A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Question of Purpose

Original question: practical snub nose range?
I've been praticing 10 yards. very humbling shooting a snubby for first time. i would like to stretch out to 25 yards by summers ends.

This question was asked in an online forum that I help moderate. It received the usual responses of how 25 yard accuracy was possible with a snubnose revolver. I finally had to say something. My response, for better or worse, is below. Oh, and the illustration is not me. It is FBI Agent Jelly Bryce proving he can drop a silver dollar and have his Model 27's sights on target before the coin clatters to the floor.

I'm aware that the snubbie is capable of making 25 yard shots. There are some guys that make amazing shots with snub nosed revolvers at great distances. If I work at it long enough, I might be reliably accurate at 25 yards with it myself. That's not the thing though.

For me, a snubbie is a close in weapon. It's a fighting gun, and a darned good one. It has stood the test of time for a reason. It's a weapon that fits the problem. It has some great attributes. It conceals well, is extremely reliable, fast on target, and it will fire with the muzzle jammed into the ribs of a man beating the snot out of you.

And you see, that is the issue, really. Almost all fights, and most lethal encounters start at a range of ten yards or less. Conversation distance. I carry the snubbie for personal protection, not exhibition shooting. I figure the chances of someone standing in the open, shooting at me from 25 yards is pretty remote. By contrast, having to defend myself from a range of fists and lead pipes to 20 feet against a moving aggressor while I am moving myself has a higher probability. As a civilian, having to defend myself from my back after being hit in the head from behind is also fairly high. Thus I train in that fashion. I practice at ten yards, often less. I practice from concealment against a timer, while moving. If possible, I use a target that moves as well. I practice shooting one handed, weak handed, and from the supine position.

The most important consideration for me is five shots to a reload, and a cartridge that is on the relative low range of effectiveness. I want shots in my target fast from concealment. I want this done before he gets shots in me. I want to be getting myself towards cover for a reload or an escape at the same time that I am defending myself.

If I am forced to deal with a maniac with an AR at 25 yards, then for me it's a question of tactics. Take cover. Either advance behind cover to a more effective range, or draw them in to effective range and ambush them. But...... at 25 yards in most environments that an attack would occur in, escape is a more healthy option than engaging the aggressor.

But then, fighting is always a question of tactics, in theory at least. Maximize the effectiveness of your weapon of choice while diminishing the VA's effectiveness. The subject is engaging to discuss, and it provides a guide of action and training. Mike Tyson once said everyone has a plan until they are punched in the mouth. He was right about that, and he knew fighting pretty well. Thing is, Iron Mike wouldn't want to face a maniac with an AR at 25 yards with only his fists. He would die if the maniac had only an ounce of skill or luck. If Tyson could take cover behind a brick wall and ambush the maniac when he came looking for him though, he might stand a chance. If he could stay inside the arc of the AR's barrel as he beat the maniac's face to a pulp, he would likely live. I strive for the ferocity of Tyson when attacked, but I don't have his strength, endurance or skill with my fists. So I carry a gun instead. Chances are, a snubbie up the nose will be a passable substitute.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you mind posting the name of the forum?

7:30 PM  
Blogger Alain said...

Here here for the snubbie!
I enjoyed the article and feel its spot on in so far as distance.
I picked up a colt cobra snubbie series 1972 shoots well -good balance and conceals easily.
My BUG is a rohrbaugh 9mm, which is carried a lot but fired little I have more confidence in the snubbie
Thanks Al

8:30 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

I agree with everything you wrote, but
would also add that every now and again it is apprpriate to practice at 25 yrd plus ranges. It's more likely the snubbie will be used at spitting distance, but if I had to be in a situation where a longer shot was required I would like to have tried it a couple times at the range first.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It's The High Road anon.

9:40 PM  
OpenID trebor1415 said...


Great pics of Byrce!

Where did you find them? Is there a good public domain source for pics like that?

9:44 PM  
OpenID trebor1415 said...


Great pics of Byrce!

Where did you find them? Is there a good public domain source for pics like that?

9:44 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

These were actually taken for Life magazine, but the FBI has them in their historical files.

10:37 PM  
Blogger be603 said...

Agreed. Exception being an active shooter in a public place. Fortunately we can train for both close in belly shot type scenarios as well as longer distance aimed fire.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Pawpaw said...

You're right that the snub-nose is best used at distances where you're peeling an aggressor off of you. The proper use of the fighting pistol is to get an aggressor to quit doing whatever it is he is doing and go away. Most times that is accomplished without even firing a shot.

However, that knowledge does not negate the often surprising accuracy of the little pistols at ranges like 25 yards. True, they're not target pistols, nor are they meant to be, but with just a modicum of training and skill it's surprisingly easy to keep all the shots on a standard B-27 target at 25 yards.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Scott J said...

The police detective among my friends who taught me to shoot ages ago called snubbies and the like "nostril guns".

I used to have a Walther TPH for deep concealment or lightweight Summer wear.

I would make points similar to yours when given grief about its .22 LR caliber.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another well reasoned viewpoint on concealed carry. I expected nothing less.

Perhaps one of these days you'll share your views on pistol caliber carbines and rifles.


7:10 PM  
Anonymous HankH said...

'...a snubbie up the nose will be a passable substitute' - Xavier, you certainly do have a way with words - have been enjoying your recent posts as per usual!



