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The Gun Digest Book of the Revolver

The Gun Digest Book of the Revolver

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The Gun Digest Book of the Revolver

440 pagine
6 ore
Oct 13, 2011


Get to Know Your RevolverInside and Out!

Gun Digest Book of the Revolver covers all aspects of living with the double-action revolver: shooting, handling, carrying, maintaining and accessorizingeverything you need to know to operate the quintessential American handgun.

Topics in this comprehensive volume include:

  • Self-DefenseRevolvers are still a good choice!
  • Sighting optionsincluding tips for aging eyes
  • Getting the right hand fit
  • Grips that workand those that don't
  • Spare ammo carrying options
  • Maintenance and cleaning how-to's
  • The right holster for the job
  • Wheel-gun ammo choices for work, play and self-defense
  • And much, much more!!
Whether you use your revolver for sport, hunting, competition or self-defense, you'll learn something from this book!
Oct 13, 2011

Informazioni sull'autore

Grant Cunningham, Salem, OR, has written several titles for Gun Digest: Defensive Revolver Fundamentals, Gun Digest Book of the Revolver, Defensive Pistol Fundamentals and Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Handguns. and www.g

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  • If you tell yourself that it’s okay to move all you want as long as your sights stay in that fourinch circle, you’ll find that you have no problem holding the gun on target.

  • I coach them to keep watching the sights move on target even as the round fires. This is key! They have to watch the sights at all times, even as the gun goes off.

  • You’ll know you’ve ‘got it’ when you can do multiple trigger strokes, with smooth consistent compression and re-turn, and your sights never wander from the target.

  • Shooting well with a revolver really isn’t a matter of the perfect sight picture, it’s a matter of smooth trigger control.

Anteprima del libro

The Gun Digest Book of the Revolver - Grant Cunningham



The book you’re holding in your hands is the result of an obsession.

When I was growing up most of the kids in our rural town were playing cowboys and Indians with toy guns obtained from the local dime store. The junior armaments of choice were the Peacemaker and the Winchester rifle, and every kid wanted one of each.

Not me! I remember being fascinated by guns like the M1 Carbine and the Colt .45 Automatic, because those were the kinds of guns I saw in magazines and war movies. My father, a veteran of the Army Air Force during WWII, was issued a Model 1911A1 and carried a Garand in basic training. These influences convinced me that revolvers and lever actions were old-fashioned, and I wanted nothing to do with them.

The first gun I purchased as an adult was a Smith & Wesson Model 59, an early entry into the category that would become known as ‘wondernine.’ I added many guns to that first one, and for the longest time all of them were automatic pistols. I bought some uncommon autos and passed up some even more esoteric examples, sure that the shooting world held nothing more interesting for me.

It was a fellow working in a gun store (who would go on to become a very well-known person in the firearms industry) who started my fascination with the revolver. One spring day he handed me a pristine six-inch Smith & Wesson Model 66, a gun which had been traded in for an autoloader. This shop catered to the emerging competition and concealed carry markets and didn’t do well with revolvers. He made me a deal which I couldn’t pass up. That gun went home with me, accompanied by a box or two of .357 Magnum ammunition.

I took the gun to the range and had enormous fun with the recoil and muzzle blast of the Magnum ammo. In single action it was accurate enough – or more precisely I was accurate enough – but double action was a problem. I practiced until I could hit the target, but that was about the extent of my double action abilities. I decided that perhaps a ‘better’ revolver would improve my shooting, and in another gun store I found a pristine Colt Python. I didn’t know a lot about revolvers, but I’d been led to believe that the Python was the greatest revolver made. I bought it convinced it was going to transform my shooting.

At the time I was shooting quite a bit of NRA Action Pistol (aka ‘Bianchi Cup’) matches at our gun club. I was doing well with a customized CZ75, which was my competition gun of choice at the time, but decided I wanted to try it with my Python. Shooting double action against tuned single action autoloaders is a tough job, but I wasn’t doing too badly. That is, until the dreaded Falling Plate stage.

