Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Super 625 .45 ACP Revolver!

As promised, here are more impression of the Randy Lee/Apex Tactical custom competition S&W 625 .45 ACP revolver.

You can see what the beastie in question looks like...note the ti cylinder fitted into the stainless steel 625 frame. Let's deal with that right up front. The point of a titanium cylinder instead of a stainless steel cylinder is (I believe) the pesky application of the laws of physics regarding stuff like momentum and mass. If you slept through that part of high school physics — and who didn't? — here's a quickie experiment to show you. Rush out to your workshop and collect a small piece of foam, a length of pvc pipe, duct tape and a 5-pound sledge hammer. Cut the foam until it is exactly the same size as the head of the sledge hammer. Cut off a piece of the PVC pipe exactly the same length as the handle of the sledge hammer, then duct tape the PVC "handle" to the foam "head." Now carefully hold the PVC/foam "hammer" exactly four feet above your right foot and let it go. Observe the feeling in your foot. Repeat the experiment with the real 5-pound sledge. When you stop hopping around and cursing, you'll have an excellent sense of why lighter might be better for moving parts: Snore...nod...ouch!...what??? Force equals mass times acceleration??? Gravity is a constant??? What the hell??? My foot hurts!!!

Remember also, the cylinder turns, then comes to a dead stop in line with the barrel. And rotating weight has even more implications than the falling 5-pound weight you like an idiot dropped on your foot — Lance Armstrong worries more about the weight of a wheel rim and tire than the weight of the bolts that hold his seatpost...although I suppose that these days Lance Armstrong doesn't worry about anything except Sheryl Crow's latest release and the gas mileage on his black-on-black restored GTO muscle car.

The weight of the rotating cylinder causes the revolver to torque ever so slightly under recoil (you pull the trigger, two things happen...the gun goes bang and the cylinder indexes another chamber). More weight; more torque. Also, consider that in DA fire, the trigger pull is also rotating the cylinder. Remember that rascal Newton? Bodies at rest tend to remain at rest (which is why getting up in the morning is such a bitch!). The heavier the cylinder, the more harder it is for the trigger mechanism to get the thing moving.

That's why the great PPC revolvers of the 1960s and 1970s were built on the smaller K-Frame S&Ws. Gunsmiths were able to get lighter DA trigger pulls and less torquing of the gun with the smaller K-Frames versus the larger N-Frames, given the same .38 Special ammo.

lighter cylinders = lighter trigger pulls + less torque

Or something like that.

Anyway, the net result is that Randy's revolver has a DA trigger pull of less than 4 pounds, essentially less than the single-action trigger pull of an out-of-the-box 1911. I fired the gun with some of Revolver Queen Lisa Farrell's leftover .45s from the IPSC World Shoot; the rounds were loaded to meet the hot 175 Power Factor (bullet weight X velocity /1000). The recoil felt exactly like a 1911 with similar power factor loads...if there was any torquing at all, I couldn't detect it. It was a little like running a tuned Para LDA semiauto...the trigger pull is so long and light that you pretty much don't notice it.

The barrel with its underlug soaked up the recoil, and I was able to steadily pick up speed on the plate rack.

Sights were the LPA specials for S&W revolvers, which give you a Bo-Mar-like rear sight view. From the LPA website... "THE TXT01-07 COMPETITIVE HAS BEEN PLANNED TO IMPROVE THE AIM IN COMPETITIVE SHOOTING AND TO BE HARMONIOUSLY COUPLED ON S&W REVOLVERS." So there! So few things in life are harmonious coupled. In fact, the sights are pretty cool, essentially bolting on using the pre-drilled holes in the topstrap for a scope mount. Front sights were (I think) SDM fiber optics "Super Sights." Sight picture can be summed up as "perfect."

The revolver also featured one of Apex's dual crane locking systems (the little ball bearing thingies on the yoke) and about every other bell and whistle out there.

You'll probably need to shoot this revolver to believe it! Yes, it's a pure competition piece, but I'd love to see some of Randy's innovations in, say, a carry gun...a 625 with a 3-inch barrel and ti cylinder, for instance, which should have a substantially longer working life than the current batch of Scandium-framed 325 .45 ACP snubbies coming down the pike. Better still, would it be too much to ask for an L-Frame 5-shot .45 ACP stainless steel 3-inch (a la the late and much lamented 696 .44 Special) with a ti cylinder? yeah, that's probably too much to ask!

Here's the bottom line: Randy Lee is the best revolver gunsmith working today. He is clearly one of the greatest S&W mechanics ever. Back in the day, I was lucky enough to shoot guns from some of the legendary PPC revolversmiths, and I would put Randy's 625 against any of those guns. I suggest you get your S&Ws to him TODAY, because as soon as word gets out, he's going to be sitting on a waiting list like you wouldn't believe!

BTW, one of the projects he's working on for me is a 629 .44 Magnum set up for competition, with the cylinder machined to take .44 moon clips. I'll steal a trick from the Brian Enos revolver forum and use shortened .44 Special or .44 Russian brass to keep the rounds stubby. I don't want the gun set up SOLELY for competition (which would entail the exclusive use of Federal primers with a precise seating depth), but rather as a gun that could be used in competition or as a great field piece.


Anonymous said...

Too late! Alex Hamilton mentioned Randy and his 3.5lbs DA trigger job in the latest edition of American Handgunner (Nov/Dec 2005). It seems that Randy also has a new uber trick, low mass, EDM, spurless hammer for S&W revolvers, and is working on a new trigger to match.

Speaking of removing weight from a 625 cylinder, I've seen a couple smiths lop off nearly a 1/2 inch from the front of a 625 cylinder. They shaved it down to accept only the max SAAMI length for .45 ACP. The late Fred Schmidt patented the same idea for .38 Special PPC revolvers, limiting them to wadcutter only.

Anonymous said...

Randy Lee is awesome. I tried his trigger on a friend's revolver and I wanted to buy it right then and there. He wouldn't sell of course. An RL custom revolver is on my must have list.

Anonymous said...

I too have handled revolvers worked on by Randy. No doubt his work is top notch. To top it off, Randy is a great shooter.

Anonymous said...

I have a fred schmidt revolver, fired about 75 times #121 model 10 smith and wesson. He made it for me in the 80's. Is anyone interested in this revolver? Thanks

Anonymous said...

I have shot a lot of Randy's work and it is the best I have every felt and seen. I trust him with anything.!


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