Broadly speaking, Smith & Wesson swing out cylinder (Hand Ejector) revolvers come in nine frame sizes. In order of increasing size, they are: M, I, Improved I, J, J Magnum, K, L, N, and X frame.
Perceiving a market for a more powerful pocket sized revolver, S&W introduced the J Magnum frame in 1995. It was created to accommodate the length of the .357 Magnum cartridge in a J frame revolver, having a longer cylinder and larger frame opening. This frame was first introduced as the Model 640-1 in 1995. Since then, other J frames, even .38 Specials, have been offered in this frame size. In 1996, the Model 60 (60-9) and 642 (642-1) were changed to the J Magnum sized frame.
The K frame was the original .38 caliber Hand Ejector frame introduced in 1899 as the Military & Police 1st Model. It served as the service revolver for the US Army in .38 Long Colt caliber until the adoption of the Colt 1911 autoloading pistol. The K frame was the most widely used and issued POlice revolver for nearly a century. The US Air Force continued to issue K frame revolvers to its Security POlice until almost the end of the 20th Century. It has been produced in a wide variety of calibers from .22 Long Rifle up to .357 Magnum but .38 S&W Special was the most popular.
Bill Jordan, of the US Border Patrol, convinced S&W to make the K frame size revolver in the .357 Magnum cartridge for POlice service. The .357 had only been produced in N frame revolvers until 1955. His original idea was to practice with .38 Special and only occasionally use .357s. As people started shooting .357 Magnums in quantity, they found that it was hard on a K frame. This led to the introduction of the L frame, which along with the other larger frame sizes will be covered in the next installment.
Tactical Professor books
Indoor Range Practice Sessions http://indoorrangepracticesessions.com
Concealed Carry Skills and Drills http://concealedcarryskillsanddrills.com
Advanced Pistol Practice http://bit.ly/advancedpistolpractice
Shooting Your Black Rifle http://shootingyourblackrifle.com
Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make http://seriousgunownermistakes.com
Part I of the series
If you can’t see the sights on your snub, you can’t use them. While there are some ways gunsmiths can put better sights on a snub, careful application of paint and perhaps Magic Marker can go a long way to improving your ability to see the sights. Most snubs’ sights are not of a color to contrast against the target. The lack of contrast makes it difficult to pick up a quick visual reference. Fire trucks and school buses aren’t painted blue or silver for a reason. Silver generates glare easily and blue doesn’t contrast against a dark target nor in limited visibility.
Colored nail polish or paint is an old trick to increase the visibility of the front sight. If you paint the sight first with white paint as an undercoating, the color will stand out much better. Degrease the sight before applying paint to ensure the paint sticks. Let the white paint cure completely and then apply the color paint over the white.
At least to the general public…
The 2017 BATF production statistics, Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report (AFMER), https://www.atf.gov/file/133476/download have been released. There are some interesting facts about market trends in it. The snub nose .38, which was a long time standard for Personal Protection, has clearly been replaced in popularity by compact .380 ACP autoloaders. This continues a trend that has been building for a decade.
Total .38 revolver – 177,956
Total .380 autoloader – 848,425
The Editor of a publication I occasionally write for asked me to participate in a project about comparing different handguns. Being the revolver guy I am, he asked me for some input about how wheelguns fared. His concept is:
[R]each an objective: identifying a short (20-rounds) base of standards for defense handguns to (1) compare similar format guns, one to another, (2) compare formats of handguns (small, single stack or subcompact), (3) “shoot out” duty/defense ammo for replacement while evaluating personal skills, (4) yet another “cold course” of fire to identify skills areas that need attention.
This is the Course of Fire he developed.
- Basis: 3-second strings
- Lots of draws
- Few reloads (on the clock)
- Limited Vickers: use a target, feature .5 second added for 1-down; shortest time “wins.”
- 25 yards – singles from holster – 5x – 5 rounds
- 15 yards – single from holster – 1x
- single from guard – 2 x — 3 rounds
- 10 yards – Pair from holster – 1x 2 – rounds
- 7 yards – Failure from holster – 1x – 3 rounds
- 5 yards – Pair SHO from holster – 1 x – 2 rounds
- Pair WHO from guard – 1x — 2 rounds
- from holster, 1-Reload-1 – 1 x – 2 rounds
- from holster, 1 head – 1 x – 1 round
Total: 20 rounds
- Draws – 7
- From ‘ready’ (guard) – 3
- Singles – 6, one to ‘brain housing group’
- Weak Hand Only – 2, Strong Hand Only – 2
- Shots to smaller target – 2; one is transition from larger target.
- Pairs – 4
- Reload – 1 (under time)
All in a 20 round box of ammo.