The first string of fire left me with five of the six plates standing. Double action obviously wasn’t working for me, so on the next buzzer I drew my Colt, cocked the hammer, and took down each plate with the crisp, easy-to-shoot single action.

After I’d holstered, a taunting voice from behind me exclaimed, Hey, Grant, I’ve got a gun that cocks the hammer for me! I managed that kind of clenched-teeth chuckle meant to indicate that it was all in good fun, but I’d already resolved to master the double action revolver no matter how hard it would be.

I was determined to find the very best ways of using the revolver, only to discover that very few people had approached the revolver with the same analytical attitude that was common in the autoloader world. What few books had been written were three-quarters of a century old, and almost no one had really questioned the stuff ‘everyone knows.’

That’s when a long decade of study, training and experimentation began. This interest quickly became the obsession of which I spoke; I tried the good, the bad, and the ugly, all with the singleminded goal of finding the most efficient methods of running the old wheelgun. This intense interest quickly motivated everyone to refer to me as ‘the revolver guy’ or, much to my consternation, ‘wheelie boy’!

As my knowledge and abilities progressed, I evolved to carrying a revolver almost exclusively for self defense while also competing with them. Those matches pitted me against good (though still taunting) shooters using customized autopistols. It wasn’t long until I started beating them at their own game and winning my share of matches. That tended to put a damper on their haughty attitudes!

In all cases I used the techniques I’d discovered, sometimes modifying them to better suit the realities of modern guns, ammunition and life. In some instances what I learned mirrored what past masters had already known; in others, the modern revolver fraternity had indeed found a better way. It is this synthesis of old and new, always with an eye to determining the most efficient way to use the revolver, that is reflected in what you’re going to read. Best practices are what this book is about.

This is a generalized book on handling the revolver, and because of that I include information applicable to a wide range of shooting experience and activity. I’ve done my best to make it useful for the new shooter and the more seasoned enthusiast, and I hope you’ll find much in these pages that is useful to you.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that my primary shooting interest is for self defense, and even though this isn’t a self defense book you’ll probably see a bit of bias in that direction. That doesn’t mean I’ve ignored competitive revolver shooting or handgun hunting or plinking, and in some cases I’ll give specific techniques and recommendations for those activities as well, but most of my thought and investigation has gone to the task of optimizing revolver shooting for the job of personal protection. What is efficient in the context of a fight may not be so in the context of a shooting contest, and vice-versa. You need to decide for yourself what information is applicable to your interests and motivation.

Chapter One

Why the Revolver?

Not that long ago the preferred handgun of both police and private citizens was the double action revolver. They were carried on duty, used to protect the home, shot in competition, and held their own as plinkers and fun guns. Their operation was well known, and learning how to properly handle their long, heavy triggers was a point of pride for many firearms instructors.

In the 1970s that started to change. The autoloading pistol was migrating from military service to law enforcement, and as it gained acceptance in those arenas the general public came to see the revolver as old-fashioned. By the end of the century the autoloader had almost completely replaced the revolver in police service –and for a large percentage of private citizens as well.

The revolver is still a viable choice for many kinds of shooting: recreation, hunting, or self defense.

Common malfunctions like this don’t occur with a revolver.

Today it’s rare to see a revolver in a police duty holster. On occasion you’ll find a veteran officer carrying one, and in sparsely populated areas some cops prefer them for their ability to fire powerful, flat-shooting Magnum cartridges. Other than that the revolver has been relegated to the status of the backup: an arm used to supplant the primary arm should it become inoperable or lost.

Still, nearly forty percent of all handgun sales in the U.S. are revolvers. That’s because the revolver still has some advantages – some obvious, some not – over the ubiquitous auto-loader.

The revolver is generally more reliable than an autoloader of similar quality. This isn’t to say that malfunctions can’t occur with a revolver, only that they’re less common. What malfunctions do occur are almost always a function of improper reloading technique (which I’ll cover in a later chapter) or poor quality ammunition.

A malfunction that needs clearing is quite rare. The most common problem, a failure to fire, is usually solved by stroking the trigger again and using better ammo. Another common malfunction is a case caught under the extractor, which renders the gun inoperative until fixed. It is prevented by proper reloading technique.

