Wednesday, December 27, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Gunsmithing, Personal opinions
It's surprising how little attention is given to the back of a revolver's trigger. I recently came across a gun that had been worked on by another gunsmith (more on this in a future blog post), and one aspect of the gun illustrated the limited understanding of revolver shooting by many 'smiths.
The face of the trigger had been polished smooth, but done in such a way that the sides tapered to meet the back, leaving an untouched knife edge. For anyone with more meat on their bones than Nicole Richie, manipulating the trigger results in a very nasty "pinch" as the sharp edge traps flesh against the frame.
So, what should the trigger look like? The back edges of a proper double action trigger should be slightly rounded and polished, to prevent pinching. The larger the radius of the back edge, the less chance the trigger will trap flesh. This allows the shooter to concentrate on the act of shooting, not on avoiding pain.
This is similar to the "biting" problem that many shooters experience on a 1911 with the standard grip safety. On that gun, for some reason, everyone "knows" about the situation, and beavertail safeties are expected equipment. Sadly, this same level of knowledge has not yet filtered down to the revolver-buying public - perhaps this will help spread the word!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Personal opinions
The internet forums sporadically ignite with a common debate: what "J" frame is the best?
The disagreement seems to center around the fans of the exposed hammer models (who hold out the dream of needing to make a "precise, long range" single action shot) and those of the enclosed hammer Centennial models (who opine that the lack of entry points for dirt outweighs ever needing single action capability.)
I'm not going to talk about tactics, but there is one salient point that is missed in the crossfire: the Centennial models simply have better actions!
The enclosed hammer Centennial models have slightly different sear geometry than do the exposed hammer models, which gives them a pull that is more even - more linear - than the models with hammer spurs. For the savvy shooter it's a noticeable difference, making the Centennial a bit easier to shoot well.
The Centennials also have one less part than the other models: since they have no exposed hammer, they don't have (nor do they need) the hammer-block safety common to all other "J" frames. That part, which is quite long and rides in a close-fitting slot machined into the sideplate, is difficult to make perfectly smooth. Even in the best-case scenario, it will always add just a bit of friction to the action. Not having the part to begin with gives the Centennial a "leg up" in action feel.
(In fact, at one point in time a common part of an "action job" was to remove this safety, in the same way that some "gunsmiths" would remove the firing pin block on a Colt Series 80 autopistol. Today we know better!)
So, if your criteria is action quality, the choice is clear: the enclosed hammer Centennial series is your best bet!
-=[ Grant ]=-
If I had a nickel for every time I've been asked that question...!
On every forum, in my daily email, and in the phone calls I receive is a common query: "of the guns available at a dealer, which one should I buy?" These folks are looking for some guidance beyond the simple choice of caliber and barrel length - this is more along the lines of "who makes the 'best' revolver?"
The answer I give? Ruger. This, from an admitted revolver snob who's known for working on Colt Pythons!
The GP-100 and SP-101, which are the most popular models, are mature designs. Their design is simple and rugged, and their construction has not changed due to fashion or cost-cutting.
The actions respond nicely to gunsmithing work; a well tuned Ruger can have a buttery-smooth, perfectly linear double action pull that will rival any of its competitors. The SP-101, in particular, has an action that is many people feel is more "shootable" than its nearest competitor, the S&W "J" frame.
Speaking of the SP-101, it has another advantage over its competition: superb sights. The rear fixed notch is wide and deep compared to other guns, giving the little SP a much nicer sight picture.
The GP and SP guns, because of their stud grip frames, have trigger reaches that fit people with small hands very well; the GP-100, fitted with the "compact" Ruger grip, has a shorter trigger reach than a S&W "L" frame! This is great news for those of us with smaller-than-average mitts.
The downsides? Fit and finish on Ruger revolvers is not up to the level of, say, older S&W guns. (Of course, new S&W's aren't up to the old S&W's either, so that's hardly a condemnation!) Rugers have lots of sharp edges, and their finishes are not terribly pretty - but, if you're having custom work done anyhow, these are things that can be easily rectified.
Rugers don't get the credit they deserve; if you don't like the new MIM-internal lock S&W models, and want something of better pedigree than the Taurus line, take a hard look at Ruger. You might be surprised!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Monday, December 11, 2006 Filed in: Ammunition, Gunsmithing
When doing action work, I ask my clients how they'll be using the gun. For instance, a competition shooter who handloads their own ammunition can utilize a lighter action than someone who needs the gun to work with a variety of factory ammunition.
Why is this? Well, primers are not created equal - the brands vary in terms of their sensitivity. Some of this is due to the type and thickness of the metal that the cup is made from, but there is also some difference in the primer material itself.
In general, Federal primers are the easiest to ignite; their cup material is slightly thinner, and softer, than their competitors. Combined with a primer mix that is well known for its sensitivity, they require less force to "pop." This translates to being able to use a hammer with a lighter mainspring, which allows for a lighter trigger pull.
The primers generally conceded to be the most difficult to ignite are CCI brand. Their cups are hard and thick, and require a real "wallop" to work properly. This means that the action is going to need full-power springs, with the increase in trigger pull that they bring. Winchesters fall in the middle, slightly more to the Federal half than the CCI.
In any brand, the magnum version of the primer will be more difficult to ignite. This is because they typically have harder and/or thicker cups to withstand the higher pressures that heavier loads deliver.
This isn't the end of the story though. The Czechoslovakian Sellier & Bellot ammunition uses what may be the hardest primers made. Sometimes even the heaviest, hardest-hitting hammers are insufficient to set this ammunition off, and is one of the reasons I recommend you stay away from it. CCI Blazer ammunition is known for being unreliable with lighter actions, as is the "green" or non-toxic ammunition that's on the market today.
