Trying New Things

I made a quick trip to the range this afternoon to try a new carry load. I started off carrying the venerable Remington 158gr .38 Special +p LSWCHP. It leaded the barrel pretty bad, and I wanted to take advantage of that “.357 Magnum” stamped on the barrel. Started off with Hornady 135gr Critical Duty in .357 Magnum. I wasn’t 100% pleased with how well I could shoot that round, even though it was downloaded by .357 standards. Then I started noting function issues and that sealed its fate. Switched back to .38 Special for a while, but kept looking for that mild .357 load that would be the perfect fit. My buddy over at swears by the Speer 135gr Short Barrel Gold Dot in .357 Magnum. He is running a J-frame, so a load tailored to a short barrel makes perfect sense for him. At first dismissed it, concerned how a short barrelled load would perform out of a 4″ gun. Lucky Gunner’s epic ammo test put those fears to rest, so when Academy Sports ran a free shipping sale, I picked up a couple boxes. 

Today was range day. I started the day off with a cold FAST, meaning I have not shot a gun in the past 2 weeks, and I had not fired a simgle round of the Gold Dots. Maybe not the best way to turn in a good FAST time, but probably a good way to evaluate how well I can shoot my K-frame with this ammo. 

All of my mistakes in that run could not be attributed to the ammo, but rather to me not staying up on my dry fire. The first two shots were slow, and the reload was fumbled a little. The splits on the 4 rounds to the 8″ circle were actually not horrible.

I followed the FAST with a Bill Drill. My splits were a little better, but I think I can speed them up more. I got a little lazy on gripping the gun hard shooting .38 Special, going back to .357 means it is time to step that game back up. 

The final piece of the puzzle, accuracy. I am not looking for the intrisic a curacy of the round, but rather ability to shoot it. With that goal in mind, I test accuracy from 25 yards, standing, unsupported. My preference is to have the round basically hit to the top of the front sight at this distance. 

Cannot really complain. 

To recap, the recoil impulse is nice, and not what I would call snappy, even though it is a .357 load. It is accurate and spot on the sights at 25yd. It also checks all the boxes for a high quality duty round like sealed primers, superb terminal ballistics,  and expensive. That is the one downside, I have not found this round in the cheaper 50 round boxes of Speer that online retailers usually have. Everything else though, spectacular. I should have tried this load from the get go. 

Quote | Posted on by | 1 Comment

Shooting the 10 Round Assault Course

I have this thing for shooting drills intended for semiauto handguns with my revolver, as noted by my FAST runs with the revo. I decided to take a swing at the 10 Round Assault Course too. As you can tell by the name, it requires 10 rounds, my revolver only holds six (surprise!!). So while my semiauto counterparts gets to run the drill sans reload, I have to add one. On too of that, wheel gun reloads are sloooowwwwwwww. 

The drill calls for 2 rounds from the 25yd line, run to the 15 yard line and fire 2, run to the 7 yard line and fire 3, then shoot the final 3 while on the move from the 7 yard line. The target used in a B-8, and the drill is shot for score and time. According to the originators of the drill “passing” is 80 points in less than 20 seconds. 

So I gathered myself up, dumped a speedloader in my pocket, and went to the 25 yard line. To be homest, by 25 yard shots felt really slow. I think I could game the drill a little a shave a couple seconds on those two shots. If I land them on paper I am good to go points wise, but I always try to put them in the 10 ring. 

Once I get to the 15 yard line the shooting gets easy. It is more about being able to make that shift from moving quick, to slowing down and shooting well. Make the move to the 7 yard line, the shooting gets really easy here. Then, reload. The reload comes at the most inopportune time, right in the middle of a string of fire. I was able to get the reload from the pocket in just over 5 seconds. Pretty solid time for me. Get my last shot from the 7 and then the 3 on the move. My time ended up being 24.89, and a score of 95. My take away is shoot faster and give up a couple more points to try and get it under 20 seconds. I think I can shave at least 2 seconds from the 25 yard line, maybe 3. The rest of the time is probably at the 25 yard line. Inhave almost given up on reloading any faster. It is taking way too much training input to get faster. A lucky 4 second reload would be welcome though. 

I used to not like this drill, but having shot it a few times now I have come to appreciate it. The accuracy standard is high enough, and the movement between strings is a nice change from normal accuracy drills. I don’t know that I would use it as a drill per se, but as a test, like the FAST, I think it is pretty good. 

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

The JMCK Review: A modern holster for a classic firearm

When I think of holsters for classic stainless steel S&W K-frame revolvers, I typically think of something made of nice high quality leather, or an old school law enforcement duty holster. Kydex is not something I usually associate with revolvers. That would be like mixing classic muscle car styling with modern vehicle design. Oh wait, people do that.