It’s an interesting concept, so I shot it with four different revolvers and two autoloaders.
- Smith & Wesson Model 65 – one of my favorite wheelguns and what I shot at the 2018 Rangemaster Tactical Conference
- Smith & Wesson Model 642– perhaps the most ubiquitous revolver encountered today
- Ruger LCR – another commonly carried wheelgun
- Smith & Wesson SD9VE
- Beretta PX4 Storm Compact, modified to G configuration
- Smith & Wesson 43C – a nice little .22 snub revolver
All were shot from Appendix Inside the Waistband carry except the SD9VE. The centerfire revolvers were reloaded using a speedloader carried in a centerline carrier. The 43C was reloaded using a QuikStrip carried in the watch pocket of my jeans. I used Remington Golden Bullet bulk ammo in the 525 round box for the 43C. Despite it having a 9 pound mainspring, which I have been told will get me ‘kilt in da streetz,’ there were no Failures to Fire.
We were free to use any target we wanted, so I used the printable target from my ebook Concealed Carry Skills and Drills. Per his instructions, the scoring was Vickers Count with ½ second added per point down. I used the Circle as the -0, the paper target as -1, and the balance of an IDPA target backer as -3.
An interesting aspect of the Course is that every shot or two is scored individually. This involves a lot of walking, especially for the five shots at 25 yards but gives a lot of feedback about the efficacy of one’s shooting. In the spirit of the analysis, I marked the target at every distance change to keep track of where the bullets were hitting.
Here’s how the results came out.
It’s a demanding benchmark analysis. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the other testers.
If you would like to purchase Concealed Carry Skills and Drills, the link to the downloadable ebook is here. http://concealedcarryskillsanddrills.com
The timer and the target sometimes tell interesting and unexpected tales. A long held opinion is that a longer barrel is easier to shoot, both in terms of accuracy and shot to shot recovery, than a shorter barrel. For #wheelgunwednesday, I decided to put this theory to the test. Several different revolvers of varying frame sizes, weights, and barrel lengths were used to shoot a standard drill and compare results.
Justin Dyal wrote an article for SWAT Magazine about a drill he created called Five-Yard Roundup. It was used as the semi-final test at the Rangemaster 2018 Tactical Conference. Especially in the context of snub revolvers, it’s a good test of skills that may be required for personal protection.
This past weekend, Friday through Sunday, was the 20th Anniversary Rangemaster Tactical Conference. I have a long history of wheelgunning at the Conference, having shot it with a revolver in 1999 through 2001.
This year was no exception. I’ve also taught for many years at the Conference. This year I decided to re-visit teaching my Intro to Snubby Skills block of instruction. One of the other trainers had to cancel due to a family emergency. This gave me the opportunity to conduct my class on both Friday and Saturday. A total of 37 shooters took the two classes. I kept it to two hours and less than 50 rounds. Shooters sometimes lose their focus if the class is longer or the round count is higher and I want to set them up for success.
The topics I focused on were:
- Grip the snub firmly
- See the sights
- Press the trigger smoothly
We did all the drills dry first and then live. For the live practice, most included spinning the cylinder after a few shots to create a ball and dummy drill. Revolvers do this much more efficiently than autoloaders. I also emphasize loading with loose rounds because speedloaders are not as secure an ammunition holding device as an autoloader’s magazine.
As the final exercise, the shooters fired all five shots into an eight inch circle, reloaded with two loose rounds and then fired both shots at a facial target 3 inches by 4 inches. This is a good exercise for practicing shooting quickly and then accurately.
After the second class, I then shot the Pistol Match with a Model 65 S&W revolver. Out of 186 people who chose to shoot the Match, two of us used revolvers. The Match featured turning targets, which made it both challenging and fun. The entire match is shot with the shooter’s equipment concealed.
I’ve been using a Galco Walkabout holster for my J Frame so I used a homemade Kydex centerline speedloader carrier. I’m finding that a speedloader carrier at the centerline is extremely fast. One observer noted that on the Stage that required a mandatory reload, I finished first among my squad.
For each string, we had to shoot a given number of rounds in a fixed amount of time while the target faced. Those who fired a perfect score made it into the Semi-Finals.
The Semi-Finals were held on Sunday morning. Turning targets were used again but this time the Course of Fire was only 10 rounds and was shot on a B-8 25-Yard Timed and Rapid Fire Target. The Course of Fire is revolver neutral but I threw two shots into the 7 ring and that put me out of the running for the Final Shootoff.
