Snub Training – Loose Rounds (Re-edit)

September 4, 2009

There are several reasons why a shooter might want to practice reloading skills using only one, two or three loose rounds. 

1 – A partially loaded cylinder is a fully loaded weapon. This lesson often needs reminding.

Try a simple test. If the cylinder holds five rounds and you load the cylinder with four rounds then what percentage is the gun loaded? Here is a hint – four divided by five is eighty percent. So by what percentage is the gun loaded loading if you load four rounds in a five shot revolver? If you said eighty percent you need to rethink you gun handling. Four rounds loaded into a five round cylinder means the gun is loaded one-hundred percent. A single round loads the gun one-hundred percent. You do not need the cylinder full to have a loaded weapon. At least one of the four policemen killed during the Newhall, CA shootout was reported to have died trying to load his sixth of six rounds into his duty revolver. That man died holding a weapon that was already loaded five times over. Might that officer have been better served by his instructors if they had taught him a partially loaded cylinder is a fully loaded gun? Isn’t it sometimes better to get back in the fight with a loaded revolver rather than taking the time to fill a cylinder?

2 – A partially loaded cylinder helps a shooter develop a flinch free shooting habit. Load only one or two rounds per cylinder and you will self-correct yourself every time the hammer falls on an empty cylinder and you flinched anticipating a live round.

3 – A partially loaded cylinder will help demonstrate how much more quickly you can cycle through to a live round rather than trying to manually index an available live round.

Here is a simple two-part training exercise. You will need a friend with either a stopwatch or a PACT style timer and a safe shooting area.  Start with a single round. Have your friend start the timer as soon as he gives you a load signal. You can load the single round into any available charge hole. When the round is in the cylinder’s charge hole manually index the cylinder so that with the next pull of the cylinder the round will come under the hammer. Find your target, aim and fire. Have your friend record the time from the load signal to your first shot.

Now repeat the drill with one small change. After loading the single round into the cylinder make no effort to mechanically index the cylinder.  Simply close the cylinder and trigger through the empty charge holes until the round rotates to the fire position. Remember to keep the muzzle pointed at your target and in a safe direction. Again have your friend record the time from the load signal to your first shot.

Compare the time differences between manually indexing the round versus reflexively triggering past the empty charge holes.  You will almost certainly find that triggering past the empty charge holes is statistically faster than trying to manually indexing the next available round. This knowledge can be of valuable in certain self-defense situation

4 – If a shooter is in the habit of indexing the cylinder he may need to be reminded that under stress a partially loaded cylinder will not automatically index itself.

Once when I was at the SIG Academy I set up the following artificial drill. I told the shooter that he would have time to load two rounds but that he was to reload against the clock. As soon as he loaded his two rounds he was to turn to the target and get off two fast, accurate shots. If he got off both rounds in under four seconds he would pass the drill. The shooter rushed to get both rounds loaded, turned to the target and still racing the clock pulled the trigger three times. Click-Click-Click.  Believing the rounds had misfired he dropped his shoulders in defeat and we suspended the drill.  When I asked him why he stopped he told me that the rounds failed to fire. No, I reminded him, the gun was still hot. He was so used to loading the gun and indexing the cylinder that he came to condition himself to believe that the gun will do it for him in an emergency.


Snub Training – 3-inch L-frame snub

September 3, 2009
3-inch L-frame S&W

3-inch L-frame S&W


I ran across a S&W model 686 L-frame in a round butt, 3” barrel configuration. 

Do you have any experiences with this model and configuration?  The gun shoots great but at 35-ounces empty, is it too heavy for carry in holster on a belt? 

Any experiences and/or holster recommendations for this set up would be appreciated.


Randy H.

Dear Randy:

I hope this note finds you well.

Thank you for the great question.

I think the 3-inch L-frames are great guns. I could see it as a house gun but the muzzle blast in a narrow hall could be a problem. I would also cheerfully carry one if I was planning any deep woods camping or hunting trips.

Where I think the 3-inch L-frame really shines is as a very effective cold weather/winter snub in and around the city.

In the cold weather I can easily hide a larger carry holster under the typical winter jackets and I would be very happy with its ability to punch through heavy winter clothing.

I am about average in size 5’11” and 195-lb. I find that most large frame snubs are easy to hid in the winter, a little challenging in the spring and fall and very hard to hide in the summer.

You may be a larger fellow and might find it easier to conceal a large gun in the spring, summer and fall.

If you can conceal it then only the weight of the gun becomes the issue. You would need a well made holster and an equally well made belt.