Back to action work...when someone tells me that the gun is for self-defense, that usually means that utmost reliability is desired. To get such reliability, it's imperative that the gun work with any kind of ammunition that one might find on the shelf. In these cases, I test the gun with CCI Magnum primers - the hardest-to-ignite primers that you can get outside of the aforementioned Czech fodder. If the gun will reliably detonate the CCI Magnums (with zero failures), it should ignite anything you're likely to encounter.
On the other hand, if the requirement is for a light competition action I'll test the gun with Federal primers; if I've done my job right, such a gun will shoot Federals perfectly, Winchesters somewhat less reliably, and CCI primers very badly. That's the price for a low trigger weight!
This brings up another topic: that of live fire testing. I'll leave that for another day, as I've got a story to tell!
-=[ Grant ]=-
This article over at the GunZone alerts us to the sad end of a nice gun. Be sure to read the owner's narrative - and note the reloading press used.
I've been following such stories of gun blow-ups for several years, and in the cases I've run across a huge percentage - a majority by far - have been the result of ammo reloaded on a Dillon RL550b press.
No, I don't think the RL550b is inherently dangerous, nor do I believe that it should be blamed; blame always rests with the person doing the work. However, that particular machine does make it easier for a momentary lapse of concentration to result in a catastrophic failure, because it doesn't auto-index. Relying on the human being to remember whether or not he/she advanced the shellplate makes it far too easy to end up with either double charges or squibs. I've documented this happening with relatively new reloaders, and with very well experienced reloaders.
If you own an RL550b, you need to make absolutely sure that you are not distracted when reloading; this means no radio, television, screaming children, or talkative friends in the room when you are operating that press. (This is good practice regardless of the press you're using, but absolutely imperative with the 550b.)
Reloading is generally safe and rewarding - as long as you supply the appropriate vigilance!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Tuesday, November 14, 2006 Filed in: Ammunition, Accessories, General gun stuff
Funny thing...the other day, my favorite gun blogger (Tamara K.) posted this rant about brand fanaticism over at her blog. Yeah yeah, I know I mentioned it before, but the subject popped up again this week in a different context.
You see, I'd popped in to a couple of the reloading forums to ask a question about dies (I'm considering new ones.) Reading through some of the past posts on the boards would lead one to believe that there is a Reloading Press Jihad going on! Take a look for yourself sometime...the subject is getting very close to joining religion and politics as something one does not discuss in polite company!
The invective, blind loyalty, outright falsehoods, tall tales...the only thing missing is "let's take it outside, fella!"
This is particularly interesting to me, for as it happens I've owned a progressive press from each of the three major brands. The Dillon and Lee presses I used for more than 30,000 rounds each, while my new Hornady is a baby - only about 10k so far. This gives me sufficient experience, I think, to quote a perennial South Park line: "I've learned something today!"
You see, no currently available progressive press is of terribly high quality when compared to, say, a Star Universal or an RDP Reloading Tool. They simply aren't. Anyone who has ever used one of the latter can easily see that the design, material choice, and construction quality of even the best presses made today pale in comparison. It seems to me that arguing about whether Lee, Dillon, RCBS, or Hornady is the "best" is a little like arguing who has the best deck chair on the Titanic!
The only thing keeping me from buying a used Star is simply the availability of parts and accessories. I'm waiting for someone - maybe Spolar, or Ponsness-Warren, or even Redding - to build a progressive reloading press of equivalent quality to what was available just a couple of decades ago. I'd love to own a truly high end, built-to-outlast-me progressive reloading press with modern features and factory support. Until then, these arguments about reloading presses are about as interesting as watching paint dry - and you can take your pick of blue, red, or green!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Monday, October 30, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Personal opinions, History
- This thread at GlockTalk seemed oddly familiar to me. People routinely ask about the lifespan of a particular gun, while at the same time suggesting that somehow the guns of yesteryear would last longer under use than today's offerings. I'm not sure that this is the case.
Let's jump back to, say, 1935 or so. Someone has just bought a new .38 Special revolver (take your pick of quality makers) and a box of ammunition - a box that might last them for a decade or more!
What I've managed to decipher from the "old folks" I've talked with is that they just didn't shoot guns all that much. There weren't a lot of competitive shooting events back then, and even those that existed demanded less ammunition in a year than a typical IDPA match consumes in a weekend. A box of handgun ammo (50 rounds) per year was considered a "lot" of shooting by many of these folks; at that rate, our mythical revolver would be considered to have been heavily used, having only seen a total of 3500 rounds!
Flash forward to 2006, and a certain maker says that their gun has an "expected lifespan" of 6,000 rounds. Doesn't sound like much to us, but it may be two or three (or possibly ten) times the number of rounds that guns sold in 1935 would expect to see over their lifetime.
Perspective, people. There is a lot to complain about in the craftsmanship (or lack of same) coming out most of today's manufacturers, but one generally can't fault the durability of the guns. There are exceptions, of course, but in the aggregate I suspect that your average GP-100 will last longer than the folks of 1935 could even imagine.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Heard about "MIM" parts? MIM is an injection molding process for metal parts, and it has been revolutionizing many industries. In the revolver business, both Smith & Wesson and Taurus have made use of MIM parts. Like any new process, however, there are those who decry the new technology; some gunsmiths spread the misinformation that MIM parts can't be worked on, and refuse to take in guns using MIM parts. Adding fuel to the fire are a few well-publicized parts breakages, most notably with 1911 autopistol sears.
Is there something inherently wrong with MIM parts? No, but the story is a bit more complex than that.
I have some experience with MIM parts in revolvers; I'm not at all averse to the use of MIM parts, where appropriate. Note those last two words!