At the end of last year I decided that 2017 would the year of the revolver for me, so I knew I needed at least two things, a revolver, and a good holster. Finding the revolver was easy enough, the holster was another story. If I was really going to do this, the revolver would have to be a full time gun, meaning it would be the gun primarily carried, practiced with, and used for matches and classes. In order for a gun to fill all of those needs, that gun needed to be a “duty sized” revolver that held 6 rounds. The gun I ended up with was an S&W 66 with a 4” barrel. Not a small gun. With the revolver selected, it was time to find a holster that could handle regular trips to the range for practice, the occasional firearms training class, and that concealed a duty sized revolver well enough that it could be carried under most conditions. So the search began.

There were a few kydex holster makers that I had heard really good things about, but the problem with the kydex guys is that not all of them make a holster for a not so commonly carried gun like a 4” K-frame. If they do, it is generally an OWB type holster, because after all, who carries a 4” K-frame IWB. Fortunately, JM Custom Kydex offers some of their IWB holsters for the K-frame. Initially, I was looking for a holster that had the mounting solution (i.e. belt loops), offset from the main body of the holster in hopes that it would help reduce the overall thickness of the package. Putting belt loops near the widest part of the revolver, the cylinder, seemed like a no go to me. What initially got me looking at JMCK is that they had such a holster, the IWB 1. My plan was to go with the IWB 1, but before I placed the order, a little nagging voice in my head said I should send an e-mail to Tony Meyer, the man behind the magic at JMCK, and ask for his advice on the matter. In the e-mail, I told him what I was carrying, what position on my body I planned to carry it, and about how big of a dude I am. I sent my e-mail at 7:30pm, and had an answer before noon the next day. Turns out, the IWB 1 was being discontinued, and Tony pointed me towards his IWB 3 holster with the wide hole pattern for the PDS loops and a 25* cant.  I was skeptical at first because it put the belt loops basically on top of the cylinder, which I was trying to avoid, but then I remembered who the expert was, and rolled with the IWB 3. By the way, this is the same type of holster Tom Givens uses if you didn’t already know that. Right at 7 weeks later, I had my new holster.

Out of the Box

When I pulled the holster out of the packaging, I was impressed. The build quality was excellent, the holster had very clean lines, nicely polished edges, and just gave off that vibe that “this dude knows how to build a holster”. The holster has Pull the Dot snaps and loops, secured to the holster on a ridge to help clear the belt and top of the pants for carrying IWB. Built into the holster is a cool little tuck feature over the trigger guard area of the revolver that helps to tuck the butt of the gun into the side of the body. There are two tension adjustment points, one just in front of where the trigger guard would be, and the other just in front of the crane/front of the frame. The holster is made using the least amount of kydex possible which reduces the bulk and footprint of the holster. For a gun as large as a .357 K-frame, that makes a difference in how comfortable the holster is and how easy it is to carry. Even though my older S&W 66 is a true 4” gun, the holster would also fit the recently released S&W 66’s with the 4.25” barrel. That is good for guys running the newer guns, but does add an extra ¼” to the overall length of the holster that I don’t really need. When running an IWB at a traditional 3-4 o’clock position on the belt

The extra length at the end of the muzzle on a true 4″ Model 66.

with a significant amount of cant, that extra ¼” can sometimes be an issue, but is specific to this model of firearm, and I would imagine could have been addressed if I would have thought to mention it.

The holster has a discernible click when the gun is fully seated into the holster, which is nice. The tension was a bit loose for my taste, but a couple twist on the tension screws and all was right in the world. Out of the box, I was very impressed with the quality of the holster.

A Month Later

I am a month into running this holster, and have used it every day of that month. I have worn this holster for more than a couple 16 hour days, long hours in a vehicle, ran it in an IDPA match, ran it in practice on the range, used it to teach a class or two, chased my kids around the backyard with it on, worn it with a suit and tie, and worn it with jeans and a t-shirt. To be honest, it has worked better than I expected. The tuck feature built into the holster actually works amazingly well. I was afraid that the added width would be problematic, but it really hasn’t been as big of an issue as I expected it to be.

On occasion, depending on what type of clothing I am wearing and how I twist my body, the PDS loops print a little through my shirt, but the rest of the gun is invisible. The holster has remained secure on the belt under all conditions, and the grip stays consistently in the same place regardless of activity level. That is a key performance issue because if I ever need to draw the handgun, if the grip of the revolver is stable and always in the same place, I am more likely to have a consistent draw.

