Snub Training – Ammo questions

August 27, 2009

Dear Ralph:

Thank you for the very kind note and the words on the blog.

Regarding you great questions:

[Are] hollow point is really worth it

I don’t count on them expanding either. Not out of short barrels, but I still use them in most (90%) of my self-defense guns because 1) they might help in a fight and 2) they are less ricochet prone making them safer for others down range. 

My guns seem to shoot better with the lighter bullets.

After reliability my #1 demand for a round is accuracy.  I would rather know I can hit with a .38 that is accurate but is not well regarded as a fight stopper than fight with a round that is famous as a fight stopper but is inaccurate. It is that whole “a hit with a .22 beats a miss with a .44” thing.

Is the +P ammo worth it? 

Only if A) you are accurate with it and B) you enjoy shooting with it and C) you feel it gives you disproportional fight stopping ability and D) you can afford to train with the round often.

For me the answer to most of those questions is “no” – so for the most part I stick with standard pressure. There are some exceptions. In the winter when I am wearing a heavier coat over a bigger, heavier snub I will often go for the +P – but that is a specialized situation.

Buffalo says that they have a round just made for the 2″ snubbies.

Almost all my self-defense ammo is Buffalo Bore. I find that have something that will be very accurate out of each one of me snubbies.  I use wad-cutters for my wife’s gun. Non +P hollow points in my light weight Colts and AirWeight Smiths. I sometimes use their +P lead hollow points in the bad weather (see above.) For almost all my reloads I carry their non +P jacket hollow points. I can load them into any of my snubs and the ojive jacket makes them fast to reload.

Any thoughts on their 158-gr HP rounds? 

I love their +p and non +P lead hollow point. Again I put accuracy on the top of the “what ammo must-do” list only after reliable. In my snub I find they are reliable, accurate, have a low muzzle flash but they are a little expensive for some. Always test ammo first out of your gun with your shooting skills. Never go with what gun writer “X’ said or wrote until you test it personally. Chances are that neither he nor his shooting skills will be riding with you when the fight starts.

My cheep practice target is a expired 12 ga shotgun shell

You have empty 12-gauge shells to practice on?!? – You rich guys have everything!

Is there a hammer shield available for my Charter Arms?

Yes. The hammer shroud for the J-frame S&W will generally fit if your Charter Arm’s snub if it is a five shot .38/.357.

Would it be worth replacing the hammer with a bobbed one and making the gun DAO? 

I prefer the shroud over the bobbed spur. I also require a DAO hammer on all my self-defense snubs. But remember that buying the shroud, paying the gunsmith to attach it and paying to have the hammer rendered DAO can add up quickly.

Charter Arms used to offer a DAO/bobbed hammer for some of their guns.  You could call them about installing/buying a factory part but again the cost to the FedEx shipping to and from can add up quickly too.  I might consider a local gunsmith and price the cost for bobbed the spur and rendering the hammer DAO.

I hope that info helped.

Let me know if I missed any items.


Michael de Bethencourt


Snub Training – POP Round

August 20, 2009

There are several primer only propelled (POP) training round options available. These are great options for the snub owner who is looking to practice safely outside the confines of a traditional gun club or range.  Almost any space with ventilation can be cleared away to make a safe private shooting galley.  POP rounds are inexpensive to train with, discreet and are safe when basic safety rules are applied. They are variously described as being “no louder than a child’s cap gun” to sounding like “a five pound hammer dropping on a wooden floor.”  POP rounds can offer a shooter several of the same elements live round training offers: grip, draw, sight picture, and trigger control practice but without the: space limitations, noise, cost or recoil of live rounds.  

There are multiple styles of POP rounds. Some are made up of plastic bullets that can be snapped into plastic cases such as Precision Gun Specialties’ Saf-Shot and Speer’s Plastic Training Components.  Concept-X produces rubber bullets that can be fired through brass cases. There are pre-cut wax rounds that are finger pressed into .38 brass cases. Both rubber bullets and wax bullets require no more modification than opening up the flash hole of the brass with a 1/8th inch drill bit. Please note that when using any ‘real’ bass cases that have had their flash holes enlarged or in any other way been converted to function with POP rounds, always notched the edges of the rims to help to preventing them from being mistaken for any non-modified brass that might be suitable for reloading with traditional components.

Snub Training – All Lead Hollow Points

May 27, 2009
Buffalo Bore .38 Lead Hollow point ammunition

Buffalo Bore .38 Lead Hollow point ammunition

Nothing in the above should be misconstrued as discouraging the use of hollow point ammunition. If the shooter can find several brands of ammunition that fulfill the Reliability/ACLU requirement and one brand is a hollow point and the other is not, choose the hollow point.  While the majority of conventional hollow point ammunition will not exit from a two inch snub with sufficient velocity to be counted on to reliably expand, the potential safety of reduced over penetration combined with any possible expansion makes the hollow point the preferred choice.

