Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Red Dot Sight Revolver Project: Iron Sight Results

Can't seem to find the S&W 66 picture.

In the overview of the Red Dot Sight Revolver Project, several goals were established. Today's post will be the first step in answering the following question that was raised in the project overview.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to optic equipped revolvers over iron sighted models?

Data from both iron sighted and optic equipped handguns is required to make any real comparisons. Like most shooters, I have significantly more time behind iron sights, and thought this was a great place to start. The iron sight results will also serve as benchmark data for the project and will be featured in every red dot sight review.

A bit further down the page are the data tables showing the results of iron sight testing in four drills. My job requires staring at spreadsheets off and on all day, so I don't want to punish the readers with that. Instead, I've selected three categories to compare, but the complete data tables are also included. The categories are:

Performance - Fastest to complete each drill. 

Draw - Fastest from the holster to first shot on target. 

Splits - Fastest average split time excluding the draw time.


Before moving on to the data tables and interpretation of the results, I've included the stats for each of the handguns in the iron sight test. With the exception of the 929, all front sights feature a fiber optic rod. Both revolvers are equipped with rubber Hogue grips without finger grooves. The Glock 17 sports the factory Gen 4 texture, but the Glock 19 features a stipple job with the finger grooves removed. Here are the specifications for each platform used in this test:

Smith & Wesson 929
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 6.5 inches
Weight: 44 ounces
Grips Frame: Rubber/Full
Trigger Pull: 7.5 pounds
Sights: Black Front and Black Rear

Glock 17
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 4.49 inches
Weight: 22 ounces
Grip/Frame Length: Texture/Full
Trigger Pull: 6.5 pounds
Sights: Red Fiber Optic Front and Black Rear

Smith & Wesson 66
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 3.25 inches
Weight: 33 ounces
Grips Frame: Rubber/Full
Trigger Pull: 8.5 pounds
Sights: Green Fiber Optic Front and Black Rear

Glock 19 (23 with Conversion Barrel)
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel Length: 4.02 inches
Weight: 22 ounces
Grips Frame: Texture/Compact
Trigger Pull: 6.5 pounds
Sights: Red Fiber Optic Front and Black Rear

Bill Drill

S&W 929: 2.94 
S&W 66: 3.23
Glock 19: 3.31
Glock 17: 4.44
Glock 19: 1.78
S&W 929: 1.82
S&W 66: 1.99
Glock 17: 2.25
S&W 929: 0.22
Glock 17: 0.24
S&W 66: 0.25
Glock 19: 0.31

In the Bill Drill, the S&W 929 scored the highest in two of the three categories: Performance and Splits. The 929 was .03 seconds behind the Glock 19 on the Draw. The S&W 66 was second in Performance but third in both Draw and Splits. The Glock 19 had the fastest Draw during this drill but was third in Performance and the slowest Split times. The Glock 17 was the slowest in both Performance (even without the penalty time) and the Draw. The Split times weren't terrible, but this was not stellar performance for a full sized automatic. 

Box Drill

Glock 17: 6.26
S&W 929: 6.69
S&W 66: 8.02
Glock 19: 8.27
Glock 17: 2.18
S&W 929: 2.28
S&W 66: 2.38
Glock 19: 2.42
Glock 17: 0.75
S&W 929: 0.81
S&W 66: 0.83
Glock 19: 0.84

In the Box Drill, the Glock 17 was the best platform in all three categories by a significant margin. The S&W 929 followed closely in second place in all three categories. The S&W 66 and Glock 19 Performance were significantly slower, perhaps due to the compact size. The Glock 19 did not perform well in this drill, finishing in the bottom of each category. 

Reload Drill

Glock 17: 3.81
Glock 19: 4.45
S&W 929: 4.78
S&W 66: 6.00
Glock 17: 1.36
S&W 929: 1.53
S&W 66: 1.58
Glock 19: 1.64
Glock 17: 2.45
Glock 19: 2.81
S&W 929: 3.25
S&W 66: 4.42

While the Performance and Draw are both still important data sets, the Reload Drill is focused on comparing the reload speed of each platform. Let's be honest, unless you are as skilled as Jerry Miculek, a magazine fed automatic is going to reload faster than a revolver loading with moon clips or speed loaders. What I was interested in was exactly how much faster. At my skill level, it appears that my magazine reloads are only 0.80 to 0.44 seconds faster than my moon clip reloads. My speed loader reloads are significantly slower, but again, many shooters already understand that speed loaders are not as fast as the name implies.

Bullseye Drill

S&W 929: 5.85
S&W 66: 5.98
Glock 17: 6.41
Glock 19: 6.91
Glock 17: 2.50
S&W 929: 2.63
S&W 66: 2.78
Glock 19: 2.91
S&W 929: 0.94
Glock 17: 1.12
S&W 66: 1.27
Glock 19: 1.33

In the Bullseye Drill, the S&W 929 was the fastest in both Performance and Splits. The Draw was slightly slower than the full size Glock 17. The S&W 66 earned the second place in Performance, but both the Draw and Splits were near the bottom. The performance of the Glock 19 places it at the bottom of each category. It is interesting that both revolvers results show faster times in Performance than both automatics. 


Some of the red dot sights in scheduled for testing.
This round of testing shows the two full size handguns in direct competition for the top position. I can't say that this is particularly surprising. Larger frame handguns are typically easier to shoot more accurately and faster. The results certainly reflect that concept. Gun shop wisdom suggests that "revolvers are more accurate that automatics" but I've never tested this before now.

I've considered the possibility that the non-reciprocating sights on revolvers may result in slightly better accuracy at distance when compared to tracking the sights on a reciprocating slide. After looking at the data from the Bullseye Drill, this might be a reasonable conclusion. I look forward to seeing how the additional data from red dot sight testing will support or contradict my thoughts. 

Many of the conclusions drawn from this testing reinforced my understandings of both the limitations of revolvers and advantages automatics. The results of the iron sight testing will be used to compare irons to optics in future posts. Testing of the first red dot sight is now also complete. Please keep an eye out for this post soon!

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


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