Comments on TDI’s “Snubby Revolver” Class

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Firearm Reviews, Gear Reviews

  • SumoMe



Even though you “tactical types” don’t like to admit it, there are a lot of folks who carry small-framed revolvers for self protection.  But since they are not “cool,” many sources don’t write about them on the internet or in gun magazines.  That leads people to carry revolvers with less than optimal sights, grips, holsters and support gear.  People just don’t know what to buy or which products are useful.  The best way to remedy this inadequacy in knowledge is to attend a dedicated snubby revolver class and put your gear to work.


The Tactical Defense Institute offers one such class and it was held last week.  TDI Operations Manager John Motil was one of the instructors in the class and he wrote up his summary of “lessons learned” for my readers.  Thanks to John for the contribution!



GUNS– The Snubby Revolver class had some nice weather. We had 12 students carrying revolvers of various models from both Smith & Wesson and Ruger.  Most of the guns were either the S&W bodyguard or the Ruger LCR.  No student carried a gun from any other manufacturer.   Interestingly enough, we had a 9mm revolver from each company represented in the class.


The 9mm guns shot to point of aim and the moon clips caused no problems.  If the 9mm has a drawback, it is a lack of roll crimp on the cartridge case.  Without that crimp, after about four shots out of a light weight revolver the recoil energy caused the remaining bullets in the cylinder to start migrating forward out of their cases, thereby locking up the gun.  That’s a problem you will want to take note of if you carry a 9mm revolver for defensive purposes.  Find some defensive ammo that doesn’t allow the bullets to move forward in the cylinder under recoil.  One other thing to note; the moon clips are not interchangeable between S&W and Ruger 9mm revolvers.



Sights– Shooters with sights that were the same color as their guns had problems. Blue on blue or stainless on stainless sights were difficult to discern under stress or less than optimal light conditions.  The XS Big Dots and fiber optic front sights did much better in varied lighting conditions of the range and the indoor shoot houses. If you are looking at a new revolver make sure it has a pinned or dovetailed front sight.  If you have a milled front sight, it’s very difficult to change.  Even though you’ll pay more money for a gun with a pinned front sight, it will be worth it as it give you many more effective sighting options.  One other point to note, XS big dots should not be installed on the Ruger LCR revolvers.  The XS sights cannot be regulated to hit point of aim on those guns.  They work fine on other Ruger revolvers.



Loading Methods- Any loader is better than carrying loose rounds.  The class was split on speed loaders and strips. HKS, Safariland, 5 Star Firearms, and TuffStrips were all used. Most were carried in pockets.  Note that there are essentially two different release mechanisms on speed loaders.  Some loaders require a push and others require a turn of the knob.  Each has its relative advantages and disadvantages.  Both work fine.  The only folks who had trouble were those who mixed loader types.  Don’t carry two different speedloaders with two different release mechanisms.  Under stress, you will inevitably try to twist the push buttons or push the twist knob!



Grips- Grips were mostly rubber and many sported a laser. A few people had issues with interference with their speed loaders.   Check your grips to make sure they are relieved on the left side of the revolver to accommodate the speedloaders that you use.  If your speedloaders won’t fit into the cylinder, get some new grips or dremel off the offending chunk of rubber that is blocking their insertion.  I like how the soft rubber grips feel, but under recoil they almost peel the skin off your palm.   Be prepared if you plan on doing a lot of shooting with the soft rubber grips.  We saw plenty of Coban appearing on day two of the class to cover up blisters and raw spots caused by the soft rubber.



Holsters- Holsters were strong side or appendix and made of predominantly  kydex or leather.  We had one nylon inside the pocket holster.  No matter the holster material or manufacturer, students seemed to have some problems with almost all of them.  I did not see any holsters that allowed the gun to be reholstered easily.  All required some degree of gun manipulation for re-insertion. Even quality rigs needed that little “twist” to open and allow the cylinder to enter.  When buying a holster, ensure it has a rigid opening to allow you to put the gun back inside without muzzling yourself or someone else on the shooting line.