MIM is just another metalworking method, like forging and casting. Like those well-established metalworking methods, it has strengths and weaknesses. Far too few engineers apparently understand them.
First off, a steel MIM part can be treated like any other steel part; it can be welded, soldered, blued, hardened, and tempered. This is important to understand, as there is a perception out there that the parts are not "real" steel. They are!
The advantages of an MIM part do not generally include raw cost; the material is expensive, and the molds are horrendously expensive. The benefits come in the area of post-fabrication. The MIM part, as noted, can be heat treated - the benefit is that they don't need to be, as the hardness of the part can be engineered in when the part is made. The parts come out ready to use; no additional surface finishing is generally needed. Finally, the parts can be made in shapes that would be extremely expensive or nearly impossible to economically machine.
The downsides? Cost, as already noted. Additionally, the tolerances for an MIM part generally need to be larger; it's hard to hold them to .001" in all dimensions (though they're getting better all the time.) Another problem is that the technology doesn't work all that well for parts that are more than about 3/8" thick (again, this gets better on an almost monthly basis), nor on stressed parts that are very thin.
There are other, less obvious pros and cons of MIM parts, but you get the idea - MIM, like anything else, is a balancing act.
Now here's the part that those of you who aren't fond of MIM should understand: the problem isn't with the technology, but with the engineering behind the part itself.
As noted, MIM on a per-part basis is pretty expensive, but since they can be engineered with specific traits they can eliminate some expensive secondary operations - hardening, for example. Here's the problem: let's say that you are building 1911 sears, and MIM seems a good method for producing them. You decide that the sear has to have a certain hardness (so that it doesn't wear), and since the surface finish is good "as produced" you think you're home free.
The trouble is that the MIM part is the same hardness all the way through, since that's how it was engineered. This is great for reducing sear face wear, but with hardness comes brittleness - and that thin edge is quite brittle. What you need is a surface hardening of some sort for wear resistance, with the underlying material left softer for strength. You COULD do that with an MIM part, but if you did you'd negate one of the primary benefits of the method: the elimination of secondary operations. So the company chooses to continue to use the MIM part as designed, and which is a poor choice for the application. No wonder some people don't like them!
The bottom line: if you have trouble with MIM parts, it's not the part's fault - it's the fault of the engineers in the company that designed the part. (Frankly, I wouldn't want to buy an entire gun from a company that botched the engineering that badly, regardless of whether or not I replaced the parts in question. I'm funny that way!)
-=[ Grant ]=-
Forgive my deviation from revolver centrism, but a recent rifle class in which I assisted brought to mind a topic which is just not understood amongst gun owners: "reliability."
What is "reliable"? You'll hear all kinds of definitions, all kinds of criteria. My definition is deceptively simple: the next time you pull the trigger, the gun will function perfectly. That means zero, zilch, nada, nyet failures. Every single time, regardless of how many rounds you've just shot. Not just "bang", but feed, fire, eject, and feed again.
Sounds like I'm easy to please, right? You'd be surprised at how few guns actually do perform to this standard. I expect a reliable gun to do this after a full weekend of shooting, regardless of the number of rounds I've shot, as well as right after cleaning. Every single time, without exception.
Note that I don't specify any particular number of rounds, because I've encountered instances where reliability was defined by some arbitrary round count, such as 500 - and when the gun crapped out on the 501st round, it was still deemed to be reliable since it had met the number! Sorry, not in my book.
One test I've heard (for autoloading rifles) is "six magazines of duty loads, fired as quickly as you can change magazines." Sounds great, right? I've seen an AR-15 which would only pass such a test one time, yet the owner decided it was reliable because it met the test criteria! The fact that it couldn't perform the feat again did not dissuade him in his opinion.
The only caveats are that 1) the gun be maintained according to the maker's recommendations and 2) fed ammunition which conforms to industry standards for that caliber. Anything else - such as the ever-popular mud wrestling test, making it into a popsicle, and other such activities - can be considered the ballistic equivalent of a Harlem Globetrotters game: entertaining to watch, but no indicator of an ability to win the NBA finals.
I've seen more than one gun which happily ate a magazine of ammo after being dropped into a mud puddle, but couldn't be counted on to function perfectly at any unannounced time. Mind you, it malfunctioned maybe once every 400 or so rounds, but sooner or later it would fail. Reliable? Not by my definition.
You'll run into many people who will tell you that this is "no big deal - I've got lots of guns that will do that." At the risk of offending someone - believe me, it's not my intention - I will quote Hugh Laurie, playing the namesake character in the TV series 'House': "everyone lies."
When I say "every time you pull the trigger", I mean EVERYTIME. When I say zero failures, I mean ZERO. One fellow of my acquaintance is known locally for his promotion of a particular gun, which he insists is "absolutely reliable." This is a fellow with a good reputation, someone that other people consider honest and, presumably, look up to. Trouble is, he lies - I've seen his gun fail, and I know others who have witnessed it too. Yet, he continues to insist that his gun is "perfectly reliable." In one class, I met someone with an HK 91, supposedly the epitome of functionality; of course, the owner insisted it was "reliable". It suffered a FTF the first day, and an FTE the second. The owner continued to refer to it as "reliable".
If your gun will not function with ammunition that meets industry-standard specs, then it is unreliable. I had an encounter with a gunstore commando a while back; he was going to loan his "custom built" AR-15 to another employee. He gushed that his pride and joy was the most reliable gun he had ever seen - then, almost in the same breath, told the other fellow not to shoot Winchester ammunition in it, as "it won't feed Winchester all of the time." Even if it functioned 100% with everything else (though I doubt it), that it wouldn't work with one specific brand means that it simply wasn't reliable. (Back to revolvers - if your wheelgun won't fire every brand of ammunition in its caliber with zero misfires, it's not reliable!
