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Old June 25, 2013, 02:58 AM   #1
GunXpatriot
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Maximum "combat" range of a Snub Nose .38 Special?

So... From what I've seen, a snub nose can be hard to shoot. Trigger control for such a small gun is obviously very important.

I was wondering... I was under the impression .38's were the standard for law enforcement back in the day, at least the police departments. I thought they were mostly snub nose, but I guess varieties with a longer barrel were used as well... So I'm sure there were many situations where in cities, there may have been brief shootouts across large city blocks.

I wonder, could a .38 revolver be effective in a situation like this? Snubbies seem to be difficult to shoot, even when not under pressure. So in a (haha) gun battle, how far exactly would, in this case, an officer, want to rely on double action? When would he want to switch to single action, and with a good level of skill and training for the average user, how far could a .38 snub nose on single action be effective?

I was watching that video on youtube, of Bob Munden shooting what I believe was a balloon at 200 yards with a snub nose .38.

Now of course for a target that could be moving, that's a bit far. But in reality, how far could a .38 snub nose be stretched? Actually, Munden's video was what made me wonder about this.

Just a thought...
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Old June 25, 2013, 03:42 AM   #2
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Kraigwy shoots his .38 snub out to 100 yards, when he practices.

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Old June 25, 2013, 06:37 AM   #3
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Some of the exhibition shooters used a "splatter plate" around their balloons and such. The fragments of the bullet actually did the damage. Bill Jordan did the same thing shooting aspirins with a double action .38. Nonetheless, hitting a plate at 100 yds with a J frame smith is an accomplishment.
The 4 inch double action revolvers were pretty much the rule when officers were issued .38's. Any dept. that had a good training program trained the officers to shoot double action only as cocking the hammer back left the offficer with a touchy item in his hand. The snubbies were mostly carried by plainclothed officers and rarely fired as a rule.
In a shootout, I would be returning fire no matter how far it entailed.
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Old June 25, 2013, 06:44 AM   #4
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My rifle and pistol club has some 10" round steel plates at 40yds.
Whatever handgun I'm shooting that day gets some plate time.
I have found it is not too hard to hit them with S&W model 38 Bodyguard Airweight snub.
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Old June 25, 2013, 07:03 AM   #5
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The distance that a .38 snubby is good for depends on what it practiced.
Do it often and it becomes normal.
Our local range has targets out to 50 yards on the general range, and 100 yds on the rifle only range.
For some part of every range day, I always do handguns at the 50 yard distance.
But very few others ever seem to do that.
If they would, they would quickly realize that it's no big deal to shoot well at any distance they practice.
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Old June 25, 2013, 07:34 AM   #6
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Quote:
Some of the exhibition shooters used a "splatter plate" around their balloons and such. The fragments of the bullet actually did the damage. Bill Jordan did the same thing shooting aspirins with a double action .38.
Please explain how Bill Jordan used a "splatter plate" when shooting aspirins double-action. I saw Jordan on T.V. ("I've Got a Secret", I think), shooting aspirins rolling down a ramp and I did not see any "splatter plate". Aside from not seeing it, I do not understand how a splatter plate would work with aspirins.
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Old June 25, 2013, 07:36 AM   #7
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Bullseye shooters shoot 50 yards all the time, with .38s.
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Old June 25, 2013, 08:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
Kraigwy shoots his .38 snub out to 100 yards, when he practices.
Notice that's "Shoots", doesn't say "Hits".

But yes I do weird things with my 642, I also practice Bullseye with my 642, but I don't do well.

Also practice bowling pins, steel, and everything else I can safely shoot at. Again I don't do that well,

BUT it gives me confidence in that little revolver, I believe it makes me a better shooter at up close and personal distances.

I wouldn't call that "combat effective", I call that target practice.

One thing one must consider, the farther away you are, the harder to justify self defense.

Back when metallic pistol silhouette first showed up in the Anchorage area, I shot it with my 4 in Model 28, not because its the best gun for hitting those sheep at 200 yards, but it was my service revolver, I think it made me a better shooter at ranges I would need to use it.

But if something came up where I'd need to shoot 200 yards, I had a sniper rifle in the trunk of my patrol car.

I can't hit much at 100 yards with my 642, but I'm convinced if needed I could discourage bad behavior at that distance.

But that isn't self defense range. The only time I shot at anything legit at that range (actually a bit farther) was when I saw a stray dog harassing my horses. Didn't hit him, but got close enough to put him in over drive and out of my pasture.

As mentioned it builds confidence in my defense revolver, but it also shows limitations. I would NEVER hunt with it at distance, nor would I attempt any self defense at extended ranges.

