Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Revolver in Carry Optics?

Got this on sale! Waiting for a mount to arrive.

What is Carry Optics?

As red dots decrease in size, more shooters are attaching optics directly to the slide for concealed carry. A new equipment division that permits the use of a mounted red dot sights was created to meet the demand. The Carry Optics Division is built on this philosophy. Only one shooting organization, the USPSA, has published official rules for the division. The rule book contains provisions for dimensions, weight, milling, power factor, and...magazine capacity. Welp, these rules specifically exclude revolvers. 

Why would they do this? This appears to be an attempt to not divide the revolver shooters any further, as the Revolver Division has less participation than other divisions. In the Open Division of shooting disciplines, compensators, red dots, extended magazines, and other modifications have been in use for years. Revolvers have been competing in Open alongside magazine fed auto-loaders. But there may be hope for revolver participation in a carry optics division!

IDPA and Carry Optics

As of today, IDPA has not created a rules set for a division featuring firearms equipped with optical sights. In fact, the phrase "carry optics" is only mentioned in section 8.2.10, regarding Specialty Divisions (SPD). The second bullet point is the most relevant and reads:

"B. IDPA allows clubs to add “Specialty Divisions” for scoring. This division allows cartridges smaller than 9 mm, carry optics, activated lasers, mounted lights, and other firearms which do not fit into the other competition divisions to participate in matches."

Since there are currently no rules against using a revolver with an optic in IDPA's Carry Optics, why not use one? 

Division Modifications


View through the optic.

I don't want to spoil my review of the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Carry Optics, but I thought I would briefly list some of the parts that move the revolver into the Carry Optics Division. Here are the division specific upgrades:

  • Optic: CMore RTS2 6MOA
  • Mount: Allchin
  • Cylinder Release: California Competition Works
  • Hammer: APEX Evolution IV 

I based the part selections on a few assumptions. I've tried my best to explain everything in detail below.

Assumption #1: The Carry Optics Division would be loosely modeled on the existing Compact Carry Pistol (CCP) Division. The existing division dimensions will remain the same with the addition of an optic.  

The intention of IDPA is to focus on concealed carry pistols in competition. IDPA created the CCP division around compact auto-loading pistols, so I assume a Carry Optics division would use compact pistols with optics. A three inch Model 66 would just about fit in the box while following the intent of a Concealed Carry Revolver. 

Assumption #2: Carry Optics capacity will match CCP capacity limits.

The CCP division limits capacity to eight rounds in semi-auto. Aside from the extra round in the chamber of semi-autos at the start of each stage, a six shot revolver would be close enough in capacity to compete with an auto-loader in this division. 

Assumption #3: The CCP Division allows the modifications from Enhanced Service Pistol (ESP) Division. Revolvers would likewise be approved to compete with modifications from the Revolver - Enhanced Division.

This one is a bit of a stretch, but if Carry Optics allows ESP modifications then any revolver should be allowed REV-E modifications. The Revolver (REV) Division is divided into two sub categories: Service and Enhanced. While REV-S requires mostly stock configurations, REV-E permits a few modifications, namely moon clip conversions and aftermarket cylinder releases. I was mostly interested in the extend cylinder release rather than moon clips, because I find .38 Specials in moon clips are slower than speed loaders.

Assumption #4: Carry Optics will be minor power factor.

USPSA's Carry Optics Division and IDPA's Enhanced Service Pistol Division only require minor power factor. It would make sense to only require minor power factor for consistency across divisions (and leagues?). As a side note, the Revolver Enhanced Division (REV-E) requires a higher power factor in exchange for the permitted modifications. 


The finished product.

Here is the finished product! Should IDPA choose to permit revolvers in a Carry Optics Division, I think this model fits with the division requirements that I assumed above. More importantly, I think this wheel gun aligns with the intent of a Carry Optics division. It is compact, equipped with a red dot, and can be carried with moderate effort. The inclusion of the red dot and extended cylinder release ensure that it can compete in a division among other firearms equipped with optics. 

