Revolvers for IDPA SSR

M1911

Moderator
Rating - 100%
26   0   0
Joined
Apr 1, 2005
Messages
39,570
Likes
7,761
Location
Near Framingham
Some folks asked me about revolvers for IDPA SSR. I'm a sharpshooter in SSR, so I'm not that great. But here's my thoughts, so take them with a grain of salt.

I prefer the Smith & Wesson K-frame (19/66) over the L-frame (686). The L-frame is a bit bigger and heavier. You don't need that extra weight for shooting .38s and the K-frame fits my hand better. I've also known several competitors with L-frames that have had their cylinders come off the gun while reloading -- apparently there is a known weakness in the design.

I think the Model 66 is a great choice for SSR. The Model 19 is the same gun, but blued. The earlier revisions of the 19/66 have the firing pin on the hammer and an integral front sight. That is, the front site is actually part of the barrel, not attached to it. Later revisions (66-5?) have a pinned front sight that can be replaced without milling the barrel. If you want to change the front sight on a gun with an integral front sight, you'll have to have a gunsmith mill the sight off the barrel. If you want to change the front sight on a pinned gun, you'll still want a gunsmith to do it for you. Different people argue about which firing pin style (hammer mounted or frame mounted) is preferable, and there seem to be competent folks on either side of that argument.

I had my Model 66 worked on by Mike Carmoney: http://www.brianenos.com/forums/index.php?showforum=192

He did his basic action job on my gun, which involves chamfering the chambers, radically bobbing the hammer, and lightening the trigger pull significantly. I haven't measured my trigger pull, but it is a lot lighter than stock. If you have Carmoney work on your gun, tell him that the gun is for IDPA, and also tell him what primers you are using. I'm using Winchester small pistol primers, but I'm changing to Federal soon. Mine has been completely reliable with the Winchester small pistol primers, but I have had some problems with Winchester small magnum primers. Just for kicks, I tried to shoot defensive .357 magnums out of my Model 66 after the trigger job and only had 3 out of 6 fire. In other words, this is now just a game gun, so use it accordingly. If I had committed to using crushed Federal primers, Mike could have made the trigger a bit lighter.

I've tried Safarliand Comp II, Comp III, and JetLoader speedloaders. The Comp IIs just don't give me enough to grab hold of, so they are slower to get out of the speedloader holder. I prefer the JetLoaders over the Comp III, as the barrel of the JetLoader is a bit smaller in diameter, making it easier for me to grab. Also, the exposed spring is easier to hold onto than the slick shroud on the Comp IIIs: You can get Comp III and JetLoaders at Brownells:

http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=303/product/revolver_jetloader
http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=12501/Product/COMP_III_SPEEDLOADER

Many revolver shooters will "Bubberize" their speedloaders, cutting them down radically to speed up reloads. I haven't done that, but I think both Gene G. and Lugnut have. Here are some instructions for how to do it:

http://www.coolcerts.com/IDPA/Modifying_Comp_III_Speedloaders.pdf

If you do "Bubberize" your speedloaders, you will find it harder to reload them without a loading block. You can get a reloading block here:

http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=12499/product/SAFARILAND_SPEEDLOADER_LOADING_BLOCKS

For speedloader holders, I prefer Ready Tactical. Scroll down to the bottom of the page on this link:

http://www.cpwsa.com/ready_tactical.htm

I'm using a Bladetech Kydex holster, but if I had to do it again I would probably try the Ready Tactical holster, available at the same link above. I got my Ready Tactical Speedloader holders from CPWSA, and shipping was very fast - I received them in less than 3 days.

I'm using plated 158 grain bullets loaded in .38 Spcl brass, with Winchester small pistol primers, and 3.8gr of Bullseye powder. This gives me about a 118 pf, which doesn't have a lot of recoil but is still comfortably above the 105 floor, and still enough to activate poppers. Some folks use lead bullets instead. Either way, you'll want to use round nose bullets, as wadcutters and semi-wadcutters are much slower to reload into the cylinder.

Most revolver shooters seem to be using heavier bullets. The consensus seems to be that the recoil is less with the heavier bullets. I'm not sure I'm convinced. I started out last fall using 125gr bullets, and they seemed to be lighter recoiling than my 158 gr. Of course, I think I was using mouse-fart loads with the 125s, so it probably isn't a fair comparison. In other words, I think either will work just fine.

