Wednesday, December 20, 2017

For the Love of Snub: Ruger LCR .357

Range 10 still has an amazing view.

I feel it is important to note that this isn't the first Ruger LCR that I've owned. Right after I started shooting, I purchased a Talo Edition LCR .38 Special + P in OD Green. I absolutely hated it. It turned me off to revolvers for about a year. I know. A light weight snub nosed revolver may be the worst choice for a first revolver, but that is what I could afford at the time. Fast forward a few years and a couple wheel guns later to find that this Ruger LCR .357 is a regular companion when I'm out and about (about 33% of the time). This is a great little gun, loaded with features, that anyone with experience behind a revolver should look into.


The snub nosed revolver is a popular carry option due to the size, weight, simplicity, and reliability (we could debate this forever). Prior to this release, alloy frame revolvers were considered to be the carry option for many people. In 2009 Ruger introduced the Lightweight Compact Revolver (LCR) that incorporated a new polymer trigger housing. This design, coupled with a familiar monolithic alloy frame, steel cylinder, and barrel sleeve, reduced the weight of the wheel gun even more. The result? A 13.5 ounce wheel gun rated for .38 Special +P. The Ruger LCR .357 Magnum came shortly after offering additional power (and recoil) with a slight increase in weight to 17.1 ounces. That's pretty impressive.

Ruger also created a "patented friction reducing cam" system that smooths out the trigger pull and prevents stacking. The trigger pull feels lighter than it actually registers on the scale. A few other features, such as a pinned front sight and recoil absorbing stocks, all come standard from the factory. Options are nice. Ruger offers a variety of parts that other competitors did not. Let's looks at some of the parts I selected to get this revolver to fit my lifestyle!

Stock Options

All three Tamer stocks: stock with finger groove, Bantam boot, and finger-less extended.

One of the best features of revolvers is the variety of stocks shapes and materials that a frame can accept. The Ruger LCR is no exception and several companies make stocks for the intended purpose of the gun. Ruger partnered with Hogue to create the Tamer stock that feature a recoil pad along the back strap to reduce the felt recoil of the little revolver. This comes standard and is relatively comfortable compared to wood or G10 stocks, I just hate finger grooves. 

With the release of the Ruger LCRx 3 inch, Hogue produced  a longer stock without grooves. While these larger stocks are the most comfortable for shooting, they print unless I am wearing larger fitting clothing. I finally decided on the Hogue Bantam Boot grips for better concealment and the lack of finger grooves ensuring a better fit in my hands. These stocks still feature the Tamer recoil pad on the back strap. They are good enough for me.


Sight picture with XS Standard Front Sights.

Perhaps my favorite feature of this little snubbie is the pinned front sight. This model come from the factory with a serrated black front sight. I had a hard time seeing the sight at the counter. Thankfully, Ruger collaborated with a couple companies to offer both fiber optic and night sight options for those who have a hard time with black on black sights. 

I ordered an XS front sight as soon as I made it home with my new prize. Once the sight was installed by my local gunsmith, I took it too the range for some shooting. The LCR hits point of aim/point of impact with most of the ammo I've tested inside of 10 yards. As expected longer shots require a six o'clock hold. I've only shot out to 25 yards with the LCR.

Ammo Selection

Selecting the carry round for the LCR was actually quite the challenge. There are dozens of defensive ammunition options for the snub nosed revolver. I tend to lean toward .38 Special + P, rather than .357 Magnum loads, in my revolvers. I just don't like the blast that magnums produce. I settled on Speer's Gold Dot Short Barrel 135 grain 38 Special + P ammo based on ballistics tests I've seen and the overall shooting characteristics of the round. Out of the LCR, recoil is manageable and the rounds shoot POA/POI with my front sight.

Shooting Impressions

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 and a half years but I consider myself, an average shooter. I shoot the Hardwired Tactical Shooting Snub Super Test regularly with the short barreled revolvers I own. A passing score is a 135/150. The drill is straightforward as follows:

  • 5 rounds in 8 seconds from 10 yards.
  • 5 rounds in 5 seconds from 5 yards.
  • 5 rounds in 3 seconds from 5 yards strong hand only.