Massad Ayoob has reported that statistically the .38 all-lead hollow point delivers roughly the same “stopping power” of a .45 ball round when striking the body target, while at the same time producing a lower percentage chance of over penetrating. This is do to the greater chance of an all lead bullet deforming on impact sooner that a jacket bullet.

It should be noted that the two best known authorities in the self-defense ballistics field, Dr. Martin Flackler and Evan Marshall, two men popularly know to agree over very little, both agree on the use of the all-lead .38 hollow point as a self-defense round.

Snub Training – A.C.L.U. Ammunition

May 27, 2009

A.C.L.U. is a mnemonic device used to help prioritize those features to look for when testing self-defense ammunition. A.C.L.U. stands for:



Low light compatible and

User friendly

Accurate: Is the ammunition accurate in your snub? Each snub shoots groups with a decided preference for some ammunition and a dislike for others.  Whether a particular brand of ammunition shoots well in your favorite (gun)writer’s test weapon is not nearly as important as knowing how accurate the same ammunition performs in your snub when shot by the snub’s actual owner.

To quote Ed Lovette: “I had some simple drills I [ran with a variety of ammo] because I wasn’t nearly as interested in what the gun shot best as I was in finding out what I shot best.”

C: Controllable: After you have identified which brands of ammunition will shoot accurately in your snub you need to determine which specific brands you can fire rapid, controlled bursts with. Many rounds produce recoil levels that some find difficult to master either quick follow up shooting and weak-hand-only shooting.  If you find that a round’s recoil is excessive beyond the point of complete control then perhaps a more controllable round would be a better temporary loading choice.

L: Low light compatible: The majority of self-defense shootings occur in poor or low light. The snub’s short barreled only contribute to the problem of muzzle flash. If your favorite round is accurate and controllable but produces a fireball that will temporarily blind you in poor light, you will most likely be better served with an different round. The use of a camcorder is an excellent aid for evaluating muzzle flash as well as a great recoil control evaluation tool

U: User friendly: Now that you have identified ammunition that is accurate, controllable and functions in low light you are left only with the issues of availability and cost. Is your chosen round available in both a volume and at a cost that will encourage regular practice?  You will be poorly served if you settled on a round so exotic that it is frequently unavailable and that when it is available its cost makes regular practice sessions prohibitive.

Snub Training – Assuring Ammunition Reliability

May 27, 2009

The first requirement for any ammunition carried for self-defense is that it must be reliable.  Only after you have determined to your complete satisfaction that the ammunition is reliable enough to bet your life on can any other item be considered. An article by Patrick Sweeny in a 2007 issue of Guns & Ammo demonstrates how far a serious self-defense shooter will go when approaching the topic. Mr. Sweeny recounts the testing protocol of a former Detroit policeman and gun fight survivor. His procedure included:

1st – Slide the cardboard off the tray and visually inspect each primer

2nd – Run a fingertip over each row to physically check each primer

3rd – Roll each round over a flat surface to check for uniformity 

4th – Visually inspect each round for imperfections   

5th – Drop each round in a chamber, close and rotate the cylinder

6th – Weigh each round (A job made easy with a digital scale) Author Sweeney offers a suggestion for optimizing the use of the digital scale. He suggests putting five rounds on the scale, then weigh and divide by five to get an average. Then identify that round that weighs closest to the average and use it to zero out the scale. It is then a simple matter to check each round on the scale and removing any round that weighs five-to-ten grains above or below the zero.

Each round that passed every test was designated as a duty round. Any round that failed any test was consigned to the training ammo pile.

The above testing protocol checks for every thing except the flash hole, but according to the author that was why the officer used a revolver.

Now the casual shooter and even some self-defense shooters might view the above tests as extreme but if you were planning for a shooting match and knew that a single malfunction would cost you to both your home and life savings you might attend to the ammunition with just as much care.  Isn’t it just as reasonable to demand as much care with the ammunition on which you risk your life?

Only after you have established the reliably of the ammunition can you then start looking for ammunition that possesses a second level of desirable features.

Snub Training – Ammunition

May 25, 2009

Nearly every snub owner wants to know what the best possible self-defense ammunition is for his snub.  While it is an important question, determining the correct answer is challenging. Every month one shooting magazine or another reports on a new development in snub related self-defense ammunition.  Consequently, with these ever evolving innovations any advice offered today would be obsolete by tomorrow. Additionally if there was available some penultimate self-defense snub ammunition neither I nor any other responsible shooting instructor could give it an unqualified recommend without knowing a little about the shooter. What for example is his skill level? What are his physical limitations if any? What is the age, material and condition of the snub he owns? Even suggesting self-defense ammunition that has been available for years would requires some knowledge of the shooter and his equipment. Rather that offer a specific suggestion I would rather offer two guidelines for the shooter who is looking to determine what ammunition would optimize his personal self-defense snub. When evaluating any self-defense ammunition for use in your snub the first priority is to establish complete reliably. Reliable ammunition in a reliable snub trumps all other consideration as the priority. Only after ammunition reliability has been confirmed can other factors be considered. The second ammunition consideration is A.C.L.U. compatibly (No, not that A.C.L.U.)  Let’s look at both.