Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Revolver Rigs of the ICORE Southern Regional Revolver Championship 2018

Wheel guns, wheel guns, everywhere

This past weekend I attended my first ICORE (International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts) match in Princeton, Louisiana. The Southern Regional Revolver Championship was held on Shootout Lane and attracted thirty-three (33) shooters from across the nation. I was placed in Squad Three with nine other shooters. During the course of the match, I asked each shooter for permission to photograph their revolvers and rigs. Everyone was happy to oblige and shared details about their equipment. Here are some of the set ups I encountered!

My Revolver


I figured it would be good to start this post with a run down of my revolver and gear. I am shooting a Smith & Wesson 929 in the Open Division. This division permits pretty much any modification to your revolver. The S&W 929 comes with a removable compensator to assist in recoil reduction by redirecting gases upward which keeps the muzzle flatter. Red dot sights are also permitted in Open and I selected my faithful C-More RTS2 on an Allchin mount. I swapped the factory hammer and firing pin for Apex Tactical parts. The Evolution IV hammer does not have a hammer spur to get in the way and the extended firing pin helps with reliable ignition. 

For moon clips, I selected the same brand that comes with the 929 from Smith & Wesson made by TK Custom. As a lefty, the Hogue extended cylinder release really helps me open the cylinder quickly. This is the "short" lever and I plan to acquire a "long" release soon. I also went with Hogue big butt grips with no finger grooves, because the groves never fit my hand. The USPSA Legal Speed Rig and Moon Clip Belt Rack 8 Post are both made by Speed Beez. Last but not least, the belt is a Tuff Surefit Competition Belt. I am happy to report that the revolver and gear worked well at the match. That's enough about my gear, let's look at everyone else's rigs!

Mike's Revolver


Mike was Squad Three's main Range Officer and the Rules Director for the match. Mike is running a Smith & Wesson 327 TRR8 in Open Division. The TRR8 is a revolver that I have been eyeing for quite a while. This is a Scandium frame revolver with ports at the muzzle to reduce recoil and a JPoint optic. I believe the stocks are custom from Hogue to fit his hand. The TRR8 is riding in a Double Alpha Race Master holster and DA Premium Belt. I'm not sure what brand moon clip holders he uses, but the rounds on his belt are .38 ICORE hand loads. I haven't gotten into reloading yet, but he explained these load and unload much faster than .38 Special. If I pick up an eight shot Smith & Wesson in .357 Magnum, it might just be a TRR8. 

Bob's Revolver


Bob works with Revolver Supply. Bob selected the Smith & Wesson 929 and the included compensator for Open Division as well. Bob prefers a C-More Slide Ride on a BMT Equipped KickStand with a left side overhang. This moves the dot closer to the barrel for less mechanical offset. I think his holster is a CR Speed WSM II, but it was heavily modified. Bob added delrin layers for his support and bolted magnets to the moon clip carriers to ensure the round only come off when he pull them off. His moon clip holder modifications probably cost him a few dollars and work as well as my expensive rig. Bob is a smart man! I should be more like Bob.

Bob's Revolver


This is another Bob from Squad Three. Bob also runs the S&W 929 with the compensator attached. As for optics, he also selected the C-More Slide Ride on a BMT Equipped KickStand but with a right side overhang. Interesting how the Bob's picked similar gear. I'd guess the grip is a custom piece from Hogue. The revolver is riding in a Safariland holster but I'm not sure about the belt. I believe the moon clip carrier is a Speed-E-Rack, but I could be wrong. It looks like it has nine posts and Bob has a single post behind his holster. I doubt he'll ever run out of ammo on a stage!

Joe's Revolver 

Joe is also running a S&W 929 in Open Division. Unlike the rest of use 929 Open shooters, Joe decided the compensator isn't worth it with 9mm ammo. Like Bob of Revolver Supply, Joe uses C-More Slide Ride on a BMT Equipped KickStand with a left side overhang. I forgot to ask him how he got those slick custom Hogue stocks because I really like those! His holster is a Double Alpha Race Master holster. Joe is also running what seems to be a seven post Speed-E-Rack for his moon clips. Last but not least, you can see a dump pouch for spent moon clips. His is even ICORE branded.

