“Those Damn J-Frames Can’t Shoot Worth Beans!”
By Roy Huntington
All groups shot at 15 yards from a wrist rest and I didn’t really take my time at all. I messed one shot
up with the J-Frame but otherwise, you can see the groups are essentially the same.
When I was a cop I used to carry a couple of $100 bills in my wallet when I had range duty. When the various detective units would qualify, some of the dicks simply couldn’t hit anything with their various 2″ snubbies and would rant and rave about how those guns were “pieces of garbage!” I’d sometimes sidle up next to them — sighing in commiseration at their frustration. Their 7-yard targets often looked like 50-yard buckshot targets. “Yup, (sigh, harrumph) those damn things sure can’t shoot,” I’d say, looking with disgust at their snubbie. “Hey, I know, use my 4″ Model 19 (handing them my holster gun) and have a go at it again. Oh, if you don’t want that piece of crap snubbie, I’ll give you a hunnert bucks for it right now (flashing the $100 in my hand).” I had pretty good luck sometimes, and scored some cool old guns. If I had a guy who really wanted to learn, though, I’d show them what was needed to hit well and could usually get them up to speed. “Hey, these work pretty good after all!” they’d say. Yup.
I used to shoot the hell out of the little guns using “free” range ammo and learned a thing or three about how to run them. So, what’s the secret?
First off, it’s not a secret. Everybody knows what to do, but not everybody does it all the time. Let’s do a little demystifying of some things.
One of the reason we love the little J-Frames is they are so versatile. Note the double shoulder rig from
Rosen and the stretchy ankle rig from The Wilderness. Can you spot the odd-gun out in the picture?
They work great too!
If all you own is a 2″ revolver, this might be a little harder, but not impossible. If you have other wheelguns, grab a 6″ barrel .38 or .357 if you have one. A 4″ will do, but a longer barrel to start would be best.
Now for some science. You can shoot a rifle more accurately for several reasons, but the long barrel really isn’t one of them — other than it allows a longer sight radius. A scope helps too, but that’s something different. A long sight radius means you can better see differences in the relationship between the front and rear sights. The longer the sight radius the “finer” you can hold. It’s why old school bullseye shooters used to make extensions moving the front sight out farther on a 1911 pistol.
Now translate that to a snubbie vs. a 6″ barrel. The longer barrel is easier to “sight” with, the heavier gun helps too — but the real challenge is controlling your trigger press. You’ll never have a perfect sight picture, and the best you’ll get is “pretty darn good” — so don’t mess up what you do have by a cruddy trigger press. The drill is this: Use your longer barreled revolver and practice good sight pictures — and perfect trigger presses. Do some dry-firing, then shoot real groups (say, five rounds) at about 15 yards using a good wrist rest. Use light target loads if you’re shooting a center-fire. Any decent revolver should be capable of shooting 1″ to 1.5″ (at most) at 15 yards so “aim” for that.
After it seems you’ve settled down and are shooting consistent groups, move to a 4″ gun if you have one. Do the drills all over again. Don’t get spooked by the shorter barrel, both guns will shoot essentially the same size groups. Keep your mind focused entirely on the trigger press. If you’re willing to try, shoot it all double action, “staging” your trigger so the very final let-off is almost like a single action even though you pulled the trigger though the DA mode. Get it?
The Acid Test
Okay, now it gets serious. What you’ve been doing is simply developing your trigger talent. You might be surprised to note the vast majority of “casual” shooters — people who have not had any formal training, which is generally most shooters — usually have terrible trigger skills. That single skill can turn a 15″ group at ten yards into a 1″ group. It’s that important.
Now it’s time to break out your snubbie. Practice dry-firing (it won’t hurt the gun at all). Then once you’ve settled down and think you’re working the trigger smoothly, it’s time to apply what you’ve learned. Get your rest sorted out, put up a clean target, wipe your mind clear and don’t fixate on “Oh my god, this is the gun I can’t hit anything with!” Because, actually, the gun can shoot similar groups. Honest.
