A six shot, .357-caliber blue steel revolver of medium size or K-frame. It was manufactured by Smith and Wesson and was available with a two and a half inch barrel and adjustable sights. In its day it was considered by some as the “Cadillac of snubs” and was at one time the official side arm of the U.S. Secret Service. Also known as the Model 19 it was replaced by the stainless steel Model 66.
One of two Colt Detective Special styled snubs (the other being the Agent) manufactured with an aluminum-alloy frame. The Cobra was a medium sized or D-frame Colt revolver manufactured in .22 and .38 caliber and available in two and three inch barrel lengths. The Colt Cobra was distinct from the Colt Agent in having a larger grip frame length. Jack Ruby is reported to have used a Cobra .38 Special to kill Lee Harvey Oswald
The Chief’s Special is a small sized or J-frame Smith and Wesson revolver manufactured in a variety of calibers and barrel lengths. Copied by many its quality remains a benchmark for every other snub. Models include the Model 36 (blue steel), Model 37 (aluminum-alloy frame), and the Model 60 (stainless steel).
Often misidentified as hammerless, the Centennial is the designation for the frame-concealing encloses-hammer Smith and Wesson snubs. Introduced in 1952 as the Model 40 and named in honor of the company’s centennial the Centennial features a unique “Quasimodo” style humped back frame and back strap. This frame shape completely encloses and conceals an internal hammer that employs a double action only trigger system. Combined these features prevent the snub from either snagging during a draw or being thumb cocked prior to firing. The Centennial is very popular with many shooters as its unique frame shape permits the shooter to move his hand up high on the back strap and aid in recoil control. The classic Centennial and some reissued versions feature a grip safety on the back strap that must be depressed in order to fire the snub. Models include the Model 40 (blue steel frame), Model 42 aluminum-alloy frame) both with a grip safety, Model 640 (stainless steel), Model 442 (blue steel cylinder with an aluminum-alloy frame), and the Model 642 (stainless steel cylinder with an aluminum-alloy frame). New Centennials have frame cutouts that will not accept many commonly available J-frame sized stocks.
The most common designation for various “humped back” hammer shrouded Smith and Wesson snubs. The hammer shrouded frame was produced to compete with Colt’s factory produced, after-market hammer shroud attachment. The hammer shrouded design permits a small portion of the hammer spur to protrude and allows the shooter to thumb back the hammer to a single action condition while preventing the hammer spur from catching material during the draw stroke. Models include the Model 38 (aluminum-alloy frame), the Model 49 (blue steel), and the Model 649 (stainless steel)
One of two Colt produced Detective Special styled snubs (the other being the Cobra) manufactured with an aluminum-alloy frame. The Agent was a medium sized or D-frame revolver. It was reportedly manufactured in both .22 and .38 caliber and was available in both two and three inch barrel lengths. Though generally not considered as robust as either Smith and Wesson’s five shot J-frames or six shot K-frames the Colt is still prized for both its size (a six-shot snub barely larger than the equivalent five-shot Smith) and its trigger action. The Colt Agent was distinct from the Colt Cobra (the other aluminum-alloy frame Colt) in that the Agent had an abbreviated grip frame length and weigh about 16 ounces compared to the Cobra’s 18 ounces when empty.
There are a wide variety of snub names and models and knowing one model from another is something of an art form onto itself. Over the years brand names and model designations have morphed as various features were changed. To add to the confusion still other manufacturers assigned number prefixes or suffixes tmodel numbers as parts were replaced, features added or the same part was made from a new material. The following shorthand list is offered only as a quick and rough guide to some of the better known snub models along with a few of the feature they are generally known for.
Next entry – Colt’s Agent