A snubnosed revolver (colloquially known as a snubbie) is any small, medium or large frame revolver with a short barrel, generally under under 3 inches in length. The design of these revolvers sacrifices power and range for maneuverability and concealment.
Snubnosed revolvers were extremely popular in the United States until the 1950s when most states passed laws limiting or prohibiting the carry of concealed weapons. However, the passage of "shall issue" firearms license laws mid-1990s, resulted in a resurgence in the popularity of snubnosed revolvers in the United States, creating new markets for small, simple, reliable, concealed carry firearms.
The increased demand for snobnosed revolvers has been met with the introduction of numerous new models from Smith & Wesson, Colt, Ruger, Taurus, and other manufactures. While some were made of traditional carbon steel, stainless steel, and lightweight aluminum alloys that had been in use for decades, many of the new models used high-strength, lightweight metal alloys such as titanium and scandium. More recently even polymer frames have been used. Also, most manufactures now produce sunbnosed revolvers far more powerful calibers than before, such as .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum. Some companies even make .454 Casull, .480 Ruger and .500 S&W Magnum snubnosed revolvers.
The first snubnosed revolvers were the various "Banker Special", "Sheriff's Model", and "Shopkeeper Special" versions of the Colt Single Action Army revolver made by Colt's Patent Fire Arms, in the 19th Century. The Colt M1877 is a 6-shot, double-action revolver manufactured by Colt from January 1877 to 1909 for a total of 166,849 revolvers. The Model 1877 was offered in three calibers, which lent them three unofficial names: the .38 Long Colt "Lightning", the .41 Colt "Thunderer", and the .32 Colt "Rainmaker". The M1877 was the first successful US-made double-action cartridge revolver. The M1877 was offered from the factory in two basic finishes: nickel-plated or a case-hardened frame with a blue barrel and cylinder. The revolver was available in 2.5" and 3.5" barrel length and was available with or without the ejector rod and housing. The shorter barreled versions without the ejector rod were marketed as "Shopkeeper's Specials".
The Smith & Wesson Safety Hammerless models were produced from 1887 to just before World War II. It's small concealable , 5-shot, double-action revolver chambered in either .32 S&W or .38 S&W. They were most often produced with 2", 3" and 3.5" barrels. These top-break revolvers were designed for fast reloading and concealed carry as the hammer was internal and would not snag on drawing the revolver from a pocket. They also had a grip safety. They were known as "The New Departure" to reflect the company's new approach to designing revolvers. The design of these revolvers sacrifices power and range for maneuverability and concealment. Similar "hammerless" designs proved popular with other manufacturers such as Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson.
The Smith & Wesson Model 10, previously known as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899, the Smith & Wesson Military & Police or the Smith & Wesson Victory Model, is a revolver of worldwide popularity. It was the successor to the Smith & Wesson .32 Hand Ejector Model of 1896 and was the first Smith & Wesson revolver to feature a cylinder release latch on the left side of the frame like the Colt M1889. In production since 1899, it is a medium-sized, 6-shot, double-action revolver with fixed sights. Over its long production run it has been available with barrel lengths of 2", 2.5" and 3". Some 6,000,000 of the type have been produced over the years, making it the most popular centerfire revolver of the 20th century.
The Smith & Wesson Model 36 was designed in the era just after World War II, when Smith & Wesson stopped producing war materials and resumed normal production. For the Model 36, they designed a small concealable, 5-shot, double-action revolver with a 2" barrel, that could fire the more powerful .38 Special cartridge. Since the older "Safety Hammerless" (I-frame) was not able to handle this load, a new frame was designed, which became the J-frame.
The new design was introduced at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in 1950, and was favorably received. A vote was held to name the new revolver, and the name "Chiefs Special" won. A 3" barreled version design went into production immediately, due to high demand. It was available in either a blued or nickel-plated finish. It was produced as the "Chiefs Special" until 1957, when it then became the Model 36. Smith & Wesson would also introduced the J-frame Smith & Wesson Centennial (hammerless models) and Smith & Wesson Bodyguard (shrouded hammer) models.