Calibers and “Stopping Power”– Now for my rant, which probably qualifies as a separate post… Guys, your wife, daughter, or girlfriend does not need to shoot the same gun or caliber as you do!   On day two we had a female student complaining about pain and swelling in her hands from shooting a gun that had some fairly stiff recoil.  We had a second female student who only fired 5 shots on day one, before retrieving a padded shooting glove.  The thick pad on the shooting glove put all the stress on the joint of her thumb as she had to rotate her hand around the revolver in order to reach the trigger. Both of these are less-than-desirable outcomes.


Interestingly, these ladies’ guns were chosen by male shooters in their lives.  Because their men didn’t consider the effects of recoil, and concluded that you can’t learn anything from a .22 revolver, I don’t think we achieved optimal results with these students. To give the one lady credit, on day two she asked to try one of our loaner range revolvers in .22 caliber.  She used it the rest of the day. The other lady’s husband was so worried about recoil he bought the Hornady Critical Defense Lite load with 90 grain bullets for the class. She shot $1 a round defensive ammunition in a two day shooting school and still had problems managing the recoil in her lightweight revolver.  For the cost of the ammo consumed alone, that guy could have bought a .22 revolver and a brick of .22 ammo for practice.



Guys, take my advice.  The women in your life may not be comfortable shooting the same guns that you can shoot all day long.  If she isn’t comfortable, she won’t become proficient.  I would much rather have a ladyfriend of mine shooting a .22 revolver that she loves than a .38 that she fears.  Caliber is not all that important!  Lose the ego and find a gun that your loved one actually enjoys shooting.  Both of you will be much happier. – Greg


As a side note,  here are the results from part of my (Greg's) weekend practice session. Smith and Wesson 317 .22 revolver. 8 shots each at 25, 35, and 50 YARDS. All fired as fast as I could pull the trigger and reacquire a sight picture. 23 in center mass and one in an arm. Does anybody want to say my .22 snub is a "mouse gun" when I can put 8 shots into your chest in 5 seconds at 50 yards?

As a side note,
here are the results from part of my (Greg’s) weekend practice session. Smith and Wesson 317 .22 revolver.
8 shots each at 25, 35, and 50 YARDS. All fired as fast as I could pull the trigger and reacquire a sight picture. 23 in center mass and one in an arm.
Does anybody want to say my .22 snub is a “mouse gun” when I can put 8 shots into your chest in 5 seconds at 50 yards?


12 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. C Bates says:

    Excellent specific points in the article. I don’t carry a revolver/snubby, but I know those who do. They can benefit from this. The same specific advice on sights, holsters, recoil, consistency of gear choices, etc. can apply to all firearm endeavors.

    My wife has an S&W 640-1 because she chose it. While it is a .357, I have never let her shoot anything but rather lightweight .38 Special range ammo in it. I put a laser on it (Crimson Trace grip) and that immediately helped her with shooting low & left (recoil anticipation). I also had the trigger pull smoothed and slightly lightened, which contributed to improved shooting. We installed a colored insert in the front sight and that helped too.

    I have shot that gun with full power .357 mag loads a couple of times. I thought a grenade was going off in my hand. This would be the definition of the worst trade-off of “stopping power” vs. shootability (quickly placing accurate rounds on target).

    BTW, as a young man I killed my first white tail deer with four quick semi-auto hollow points from a .22 rifle. Dropped him in his tracks with full penetration through the chest to just under the hide on the far side. Face shots at close range with a .22 revolver would be incredibly persuasive, IMO.

  2. Greyson says:


    I have a question about your note at the end. Your study indicates that .22s have a greater likelihood of not stopping an attacker than common defensive calibers (31% failure rate for .22s vs. 17% for .38 SPL). I can certainly understand carrying the gun that you can shoot, so I get the recommendation to arm recoil sensitive shooters with a .22 if needed, but why do you opt to carry the 317 when you other options that you can shoot adequately with a lower chance of failure?

    I really am asking for insight, not challenge your choice, so hopefully this comes across as intended.

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      Hey Greyson!

      The ‘failure” rate cited isn’t really a “failure”, but instead a “failure to incapacitate.” There is a big difference. If the attacker is shot, breaks off the attack and runs away, it’s still a failure to incapacitate, but that doesn’t mean that the gun didn’t do its job. The .22 may not incapacitate as well as larger calibers, but it’s exceedingly rare to find an instance where it hasn’t stopped the attack. When carrying off duty or as an armed citizen, my prime goal is to stop an attack. The .22 actually does that quite well.