Although many people choose to carry auto-loaders, many also choose revolvers as defensive firearms. As a competition sport that claims to focus on the defensive use of handguns, I hope that IDPA chooses to permit revolvers in a Carry Optics Division. Regardless, I'll be shooting the Model 66 Carry Optics in a match this weekend. 

As always, if you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to share your experience on the current topic please post below!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Gift from Her Grandfather: the Ruger Bisley

This particular revolver is a Ruger Bisley chambered in .22lr and belongs to my significant other. Her grandfather purchased this gun prior to a medical diagnosis which has left him unable to shoot. On a recent visit, he decided to gift this lovely little revolver to her. I'm not sure if he shot it much, if at all. She has little interest in shooting the gun, but doesn't mind if I take it out from time to time. 


In last week's post, I showcased two different single action revolvers. Both happened to be produced by Ruger and I believe their current production revolvers are updated versions of the classic single action army design. These modern single action revolvers feature enhanced sights and updated safety features. For example, the transfer bar system allows the revolver to be loaded to full capacity without fear of accidental discharge if dropped. This is a significant improvement over the original design which required the hammer to be placed on an empty chamber. 

After visiting, I saw that this model was not currently in production. The Ruger Single Six appears to be very similar, with the exception of the extended grip frame and engraved cylinder. The 6 1/2 inch barrel balances nicely with the slightly longer grip. I also really like the wooden stocks. Although a bit of wood checkering would have been a nice touch, it is not entirely necessary considering small caliber. The features found on this model make this a great package.



The task of loading and unloading a single action revolver isn't overly complicated, but it is certainly a process. Most single action revolvers of this design possess a loading gate on the right side of the frame. This gate allows access to the cylinder's chambers. Older black powder designs previously required the cylinder to be loaded from the front or even removed from the frame entirely. The gate must be opened to allow the cylinder to turn freely, but unlike older designs that require bringing the hammer to half-cock, the updated modern single action's hammer can remain safely in the down position.

To eject spent cases, the barrel should be angled vertically which allows gravity to aid in extraction. While the left hand holds the gun and rotates the cylinders, the right hand sharply presses the ejector once  the chambers are aligned with the ejector. The rhythm takes practice, but they say practice makes perfect. After punching out the empties the barrel is rotated downward to allow gravity to help feed the rounds into each chamber. Again, the left hand rotates the cylinder while the right hand loads fresh cartridges. Once the chambers are filled, the loading gate can be closed and it is ready to fire. 

Shooting Impressions

Still all in the black.

A single action revolver chambered in .22lr might be one of the best shooting wheel guns available. The combination of low recoil with a crisp trigger makes for good shooting if you take your time. Testing accuracy with a handgun is largely based on the shooter's ability. I've only been shooting revolvers with regularity for about two years now but I consider myself, an average shooter. I really hate shooting groups off the bench, so instead I shot the following off hand at a moderate pace:

  • 12 rounds at 10 yards

I know, I know. The target pictured above may not be fantastic marksmanship. It doesn't always have to be perfect. Sometimes just shooting and enjoying yourself is the best use of time on the range. After a day working with a newly completed project, it was nice to shoot just for fun.

These were much more fun to shoot.  


The Ruger Bisley chambered in .22lr is a great rimfire revolver. I really enjoy the aesthetics and ergonomics of this firearm. It is more than comfortable to shoot all day and the caliber produces very light recoil, especially with the added weight of the barrel. As I've mentioned in previous posts, a small bore revolver like this one is perfect for training new shooters, plinking, or and hunting very tiny game. 

Even though my significant other doesn't care for revolvers, this piece is sentimental to her because it is a gift from her grandfather. Rugers have a reputation of quality construction that will outlast the original owners as long as they are maintained. With a bit of luck, a quality revolver like this can last for generations.

If you are in the hunt for a quality rimfire revolver, this one is a winner!

As always, if you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to share your experience on the current topic please post below!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Modern Single Action Revolvers

What is a single action?

