We all know the J-frame is the standard for snubnose revolvers and depending on what model you look at, not even that expensive. More than one S&W J-frame goes for less than $500.
But what if you wanted to come in under $400?
There are a number of budget snubnose revolvers out there if one is in the market for a bargain .38 Special. Here are a few to keep an eye out for. All of them are relatively common, and there are a good number of revolver holsters out there for them as well. After all, the standard for CCW pistols for many years was the snub .38 and they are every bit up to the task today.
One example of budget snubnose revolvers is the Windicator, actually made by German arms maker Weihrauch but imported by European American Armory. It’s a compact revolver with a 6-shot capacity of either .38 Special or .357 Magnum. It can be had with a 2-inch or 4-inch barrel, and in blued steel or stainless. The blued models all have an MSRP under $400, but can often be found online or in stores for closer to $300 or less.
It doesn’t have the pedigree of the J-frame, but a lot of reviewers and owners have praised it for shooting well enough and being “what you need” in a carry gun. Maybe not the best, but it will work when you pull the trigger and if you need a handgun but aren’t hung up on features or use as an IDPA gun or something like that…it’ll do what needs to be done.
Charter Arms Undercover, Pitbull, Bulldog and Mag Pug
For many years, the first name in budget snubnose revolvers has been Charter Arms. Models such as the Charter Arms Undercover and Bulldog have been in gun stores, nightstands, glove boxes and carried concealed for decades.
Nearly all retail for less than $500, but can often be found for $400 or less. What you get depends on what you want. The Undercover is the .38 Special +P model, available in DA/SA or DAO and in a variety of finishes, the Bulldog is chambered in .44 Special, the Mag Pug comes in .357 Magnum and the Pitbull is chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP.
They aren’t pretty. Snobs will laugh. But they will go “bang” when you pull the trigger. Everything you need, nothing you don’t and made in the USA to boot.
Rock Island M206
Rock Island is mostly known for their 1911 pistols, but they actually make two revolvers including a service-size .38 Special (the M200) and a snubby: the Rock Island Armory M206. It holds 6 shots of .38 Special, comes in regular steel or stainless and with or without a hammer.
And there’s not much else to it.
MSRP is $283, and a lot of stores offer it for about $200, so if you just need a gun that goes “bang” when you need it to and nothing else…it’ll do it.
Rossi R35 and R46
Rossi, perhaps better known for lever-action rifles, does make a few revolvers; the snubnose models are the R35 and the R46. The difference is the R35 is chambered in .38 Special and the R46 in .357 Magnum. Both blued steel and stainless versions can be had. In either case, capacity is 5 shots and the basest of the base models, the R35101, has an MSRP just south of $400, but you can find them for much less depending on where you shop.
Rossi doesn’t actually manufacture them; Taurus makes them for Rossi, so if you have an aversion to anything Taurus then this gun isn’t for you. That said, they’re known for being a good budget snubnose revolver and one of the least ugly out of all the budget snubbies.
Speaking of Taurus, there are also a host of Taurus budget snubnose revolvers such as the Taurus 85 series – the Brazilian brand’s primary snubnose design. There are a number of different models, many of which retail for less than $400 and are often found in stores around the $300 mark. You get 5 shots of .38 Special +P and what else you get depends on the model you select.
There are blued models and stainless. There are hammered models and DAO models, and a number of models actually allow for the hammer spur to be unscrewed from the hammer. (Bill Jordan would approve.) There are also polymer-framed snubnose Taurus revolvers. Every model in .38 Special is also offered in .357 Magnum, should you be curious.
All told, Taurus offers at least 15 distinct snubnose revolver models, not counting the Judge or Judge-derived ones. Yes, it’s Taurus, which some people loathe but the word on the street is the Taurus snubbies are some of the best guns the brand makes.