I use a weak-hand reload (that is, I don't swap hands during the reload). Of the two master-level SSR shooters that I compete with (Gene G. and Lugnut), one uses a weak-hand reload and the other uses a strong-hand reload. Either will work. I find the weak-hand reload to be a little faster, but more risky - witness the rounds dumped at my feet on the indoor stage today. Ugh. Lugnut's strong-hand reload method is more reliable for me, but slower. This article describes different reloading techniques:

http://www.4wheelguns.com/RogerDavis/

I use an Apex Tactical rear sight on my model 66. This has a much cleaner sight picture than the stock rear sight. I like more light around my front sight, so I had Apex open up the rear sight opening to 0.140" inches (stock is 0.125"). I haven't replaced my front sight yet, so I'm still running the stock red ramp. I will end up having the front sight replaced at some point. The rear sight is not on their web site, but you can call them up to order it.

http://www.apextactical.com/

I still haven't settled on a grip that I like. I absolutely hate grips with finger grooves. Right now I'm running a wood Micuelk grip that I sanded down a bit, trying to reduce the grip circumference. It is a bit too slippery, though.
 
Last edited:

dlarge

NES Member
Rating - 100%
9   0   0
Joined
Feb 16, 2011
Messages
3,399
Likes
610
Location
NH
I've been planning on sending you a PM for a while. Don't need to anymore.

Thanks for the info!
 

M1911

Moderator
Rating - 100%
26   0   0
Joined
Apr 1, 2005
Messages
39,570
Likes
7,761
Location
Near Framingham
I've been planning on sending you a PM for a while. Don't need to anymore.

Thanks for the info!
You're welcome. A fellow asked me about it at today's match - was that you? I was going to answer him with a pm, but figured a post might be useful to others.
 
Rating - 100%
6   0   0
Joined
Jul 28, 2005
Messages
5,659
Likes
110
Great write up Jared. I don't disagree with you.. but here's some more from my perspective.

On the reloads... yeah I do believe that the strong hand reload is more reliable, albeit potentially slower. This of course depends on the dexterity of your weak hand AND how much time you want to work on the reloads and shooting revo. Reloads make or break you in a match so choose wisely. ;)

I use an L-frame only because that's what I had. They are heavier that the KFrames but I never felt I was at a disadvantage with my draws/transitions, etc because of the weight. I like the Hogue finger groove grips. People just need to try to find what works best for them.

Loads.... go much lower that 115 PF and personally I'd worry about poppers.... no calibration challenges in IDPA so beware. 120 PF is fine with an LFrame for sure.

PS- maybe the trigger is helping you- nice shooting today!
 

dlarge

NES Member
Rating - 100%
9   0   0
Joined
Feb 16, 2011
Messages
3,399
Likes
610
Location
NH
You're welcome. A fellow asked me about it at today's match - was that you? I was going to answer him with a pm, but figured a post might be useful to others.
No, that was not me.

I haven't worked up the courage to show up to an IDPA match. I'm fairly new to shooting. Plus, I don't have all the gear yet. [grin]
 
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Joined
Oct 18, 2009
Messages
540
Likes
64
Location
Southeastern MA
go much lower that 115 PF and personally I'd worry about poppers.... no calibration challenges in IDPA so beware. 120 PF is fine with an LFrame for sure.
I believe it was M1911 that posted a video with some issues someone had with the lower PF (IDPA rules are now 105,000 for SSR) knocking over poppers at the 2011 MA State IDPA Championship... ICORE's PF is 120,000 so I plan to load my future .38 loads at around PF of 125,000 to be safe for ICORE and this should be plenty to knock down poppers without having to hard of a hit from recoil...
 

M1911

Moderator
Rating - 100%
26   0   0
Joined
Apr 1, 2005
Messages
39,570
Likes
7,761
Location
Near Framingham
John, yes I posted a video of Bill T. who had a popper not fall at the MA championship. It was a good solid hit, too. When asked about his load, he joked that it was 106 PF. He said that it was Craig Buckland's load.
 

FSTC

NES Member
Rating - 100%
9   0   0
Joined
May 1, 2011
Messages
3,214
Likes
536
Location
N. Central Mass.
Jared,

Thanks for the info on the Model 66 today. My daughter and I checked a couple of shops after the match; Waynes had a Mod. 66-3 on the wall. I plan on checking a few more places before I buy.

Again thanks for your time earlier,
Dan
 
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
65
Likes
1
John, yes I posted a video of Bill T. who had a popper not fall at the MA championship. It was a good solid hit, too. When asked about his load, he joked that it was 106 PF. He said that it was Craig Buckland's load.
Nice to run into you at the USPSA classifier, its great to put names to faces. For information's sake, I had an issue at the MA state match also with a solid hit on the calibration zone of a popper that did not knock it over, should have been about 110 PF. I might just load higher for insurance.
 