Matt Del Fatti SSR Holster

Matt Del Fatti SSR Holster

Of all the outside the waist holsters I would recommend a set from Matt Del Fatti.

You will have to contact his shop though. Last I checked he was not taking any more orders until he had caught up with his current waiting list.

That said, if he made me wait 12- to 18 months for one and I hade a 3-inch L-frame I would still think it was worth the wait.

If you really come to love the gun and you find you can comfortable conceal it you might want to hunt around for one of S&W’s (very) short runs of the alloy weight L-frame snubs.

The heavy gun would make a great late fall and winter gun. The light weight version would make a great spring and summer gun.

If you set them up with the same stocks, sights, etc., you could have a great range/carry/4-season set.

The only two (small) down side –

1) The L-frame options for speedloaders is a little more limited than the K-frames.

2) The rear adjustable sight can chew up a lot of cover garments.

Cylinder and Slide's Extreme Duty Fixed Sights

Cylinder and Slide's Extreme Duty Fixed Sights

Cylinder and Slide makes a very nice replacement “fixed” rear sight that replaces the adjustable sights on the K, L and N frame guns. 

I have one on an adjustable K-frame snub and I think it would work great on a L-frame carry snub.

I hope this info helps a little.

If I missed anything please let me know. 

Thank you again for the great question.


Michael de Bethencourt

Snub Training – The book

September 2, 2009

Dear Fellow snub shooters:

I hope this note finds you well.

About eighty-five percent of what I hope to be the first book in a three volume set of snub revolver skills is complete.

Starting this week, every second day I plan to post some newly re-edited sections and start outlining many of the actual shooting drills used in the snub class.

Posting the material every second day will give me time to sort through the corrections and suggestions so many of you have been kind enough to offer.

When this final material is up on the computer I will collect all of it in a monograph form and if interest permits make available a sample copy to the readers of this blog

The monograph copy will give us a chance to see the book sample in its near final form.

With this sample we can note and correct any text and photo issues before the first volume goes off to the publisher.

More importantly with a print sample we can identify any sections that you as a reader think need to be added, expanded or reduced.

I am looking forward to getting the remaining material up on the computer and
I am looking forward to working with many of you in helping to put out a monograph we can all enjoy.

I hope you will join me in the next few weeks as we get this material ready for its first printing.


Michael de Bethencourt

Snub Training – Non-indexing vs. Auto Indexing

September 1, 2009

Even after noting the advantages in triggering past empty charge holes rather that manually orienting the cylinder there is one method of unconsciously indexing loose rounds that is worth noting. This auto-indexing can be done in poor light and does not require you to take your eyes off the target. Refer back to the auto-pistol style reloading directions for right hand reloading up to the point that the tip of the right hand’s index finger is through the window of the frame and in contact with the cylinder:

1.   Start with the snub in your right hand

2.   Move your right thumb to the rear of the hammer spur.

3.   Take your right hand’s index finger comes off the trigger and is repositioned flush and below the cylinder.

4.   Move your left hand’s index finger flush and below the cylinder on the left side of the frame. Your left hand index finger should be in a mirror position to your right hand’s index finger.

5.   Use your left hand’s thumb to make contact with the cylinder release.

6.   Use your left hand’s thumb to operate the cylinder release. Press forward with Smith and Wesson, etc., push in with Ruger, Retract with Colt.

7.   Use your right hand’s index finger to press up on and roll the cylinder up and out to the left of the window of the frame. Be sure to keep your left hand index finger extended and use it as a bumper as the cylinder comes out of the frame. Once the cylinder is out of the frame, make sure that the tip of your right hand’s index finger remains in constant contact with the cylinder. Keeping the tip of your finger through the window of the frame and in constant contact with the cylinder is the key to this skill.

8. Lower the snub. Make sure that the butt of the snub makes contact with your belt line and that the muzzle is pointed straight down. Note that if you move your right hand’s thumb from behind the hammer spur and onto the knuckle of the frame of the revolver, the muzzle will be more inclined to a consistent muzzle down orientation.

9.   Use your left hand and load in a single round. Note that the charge hole most commonly loaded when you are not consciously trying to load a round into any particular charge hole will be at the 10 o’clock position.  This is natural because within the common range of arm motion loading either in the 12 o’clock or 9 o’clock position is awkward A few practice runs and you will confirm this for yourself.