My favorite rifle instructor, Georges Rahbani, always says that you are only as good as you are on demand - the same goes for your gun!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Wednesday, September 27, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Gunsmithing, Personal opinions
I had an interesting email recently. The writer said that he'd contacted a number of gunsmiths to inquire about action work. In every case, he said, all he could get out of them was "we can make it lighter." Occasionally I'll get an inquiry from the other side of this phenomenon - someone whose only question is "how light can you make it?" Why this fixation on pull weight? I believe it's because people just haven't been properly educated!
If you've read my essay on "What makes a good trigger?", you already know about the factors that go into a quality action job. (If you haven't read it, go ahead and do so now; I'll wait.)
Back already? OK!
When having action work done, there are three competing performance criteria: weight, reliability, and return.
Weight is self explanatory, and is what most people relate to. I've covered this in the article referenced above, so I won't go into more explanation - except to say that weight isn't the only thing you should consider, and if that's all your gunsmith can talk about you might want to re-think having him work on your gun!
The second performance criteria is reliability. When I speak of reliability, I mean the expectation that the gun will ignite primers from all common ammunition 100% of the time in both single and double action. That means even the hardest primers being made (currently CCI Magnum primers) will light off every time that the hammer falls; anything else is less reliable. A gun that fires off Federal primers all the time, Winchester most of the time, and CCI Magnums about half the time isn't reliable; it may be acceptable for the use that the gun will be put to, but it is not reliable. (As it turns out, the more reliable the ignition, the more accurate the gun will be. There are a number of reasons for this, which I'll go into in a later article.)
Finally, there is return, or the action of the trigger resetting itself. In the article I referenced above, I talked about the qualities of trigger return - but there is more to consider. One way of lightening the overall pull weight of the action is to reduce the spring tension that powers the trigger return. This can introduce a couple of undesired side effects; first, the return spring tension can be so low that the trigger "sticks" and doesn't return (most prevalent on guns where the quality of the trigger return, in terms of smoothness, isn't understood or is ignored.)
The second side effect is that the return speed is lowered. This results in the shooter being able to "outrun" the trigger, shooting faster than the trigger will reset itself. This can cause premature cycling of the cylinder (the cylinder rotating without the hammer being cocked and dropped) or action locking (requiring the shooter to stop his/her pull, let the action reset, and then restarting the pull - most common on Rugers.) In a competition, these side effects can lose points - in a self-defense scenario, they might cause you to lose something more precious!
Here's the "kicker": when getting action work done, you get to choose any two of the three performance criteria, but not all three. For instance, if you want light pull weight and good reliability, you're going to sacrifice return. If you want light pull and good return, you're going to sacrifice reliability. If you want reliability and fast trigger reset, you're going to have to learn to deal with heavier pull weights!
There is no free lunch, and there isn't a gunsmith in the world who can repeal the laws of physics; you get any 2, but not all 3 in the same gun. You have to make the decision as to what is best for your intended use!
Let me illustrate: I am starting work on a Ruger SP-101 that is to be shot by an older lady. She only shoots reloads that her husband makes for her, and only at the range (this is not a defensive or competition piece.)
The primary concern is ease of cocking the gun in single action; it won't be used in double action at all. So, the criteria that is important in this case is action weight; we don't care all that much about return (other than it actually do so - the speed isn't a consideration), and since the fellow can load the ammunition to shoot in this specific gun (he will use whatever primers necessary to make the gun run), reliability is not a concern. This is a great example of tuning the action to fit the use!
For a defensive gun, reliability is the first consideration, with return second. For a competition gun, say for ICORE or USPSA (or even IDPA), the speed of the action reset is paramount - followed by a light pull weight. The competitor will usually select or reload ammunition to suit the gun, which makes reliability (in the sense that I use the term) less a concern.
If all a gunsmith can talk about is how light he can make the action, he's ignoring fully two-thirds of of action performance. This is a two-way street, though - its not just gunsmiths who don't understand this stuff! Shooters raised on the typical gun rag articles never learn about this either, because all most writers know how to discuss is pull weight.
When I get an inquiry from someone whose only question is "how light", I try to educate him or her to make more informed choices. I hope I've been able to do that here!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Wednesday, August 23, 2006 Filed in: Political Action, Techniques & Training
Tamara K., over at her blog The View From The Porch
, says this:"For what it's worth, I don't carry a gun to protect me from muggers at the mall. I don't even carry a gun to protect me, period. I carry a gun every day despite living in an area where I'm more likely to be hit by an asteroid than attacked by a mugger as a symbol of my refusal to buy into this culture of teat-sucking victimhood for one day longer. I carry it because I can."
Recite this, word for word, next time some busybody asks (with the inevitable sneer) why you need to carry a gun.-=[ Grant ]=-
Monday, August 21, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Personal opinions
Well, the guns are certainly real, in the sense that they were made by Colt. What's not real, though, is they way they came from the factory!
With the prices of collectible Colts going well north of a grand, some unscrupulous sellers have taken to faking the rarer, and more valuable, variations. The most commonly faked is certainly the 3" Python.
A number of years ago, Colt sold off their remaindered barrels to companies such as Numrich Gun Parts. Amongst the prizes were a number of 3" barrels - brand new, mind you - for the Python.
When prices started their ascent a few years ago, some enterprising people took more common 4" Pythons, stuck the 3" barrels on them, and sold them as the far rarer variant. It didn't take someone long to figure out that one way to overcome buyer resistance was to include a Colt box that had the 3" label on the end - of course, the label is a complete forgery, but enough to fool most people into parting with far more money than they should.
