Range Report- 7Sept.2018-They all Begin with ‘3’

Good day of shooting at Champion Arms in Kent Washington!  Trying out new loads in .38 Special and .38 S&W, and brought some .32 S&W Long along because it has been too long since I shot the Detective Special.

The story begins with the Astra Police .38.  I’ve covered this in a previous blog so I won’t go into too much, but it’s a large-frame double-action revolver, somewhere around the size of a S&W L-Frame. They have a quick-release cylinder and you could get .38 Special or .357 Magnum cylinders. FN sold a very slightly modified version as the Barracuda with a .38/.357 cylinder and a 9mm cylinder, the only revolver FN has officially offered.

This gun has an excellent trigger, light, very smooth with no stacking. This is especially nice as the previous owner bobbed the hammer, so it is effectively double-action only. The sights are fixed but reasonably good. I enjoyed shooting this gun so much I ran through an entire box of ammo before I realized it.


My first group of the day, 7 yards rapid-fire.

This was shot standing unsupported at 25 yards. As you can see from the taped holes this was my third go, and I decided it just wasn’t going to get better.

The customized factory grips are very comfortable and easy on the hand, even with peppy loads. The first group was shot with 158gr. LSWCs over 4.3gr. of Unique with a CCI500 primer.  The 25-yard group was shot with 125gr. Montana Gold Brass-Plated Hollow-points over 5.3gr. of Unique with a CCI500 Primer.

Interesting thing with the Montana Gold hollow-points- the ammo loaded with them were mostly a very tight fit in the chambers, and some could not even be chambered at all. I have since heard that others have had this problem as well; apparently the procedure is to run them through a resizing die after seating the bullets. Live and learn, eh?

Moving on to the Fitz Special (no not a real one) I remembered that it shoots quite low. Naturally I only remember this at the range, not in my workshop where I could do something about it…

Rapid-fire at seven yards. Yep, still shoots low.

I didn’t spend a lot of time with the Fitz this time out- I was running out of ammo and I had dug out an old favorite- The Shopkeeper, a custom Cimarron Richards Mason Conversion belly gun. This is a seriously sweet-shooting gun. Light mainspring, super-crisp mechanism, good trigger. At one time this was my absolute favorite revolver, and it’s a near-run thing even now.

The photo on the left is a couple of cylinders fired at a rate of 1 shot/second. Yes, there are only nine holes- one bullet failed to ignite despite a heavy dimple in the primer. I’ve had reason to be unhappy with my latest brick of CCI500 Small Pistol Primers- this has happened rather a lot.  The photo on the right was aimed at the center of the target, and I screwed up my site alignment- but at least I did it consistently…

OK, firing this gun at a 25 yard target is ridiculous. This of course has never stopped me… I taped up the second target shown above and ran it all the way out.

OK, given the gun I don’t find this disgraceful. Five shots at 25 yards

That was pretty much the end of the .38 Special ammo- at least the ammo that would fit in a chamber… So. on the the next caliber- .38 S&W.

I brought two S&W .38 Double Action Safety Hammerless (4th Model) revolvers- The Steampunk Snubby and a very similar gun I put together for my wife… who decided she didn’t like shooting it. Linda’s has a nickel finish, has period Mother of Pearl grips and an aluminum grip adapter I made for it. The Steampunk Snubby is blued and has custom Desert Ironwood grips. This gun is one I carry around the shop, and out-and about when I need to be particularly discreet.

I haven’t shot Linda’s gun much, so I was curious to see how it would do. the trigger is not light, but it’s very, very smooth.


Shoots a bit high- the taped-over group was fired at the center of the target, this group was aimed at the lower edge of the paper.  7 Yards, rapid-fire.

First group of the day with this gun, fired at seven yards. I’m afraid I bent the range rules a bit- this is five shots in about 2-1/2 seconds. Well, the gentlemen running the range let it pass, so no harm no foul.

I was testing a new load this week. My standard load is a .361″ 150gr. SWC over 2.5gr. of Unique with a CCI500 primer.  Since my bore slugged at .361 this is perfect. These bullets are a finite resource however; they came from an estate sale, and Pinto’s has been trickling them out for some time but they are about used up.  I needed to find another bullet and load that would work, so I decided to experiment with a .357″ lead bullet, a 158gr. LSWC. I loaded these over 2.7gr. of Unique.

They worked a treat- accurate and no signs of key-holing. They do have notably more snap to them that my usual load, and I would not recommend them for some of the lower quality top-breaks; there is some likelihood a steady diet of these loads might cause them to shoot loose in short order.

I spent a good bit of time with this gun, firing strong and weak hand as well as my usual grip. The gun performed flawlessly, as expected, and as always was a pleasure to shoot.

Last but not least I trotted out my Colt Detective Special chambered in .32 New Police. Yeah, that’s just what they called .32 S&W long so that they wouldn’t have to mark ‘S&W’ on their gun. This gun was made in 1949 and fitted with a factory hammer shroud,  period after-market Franzite fake stag grips and a Tyler T-grip. The hot set-up in 1953 I am sure.

This gun has the best double-action trigger of any of my guns, and damn near the best I’ve ever experienced. It is in fact the gun that bumped The Storekeeper out of it’s number 1 slot as my favorite. The load used today was a 96gr. LRNFP over 2.5gr. of Red Dot with a CCI500 Primer. I did something a bit different today; I fired a rapid-fire group at 7 yards, taped it up and ran the target out to 10 yards, taped it, 15 yards, taped it, rinse and repeat for 20 and 25 yards. The results were interesting, and go a long way towards explaining why I love this gun! All groups were shot rapid-fire to see what would happen:

Once again breaking the speed limit, this target was fired at 7 yards.

10 yards

15 yards

20 yards

25 yards. Don’t know where the other two went, but I suspect I pulled one to the left and the other low.

I haven’t practiced a huge amount with this gun, but that is going to change. I really, really like shooting this old Colt, and I cannot help but think that with more practice I could improve on these results. After this I fired up the rest of the rounds I had on hand, and then tried an experiment. I had a box of Fiocchi .32 ACP on hand, and I tried them in the Colt. Since this is a semi-rimmed cartridge there was no problem shooting them in a revolver, and they worked just fine and ejected cleanly and easily. The seemed slightly less powerful than my handloads and accuracy was what I expect from this gun.


Both targets were shot rapid-fire at seven yards with .32 ACP ball ammo. The left target was shot weak hand, the right shot strong-hand. Interestingly, since the gun has a short-stroke ejector the .32 ACP rounds were actually easier to eject that the .32 S&W Lo– uh, excuse me, .32 Colt New Police empties were.

I really, really like this gun. In my last post i mentioned that .22, .25 and .32 had about three times the failure rate of larger calibers in stopping an attacker with head and torso hits. Despite that I would not hesitate to bet my life on this gun, particularly if it were loaded with some of the stout Buffalo Bore SWCs. I am quite confident that I could put the rounds where they need to go if it should come to that.

So, a really great day at the range.  I wish I had loaded more of the LSWCs in .38 Special; I had my S&W M1905 M&P along, and it would not chamber the 125gr. loads at all, so it didn’t get fired at all.  Still, I can’t complain- it was a great way to start out the weekend!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 7 September 2018











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