Kind of difficult to show you were in fear of your life if the bandit is 100 yards away. At that distance I could be in the truck and in the next county before he got close enough to be a bother.
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Old June 25, 2013, 08:13 AM   #9
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The most likely scenario for a civilian is a mugging/attempted mugging or car-jacking. These are "in your face" distances where a snubbie can be used effectively ("combat effective"). For the life of me, I cannot perceive of a scenario where a civilian, armed with a snubby would need to engage in "combat" at other than close distance. But then again, I have to confess that I do not fantasize about having to make a head-shot on a Zombie either.
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Old June 25, 2013, 08:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
I was under the impression .38's were the standard for law enforcement back in the day, at least the police departments. I thought they were mostly snub nose
The snubbies were for detectives, supervisipors, and under cover plane clothed officers.The "standard" for many departments across the country was the S&W Model 10 4" Heavy Barrel.
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Old June 25, 2013, 10:24 AM   #11
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I routinely qualify at 25 yards with several handguns, to include my Model 38. It's not particularly hard to keep the shots in the 8-ring of a B27 target. It is much harder to ring the rifle gong on the 100 yard line.

Like Kraig, I practice at all sorts of ranges, and I've been known to try my hand with all types of revolvers at all distances. That reminds me of a story.

Years ago, when I lived in the country, the sons and I had a personal range tucked into a hillside behind the house. I got off work one afternoon, and heard the boom of a gun, so I walked around the house to the range, where my teenage son was shooting his .44 magnum. He was sighted on some soda cans placed on a bale of hay. I was in a plain-clothes assignment and was carrying an old-school Model 60. I came up to my son, grabbed a pair of earmuffs, and took out my snubbie. With one shot, I peeled a soda can off that hay bale.

My son looked at me. "I bet you can't do that again."

"I don't have to do it again. Keep practicing, kiddo."
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Old June 25, 2013, 10:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
My son looked at me. "I bet you can't do that again."

"I don't have to do it again. Keep practicing, kiddo."
That's great, perfect comeback.
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Old June 25, 2013, 11:28 AM   #13
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Not all snubbies are J frames. What makes a gun a snubby is a short barrel.

There are K and L frame snubbies and N frame snubbies. Both as easy to shoot well as a longer barreled piece.

Colt made the Cobra and the Detective Special (and others) on a frame midway between the J and K frame in size. These are very easy to shoot well.

Many of these were as easy to shoot well as with longer barrels.

Ruger makes some fine snubbies and none are J frames.

The J frames are more challenging to shoot well. This is, IMHO, due to the mechanics of them. But with practice you can get pretty good.

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Old June 25, 2013, 08:35 PM   #14
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In the early sixties (yeah I am old) I became a part of a very progressive police department, bought a 4" S&W Model 19 and went off to supress crime. I was able to shoot the pistol some weeks later as training was quite rudimentry in that day. Went on to shoot on the departmental team statewide firing the PPC course which was 60 yds to 7 yds. All shots in the ten ring were expected and X's were required to stay competitive. One of our guys shot a fixed sight Model 10 light barrel and could out shoot all of us, we made the top twenty teams in the state because of his sharing that incredible skill. We all shot pop cans at 100 yards routinely but he did it with another M&P with a 2" barrel, shooting beyond that range was rarely done due to the length of available ranges. Probably none of us could routinely hit an aspirin but we had a lot of fun with those wonderful S&W revolvers...oh yeah no one shot a Colt!
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Old June 25, 2013, 08:57 PM   #15
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I am slowly coming to the conclusion that barrel length may not be all it's cracked up to be. Recent shooting I have done with a mini glock at 50 yds on steel targets really changed my mind. Try this, get away from bullseye targets and try paper plates or something similar (target w/o a ten ring,) which is small enough to satisfy your self defence requirements. Shoot the drills quickly and the results will probably surprise you. I have allot of respect for the 50 foot bullseye shooters but self defense is a different animal.
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Old June 25, 2013, 09:01 PM   #16
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Quote:
I was under the impression .38's were the standard for law enforcement back in the day, at least the police departments.
Yup. But
Quote:
I thought they were mostly snub nose,
Nope to that. Snubs were for those that needed concealment.
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Old June 25, 2013, 09:13 PM   #17
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30ft....

Commander Richard NMI Marcinko, www.DickMarcinko.com , the US Navy SEAL officer who started SEAL Team Six & Red Cell, wrote in a few of his non fiction books that 30ft is what his "shooters & looters" had to hit 3x5 cards with handguns.

Snub revolvers are mostly for CQB or used as back ups.
Trick shooting or range fun is one thing but J frame snubs are not meant to be sidearms in 2013.

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Old June 25, 2013, 09:33 PM   #18
Deaf Smith
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Quote:
Maximum "combat" range of a Snub Nose .38 Special?
All depends on how well you can hold the snub and control the trigger.

Some people can hit a IPSC target dead on at 100 yards. others can't hit the same target at 3 yards.

Yes snubs are hard to shoot well, but not impossible.

Just takes practice grasshopper. Lots of practice.

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Old June 25, 2013, 09:39 PM   #19
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Up through some time in I think the mid 60s, LAPD carried 6" pencil barrel S&W 38s. Uniforms and dicks all carried the same pistol.