Well, the more astute buyers soon wised up to this scam, and started demanding factory letters to prove the provenance of the piece in question. In today's digital world, faking a Colt letter is as easy as faking the box label - so now there are 3" Colt Pythons running around with "original" boxes and "factory letters" to calm even the most jittery buyer!
It's gotten bad enough that I now recommend anyone contemplating the purchase of a 3" Python to call Colt and order their own factory letter. If the seller shows any reticence to letting you do this, you've probably just saved yourself a whole bunch of money!
(I have been approached by a number of people over the past few years to swap barrels on Pythons - replacing a stock barrel with a 3" tube to be supplied by the client. In each case, I've told the caller that I'd be happy to do so, but I would be stamping and indication under the grip panels that the gun was not original. Not too surprisingly, none have taken me up on my offer. I will not be a party - knowingly or otherwise - to fleecing Colt buyers!)
-=[ Grant ]=-
Many people ask me where to get finger grooved grips for various guns (often for the Colt Python, but the Ruger GP-100 seems to be a common request as well.) Personally, I usually try to talk them out of that style grip, and I'd like to share my reasoning.
First, the grooves rarely fit any given person perfectly; for my hands, for instance, every grooved grip I've ever tried required me to spread my fingers to an uncomfortable degree. If I didn't, my fingers would wind up on top of the separating ridges, making shooting far less comfortable and secure! Women, who often have hands that are significantly smaller than their male counterparts, are particularly sensitive to this problem.
Second, anytime you add spacing between your fingers the combined strength of your grip is reduced. You simply grip harder with your fingers together than apart. There's a reason that hammers don't have finger grooves!
Third, having grooves on your grips slows down your acquisition and draw. No less a personage than Jerry Miculek, in a television interview, eschewed finger groove grips. As he put it, "no one gets a perfect grip out of the holster every time." A smooth, non-grooved grip allows you to get a workable grip immediately, where a grooved model requires that you get perfect finger placement from the outset. That is not what you want on a self-defense firearm!
I could point out that another revolver shooter who was "pretty good" was Bill Jordan, and you'll note that the grips he designed and used don't have finger grooves.
It's possible that if one is accustomed to holding a revolver in a light target-shooters grip, finger grooves may help in control. (I don't, I don't know anyone who does, and it's not what most trainers teach today.) Outside of that, I think they are an abomination and suggest that you not use them!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Friday, August 04, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Gunsmithing, Personal opinions
There is a huge amount of misinformation regarding revolver accuracy. Folks, assuming that you have a gun in proper repair - timing, lockup, chamber-to-bore alignment - the most important factor in accuracy is the chamber throat dimension.
What is the chamber throat? It is the slightly constricted opening in the chamber, just in front of the cartridge mouth, that the bullet passes through on its way into the forcing cone. The throat gives the bullet its first stabilizing guidance, and many people better than I have demonstrated that it is critical to good accuracy - perhaps more than the bore itself!
The best accuracy is obtained when the bullet diameter and the throat diameter are exactly the same; in the case of lead bullets, it can be up to .001" smaller than the bullet diameter with good results. If the throat is larger than the bullet, then the bullet sort of wallows through the throat and never does get that initial guidance. Accuracy will suffer.
It is therefore important to serious shooters to know what their throat diameters actually measure. Now, I took heat from some internet experts recently when I stated that one cannot get proper measurements of throat diameters using calipers - dial, vernier, or digital. One fellow wrote me that he'd been doing it for years with nothing more than a cheap dial caliper, and the readings were always "nuts on!" While I don't wish to argue with anyone, let me relate a little test I did.
I took a cylinder that happened to be on my workbench - a S&W Model 60 "J" frame cylinder - and measured its throats with calipers, then with a set of certified pin gages. There were three different calipers - a vernier, a dial, and a digital electronic - all of Swiss origin. The Swiss make the finest calipers on the face of the earth, and substantially better than the Chinese tools most stores sell. In addition, I've been measuring very precise watch and clock parts since I was a teenager, and have more experience using quality measuring devices than the vast majority of people you are likely to meet. In other words, I know what I'm doing and I've got the best tools to use!
I started by checking the throats from several angles, to eliminate the possibility that they were oval instead of cylindrical. Since this is a brand-new cylinder, the readings were identical, showing that the throats were indeed machined correctly.
What did I find? The vernier caliper indicated the throat diameter was .355+", the dial caliper showed .3560", and the digital read .3555". Now for the moment of truth: the certified pin gages, which are the most accurate method of determining a bore size, proved that the bore was in fact .3585" ! That is between .0025" and .003" discrepancy!
Precision machinists will quickly tell you that a caliper - even the best, like I have - are only good to a "couple of thousandths" (.002"), and not reliable at all for inside measurements under a couple of inches. (Frankly, I was surprised that I got as close as I did!) The verdict? One simply cannot measure throats precisely with a caliper, even using the best that money can buy - they aren't sufficiently accurate.
(It should not come as a surprise that I'm not a big fan of calipers; I don't use them for anything remotely critical. I consider them to be "ballpark" instruments at best, and rely on best-quality Swiss micrometers for about 90% of my work. What does your gunsmith use??)
-=[ Grant ]=-
As previously mentioned, I acquired one of the recently imported FN "Barracuda" revolvers, and am in the midst of determining what to do to improve the action. I have to make a living, too, so this isn't on the top of my priority list....be patient!
In the meantime, I have managed to develop some information about the lineage of this gun. Some less-informed sellers have been insisting that the Barracuda was made in Belgium, and that the very similar Astra was either a rip-off or a licensed copy. To quote one internet 'expert': "The FN Barracuda was the only revolver FN ever made. They were made a little over 20 years ago and dropped as they never sold as FN thought they would. They are not Astra's nor are they copies, they are entirly FN made."