There is a malfunction clearing process for the very rare instances not covered above, and I’ll show you that, but needing to perform the drill is quite rare. Because of this inherent reliability, less training time is expended in malfunction drills which means more time for learning the important task of shooting!

A revolver doesn’t need just the right grip to keep it running; there is no limp wrist malfunction with a wheelgun. Shooting from disadvantaged positions or while injured won’t stop the gun from operating.

During an actual defensive encounter, the revolver is more resistant to induced failures. The revolver isn’t jammed by clothing or incompletely ejected casings. With an autoloader, slight contact can actually slow the slide enough to induce a malfunction. That’s not an issue with the revolver, making it ideal for close-quarters defensive duties. The shrouded or concealed hammer models are about as immune to such problems as can be imagined.

Some defensive schools teach shooting while in contact with an adversary. Whether that’s an appropriate response is beyond the scope of this book, but in such cases the revolver works perfectly where the auto can be jammed at the first shot.

Because of this it’s also possible to fire a revolver from inside a pocket without fear of malfunction. Shooting the revolver from inside a purse holster is also doable (and perhaps even necessary in the event of a purse grab.) An autoloader wouldn’t be as reliable under those circumstances.

(It’s important to understand that both autos and revolvers can be deliberately rendered inoperable by a very determined assailant. It’s the inadvertent failures, those that are situationally caused, that aren’t a problem for the revolver.)

A revolver is easier to fit to the hand. An autoloader, even one of the few that feature interchangeable backstraps, is still limited by the dimensions of its magazine well. A revolver’s grip can be easily changed to be longer, shorter, deeper, shallower, wider, or thinner. The angle at which the gun sits in the hand can even be altered on some models. In most cases it’s a cinch to make the revolver fit the hand perfectly.

One overlooked feature of the revolver is that it operates without ammunition. While I’m not a big proponent of extensive dry fire, the fact that the revolver is fully functional without ammo means that dry fire training is more useful than it is with an autoloader. There’s no interruption in the firing cycle, so trigger control is learned faster than if you had to stop to constantly rack a slide. I don’t know about you, but my brain learns best when it can experience a complete cycle of an event, and this is more easily done with the revolver.

The revolver is not only less expensive to purchase, it’s less expensive to operate as well. The gun itself tends to be less expensive than an auto of equal quality, but that’s just the start!

The revolver is self contained, and doesn’t need expensive magazines to operate.

If you have a defensive autoloader, it’s imperative that you test its function with the ammunition that you plan to carry. Recommendations vary, but the most common is that you shoot 200 rounds of that ammunition through the gun. If you’ve priced ammunition lately, you know how much that can cost!

With a revolver, you need to test your ammunition primarily to adjust the sights, or to verify that the bullet impact matches your non-adjustable sights. A couple of cylinders is all that takes, and you can then substitute cheaper practice or range ammo.

Of course there are no expensive magazines to buy. If you shoot your autoloader a lot, most authorities recommend that you have a half-dozen magazines for that gun. That’s a lot of money, and magazines are disposable parts: they wear out or can be damaged relatively easily. That’s an expense the revolver doesn’t have.

It’s impossible to load rounds into a revolver backwards.

Speaking of magazines, one of my favorite revolver attributes is that there aren’t any. Sometimes I go to the range with several guns, and when I’m dealing with autoloaders more than once I’ve forgotten to bring a magazine. The revolver doesn’t have that problem because the magazine is part and parcel of the gun. Even many years from now a revolver bought today will still be operational, while I’ve run into many autoloaders over the years that are missing their magazines.

I know I’m picking on the magazine issue, but another point is that it’s impossible to load rounds into a revolver backwards. I’ve seen more than one person load a round into a magazine backwards, and that causes a heck of a jam. Admittedly the incidence goes down with familiarization, but I remember one match I shot where a seasoned competitor loaded a round backwards in the middle of his magazine. Boy, was his face red!