Peggy's Revolver 

Peggy is married to Joe and they compete together across the country. She was the only female shooter in Squad Three, but I saw a number of lady shooters participating at the match. At many of the local matches there are rarely more than two competing. Peggy is running a Smith & Wesson 627 Performance Center revolver in the Limited Division. The front sight is an SDM fiber optic, which is the same sight I use on my 686-1 and 66-6. Peggy also selected Hogue big butt stocks and an extended cylinder release. The revolver is riding in a Double Alpha Race Master and a seven post Speed-E-Rack for her moon clips. She also has a single moon clip carrier for her first load. I guess I need one so I don't just throw my first moon clip in my pocket.

Dave's Revolver

Much like Peggy, Dave was running a Smith & Wesson 627 Performance Center with an extended cylinder release in a Double Alpha Race Holster. His Hogue stocks were all business. He added material on the right side of the grip to create a palm swell and then wrapped it in tape. I asked him what caliber he was shooting and he said .38 Short Colt. I've heard that this is a popular round because the cases are shorter than .38 Special and extract easier. He also used a double stack moon clip carrier rather than single posts. I'm not sure what brand. It was also far to his left side rather than directly in front of him. Dave and I chatted all day about strategy and how to recruit more revolver shooters. His idea to hook new shooters is simple; beat them in a shoot off so they want to learn how to run a revolver. I'll be working on that at my club!

Brandon's Revolver 

Brandon and I were in the same boat, as this was our first ICORE match. He expressed the same feeling about his local matches having almost no revolver participation. Like me, he was just happy to get to shoot his revolver with other wheel gun enthusiasts. He was running a S&W 929 in Limited Division. The front sight is a Dawson fiber optic (I need one of these when I go back to USPSA Revolver). He picked smooth Hogue Big Butt stock and a TK Custom extended cylinder release. It is riding in a CR Speed WSM II hoslter and I  believe his moon clip carrier is a North Mountain Moon Clip Holder. It was nice to chat with Brandon and hear that I'm not the only one shooting wheel guns by myself at matches. Now to recruit more people!

Ted's Revolver

Ted is running a Smith & Wesson 686 in the Classic Division. Rather than Hogue stocks, he likes rubber Packmayr grips. He did still have an extended cylinder release, but I'm not sure it was a Hogue. His revolver was riding in a CR Speed WSM II. This is the first revolver in this post that has been fed with speed loader rather than moon clips! Ted uses Safariland Comp III speed loaders and a North Moutain ICORE Retro Speed Loader Holder. He runs normal .38 Special loads. Ted and I also chatted a bit about stage plans, but I had to remember his cylinder held six rounds while mine holds eight. 

Scott's Revolver 

The other Classic Division shooter in Squad Three was Scott. He was also running a Smith & Wesson 686, but I'm not sure what type holster he was using. He also wrapped his JM stocks in tape for a bit more grip. Like Ted, Scott uses Safariland Comp III speed loaders and a North Moutain ICORE Retro Speed Loader Holder. Scott's speed loaders were highly modified to ensure they loaded quickly. I also learned that the first six round of each stage was .38 Short Colts while the rest of his speed loaders were full of .38 Special. Ted explained that this ensured positive extraction on the first reload. Clever idea Scott!

Lefty's Revolver 

As a lefty, I don't expect to run into too many other left handed shooters. This is even more evident when it comes to left handed revolver shooters. I was told there were three lefties at the match including myself. Unfortunately, I didn't get this gentleman's name, but he was proud to explain that this was a limited edition Smith & Wesson 627 with a 6.5" barrel with an extended cylinder release from Hogue as well. I really like those custom big butt stocks. I'm not familiar with the brand of holster, but it appears he is running a Speed-E-Rack for his moon clips of .38 Short Colt. Glad to see another lefty out there!

