Snub Training – My ideal snub

August 21, 2009

This question comes up often so I though I might share with you my thoughts.


S&W Bodyguard - From The Snub File

S&W Bodyguard - From The Snub File

If I had to pick a first snub to recommend I would go with a lock-free, Airweight S&W Bodyguard and render it double-action only.

If I couldn’t find a Airweight Bodyguard I would try to hunt up an Airweight Chief Special, render it double-action only and then add a Waller and Son hammer shroud.

Here are a few reasons in no special order.

The Bodyguard offers nearly every advantage the Centennial does. You can get high on the back strap for optimum recoil control. It is just as sag proof on the draw stroke and every feature available for a J-frame is available for the Bodyguard.

One added bonus the Bodyguard has over the Centennial is that with its hammer nipple access you have another safe (and quick) method to check for high primers.

Some argue that the open slot at the rear of the Bodyguard’s integrated shroud invites crud that can impede hammer arc. 

A 5-second “clean shroud” check every morning along with confirming that the snub is loaded solves that non-issue.

By the way, a great habit to get into is to check that the snub is loaded every time it has been out of your control. – a piece of great advice I picked up from Walt Rausch

EVERY morning I make it a habit to confirm it is loaded even it I am the one who locked it in the safe loaded the night before.

In addition to rendering it double-action only (for all the usual street- and court-liability reasons) I would get the usual “must have” add-ons.

Chamfer the cylinders

XS Big Dot front sight – The U-rear sight may not be an option with the Bodyguard but I could work around it.

For Stocks one of these:

Barami Hip-Grips with a Tyler T-Grip adaptor (or)

Spegel Boot Grip stocks (or)

Crimson Trace laser stocks

Whichever one would bet fit the shooters carry style and or resources.

My final carry gun option would be to have the gunsmith, Mike LaRocca for Worcester, MA or Karl Sokol in West Rutlant VT remove the locking bolt currently holding the short ejector rod in place, add a full length ejector rod and then add a detent to the crane to keep the cylinder locked in place.

The J-frame’s much too short ejector rod is the bane of fast, positive reloading and a personal bug-a-boo of mine. On a self-defense gun it has to go.

Since I am throwing around a lot of ideal snub money on this list let me add one other wish list items

Since this Airweight Bodyguard or Shrouded Airweight Chief Special is a working gun I would look to find a companion gun.

Now there are lots of great reasons to go with a copy of my primary carry snub only in a heavier format. Either blue (first choice) or stainless steel (second choice)

As a heavier range training gun I could shoot more rounds through it and in the same caliber I would have a readily available second or BUG gun.

But the fact is that very few shooters will consistently (if ever) carry a second gun I would want a companion gun to optimize training drills and occasions.

Something fun to shoot to encourage range time

Something I could get my children and non-gun friends to learn on and enjoy shooting.

Something inexpensive to shoot so I would want to do either of the above often

I would look for a J-frame .22 and hammer shroud it.

Certainly not optimal as a second self-defense gun but it would be unmatched in its role as a fun trainer and in an emergency could be used by any responsible adult.

Too often folks into guns forget that the 99% of the self-defense guns we own will never be used in that role.

90% of those that are, the good guy ends the fight with the presentation and not the shooting.

HKS .22 speedloader

HKS .22 speedloader

As a training tool I would also have the option of practicing with both HKS .22 speedloaders and QuickStrip .22 loading strips.

Throw in a good supply of .22 dummy rounds and you have a shooting kit that practically begs you for weekly range trips.

And anything that gets you to the range regularly for training has to be a good idea.


Snub Training – Gunsmiths I

July 30, 2009

Karl Sokol is the owner and chief gunsmith with Chestnut Mountain Sports in West Rutland, VT. He is one of the only two gunsmiths I use for work on my self-defense snubs. The other is Mike LaRocca, owner of LaRocca’s Gun Works in Worcester, MA.

Recently I asked both for a list of those features that they consider important on a snub used for self-defense. Both listed several of the same generial recomendations though neither contained the eaxct same list of items. Nor did either mimic my own thinking on the subject.

Like many things in life, recommendations from qualified sources are based on both the personal and practical experience of the men involved.

Here now is Karl Sokol’s thoughts on the subject.

Dear Mr. De Bethencourt:

Regarding you inquire about the risks, if any with removing the hammer spur. My experience and advice is that properly bobbed hammer does not affect ignition.

Regarding you inquire about the pros and /or cons of adding a hammer shroud: A shroud fitted snub can [aid in clearing] a pocket or shoot multiple times thru a [jacket] pocket in theory. However, I have had no problem [drawing from a pocket with] with my bobbed Smith and Wesson [nor] shooting through  [jacket] pockets …”.

