First in a series about ‘Running the Snub.’
In a discussion of revolver reloading techniques on my 1000 Days of Dryfire Facebook group, I posted a video of myself shooting the Alabama State IDPA Championship with a snub revolver.
The video generated the following question, which I think is worth some discussion and explanation.
Claude, I watched your video, and to me, you display amazing recoil management – the gun hardly moves. I was under the impression that snubbies are especially hard to shoot and control, particularly in this skill area. Can you share what you are doing to control recoil so well? Maybe details on how you grip the gun, and what kind of load you are firing?
Let’s deal with the simple questions first. I was shooting a two inch K frame at the Championship, which weighs almost twice what an Airweight J Frame does. That has some effect on the recoil management. The load I was using was my IDPA handload, which is ballistically equivalent to 158 grain Round Nose Lead standard pressure. I prefer not to use lead bullets so my load used a plated bullet.
The next issue to deal with is “snubbies are especially hard to shoot and control.” That’s been ‘common knowledge’ among the shooting community for as long as I can remember but how true is it? Like many other aspects of ‘common knowledge’ among gun industry common taters, I’m skeptical about that. So, I decided to do a little more Comparative Testing.
The test I chose was 5^4 (5 rounds in no more than 5 seconds at 5 yards into a 5 inch or less group). The 5^4 protocol was originally developed by Gila Hayes of the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network for her book, Effective Defense: The Woman, the Plan, the Gun and subsequent later editions. .
Having acquired a Ruger LCR, I decided to put it to the test. Once again the timer and the target tell an interesting story. To make the day a good #wheelgunwednesday, I took four revolvers out; Ruger LCR, S&W 642-2 Airweight J Frame, S&W Model 36-1 (3 inch), and my EDC S&W 43C. The LCR had a Rogers Enhanced LCR stock, the 642-2 wore Sile rubber stocks, the 36-1 had Pachmayr Compac stocks, and the 43C used the standard factory boot grip. Ammunition for the .38s was Tula steel case and for the 43C, CCI Stingers just as I load it for carry.
The test I used for the comparison was my 5^5 drill; five shots in five seconds at five yards into a five inch circle five times in a row. I made up a target for the test so that I could record the times and results on one sheet. The circle is a CD, so it is actually 4.75 inches in diameter, not 5 inches. The markers bleed through and I shoot the back to reduce visual confusion. After shooting each run, I wrote the time on the target.
The very first shots confirmed something I’ve said for a long time; ‘feel’ is utterly irrelevant until the shooting starts. Even then, it needs to be tempered by measurement. The Rogers stock feels really good to handle but during the first string my immediate thought was “Whoa, this thing kicks!” I shot a second string with the 642-2 with the Sile rubber stocks as a comparison and found the recoil much less unpleasant.
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.
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.
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.
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.