I’m not a fan of the word tactical, but there is one revolver advantage that fits the term: should you need to pick your gun up from a table (or even the ground), the protruding cylinder makes a small gap between the gun and the surface on which it’s resting. This makes it a bit easier to retrieve than an autoloader which rests flat on the surface. A small difference, to be sure, but one which could prove valuable in the event that you need to pick yours up in a hurry!

A revolver has a simple manual of arms, meaning that it is easier to handle and operate. Many people say they pick a revolver because it’s easier to manipulate: no confusing buttons or levers, and a direct and unambiguous loading and unloading procedure. This makes it a superb choice for a home defense gun in those cases where one person is an enthusiast but his or her partner may not be. Anyone can pick up a revolver and shoot it.

This manual of arms is generally consistent across all revolver makes and models. There are exceptions, of course, but they are very rare. For the overwhelming majority of double action revolvers in circulation, all of the controls are in the same place and do pretty much the same thing. If you know how to run a Ruger, being handed a Smith & Wesson is not going to make you stop and scratch your head in confusion.

Since the revolver has a long, heavy trigger it’s more immune to adrenaline-induced accidental discharge. While most trainers (including me) stress that the finger should be outside of the triggerguard unless actually shooting, we must acknowledge that not everyone does this – especially those who haven’t been formally trained. In such hands, after being startled out of bed or in stress after ordering someone on the ground, it’s probably better that the gun require significant effort to shoot.

While many revolvers today have built in locks, it’s a simple matter to lock up any revolver: simply open the cylinder and hook a padlock through the frame opening. If you have a long-shackle lock, you can even run it through one of the chambers. It’s a simple matter to simultaneously lock the gun to something immovable, making it safe from accidents and from theft as well.

It’s been said that learning to shoot a revolver well helps you shoot all guns better. I’ve found that’s true, but only if you understand the why behind the techniques. I’ll go into this in Chapter Five.

One benefit that doesn’t seem like a benefit is that the revolver isn’t an easy gun to master. I’ve said for many years that the revolver is the easiest gun to shoot but the hardest gun to shoot well. There is a personal satisfaction to shooting a revolver well, and it’s magnified when you can do it to the point that you can beat people who insist on using those newfangled self-shucking things!

Finally, many people simply feel more at home with a gun that doesn’t look like a military or police arm. I’m not of that persuasion, and I suspect you may not be either, but to many people the revolver presents a friendlier image than that of any other gun – except, perhaps, for the old lever-action rifle. If I’m taking a new person to the range, a person who has no exposure to guns and is a little apprehensive about the whole affair, I’ll let them shoot revolvers first (and perhaps exclusively.) I’m sure that some will accuse me of pandering to other’s fears, but I believe that we gain converts, or at least don’t make enemies, by presenting shooting in its most favorable light. The revolver is just the tool to do that. After all, Barney Fife carried one, and who doesn’t love Barney?!

I don’t think I’ve made much of a secret that I’m a big fan of the revolver, nor of my belief that they have a lot of advantages over autoloading pistols. I’m a partisan, of that there is no doubt, yet the revolver isn’t right for every shooter or every application.

The revolver’s rounded shapes make it easier to pick up from a table or draw from a holster.

Safety first – always keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot!

First, of course, are those situations where capacity is important. The double action revolver is a great tool for personal defense, but the limited ammunition capacity makes it unsuitable for military use. Were I a police officer, particularly one assigned to an urban area where gangs and heavily armed offenders were commonplace, I doubt I’d choose a revolver as a primary arm (and I probably wouldn’t be allowed to, in any case).

While many people tout the revolver as being a good choice for those with limited upper body strength, I’m not so sure it’s always practical. Those people I’ve encountered who have strength issues with their arms or hands, such that they can’t operate an autoloading pistol, often lack the strength or range of movement to operate a revolver’s heavy double action trigger. While gunsmithing can help this to some degree, I’ve encountered many folks who just couldn’t handle the trigger weight. With proper technique those same people often were able to use an autoloader, and for them it was a better choice.

