Revolver malfunctions, Part Four: design and engineering issues.

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Very often an autoloader fails to function as a result of design. The reciprocation of the slide is governed by a combination of spring pressure, cartridge power, and system friction. The parameters inside which that system operates are actually pretty narrow, and it’s a testament to both design and care of manufacture that today’s modern autoloading pistols work as well as they do – which is to say, generally very well. Short of a non-externally-caused catastrophic parts failure (which is ...

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Revolver malfunctions, Part Three – user induced problems.

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There are really only two “malfunctions” that can be attributed to shooter technique, and they’re both easily avoided.

The first is a failure to properly reset the trigger. This is especially common with autoloader shooters who pick up a Ruger revolver: used to resetting the trigger until they hear or feel a “click”, they do the same on their revolver and…the trigger locks up! The trigger won’t compress until it’s allowed to travel all the way forward, to its rest position, ...

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Revolver malfunctions, Part Two: maintenance-induced failures.

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In the first installment we looked at revolver malfunctions caused by ammunition. (I’ve edited that entry to consider dirty ammunition, which can also cause stoppages. I recommend that you go back and re-read it for that discussion.) It’s important to note that ammunition failures are not the fault of the revolver and they’re not unique to the revolver (they happen to autoloaders too.) They do, however, account for the majority of revolver failures and thus must be understood and dealt ...

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Revolver malfunctions, Part One: ammunition issues.

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I received an email last week, a sort of complaint that I don’t write much about revolvers any longer. Well, I wrote an entire book – isn’t that enough?? OK, OK, you win – let’s talk about revolver malfunctions.

I’ve mentioned before, in more than one venue, that the revolver typically will have a longer mean time between failure than an autoloader (we’re talking unique failures, which automatically discounts those due to ammunition problems – which can affect either platform equally.)

The ...

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Apparently they’re looking at the pictures. Of revolvers, of course!

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One of the most common compliments I get about my Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver regards the pictures. People tell me that they appreciate the photography, and I’m happy that they noticed – I went to a lot of effort to make sure that the photos supported the text, that the reader could look at them and get the point easily. Apparently, the goal was met!

My publisher, Gun Digest Books, was so taken with them that ...

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The bullet jump controversy: Specials in Magnum chambers.

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I got an email recently from a reader who asked about .38 Special accuracy when fired in a .357-length chamber. There is, as he noted, a lot of speculation on the topic: some saying they’re less accurate, some saying it doesn’t matter, and others saying that there is no way we’ll ever know for sure.

I’m not at all convinced about that last one, but the first two opinions are both correct – under some circumstances. Some years ago I experimented ...

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Ed Harris Friday: Blackpowder Revolvers

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(Editor’s Note: I’ll admit to knowing nothing about blackpowder arms, so this article from Ed was quite enlightening! If you’ve thought about getting a cap-and-ball revolver but weren’t sure about how to use it, Ed’s article will tell you everything you need to know!)

Handling Cap & Ball Revolvers
By C.E. “Ed” Harris

Learning to shoot a cap & ball revolver requires common sense and attention to detail, but these guns are effective and satisfying. Safety, reliability and accuracy of a black ...

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I still think a .410 revolver is silly.

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I think I’ve made my feelings clear regarding the concept (if not the execution) of the Taurus Judge/S&W Governor revolvers. As self defense guns, which is how they’re marketed, they make no sense for a wide variety of valid reasons. What’s amazing to me is that people will say “that’s all true, but I think they still have a place for snakes and carjackers.”

I’ve talked about the former already. A large portion of my family lives and ...

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Finishing an experiment with pocket carry. Maybe.

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Early last year I embarked on something of an experiment: carrying my gun not on my belt, as I’ve done for more years than I can remember, but in my front pocket. Exclusively.

I’ve carried in a pocket holster from time to time, usually when wearing a suit, so I’m not at all unfamiliar with the concept. I’ve never done so as my default method, and I wanted to see what it was like. What kinds of problems would I encounter?

My ...

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A revolver chambered in .40 S&W? Why?

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Someone emailed and asked about the new Charter Arms Pit Bull revolver chambering .40S&W without the need for moonclips. My reply: “Ummm, OK. Why?”

As I see it, the only compelling reason to use autoloading cartridges in revolvers is because they require moonclips, making for blazing fast reloads. I suppose there might be some argument for the fellow who owns a .40 autoloader and wants a revolver to play with without the bother of stocking two kinds of ...

