Running the Snub – Recoil Management

First in a series about ‘Running the Snub.’

In a discussion of revolver reloading techniques on my 1000 Days of Dryfire Facebook group,  I posted a video of myself shooting the Alabama State IDPA Championship with a snub revolver.

The video generated the following question, which I think is worth some discussion and explanation.

Claude, I watched your video, and to me, you display amazing recoil management – the gun hardly moves. I was under the impression that snubbies are especially hard to shoot and control, particularly in this skill area. Can you share what you are doing to control recoil so well? Maybe details on how you grip the gun, and what kind of load you are firing?

Let’s deal with the simple questions first. I was shooting a two inch K frame at the Championship, which weighs almost twice what an Airweight J Frame does. That has some effect on the recoil management. The load I was using was my IDPA handload, which is ballistically equivalent to 158 grain Round Nose Lead standard pressure. I prefer not to use lead bullets so my load used a plated bullet.

The next issue to deal with is “snubbies are especially hard to shoot and control.” That’s been ‘common knowledge’ among the shooting community for as long as I can remember but how true is it? Like many other aspects of ‘common knowledge’ among gun industry common taters, I’m skeptical about that. So, I decided to do a little more Comparative Testing.

The test I chose was 5^4 (5 rounds in no more than 5 seconds at 5 yards into a 5 inch or less group). The 5^4 protocol was originally developed by Gila Hayes of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network for her book, Effective Defense: The Woman, the Plan, the Gun and subsequent later editions. .

The Comparative Testing protocol in this case would be two cycles of 5^4 with several different guns and loads to see what the actual difference was. The start position was Low Ready, aimed below the Subject’s feet.

setup with start

In a preliminary discussion about the test, someone suggested that the stocks on the guns might make a difference, so I included that variable too. Since a Comparison was part of the protocol, I included two Striker Fired Autoloaders as controls.

The tests were:

  • Three inch K Frame (Model 65) with:
    • standard pressure ammo
    • 158 grain +P Lead Hollow Point ammo (the FBI’s final load for revolvers)
  • Airweight J Frame (642-2) with:
    • standard pressure 130 grain ammo
    • 125 grain +P Jacketed Hollow Point ammo (Winchester and Remington)
    • Super Vel Super Snub 90 grain +P Jacketed Hollow Point ammo
  • The stocks used on the Airweight were:
    • First, Hogue Tamer, a full size stock
    • Then, Hogue Bantam, a ‘boot grip’
  • Glock 19 customized by Boresight Solutions with 115 grain Winchester ball ammo
  • Smith & Wesson SD9VE with 115 grain Winchester ball ammo

Each cycle was timed and documented. Here’s how the results came out.

Test results

Tula Bantam

At the high end of all the runs was the Tula and Tamer stocks at 3.09 for the run. At the low end were the Striker Fired Autoloaders at 2.62. The fastest single split was with the SD9VE at .34. The slowest split was with Tula ammo at .53. The median split time across all the runs with the Airweight was .46. The median split time for the autoloaders was .40.

G19 ball

The end result of this test seems to be that snubs are about 10% harder to shoot at typical Personal Protection distances than full sized revolvers or Striker Fired Autoloaders. In terms of being able to manage recoil, the choice of boot grip or full size stocks, given the same material, for the snub does not seem to make a significant difference. There may be a difference between smooth stocks and rubber, which bears testing at another time.

The Super Vel Super Snub yielded some interesting sidenotes. Its recoil was so stout that with every run it ripped off the protective tape I use when shooting snubs. It was the only load that did so.

Ripped tape

Despite that, it was not harder to control than any of the other loads.

SV Super Snub shoot

It also shot reasonably to the Point of Aim, even at 10 yards. It’s a 90 grain bullet that Super Vel claim does 1300 fps out of a 1 7/8 barrel. I don’t have a chronograph so I can’t test that.

SV Super Snub POI

To finish up the day, I did the One Shot Draw Drill from my eBook, Concealed Carry Skills and Drills. On the left target, I fired as soon as I had the sights reasonably on target. On the right target, I made sure I had a good sight picture, which increased my time by about .11 seconds per draw. Inspecting the targets made me think that getting the good sight picture was worth a very small amount of extra time.

sight picture 43C

If you would like to purchase my eBook, Concealed Carry Skills and Drills, the link to the download is here.

FTC notice: I personally purchased all the equipment used in the testing with the following exceptions. I won the Boresight Solutions Glock 19 in a random drawing at the 2018 Rangemaster Tactical Conference and I was given the Super Vel Super Snub ammo for evaluation by John Farnam. However, I receive no promotional consideration for my tests.

7 responses

  1. Would you disclose your 158 grain plated bullet load? Or maybe the source of your load data. I would like to replicate it. I currently use 148 full charge wadcutters from data found on Grant Cunningham’s blog.
    My other question: why is Gila Hayes test called 5^4 when there is no ‘4’ in the process?

    1. 4.3 grains of TiteGroup.

      5 rounds in no more than
      5 seconds at
      5 yards into a
      5 inch or less group

      Some people would call it 5×4 but I call it 5 raised to the power of 4.

      1. Thanks, I Claude.

  2. Claude, you remain the most efficient and effective ‘wheel gun’ operator I’ve ever known.

    1. It’s because of practice. Funny how that works.

  3. Claude,
    Excellent post, thank you! I took some velocities of Super Vel’s Super Snub here:
    The shortest barrel I tested was 2 1/8th but velocities exceeded manufacturer claims.
    Thanks again,

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