Author Archives: tinkerta

Two Birds, One Stone…

New grips on the Detective Special means it’s time for a trip to the range…

The First Bird-

I’ve been messing about with my .38 Detective Special, trying to come up with a set of grips that suits me. First I went with some abbreviated grips that fit the short grip frame. Too squirmy. I added a modified Tyler T-grip. Unpleasant! I made up a set of ‘classic-style’ grips in Cocobolo. Those feel great in the hand… until a stout load goes off and the trigger-guard is driven into my middle-finger with painful force.

Classic-shaped Cocobolo grips. Look great, feel good in the hand… and don’t work for me. Sorry Meatloaf, two out of three IS bad.

Screw it. I have large hands and moderately thick fingers. Time to tailor a grip to suit. I have some very nice Goncalo Alves wood on-hand, and I ran up a set, fitted them to the gun. Then I got the Foredom tool and some sanding drums and just started removing everything that didn’t feel right. Once I had the shape I sanded them up to 2000-grit and lacquered them.

Superficially this looks like a two-finger grip, but it actually isn’t. My pinky-finger wraps around the grip from underneath, giving a solid, three-finger grip.

The new grip is comfortable and gives a solid three-finger grip.

The grip isn’t just comfortable, it’s easy to grab when holstered. I did several tests where I pointed the gun at eye-level with my eyes closed. When I opened my eyes and looked the sights were lined up. All good so far, now to test them. And what better way to test them than with a series of my standard drills?

The Second Bird…

I grabbed a couple boxes of my reloads and headed for Champion Arms near Renton, WA. I shot a few cylinders full just to shake the kinks out and get a general feel for the new grips. I shot a couple of targets at 25 yards and they were, uh, not special. 6-8″ groups. Far from my best effort, but some days are like that.

Drill #1- Two-Hand Aim-and-Empty

This one is pretty simple. OK, they’re all pretty simple. Anyway, you start with the gun held in two hands at the low-ready position. Bring the gun up, acquire a sight picture and empty the gun. Don’t fire faster than you can re-acquire the sight picture. For me this was about three-to-four shots per two seconds.

I repeated this drill twice with good results. I was using a moderately stout 158gr. load, and the chunky grips really reduced the felt recoil and gave excellent control.

Drill #2- Strong-Hand Aim-and-Fire

Run a target out to five yards. Start with the gun in the strong hand at the low-ready position. Raise the gun to eye level, acquire a sight picture and fire. Get off a good, clean trigger squeeze, but don’t doddle. DO NOT ‘pre-load the trigger as you raise the gun; your finger shouldn’t touch the trigger until the gun is pointed at the target! After firing the shot take your finger off the trigger, return to the low-ready position and repeat until the gun is empty.

Drill #3 Slow Draw-and-Fire

This one is not going to work on every range because many places won’t let you work from a holster. At Champion Arms if you are a member an RO can check you out and clear you to work from a holster. If your range allows, use your carry holster.

I cobbled up this paddle-holster for my 2″ Police Positive Special, and naturally it fits the 2″ Detective Special just fine.

Place a target at five yards. Observing all proper safety measures, secure the gun in the holster and arrange your cover-garment to conceal it. Clear the cover garment, obtain a proper grip and draw the gun, keeping your finger off the trigger until the gun is pointed at the target. Obtain a sight picture then fire a single shot. Repeat.

The objective is not speed, but to perform these actions correctly and be mindful of each part of the process as you go. If you don’t get good hits slow down. This drill is about precision, not speed. You should also dry-fire practice this drill; doing on the range with live ammo is to reinforce that training, not replace it.

This isn’t a great result; I couldn’t resist speeding up, and accuracy suffered even as close as five yards. More practice is obviously in order.

The objective is to develop muscle memory, so a lot of repetitions are needed, but most of them can be dry-fired. But the actual firing is needed to reinforce this training.

Wrapping it Up

These drills are far from comprehensive, but they are useful and easy to practice on most ranges and can be a useful part of a training regimen.

So, a nice, fun day at the range, the grips worked and I got some solid drills. Good day.

Take care and stay safe

Michael Tinker Pearce, 20 September 2021

Are Revolvers Obsolete?

Much of the time a revolver will do the job, but…

Are revolvers obsolete? Yes…

…and at the same time very much No. Because real life is never simple. On the one hand for many people a light-weight polymer-framed high-capacity semi auto is an excellent choice for self defense, and as a duty weapon it has many unquestionable advantages. There’s a reason that autos have been far and away the most common military sidearms for over a century. With improvements to the weapons and ammunition in recent decades they have attained similar dominance in law enforcement.

Modern semi-autos are light, reliable and carry a lot of ammunition. They reload quickly and easily compared to a revolver. Yes, you can get pretty good with a speed-loader, but unless you’re Jerry Miculek it’s just not going to be as fast as an autoloader.

