Long ago, before the AR vs. AK threads littered firearm forums, before tac-lights, lasers, and red dots, one debate commanded every gunpowder obsessed man. Gathering at bars, bowling clubs, porches and church houses, men voiced their opinion on what was then the ultimate question: Colt or Smith & Wesson?
Colt's snub nose of choice for many men was the Colt Cobra; an alloy frame of "Coltalloy" cradling a steel cylinder and steel 2" barrel adorned by (depending on generation) a high profile or ramped front sight, off-set by a stainless hammer. Available in a bright electro-nickel or rich, beautiful Colt blueing finishes. The metal work was superb. Seamless mating on the frame, and a mating of the cylinder that is unparalleled even by today's standards. The six shot cylinder swings open like the doors on a bespoke Rolls Royce and locks up to a buttery smooth action like a bank vault. With an action comparable to a Patek Phillipe watch, even the most hoity-toity of gun snobs marvel in the double action pull and crisp sharp single action trigger. I personally prefer the combat grips mounted to the 3rd issue revolver, allowing for a point and click draw as natural as extending your index finger.
The Smith and Wesson offered the Model 36 (now the 637), called the "Chief's Special" by the S&W diehards. The alloy J-frame is a hair lighter than the Colt, due in part to a 5-shot cylinder. The modern 637 (in this case the 637-2) is a stainless finished "airweight" wonder. With modern rubber grips, the ergonomics rival the Colt despite the price difference in today's gun market. The push open cylinder swings open with a gritty, rough action that leaves much to be desired by metalwork aficionados. The forcing cone as well is lacking, offering a thin, untapered extension of the barrel protruding in an unappealing jut towards the cylinder. The double action pull is as smooth as sandpaper, and weighs as much as modern pocket .380's. The single action however, is superb to the Colt; making target shooting a giggle-inducing good time.
While the Smith offers superior conceal-ability thanks to the -1 cylinder, tucking away nicely in a holster or pocket equally. Concealing the Cobra is a bit more of a challenge, requiring the "Deep-Pockets" of Colt collectors, a suitable holster, or a jacket pocket. The praise of the Cobra's action is the anthem of many revolver fan, but the Smith holds it's own with a more robust, confident lock up. A give or take of beauty, smooth DA pull, or purpose built grit.
Firing the Colt is a naughty dream come true. Offering the shooter a feeling of elation and ecstasy found only by powerful drugs or strong liquor. Targets tremble in fear staring at the beautiful Colt wielded by a grin-crazed teethy range junkie. Whether practicing a self-defense situation from a draw, using double action or from a rest in single action, any competent shooter can hit his mark at reasonable snub nose ranges.
Handling the Chief's Special is much like stepping into a history book. The pull may not be as smooth as a modern revolver, but you just don't care. Any long-range shooter will envy the weight of the single action pull, drawing back the gritty, heavy hammer only to lay waste to paper and steel with a breath taking twitch of the trigger finger. The quality for price is something found only in the days of old, when things were built to withstand the test of time. Even with this modern example, the ability to capture the souls of law enforcement, military, mobster, and common man of old in this snub nose revolver isn't found in today's world of fantastic plastic. Nothing screams you're holding on to the past like a 637, but that display isn't without reason.
Ultimately the Smith is far more robust. Built like a Snap-on wrench for one thing: getting the job done... Forever. Though the action is gritty and the craftsmanship is lacking compared to the portrait of quality that is Colt, you forget all about it once you pull the trigger or skin the old smoke wagon.
The decision of which snubby to choose comes down to a discussion of wristwatches. The Colt is a Rolex; sure it can scuba dive to 2000 meters and do its job well, but you buy a Rolex to wear to a business meeting and show off at the office. The Smith is more of an Eco-Drive; not nearly as captivating and classy, but it'll get the job done in the worst of conditions and still look good enough to catch the eye of the boss man at the quarterly meeting. Just as many men wear their Rolex daily, the Colt will serve as a carry gun flawlessly, dependably, and with a screaming roar of passion and Scarlet Johansson good looks. The Smith however is the girl you marry; sure she isn't as pretty as "the one that got away", but that delicious home cooking and warm bed makes your wildest dreams a fleeting thought of a younger man.
About The Author: Some say his beard is his primary self defense tool, and that he's far to young to have any opinion on firearms.