12:10 AM  
Blogger Mark Horning said...

If I can keep all rounds in a 6" circle at 25 yards with a KT P-3AT, there is no good reason why someone can not do the same with a snub.

Sure a 1911 would be a better choice.

Just because the vast majority of dangerous encounters take place within 7 yards does not mean that one should not be at least somewhat prepared for the event of a more distant encounter. (mall/church/university shooter etc)

3:02 AM  
Anonymous Blackwing1 said...


One other thing to note...in many states, there is a requirement in self-defense to retreat if at all practically possible. So, "at 25 yards in most environments that an attack would occur in, escape is a more healthy option than engaging the aggressor", it may also be required by law.

If I've been assaulted by somebody armed with fists, club or knife, and I've managed to put 25 yards between them and me, my only legal recourse is to KEEP running away, if it looks like I can get away without "imminent danger of death or grave bodily injury".

Somebody armed with a firearm and ill intent on the other hand doesn't get that saving grace, since they ARE an imminent danger even at that distance.

My wife and I target shoot with pistols at 25 yards. But our defense pistol shooting is at a range of 7 to 10 yards, and involves emptying the magazine (of my .45) or cylinder (of her .357) and then reloading. If I need to shoot somebody at a distance of more than that, I'm may have a hard time defending my actions later in court, unless they were also armed with a firearm.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Crucis said...

Dittos! I carry a S&W M442 for those same reasons.

For practice, I've found shooting falling steel plates at 10 yds a very good drill for snubbie accuracy. I'm still working on a 5 for 5. My best so far is 5 for 4. Also gives practice with the speed loader. Our gun club has 10 plates with a rope reset. Nice!

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Xavier

5:30 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Mark, I only have a finite time to train. I agree that 25 yard snubby shots are a good indicator of ten yard snubby accuracy.

However, I do not train to hit targets. I train to fight. That involves quickly assessing the situation, drawing from concealment, running, perhaps falling, gaining cover all the while returning fire without shooting my own dumb ass. I consider the ability to quickly draw and accurately return fire under any and all circumstances to be more important than 25 yard aimed fire. Other people may think differently, but I prefer to put my limited time to the best advantage training to fight, not shoot.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

BW1, you are correct, point well taken.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Massad Ayoob had a case he was expert witness for where a guy with a rifle shot someone with a snubbie at 35-40 yards, IIRC. Was charged with murder because the DA didn't think he was a danger at that distance. Ayoob took an identical snubbie and video taped himself shooting 6 for 6 into a silhouette target at 100 yards. In that article, he mentioned that cops in the early 20th, especially in England, used to have long range target matches with their snubbies.

Whenever I get to the outdoor range, I shoot my snubbies on the 40 yard tin can range. I do this DA.

They are not my favorite carry pieces, but they conceal better than an auto in some clothing types.

7:34 PM  
Blogger redleg said...

Well thought out and well said. My 442 is an excellent carry by virtue of weight, ease of concealment and reliability. I've never considered it to be for more than 7 yards, probably less. Yeah, it shoots well at longer distances, but I've never considered a snubbie to be a target gun.

Now that I'm getting a bit old and slow for the Nike defense, I might consider longer ranges

10:35 AM  
Blogger Glenn B said...

The way you are doing it, and the way you are planning, and the way you very carefully chose the 25 yard scenario with brick walls to hide behind and ambush someone all seem to negate your chances for survival if you ever find yourself out in the open at 25 yards or more from an armed agggressor who is intent on shooting you and who has a weapon with which he or she is capable at that distance. I would have to ask - why sh0ort change yourself and why rule out such a situation even if only remote.

Now note, I am not saying a snubnose revolver is not effective at 25 yards OR MORE. I know when I was issued one, I could effectively hit a man sized torso target at 25 yards, at 50 yards and at up to 90 or 100 yards (the later distance was always in question as to if it was 90 or 100 at the range where I shot a snub nose revolver at said distance). I am not a great shot, I am a fairly good shot at best. Most people consider a snub nose revolver a close in weapon, yet if you practice with it at greater distances you might be amazed at how well you can do with it. Always shoot the same ammo and guess what - always hold so much higher at 50 or 90 yards than at 25. You get used to it and used to judging the distance and can hit things pretty far away. I would not want to depend on even a 4 or 6 inch barrled handgun at 100 yards, not even at 50, but it is nice to know you are capable of using it at that distance and the only way to become capable is practice at those distances. As it stands, I would rather run away if possible but sometimes that is not an option nor is finding a brick wall to hide yourself behind in hoopes of ambushing the bad guy.

All the best,

2:43 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I don't know Glenn. I guess I never considered myself to be significant enough that a determined criminal would want to take me out with a rifle at 25 yards. Further, if he did, chances are I would never know about it.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Mike in Denton said...

Plus, plus for the snubbie, as others seem to agree. My hammerless Taurus 850 with Crimson Trace grips shoots .38 +p and when not 'vested' as a back-up, draws nicely from a $10 Uncle Mike's in strong side pocket.
And accuracy? Outside I can draw and point shoot 5 holes in a body target from 15 feet as fast as I can pull the trigger. Inside with the laser it's easy with practice (dry fire mostly) to draw and from the hip hit a baseball black with 3 shots in less than 3 seconds at 25 feet.

2:15 PM  

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