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Old June 25, 2013, 09:45 PM   #20
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proper tactics & marksmanship.....

I agree with Deaf that practice & proper tactics can aid a snub revolver shooter.
I've owned a Taurus Ti Protector & a stainless SP101 DA only 2.25" barrel.
Laser grips & Lasermax units help but learn the basics first.
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Old June 25, 2013, 11:46 PM   #21
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My Agency issue for many years was a SW 640 as a backup. I still carry it and the 642 often, even though the Glock 27 is the new backup issue. I am an accomplished shot on most any weapon system and qualify expert without much effort. The furthest shot on the qual course for the 640 is 25 yards.

Taking my sweet time to work good sight alignment and a smooth DAO trigger pull, I can hit pretty well out to 50 yards in the kill zone for target plinking. However, when you are talking combat shooting or stress shooting, putting rounds anyplace on a lifesize target even at 25 yards is an accomplishment.

In a combat/self defense situation you are not just standing and shooting. You are using cover and know that each time you expose yourself for a shot the risk of being hit escalates. The stress is further escalated when you know you are looking at a reload after 5 shots and begin thinking about where you will be when that occurs (assuming you have a speed loader or strip). Your shots are quick and intended to limit your exposure as a target.

Having trained regularly as a professional under combat conditions with the 640 as a backup, I know my personal comfort zone is inside of 25 yards for a fire fight. Certainly I would not choose the 640 as my first choice if I knew I was going into a gunfight, but sometimes you have to work with what you got at the time. Its a great and effective gun for a fast defensive response at short range.

I would encourage anyone contemplating carrying one to learn how to reload quickly and to have a speed strip or speed loader with them. I love a speed loader, but sometimes it is a bit bulky in a pocket. The speed strips lie flat in a pocket. Training with a dedicated pocket to the ammo for the reload is also an important TTP. Would suck to try to load a handful of change or a set of keys while groping for your bullets.
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Old June 26, 2013, 12:39 AM   #22
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You know, it makes me wonder... I mean, revolvers, at least as a primary duty weapon have been obsolete for DECADES now!

Did it not occur to PD's that they could be issuing something like 1911 to their officers? Would cost really have been a deal breaker? How much would it have costed for a S&W Model 10, compared to a decent "GI" style 1911? The only thing I can come up with, would be that there aren't nearly as many options as there are now, but I'm sure someone was making a decent quality/decent priced 1911... Right?

I mean apparently, a Model 10 is $719 MSRP. Proportionately, it would have seemed like a better investment... Just my .02

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Old June 26, 2013, 04:34 AM   #23
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Re; Dahermits question about splatter plates. These were pretty common for trick shots and merely were steel plates placed to allow the bullet fragments to spray around and do their work. I admired Jordan's expertise greatly, and what he did with the fast draw and hitting in the general vicinity of an aspirin is a major feat, but there was not direct contact between the bullets and aspirins. A fairly hard mix of wax bullet will splatter upon hitting the metal plate the aspirin was sitting on, but you have to be pretty close and hit between you and the aspirin for it it work....which was a feat.
Obviously hitting steel plates with velocity out of a firearm will cause the fragments to splatter and break baloons in the vicinity. Still some amazing skill involved in the exhibition shooting though.
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Old June 26, 2013, 07:49 AM   #24
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Splatter Plates, Bill Jordan

The following is an artical about Bill Jordan that appeared in the Novermber 1969 issue of Shooting Times Magazine:

http://www.darkcanyon.net/BillJordan_TopGun.htm


"Bill emphasizes that no chicanery is involved in his shooting. Shot cartridges for aerial work and breaking candy wafers against a vibrant steel plate while blindfolded are not part of his repertoire."

For exhibition work, Bill’s bullets are of paraffin. For many years he performed all the same feats that are now enjoyed by his audiences, using 38 Special wadcutter ammunition. The transition to wax loads came as he worked more frequently before indoor groups."

"More startling than his quickness is the fantastic accuracy that attends Bill’s hipshooting sessions. After a bit of kidding around with 12” balloons and aluminum baking tins, he settles down to the real meat of his routine. Two-inch wafers, sliced from a cedar pole, are zapped calmly with quick hipshots. The range is 10 feet – good shooting, but nothing you would stomp your feet and whistle about. Next comes a line of Necco candy wafers, which are smaller and shatter in pleasing fashion. Bill’s guests nudge their drowsy neighbors awake as he blasts Lifesaver mints with quick hipshots, and everyone is muttering in awe when he reaches the finale, unerringly obliterating aspirin tablets with his Magnum held at waist level. Worried that the folks were getting blasé, Willie has added a new target to the series. He now finishes by centering a saccharin tablet with a wax bullet."
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Old June 26, 2013, 09:16 AM   #25
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Speed is good, and accuracy is great... but neither is worth a darn without good target identification.
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