One of the challenges associated with revolver holsters is all the protrusions, namely the cylinder itself. If the holster is not formed just right, these protrusions can cause discomfort when the holster is worn for longer periods of time. This holster does not have any really sharp edges or corners. There is a protrusion where the cylinder is, but those edges are soft and nicely contoured. I have not had any comfort issues with this holster, even when worn for very long days.

The IWB 3 does ride really low, and there is not a method for adjustment of ride height. With the way the holster is cut, combined with the low ride height, the rear sight of the revolver sits just at or below the top of the belt and is not contained within the holster. So far that hasn’t been an issue, but if the belt rolls over the top edge of the holster it may make it more difficult to reholster.  Personally, I like a holster that rides low, so no big deal as far as I am concerned and I have not noted any specific issues associated with the ride height. Some people may prefer the holster to ride higher though, and there is not a method to adjust the ride height that I am aware of. 

I have also noted that the top of the holster presses against the rear sight blade. I suppose the rear sight should be robust enough that having a little pressure applied to it will not push it off zero, but it does make me a little nervous. It is however an easy end user adjustment to fix,  I just haven’t yet because I wanted to test the holster in its factory configuration.

I had heard before I ordered this holster that JMCK puts out a good product, but a good kydex revolver holster can be a tough nut to crack. A revolver, especially a duty sized revolver, is a big gun with all the funky contours and curves that come with a revolver, and there is a decent amount of heft on top of that. The quality of the holster in both build and design has to be top notch to make the gun comfortable to carry, easy to conceal, and easily accessible. At the end of it all, I think for a concealable revolver holster, this is about as good as they come.

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Shades of Gray…

This post could also be “The Dark Tides of Night and Pistol Sights Part 2”. Recently I watched a YouTube video from an instructor I have a great deal of respect for and he was talking about sights. His preference was a black rear sight and a fiber optic front. That is a pretty common sight set up for performance driven shooters. I have to say, it is a pretty solid set up for most things shooting related.

I like the setup, but think it has a shortfall. When people talk about tritium sights, they will make the argument that if it is dark enough to use tritium, it is dark enough the require the use of either a handheld or WML, which negates the need for tritium sights. While not a false statement, at least not totally, it over simplifies the problem. You will also have people say tritium sights are only useful in the early light of dawn, or the waning light of sunset, when there is enough light for positive target ID, but not enough light for gaining a quick sight picture. Also mostly true. For the people that say that, I would ask them how much time they have spent in an urban setting at night, because the lighting conditions pretty well replicate those of early dawn or evening sunset. To help illustrate this point, I took some pictures.

As you can tell in the pictures, there are gradients of light in an urban setting. Sometimes you have enough light to see the sights without any assistance, sometimes you don’t, and a lot of times having little glowing dots on your sights will help a lot in getting a quick sight picture. That perfect time at dawn and dusk where tritium night sights are most useful gets replicated pretty well at night when there is a lot of ambient light around. Are they absolutely necessary, no, but picking up non-illuminated sights in these types of conditions is significantly harder that picking up illuminated sights.

Quote | Posted on by | 3 Comments

A Companion Page

I decided to create a companion Facebook page for my blog. The idea is to have a place to post links to my own content on a platform that is easier to follow, and also have a place to post links to other relevant content that is not my own. I hope to keep a pretty steady stream of posts on the page related to performance shooting. Enjoy

Quote | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Two Schools of Thought: A reload story

There are a lot of different ways to reload a revolver. There is an incredible number of minor variations. We are not going to dive into the deep end on it, but we are going to dangle one foot into it. Two very distinct variations are reloading with the gun up, and in front of our body, and reloading with the gun down, and closer to our body. They each have their reasons, so lets break it down a bit.

Revolver Up Reload

The logic behind reloading the revolver with it up and in front the shooter’s face is to keep the revolver for the most part, in the shooter’s vision and the eye’s up. You actually hear this quite a bit with semi-auto reloads, the gun should remain elevated so that the shooter can see the magazine go into the magazine well, and also maintain some level of downrange awareness. It is the exact same argument with the revolver. Keeping it up and in front of the body allows the shooter to look at the reload if they need to, and also maintain a level of downrange awareness. I have heard this argument made two different places, probably the most notable being Clint Smith.

Of course, everything comes at a price. The trade off is that it is very difficult to point the gun at the ground while simultaneously holding it in an elevated position out in front of my face. This means that when the rounds are released from the speedloader to load into the cylinder, they are not as likely to fully seat in the charge holes, and can hang in the speedloader, or prevent the cylinder from being closed. One possible way to mitigate that issue would be to use a spring loaded speedloader. Probably the best for it would be the SL Variant which propels each cartridge independently, with the JetLoader and Safariland Comp III behind that.