The target above is from a range session last spring. I managed to run out of the B-8 targets during my most recent session, so I don't have another target to post. I shot this drill with standard .38 special rather than the +P offerings. I dropped a few points shooting quickly with one hand, but I passed. I need to run this drill with +Ps soon. 

I forget how much a little snubbie can recoil after shooting steel frame revolvers all day. Thankfully, the additional weight of the LCR .357 assists in recoil management. The .38 + Ps are a handful, but I am able to control them during strings of fire. I don't think I will ever shoot this with .357 magnums. I feel like the recoil, noise, and muzzle blast would reduce my proficiency with this little gun. I'll stick with +Ps. 

I've also found that the shorter extractor rod doesn't always extract the cases with my preferred reload. As a lefty, I typically transition the revolver to my right hand and use my index finger to push the extractor rod. This usually results in at least one stuck case with the LCR. Instead, I have trained myself to use the universal reload. The revolver transitions to my left hand with fingers through the frame and the extractor rod receives a firm strike with the palm of my right hand. My right hand then retrieves a loading device and I transition the revolver back to my left hand for a firing grip. I prefer my left handed technique, but this is fine.

Carry Options


I mentioned that the Ruger LCR is one of my two regular concealed carry options. Although I prefer shooting this little revolver with the extended grip, that stock doesn't always conceal well on my person. I went with one of the smallest grip options, the Bantam Boot grips. This is an incredibly concealable package for appendix carry, inside the waistband carry, pocket carry, and coat pocket carry. 

The kydex holster offers full coverage of the revolver and is ambidextrous with a reversal of the screws. It came with a soft loop strut, but I prefer the clips made by G-Code Holsters. It pushes the butt of the stock closer into your body so it prints slightly less. For pocket carry, I really like the Sticky Holster. It stays in the pocket when I draw the revolver. It is actually designed to be placed between bare skin and a waistband, but I like more retention for belt carry.

After five shots the LCR is empty. I was hoping a Safariland Comp 1 designed for a J-frame would function, but it just doesn't fit. HKS speed loaders are widely available and relatively inexpensive. Although not a perfect fit, this speed loader works just fine. I'd like to try a 5 Star Fireams J2 and matching Kydex Speed Loader Carrier,  but I haven't ordered any yet. These typically ride in my right hand front pocket and it feels like a small rock. I also carry a speed strip in the small pocket on the right side of my jeans. 


The Ruger LCR is quite the little revolver. The amount of features for the price makes it a competitive option for those looking for a concealed handgun. This addition to the market challenged Smith & Wesson's dominance in the small concealable revolver market. Ruger has continuously added to the LCR line by offering several calibers, different barrel lengths, and an model with an external hammer. I think Ruger really listens to potential customers when they offer new models of this fantastic platform

When I saw the Ruger LCR .357 sitting in the used cabinet for a great price, I bought it then and there. The ability to change the front sight and the recoil absorbing rugger stocks sold me the LCR. The 17.1 ounce weight .357 model also helps to soak up a bit more recoil than the standard LCR and is totally worth the four ounces. I've never fired a .357 through it and don't intend to, but the option is always there should I decide I need it. This model 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, December 6, 2017

USPSA Model 66 Open Revolver 11-25-17

A Different Competition

Thus far, my competition experience with revolvers includes IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) and Steel Challenge. I have enjoyed shooting wheel guns in both formats, but when I found out our local club was planning  to offer USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) matches on the fourth Saturday of each month, I was pretty excited. From the outside looking in, USPSA appears to use specialized racing equipment compared to the holsters and speed loader/moon clip holders of IDPA I am used to using. 

This is actually my second USPSA match. I enjoyed it so much back in October that I thought I would shoot the same set up again. The first match was a real learning experience. Since I was shooting minor, I figured accuracy was more important than speed. I was the most accurate shooter at the match with 109 As, 1 B, and 5 Cs. The kicker? My times were slow. I placed 23rd out of 27 shooters. Here are my results from the first match:

Sorry this is a little small.

Why Open?

This was what I used at my first USPSA match in October 2017.

My choice to shoot in open was the only choice for an optic equipped revolver like my Smith & Wesson Model 66 Carry Optics. Why not shoot in Carry Optics? Unfortunately, USPSA's Carry Optics Division caters only to handguns with slide mounted optics. Instead, I would be shooting against the double stack 2011 race guns. 