Trouble is, that is a complete untruth. If you have a Barracuda, pull the grips off; on the left side of the grip frame, next to the mainspring adjustment ring, you'll see the gun's proof marks. You'll note that the proof marks are all from Eibar, Spain - there are no FN Herstal or Liege (or any other Belgian) proof marks on the gun.
Serendipitously, I also have a cross-check: I recently came into possession of an Astra-badged version of this gun. Guess what? Same Spanish proof marks, in the same spots, as the FN version.
Conclusion: The FN Barracuda revolver was definitely NOT produced in Belgium, and was definitely NOT made by FN. It was in fact made in Spain by Astra, for it is their proof marks that adorn the gun. I hope this settles the controversy once and for all!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Occasionally someone will call or email: "I'm looking for a good gunsmith - do you work on Taurus revolvers?" When I politely inform the person that I do not, the result is often indignance, as if to say "how dare you decline to work on my fine possession! You have insulted me, suh!" (Delivered in the best antebellum manner, of course.)
Taurus revolvers possess many positive traits: they're available in a wide variety of calibers and configurations, they are usually fairly reliable, and they are priced right. Unfortunately, it's that last bit that gets me into trouble.
You see, the most expensive part of building a handgun, particularly a revolver, is the finishing work. You can't automate the polishing process, and Taurus revolvers are generally very well polished and finished. Given their low price point, this means that finishing is a large percentage of the purchase price. This means that they have to skimp somewhere, and the place that they do is in parts fitting.
Taurus guns have parts that simply do not fit as tightly - as precisely - as some other manufacturers. Yes, you can do a shadetree action job, maybe swap springs, and improve the action - but it will never be truly 'great' without rebuilding the gun.
I've purchased a couple of Taurus revolvers (Taurii??) to work on, to evaluate. While I like the guns (the now-discontinued model 445 is really neat, and I carry it occasionally) the effort to put a truly world-class action job on one results in huge labor costs.
Look at it this way: if you want a top-end wheelgun you have to pay for fitting parts at some point. With a Taurus, it doesn't happen at the time of purchase; it can only occur in the gunsmith's hands, which drives the cost up considerably. Like the folks who commissioned custom Norinco 1911s about a decade ago, what you end up with is a really expensive $300 gun that no one wants to buy.
I have a finite amount of time to spend, and I’d rather spend it working on revolvers that will actually see an increase in value after quality work has been done. That may sound arrogant, but I suspect their owners share my point of view. That value increase just won't happen with a Taurus, because after all is said and done it'll still be a Taurus: a good gun for the money you spend, just not a good candidate for customization.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Poor Dan Wesson. The marque, famed for their switch-barrel revolvers, has suffered through more inept management regimes than your average banana republic (no, not the clothing chain!) Today you can ask ten random shooters about the company, and almost none will know that Dan Wesson is still in business. Their innovative revolvers - the work of the incomparable Karl Lewis - are no longer found on dealer's shelves.
How did we get to this sad state of affairs? To understand, we need to go back to the beginning of the Third Dynasty....
At the time, Dan Wesson was located in Palmer, MA. Production had reached new lows in both quality and quantity, and their strongest market - handgun silhouette shooters - were tiring of their on-again, off again production history. Despite some interesting introductions (a line of fixed-barrel guns and a true small frame concealed carry piece, dubbed the "Lil' Dan",) the company was forced into bankruptcy.
Into our story steps a fellow by the name of Bob Serva, who bought the company and moved it to Norwich, NY.
The problems surfaced almost immediately. The machinery included in the purchase was found to be "worn out", and supposedly incapable of making quality guns. (The irony of that statement will be revealed later.) You'd think that someone would have scrutinized a little thing like that out before writing a check, but no matter - the company invested in some new equipment, and then spent quite a long time resetting the new shop to produce guns.
Let's stop for a moment and review the revolver market at that point in history. Colt, stung by their association with certain anti-gun political elements and fresh out of bankruptcy, had all but abandoned the revolver market - and really didn't seem to care. Ruger was selling lots of guns, but their line was limited and had precious little to offer either competitors or the growing concealed carry market. Taurus was moving up in the market, but suffering from a reputation for having quality control problems (a perception which persists to this day.) The market leader, Smith&Wesson, had problems of their own: an apparently effective grassroots boycott, a persistent rumor that they were a hair's breadth away from bankrupcty, and being put up for sale by their British owners.
The market was in turmoil; it was ripe for a quality product, particularly one with unique features not available anywhere else. With all the competitors preoccupied with their own problems, market share was there for the taking - and Dan Wesson was in a good position to grab some. They had a line of revolvers that was strong, accurate as all get-out, and far more versatile than anything the competition had to offer. In addition, they had the Lil' Dan, which with some attention could easily address the burgeoning demand for concealed carry guns, and a fanatical (though shrinking daily) customer base. (I oughtta know - I'm one of those crazies who loves his Dan Wessons!)
So, with a brand new acquisition, new machinery, and a market ripe for the picking what did the owner of Dan Wesson do?
Right - he introduced a line of 1911 pistols!
The introduction of the 1911 guns seemed to take the wind out of revolver production. During this time, Dan Wesson made only one run of frames for the world's most popular revolver caliber, the .357 Magnum. Quality was so poor that I personally had to return a gun - ordered in for a special client - because the sideplate gap approached .006" in places! The action was awful, and the hammer and trigger had been slapped into the gun with no finish work whatsoever. The production manager apologized profusely, and hand-selected a replacement - which was only marginally better. This is when I learned that all of the frames had been made in a single run in the first year of the company's revived production, and most (if not all) apparently suffered from this egregious fault.
