Term: Saturday Night Special?

Where does the term Saturday Night Special come from. I’ve started looking at 38 special snub nose revolvers and I’ve had one person tell me they are not reliable and used the term “Saturday Night Special”. I think they we’re missing informed about 38 special, and maybe the term Saturday Night special had more to do with manufacturers out of states. Just curious.

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The term came about when you could buy a cheap .38 that wouldn’t last forever, use it on Saturday night in a crime, throw it in a river, then get another for next Saturday. They were also called river guns.

It is an outdated point of view, and there are many reliable snub nose revolvers on the market today.

I have heard great things about the reliability of S&W air weights, especially for a back up ankle gun.


Thank you very much!

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You’re welcome!

Cheaply made, pot metal .38’s and .22 Zip Guns come to mind. Quality made handguns are reliable.


I heard it termed as a handgun under $100 back in the 1980’s or so. Cheap throwaway type gun. I actually got one for Christmas back in the '80s. Still have that .38 Special. And it still shoots just fine, just not a high quality gun.

Yep, gun control was around back in the late '70’s…

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Some of it depended on the state you lived in. When Saturday night specials were the big topic along with the early assault weapons bans some companies were accused of making cheep guns that were, shall we say, less that safe and trouble free. Normally they were in 22, 32 and some 38s. Jennings, Bryco, Raven, Phoenix and even Davis and Rohm were some main offenders. They were mostly made in Florida I believe and some may have been made in the west. I just might know someone that still has one, not saying who.

Nah, friday night specials are fish frys, or at least they are in WI.


The term “Saturday Night Special” was a buzzword descriptor loosely given to less expensive and less durable handguns made from less-than-ideal alloys. Anti-2nd Amendment groups and individuals apply the term to any handgun they don’t like–and they don’t like any handgun anyway. It’s a broad-brush term.

A poster above alluded to some handgun makes whose products don’t evoke pride of ownership. A number of those makers were located in inland Southern California not far from where I did my cop work. The California lawmakers that hate gun rights–which is a whole lot of them–labeled these makers as The Ring Of Fire gunmakers. (Google the term for a decent detailed description of these firms, most of which were owned by one family). These makers were straight-up SCANDALOUS–their products were crap, they employed parolees and probationers on their shop floor, and there was info developed that showed a significant portion of the companies’ production never made it to BATFE recordation. Sterile guns (no product stampings or serial numbers) and multiple application of same serial number to several guns went out the makers’ back doors and/or in employee lunch boxes, Utterly out of control, and the company owners didn’t give a rip. BATFE would shut the makers down, the company would divest and remake themselves on paper, and go right back at it. California’s Handgun Safety Act was intended to put these makers out of business–epic fail, the damn pistols passed the State testing and got approved. BATFE finally got a handle on these pirates c. 2005. During my career, I saw 4 sterile pistols come through our property rooms, and repetitious serial numbers on same make/model pistols by these makers are there in some numbers. As you might expect, these junk guns figure highly in street crimes in my old patrol areas. They are AWFUL.


It was a term once used by the anti gun nuts, just like assault weapon is used now. It is poorly defined and once written into law it will cover many more firearms than they said it would. Be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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Back in the dim and misty it was those awful “revolvers” that the antis were after. Then the AR/AK’s arrived and gave them a bigger target. (Interesting to note that in both cases police officers of the day were using the arms being maligned). Anyway, the “Saturday nite special” was originally the cheap, zinc alloy guns that were very notoriously poor quality I had an RG model 23, .22 revolver that was more dangerous to anyone standing beside it than to anything you aimed it at😳). The antis took the term and “expanded it” as they are wont to do to include pretty much all smaller handguns -heard one moron refer to an old Colt Detective Special as an SNS😏.