But the five shot .38 Special isn't without its flaws.
Save Jerry Miculek and a few others, the the revolver is slow to reload in comparison to that of slapping in a fresh magazine of a pistol.
The very chopped barrel of the gun slows bullet velocity down to where even loaded with the latest and greatest of +P loads there is no guarantee that a hollow point will expand. The short sight radius can make it difficult to hit with when a shooter doesn't put in the range time and trigger time.
It is in my humble opinion one of the most mis-sold firearms out there. Often enough the snub nosed .38 is sold to people who want to have only "one" gun for their house or for the wife to "stick in her purse". While I disagree with the thought that its an "experts" gun I do think it is a poor choice for a non gun enthusiast.
In a world of plastic 19+1 9mms and 14+1 .45 acp pistols the five shot revolver is the derringer of the day. Albeit with good triggers and fine ammo. But every gun has its detraction's. For instance a Glock will always be plastic. Its still a very good gun, but its plastic.
But if we accept the limitations, and train and shoot and yes even study the little chief's special we know at the end of the day we'll have a gun that we'll carry when we'd other wise beforced to not carry or suffer a larger gun.
On my own wish list of gun's "someone" would make is an Airweight with a 3inch barrel. The gun manufacturers in all their infinite wisdom miss the boat here. Barrels are easy to conceal so its actually ok to leave them a little longer, they don't have to be super short.
A very nice part of a double action back up piece is that in a worst case scenario you can hand it to a second person who may be gunless. There is no safety to slip, no slides to rack.
The Wife and I just returned from a week in the mountains in Colorado. In the hopes of getting in a little shooting and for the sake of security I packed "only" three guns. My Colt Combat Commander, a lever action Marlin 1894 (.357) and the little airweight. I liked knowing that when we went for a couple of day hikes I handed the little holstered Smith to her and said "stuff this in your day pack just in case." it was ready to go if need be.
My own Smith & Wesson 442 I bought used and it has seen its fair share of travel and has been worn in ankle rigs, small of the backs holsters, and thunderwear,but mostly when I carry its in my waistband without a holster.
It's an old school model 442 that isn't rated for +P use and its barrel isn't even 2inches long. It doesn't have crimson trace grips (which I wouldn't mind) and in fact the front sight is painted white with (honest) WhiteOut that I re-touch every four or five months. I've worn it to barbeque's, weddings, funerals, church, bible studies and Playboy parties and while I hope I never have to left with only one gun I can say this a snubnose five shot J frame would be in the top three of guns I'll never give up.