Courtesy of

When most people think of single action revolvers they probably think of the Wild West and the Colt Single Action Army produced starting in 1873. I could (and will) dedicate an entire post to the SAA, but this post is less about a particular brand of firearm and more about the features of a modernized single action

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, "single action" refers to the trigger performing one action when it is pulled. Unlike a double action trigger, which both cocks then fires the revolver, a single action simply releases the hammer. That is an over simplification of the design, but most readers don't care about all the mechanical specifics. 

Below, I briefly discuss two examples of this modern single action which both happen to be produced by Ruger. I don't personally own either of these fine pieces, but I was happy to use them as they are both quality single action revolvers. Lets take a look at these two Rugers!

Modern Examples

In addition to the wide number of Single Action Army clones produced by Italian companies such as Uberti, several companies now produce modernized versions of the classic single action design. I would wager the best are produced by Ruger. Colt's original design was not drop safe and the firing pin makes contact with the primer when the hammer is in the decocked position. This means that the hammer must rest on an empty chamber to be safe. Ruger developed a transfer bar safety for the single action to make the firearm drop safe which permitted loading all of the cylinders. 

That company also made additional internal changes. The springs were updated from a leaf spring to a coil spring which tend to be a bit more robust. Another updated feature present on Ruger's modern single actions is manipulation of the loading gate without requiring the hammer to be half cocked like the single action army. Decocking a loaded firearm has additional risk, especially if the revolver has light trigger. 

Aside from the new internal parts, many modern single actions now come equipped with more visible front sights and adjustable rear sights. Don't get me wrong, the fixed sights of the 1873 are still very popular on single actions replicas. If given the choice, I wager that many shooters would select Ruger's improved modern single action over the original designed by Colt. 

What purpose do these revolvers serve? Well, consider that nearly everything a modern double action revolver can do, a single action did it first. This design can certainly fill a defensive role if needed, but may be better suited for plinking, training, and even hunting!

Ruger Bisley .22

This Ruger Bisley belongs to my significant other and was a present from her grandfather. If you recall from previous posts, she doesn't really enjoy revolvers so it largely sits in the safe. On the other hand, I love visiting the range and shooting clays at twenty five yards. It is incredibly fun!

This model is chambered in .22lr, is equipped with a six and a half inch barrel, and has a six round capacity. The most striking characteristic is the long wood grip famously debuted by Colt in 1894 at the Bisley Shooting Range. I honestly prefer this frame to the standard single action army frame for smaller calibers, because my pinky rides comfortably on the frame. 

As the Bisley is chambered in .22lr, recoil is very light. This is an excellent revolver for an afternoon of plinking. Clays, cans, and other makeshift targets should be easy pickings for this little revolver. While you can easily fire several boxes of .22lr during the course of an afternoon, the only thing that may slow you down is reloading after every six shots.

Another important role this modern single action can serve as is a trainer for new shooters, particularly kids! The large sights and light trigger of this wheel gun make teaching fun and easy. I hope to teach many friends, young and old, to shoot with this Ruger...assuming she lets me take it to the range that much.

Ruger Blackhawk .357

This Ruger New Model Blackhawk belongs to Mr. B. You might recall Mr. B from the post Infrequent Shooters Reviewing Revolvers. This is the only revolver he owns and it largely remains in his safe. When I received the revolver on loan from Mr. B the rear sight blade as actually chipped. I was able to replace the entire rear sight for less than fifteen dollars and fifteen minutes of my time. 

This model is chambered in .357 Magnum and has a four and three quarter inch barrel. Zeroing the pistol at twenty five yards took a few rounds of .357 mag, but it shoots groups just fine. Shooting .38 Specials is much more comfortable, even if the rounds impact a bit low with the current zero.

I mentioned that I prefer a shorter grip on center fire single actions and there is actually a good reason for that. The design of the frame allows the pistol to "roll" in the hand slightly which reduces the felt recoil. This is particularly useful when shooting high pressure rounds, like the .357 mag, that have a significant recoil impulse.

While you can certainly do a bit of plinking or training with this revolver, the real purpose is hunting. I am not a hunter and hunting with handguns never seemed like a particularly good idea to me. After doing a bit of research and then a bit of shooting with this revolver, I think I see the appeal. Maybe I'll even give handgun hunting a try one day.