The Colt Cobra is a lightweight, aluminum-framed, 6-shot, double-action revolver with a 2" barrel, not to be confused with the Colt King Cobra. The Cobra is chambered for .38 Special, .38 S&W, .32 S&W Long, and .22 LR. It was sold by Colt from 1950 until 1981. In December 2016, it was announced that Colt would be producing a new run of the Colt Cobra with a steel frame and a fiber optic front sight. This model was released in early 2017.
The Ruger SP101 is a series of small-frame, double-action revolvers introduced in 1989 by the American company Sturm, Ruger as the smaller-frame counterpart to the GP100.. The SP101 is an all-steel-construction revolver with a spurred or spurless (double-action only) hammer. The SP-101 has barrel lengths of 21⁄4" and 31⁄16". The .38 Special, .357 Magnum, and 9×19mm Parabellum models hold 5-shots, while the .327 Federal Magnum and .32 H&R Magnum models hold 6-shots, and .22 LR model holds 8-shots.
The Taurus Model 85 is a small-frame, 5-shot, double-action revolver manufactured by the Brazilian firearm company Taurus International. In the United States, the guns are marketed for concealed carry and personal protection. The Model 85 is available with either 2" or 3" barrels, is capable of firing +P rated .38 Special rounds. The Model 85 is available in several configurations. These include blued steel, stainless steel, polymer frame, and "Ultralite" variants constructed of aluminum and titanium, with steel lockwork components.
Much like Smith & Wesson revolvers, Model 85s can come equipped with exposed, "bobbed" (850), or shrouded (851) hammers. However, there are a number of significant internal differences between the Taurus 85 and similar Smith & Wesson revolvers. Because of these differences, Taurus has been able to keep costs relatively low. However, those same differences can make customization of the Model 85 more expensive. There are numerous cosmetic options, including gold-plated hardware and grips of wood or pearl.
Introduced in 2005, the Ruger Alaskan is Ruger's first short-barreled, big-bore, 6-shot, double-action revolver, intended for defense against large, dangerous animals. The 2.5" barrel on the Alaskan ends at the end of the frame, and the scope bases are omitted. The interchangeable front sight is replaced with a pinned-in ramp sight, but the adjustable rear sight is retained. The Alaskan is available in .44 Magnum, .454 Casull/.45 Colt, and .480 Ruger, with the .480 model originally a 6-shot, replaced in 2008 with a 5-shot model to aid in spent cartridge extraction. All Alaskans feature a brushed stainless finish and a Hogue Tamer rubber finger groove grip, rather than the standard GP100 style. The .454 and .480 versions have an unfluted cylinder while the .44 Magnum features a fluted cylinder.
The Ruger LCR is a small, 5-shot, double-action revolver with a 1.875" barrel, built by Ruger and announced in January 2009. LCR stands for 'Lightweight Compact Revolver'. It incorporates several novel features such as a polymer grip and trigger housing, monolithic receiver, and constant force trigger. At 13.5 oz (380 g), the LCR is nearly 50% lighter than the stainless steel SP101 and only the barrel and fluted cylinder are made of stainless steel. The frame is aluminum alloy and synthetic glass-filled polymer finished in matte black with Synergistic Hard Coat. The LCR operates in double-action only (DAO) as the hammer is concealed within the frame handle's fire control housing and cannot be cocked prior to firing. In order to create a lighter trigger pull, it features a friction reducing cam.
The LCR was originally released chambered in .38 Special. In June 2010, Ruger released the LCR-357 chambered for .357 Magnum. With the rising popularity of the LCR, in December 2011 Ruger announced the new Ruger LCR 22 chambered in .22 LR with 8-shot capacity. In Summer 2013, Ruger introduced a .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) version of the LCR, with a 6-shot capacity. In the autumn of 2015, Ruger introduced a 6-shot .327 Federal Magnum version of the LCR and in fall 2017 a 5-shot 9mm version.
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