M1911

Moderator
Rating - 100%
26   0   0
Joined
Apr 1, 2005
Messages
39,570
Likes
7,761
Location
Near Framingham
Thanks for the info on the Model 66 today. My daughter and I checked a couple of shops after the match; Waynes had a Mod. 66-3 on the wall. I plan on checking a few more places before I buy.
Dan, you're welcome. It was nice to meet you and your daughter today. When you get her rig, let me know if there is any way I can help out. Here is some information on checking out a used revolver:

http://thefiringline.com/Misc/library/Revolver-check.html

One thing to add to this. Check the right side of the revolver. You'll see the outline of the side cover that comes off, allowing access to the action. Check to see if the top of that cover is buggered. If it is, then it is because someone who didn't know what they were doing buggered it while opening up the action, and they might have done more damage inside.

I believe that a 66-3 will have the hammer-mounted firing pin and an integral front sight. I don't think it will be pinned and recessed.
 
Rating - 100%
42   0   0
Joined
Apr 4, 2008
Messages
3,602
Likes
448
Location
Westford, MA
Great comprehensive post that covers a lot of issues! SSR is a lot of fun. It forces you to focus on your hits because shooting SSR turns every stage into limited vickers.

Some folks asked me about revolvers for IDPA SSR. I'm a sharpshooter in SSR, so I'm not that great. But here's my thoughts, so take them with a grain of salt.
For the record I'm also a sharpshooter, I shot SSR almost exclusively last year.


I prefer the Smith & Wesson K-frame (19/66) over the L-frame (686). The L-frame is a bit bigger and heavier. You don't need that extra weight for shooting .38s and the K-frame fits my hand better. I've also known several competitors with L-frames that have had their cylinders come off the gun while reloading -- apparently there is a known weakness in the design.
I think the K frame vs L frame is a personal preference. I shoot an L because that's what I bought. With the lower SSR PF if I was starting over I'd probably go with a K-frame. If I didn't have to buy additional holster, holders, and speedloaders I'd probably have picked up a k-frame already. The crane issues that I've seen/heard of have a lot to do with reloading technique and the spring loaded screw. The newer K's have these as well. My crane has a light wear mark wear the spring loaded pointed pin rubs against it but no digs after 3-4k rounds.

I think the Model 66 is a great choice for SSR. The Model 19 is the same gun, but blued. The earlier revisions of the 19/66 have the firing pin on the hammer and an integral front sight. That is, the front site is actually part of the barrel, not attached to it. Later revisions (66-5?) have a pinned front sight that can be replaced without hmilling the barrel. If you want to change the front sight on a gun with an integral front sight, you'll have to have a gunsmith mill the sight off the barrel. If you want to change the front sight on a pinned gun, you'll still want a gunsmith to do it for you. Different people argue about which firing pin style (hammer mounted or frame mounted) is preferable, and there seem to be competent folks on either side of that argument.
If you can live with the lock I'd suggest a model 67. If you're going to shoot IDPA or ICORE you won't need to shoot a .357. I still haven't ever shot a .357 round in my 686SSR.


I had my Model 66 worked on by Mike Carmoney: http://www.brianenos.com/forums/index.php?showforum=192

He did his basic action job on my gun, which involves chamfering the chambers, radically bobbing the hammer, and lightening the trigger pull significantly. I haven't measured my trigger pull, but it is a lot lighter than stock. If you have Carmoney work on your gun, tell him that the gun is for IDPA, and also tell him what primers you are using. I'm using Winchester small pistol primers, but I'm changing to Federal soon. Mine has been completely reliable with the Winchester small pistol primers, but I have had some problems with Winchester small magnum primers. Just for kicks, I tried to shoot defensive .357 magnums out of my Model 66 after the trigger job and only had 3 out of 6 fire. In other words, this is now just a game gun, so use it accordingly. If I had committed to using crushed Federal primers, Mike could have made the trigger a bit lighter.
Mike does some great work. If you have a lock make sure you tell him you are shooting IDPA as he can't Carmonize the hammer and retain the lock as required by IDPA rules. If you are interested in purchasing a new gun and having him do the trigger work he will help you out. I had him source me a 617 that he sold to me at his cost + cost of trigger work. This gave me a great deal on the gun and saved me shipping it twice.

