Monday, April 29, 2019

Are Revolvers Relevant? Part 3

With all the arguments, anecdotes, and misinformation regarding revolvers and semi autos it's finally time to go through a list of the pros and cons of a revolver as a primary lethal force option.  I'm going to list the actual pros and cons as well as some misinformation and try to address them in detail.


  • Simplicity of operation
    The epitome of the point and click firearm.  No external safeties to disengage.
  • Resistant to neglect
    It's not uncommon to find a loaded revolver in a glove compartment or sock drawer that has been there for decades and will still function without issue.
  • Less prone to negative effects from pocket carry
    Pocket lint can clog up a small semi auto to the point that it won't function after the first shot.  The resistance to pocket lint applies more to Centennial style revolvers than those with exposed hammers.
  • Inherently accurate
    A fixed barrel helps with accuracy.  This doesn't mean that all revolvers are more accurate than other pistols, just that most are accurate enough to be useful as a defensive tool at distances out to twenty yards.
  • Less prone to ammo sensitivity
    You can load up each chamber with a different load from a different manufacturer and not have one affect the subsequent function of the next, unlike semi auto pistols that rely on a certain amount of force from the fired cartridge to reliably cycle the next.
  • Easy to clear failure to fire procedure
    Cartridge doesn't go bang?  Hard Primer? Press the trigger again.  Not many semi auto shooters can boast less than one half second to clear a Failure To Fire.
  • Vast array of grip options
    There are entire companies devoted to making grips or stocks for revolvers.  While it might be difficult to find options for some of the newer designs on the market, it's usually possible to adapt a revolver to various hand sizes and preferences.
  • Less prone to feed issues in confined spaces or entanglement
    It's almost impossible to grasp a revolver and keep it from firing.  It's also not as prone to interference from clothing.
  • Long trigger press
    There's a sizable segment of serious students of defensive pistol craft that prefer a longer trigger press.  This helps provide one with time to think while under stress.
  • Can be fire from within a pocket
    I kept this separate from enclosed and entangled spaces because many people prefer to carry a small revolver in a jacket pocket.


  • Limited on board ammo
    Even the larger guns only carry eight rounds of ammo.  
  • Long trigger press
    The length of travel and relatively heavy weight of a double action revolver trigger can be hard for some to learn and master.
  • Relatively heavy
    Most revolvers weigh more than their similarly sized semi auto counterparts.
  • Slow reloads
    Very few revolver shooters can reload as fast as a semi auto shooter.
  • Reloads revolve around loose ammo
    Revolver reloads require getting each cartridge properly aligned with each chamber.
  • Can't mount a WML
    With the exception of only a couple of designs, revolvers don't come with picatinny style rails.  There are some grip options that provide a light that do not have much of a following.
  • Less accepting of abuse
    You can run a quality semi auto hard with minimal maintenance and expect thousands of rounds without issues.  Not so with a revolver.
  • More felt recoil
    The lack of a reciprocating slide and recoil spring mean that only the weight and mass of a revolver provide recoil absorption.
  • Major jams require tools to correct
    A high primer or bullet jumping the crimp will lock up a revolver to the point that hand tools will be necessary to correct.  
  • Relatively expensive
    Revolvers typically cost more than their equivalently sized, semi auto counterparts.

Hang around gun stores, shooting ranges, or firearms related pages on the internet and you'll most likely hear some well worn sayings like the following in regards to double action revolvers.


