Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Smith & Wesson 929: USPSA Revolver Rig

New Gear!

It's simple but it works.

In my previous post on the Smith and Wesson 929 competition upgrades, I discussed the parts that were swapped on my revolver of choice for USPSA. Purchasing new gear for firearms is almost as fun as purchasing new parts! I spent a long time comparing options from manufacturers before settling on these items to assemble my current set up. I tried to select parts that were effective and budget friendly. The total cost for this gear is right around $350.00, but there are definitely cheaper options out there if you shop around a bit! 

BMT Mooner

Empty brass to illustrate where live ammunition rest before loading.

Loading and unloading ammunition in moon clips isn't always the easiest thing to do. I've seen people bend moons trying to use pliers. There are several loading devices out there, but the best investment I have made is a BMT Equipped Mooner N9-8. The two piece design is brilliant! Small magnets hold the moon clip in place on the top piece of the device, while loose rounds are placed in the chute of the base. There is a metal post that goes through the center of the base that acts as an index pin for the top to rotate and spin. 

Loading is easy! The left hand holds the base at a bit of an angle and the right hand rotates the top clockwise. This forces the cases onto the moon clip as the top is turned. But what about taking the spent cases off of the moon clip? B.M.T thought about this too! Remember the pin that indexes the top portion of the loader? The pin on the bottom of the base is used to unload the moon clip two rounds at a time as it spins. The small magnets hold the moon clip in place, ready for the loading process to repeat. It is a pricey part at $100.00 shipped, but I will purchase one for every revolver that excepts moon clips that I own.


Inner and outer belt combo from Uncle Mike.
The foundation of every competition rig is the belt. In my experience a stiff belt is a requirement to both support the weight of your gear and keep it in the same place while moving through a stage. The Uncle Mike's Competition Belt, while not the flashiest design, sells for all of $22 bucks on Amazon. I actually received this as a Christmas present from my fiance. It is a great "starter" belt at a third the price of other competition belts. I may get one of the fancier belts down the road, but right now this is great.


A good kydex holster secures the revolver while moving.

Finding a holster for S&W 929 was actually a little challenging, especially for a lefty. I visited Comp-Tac's website because I have used Comp-Tac products with Glocks. There was about an eight day turn around listed on the website. Add in shipping and sales tax, the total was near $80 bucks. I decide to shop around and found a similar holster on the Speed Beez website. It turns out that the holsters are manufactured by Comp-Tac for Speed Beez. There are two different "cuts" available, one for IDPA and one for USPSA. At $64.95 it sure seemed like a bargain and there was free shipping over $100.00.

The holster ships with a TEK-LOK clip, a paddle mount, a belt mount, and a drop attachment. I opted for the belt mount for a super secure fit. The holster has several holes drilled so you can adjust the cant. I angled the muzzle forward for a slightly faster draw out of the holster. The draw feels a bit faster than my other holsters, but that could be in my mind. I'll run some drills with a timer and see which is faster. Pretty solid piece of gear for the money!

Moon Clip Carrier

That's a lot of brass.

Another important piece of gear is something to securely hold reloads. In the shooting sports, reloads must also be easily accessible so the process can be accomplished as quickly as possible. The moon clip carrier I chose is manufactured by Speed Beez. At $149.95 it is expensive, but it has several great features. I selected this model because of the eight post design that topped with magnets to securely hold moon clips in place and the TEK-LOK attachment system

This mount holds tons of ammunition: sixty four rounds worth to be exact. Eight moon clips is more than enough to ensure a stage can be completed, even if I manage to drop a reload. When I step up to the start position, the first moon clip will come from the third post on my right side. That leaves two on my right side for a right handed reload and five on my left side for my normal strong hand reload.

Maxpedition Rolly-Poly

A simple pouch.

On the occasion that I chose to shoot a bottom feeder in competition, I normally throw my empty magazines in my pocket as I follow the score keeper around to hear any points down. I would prefer not to fill my pockets with several moon clips so I purchased the Maxpedition Rolly-Poly to hold the empties. The website suggests an MSRP of $29.99, but I picked mine up off Amazon for about $19 dollars on sale. This is designed to hold a one liter Nalgene water bottle, so it is big enough to carry a handful of moon clips back to my pack to reload for the next stage. It may also find its way onto my belt to carry empty speed loaders back to my pack at IDPA matches.


Many of the shooting sports are very gear-centric. There are many of companies that make firearms related gear for competition such as belts, holsters, pouches, and tools. This is a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand there area  number of options, but there are so many options it can be a bit overwhelming. Well, most of the time.

Unfortunately, the majority of this equipment is for magazine fed firearms. Simply put, there are not nearly as many manufacturers that make gear tailored for the wheel gun enthusiast, due to a lack of demand from revolver shooters. This really surprises me, as I would guess that many people have at least one revolver in the stable. 

If you already have a revolver, there is no reason not to try competing with it. Shooting a revolver is a challenging experience, but one that will make you a better shooter overall. Lastly, if you are anything like me, assembling the perfect gear is probably as much fun as practicing and competing at your local match.