I've tried Safarliand Comp II, Comp III, and JetLoader speedloaders. The Comp IIs just don't give me enough to grab hold of, so they are slower to get out of the speedloader holder. I prefer the JetLoaders over the Comp III, as the barrel of the JetLoader is a bit smaller in diameter, making it easier for me to grab. Also, the exposed spring is easier to hold onto than the slick shroud on the Comp IIIs: You can get Comp III and JetLoaders at Brownells:
I've never tried the jet loaders, I should give them a look one of these days. I just cut the sheath off the comp III's.

Many revolver shooters will "Bubberize" their speedloaders, cutting them down radically to speed up reloads. I haven't done that, but I think both Gene G. and Lugnut have. Here are some instructions for how to do it:

http://www.coolcerts.com/IDPA/Modifying_Comp_III_Speedloaders.pdf

If you do "Bubberize" your speedloaders, you will find it harder to reload them without a loading block. You can get a reloading block here:

http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/pid=12499/product/SAFARILAND_SPEEDLOADER_LOADING_BLOCKS
I have trimmed the cups several different ways. I tried using a lathe but couldn't get a good grip and destroyed one. I ended up just cutting the sleeve off, removing the pin, trigger assembly and spring, and sanding the cup flush with the center portion. It's not as aggressive as some that I've seen but it helps and I can still load them without a loading block.

For speedloader holders, I prefer Ready Tactical. Scroll down to the bottom of the page on this link:

http://www.cpwsa.com/ready_tactical.htm
I had tried the safariland holders and didn't like them. I like my ready tactical ones. Chris at CPWSA is great to deal with.

I'm using a Bladetech Kydex holster, but if I had to do it again I would probably try the Ready Tactical holster, available at the same link above. I got my Ready Tactical Speedloader holders from CPWSA, and shipping was very fast - I received them in less than 3 days.
I've got a ready tactical that I'm happy with. I would have bought a comp-tac but at the time they had broken their L-frame mold so they weren't available.

Most revolver shooters seem to be using heavier bullets. The consensus seems to be that the recoil is less with the heavier bullets. I'm not sure I'm convinced. I started out last fall using 125gr bullets, and they seemed to be lighter recoiling than my 158 gr. Of course, I think I was using mouse-fart loads with the 125s, so it probably isn't a fair comparison. In other words, I think either will work just fine.
I think at the old 125PF it was more of a factor. To get to that plus a little margin in a .38spl case they were all +P loads. With the new 105PF I'd guess that it is much less of an issue.
 

M1911

Moderator
Rating - 100%
26   0   0
Joined
Apr 1, 2005
Messages
39,570
Likes
7,761
Location
Near Framingham
I think Mike and Lugnut are correct about the K-frame vs. L-frame issue. It is personal preference. Lugnut uses an L-frame and I believe Gene G. uses one as well, and they are both Masters. I believe Craig Buckland uses a K-frame and he's a Distinguished Master, so clearly either will work.

I still get irked by the stupid lock on the new guns, and I guess I have a bit of nostalgia for my Model 66 as it was my first (and best) revolver.

As Mike points out about the Safariland Comp IIIs, many (most?) competitors take off the barrel shroud.

Mike, how did you sand down the cups? Did you use a belt sander?

Great comprehensive post that covers a lot of issues! SSR is a lot of fun. It forces you to focus on your hits because shooting SSR turns every stage into limited vickers.
Yup, it does change the way you shoot the stage. You really have to plan carefully. Depending on the stage, an extra shot on a mover could result in an extra reload, which would cost me about an extra 4 seconds. I think it has made me much better at planning a stage.
 
Last edited:

jar

Rating - 100%
8   0   0
Joined
Apr 13, 2007
Messages
6,372
Likes
698
Location
Needham, MA
Yup, it does change the way you shoot the stage. You really have to plan carefully. Depending on the stage, an extra shot on a mover could result in an extra reload, which would cost me about an extra 4 seconds. I think it has made me much better at planning a stage.
Nothing has helped my stage planning more than shooting USPSA. Shooting 10 round mags on 32 round stages where you can reload wherever/whenever you want really works your planning. Shooting revo in USPSA would give you even more of a workout, but I'm not that masochistic.
 
Rating - 100%
42   0   0
Joined
Apr 4, 2008
Messages
3,602
Likes
448
Location
Westford, MA
As Mike points out about the Safariland Comp IIIs, many (most?) competitors take off the barrel shroud.

Mike, how did you sand down the cups? Did you use a belt sander?
Yeah, I did it on a belt sander. I think I have some pictures somewhere. I'll add them to this thread when I get a chance to find them.
 

M1911

Moderator
Rating - 100%
26   0   0
Joined
Apr 1, 2005
Messages
39,570
Likes
7,761
Location
Near Framingham
Did you just hold it in your hand while you sanded it down? Or did you build some sort of jig? And what grip of paper did you use. My buddy has a belt sander and I just might have to see if I can convince him to let me use it...
 
