A snub-nose 5-banger actually requires more skill to use effectively. With only five rounds in the gun, there is a smaller margin for error – you can’t afford to miss. The heavy trigger and short sight radius require more skill rather than less to achieve accuracy.
You have to practice with these guns. Actually, you have to practice with any handgun, but that’s another rant. Especially with the lightweight revolvers, practice can be unpleasant because of the brisk recoil and muzzle flip, so why saddle newbies with little pocket cannons that are going to discourage practice? The only rational reason to put a newbie into a revolver is that they like it better. There is a certain wonderful trustworthiness about a wheel gun. Autos are mysterious with a lot of strange parts and such. Revolvers are simple and obvious. If the newbie has confidence that the revolver is going to work for them when the chips are down, that’s the gun they should get.
Then they should buy a case of ammo (and maybe some shooting gloves) and learn how to use it.
Another criticism of the snub-nose is that it’s underpowered – the short barrel doesn’t give the powder enough time to burn to develop adequate velocity. While the short barrel certainly costs you some muzzle velocity, I believe that this is a criticism based largely on yesterday’s ammo, and it should be revisited. With modern +p loads, the snub-nose can kick out a 125g bullet at 850 – 900 fps. It can spit out the 158g at around 800 – 850 fps. At 900 fps a 125g bullet can shoot clean through a normal sized human being. While the .38 Special lacks the terminal ballistics of the .45 ACP and the velocity of the 9mm, its “power to weight ratio” is actually pretty good with the right ammunition. It is capable of doing the job. The power factor of the .38 Special revolver is the main reason I prefer it to a small auto like a .32 or .380 (and yes, I’ve read the Marshall & Sanow stats and I don’t believe a word of it.). The snubby is still the only handgun I know of that weighs 13 ounces and can launch a 158g bullet
A good action job makes the double-action trigger pull a joy to use. A moonclip conversion means that speed of reloading is almost identical to most autopistols, and a speedloader is not too far behind.
The last of the frequent criticisms of the snub-nose is that it isn’t very accurate. This isn’t really true, but I know why people think it. The snub-nose is not a gun that is easy to shoot accurately, but it is capable of surprising accuracy. On an episode of American Shooter hosted by Jim Scoutten, I saw trick shooter Bob Munden (see http://www.bobmunden.com/ ) hit a balloon the size of a saucer at 150 yards with a snub-nose .38. I think he had to fire twice, once to get the range and then the second shot hit. I have proven it to myself by consistently knocking down the small 18” tall x 6” wide pepper poppers at 25 yards.
Now, to do this, I have to really take my time, aim carefully and fire single action, but I have established to my own satisfaction that the snubby can actually hit things at “long range” when I do the things I should.
Recently, I suffered a pair of painful back injuries – one was the result of moving a load of drywall, and then a serious exacerbation of the injury happened in a fall on a set of stairs. I could scarcely tighten my belt enough to keep my pants up, much less endure a two pound gun and spare magazines riding on my belt and pressing against my lower back. In this sad state of disrepair, I was suddenly seeing my Airweight 637 in a whole new light. At 13.5 ounces and endowed with a really simple manual of arms, the snub-nose was a viable solution. I ordered a Galco Classic Lite shoulder holster so I wouldn't have to endure a chunk of metal in my belt, and I had a rig that I could wear without discomfort.
The small snub-noses have ergonomics that even the smallest auto of comparable caliber fail to achieve. I have talked to police officers who have actually traded their baby Glock backups for j-frame revolvers because the small Glocks just don't conceal or carry as well. The snub-nose remains to me the most concealable of guns of significant caliber. The rounded grip and small front end allows the gun to blend itself into the natural curves of the human body, making it an extremely easy gun to make disappear. It is comfortable to wear because it lacks the corners and levers which can dig into your body, and it’s light.