Revolvers aren’t well suited to the mounting and use of weapon lights. The presence of the ejector rod generally requires that the light be mounted very far forward, where it is difficult to actuate with the hands in a shooting position. There are revolvers on the market with mounting rails near the muzzle, but ease of operation issues have limited their popularity.

A revolver does recoil more with any given level of cartridge power than an equivalent autoloader. There have been revolvers chambered in 9mm, for instance, and they display markedly more recoil than that same cartridge in an auto of equal weight. This is because there is no reciprocating slide and recoil spring to use up any of the recoil energy. With a revolver, it’s all transmitted straight into the shooter’s hands. For those who are recoil sensitive, or whose hand strength presents control issues, the revolver is much less pleasant to shoot.

Any gun has strengths and weaknesses, and though I do love revolvers I think it’s important to acknowledge their faults. Consider carefully!

Chapter Two

The Perfect Fit

It’s really pretty simple: your gun must fit your hand if you want to be efficient in shooting. The circumference of the grip, the distance from the back to the trigger, and even the shape of the grip’s cross section make huge contributions to comfort and performance.

We’re lucky to be talking about revolvers in this day and age as opposed to just a few decades ago. Back in the ‘70s, and even well into the ‘80s, very few revolvers came with grips that actually fit a shooter’s hands. Custom grip manufacturers existed, but there was no internet to help shooters find them. If the revolver owner didn’t read a gun magazine, or sometimes the ‘right’ gun magazine, he or she would never learn that they didn’t have to suffer with poor revolver fit!

Today we have a wide range of aftermarket grips available, and many more that can be had on a custom basis through the many gripmakers found on the internet. Technology has improved, giving us materials that simply weren’t available some forty years ago. We also understand more about the role of improved ergonomics in shooter performance.

Many of these changes came about because of the wave of ‘shall issue’ concealed carry that swept across America during the 1980s. The market for concealed carry guns, training, and accessories exploded, bringing new ideas and increased competition into what was a pretty hidebound industry. Were it not for that, we might not have seen the need for proper gun and hand fit achieve the recognition that it has.

The trigger finger rules all

When fitting a gun to a shooter I always start with the trigger/finger interface. I’ll talk more about trigger finger placement in a later chapter, but ideally the first joint of the finger should be placed on the trigger. This is the ideal point of leverage and muscle control, and fits the majority of shooters with the widest range of gun sizes.

The process starts by having the student place that finger joint on the trigger. Once that’s properly placed we work backwards to the proper grip. Once the trigger finger is in the right place it’s easy to see if the the rest of the hand fits the gun (or vice-versa, depending on how you look at things).

Using a verified unloaded gun, place first joint of trigger finger on trigger.

Work backwards, wrapping hand around grip.

Finish by grasping the gun firmly as you would if actually shooting.

With the finger placed properly on the trigger and the rest of the fingers curled around the grip, I check to see if the barrel lines up with the bones of the forearm. If the gun is too big for the person’s hand, the barrel will be pointing away from the centerline of the body. If the gun is too small, it will be pointing toward the centerline.

I’ve found that it’s easier for most people to shoot a too-small gun than to operate a too-large gun. To get enough leverage to operate the trigger, a person with small hands (such as mine) must rotate the hand toward the muzzle, bringing the finger further into the trigger for proper leverage. This puts the backstrap of the revolver, which is the center of the recoil impulse, not into the palm but on the outside edge of the base of the thumb. The first bone of thumb itself, which now sits on the top of the backstrap instead of alongside it, takes the punishment of the muzzle flip. I can tell you from experience that this is a painful situation in which to be!

If the barrel lines up with the forearm, the gun fits the shooter correctly.

Someone with hands that are a bit big for the gun usually suffers nothing more than interference problems. The large trigger finger often contacts the thumb as it strokes the trigger backward, throwing the gun slightly off target and necessitating careful attention to the sights. Some of this is alleviated through proper trigger control (which is coming up in Chapter Five), but very large hands on very small guns are always a problem.

That’s why, if a choice has to be made, I’ll recommend the smaller gun every time. For the best results, though,

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