-Suarez International Staff Instructor Jon Payne
It is very convenient to drop that 5-shot revolver into your pocket as you go out for that loaf of bread or gallon of milk. You think to yourself, “I’m just going to the corner store- nothing is going to happen”. What if something does happen? Will 5 shots be enough to get you home?
The small frame short-barreled revolver is a very popular concealed carry piece. Well known as the Snub Nose, J Frame, and Chief’s Special – the Chief’s Special was introduced in 1950. The Chief’s Special is a .32 caliber sized frame lengthened to accept the .38 Special. In 1950, the small frame .38 Special was state of the art. Is 5 shots state of the art now?
As we’re all aware it’s not 1950 anymore. The bad guys aren’t carrying .22’s, .25’s, or .32’s. The bad guys are carrying the best firearms they can buy or steal. Some of these bad guys are veterans; others have a lot of fighting experience. They have more time behind the trigger than 99% of the police. Do you want to face an armed experienced criminal with a 5 shot revolver?
Let’s be honest, the J Frame is still around because it’s small, lightweight, and shoots a reasonably powerful round. It’s just plain easy to slip that little revolver into your waistband or pocket. A J Frame is what I think of having on me when I don’t feel like carrying a gun. I don’t wear a seat belt with the intention of getting in a crash and I don’t carry any handgun with the intention of getting in a gunfight. While having a J Frame is much more combat effective than harsh words, I believe most people carry the snub nose out of mere convenience. A J Frame might get you out of the fight in most modern self-defense scenarios, but it is horrible for sustaining you during the fight. Two issues that jump to the fore front are ammo capacity and reloading.
Reloading the revolver is done with loose rounds, a speed loader, or speed strip. Loose rounds in your pocket is the slowest method, speed loaders are the fastest if your grips have been relieved enough that you can use them, and speed strips really aren’t speedy at all, but they do carry your spare rounds in one place and allow you to load two at a time into the cylinder. A speed loader is about the same size as the cylinder of the revolver and needs just as much room to be concealed. The cylinder is the thickest part of the revolver generally speaking and is the hardest part of the gun to conceal. Even if you do carry a spare load, we’re talking about a total of 10 rounds. Ever try and reload a revolver outside the square range when your life depended on it?
I recently watched a viral video where a jewelry store was being robbed by two thugs. The owner was using a small revolver and shot the first thug three times, thug #2 turned and ran. We can say the small revolver was enough this time. What if thug #2 found some heart and returned? Does the last two shots still feel adequate? The chances of meeting up with multiple bad guys are as good if not better than the odds of you meeting any bad guys at all.
Don’t get the idea that I hate the J Frame. The J Frame is just a tool. I think they are nice classic style revolvers. Some say they are inaccurate, but that isn’t true. Getting hits out to 50 yards with the J Frame is quite easy if you do your part. You do have to focus more on the fundamentals of marksmanship to be accurate with a snub nose revolver, but a quality small framed revolver is by no means inaccurate.
When the J Frame was introduced it was a balance of power and capacity in a small package. Technology has advanced and for the past 15 years something in a similar sized package, but twice the capacity has been available.
In 1995 Glock introduced the Model 26 Subcompact 9mm pistol. This was a breakthrough in the handgun market, now there was a handgun that was truly concealable in a service caliber. Not only is the Model 26 in a service sized caliber but it has a standard capacity of 10+1 rounds. Carrying spare ammo for the Glock 26 is very easy and a standard spare magazine holds 10 rounds. So for the Glock 26, a full load and spare magazine will give you 21 rounds. That’s equal to the loaded J Frame and three speed loaders!
A number of Warrior Talk members have noted they shoot the Glock 26 better than several service sized pistols. In a backup or concealed carry mode the Glock 26 just makes sense. I carry a Glock 19 or 17 most of the time. My Glock 26 will use the larger magazines of my 19 and 17 with no problems. Another bonus is the controls for these pistols are the same.
I consider myself to be a fair hand with most handguns and have no problems engaging targets at 50 yards with a J Frame. Although I don’t think I would have the need in the real world, I can engage targets at 100 yards with the Glock 26. Making hits with the 26 at 50 yards is almost boring.
Looking at the pros for the J Frame; compact size means it’s good for waistband or pocket carry. Reasonably powerful round compared to other handguns of similar size. The J Frame is a straight forward simple design that is easy to operate.
Cons for the J Frame; capacity is limited to five rounds. The J frame is slow to reload even when using a speed loader, any modern semiautomatic is easier to reload and faster. The J frame has a short sight radius, any imperfection you have in your sight picture is magnified down range.
Looking at the pros for the Glock 26; smallest of the Glock pistols, pocket carry is an option with the right holster and pocket. The Glock 26 is chambered in 9x19 mm, a true service caliber and the 26’s capacity is second to none for its size, you can use Glock 17 and 19 magazines for even more capacity. The Glock 26 is a Glock; the Safe-Action pistol is as simple as a semi-automatic pistol can be.
Cons for the Glock 26; short sight radius means you have to pay close attention to sight alignment during sighted fire. Some find the grip to be too short and when a grip extension is added to the magazine the grip length is closer to the compact Glock 19 in length. The Glock 26 does have a box like shape to it and you have to choose a pocket holster carefully.
I don’t see the J Frame going away anytime soon, but the Glock 26 uses modern technology and has a modern capacity. I own both, but these days when I need a sub-compact it is the Glock 26 that accompanies me to the corner store for that loaf of bread.