[Here are my] thoughts on custom [self-defense] snubb work:

1) Smooth the action and add a Double Action Only (DAO)  conversion. A light action does not equal smooth; reliability is the most important requirement

2) Bob the hammer, where and when applicable

3) Round and smooth the face of the trigger in order to remove any sharp edges; your revolver should not bite the hand that feeds it

4) Chamfer the cylinder’s charge holes

5) Add stocks that work with the gun and shooter

6) Add a front sight color insert, or night sight where feasible. A front sight needs to grab the attention of your peripheral vision

Ultimately it’s the customers decision regarding what he/she feels is most useful.

Finding the “right” pistolsmith is really the ultimate key to a custom
project. (Don’t let your cousin Billy Bob work on your self defense

Thanks again.

Karl Sokol – Gunsmith
Chestnut Mountain Sports

Snub Training -Thumb Latches

July 23, 2009
SDM Fabricating New Style thumb Latch

SDM Fabricating New Style thumb Latch

When a shooter reloads using either the Taylor “speed load” method or either of the better known FBI methods, S&W’s new art-deco style cylinder release latch might be viewed as something of an improvement.  This is because the new latch is angled for the convenience of the right hand shooter so he may activate the release while retaining the revolver in his right hand.  The new latch addresses the complaint of latch contact to the knuckle of the right thumb during recoil. There were also complaints that the clearance from older style latches sometimes impeded reloading with some speedloader. 

Regrettably, when reloading the revolver using either of the LFI StressFire methods or either of the “Auto-pistol” method, all of which I prefer over either of the FBI methods, the new style cylinder release latch takes away more than it gives.

In my experience the new latch:

1 – Is angled poorly for the right handed shooter who wishes to use his left thumb (Auto-pistol style)

2 – Is angled poorly for the left hand shooter who wishes to use any reload style

3 – Offers reduced contact surface area for reliable manipulation

4 – Offers no significant improvement in speedloader clearance

In its defense, the latch seems to reduce the incidents of knuckle contact during recoil, but so would some simple grip strengthening exercises, and increasing grip strength would improve overall gun handling.  Certainly more so than any cosmetic change to the cylinder release latch. (See blog section titled Stocks and Grip Strength)

If you own a J-frame, you might consider contacting S&W’s parts department, and see about buying an older style latch while they are still available. 

SDM Fabricating Old Style thumb Latch

SDM Fabricating Old Style thumb Latch

If you own a K- or N-frame snub, check out the cylinder release latches produced by SDM Fabricating. SDM currently offers four latch styles; old (classic) and new (art-deco), both in either stainless or blue. Their latches are the same size and shape as the original factory part with improved gripping surface.  They are fully CNC machined from barstock, and feature a very effective 30 line-per-inch checkering.  Please note that the SDM latches are flat while the original Smith & Wesson latches have a distinct concave surface.  This in no way takes away from the effectiveness of SDM latches. Regrettable, SDM does not (currently) offer their excellent replacement cylinder release latches for either Smith and Wesson J-frame or the comparably sized Taurus revolvers.  Hopefully, interest will be great enough that SDM may someday offer a classic J-frame style latch in the near future.

Snub Training – Magna-Trigger

July 6, 2009
Magna-Trigger from Tarnhelm Supply

Magna-Trigger from Tarnhelm Supply

The Magna-Trigger Safety was designed by Joe Davis and is a modification to select revolvers and prevents anyone not wearing a unique magnetic ring from firing the weapon.  The heart of the unit is a magnetic module that fits into a cut away portion of the front strap of the revolver’s frame.  When a shooter wearing one of the unique rings is gripping the revolver the reverse polarity between the ring and the module permitted the revolver to fire.  The ring has* to be worn on the shooter’s middle or ring finger (dependant on the gun) and can be used with almost any wooden revolver stocks excluding those with finger-groves or any rubber revolver stocks excluding those with a reinforced steel insert steel insert.

A common recommendation is that the shooter wears one ring on each hand to permit weak-hand shooting, and that the revolver be converted to double-action-only since a Magna-Trigger equipped revolver taken away in a single action cocked condition could still fire once.

There are two items of note. First, cutting away a portion of the revolver’s frame will void any Smith and Wesson warrantee, thought for certain special situations I believe it is a reasonable trade-off.  Second, the common handgun disarm method known at the “Walk-through” and practiced by prison inmates could bend the remaining portion of the revolver’s frame sufficiently to disable the safety.  This is possible with long barreled revolvers but very unlikely with the short barreled snub. Overall, for the revolver owner who requires immediate access to a firearm but must weigh that access against the possibility of small children or other unauthorized hands stumbling across the weapon the Magna-Trigger Safety remains a serious consideration.

 Regarding the advice “has to be worn on the correct finger” – that is important. Several years ago I was invited to attend the Lethal Force Institutes (LFI) 20th union. Lt. Adam Kasanof for the NYCPD (now retired) was also a guest lecturer and the only other revolver armed shooter. At the end of the week long event the class participated in a shooting match that required a back-up gun. Well that day Adam had is 4-inch duty gun but no back-up gun. I had a 2 and 1/2-inch snub but no second gun. Well then, naturally Adam and I loaned each other our guns for the match. Unfortunately (for me) I didn’t listen closely enough to Adam’s directions. His K-frame was fitted with a Magna-trigger and he loaned me both rings. He directed me to put them on my middle finger. I sadly put them on my ring finger. Long story short I could not get Adam’s gun to fire untilled I moved the rings to where they were designed to be worn.  Bottom line – The Magna-Trigger worked exactly as advertised.

