Milestone

Dot Torture is one of those drills that I have been shooting for a long time. Long enough that I don’t even recall the the first time I shot it. Over time I have gradually improved my performance on the drill. First, cleaning the drill with a perfect 50 of 50 score at 3 yards. Then 50 of 50 at 5 yards. The train stopped at 7 yards though. I could never quite get past that threshold, always droping 2 or 3 rounds. Today, that changed. I shot a perfect 50 of 50 on Dot Torture from 7 yards, snd with a revolver shooting double action only. 

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The Value of Adjustable Sights

One of the cool things about revolvers is that depending on what caliber it is built for, we can usually shoot more than one caliber in the gun. Probably the most common is having a revolver chambered for .357 Magnum, which can also shoot .38 Special. The problem that can create is trying to find a round that “shoots to the sights” on a revolver with non-adjustable sights because of the huge variances in muzzle velocity and bullet weight that a revolver allows us to use. We could go from shooting a .38 Special 148gr FWC at just barely 700fps to shooting a 125gr .357 Magnum load upwards of 1,400fps. On a fixed sight gun, those two rounds likely would not shoot even close to the same Point of Impact (POI). This is where we find the value of an adjustable sight revolver. I can “zero” the sights to what load I prefer. If the revolver is going to be used for competition, I will zero with my match load and try to find a cheaper practice load that gets
close. If the gun is intended for defensive use, then I will zero with my carry load. I recently had to do this with my S&W Model 66. Because of the reload issues, I switched my carry load from the venerable 158gr +p LSWCHP to Hornady’s 135gr .357 Magnum Critical Duty. The significantly faster .357 Magnum load shot about 4″ lower than the .38 Special +p load at 25 yards. A little tweak on the sights and now the .357 Magnum load is pretty much dead center, or as close as I will be able to get it, and my reloads are now a lot easier too.

 

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Wheelgun Wednesday

A couple weeks ago, Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training shared one of my posts in his Weekend Knowledge Dump. The blog traffic skyrocketed, and guy named Justin found the blog. Turns out Justin is a revolver guy too, and runs his own blog at www.revolverguy.com. He puts out really quality stuff, you should check it out. He also did a podcast recently and shared some of his thoughts on the revolver. You can listen HERE

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The Chicken, or the Egg

The eternal question, which came first? Fortunately, the question isn’t as difficult when it comes to what comes first, training (taking a class), or practice (spending time on the range alone or with a group). This is something I have written about before on my old blog, but I was recently reminded of how important it is to learn what to do, before practicing to do it. If we start practicing a skill without having a basic understanding of what the skill should look like and why it needs to be that way, odds are we will practice incorrectly and build bad habits more than actually build the needed skill. I applaud people willing to put in the work, but sloppy work is wasted work. We have to know what we are doing before we can practice it. Be sure not to put the egg before the chicken, or the chicken before the egg, depending on your point of view. 

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Choosing a Carry Load

When it comes to picking a round to carry for defensive or duty use, I have a fairly specific set of criteria I am looking for. The number one item on the list is reliability. In a semi auto that entails reliability in functioning the firearm, and ignition reliability. With a revolver, since the functioning of the firearm isn’t dependent on the ammunition being used, that part is usually pretty simple. You just have to make sure bullets don’t jump crimp or have primers back out. The reliable ignition is still a significant consideration though. Most of the time, we keep our ammunition packed away in a closet or some other storage space in nice little boxes. That isn’t true of the ammunition we carry we on our person in our defensive firearms though. That ammunition is exposed to all the same elements that we are. Changes from hot to cold and back again, rain, humidity, sweat, all sorts of things. If our ammunition becomes compromised because the primer and/or powder charge were exposed to moisture, we are going to have problems when we are already having a really big problem. Problems on top of problems are no bueno. We can’t change ammunition being exposed to environmental elements, but we can look for design characteristics to mitigate the risk, namely, sealed primers and case mouths. This protects both the primer, and the powder charge from moisture, firearm lubricant, etc. It is cheap insurance.

After reliability we have to worry about accuracy. The round used can have a huge effect on the accuracy of the firearm. I had a Glock 23 that hated anything 180gr, but 5-rounds-of-barnes-140gr-vor-tx-from-25-yards-shot-standing-unsupportedwould shoot faster 165gr and especially 155gr like a laser. Shooting revolvers, I have also found some rounds to be more accurate than others, with a revolver this is usually the result of a more consistently loaded round due to associated higher QC standards. The more consistently manufactured a round is from one to the next, the more likely it is to be more accurate. This is what makes match grade ammunition, match grade. The rounds from one to the next are very consistent, and therefore predictable. So all that to say, buy quality ammo. Cheap ammo is usually cheap for a reason.

The next part of this is shootability. I am referring to the ability to shoot the gun/ammo combo well. Shootability is kind of a subjective standard. It will depend on what gun is being used, and the ability of the person shooting the gun. I probably am not going to run a hot .357 magnum load in a J-frame revolver. Neither am I likely to run a match lead full wad cutter in a 4″ revolver because I get away with more juice behind the bullet in a larger, heavier gun. For a full size K-frame I think the break over point is going to be a mild .357 load. Any more recoil impulse than that and I am giving up too much, the gun will get out of control, and my shooting performance will degrade. In a smaller revolver, like a J-frame or LCR, I may run a light full wadcutter, or lighter weight .38 Special like Hornady’s 110gr Critical Defense.

