New Gun Owner

Came down to Roanoke this weekend because Bitter’s mom, who has previously not been a gun owner, decided that, being a woman living on her own, it was time to take the plunge. Since she was looking to save money getting a used gun, I decided to tag along to check it out before she bought it. The first shop we went to was Trader Jerry’s in Salem, Virginia. We had planned to visit several shops to do a bit of comparison shopping, but first stop we ran into this:

Smith & Wesson Model 36

I know the stereotype of getting the little lady a snub-nose .38, but in her basic pistol course, and after trying a lot of guns, she prefers the shorter barreled revolvers to heavier revolvers or semi-autos. This is a Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special. The reason this was such a great find was that we were looking for a used J-frame in .38 Spl. This is a used gun. It was bought by a guy who returned it because he didn’t like the grips, and had not been fired. It looked brand spanking new, based on everything I could see. The price was a good bit less than new. I think it was actually a great find for her.

Trader Jerry’s seemed to be a pretty good shop. Her experience was very pleasant, and comparing to prices back home, they were pretty good in that area too. She had to fill out her 4473 twice because of making a mistake on the first one. After filling out all three forms, she commented “My, this is worse than doing my taxes!” A quick call to the Virginia Instant Check System, and the gun was hers. I got her some .38 Spl Low Recoil Hydrashocks and some snap caps to refresh her on loading and unloading.

Next step for her will be a refresher pistol course, then some range time. Then she wants to do a concealed carry course and get her license to carry.

21 Responses to “New Gun Owner”

  1. Bitter says:

    “I know the stereotype of getting the little lady a snub-nose .38, but in her basic pistol course, and after trying a lot of guns, she prefers the shorter barreled revolvers to heavier revolvers or semi-autos.”

    I was even a bad daughter during that class. I didn’t want her to be the stereotype. So even with me pushing her toward liking guns like my Sig, she legitimately preferred the small to medium revolvers, particularly the .38s she was shooting. (We had a ton of guns for the class to try.) She went with a J-frame because she wants the option to carry without it weighing a ton.

  2. That is a great little revolver I have carried a M 637 S&W for years,
    Get a couple Safariland speed loaders for it and get the chambers chamfered slightly to help speed loading and a set of rubber boot grips and you have the perfect carry gun! No one makes them better than S&W! Enjoy it!

  3. Jake says:

    Nice gun! I hope she enjoys it, and shoots it often, but never has to shoot it.

    I’d say I wish I knew you were in the area, but when you’re gun shopping for someone’s first gun isn’t the time to do a mini-(micro-?)blogmeet.

  4. Ian Argent says:

    The guy who did our NRA basic pistol course had this to say on the subject of buying a firearm: ” Be sure of what you want, because the second the gun slides across the glass, it is a ‘ used gun’.”

  5. Ronnie says:

    That S&W revolver looks great, but since it was bought by and for Bitter’s mom, I then wondered if this one was really much different than those “Ladysmith” models I started seeing for sale over 20 years ago.

    Does S&W still make “Ladysmith” revolvers?

  6. Jim says:

    That’s a beauty! The vintage Model 49 Bodyguard I recently bought ain’t nowhere near that nice.

    I hope I’m not out of line in suggesting ….. that a good trigger job would be a nice gift to enhance her ’36? The J frames aren’t that easy to do, but Reeder or Cylinder & Slide would be up to it, I’m sure.

    After all, the more enjoyable it is to practice, the more she will practice!

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  7. Dannytheman says:

    I carried a model 36 for 10 years. It is a solid good choice.

  8. flashman says:

    I’ve bought a slew of guns from Trader Jerry – he’s at all the gun shows in the state. Pretty good prices and lots of inventory. Bought a Les Baer 1911 from him that was essentially NIB, but came from a defunct dealer’s stock, so I got it at a great price.

  9. Rob Reed says:

    Nothing wrong with a .38 snub for a new shooter *IF* it’s the gun they’ve picked for themselves and they’ve actually fired one. The problem is when other people make the choice for the new shooter and that’s obviously not an issue here.

    It sounds like she has enough knowledge to make an informed choice. I think the all steel Model 36 is a better pick then the the lighter Aluminum or Titanium guns. The extra weight does help.

    You should get her a couple HKS J-frame speedloaders to go with that gun.

  10. Chas says:

    “I know the stereotype of getting the little lady a snub-nose .38…”

    I would have gotten her a TC Contender in .458 SOCOM, but that’s just me.

  11. Ronnie says:

    Here’s the link to a recent news story about a fifty-something lady living all alone in Georgia, who defended herself against a home invader with her .22 pistol:

    She shot her would-be rapist nine times, killing him. Now, if she had had a snubnose .38 instead of just a .22, only one or two well-aimed shots would have sufficed.