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How fast can a revolver be reloaded?

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An email came in last week asking just that question. The answer is a little more involved than you might think, because there are some variables involved that simply don’t exist with the same action in an autoloader.

There are at least a half-dozen different ways that I’ve used to reload a revolver, and I’ve seen variations which exceed that number. Each technique has strong and weak points, and it’s up to the shooter to decide of they fit his/her situation. ...

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Light primer hits with factory guns? The S&W Model 686 problem.

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Over the last few months I’ve gotten several emails about light primer strikes — and attendant misfires — with the S&W 686SSR revolver.

The 686SSR is from Smith & Wesson’s “Pro” line, which sits between the semi-customs of the Performance Center and the run-of-the-mill production items. The 686SSR has, among other features, a ‘bossed’ mainspring (which looks suspiciously like a Wolff ‘Power Rib’ spring.) The idea behind the spring design is twofold: first, reduce the spring force at the beginning of ...

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Competition: it’s what’s for breakfast. Too bad I don’t eat breakfast.

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I’ve been chided just a bit for ignoring the growing field of revolver competition. It’s not that I dislike competition, it’s just that it’s not my focus these days; self defense topics are what I’m most interested in and tend to write about.

Still, I do occasionally like to see what’s up with the standings; when I want to know what’s happening in the world of revolver matches, I read Paul Erhardt over at DownrangeTV. This link will ...

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The Case Of The Locked-Up Rugers: learning proper trigger reset is the key to avoiding them.

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Over the years I’ve gotten a number of inquiries that sound something like this: “I was reading a forum about Rugers locking the trigger when shooting fast. What’s with that – any truth?”

This is a question that comes up often enough that I’ve actually written a boilerplate answer that I paste into my email replies. I think it’s worth discussing here.

First, the wording of the question (and the complaint that engenders the question) implies that the gun is somehow at ...

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Smith & Wesson mainsprings: a little-known problem.

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A recent email asked my help with a problem. The writer, who had purchased a new gun to compete in the IDPA revolver class, had taken the strain screw out of his S&W 686 and shortened it to reduce the trigger pull weight. When he put his grips back on, he found that the grip screw wouldn’t go through the frame, and he could see that the mainspring was now blocking the screw’s path.

He asked why this happened, and what ...

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Recoil and reflexes: unintended discharges with heavy-recoiling guns.

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A video of a petite woman shooting a S&W .500 Magnum made the rounds last week. At issue was an uncontrolled (negligent) discharge, occurring as a rapid “double tap.”

Watch the video, and you’ll see that as the gun recoils from the first round, a second round is ignited. The barrel is nearly vertical when the second shot fires, raising all sorts of concerns about its eventual landing place. It’s definitely an unsafe situation!

The various comments made (not ...

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Spring forward: does the type of mainspring affect action stacking?

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In the past I’ve mentioned that I don’t spend much time on the various gun forums (‘fora’, to be excruciatingly correct.) My free time is too precious to spend wading through such drivel as “my instructor can beat up your instructor” or “the .45 is so powerful it knocks people off their feet!” The only time, in fact, that I look at a forum is when I’m eating breakfast or lunch and have nothing better to read.

It was at lunch ...

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The S&W lock issue just won’t go away.

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Several people emailed me about The Firearm Blog’s picture of Jerry Miculek’s 627PC. It would appear that his gun has had the locking mechanism disabled, leading to much renewed discussion about the incidence of accidental lock activation.

When the locks first came out there were a few reported cases of locks self-engaging. The wisdom of the internet held that the locks were just fine, that S&W would never knowingly introduce something that would put people at risk, that ...

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Ruger go ‘boom’, and not in a good way: catastrophic failure of an LCR.

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My morning perusal of The Firearm Blog’s RSS feed uncovered this entry about a Ruger LCR that suffered a catastrophic failure. I generally agree with the concept of a timing error, though of course there are other possibilities.

I lean toward the timing theory because of my own observations. I’ve not yet been able to take an LCR apart, but I have handled quite a few. In this admittedly small sample I’ve noticed that the gun’s timing is ...

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The revolver is not a low-capacity autoloader. Don’t treat it like one.

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Over the years a number of 4×4 vehicles have come under fire for being “prone” to rollover accidents: the Suzuki Samurai. The Jeep CJ. The Ford Explorer. The Isuzu Trooper. While the government probes their safety and juries award inflated damages, one pertinent fact is conveniently ignored: a four-wheel-drive isn’t a family sedan, and can’t be driven like one. The results are predictable.