Courtesy of

The modern single action revolver is an incredibly useful firearm. Whether used for training, plinking, or hunting, this design excels. The action is smooth and light which lends to accuracy and fun because hitting your target is better than missing it. I have not yet had the pleasure of shooting Ruger Super Blackhawk chambered in .44 Magnum (let alone .454 Casull), but I would guess that model is also quite effective for hunting or back country defense. 

In my opinion, Ruger has combined all the charm of the original Colt single action revolver with modern features and improvements. The result is the best modern single action revolver currently available.

As always, if you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to share your experience on the current topic please post below!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rehabilitating a Smith & Wesson 64-3

Wait...that isn't a revolver.

On a recent visit to my significant other's hometown, her grandmother, affectionately known as Nana, requested to clean up an old revolver. This old Smith & Wesson was the only surviving firearm following a house fire. Nana is a Southern Belle who visits the range frequently to practice with her current carry gun, a Sig P238 (pictured above). In my opinion, this woman is a saint for all she has done for BK so I was happy to work on this weathered old piece.


The wheel gun in question is a Smith & Wesson Model 64-3. Based on the serial number, it seems to have been produced in 1981. At first glance, there are few signs it endured a fire at all. Removing the side plate revealed some significant scorch marks that I would assume is burnt oil. Beneath the ejector star was more oil residue and the barrel was pretty dirty. All things considered it was in good shape. Here are some close ups of the scorched internals:

A bit rough on the inside, but it could be worse.

After sending some pictures to a qualified gunsmith to review, he said there was no indication of damage to the gun that would make it unsafe, so I began the clean up process. I soaked the gun in Ballistol and let it sit for 24 hours before attacking it with a toothbrush. It took several applications of this CLP treatment to make any headway. Despite ruining the bristles of the old toothbrush, there are still visible marks. I think it looks a bit more presentable. Here are pictures of the internals after scrubbing:


I think it is important to note that the fire was nearly two decades ago, so all the springs needed to be changed. I wanted a lighter trigger pull while maintaining ignition on several factory primers in case Nana ever wanted to shoot it. I installed a new factory mainspring and a Wolff 14 pound trigger rebound spring. Turning the mainspring strain screw all the way in still resulted in a heavy pull, so I backed it out a bit before applying a bit of thread locker to ensure the screw stays put. 

The original stocks were scorched in the fire and should not be reinstalled. I happened to have a Hogue Monogrip for a square butt K/L frame...that Nana absolutely hates. She chose to order a set of new production Smith & Wesson stocks, that way the 64 is a close to original as it can be. She is a little sentimental. Here is the revolver after it has been cleaned and reassembled with the new springs and temporary grips:

Shooting Impressions

I did not fire Nana's Model 64. I honestly expect it to go back in a drawer, never to see a range, and I'm totally ok with that. If she wants a wheel gun, a modern Smith & Wesson with more visible sights will be a better choice for her to learn revolver shooting. While I may not have tested that particular gun, I have shot both a S&W Model 64 and a S&W Model 10 at an indoor range. A four inch steel K frame is about as balanced a revolver as you can find. Recoil with .38 Specials is comfortable and +P rounds are manageable. 

The negative aspect of this design are the minimal sights. A slender ramp front sight paired with trench style rear sights are difficult to see. A bit of brightly colored paint on the front ramp helps, but not all rounds that hit point of aim/point of impact with this configuration. I'll take a S&W with an adjustable rear sight any day, but you could do worse than a fixed sight model.


I really enjoyed cleaning up this old revolver for Nana. These workhorses shoot fine even if the sights leave something to be desired. For the average shooter, this revolver is more than enough for target practice, competition, and/or personal defense. The Smith & Wesson Model 64 was produced in large quantities and many law enforcement agencies issued these in droves. Why does that matter? Well, every so often a department will liquidate old inventory and these used revolvers regularly appear in online stores, often at a discount. If you see one in decent shape for a bargain price, definitely add it to your collection.

As always, if you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to share your experience on the current topic please post below!