  12. LOL about her comments on filling out the Form 4473 being more work than doing her taxes!

  13. Patrick says:

    Great work bringing another shooter into the fold. I’m surprised she held out as long as she did, considering what her daughter and son-in-law are into…

    +1 on Trader Jerry’s. They do all the VA area gun shows and bring a ton of stock to check out.

  14. richard says:

    I am always delighted to see another revolver find a good new life as a family protector! Speed strips are a nice alternative to speedloaders for on-body carry.

    While I am really glad you found it for your Mom, I have to wonder why the guy who returned did not just swap out the grips? After all, there are only dozens of different aftermarket grips for the j frame, and the only tool needed to change them is a decent screwdriver.

  15. Ed says:

    Regarding the recommendations on speed strips and speed loaders:
    Speed strips are better than having loose rounds and do lie flat, but at best only allow you to load one or two rounds at a time (too slow when you really need more ammunition NOW!).
    Speed loaders are thicker as they hold the rounds to place simultaneously all the rounds in the cylinder.
    HKS speed loaders require a twist motion to release the five rounds at a time.
    Safariland speed loaders release when the center hub makes contact with the cylinder.
    Make sure that the grips do not interfere with the speed loaders.
    What would I use?
    Speer Gold Dot JHP Short Barrel rounds for the .38 Special (highly recommended) come 20 rounds to the box. In order of usage:
    5 rounds in Snubbie
    10 rounds in 2 Safariland speed loaders
    5 rounds on speed strip

    Optionally, buy two boxes of ammo and load that speed strip completely as well as a second speed strip (I think they are sold in pairs). You may discover that you drop a round or two or three while reloading. If you are unable to completely load the cylinder, close the cylinder on an empty chamber. Know which way the cylinder revolves.

    Better to have the speed strip rounds and not need them than to need them and not have them.

    BTW Make sure to train her to unlatch with right hand while using the fingers of the left hand to pop the cylinder. Rapidly assist unloading by pressing the ejector rod with the left thumb while quickly bringing the Snubbie to the forward muscle part of the thigh, impacting the thigh. The ejector, gravity, and momentum will clear the weapon quickly. Let the spent rounds drop. Turn the Snubbie so that the grip is higher than the cylinder. Use gravity again to assist in reloading, first from the speed loaders, then from the speed strip. Let the empty speed loaders and the speed strip drop. Your life is on the line. Do not waste precious seconds putting them back from where you retrieved them. Neatness only counts in how quickly all rounds are reloaded and the weapon is brought to bear on the intended target. When someone is trying to kill you, 5 seconds is an eternity. Get at least 10 snap cap rounds and practice, practice, practice. Keep NO live rounds in the same room that you practice with the snap caps to reduce the possibility of an error.

  16. DirtCrashr says:

    My wife likes the big revolvers, go figure. Forget about a semi though, not in the function spectrum.

  17. Jim says:

    Excellent choice for a carry gun. She will be fine with it, as long as she takes the time to practice with it. That would be true whether she got the snubbie or a SIG or other auto-loader. If she likes it, then she’s much more likely to practice with it and get good with it. Congrats on getting her into the gun owners club!

  18. mariner says:

    I have one of these.

    I’ll second both the recommendations for a trigger job and other grips.

  19. Ian wrote:
    “The guy who did our NRA basic pistol course had this to say on the subject of buying a firearm: ” Be sure of what you want, because the second the gun slides across the glass, it is a ‘ used gun’.”

    I’ve found resale on firearms to be pretty good. Sure, you’re unlikely to get 100% of what you paid for it — but it is often realistic to get 2/3 to 3/4 of the original purchase price without trying too hard, at least up here. For a typical “$400 used handgun” that means you can basically buy one, try it out, shoot it for awhile, and then if you decide you don’t like it, sell it for three hundred or so. Maybe a bit more if you throw in the old holster you no longer need. Being out a hundred bucks to basically “rent” a gun for awhile is not a bad deal at all. I certainly don’t feel locked in for all of eternity when I buy a gun.

    @ Sebastian: Congrats on getting your mom shooting! Another perk of the 38 special is “no magazines.” If she later decides to get a full size 4″ service revolver or an 1894 carbine then she can use the same rounds in everything. A very versatile choice.

  20. Ian Argent says:

    @Heather: true enough. Except for me being in NJ, with the onerous paperwork (though IIRC there is a return clause) and also that I have a range nearby that rents.

  21. M says:

    I go through Trader Jerry’s semi-regularly. The new location is much better than the old one. The staff is reasonably friendly


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