For many reasons and in many ways revolvers are obsolete compared to modern semi-auto pistols. But this does not mean they are useless or irrelevant, and there are a still a few things they do better than semi-autos.

Reliability

I’m listing this first because it’s the first thing most people think of. Yes, revolvers can and do jam, and unlike a semi-auto when they do you aren’t going to fix it easily in the field. But it’s a vanishingly rare occurrence; some folks have shot revolvers all their life and never encountered a jam. If it’s loaded and you pull the trigger it’s most likely going to go bang… and if it doesn’t a simple trigger pull gives you another chance. As FTF drills go pulling the trigger again is pretty simple.

The lightweight S&W Model 327, a genuine 21st C. revolver. Made of Scandium and Titanium with an 8-shot cylinder using moon clips, it’s light, powerful and compact.

They also are ammunition-agnostic. They aren’t picky; if it fits it shoots. Powder-puff target loads to +P screamers, the revolver just doesn’t care. Given the shoddy state of a lot of rimfire ammunition these days this is especially relevant for rimfire revolvers used for plinking, small-game hunting and even self-defense.

Would I personally choose a revolver over a semi-auto on this basis alone? No. But it’s something to think about.

Simplicity

I once heard the manual-of-arms for a revolver described thusly:

‘Open the cylinder, fill the holes with cartridges. Pull the trigger until it stops going bang. Open the cylinder and dump the empties. Repeat.

It doesn’t get a lot simpler than that. No loading magazines, no safeties, no releasing the slide, no clearing jams. Of course the latter is because if it does jam you probably can’t clear it.

Yes, I know that learning the manual-of-arms for a semi-auto isn’t rocket science, but sometimes it’s just easier for a beginner to use a revolver.

I’ve introduced a lot of people to handgun shooting over the years, and around half of them have found the relative simplicity of revolvers appealing. Not being experienced shooters they didn’t realize that the heavy double-action pull was supposed to be a problem and did just fine with them. My ex-wife, at 5’2″ and 100lbs soaking wet, handled my Model 36 like a pro in her Women’s Armed Self-Defense class.

A lot of them went on to semi-autos in time, but the revolver was their gateway-drug. If a new shooter wants to shoot a wheel-gun don’t explain to them why you think it’s a bad choice; it’s certainly better than nothing and it gets them shooting.

Power

Th single-action .44 Magnum revolver is still the go-to choice for a hunting handgun.

By and large revolvers are available in more powerful cartridges than semi-autos. Yes, there are magnum semi-autos, but they’re rare and expensive beasts. If you want a powerful repeating handgun for hunting or long-range target shooting the revolver remains the weapon of choice.

My ‘peeing-in-the-woods-OMG-is-that-a-bear-gun,’ a Taurus Model 415 .41 magnum. Only slightly larger and heavier than a K-frame S&W it’s a great comfort on trips into the great outdoors.

.44 Magnum and .454 Casull are both popular choices for big-game hunting and self-defense against dangerous game, and the revolvers that chamber these rounds are lighter, cheaper and more reliable than their semi-auto counterparts. We can argue all day about the real-world utility of handguns chambered in .45-70 or .500 S&W, but at the end of the day if you want that level of power and more than one shot revolvers are where it’s at.

Light Weight

An alloy-frame S&W J-frame is lighter than any of the popular service-caliber polymer semi-autos used for self-defense. In some seasons and places minimal clothing is necessary for comfort and to blend in. In those cases dropping an air-weight J-frame in a pocket can be a lot easier to manage than a similarly sized semi-auto. Yes, it’s only five shots, but five is infinitely better than none.

At 13.7 oz. an Airweight J-frame packs a lot of punch for little weight.

In fact you can buy an ultra-light revolver in nearly any caliber you’re masochistic enough to shoot. In activities like hiking, deep-woods hunting and similar activities weight can matter a lot.

People Like Them

This may seem a silly basis for choosing a weapon to bet your life on, but is it? A gun you like is a gun you’ll practice with, and a gun you practice with is more likely to save your life when you need it.

It’s axiomatic that the gun you have with you when you need it is the right gun, and a gun you find comfortable, convenient and that you like is more likely to be there when you need it.

Colt Police Positive Special made in 1909. I love this gun and find it comfortable and easy to shoot fast and well. There are worse criteria for choosing a concealed-carry pistol.

Suited to Purpose

For special applications like hunting a revolver is still the weapon of choice. Even in applications like civilian self-defense it can be a valid choice depending on the individuals life, anticipated threats and circumstances. Most self-defense shootings are at point-blank range and are resolved in 2-3 shots, and a revolver will deliver those shots with great reliability.

Obsolete?