  • Six For Sure!This refers to the common belief that the first six shots of a six shot revolver will fire without fail.  This came about during the first few decades of semi auto firearms development when things were still getting figured out.  
  • Revolvers Don't Jam!Similar to the Six For Sure concept that revolvers aren't prone to ammunition failings.  In fact most serious revolver shooters have seen that this is not always the case as high primers, bullets jumping the crimp, or moving forward out of the case, dirt and trash under the extractor star, and the extractor rod working loose can and jam a revolver to the point that tools or even a gunsmith are required to correct.
  • Revolvers Are More Accurate
    Again this harkens from the days when gun designers were still figuring out what worked and what didn't as well as ammo design.  The belief that a revolver with a fixed barrel is inherently more accurate than a semi-auto.  Nowadays we've learned that there are many variables that affect accuracy and it's much easier to produce a very accurate semi auto than revolver.
  • Revolvers Are Simpler
    Not in the slightest.  Double Action revolvers are complex machines made up of many moving parts which typically require hand fitting for all to operate properly.
  • Revolvers Are Suitable For Novice Shooters
    That's a grey area.  Revolvers require work to learn to shoot well.  While it's true the manual of arms is simpler, the actual process of shooting, sight alignment, trigger press, maintaining sight alignment during trigger press, and follow through is typically harder for newer shooters to gain rapid proficiency with.
  • Revolvers Are Better For People With Limited Hand Strength
    There are a lot of folks that assume that if one doesn't have the necessary hand strength to cycle the slide on a semi auto pistol that a double action revolver with a 12-15# trigger weight will be a suitable alternative.
  • Revolvers Fit Small Hands Better
    This is another grey area.  There are a lot more choices for grips or stocks for revolvers than semi-autos, this provides myriad options for shooters however, this statement is usually used in reference to the typically smaller hands of women who are then told that a light weight J frame in .38 or even .357 is what they need.  Those guns are brutal to shoot and people that recommend them to new or casual shooters are destined to the same pit of hell as those who talk in the movie theater.
This will conclude the third part of this series.  Expect the final installment in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, April 26, 2019

S&W Model 67 Sight Insert Repair

In 1936 an FBI Special Agent by the name of Frank Baughman approached Smith and Wesson and requested a revolutionary departure from the typical front sight of the era.  Prior to this shooters had a choice of a half moon styled front sight that was very narrow and difficult to see without good lighting conditions, or a Patridge style sight that was specific to target shooting.  Neither was very useful to the defensive use of a revolver.

Baughman's ramp saw further adaptation in 1952 with the addition of a dovetail cut in the ramp and a red colored, plastic insert installed.  Called the Blanchard Front Sight many shooters have found this to aid the rapid acquisition of their sights and prefer this option.  S&W has installed thousands of these types of Blanchard Sights on all of their revolvers over the past seventy seven years.

Several years ago a friend gave me a four inch model 67 that had seen better days.  Among the signs of use was the red plastic insert barely holding in place.  I had intentions of building it into an IDPA revolver and started the process of cleaning it up and had the chambers chamfered.  I pulled out the insert and used some paint in the dovetail for the time being.  I had intentions of filing out the dovetail and creating a semi Patridge style front sight but never got around to it.  After shooting several matches I put the 67 away as personal commitments cut deeply into my IDPA time.

Fast forward to now and I've decided that I want to start shooting the 67 again.  As I'm a bit more cognizant of the relative values of some of the older S&W revolvers I decided that I'd leave the forged front sight alone but wanted to fix the gaping hole left by the lack of the insert.  Also, I don't like the red ramps.

View of the dovetail with paint.
Side view of the dovetail.

The first actionable step of any project is preparation.  In this case I acquired some silicone sealant and orange paint.  Then I had to clean the old paint from the dovetail and remove the remnants of the old insert.
Overhead view of the cleaned dovetail and retention holes.  I have to wonder if all the holes are off centered or if mine is unique.
Once the dovetail was cleaned I mixed up a concoction of the silicone and paint.  I was looking for a bright color for contrast and believe I was successful.
Concoction of silicone and paint.

The trick to this project is having something to provide a form so that your concoction won't flow out of the dovetail.  I used a couple of scrap pieces of leather and a binder clip however, you can use most any material.
Allowing the sealant to set.

Once the concoction had set firmly enough to hold without the need of the form pieces, I removed the binder clip and leather and trimmed with an X-ACTO knife.

The final product.  It's not perfect but acceptable for a first attempt.

There are a few steps left to turning this into a solid competition pistol.  I'm going to disassemble the model 67 and install heat shrink over the trigger.  This model had a serrated trigger that tends to abuse my trigger finger during longer range session or in matches.  Claude Werner, aka The Tactical Professor clued me in to the use of heat shrink.  Look forward to another picture heavy post when I take on this project in the next few weeks.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

S&W 43C Two Years Later

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.      
Marcus Aurelius

All too often we will hear a quote that goes something like, "I've had my  pistol for thirty years and it has served me well."  That statement is one of the weakest attempts at an appeal to authority ever devised.  For instance, I have a Remington Model 11 that belonged to my dad for close to fifty years.  A few years after he gave it to me I took an interest in sporting clays and drug out that old Model 11 to try my hand at knocking little orange disks out of the sky.  As most folks shotgun folks know, a round of sporting clays is 100 targets, plus a few extras for bad throws and such.  I told my dad about my adventure and he commented that I had shot more shells in one afternoon with that gun than he had in the preceding fifty years.