Ruger's Revolver

If you haven't noticed, there is a very distinct pattern here; every other wheel gun on this list has been a Smith & Wesson. This gentleman wasn't shooting in my squad, but I bumped into him at the chronograph station. Lo and behold, there was a six inch Ruger GP100 riding in his holster. Speaking of the holster, it appears to be an Amadini holster on a CR Speed belt. I don't recall what speed loader pouches were on the belt. Glad to see another brand represented at the match!


Five of the ten shooters in my squad were competing with Smith & Wesson 929s. I guess it is a popular choice for ICORE. I was surprised to only see the one Ruger, but maybe it was just this match that was mostly Smith & Wesson. As a fan of the Chiappa Rhino, I was really hoping to see one of the models on the range, but no such luck. Maybe at the next match!

I hope everyone enjoyed this look at some of the revolvers at this ICORE match. I love looking at cool revolver and what gear other shooters are running. I may be switching to a "long" cylinder release after talking with everyone about their gear. It might make reloads a bit easier. The next post on Revolvers Only will be the match review featuring videos and stage breakdowns. I have some good footage of each stage and I'm working on the videos over the next week. Please come back for the match review! 

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, June 13, 2018

Smith & Wesson 617 Optic

A little less than a year ago, I reviewed the Smith & Wesson 617. I referred to this wheel gun as the perfect target revolver and I still believe this to be true. If you take a look at the specifications, you'll see features such as a ten shot cylinder, a six inch barrel, adjustable sights, and a total weight of 44.1 ounces. These options result in a high capacity, accurate, low recoiling firearm, all built on the classic K/L frame. 

What could I do to make it better? I added a red dot and started shooting in the Rimfire Pistol Open (RFOP) Division of Steel Challenge. At my local matches, I rarely see rimfire revolvers competing, let alone centerfire revolvers. This division is mostly populated with Ruger Mark IIs or IIIs. These seem to be a great choice, but I feel like my 617 could keep up. I only ended up shooting it in two matches before I my schedule got to hectic, but man was it fun! Keep reading for both the why and the how I set up the S&W 617 Optic.

Why Open?

It is pretty easy to pick up the dot even with this "small" mini red dot sight.

I think a better question is, "why not open?" After a few Steel Challenge matches shooting the Smith & Wesson 617 in the  Rimfire Pistol Irons (RFPI) division. It was fast with iron sights, so a red dot might be even faster. I really enjoyed shooting the Smith & Wesson 66 Carry Optics in IDPA and USPSA, so I figured a red dot on this .22lr would be even more fun! 

In my experience, a red dot speeds up your shooting. I have a hard time focusing on the front sight due to an astigmatism, so equipping the revolver with a red dot makes a lot of sense. The market is currently filled with miniature red dot sights (MRDS). This relatively new piece of technology that appears to be here to stay. People have been mounting optics to handguns and as they become small and cheaper, and I'd imaging the trend will become more widespread. In order to prepare this wheel gun for the RFPO division, I needed to select both a red dot sight and a mount. 

Vortex Viper

In recent years, several companies have introduced miniature red dot sights. I made a list of all the feature I wanted and started my search. Here's the list of features I settle on:

  • availability of aftermarket mounts
  • adjustable brightness
  • manual on and off switch
  • reasonable battery life
  • six minute of angle (MOA) dot
  • warranty

A red dot sight is no good without a mount, so I started looking at mounts first. Not many companies offer red dot sight mounts for the Smith & Wesson revolver. Once I found a couple options, I started looking at the compatible sights and determined those that meet the other criteria. Some of the dots I've played with in the past have a self adjusting brightness level. I'm not a huge fan of this feature as the dot may not be as visible in all conditions. I really wanted something with buttons to set the intensity. I've also had the battery die between range sessions so I wanted a manual on/off switch.  