You are now looking to get the cylinder to rotate so that the round in the 10 o’clock position outside the frame ends up at the 1 o’clock position back in the frame. This is in fact going to be easy to do. Without removing your index finger’s contact with the cylinder rolls the cylinder up and over the finger until the cylinder physically forces your finger out of the way and out of the frame.  Remember do not actively remove your index finger. Make sure that the cylinder rolls up and over the finger then forces the finger out of the frame. If you have done the exercise correctly the cylinder will roll the round into place at the 1 o’clock position.  If you are shooting any counter-clockwise rotating revolver: Smith, Taurus, Ruger, Rossi, etc., then you now pull the trigger the snub will rotate the cylinder counter-clockwise and will deliver the live round under the falling hammer. 

After many years of sharing this tip I have noted the less you consciously think about loading the single round in the correct charge-hole and if you deliberately roll the cylinder over the finger the sooner you will discover that the round will consistently end up at the correct index position. 

Remember the ability to consciously index the cylinder so that the first pull of the trigger puts a live rounds under the hammer is useful but a much more important skill is training to pull the trigger as many times as you need until that live rounds ends up under the hammer.

This is a skill development exercise only. Though there is a version of this exercise for left hand reloading and for Colt revolvers (with their clock wise cylinder rotation) this exercise is best practiced with a snub in the right hand and with any make of revolver expect Colt.

Snub Training – 2nd snub holsters

August 29, 2009

A high quality holster on or near the strong side hip remains the first choice for carrying a primary snub. Since the best snub concealment location is taken up by the primary snub a little creativity will be needed to conceal the second or back-up snub. Two of the more common second snub carry locations include:

Front pocket

Ankle holster

Each of these second gun carry locations offers its own unique carry, concealment and draw stroke limitations. The shooter should prioritize the list of functions he expects the second snub is to fulfill. (Second gun for spouse, Improved access when seated, etc.,) After assembling the list use the top two or three tasks as a guide for determining which second gun carry location will best support those tasks.

The following are just a few thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of these two common second snub carry locations and they are offered only as an overview of my experience with both methods. Whether to carry a pair of handguns and if two where to position both to balance concealment and access is best left to the individual shooter. But once the decision to carry a second gun is made the shooter is required to practice as diligently mastering the draw stroke of the second gun as he was in learning the draw stroke of the first.

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 – Ayoob’s StressFire reload

August 26, 2009

There are two schools of thought on optimizing a revolver reload with the loading strip. The first is from master firearms trainer Massad Ayoob. 

1 – Fill your loading strip with five rounds while keeping the holding hole closest to the loading strip’s flange tab empty.

2 – Hold your open and unloaded revolver in your left hand. Be sure to position the open revolver’s ejector rod between the index and middle finger of the left hand and keep it close to the web of the two fingers. This is in keeping with Massad Ayoob’s mechanics of his StressFire reloading method. For more detailed information on this reloading method please see his book StressFire.

3 – Hold the loading strip in your shooting hand with your thumb and ring finger holding the sides of the loading strip.  Place your index finger along the length of the back of loading strip with its flange tab closest to your wrist.

4 – Insert the two side-by-side rounds that are under the pad of your index finger into two side-by-side charge holes of the cylinder.  Keep the pad of your index finger on the loading strip and directly over these two inserted rounds.

5 – Lever out the rounds by peeling the loading strip forward and away from you.  Remember to peel in a straight line in relationship to the strip and do not attempt to twist rounds out of the loading strip.

6 – When the first two rounds fall into the cylinder’s charge hole, insert the next two rounds in the same fashion but do not attempt to remove these two rounds yet.  Release the sides on the loading strip. Hook the tip of your right index finger under part of the loading strip that a moment ago held the first two released rounds. 

7 – With the pad of your thumb on top of the loading strip and over the two new rounds peel the strip in a straight line back toward you and your center line.

Remember to keep the pad of your thumb on that portion of the loading strip that is holding these two fresh rounds. This will aid in levering out the rounds and prevent the loading strip lifting off the rear of the cylinder and taking the rounds with it.


8 – Load your fifth and last round in the same fashion you just loaded the above two rounds. Drop the loading strip and return to the target. 


This reloading method is very effective for shooters reloading with either of the Ayoob’s StreeFire techniques or any of the FBI-style reloading methods. Please note that with all six of these methods the shooter’s dominant hand does the reloading and his non-dominant hand holds the revolver.  As the snub training material I prefer to advocate is predicated on the shooter’s non-dominant hand doing the reloading and his dominant hand holding the revolver the above StressFire reloading technique cannot be the primary advocated method. Before describing an alternative “Auto-Pistol” reloading method in detail I want to note that a thoroughly skilled revolver shooter should be familiar with all reloading methods; StressFire, FBI-styles and my own.