Rating - 100%
42   0   0
Joined
Apr 4, 2008
Messages
3,602
Likes
448
Location
Westford, MA
Did you just hold it in your hand while you sanded it down? Or did you build some sort of jig? And what grip of paper did you use. My buddy has a belt sander and I just might have to see if I can convince him to let me use it...
I did it by hand without a jig. Although during the process I thought that it would be handy. It was probably 160 or 200 grit. I would kind of slide it back and forth and twist it for a few seconds. You have to do a little at a time otherwise it will melt the plastic. You also have to make you keep it even as you go. I finished it up with a finer paper by hand (400?? it's whatever I had on hand). You will get some melting/flow at the edges of the hole. I ended up putting a counterboring bit in the drill press and chamfering the holes.
 
Rating - 100%
42   0   0
Joined
Apr 4, 2008
Messages
3,602
Likes
448
Location
Westford, MA
Here are some pics:

Hand holding on belt sander. Don't go too fast or it will build up heat and melt.
dscf6668_med.jpg

This is part way through. The center trigger mechanism has been removed but the center portion that holds the rounds is still intact. I don't cut the cups way down.
dscf6662_med.jpg

This is about as far as I took it. The cup is about flush with the center portion when it is fully retracted.
dscf6669_med.jpg

The trigger mechanism is reinstalled but this is before I cleaned it up with a finer sand paper and chamfered the holes to get rid of the melted plastic.
dscf6674_med.jpg

This is a different one after finer sanding and chamfering of the holes.
speedloader_1.jpg
 
Last edited:
Rating - 100%
6   0   0
Joined
Jul 28, 2005
Messages
5,659
Likes
110
Hey Mike those came out real nice. Did you plug that hole? Honestly that made a HUGE difference.
 
Rating - 100%
42   0   0
Joined
Apr 4, 2008
Messages
3,602
Likes
448
Location
Westford, MA
Hey Mike those came out real nice. Did you plug that hole? Honestly that made a HUGE difference.
I have experimented with a few things. I brought one to the local ACE hardware store a while back and found some nylon screws that fit pretty well. The head is too long and ejects way too early. I tried trimming it but it was still releasing a little earlier than I felt comfortable with. I don't always get the cylinder pointing straight down during a reload and was afraid of dropping loose rounds. Do you just fill the hole with hot glue or epoxy?
 
Rating - 100%
6   0   0
Joined
Jul 28, 2005
Messages
5,659
Likes
110
I glued in a rivet that fit quite nicely.. it's almost flush with the opening. Gene found some good epoxy and filled it. I really think that the plug was the most significant improvement in the Comp IIIs.
 

FSTC

NES Member
Rating - 100%
9   0   0
Joined
May 1, 2011
Messages
3,214
Likes
536
Location
N. Central Mass.
Dan, you're welcome. It was nice to meet you and your daughter today. When you get her rig, let me know if there is any way I can help out. Here is some information on checking out a used revolver:

http://thefiringline.com/Misc/library/Revolver-check.html

One thing to add to this. Check the right side of the revolver. You'll see the outline of the side cover that comes off, allowing access to the action. Check to see if the top of that cover is buggered. If it is, then it is because someone who didn't know what they were doing buggered it while opening up the action, and they might have done more damage inside.
I ended up buying a Model 10-14 . I picked up some Jetloaders.
The trigger pull was a bit heavy so I bought a set of Wolff springs from Brownells.
I put the lightest set in and polished some of the internals. Trigger is lighter and still works with CCI primers.
I found it interesting that after lighter springs and a detailed cleaning, the primer strike on the fired case looks betterthan before opening the gun.
 

9X21

Banned
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Joined
Mar 15, 2006
Messages
492
Likes
9
Location
Northwest CT
Excellent.
Actually,
What is Excellent is YOU have an IDPA DM (new IDPA class, Distinguished Master) in SSR living in your state of Mass. Who, by the way, is sponsered by SMITH & WESSON!
Maybe, you want to ask him about what works.............
why wonder?
 
Rating - 100%
6   0   0
Joined
Jul 28, 2005
Messages
5,659
Likes
110
Actually,
What is Excellent is YOU have an IDPA DM (new IDPA class, Distinguished Master) in SSR living in your state of Mass. Who, by the way, is sponsered by SMITH & WESSON!
Maybe, you want to ask him about what works.............
why wonder?
He likes the older K-frame 66s I believe.
 
Top Bottom