Although I love new gear, I didn't want to purchase a bunch of new stuff if it turned out USPSA wasn't for me. Instead, I used the kydex holster, pouches, and speed loaders that I use in IDPA. The only difference is an Uncle Mike's double belt system my fiance ordered me for this match. The outer/inner belt system is a great idea and I wish IDPA would permit it for the convenience. Now, on to the stages!

Stage One

The blue and white barrel were not involved.

This was actually the second stage our squad shot at the match.
 The start position box was just outside of the shooting area, so you had to step in to the box as you drew. Rather than shooting the center array right off the bat, I decided to move to Position Two and shoot the first array of three. Everything went fine until shot five which was a click instead of a bang.  A bang followed by five more clicks threw my stage plan out the window. So I did a reload, fired two quick shots then continued to load midway through each array. 

Up to this point, I've never experience a failure with this revolver. I was actually surprised when it happened twice. I thought it might just have been the round. Until it happened again, just a few steps away, at Position Four. I finished. It wasn't great. My squad suggested an extended firing pin.

Stage Two

This stage opened with two targets directly in front of the start position. I always like to load on the move, so I took three quick shots on both targets then moved to the right toward Position Two. I got another click at this position, but that round went off on the second go round. A turn followed by a quick reload and I got the chance to do some shooting through a port. I reloaded on the move across the stage to Position Three and had another light strike. Luckily, the round went off on the second attempt. One last port to shoot through and the stage was over. Four light strikes in two stages is a lot. Thankfully, I didn't have any more that day.

Stage Three 

Table starts can go great or terrible.
I haven't done a lot of table starts. Every once and a while the MD of our IDPA matches will throw one in for fun. Well, this was a table start off one of those barrels. I figured I could get this stage done with three speed loaders considering there were eight targets. So empty gun on the table with the cylinder unlatched. The buzzer rings and I grab a loader with each hand and stow them in the pouches. I then grab the revolver and promptly drop my final loader in the dirt. 

I retrieved the loader and put three on the first target and three on the far target. No hits on the non threat. A quick reload and two shots on the target behind the barrel, before engaging the two at the end of the shooting area while advancing. A final reload and two on each paper target. Aside from dropping the loader at the start position, this stage went fine.

Stage Four

Standards are some of my favorite stages.
The standards stage was the last stop for our squad. Most of the shooters chose to start in the left box and move right, but I prefer to move right to left. This allows for a faster and safer strong hand reload. This stage required two on each target of the right array, a decent reload on the move, and two more on each target. A reload was not required in the stage description if a shooter's handgun matched or exceeded capacity to finish without it. Even though my reload was relatively smooth, it was still slow compared to the magazine fed guns.

Stage Five

Our squad started on this stage. I was excited to get right into running and gunning. This stage featured five arrays of three targets, each target required two hits. Many of the shooters chose to shoot the first array on the retreat. I took the shots from the start position then retreated while performing a weak hand reload. At Position Two, I engaged the second array then reloaded on the move to shoot the third array through the port. Looking back, I should have engaged the fourth array on the way to the port. This would have prevented the standing reload at Position Three. Two more reloads and two more arrays to engage. This was a fun stage!


So how did I do? Here are my results from the match:

I tried to shoot a bit faster this match. I shot consistently with my last match performance. My hits amounted to 110 As, 1 B, and 5 Cs. I was the most accurate at this match as well. IDPA has taught me not to shoot make up shots due to both limited capacity of the cylinder and the limited ammo on my belt. I may have to learn to take make up shots, but only if I get a new revolver to shoot 8-Shot Minor.

This was a great USPSA match despite my revolver issues! I ended up 28th out of 36 shooters. I'm not quite sure if that is an improvement or not. These two matches actually make me wonder if shooting revolvers against magazine fed pistols is worth it. I find it challenging which is why I keep at it, but not everyone just likes to play. Almost everyone likes to win. Unless you are Jerry Miculek, I'm not sure a wheel gunner can compete with some of today's race guns, but that doesn't mean I won't keep trying. Do you think revolvers are outgunned at matches today?

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