Think about that for a moment.  Fifty. Years. Less than 100 shells.  But guess what?  That shotgun had served him well.  It went bang every time he pulled the trigger.  By any definition that is reliable service, even if it were an average of two shots per year.

If you've made it this far you're probably scratching your head, maybe rolling your eyes thinking that Wheeler Dood has finally let senility catch up to him and he's rambling.  What possible relevance does an old, outdated shotgun getting shot twice a year have to do with a S&W .22 caliber revolver?  In this case my ramblings are designed to illustrate a point.

I've shot and carried the 43C for two years now.  Last year I ran 1,275 rounds through it.  Most of that was bulk pack ammo, specifically the Federal Red Box sold at Walmart.  There were 19 failures to fire, all ammo related.  That's a 1.4% failure rate over all.  At face value that seems questionable however, I also tracked the use of my carry ammo, specifically CCI Stingers.

At roughly $6.50/50 Stingers are rather pricey for 22 ammo but about half the cost of most 9mm bulk ammo.  So of those 368 rounds of Stingers I fired I had 0 failures.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.  So when I say something like, "I've carried my 43C for two years and it has served me well..."  Well, I might just know what I'm talking about.

So how has the 43C held up thus far?  It's been pocket carried for those two years.  When I say it's my EDC I mean it's actually carried every day.  It's not part of the rotation, it doesn't get swapped out except at the range.  It is my primary carry the vast majority of the time.  When it's not my primary, it's because it has become my secondary or tertiary lethal force option.  In other words I'm wearing a pistol in a belt holster and carrying a long gun. 

I've swapped out the OEM stocks for a modified set of DeSantis Clip Grip stocks.  There is lead build up in the opening of the shroud surrounding the muzzle.  I've shot it from contact distance to 100 yards.  At fifty yards I can place all eight rounds on a USPSA Practice Target.  At fifteen yards I can place all eight in the B zone of the head box.  I've cleaned the TDA Dot Torture with it five times at three yards and shot a 49 from five.  My point is not to brag about my abilities but to point out the accuracy and reliability of the ultra light J frame.

Smith and Wesson hit a home run with these small revolvers.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Are Revolvers Relevant? Part 2

Most serious students of the defensive pistol will only grudgingly acknowledge that a revolver is a suitable defensive tool, usually with the caveat that they make great back up guns, pocket guns, and are preferable for entangled fights.  The idea that one might choose to carry one as primary lethal force option is usually met with a incredulity, closely followed with either a remark about "Old School Cool", or a less pleasant reference the "Fudds."  In other words, most folks view carriers of revolvers as some sort of gun hipster or an old curmudgeon, neither of which has realized that reality has surpassed his or her understanding.

When discussing the revolver as a viable primary lethal force option, what usually crops up are instances, real or imagined, of fighting off multiple attackers and the need for more on board ammo, relative size, relative weight, relative speed of reloads and the need or lack of need for a reload, so forth and so on.  So why in the world would anyone choose a firearm that has remained virtually unchanged in over 100 years, with a relatively inferior cartridge, as their primary means of lethal force?

Let's start off with comparisons.


A CZ P-07 and S&W 631.  There's not a lot of difference in size
One of the strongest and most often cited arguments against revolvers is the relative size to a compact semi-auto.  As we can see here there is not much difference in actual size between this J frame and compact 9mm pistol.

CZ P07 and S&W Model 10.  Once the standard for a police sidearm, the 4" small frame revolver has been supplanted with a compact pistol.

The disparities in size and weight are even greater when compared to the ubiquitous K frame revolver.  Shown above is a 4" Model 10, which was the standard by which all duty weapons were judged for decades.  The 10-8 pictured above is superbly accurate and a pleasure to shoot.  Unloaded the model 10 weighs around 34 ounces while the P-07 weighs 27 ounces.  Those numbers are startling to a lot of people.  Loaded with 15 rounds the P-07's weight is approximately 34 ounces, the same as the unloaded Model 10.  The model 10's weight comes in at 37 ounces loaded, so the difference isn't as large once ammo is factored into the equation.  Obviously those numbers will vary depending on bullet weights and so forth.  I used two fairly popular loads for this.  The 9mm is a 124 grain +P jacketed hollow point and the .38 Special is a 158 grain +P lead, semi-wadcutter hollow point.  Suffice it to say the weight differences in possible in ammunition aren't enough to matter for our purposes.
Model 10-8 with six rounds of .38 Spl 158 grain +P LSWCHP.

