ULTIMATE SELF-DEFENSE SIXGUN:
A CUSTOM COLT DETECTIVE .38 SNUB
Detective Special is a gun that’s been around
more than long enough to collect Social Security.
It’s still with us in its latest incarnation,
the improved SF-VI stainless. New “concealed
carry” states are coming on line all the time,
and gun dealers in those places tell us that
snubnose .38 Special revolvers are at or near the
top of the list in sales to first-time pistol
readers own Detective Specials (or Agents or
Cobras, the light alloy versions). They’ll
appreciate the lighter, smoother, straighter-pull
action of the new SF-VI, but they won’t
necessarily have to trade in. When the new Colt
came on the marker, I already had a late model
’72 series Detective Special out to Bill
Laughridge at the Cylinder & Slide Shop.
The gun I
got back was a thing of beauty. It had the
six-shot cylinder that is a Colt hallmark against
their competitors, but it also had a
straight-through trigger pull like a Smith &
Wesson instead of the two-stage, “stacking”
pull of typical older-style Colts. That makes it
easier to shoot well, especially at speed.
are leery of bobbing the hammers on Colt revolver
because it may reduce inertia enough to cause
misfires. The gunsmith has to know the breed to
make this modification work, and Laughridge knows
Colts. He bobbed mine completely snag-free and it
gives 100 percent ignition on all brands of
primers even though he’s used his magic to bring
the trigger pull down to 8 lbs. double action.
series Colt D-frames seem to shoot either left or
high left out of the box, and this one had been no
exception. Laughridge tweaked it to shoot center,
The flat, ramped front sight usually glares in
overhead light; Laughridge notched it and changed
the angle enough to give a good sight picture, but
no so sharply that it would snag when drawn from
even a pocket or an ankle holster.
of a Colt snubby hangs more forward than on most
of its small-frame counterparts from other makers.
This and the heavy-configuration shrouded barrel
help it handle the recoil of +P 158 gr. lead SWC
HPs. These are the load of choice in a 2” .38
Special; with no tough copper jacket to peel back,
the soft lead projectiles deform well even at the
reduced velocity at which a snubby launches them.
Chicago to Metro Dade to FBI—departments that
have shot a lot of bad guys with this
round—stopping power has never been a complaint.
You can’t say that for the trendy 125 gr.
semi-jacketed .38 loads being touted these days.
superbly balanced Colt handles the sharp recoil of
this load very well, and the Colt factory
warrantees the gun even it you shoot +P in it.
Every test has shown it to be a strong little
With a .38
you need all the power you can get. I see a lot of
autopsies and shooting after-action reports, and
with the +P 158 gr. lead SWC-HP, I don’t worry
about the stopping power. Evan Marshall is right
when he says it about equals that of GI .45
“double hand” mechanism locks the cylinder
motionless as the hammer begins to fall, and this
ingenious cylinder lockup plus Colt’s trademark
1:14 rifling twist makes this brand the most
accurate of snubby .38s.
action work and sight improvements let you
translate that intrinsic accuracy potential into
practical accuracy. That and the forward balance
make it shoot like a medium frame 4” service
revolver; while still concealing almost as easily
as a little five-shot J-frame Smith.
Birdsong’s Black-T finish was applied for
corrosion resistance due to body sweat, etc. in
the deep concealment place a .38 snub gets
carried. This is my third gun with the Birdsong
finish and I’m very pleased with the way it
cherished old pair of Craig Spegel exotic hardwood
Boot Grips completed the package. Their dark brown
finish sets off the dark gray of the Black-T,
giving me a revolver that won’t flash what’s
under my black sock if my trouser cuff rides up
enough to reveal my ankle holster. The total cost
of this custom job was about $450.
This is my
fourth Cylinder & Slide Shop custom gun, and
I’m as happy with it as I was with the
lightweight Commander .45, the 6” Python and the
9mm Hi-Power. Which is to say, very happy indeed.
Bill Laughridge takes care of his customers, and
his prices and delivery times are both