Guess what? The same relationship exists between the autoloader and the revolver.

In the last couple of decades, the ...

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A few thoughts about the revolver in self defense.

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Regular readers know that, despite my (occasionally) bombastic promotion of the wheelgun, I’m the first to admit that it is not the perfect tool for all jobs. The revolver’s suitability for self defense depends on the nature of the threat one expects to encounter.

The revolver’s greatest weakness is its limited capacity, while its greatest virtue is its resistance to externally induced failures.

It is something of a trend among today’s fashionable criminals to attack in multiples, i.e. more than one assailant. ...

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Reality – what a concept. You’ve got to learn to recognize what it is, however.

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Yesterday, Tam asked “I laugh at the sight of the pimped tactical N-frame, too, but why?” Allow me to explain with some fuzzy dice.

Yes. You read that correctly – fuzzy dice.

If you go to a car show featuring hotrods from the ’50s and ’60s, a common sight will be a pair fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror. They’re always carefully chosen to complement the paint color, and I’ve even seen fastidious owners arranging the dice “just ...

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Incorrect conclusions: muzzle flash and blindness don’t really correlate.

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This morning I got a very nice email from a concerned gentleman in a southern state. His NRA instructor gave him numerous pieces of incorrect information about his new GP100, one of which I’ve heard many times before: “Don’t carry Magnums, because the muzzle flash will blind you in a self-defense shooting!”

With all due respect, bull twaddle.

The .357 Magnum is notorious for muzzle flash, based largely on some well-known pictures from the 1980s. These days, even the Magnum uses flash-suppressed ...

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Lightweight revolvers and people who sell the things to the wrong customers. Can you say ‘ouch!’?

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Every so often a client will send me one of the S&W Scandium guns for work, and I’m always reminded of how much I dislike shooting the little beasts. Even with standard pressure Specials, the recoil gets to me very quickly. I can’t imagine actually shooting one with Magnum loads, and I intend to never find out!

For me it’s merely discomfort, but for others the experience could prove more serious.

I constantly encounter women who’ve been sold those guns, because the ...

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So, just what is the .357 Magnum like in a confined space?

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A number of years back my wife and I served as coordinators for the defensive pistol matches at our gun club. Our matches were somewhat similar to IDPA, but without the endless rules to make everything “fair.” We enjoyed a large following of regular participants who were very involved and loved to build sets for stages.

(Some of them got a little carried away; one particular gentleman once designed a stage that featured cardboard cows. Yes, cows, complete with udders. He’s a very ...

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On dry firing: is it good for your gun? That depends.

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One of the great advantages of the double action revolver is that the mechanism makes dry firing easy. Unlike the majority of autoloaders, you don’t have to break your grip to operate the slide or recock the hammer; just maintain your grip and pull the trigger, over and over. As a result, I suspect most revolvers are dry fired with greater frequency than most autos.

Various pundits have opined over the years that it is perfectly safe to dry fire any ...

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Lights on revolvers: bringing wheelguns into the modern age??

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I recently received an email asking about the feasibility of mounting a light on a revolver. The writer was concerned about clearing his house at night and being forced to shoot one-handed with a separate flashlight. Would it be possible, he asked, to somehow mount a light to his wheelgun, to approximate those that are widely mounted on autoloaders?

That’s a tough one to answer, because it’s really two questions in one: can it be done, and should it be done.

I’ll ...

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Yes, I’m repeating myself: women are people, too. How about the people in the gun industry treat them like they are?

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I’ve written about this before, but it’s getting worse. All across this country are people standing behind gun counters who need to be taught that women are people, too.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve run into a woman who was sold (as opposed to deciding to buy) a revolver for self defense. Now it should be pretty clear to even the densest web denizen that this ...

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A perception issue: are revolvers really the best thing for beginners?

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A recent SHOT show write-up, regarding the new Ruger LCR revolver, contained the (sadly common) comment that the gun would be perfect for “non-dedicated personnel.”

I hereby give public notice that I am officially tired of reading excrement like that.

The snub-nosed, double-action revolver is the easiest gun in the world to shoot, but It is the hardest gun to shoot well. Mastering the double action pull takes time, dedication, and practice; that’s just a fact of life. The nice, light, short ...

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