The Final Shootoff was a single elimination contest shot on reactive falling targets. Two mannequins with a concealed steel hit area had to be knocked down first. Then a mini Pepper Popper had to be knocked down. Whichever shooter knocked down the Popper first was the winner. The competition was fierce and Mr. Gabe White was the winner.
The Ladies did not have a Semi-Final and the top eight Lady shooters of the Match went straight to the Shootoff. It followed the same format as the Men’s Shootoff. Once again, the competition was fierce. Ms. Melody Lauer was the Winner.
Three days of good training was a true pleasure. There were more blocks of instruction, both live fire and lecture, than can be attended. It was a great time and I’m glad I was able to attend and present again.
Next year’s Conference will be held just north of New Orleans on March 15-17, 2019. It is open to all those interested in personal protection.
If you would like to purchase my eBook Concealed Carry Skills and Drills, the link to the downloadable ebook is here. http://concealedcarryskillsanddrills.com
If you would like to purchase my eBook Indoor Range Practice Sessions, the link to the downloadable ebook is here. https://store.payloadz.com/details/2501143-ebooks-education-indoor-range-practice-sessions.html
For some reason, #wheelgunwednesday had never crossed my radar before yesterday. Viewing this as a serious deficiency on my part, I decided to shoot the IDPA 5×5 Classifier with some revolvers. It’s a 25 round Course of Fire shot entirely at 10 yards.
I like the 5×5 because it’s five shot friendly and is a demanding skill drill. As some shooters have observed, the IDPA 5×5 is not as easy as it looks. It shares this in common with the 5^5 drill that I designed.
Whenever a Course of Fire is shot repeatedly, there’s a ‘training effect.’ This means that simply understanding the sequence helps the shooter do better. Since I was shooting service revolvers down to Airweight J Frames, I chose to bias the training effect in favor of the J Frames, which are inherently harder to shoot. The order I chose to shoot the wheelies was:
- Model 66, four inch (.38 Special)
- Model 65, three inch (.38 Special)
- M&P 5 screw, 2 inch (.38 Special)
- Model 640-1, 2 ¼ inch (.38 Special)
- Model 36-1, 3 inch (.38 Special)
- Model 642-2, 2 inch (.38 Special)
- Model 30, 3 inch (.32 S&W Long)
- Model 432PD, 2 inch (.32 S&W Long)
Shooting the guns from heavy to light also helped keep me from getting beaten up by recoil early in the process. I’m glad I approached it that way.
For the K Frames, I used the KIS “Keepin’ It Sippel” holster from Leather Creek holsters. It’s a very comfortable holster that distributes the weight of a service pistol well on the belt and allows a quick presentation. For the reload on String 3, I used a Safariland Comp II speedloader and pouch. When I bought the M&P 5 screw, it had the half moon front sight that was commonly used in the pre-1950s era. This is not an easy sight to see, so I flattened the rear with a file, serrated it, and painted it fluorescent orange with a white undercoat. All of the K frames also have had the rear sight blackened with a Sharpie to provide more contrast and reduce glare.
For the J Frame .38s, I used a Galco ‘Concealable’ holster. The forward molded design makes it very comfortable because it doesn’t press on my hip bone at the four o’clock position. Reloading was done with a Safariland Comp I speedloader and pouch.
For the J Frame .32s, I used a Bianchi Model 57 ‘Remedy’ holster. This is also a comfortable forward molded design. Reloading was done with an HKS 32-J speedloader and Bianchi pouch.
The ammo used was mostly Tula 130 grain FMJ .38 Special. I can’t recommend this ammo. Probably because of the steel case, it’s very difficult to extract. Most of the time, I have to use a rubber mallet to give the extractor rod a whack to eject the cases. I bought a case of it and when it’s used up, that’s the last I will ever buy. When the stage required a reload, I started with Federal American Eagle 130 grain FMJ, which extracts easily.
In the .32s, I used Georgia Arms .32 S & W Long 85 grain Jacketed Hollow Point and Fiocchi 97 grain FMJ. They both shoot to similar point of impact and proved reliable in the .32s.
#wheelgunwednesday, it’s going to be more of a habit from now on.
Note that the holsters were provided to me at no cost by the manufacturers but I receive no compensation for my evaluation.
I was emailed the following question. It’s a good question with an involved answer.
Which snubby do you recommend?
This was my reply:
It depends on the person, their ability, their needs, and their desire to achieve an acceptable standard of performance. The S&W 642 and Ruger LCR .38 Special have become the default purchases for people who want to carry a snub. They work for some people but not everyone.
As always, a good day at the range erases the ennui generated by Internet goofiness.
As I mentioned in my post about Structured Practice (Part II), many people have no plan and use no structure when they go to the range. That’s only because they’ve never been introduced to the concept of structured practice in any activity. I always have two or three objectives in mind for a range trip and I write them down to help me keep on track.