Remember the irony I alluded to? Even the much-maligned Palmer guns - the worst of the lot, made on that "worn out" machinery - had sideplates that fit correctly!
To their credit, they did try - sort of. Dan Wesson placed small black-and-white advertisements in relatively inconspicuous places in the gun magazines. The ads were pitiful: poor design, bad graphics, and too much room taken up with religious symbolism. (Before the hate mail comes in, understand that I have no problem with religious symbols in the right place and at the right time. An advertisement for a firearm in a gun magazine is neither the time nor the place.) The average small-town "nickel shopper" advertisement looks more professional than anything Dan Wesson was able to insert into glossy national magazines.
Magazines weren't the only marketing avenue, however. Recognizing the power of the internet, they put up a website - but it would be a couple of years before they bothered to procure their own domain name, instead using the site under the domain name of their ISP. The site was horridly designed, didn't work on anything other than a 17" monitor, and didn't even have much information. (Hey, I know their product line, and if it was difficult for me to figure out what was what, imagine what a new customer would go through!) They didn't understand what a website was really for: I saw a listing of various new grips that were available, but no pictures. An email to the company netted the information that the pictures were only available in their printed catalog, for which they charged $5! That's what we call "behind the times."
Things weren't much better with industry relations. Gunwriters, love 'em or hate 'em, are how the general public learns of, and forms opinions about, new products. I've heard first-hand stories of Dan Wesson management personally making multiple promises of test-and-evaluation samples to individual writers, but never delivering. With behavior like that, it's no wonder that Dan Wesson remained in a publicity rut.
Once the 1911s started rolling off the assembly line, revolvers took a definite back seat - way back. Parts became hard to get; Brownells even dumped the line, rumored to be tired of non-delivery. What little "innovation" centered around odd and useless chamberings. (Yep, I'm sure that the .460 Rowland - aka .451 Detonics Magnum rebadged to assuage someone's ego - was a big seller. I'm being facetious, in case you missed it.)
I suppose the argument for the switch to 1911 production was because revolvers "weren't selling very well." Of course, given the poor management of the whole mess, one would expect sales problems!
In my mind, the only saving grace during this period were some of Dan Wesson's employees. The aforementioned production manager was pleasant, honest, and seemed genuinely saddened that revolvers had been relegated to the back burner; the gal who essentially ran (and still runs) their parts and customer service operation has always been efficient and helpful (and has something of a following on the internet forums!)
That brings us more or less to the present. Roughly a year and a half ago, CZ-USA somehow acquired Dan Wesson and Mr. Serva took a job with the parent company. (He has since left CZ-USA.) So far, CZ doesn't seem to be all that interested in Dan Wesson revolvers - their website didn't even mention revolvers until just recently, and it's taken them over a year just to make their first .357 gun. Supposedly they are busy doing "market research", which to me means they still don't have a clue what to do with the wheelguns.
CZ, if you're reading this, here's some free advice:
1) Concentrate on building up to a standard, not down to a price. Saying you make high quality products, but not actually delivering high quality, doesn't count. If you need proof that this works, look at the company who took you main market from you: Freedom Arms. (If you need still more examples, Google "Tom Peters". Heck, Google him anyway - you need all the help you can get.)
2) What sells best? Historically, it's been mid-size guns in .357 Magnum. Start there; make 'em better than anything else on the market. Hunting guns in common calibers should be next (the .445 SuperMag, as neat as it is, isn't a common caliber.) You need a concealed carry piece; the market is crying for a good, small 6-shot .357 to fill the shoes of the late and much missed Colt Magnum Carry.
3) "Quality" means some attention needs to be given to the double action lockwork. They aren't smooth or consistent enough, they stack horribly, and their trigger return is sluggish. Spend some engineering money and fix those traits, and don't for a minute think that you can slide by with what you've got now.
4) Forget locks and MIM parts; make them the way the market wants them to be made, not the way some politician deems they should. (There's a big backlash against the built-in locks of your competitors; ignore this at your peril.)
5) You need a presence in competition; be visible in IHMSA, ICORE, USPSA, Steel Challenge, and IDPA. Revolver divisions are attracting more and more shooters; fInd people to sponsor, at all levels of ability. (Quantity counts in this game.)
6) You need actual marketing: proper advertising, editorial content, and a strong web presence. (Your current website doesn't cut it; if you plan to keep the Dan Wesson name, you need to establish a separate domain for it. You'll notice that the Mercedes website is separate from the Chrysler website for a reason.)
7) You'd better come up with an innovative dealer program. No matter how much you advertise, if it isn't on the dealer's shelves - and the dealers don't actively support you - you've lost a sale. (Hint: kiss up to the retail salespeople, not the boss. The guy sitting at the desk in the back room isn't who's selling the things.)
8) Don't ignore the growing women's market, but understand that pink grips and shiny finishes aren't what they want. They are sharp, savvy consumers who have different buying patterns and criteria than men. You need to learn what those are and supply products and services to match. (You have one huge advantage that no one else has, and it has never been exploited by any of the previous ownership. If you can't figure it out on your own, give me a call.)
9) Finally: if you're not going to do it right, don't do it at all - sell the revolver division to someone who will. Dan Wesson and Karl Lewis deserve it, and the legions of Dan Wesson enthusiasts deserve it. Don't let us down.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Thursday, June 01, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Personal opinions
A new toy just arrived at the shop: an FN 'Barracuda' revolver in .357!
