Snub Training – Ultra Lightweight Alloys

I am under impressed with the popular ultra-lightweight titanium and scandium snubs.  They may be a joy to carry but they suffer several disadvantages as self-defense weapons. 

First, responsible gun carrying requires competence and a simple measure of competence is range qualification.  A basic qualification score against a standardized range exam can be extremely challenging with these ultra-light guns.  Recoil is often severe due to the gun’s light weight.  A majority of shooters find a fifty round qualification exam with an Airweight snub challenging but not punishing.  That same fifty round exam with an ultra light snub can be something between unpleasant to a downright brutal experience. Doing well against a life-threatening assault would be made even more difficult by using a weapon that taxes low-stress range exam standards. 

Second, in order to continue to minimize weight many of the traditional solid one-piece barrels were replaced with a two piece barrel consisting of an outer shell and an inner sleeve.  While lighter, the resulting two piece barrel generally does not produce the accuracy normally expected with the traditional barrel. How bad a spread? I know of one very skilled shooter who could not get his ultra-light weight gun to group smaller than 8-inches at 15 feet. Maybe it was a fluke. Was it only one gun out of tens of thousands? Maybe. A portion of the folks who come the snub program and shoot ultra-light snub tend to shoot poorer groups by the end of the day rather than better.  Of course it could be just poor instruction (mine) but if it was, I would expect to see the same results with the Airweight, blue steel and stainless steel shooters and I don’t. I suspect it is more a problem with the punishing recoil adding up over 100 or 150 rounds.  Some shooters either swap out the light guns early in the class or dismiss the whole problem by claiming that in a “real” fight they will only need (or have) five rounds or ten rounds.  Again maybe, but if I had a gun that I would not or could not shoot responsibility over a 100-round training course would I want to rely on the same gun as my primary summer access weapon or my final last ditch uberemergency back-up gun?

Third, ultra-lightweight snubs can occasionally prove less than 100% reliable with the classic plus-P lead semi-wadcutter self-defense hollow points.  The sudden violent recoil is known to pull cases away from the unjacketed bullets while in the cylinder’s charge holes.  The cases can be pulled so far rearward and away from the bullet that the freed bullet nose will sometimes move forward enough to block the rotation of the cylinder, seizing up the gun. It is also not unknown that under recoil that some rounds will actually disassemble while still in the cylinder.  This is not known to me to ever have happed with Airweight or all-steel snubs. If a shooter insists in loading plus-P pressure rounds in his ultra-light snub he should consider limiting his ammunition to a round with a jacketed bullet.

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