Yesterday, I had two principal themes for the trip.
- Test the CMMG .22 Conversion Unit I bought for my AR.
- Test the functionality of the Model 30 Improved I Frame revolver I bought. It had been abused at one time and subsequently reblued so I wasn’t 100% sure of its mechanicals.
For the CMMG unit, I had three things in mind.
- Zero it.
- Shoot the US Army Alt-C Qualification Course with it.
- Shoot the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program Tactical Rifle Course at the Pro-Marksman level. My gun club rules don’t allow me to shoot the Program with a centerfire rifle caliber so I’m going to use a .22.
Testing the Model 30 was a little simpler. My plan was to shoot the LAPD Retired Officer Qualification Course. The Course isn’t extensive but it allowed me to test the revolver’s reliability and see if it shot to the sights.
Fortunately, the CMMG shot fairly close to the rifle’s current zero. It just shot a little low, so I fixed that. The Alt-C course is a precision course shot at 25 meters. The targets are scaled from 50 meters to 300 meters.
Foxhole supported is simply a benchrest shooting position. There are benchrest positions available at my club so that’s how I shot Table 1. Even though I was using the iron sights, I was still able to shoot Sharpshooter. That made me happy because I haven’t fired a rifle in almost a year.
Next, I shot the MQP Tactical Rifle Pro-Marksman. My plan for that is to shoot one level each time I go to the range. Pro-Marksman has three stages; 7, 30, and 100 yards. The targets are expensive and hard to find but six inch circles are an acceptable substitute for the Program. The lid from a Cool Whip container happens to be six inches.
This was my 7 and 30 yard target. I like to mark the hits with different markers for each distance.
This was my 100 yard target. Any silhouette can be used for the 100 yard stage. The sun was in my eyes during the kneeling and prone shots so I was glad I hit as well as I did.
I write my scores on the sheet and scan it for record and future reference.
Finally, I shot the LAPD course with the Model 30.
Having a plan when I go to the range helps me stay on task while I’m there. It also gives me a feeling that I’ve accomplished something when I leave. Next time, I’ll probably shoot the MQP Marksman level and the .22 Home Defense Course that I based on the old FBI [Sub]Machine Gun Course.
There’s currently a lot of Internet stink about some limitations imposed in the NRA Carry Guard training. I’m not going to comment about Carry Guard in general because as an Instructor certified in numerous disciplines through the NRA Training Department, there’s a possible conflict of interest.
What I will comment about the equipment limitation is:
They’re staying in their lane of competency.
Looking at the background and resumes of the instructors, running a striker fired autoloader or Sig 226 is mostly likely all they’ve ever been trained with, practiced with, or used. Revolvers and 1911s have a different manual of arms and idiosyncrasies that these instructors, with the exception of Jarrett who was briefly with the LAPD decades ago, are probably not familiar with.
They are probably expert with the weapons they have used and the possibility is they are either inexperienced or ignorant of how to operate other weapons at any professional level. I see that a lot now. The number of young police officers who literally cannot open the cylinder of a revolver is stunning. There are numerous firearms trainers who can operate one or two weapons and provide good training, as long as it’s confined to those weapons
Why would we then encourage these Carry Guard instructors to teach students how to use weapons they are not experts in the use of? How often has the meme ‘Stay in your lane’ surfaced lately? To his credit, when Rob Pincus wanted to make a DVD about Snub Revolvers, he brought me in to do it, just as he did with Dryfire. I’m an expert on those topics and he is not.
We can’t have it both ways. If we want instructors to ‘Stay in their lane,’ then we’re going to have to accept that just like lanes on the highway, the lanes have limits. In this case, the limitation is that NRA Carry Guard probably needs to say “Training for a limited subset of weapons but not all.” Describing itself as ‘the Gold Standard’ is probably a bit of a stretch. That is not to say I accept what Carry Guard provides is, in fact, the ‘Gold Standard.’ I mean that if Carry Guard is unwilling to provide training for two extremely common weapons, revolvers and Browning pattern pistols, then, by definition, it can’t be ‘the Gold Standard.’
Perhaps it could be ‘the Silver Standard.’ Without seeing first hand what actually takes place at the training, there’s no way for me, or anyone else, including NRA Carry Guard, to say. What they are going to provide remains a prototype, unlike the training provided by NRA Certified Instructors, which are proven training processes. How well Carry Guard’s training prototype will translate to the Instructor candidates being recruited also remains to be seen. At least as long as you’re not using a revolver or 1911. Then you don’t have to be concerned with it.