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 Revolvers remembered

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Number of posts : 9110
Registration date : 2007-06-27

PostSubject: Revolvers remembered   Sun 20 Dec 2015, 13:33


I was watching a TV series set in 1979, when the police were almost universally armed with revolvers, and it made me recollect my own experiences with the wheelgun.
It was Terry O'Neill who introduced me to shooting. He had joined Aintree Pistol Club [APC], as a guest of Gary Spiers; gone through the process of gaining his FireArms Certificate [FAC] and was now allowed to introduce a guest. That first visit to APC was in Autumn 1974, and it rather reminded me of my first visit to the Cavern Club. Both were housed in converted warehouses. Both were anonymous from the outside. Both were entered by descending a steep stone staircase. And each place had a characteristic smell, never forgotten. For the Cavern it was sweat, onions and Jeyes Fluid. For APC it was mould and gunpowder.

[S&W M-57 in .41 magnum]
Mingling inside I met a chap who was to become a firm friend, John Clark, who invited me to try his revolver, the S&W mod 57, in .41 Magnum. This was, in fact, the very first weapon I ever fired, and I must admit I enjoyed the experience enormously. Over the following months John let me put countless rounds through that weapon, and it proved to be very accurate; in fact if I was asked to shoot a group for pure accuracy I'd be hard pressed to choose between that Mod 57 and the H&K P7.
That .41 magnum was a bit of an odd calibre. The whole raison d'etre for the big magnum is power, and the .41 is not as powerful as the .44. It never became really popular, so ammo was not as widely available. In any case, John loved it, but he was a guy who bought a Pentax camera with the screw fitting lenses, just before they introduced their K bayonet fitting. He also bought a Betamax video player!
In those days the received wisdom was that revolvers were simple. While it is true that they are quite simple to operate, their mechanism is anything but simple. The rotation and alignment of the cylinder requires very precise mechanical actions, and the latch that secures the swing-out cylinder in place must be robust enough to withstand the pounding of constant heavy magnum blasts. My hat is off to Smith and Wesson, Colt and Ruger for getting this right so often.


Terry had bought the luxury S&W mod 27, a .357 with a gloss blue finish. Gary, on the other hand, had selected the Smith “Highway Patrolman” model, a chunky, dull black beast. Of the two, for some reason I always preferred the Patrolman.

[The Highway Patrolman model]

I had been an avid reader of the “Cooper on Handguns” column in “Guns & Ammo Magazine, but nevertheless, when I gained my FAC in April 1975, I immediately bought a S&W Mod 19. At the time, this was probably the recommended revolver. Of medium frame size and with the ability to digest mild target wadcutters to full-bat .357 loads, it seemed ideal. Equipping myself with a Bucheimer crossdraw holster I put in a lot of practice.

[Den overseas with Model 19 in Bucheimer rig]

To me a major drawback of the revolvers mentioned so far was the design of the butt. For some reason manufacturers insist on having the gripframe flare dramatically, in a way the opposite to shape of the human hand.

[The "user-vicious" design of the revolver butt]

This is further exacerbated by oversize wooden grips, The vector of recoil operates to force the but downwards, and that flaring shape actually wedges the weapon out of the hand. Ergonomics was obviously not a factor in revolver design!The first thing I did was replace those factory grips, which are advertised as being Goncalo Alves, which I'd always assumed was an actor from “The Magnificent Seven!”

[Herrets grips were an improvement]

Eventually it dawned on me that I was never really going to realize my full potential with the wheelgun, and, following Colonel Coopers advice I transitioned to the autopistol; which for the rest of my shooting career was my main preoccupation.
This is not to say that the revolver cannot be mastered..... it's just that I never found the mix of speed and accuracy that I did with the autopistol. . There are many superb wheelgun shooters. I remember in the tests to determine the “Top Gun” on one of Massad's courses, I was up against a revolver guy in the final man-against-man shoot-off, which required knocking down metal plates. I won, but only because I was shooting my H&K P7. My opponent was actually the better shooter.

The compact revolver, typified by the J-frame S&W, occupies such a significant niche that it still found a place in the armoury of such dedicated aotopistol aficionados such as Jeff Cooper, Evan Marshall, Marcus Wynne, Mas Ayoob and Shane Ghosa.
My particular choice was the S&W M60, a stainless version of the famed “Chiefs' Special”, which I equipped with Bianchi Lightning grips, which shrouded the hammer.
My main use for the snubby was as learning gun for new shooters. Starting with mild wadcutters the newbie would have a gentle introduction before graduating to full power loads.

[My snubby, with Bianchi grips]

Another aspect was that we were doing a great deal of scenario training, which, in those pre-Simumition days, required wax bullets. The revolver is de riguer for this, and we went through countless evolutions refining tactics as we shot each other with wax [actually plasticine] rounds.
When we started opening our bodyguard courses to the civilian market, I needed a second revolver for the wax-bullet scenario work, and so added a Charter Arms .44 special Bulldog to my collection.

[Charter Bulldog .44]

This proved fine for plasticine, but shooting full power .44 special loads in that light frame was not a pleasant task. Years later, when I got to know Ed Lovette, I found that he loved the Bulldog, and used to carry a pair of them when operational.

[Charter Bulldog in a crossdraw holster]

As an instructor I had guys turn up on courses with all types of weapons, so it was necessary for me to keep current with the specific skills required. In order to be able to teach the reloading methods for the standard 6-shot DA revolver I selected the Ruger Security Six. Quality control of Ruger revolvers was excellent, and that model was real value for money.

[Ruger Security Six, Price Western rig and accessories]

When not overseas I shot every Monday night, working on tactical pistol drills with a group of like-minded guys within a pistol club. There was a request from the larger club membership for a night devoted to shooting the PAA Police Revolver match, and also the Army Service pistol course. I took on the job of running those sessions, which alternated on Wednesday nights. So, every fortnight I would use the Ruger in the PPC match, which was a fairly decent way to maintain some level of skill.

In many ways the revolver is an anachronism, yet it remains popular. Although long superseded as a police duty weapon by the autopistol, the revolver still has a role in some types of sport shooting, hunting, and for many a self protection weapon. Although the sub-compact Glock offers a viable replacement for the snubby revolver, there are still countless being carried on belts, in handbags, coat pockets and glove-compartments.
I started my shooting career with the wheelgun, and it still has a fond place in my memory.

Check Six,
Dennis Martin
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