P-07 with 15 rounds of 9mm +P PDX JHP.

Accuracy and Reliability:

With the glaringly obvious differences is weight and on board ammunition capacity it would seem that there is a fairly strong argument for the P07 or a similarly sized pistol.  What about accuracy? Reliability? Ease of use?

I've found both both to be very accurate.  Accuracy is partially ammo dependent however, with good loads either pistol is capable of good accuracy at ranges out to twenty yards.  I haven't tested either further than that at this point.

Both guns are quire reliable.  Ammunition is once again a large part of reliable function.  The use of good ammo has shown me that both guns are quite dependable.

Ease Of Use:

Ease of use is very subjective and covers quite a few specific fundamentals.
  • Trigger Press/Pull

    Many people struggle with the long and sometimes heavy trigger pull of a double action revolver and will turn to striker fired pistols such as a Glock or M&P to address that particular issue.  Picking a gun that has a relatively easy trigger press to master allows one to concentrate on other areas, such as proper sight alignment, follow through, manual of arms, reloading, etc.  Many if not most firearms instructors prefer striker fired pistols for their students as it makes it easier to teach fundamentals.

    A double action revolver on the other hand, has a long distance of trigger travel before the sear is tripped and the hammer drops, firing the gun.  One must concentrate on the fundamentals mentioned above while trying to learn that particular trigger press.
  • Sights and Sight Alignment

    Both revolvers and semi autos typically have what is referred to as a notch and post style sighting systems.  I do realize that current advances in dot style systems have been made and are gaining acceptance in many circles.  I may address that particular system at a different time but, don't feel as it's relevant to this particular discussion.

    Most fixed sight revolvers such as our Model 10-8 have a rear notch that is cut in the frame and a Baughman style ramp sight out front.  The Bauggman Ramp was conceived prior to WW2 and was a vast improvement over the half moon style front sight of the time.  When viewed from the rear it appears to be a square post much like a patridge sight

    Semi autos intended for defensive or combat purposes come with a plethora of sighting options.  Most are still a notch and post setup with a squared off front sight post.

    At first it would seem that both are close enough to not matter however, many shooters complain about the difficulty in getting a good sight picture with a narrow rear notch and ramp style front sight.  Notch and post sighting systems require the shooter to be able to get a crisp view of the front sight when aligning the sights on the target.  That usually requires the rear notch has to be wider than the front post to allow enough light on both sides of the post to provide good contrast.  Sound complicated?  The science of it is, the end result for us as shooters is not.  Most folks determine what works best for them through trial and error.
  • Fitment to hand

    The ability to properly grasp a handgun and fire it while maintaining control can not be over stated.  Revolvers have long held an advantage in this area.  With a design that has remained relatively unchanged for 120 years the options for grips, or what is more properly referred to as stocks are virtually unlimited.

    Manufacturers of semi auto pistols have only recently acknowledged this deficiency.  The old response was to purchase a different sized pistol that might fit one's hands well enough that they could learn to use it adequately.  More credence has been given to the necessity to proper hand fit with various grip adapters, palm swell panels, back straps, and in the case of some of the more modular designs, entirely different frames.  The widespread acceptance of various polymers for inexpensive frame construction has more likely been the impetus for this nod by the industry to closer meet the needs of their consumers.

In conclusion both guns are relatively easy to shoot, albeit the revolver takes more effort to learn to shoot well, accurate, reliable, and weigh about the same to carry.  At this stage the only difference that isn't subjective is the amount of ammo one can carry on board.  An astute reader may have noticed that I have left out the speed and ease of reloads as well as carrying spare ammo.  That's another conversation entirely that I hope to address in future writings.

I had hoped to cover both the Pros and Cons of revolvers in this post.  As I started writing I realized that to cover this with any level of detail wasn't going to happen in a typical blog post.  The next segment will be broken down into the actual Pros and Cons.