Outside of recoil, we also have to consider muzzle flash for use in low light environments. Usually, this issue is overblown. The idea is that if the muzzle flash off a specific round is too big and bright, it can effect our ability to see. I have shot a lot of ammo through guns at night, some with a decent amount of muzzle flash. The only time I really noticed it was when I shot a cylinder full of  Barnes Vortx 140gr .357 Magnum ammo out of a 2″ barreled revolver. So while not a common issue, and definitely not something to geek out about, it is something to keep in mind. The fix is pretty easy, run a load with a flash retardant powder. Most modern defensive loads will have it. Some of the older and/or budget loads may not.

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Remington 158gr +p LSWCHP

There is also one more category to consider, at least with a revolver, and that is reloadability. The profile of a round can greatly impact how easy it is to reload the gun. For example, a J-frame loaded with full wadcutter ammo will be a pleasure to shoot, but you probably don’t want your reload to be the same ammo. The lack of any bullet profile makes it really hard to load in a hurry. While not as bad, I found the same to be true of the venerable 158gr LSWCHP. A round like the Hornady Critical Defense with its pointed nose will work best. Other JHP designs that don’e have a huge meplat would probably work okay too.

My current carry load, Hornady .357 Mag Critical Duty

Oh yeah, and don’t forget wound ballistics. Having a round that performs as it is supposed to is also important, and hard to find when you get into the 2″ or so barrel lengths. Generally speaking, .357 Magnum will be more bark than bight from barrels less than 4″. Lighter weight rounds may over expand and not penetrate to an appropriate depth. Heavy rounds may not reliably expand. You can really geek out on ammo selection, try not to. Find something that is known to work reasonable well, and roll with it. Believe it or not, the full wadcutter is often recommended for snub guns because of the low recoil, and because it is not dependent on expansion.

The final piece of this puzzle is availability. I like to find a round that is readily available locally if possible. If I can’t find something locally, I want it to be something I can find easily online and that there seems to be a good, steady supply of. Carry ammunition has to be replaced over time, and having something that is hard to find, or that is hit or miss on the supply side, can be a pain to deal with.

To rehash really quickly, reliability is king, accuracy is important, the ability to shoot it without unduly compromising performance is preferable, everything else is nice to have. At the end of the day, how well we are able to shoot the gun under duress is more important than anything else, so go practice.

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Tuesday Training Update

Last week was a little light on the blog. I was scheduled to teach a carbine class over the weekend and amd focused my spare attention on making sure everything was ready to roll for that class. I also decided to run my revolver for the portion of the class that required transitioning to a pistol. After the first day of class, even had someone show up on day two running a Colt King Cobra.  It made me all warm and fuzzy inside.

On breaks when I got a chance or at the end of the class day, I was able to put a few more rounds through the 66 and put some drills on the shot timer.

My reloads are finally coming around, after making some changes. I ditched the “universal reload”, or a hybrid sort of competition/de Bethencourt reload. It works well with this revolver, we will see if it works well with other less optimal revolvers down the road. In the video below, I am running a Safariland Comp II from the pocket.

The reload itself took 4.23 seconds. I am not for certain why this method seems to work better, but it does, so I am rolling with it. My only guess is that I am applying less pressure to the rounds as they are being loaded into the gun, so they do not snag and hang up like they were before. Now I just have to train the technique enough that I don’t have to tell myself how to do it as I am doing it. That might take a while because I have done a huge number of reloads the “old” way. 

I of course worked some draws from concealment on a USPSA A-zone at 7 yards. The times were okay. I noted a couple snags on the draw because I didn’t clear my cover garment as well as I should have. Just fought through it amd kept going. There are no guarantees I would be able to do it perfect when it matters either. I think having the mindset in training to fight through whatever happens, as long as it isn’t a safety issue, is pretty important. 

I didn’t get it on video, but also ran a Bill Drill from the same dostance amd turned in a 2.80. Splits were in the mid .20 second range, which is pretty good for a DA gun. 

I think those times are respectable. I can see my shooting on the revolver slowly improving, and in some ways, nearing my performance with a semiauto handgun. I think the reloads will probably never be as fast, but my hope is the rest of it can be. Probably the most critical part is that my accuracy has not degraded even though I am running a DA trigger. 

I finally wrapped up the revolver shooting by doing a low light reload with the flashlight in the support hand. You can’t really see it, but if you listen you can kind of tell what is going on. 

 

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Wheel Gun Wednesday

I do have other revolvers in my life other than the one I shoot most of the time. Another favorite is the Ruger GP100 chambered in .38 Special only. For a fullsize revolver, it balances really well and is of a very carry-able size. The trigger is significantly heavier than its S&W counterpart, but I bet it is still shooting 50 years from now.

Left: S&W Model 66 Right: GP100 .38 Special

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