The Magna-Trigger is available for the K-, L- and N-frame Smith and Wesson revolvers and the Ruger Security Six revolver.

Rick Deviod, owner and chief armorer of Tarnhelm Supply Co., of Boscawen, NH is the only gunsmith licensed to install the Murabio safety. The fee for the instillation is $350.00 per revolver, $60 for each ring plus shipping as of this writing. Rick can be contacted at 603-796-2551 or through his e-mail at

Snub Training – Murabito Revolver Safety

July 5, 2009
Murabito Revolver Safety - On

Murabito Revolver Safety - On

Murabito Revolver Safety - Off

Murabito Revolver Safety - Off

As I noted in the last post I have used a safety on a duty revolver. I did this so that I might take advantage of a faster access holster without the accompanying disarming danger. And I note that the fellow I sold the gun to was looking for an additional level of security because there was a child in his home. In particular I think a revolver safety would be a great comfort for the correction guard who was restricted to a wheel gun. The folks he would be supervising or transporting would have months if not years to view and analyze his holster. If at some point one or more of these folks believed he knew the holster’s releases well enough to attempt a disarm, or if he actually succeeded in stripping the gun from the holster, a hidden safety catch might literally be a life saver. Yesterday I note the sadly discontinued Hammer Safety. Today let’s look at the very much available Murabito Revolver Safety.

The Murabito Revolver Safety was designed by Frank Murabito and converts the revolver’s cylinder release into the revolver safety.  It was, I am told, developed for shooters who like to carry a revolver but didn’t like the idea of a sidearm without a safety lever.   The Murabito safety is set by pushing the cylinder latch forward and up. Once set “on safe” the safety is swiped “off” in the style of a 1911 pistol as the shooter is taking a firing grip. The Murabio safety uses only factory parts for the conversion, and few shooters would notice the Murabito safety if it were not pointed out to them. The installation does not affect the action or functionality of the revolver and is available for Smith and Wesson J-, K-, L-, N-frame revolvers and some select Taurus revolvers. A conversion for the Ruger was at one time available and it is noted that it may be in the future for both Ruger and Colt revolvers. 

Currently only one gunsmith, Rick Deviod, owner and chief armorer of Tarnhelm Supply Co., of  Boscawen, NH is licensed to install the Murabio safety. The fee for the instillation is a very reasonable $150.00 plus shipping as of this writing. Rick can be contacted at 603-796-2551 or through his e-mail at

Snub Training – The Hammer Safety

July 4, 2009

The discontinued Hammer Safety was a shotgun-style safety that was fitted to the hammer directly under the hammer spur.   The safety was held in place by a detent ball and spring and was milled to sit flush with hammer when in the “off” position.  When “on” the Hammer Safety projected just over the edge of the hammer and prevented the hammer from retracting into the revolver’s frame when the trigger was pulled.  The Hammer Safety cost no more that a replacement revolver hammer, could be set up for either right or left hand shooters and could be removed by any competent gunsmith in minutes.  Regrettably, the Hammer Safety was developed just as the police revolver was being phased out in favor of the semi-auto pistol.  I had one fitted to a duty revolver many years ago and saw convinced to sell it to a fellow who was looking for a hidden feature that might safe guard his children should he ever fail to secure his weapon after work.  Of all of the revolver add-ons I tried over the years it is the Hammer Safety that I miss the most. It was simple, reliable, easy to flick on, reflexive to flick off and unobtrusive. I once had a State Trooper friend who was concerned that the holster I was carrying my duty weapon was set up for fast access and not for retention. I assured that the set up was a working balance between speed and access. Despite my assurances he continued to voice some concern. I removed the revolver, removed the rounds, we triple checked that the weapon was unloaded and I reholstered the weapon.  Only unknown to the trooper, I had flicked on the safety. Once the revolver was reholstered I invited him to snatch the weapon and pull the trigger.  I would make no effort to prevent him from drawing the weapon but he was not to quit until the weapon dry fired. He instantly snatched the weapon, turned to one side and tried to fire the weapon. The Hammer Safety prevented the hammer from retracting into the frame and therefore prevented the trigger from retracting. So intent was he on pulling the trigger that he failed to see me step forward and pop the gun out of his grasp. Then with a quick flick of the safety I pulled the trigger and dry fired the revolver a half dozen times. Point made I think.

Snub Training – Aftermarket Revolver Safeties

July 3, 2009

Working hand-in-hand with weapon retention skills are the various overlooked and sometimes unknown after market revolver safeties.  There were at one time three such devices any of which would be a comforting safety cushion against a weapon disarm attempt. These include the discontinued and very sadly missed Hammer Safety, the Murabito Revolver Safety and the Magna-Trigger Gun Safety.