For many applications they very much are. There are good and valid reasons police and militaries have overwhelmingly chosen semi-automatics for duty use. There is simply no arguing that for them more shots are better, semi-autos reload faster and are more resistant to extreme environmental conditions. Modern semi-auto pistols are the go-to choice for professionals who rely on their weapons every day, and they should be. But…

Revolvers are inarguably still relevant, and not just to ‘Fudds’ and old farts like me; a lot of younger folks find their qualities serve their needs well. There are good reasons why companies like Colt, Kimber and others keep introducing new models, and people keep buying them. Despite the proliferation of excellent, reliable and affordable semi-autos people still find revolvers attractive and useful, and they just keep chugging along.

One of my go-to carry guns, a Colt Detective Special.

Do I carry a revolver? Pretty often, though I do carry semi-automatics frequently as well. I’m confident in my abilities with them and they suit the sort of needs I feel I am most likely to encounter in day-to-day life. At the end of the day that’s what they need to do.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 September 2021

Guns, see… Guns is Whatcha’ Call Notional.

Nice 25-yard double-action group, but where’s the 5th bullet? Well, lemme tell ya…

A long-awaited range day today was, uh, interesting. Got some decent shooting in with the ‘new’ Detective Special, but even that got odd. Let me tell ya about it…

Our First Contestant is…

…the celebrated Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45. I’d picked up some random cast 200gr. LSWCs and loaded them over 6.3gr. of Universal with a Winchester WLP primer. Good medium-power load. Let the weirdness begin…

Insert a magazine, rack the slide… and the gun doesn’t go into battery. Huh. The Detonics doesn’t normally do that. I press the back of the slide lightly and it goes into battery. Aim fire, jam. Not in battery and this time it’s not going to be. OK, drop the mag, rack the slide and an empty case pops out spraying unburned powder everywhere. Looking into the chamber I see… the bullet. I dislodged it with a cleaning rod and looked it over. Yeah, that’s not right…

If you thing the base of the bullet is smaller than the nose you’ve got good eyes…

It almost looks like a heel-base bullet. The part inside the case is .451, the nose, which was outside the case, is .458. Its a .458 bullet, as might be loaded in a .45-70. Weird. I mean, who loads a .45-70 with a 200gr. bullet? OK, there are other .458 guns, but they’re even more unlikely. The bullets aren’t too big for the reloading dies, but they jam at the lip in the chamber. I checked and yes, they are all like that. OK, I need to pull the bullets from the remaining 48 rounds. Oh joy. In the meantime no shooting the Combat Master. Bugger.

Next?

Almost Perfect.

Remington Model 51 with 642 for size comparison

I’d always loved the sleek, elegant look of the Remington Model 51, and I finally got one. It’s reliable, thin, compact and a great shooter. But, as I mentioned in my review, it chews a hole in my hand with the slide. So I smoothed where I could to try and alleviate this. Hoping my discreet efforts would yield good results, I loaded it up and started shooting. Light recoil, accuracy that belies the awful sights… and it still chews a hole in my hand. Bugger.

Looks like my beloved and much admired Remington will be seeking a new home soon. Did I mention Bugger?

…and of Course Nothing Can Go Totally right.

Double-taps at five yards. I’ll take that.

On to the new-to-me Detective Special. This went well, though the new Birdseye Maple grip isn’t quite perfect for me. Not a problem, it was made to sell not for me personally.

Finally I ran a target out to 25 yards and squeezed off five shots double action. Uh, make that four shots. On the final shot the gun jammed. Yes, a revolver jammed. It does happen. The culprit turned out to be that the last shot had walked forward under recoil, and the tip of the bullet stuck out just far enough to prevent the cylinder from turning.

This is particularly weird because I’m not exactly known for under-crimping when I load .38 Special. Yet this particular case does not appear to be crimped at all. This shouldn’t be able to happen, yet there it is. Close examination showed that the perfectly normal-looking case was .015″ shorter than the other cases, just barely enough to cause it to miss the crimping shoulder in the die when seating the bullet. It’s a perfectly normal looking Remington case, and shows no evidence that someone shortened it. Weird.

Having determined the cause of the issue I reeled in the target. Tried to, actually; the target-trolley had jumped the track. I had to get an RO to go downrange and un-bugger it. When I did get to reel it in the results weren’t bad at all; it’s the target at the top of the page.

I finished off the box of ammo without further incident, doing double-taps at different ranges and shooting strong and weak-hand, but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore, and I packed up and headed home.

No, nothing bad happened on the way, or really since.

So, a mix of good, bad and weird at the range today.

On a Good Note…

…an unexpected package arrived in the mail the other day from Sapper Gentleman, a very nice fellow with a Youtube channel that I support on Patreon. It seems I won a couple prizes in last month’s drawing! A VISM emergency tourniquet and a magazine-loader for AR15 magazines that was 3D printed by another of his viewers!

I had no idea I’d won, because I never watch the give-away videos, so it was a little surreal until the light dawned. I suppose now I need to get an AR15 in 5.56mm…

So, shout out to Sapper gentleman, and thank you!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 8 September 2021

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