Revolver Facing Down Reload

The other school of thought is to lower the revolver to somewhere around the belt line, with the revolver pointed directly at the ground to assist with the new cartridges falling into the cylinder after being released by the speedloader. As I understand it, this is the more traditional method, and arguably faster. The associated cost, as Clint mentions, is that if something goes wrong, the eyes tend to drop to where the problem is.

I personally reload with the revolver down, and this is my logic behind that decision.

  • A non-functioning firearm (which is what an empty revolver is), is almost useless to me in a fight. If I ran out of ammunition in the gun, that probably means my bad guy is still active, and the longer he is active without any sort of resistance on my part, the worse off I will be.
  • Loading the gun with it oriented vertically, with the muzzle down, minimizes the probability of a reload needing additional attention because a round did not fall out of the speedloader like it supposed to, or did not fully seat in the cylinder.
  • If I index the gun off my body, I am aware of its location, even if I cannot see it. So getting the reload to the revolver is not an issue. The only time it becomes an issue is if the reload hangs going into the cylinder. I can minimize my time spent looking at the revolver by only looking at the instant the cartridges are about to be lined up with the charge holes. That is the most critical point in time. I could even probably get by without doing that depending on how I hold the speedloader and index it off the cylinder.
  • I also feel like having the gun down facilitates reloading on the move a little more, as opposed to an exaggerated “up and in front” reloading position. I will be honest though, my time spent reloading on the move at this point is pretty minimal.

It is really a catch 22 though, and I don’t know that I would fault someone for doing it the other way as long as it is done relatively quickly.

What is everyone else’s thought on the revolver reload? Do you reload with the gun up, or down around the belt line, and why? I would be interested to hear what other wheel gunners are doing and their own thought processes.


Quote | Posted on by | 2 Comments

Into the fray

When I decided I was going to shoot a revolver all year and really put some energy into it, I had a few things I wanted to make sure I did. One of those is shoot some matches with a revolver. I had the opportunity to shoot a local match at Mountain Valley Shooter’s Association, and ran my latest gear set up for the match. An IWB holster and speedloader pouches with flaps are not the most competition friendly gear items, but the match allows me to test the gear while I am having to think about things other than how to draw the handgun or retrieve the reload. It just so happens MVSA was the host of the state IDPA championship last month too, so all of the stages that I shot were the same stages run in the state match and probably a little more technically difficult that normal.

I am not an avid competitive shooter, my schedule just doesn’t allow for it on a regular basis. This was the first match I had participated in that used the new IDPA rules. They seemed to work out okay, and some of the stages we shot were certainly complicated enough to push the limitations on the new cover rules and the use of fault lines. Having to shoot under a new set of rules required that I pay more attention to how I was moving and where I was moving too, which allowed less focus on the actual shooting or running the gun. That is a good thing, because it allowed for a more accurate representation of how well I can shoot and manipulate the gun.

Some of my key take aways from the match.

  1. If I am going to try and shoot matches more often, I need to match my equipment location when I carry to what is allowed in IDPA. I have been carrying my reloads on the support side of my body at the 10-10:30 position. IDPA only allows support side reloads to be carried behind the hip. Moving my reloads back caused some issues a time or two. If you watch the stage videos closely, you can see some of it.
  2. I had fairly consistent issues with not pointing the gun directly down when completing the reload. Using a gravity loader, meaning there is nothing there to force the new rounds into the cylinder like on a Comp III, rounds were hanging up in the speedloader. I am going to have to make a very concious effort to adjust my reloads slightly and make sure I am getting correct positioning to reload the gun as fumble free as possible. It is a small change, but small changes can be hard to anchor because practice reps have to be very precise.
  3. My speed on precision targets needs to be better, and I think can be better, but my confidence level does not support pressing the trigger faster, while still maintaining a high level of accuracy. The long shots, or tight closer shots, were way too slow. Slower than they probably have to be.
  4. My movement from shooting position to shooting position was really slow. I need to be much more aggressive in my movement. Who knows how much time I waste moving from one position to the next. Of course, I have never been accused of having good agility either 😉
  5. Stage planning with a 6 round gun is very important, and being able to stay on plan is just as important. This translates to being able to remember what the plan is while shooting, and knowing what my individual limitations are so that I don’t overestimate my ability to address a specific shooting problem.
  6. Ammunition management is important with a revolver. On Stage 2, I completely miscalculated the required rounds and took two make up shots that I didn’t need to. Fortunately, this was just a weekend match and they didn’t mind that I dug a speed strip out of my pocket and loaded two rounds off it to finish the stage. Still cost be a monster amount of time though.

Quote | Posted on by | 1 Comment