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38 Special S&W Snubnose Showdown: Who’s the Top Dog?

Can the company’s new plastic-and-metal Bodyguard 38 laser-equipped concealable wheelgun beat a Centennial Airweight and a Chiefs Special Model 36? We shoot them head to head.

The 38 snubnose revolver is a staple of murder mysteries, cop TV shows for many decades, and of real-life cops who need a good, light backup. Everyone over the age of, say, 40 has seen a snubby at one time or another. Today's TV cops favor all manner of automatic pistols, so the snub 38 is not often seen. But that doesn't mean it's no good. The bottom line is, if all you have is a 38 Special snubnose with only five shots, you are a very long way from being

Left, the Centennial Airweight, about $400, and center, a customized Chiefs Special Model 36 with square butt, about $300, are two proven 38 Special wheelguns in the S&W arsenal. We pitted the veterans against the new Bodyguard 38 No. 103038, $625, right. Some think the 9mm is an equal or even better cartridge choice, but hot loads with heavy bullets in the 38 Special make it a more effective cartridge, or so some of us believe. In fact we chronographed the Buffalo Bore FBI load, with its 158-grain cast hollowpoint bullet, at 1000 fps out of the Centennial Airweight. That’s 140 fps faster than the second hottest load of this test, which had a 125-grain bullet. At any rate, the snubbies do their best work with heavier bullets. The light-bullet loads burn much of their powder in the air after the bullet has left the short barrel.
unarmed. If you carry five more in a speed loader, well, what more could you want? …

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