Shoot a few rounds. Think about what you’re doing, what you did and how the shots are hitting. If you’re pressing smoothly, with no jerks, twitches or hurry, you should begin to see groups which might have shocked you before. If you’re not, go back to a longer barrel to get your confidence back. Then back to the snubbie. When I shot PPC matches, they had a “Snubbie” match where shooters used 2″ guns out to 50 yards with absolutely amazing results. Often, the top shooters’ scores mirrored what most shooters got using heavy-barreled 6″ target guns.
Those little guns can shoot. You just have to apply a bit of talent — and don’t let ‘em spook you! Reminds me of that old saying about it being “The jerk behind the trigger, not the jerk of the trigger.” Don’t be that jerk in either case.
Since we’re talking about them, here’s a cool way to gussie-up your favorite snubbies and improve their handling. The white grips are Eagle Grips polymer “Synthetic Mother Of Pearl” Secret Service style on a Model 49 Bodyguard. Look for their amazing Kirinite synthetic grips if you’d like a splash of color and pizzazz. Eagle’s Rosewood Secret Service grips are on the top gun in the other pic. Below it lurks another Bodyguard wearing Altamont’s Silverblack Laminates. Pics are courtesy of Payton Miller, Exec. Editor of Guns. Seems we’re surrounded by guys who love these little guns, and are happy to see accessory makers haven’t forgotten about us! For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/eagle-grips/; Eagle: (800) 323-6144; Altamont: (800) 626-5774.
Milt Sparks Quality
The Summer Special, originally designed by that icon of holster-making, Bruce Nelson, is the benchmark for IWB designs. With permission from Bruce, Milt Sparks marketed the Summer Special from the early days, and the model has been a mainstay for Milt Sparks Holsters ever since. This is the Summer Special 2, with a few changes from the original. The metal stiffener in the top band (allowing one-handed holstering) and sight rails are there, but the two belt loops are interchangeable in the SS2 to fit different belt sizes. There are also elements of the Executives Companion model, all of which make the SS2 very versatile. This rig shows absolute top-notch craftsmanship, quality of materials and sheer excellence in design. At $110 it’s a tremendous value for anyone wanting a no-compromise carry holster for their personal protection handgun. I can’t say too much about how impressed I am with this holster — and the company. For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/milt-sparks-holsters-inc/; Milt Sparks: (208) 377-5577.
Webley Mark VI Mini
Ijust love sharing the latest one of these with you. Adding to the growing collection of classic revolvers and autos comes this 1/4 scale hard cast zinc model. They are also Silver electroplated then oxidized to bring out the details. Our own Mike Venturino supplied pics of his original gun to assure this one came out just right! Get your own (and add your name to the list so you’re notified when the next one is out) by touching base with them. The price is only $19.95 plus a small shipping charge. I’m having fun watching my own collection grow and you should too! For more info: www.firearmsassurefreedom.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Saint Pistol
Our own Mike Humphries attended the release event of some cool new Springfield Armory products lately. According to Mike, “Springfield Armory may have made its name with traditional firearms such as the M1A series of rifles and its line of 1911 pistols, but it has also pushed the envelope with cutting-edge new products. From its voluminous XD line of handguns to the introduction of the SAINT 5.56mm AR-15 rifle series last year, Springfield is staying ahead of the curve. Continuing that pattern is its introduction of the SAINT AR-15 pistol, a shorty variant of the SAINT AR rifle. It’s 26.5″ in overall length and weighs 5.5 lbs. The pistol is based off of the traditional direct gas impingement system operation of the AR and features a 416R stainless steel 7.5″ barrel with a 1:7″ twist rate. It’s chambered for 5.56 NATO.” There’s lots more about this new pistol and we’ll be covering it soonest. For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/springfield-armory/; Springfield: (800) 680-6866.
Practical Guides To Everything!
