  13. Just bought one – a timely purchase as I’m now back in the lightweight .38 snub game with my recent Ruger LCR buy. Thanks for the heads-up, Mas: good looking-out!

  14. Thanks, Mas, for this referral to a new info source on one of my favorite types of guns. I have surprised my kids (an myself) by splitting semi-wadcutters on the edge of a 3/8″ steel plate at 10 yards to pop the occasional pair of balloons, and have lobbed rounds out to 200 yards on targets placed on dry beanfields to help range-in the rounds. I have had the chambers chamfered on all of my SD revolvers and have no problem with Safariland speedloaders, but prefer strips for concealment. Long live the J-frame—- but get shut of that damnable lock!

  15. Mas

    Great topic.

    My backup and occasional carry gun is one of two identical Grant Cunningham smithed, DAO converted Colt Detective Specials. Thanks to Grant, even 20 yards – 9 ring on a B-27 is EASY and fast. The wonderful smooth and consistent trigger makes all the difference, and the steel frame absorbs the recoil and allows for rapid recoil recovery. Loaded with Gold Dot 134 grain plus P/SB I never feel poorly armed when carrying one of these DS’s.

    I have recently added a Smith Model 64 – 2 inch to the stable – I like the way it handles and it is scheduled for a trip to Grant as well.

    TRIGGER, TRIGGER, Trigger! Trigger management is the big difficulty on snub guns, particularly on a Smith J-frame . Its the laws of physics – the small frame requires shorter levers and more compressed springs; the 5 shot cylinder requires the hand push a mass through a rotation of 72 degrees rather than a six-shots 60 degrees; literally more “Work” in the physics sense.

    A good trigger helps a great deal and I find six shot snub guns much easier to shoot well at reasonable speed than five shot. The difference in size between a J-frame Smith and a D frame Colt is small; the difference between a J-frame Smith and a K-frame is only a bit more, but the ease of use of the slightly bigger gun is noticeable, plus that additional round might be useful.

    Anyway- just some thoughts on the snub gun subject.

    Oh, BTW – can you ask your friends at Colt- how about returning the Detective Special, or the DS II or the SF-VI to the line? the D-Frame size is the ideal for a carry gun and they are making a mistake ceding that market niche to Smith and Taurus.


  16. Good Sir Massad,
    (off topic)
    It wasn’t until this morning that I came to fully appreciate the wisdom you have imparted me over the years. I have been belittled and banished from a very popular writer’s presence by pointing out a dangerous flaw in his latest writings. In refuting the incorrect pretense put forth by this individual after a long friendship with him it only took one disagreement to find myself ostracized. At this point, I feel it necessary to humbly thank you for your patience and manner of teaching that has allowed for Q&A from which we grow more knowledgeable still. May God bless you abundantly. …~Benny

  17. Thanks Mas.. Snubbies have been around for a long time, and not just because of all the great old movies. I ordered a copy for my wife & I, and shared the link at work. Best.

  18. For us older geezers I find that the closer the front sight is, the better I can focus on it, which makes for better hits than might be expected.

    Another thought that occured to me; since the bullet leaves the barrel during recoil, a shorter barrel should more than offset the short sight radius. ( If you don’t believe that the bullet leaves the barrel during recoil, than take a straight edge and lay it on top of the sights and take a pencil and push it down the barrel. How do you account for the 2 props diverging?) Obviously you are literally fliping the bullet up into the target. That’s why controling recoil from shot to shot is so important.

  19. I had the pleasure of spending two hours with Michael two years ago at the Paul Gomez event. He runs at only one speed 78 RPM. Packed a lot of information into that two hours.

  20. Thanks for the tip on Buffer Technologies JetFire speedloaders. I order three on Thursday, got them on Saturday USPS (I live in North Alabama) and they are AMAZING!

    I qualified with my S&W 442-2 because in is my BUG and off duty carry gun a few months back, and lost a few points (shot a 90 instead of my usual 100) because the course is designed for semi-autos, and I dropped a few rounds on time limits.