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, March 7, 2018

Smith & Wesson 929: Race Ready!


For tinkerers like myself, upgrading firearms to increase performance is always exciting. As I pointed out in my first post regarding the Smith & Wesson 929, I wasn't particularly thrilled with the performance out of the box. The largest issue was the outrageous number of failures to fire. After further examination, I believe a loose strain screw was the culprit for that particular issue. Just in case my diagnosis was incorrect, I sent the 929 and a box full of parts to my gunsmith. A few weeks later, I picked it up after the club's monthly Steel Challenge match. Several shooters wanted to give it a try and everyone was pretty impressed with the results. Here is the rundown of the parts I selected!

Apex Extended Firing Pin

The pointy thing in the center of the picture. 

The ignition issues needed to be corrected as soon as possible. I searched online forums for a solution and came back with a couple potential fixes. The first was to swap to the mainspring in case the factory spring was out of spec. I purchased a 
Type 1 Wolff mainspring which has the same power the normal part. The other suggestion involved swapping the factory firing pin for an aftermarket pin and reduced power spring.

Apex Tactical's XP Firing Pin Kit was the most recommended part. The replacement is slightly longer than the factory pin and includes a reduced power firing pin spring. These two parts, working in tandem, increase the chances for positive ignition. Some of you might be wondering why I didn't select the Competition Firing Pin Kit offered by Apex. The S&W 929 was designed from the ground up as a competition revolver. The competition kit is designed for hand loaded ammunition and all of mine is factory. I may start reloading one day, but that is probably a few years down the road.

Apex Evolution IV Hammer

No hammer spur.

The next part I upgraded was the hammer. Nearly every revolver I've encountered that was built for competition sported a bobbed hammer. When I first started shooting revolvers, I never had issues with the hammer spur biting my hand. I attended a revolver-centric class where all the instructors reinforced the idea that double action revolvers should always be fired in double action. After learning how to properly grip a double action revolver, I found myself occasionally getting poked by the hammer. 

The hammer bite is was the reason I asked Steve to install Apex Tactical's Evolution IV K/L-frame hammer kit on my Smith and Wesson 66. As a bonus it also looks cool. After shooting the Model 66 with a bobbed hammer, I decided that a competition revolver needs to have a bobbed hammer. I purchased Apex's Evolution IV N-frame hammer kit and asked my gunsmith fit the new hammer. The kit comes with two trigger return springs, light and very light, and both times the heavier spring was selected to reset the trigger faster. The trigger pull is currently sitting right around 8 pounds and Steve said I can go lighter if I start hand loading.

Hogue Extended Cylinder Release

Smith and Wesson's factory cylinder release latch is relatively easy to operate, but it certainly isn't the fastest way to open the cylinder. Another upgrade I chose is the Hogue Short Cylinder Release. This design is beneficial as it changes the angle required for of your thumb to press the latch while shortening the distance the thumb travels to unlock the pistol. It also comes in a "Long" version. The geometry is especially useful for my left handed reload because my left thumb can actuate the release on the way to my reload. This part moves between my a couple of wheel guns because this part isn't cheap, I think the price just went up by $10, but it is super effective. Other companies, such as S&W and TK Custom, make similar parts and I'll probably try a few of them soon.

Muzzle Device

This isn't really an upgrade, but it is a change. The 929 ships with two removable muzzle devices. One of the devices is a single port compensator for open division guns and the other is a muzzle cover to protect the crown. This is really neat, but the down side is how dirty this makes the gun. There is a huge amount of carbon that builds up around the muzzle between the barrel and the device. It is incredibly dirty after a handful of moon clips, so I decided to just leave that part off. If I ever shoot open with this revolver, I'll throw the comp on and have a good time. I'll do my best not to mess up the crown.

Shooting Impressions

17/18 in the black.

Another issue I experienced with the 929 out of the box was chasing the zero. I've read that Smith and Wesson isn't actually using 9mm barrels and that is negatively impacting the accuracy of the revolver. I'm not so sure that is true. I'm 90 percent certain that my previous failure was my fault. I just couldn't settle on a zero during before installing the upgraded parts.

On my first trip to the range with the upgraded revolver, I shot a few groups at 25 yards until I was happy with my zero. The very next thing I did was shoot the Hardwired Tactical Revolver Super Test. The drill uses an NRA B8 target and a passing score is a 162/180:

  • 6 rounds in 12 seconds from 15 yards.
  • 6 rounds in 8 seconds from 10 yards.
  • 6 rounds in 4 seconds from 5 yards.

I think the drill went well. I shot a 172/180 within the time limits. It seems like I can hit everything except the X sometimes, but I'm still happy with my performance. If you have never tried this drill before do it cold and see where you stand!


There you have it! I selected the parts to solve problems that I encountered shooting the S&W 929 out of the box. You may have noticed that I have not addressed the sights or the stocks. I may change these parts if I feel it will make the revolver better than it already is. I really like fiber optic sights and Hogue big butt grips, but I think I'll wait a bit before swapping them out. If the weather is nice, I'll be shooting this gun at USPSA in March. I'm excited to try it out!

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