Tom McHale (who you’ve read now and again in our own hallowed pages) has consistently written some of the best, fun, informative and just plain entertaining and “good to know info” books around. The titles explain themselves and I admit readily when someone asks me “Um, Roy, what book can I read to explain holsters (or reloading, or guns and shooting) I point them at Tom. Well, not actually at Tom, but at his website, telling them, “Buy those books, then get back to me.” I also tell them to watch our own Insider Tips videos and subscribe to our magazines (sorry Tom, but it’s true). But I feel comfortable knowing Tom’s wit, good humor and honest real-world knowledge will guide those wayward souls in the right direction. Now Tom has done the same thing with his The Constitution, A Revolutionary Story. The sub-heading is: “The historically accurate and decidedly entertaining owner’s manual.” It’s a bang-up great job and is spot-on historically, and actually fun and easy to read. Tom says, “The mission is simple: make the Constitution so easy to understand that even a career politician can grasp it.” There you go. For more info: www.mygunculture.com, email: email@example.com.
There’s a wave of ultra-lightweight, high velocity ammo being introduced today, some with new bullet designs. The NovX ramps it up with a 65-gr. copper polymer bullet from Polycase at around 1,672 fps (in their standard 9mm load) in a stainless steel/aluminum case. The case looks to be a two-part system of some sort but I haven’t gotten to the bottom of the technology quite yet. We’ll be following up. I shot some my early sample rounds and they showed between 1,695 to 1,740 fps or so over my chronograph out of a Guncrafter 5″ FRAG 1911. Accuracy seemed excellent and recoil — due to the light bullet — was hardly noticeable. If you like the “lightweight/high velocity” formula, NovX is worth a hard look. Manufacturing quality seems to be exceptional, and the 25-round box tosses in an extra-round using clever packaging, making it 26. For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/novx-ammo/.
About 20 years ago when I was writing the Handgunleather column in Handgunner I reviewed the Beltster, invented and made by Scott Key Shelton out of Bandera, Texas. The idea is still sound and works solidly. Made for virtually any auto and some revolvers — perfect for J-Frames! — they also come in cross-draw, and you can even get a two-gun model!
Twenty years ago I said this: “The Beltster handles the carrying of a concealed handgun with panache and simplicity. Comfort, concealability and ease of carry is well up on the ‘I Can Live With This’ scale. The hands down winning deal with the Beltster is the fact once you slip the gun out, you’re wearing what appears to be an attractive belt. There’s no need to participate in the daily ‘put stuff on, take stuff off’ routine of a standard belt holster.” And I stand by what I said back then. The best way to order one is to call Scott so he can walk you though the measuring needs. For more info: (830) 612-3909.
Mossberg’s original 590 12-Gauge Shockwave rocked everyone’s boat when it was introduced last year. While it looks like it’d take special paperwork to own, it doesn’t. According to Mossberg, the 26.4″ overall length and features mean: “…the 590 Shockwave does not fall under the purview of the National Firearms Act (NFA) and does not require additional paperwork or the payment of a tax stamp for transfers.” Basically, you can buy it like you would any other “gun” at your dealer. The newest model (MSRP $455) in 20-ga. is slimmed down accordingly and is the first time the famous “parent” 590 model will be offered in 20. The 14″ barrel, Shockwave Technologies pistol grip, strapped forend and 6-rd. capacity makes the new model light and compact. Think: home defense, farm vehicle use, back-up or just plain fun — see the grin on Linda Powell’s face! For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/of-mossberg-sons-inc/; Mossberg: (203) 230-5300.
Jack O’Connor is still widely remembered as the champion of the .270 Winchester cartridge. O’Connor was a rifleman, but he went so far as to get a Colt National Match Mid-Range .38 Special wadcutter 1911. He told his friend Henry Kaufman, “I thought sometime I might want to do a little target shooting.” Jack wrote about this pistol in his Getting the Range column appearing in the February, 1966 issue of Outdoor Life.
Jack never used the Colt very much, and sold it Kaufman in the mid-70’s. Henry eventually let someone talk him out of the pistol, which in turn was purchased by the current owner in 1994. Still in spectacular condition and supported by ironclad documentation, it was recently consigned to Sportsman’s Legacy. It can be yours for $6,000 (if it’s still for sale), along with a paper trail establishing ownership and a personalized letter from the current owner detailing its history. They have some other O’Connor stuff too. Amazing to see this. For more info: www.sportsmanslegacy.com.