    These little beauties are going to make a world of difference. What a great, great product!

  21. I have a Smith and Wesson Airweight and for me this is the perfect gun. I have it with me all the time. I have other guns but I love the little revolver because I don’t have to worry about magazines ( I do have a couple bianchi speed strips ) and its small enough that I can carry it anywhere.
    It is hard to shoot. I use Hornady bullets with the pink tip. I have tried shooting +p bullets and the range and decide.. um not for me! LOL but I think the hornady bullets make it a good choice. My advice tho is to shoot it when you can to be able to get used to it and not forget to grip it correctly. My Dad taught me two ways to hold a gun, one for a semi automatic and a different way for a revolver.

  22. Just received the booklet. Quick read but what a great set of observations. Cuts right to the heart of the matter. Stuff I have never thought of but realize now how important it is. Like the saying goes “its the little things that will get you “. Highly recommend ordering this booklet for yourself, family and friends.

    To be honest if I were one of the snubby gun companies marketing folks, I would cut a deal with Mr deBethencourt to include a copy with every gun sold.

  23. I’ve absorbed about 1% of this pamphlet, but it has already improved my shooting! I need to re-read, and practice-practice-practice. See you at Wallingford MAG-40 in August. I’ll be the fat guy with the Ruger LCR!

  24. See ya there, Doug. Be sure to have good speedloaders. The FiveStar brand made expressly for the LCR seems to work the best in that particular revolver.

  25. I have a pair of the FiveStar loaders, and have ordered more. They work very well with the LCR. Do you know of any gunsmiths that are working on the LCR? It’s already pretty slick, but I’ve no objection to making it better.

  26. Recently acquired a Taurus 905. It’s a great five-shot snubbie chambered in 9mm Para. Uses moon clips. I’m about 400 rounds into it with no problems. Very pleased wih it.

  27. I have a Taurus 85 ultra-lite .38.I could’nt hit the broadside of a barn with it at first. Through a couple of years of practicing with it, it is now my favorite ccw piece. It is extremely accurate,for its intended purpose. A .38 spcl is nothing to disregard as self-defense round. Hits hard enough to end most bad confrontations. Its better than not having a gun when you need one. Never leave home without it.

  28. what i like about Mr. Ayoob is, you don’t get that ford vs chevy, or 9mm vs 45acp. what Mr.Ayoob offers is experience and street smart .

    with a 180 year old track record the revolver is still going strong and snub-noses make excellent CCW or BUG’s .

    thank you Mr. Ayoob for passing on your experience and knowledge .

  29. I like guns that I am good with and do what they are supposed to do; no matter what brand name they have stamped on them. Be it a Charter Arms, Colt, S&W, Taurus, or whatever, they will ALL DO THE JOB! Just practice and become one with your carry piece.

  30. As a retired cop (30 yrs. on the job) I’d carried a J frame for well over 40 years. A year ago I picked up the M&P .380 and found it to be accurate and reliable. Fast forward to today on the way to the grocery store with my wife. As we were pulling into a parking spot we both noticed a guy walking slowly and watching us intently. As he walked by us (we were still our 15 year old Camry) he kept looking over his shoulder. Nothing happened, he walked into a near by store and we continued on to Costco. But, I found myself wishing I had my Model 37 with me instead of the little .380. The only reason, as I reflect on things, is due to my long term familiarity with the .38 as well as the fact that it saved me on the street more than once.

  31. Married to a gun reluctant spouse, after experimentation with a variety of semi Models and Calibers we kept coming back to the simplicity of Revolvers. No flying brass or slides or safeties. The K+L frame for Home Defense and J frames for carry. My wife likes the Model 640 and contemplating my 442. One trick that helped me was the Model 18 .22lr revolver and working tirelessly on trigger control. A couple thousand rounds or more and I soon found my Jframe accuracy tighten and tighten.