Sunday, June 18, 2006

On the Way Home

I was going to hang around Morro Bay for a day, but the temptation of dinner with my Sweetie was just too much, and I'm at SLO grabbing an early flight back to Denver.

This may come as a total shock to you all, but Jerry Miculek won his umpteenth International Revolver Chanpionship yesterday. As usual, he told me that he was not shooting nearly as well as usual, and that the younger guys were nipping at his heels. The only person nipping at King Jerry's heels was none other than Rob Leatham, looking strangely lost with a revolver in his hand, and he wasn't particularly close. Unofficial scores put Rob second, with revolver-meister and SHOOTING GALLERY regular Vic Pickett in turn nipping at Robbie's heels. Unofficial scores also put the lovely Lisa Farrell crushing her competition for a sixth Limited Class (iron sights) world championship. At the Hogue party last night, Lisa noted that no one makes remarks like the heard early on — "That's a mighty big gun for a little lady..."

You'll see it all on SHOOTING GALLERY, of course.

I was, as I mentioned, TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY with the finished Randy Lee/Apex Tactical S&W 629 Super Gun I commissioned. The base gun was an S&W 629 Classic .44 Magnum with a 6 1/2-inch barrel. Normally, Randy specializes in pure competition guns — more than 60% of the 200 shooters at the IRC were shooting Randy's guns, and the other 40% left him guns for next year!

That means comeptition calibers — .45 ACP in S&W 625 in 6-shot revolvers or a variety of .38/.357 or .38 Supers in the 6,7 or 8 shot L- and N-Frame S&Ws. For speed of loading, the competition guns use moon clips. For rimless (okay or semi-rimmed if you insist) cartridges like the .38 Super or .45 ACP, the moon clips are a cinch. But in recent years, pioneered by Dave Hearth at Hearthco, precision moon clips are available for rimmed cartridges, with the clips tatching onto the small groove just above the rim of the cartridge.

I knew that Dave had cut moon clips for .44 Special/.44 Magnums in the past, and I always thought such a modification would make for a pretty nice field gun. Of course you can use speedloaders, but I've probably emptied more speed loaders into my pocket than I have into the cylinder of the intended gun. Of course, I'm clumsy as all get-out.

I had a 629 Classic in the safe — the Smith .44s are my favorite guns of all time, inching out the 1911 for a place in my heart. The gun balanced like all the big S&Ws, perfectly, but was a little heavier than my baseline M-29 6-inch due to the full underlug. I asked Randy if he would considered overhauling the 629, taking it almost to the level of his competition revolvers.

Specifically, I wanted one of his world-class trigger jobs, but one that would work with any out-of-the-box primers — normally. revolver competition shooters standardize on Federal Primers as the easiest to pop. I also want the cylinder machined for moon clips and have Randy go through the gun, relieve any stress points and head off any additional problems.

As it happens, he had access to a titanium cylinder from an S&W 329PD, which he suggested he fit to the 629. The HUGE HUGE advantage of a titanium cyclinder is that it has less weight than stainless steel. That means the revolver's hand, which turns the cylinder as the trigger is pulled, has less work to do. One of the hardest aspects of getting a great DA trigger on a big frame S&W is the weight/mass of the cylinder...that Newtonian "bodies at rest tend to remain at rest until acted on by an outside force..." thingie. The bigger/heavier the cylinder, the more "outside forces" necessary to start it turning. Titanium is also tougher than stainless, an added plus.

The interesting thing to me was that the weight difference with the titanium cylinder in place made the 629 feel and handle almost exactly like my old M-29. Because the moon clips fit very tightly into the small goove, the .44 Special cartridges were pretty rigid, which made loading with the moon clips extremely easy. Dave Wilson graciously loaded me up some puff-ball 205-grain bullets with Hodgdon Trail Boss powder; hte combination of the mild Specials (essentially a cowboy action load) and the full-underlugged 6 1/2 inch barrel made the big Smith run like a staple gun; I had a single "B" hot on my 2 stages of fire, with the other "A's" on top of each other as fast as I could run the super smooth trigger — not nearly as as, I might add, as the "real" shooters!

I finally had to pry the gun out of all the testers' long as there was ammo, everyone wanted to try the .44. I think this is a pretty good oexample of competition technology trickling into the mainstream. I'm looking forward to getting the gun home and testing it with 240-grain magnums and the heavier field loads, but I think it's a definite step up for the revolver. I'm also interested in the life expectancy of the moon clips, which are presently as sharp as Ninja throwing stars. I'll do a full report — with pictures!!! — on the SHOOTING GALLERY site a little later.

I'd also like give a nod to the Internation Congress of revolver Enthusiast, ICORE, who sponsor revolver shooting world-wide. ICORe has avoided the trap that has snagged so many of the otehr action shooting sports...ther's plenty of "run-and-gun," but there's also precision shooting at 50 yards and plates that are far enough away to guarantee that you'll look at your sights. Match Director Nelson Dymond and his match staff did an excellent job of blending speed and accuracy. I wish I could have shot the whole match!


Anonymous said...

after firing your gun mike it is obvious that randy is not from this planet. he is too advanced. just a genuis of a gunsmith from sector 44.

Anonymous said...

Oh how I want a Randy Lee S&W. Time to go shopping.

Michael Bane said...

Get your gun to Randy quick!

He's already backed up, and when the SHOOTING GALLERY episode runs, he's likely to get even more swamped-er...

The man is an artist.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Bane - Do you think that revolver competition is growing? And if so is it the competition that builds the aftermarket or the other way around? The reason I ask is that I would not have considered revolver competition but I would consider a sweet custom revolver and owning one would make me want to run it fast in competition. What are your thoughts?

Michael Bane said...

I do feel revolver competition is growing, and I think it could grow faster with a little push, which is what we're trying to do at SHOOTING GALLERY.

In truth, COMPETITION drives INNOVATION, which then trickles down to self-defense and field applications. The huge leap forward in 1911s — the best-selling handgun in AAAmerica — and in the AR platform guns — the best-selling rifle in America — have come from practical competition. The military has benefitted hugely from the competition-derived evolution of the AR platform (red-dot sights, amazing accuracy, reliability improvements, better magazines, etc.).

One of the most amazingly stupid views prevalent in the firearms industry is that HUNTING drives the market. Hunting drives the cammie market; COMPETITION drives the shooting market.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the plug Mike! The IRC has been very good to me.

You hit the nail on the head regarding the evolution of guns. Competitive shooting has had the greatest impact.

Thanks again, Dave.

Sorry bout them sharp clips!

Randy Lee said...

Thanks Michael,
I'm glad you had fun out here and more importantly, liked the gun.

I'm flattered that so many people like my work!

Thank you also for the opportunity to show my wares in front of the camera. Now, if I could only get my knees to stop knocking....


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