Speaking of batteries, the dot needed to have a enough battery life to make it through several matches and range sessions because changing batteries on the fly is not fun. For action shooting, a bigger dot seems to be better. The  first dot I purchased, the CMore RTS2, has a six MOA dot. This size is easy to pick up without being too big on a near target. A warranty is always a bonus because sometimes electronics just fail. Better safe than sorry. I ended up selecting the Vortex Viper. It checked off all the boxes and was on sale when I was looking to purchase. Vortex has great customer service, so if there was ever a problem I know they would take care of it. So far so good!

Raptor Engineering

I actually discovered this while browsing the Smith & Wesson Forum for mounts that placed an optic even closer to the frame of a S&W revolver. In my experience, this is the forum to start your search if you ever have questions about Smith & Wesson firearms. My choices came down to either Allchin Gun Parts or Raptor Engineering (please note the website is under construction but will be back soon). My CMore RTS2 was already riding an Allchin mount, so I decided to give Raptor Engineering a try. 

Phillip of Raptor Engineering was quick to answer all of my questions. For less than $40 shipped, I received a bead blasted mount and three screws for mounting. These mounts are designed for S&W K/L/,N, and X frames that are drilled and tapped at the factory. The mount installed with just three screws. The Viper required two screws that came with it. The dot was zeroed at the range in two cylinders. You really can't really complain to much about that! 

Lastly, if you don't have a S&W revolver but would like to try a red dot sight, Raptor Engineering makes mount for several brands and that fit a variety of optics. Give this company a serious look when you purchasing red dot mounts!

Speed Beez

One of the best features of the Smith & Wesson 617 is the ten round cylinder, but this is a lot of holes to load by hand each time. The Speed Beez 10 Shot Competition Speed Loader is a great solution to this "problem" of the "high capacity" cylinder. The competition loader is anodized red for easy identification. The big difference between this and the standard yellow loader is required pressure to release the rounds. The theory is sound. Rimfire revolvers, and auto-loaders for that matter, get dirty quickly and rounds don't always chamber all the way. A bit more pressure in exchange for positive seating makes sense. That assurance is worth it to me! Also, red is more my color.

Loading Block

My first match with the Smith & Wesson 617 happened quickly after I purchased the revolver. The speed loader arrived on time, but the Speed Beez Smith & Wesson 617 10 Shot 5 Banger Loading Block didn't make it to me until the following Monday. I spent the day loading the first cylinder quickly and the rest of the rounds by hand. I was a little embarrassed. Needless to say, I will do my best to always remember this block when I head to the range for practice or a match. For $20.00 you can save yourself a lot of time on the line between strings. It gives you more time focusing on shooting and less time thinking about loading. Worth it!

Shooting Impressions

In my first review of the Smith & Wesson 617, I shot a group at 10 yards. This time I decided to shoot my favorite drill, the Hardwired Tactical Revolver Super Test. The drill uses an NRA B8 target and a passing score is a 162/180. The drill is as follows:
  • 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 was able to make the times easily because of the red dot and the light recoil. I shot a 177/180 which is a 98%. I'm very happy with that performance. I wish I selected the Hardwired Tactical Super Test, three strings of ten rounds used for semi autos, but I didn't think of that at the time.


Now that you've almost finished reading this post, I can give you the bad news...the red dot has come off the Smith & Wesson 617. Why? I wanted to put it on another revolver. I'll keep you posted on that. What is the future of the 617? Well, I have a lead on a fiber optic front sight that will work with the factory rear sight. I'll be ordering one soon and start getting acquainted with the sight picture before this coming fall when I start shooting Steel Challenge again! I also learned that Speed Beez released a 10 Shot Black Polymer Speed Loader. It is a little cheaper and I would like to give it a try down the road (give me a call anytime Speed Beez!). 

I've mentioned more than a few times that I am a firm believer in red dot optics on revolvers. If you have been following the recent firearms trends, red dots are becoming more prevalent in the market place. I'd assume this all comes down to lower prices and the number of different manufacturers producing these little dots. I think they are the future and we'll start to see them almost everywhere in the next decade or so. Go pick up one for your favorite revolver and head to the range.

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