      • Greyson says:


        Thanks for the reply. I guess I have been misunderstanding the “failure” info for a while now. I see that as the biggest difference between the calibers you looked at, so I have been using that as a determining factor in what I am willing to carry. Now that I better understand, my carry options have just increased significantly.

  3. Joe says:

    Great article with very good points. Being older and more old school, I still like a revolver over a semi-auto, even though I own both. I feel under stress, a revolver is more simple to operate with less chance of a malfunction. Say from perhaps limp wristing. Less moving parts. And I like the SA/DA option revolver so that in the event a timed shot is possible, a more accurate SA round can be fired should circumstances allow.

    I often have a .38 Taurus Ultralite in a Remora holster. I don’t place too much emphasis on reholstering as if in the event shots have been fired, I’m guessing I’ll be able to take my time reholstering. And for my way of thinking, a revolver perhaps has less chance of a negligent discharge when holstering. To me. I’m sure others will have varying opinions on that.

    I agree that for some folks, a .22 may be what some people can shoot comfortably and make holes on target. A softer hit is more valuable than a louder miss. A .22 will usually also give you 8 or 9 rounds on board as well.

    It’s great to see the snubbie getting some love!

  4. Sherm House says:

    Darn! I wish I could’ve been there for this! Will you offer this class again, Greg?

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      TDI offers it every year. I haven’t taught this particular one for the last few years it’s been offreed, but I still highly recommend the class.

  5. Something to consider about .22 revolvers:

    I recall a thread in a forum in which someone complained that he’d bought his wife an Airlite .22 revolver but that the trigger “pull” was too heavy for her. Right away, a few members chimed in, recommending that he respring the gun with Wolff springs. Apparently, none of them had taken note that Wolff cautions not to use the lighter hammer spring intended for centerfire J-frame revolvers for the rimfire ones.

    Rimfire rounds generally require a sharper firing-pin strike for reliable ignition. Bulk-lacked rimfire rounds may rattle around, dislodging some of the priming compound inside the rim. And .22 autoloaders are frequently fussy about which ammo they’ll cycle.

  6. C Bates says:

    Re: bulk .22 ammo

    Having watched Federal make their bulk .22 ammo, I call BS on the notion that the primer in a .22 rimfire can be dislodged by rattling it around. The primer is liquid when inserted into the formed case while the case is spinning. Centrifugal force spins the liquid evenly to the inside of the rim, where it dries immediately. It can’t be dislodged or shift or come out of the rim.

    It is possible that too little primer gets in a few out of thousands of rounds and creates a dead spot on the rim, producing a misfire (no primer ignition). Rotating the round and striking it again in a different spot will usually set it off. If not, the rim probably didn’t get any priming compound and the cartridge should be tossed.

    This is low cost ammo made at high speeds. It is very difficult to QC priming compound in the shell before the powder and bullet are loaded, except perhaps by random samples, which is not necessarily very accurate. A rim might not have enough room in it for compound to enter. This is a small space.

    The vast majority of .22 rounds go bang when expected. Bulk packaging dislodging the primer material is not an issue.

    • I do not understand why there is greater resistance to break-up by the priming compound in the rim of a rimfire case than there is to that in the primer cup of a .223 round that take a few light impacts from the firing pin when the same round is chambered repeatedly in an AR-15.

      Either way – and I recall one gunsmith who used to post periodic reports of ignition failures of bulk-packed .22 LR ammo (averaging around 2%, the last I saw) – that’s not what I’d recommend for self-defense to someone who opts for a .22.

  7. SWATdoc says:

    Unfortunately, it is hard to find a Centennial in .38 with a pinned front sight. Several years ago, I had Mr. Motil mill down the the front ramp on my 642 and install an XS Big Dot using the supplied epoxy. Hundreds of rounds (and hours being jostled around via appendix or pocket carry) later, the sight remains sturdy and easy to pick up. Love it!

  8. Jordan says:

    Nail polish has worked very well for me to make the front sight on my S&W 442 more visible. I did 3-4 light coats of white followed by a final coat of neon yellow. It has held up very well for about 5 months now and if it ever needs to be redone just take the old of with some nail polish remover and reapply.