Tag Archives: Smith & Wesson

Comparing capabilities

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do a comparison of two very popular pocket pistols; the Airweight J Frame and the Ruger LCP. This #wheelgunwednesday, I made it happen. In this case, I used a S&W 642-2 for the Airweight.

The test I used for the comparison was the Nevada Concealed Firearms Permit Qualification Course. I used this as the graduation exercise in my Snub Nose Revolver Classes many times. It’s still one of my favorite CCW qualification courses. The course goes as follows:

The humanoid target, B27 or B21 or equivalent as determined by the firearm instructor shall be utilized.

For 6 shot or higher capacity:

3 yards 6 rounds              No time limit      Freestyle

5 yards 12 rounds           No time limit      Freestyle

7 yards 12 rounds           No time limit      Freestyle

For 5 shot or lower capacity:

3 yards 5 rounds              No time limit      Freestyle

5 yards 10 rounds           No time limit      Freestyle

7 yards 10 rounds           No time limit      Freestyle

A total of 30 rounds for 6 shot or larger capacity, 25 rounds for 5 shot capacity must be fired. A 70% minimum (18/25, 21/30) must be scored to pass.

Notice that as with the majority of State Qualification Courses for Private Citizens, drawing from the holster is not required. Nevada is not one of the States that forbid drawing from the holster, so I include a little holster work.

The way I did the test was to:

  • Use the -1 zone of the IDPA target. Then, I fold the bottom tapered part up behind the target. This gives an area approximating the FBI QIT target, which I like.
  • Shoot 25 rounds with both guns, even though the LCP would fall into the ‘6 shot of higher capacity’ category. This gives an apples to applies comparison of the two guns.
  • Conduct the first Stage as five individual one shot draws.
  • Do the second and third stages as two individual strings of five shots each.
  • Carry the 642-2 in an AIWB holster, concealed under a polo shirt.
  • Carry the LCP in a pocket holster.
  • Start the draws with hand on gun.
  • Start the Five shot strings with the gun at Low Ready, aimed below the base of the target.

In the end, I was able to achieve slightly better results with the 642-2 (19.87 seconds) than with the LCP (20.71 seconds). I’m not sure a 4% difference is worth writing home to Mom about, though.

NV CFP 642

NV CFP LCP

Both guns were mostly stock. The front sights on both are painted with Fluorescent Orange paint. The LCP has a Hogue Hybrid Handall installed. This makes the gun much more pleasant to shoot and I highly recommend it. The 642-2 wears Sile rubber stocks, which are no longer made, unfortunately. No special trigger work has been done on either, other than a fair amount of dry practice.

In the end, either of these in your pocket will provide more personal protection than some big honking clunky autoloader that gets left home. What’s the best concealed carry handgun? The one you have on you.

How much does barrel length matter?

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.

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Wheelgunning at the Tactical Conference

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.

RM 2001 trophy crop

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
  • Followthrough

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.

Sat Snub 3

Photo credit: Roka Arms

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.

Wheelgun action 7 (2)

Photo credit: Philip Young III‎

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.

speedloader carrier

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.

2018 RM Course of Fire crop

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.

Shooting M65 in semifinals

Photo credit: Tamara Keel

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.

Shootoff array

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.

TacCon 2018 schedule

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.

Revolvers do break

The two loudest sounds when shooting are:

  • A bang when expect a click
  • A click when you expect a bang

A click when you expect a bang with centerfire revolvers often means that tools will be involved in fixing the problem. An example is a broken hammer nose on older Smith & Wesson revolvers. Until the 1990s, these revolvers had the ‘firing pin’ integral with the hammer. S&W refers to this part as the ‘hammer nose.’ If it breaks, nothing short of replacing it will make the revolver fire.

Two steel J Frame revolvers are compared in this picture. The tip of the hammer nose circled in red has broken off. It will require replacement before the snub will be functional again.

broken hammer nose edit crop

S&W changed the design of its revolvers before the Turn of the Century. The firing pin was moved to the frame from the hammer. But there are millions of older S&W revolvers that have the hammer nose design. Issues have arisen in the past because S&W has not manufactured the part in many years. They were available on the used part market but the supply was spotty. There are now two sources for newly manufactured J Frame hammer noses.

Power Custom

Jack First Gun Parts

This part is best installed by a qualified gunsmith. It may require minor fitting. The hammer nose rivet that holds it in place may also need to be replaced.

The Model 36 with the broken hammer nose was manufactured sometime before 1975. It has been through considerable live fire and dry practice. When using an older gun, it’s a good idea to inspect them on a regular basis to see if any parts have broken. The hammer nose in particular will not cause an obvious change in function if it breaks but the gun will not fire.

Caveat Emptor

Know what you’re buying. This is even more important when you can’t see it in person. When it’s an intangible, such as information, you must be especially careful.

As part of my research for The J Frame Project, I was perusing eBay last night for J Frame stocks. One of the items I came across was a ‘Hogue Tamer‘ for a very low price. It didn’t look quite right (a color I didn’t recognize Hogue ever making) so I czeched into it a bit further. I realized that someone had replaced the stock on their Polymer Bodyguard with the Tamer and then put the Bodyguard stock back in the Tamer package.

faux hogue tamer

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