The Barracuda was FN's only foray into the revolver market; they were produced for a few years during the 80's. Various "authorities" say the gun was made by Astra and marketed by FN, others hold that it was made by FN and later licensed to Astra. Frankly, from my examination of the construction techniques and general build quality, I'd venture to say that it was made by Astra - and that's not bad, as Astra is a good manufacturer in their own right. A small quantity of new-in-box specimens were recently unearthed and brought into the country.
The gun has a 3-inch barrel and fixed sights, the rear having a slightly unusual profile reminiscent of the Dan Wesson Model 14 - sort of "humpbacked." Surprise: the barrel is pinned and the chambers are recessed, just like Smith & Wessons of days past. Another S&W-like detail are the four screws holding one the sideplate, with a fifth screw in front of the triggerguard. The cylinder yoke is held in with a push-button arrangement, very similar to Korth practice. Size is somewhere between a "K" and an "L" frame, and uses "L" frame speedloaders (not "K" frame, as is usually reported.)
The grips, of very nice walnut, show a definite resemblance to the checkered wood grips Colt supplied with Detective Specials in the 1980's. The grips are well-fitted to the gun; my only complaint is that they're a bit shallow (front-to-back) for my tastes. Trigger reach, even for my small hands, is quite comfortable for a "service" sized arm.
One thing I could do without is the hooked triggerguard, but it does lend an interesting profile to the piece. I'm also not a big fan of the serrated trigger (Jerry Miculek notwithstanding), though I'll admit this one is less painful than most of its breed.
Fit & finish is pretty good, but the interior is quite crude - on a par with Rossi arms, at least in terms of parts fitting. Metallurgy, though, appears to be better than expected.
The action is fairly smooth for a factory gun, but not very consistent in its travel. Single action breaks with almost no creep and just a touch of overtravel; double action has near zero overtravel, similar to a Colt action. One nice touch is the user-adjustable pull weight; on my sample, double action weight could be varied from approximately 11-1/2 pounds down to 9-3/4 pounds. I might add that my analysis and measurements were done with the gun "as is", from the box - the action is bone dry, and I expect things to improve considerably with a little lubrication.
After I get the chance to range test it, I'll be getting into the internals to see what can be done to improve this gun.
Unfortunately I didn't find out about these in time to snag one from the distributor, so I had to content myself with paying retail. (Ugh. I feel so violated!) Still, for the $300 it cost, it really is a good deal - and with only 400 imported, it's not likely that another will show up next to you on the firing line!
Pictures and an in-depth test will follow in a few weeks. Stay tuned!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers
Many people talk about the Colt Detective Special using the term "generation." I get emails asking which "generation" is best or which should be purchased. I recently got a nasty email from a potential client who asked if I could work on a certain "generation"; when I replied that I wasn't sure what he meant by 'third generation', he decided that I wasn't qualified to work on his guns because I "obviously don't know anything about Colts!"
Folks, here's Fact #1: The Colt factory, the people who made them, do not refer to any of the "D" frame guns by "generation." If you ask, they'll tell you that generations are something "the collectors invented" (their exact words!)
Fact #2: there is a lot of controversy, but not a lot of consensus, regarding the various incarnations of the Detective Special and into what "generation" any given one falls.
Some hold that there is a generation change between the square-butt (long) and round-butt (long) in 1933, but not when the "C" frame was changed to the "D" frame in 1947; some that the change from plastic stocks to wood stocks in the mid-50s was a generation, but the reintroduction (after a seven-year absence) in 1993 wasn't.
Like Colt, I prefer to refer to any given gun by its production date. This information is readily available through the Proofhouse
site, and is a sure way to prevent miscommunication!-=[ Grant ]=-
Friday, May 19, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Gunsmithing, Current Events
Many people have been following the situation with the North Carolina Dep't of Corrections and their self-destructing S&W revolvers. If you haven't, here's a link to the story.
These pictures of one such occurrence have been floating around the net:
I've been exchanging emails with C.E. "Ed" Harris, who many will remember from his days as the head of Q.C. at Ruger - when they experienced a similar problem. Here's what he had to say:
"Old problem rearing its ugly head again, not really a new problem. A troublesome sporadic one when people forget about good shop practices and get sloppy.
Stress corrosion cracking is generally caused by contamination by solvents or cutting fluids too high in chlorides. Over-torquing barrels barrels creates a stress rise at the root of the thread which makes the problem worse. Microscopic examination of the failed barrels would be obvious to a competent
engineer, especially familiar to those with aerospace or nuclear power systems experience.
Ruger had a short run of this back in the 1980s when they first starting making stainless magnums. I saw a few dozen guns come back when I worked there. All were traced to one guy on night shift who was over-torquing barrels on Redhawks which didn't quite line up, instead of taking a pass off the front of the frame on a Blanchard grinder as he should have done. He also used a wrong, slippery high sulphur thread lubricant intended for chrome-moly instead of the anti-seize compound used with SS.
This condition is aggravated by tight fit of barrel threads, such as when using a class 3A, combined with high stress, high temperature, and high barrel torque. Ruger fixed their problem by changing to a looser 2A fit on the barrel threads and assembling barrels to the frames using a Loctite product to cement them solidly while reducing stress on the threads and positively preventing any seepage of cleaning solvents into the barrel threads after they left the factory."
If true, this wouldn't be the first time S&W has over-torqued a barrel: the Model 442 Airweight Centennials, particularly in nickel finish, are somewhat notorious for frame cracks under the barrel. A phone conversation with a S&W representative confirmed to me that the cracked frames were caused by barrels that had been screwed in "too tightly."
However, there's always the possibility of user error, such as the use of certain products that contain chlorine compounds (brand name removed for obvious reasons):
"Use of [lubricants containing chlorine compounds] "could" do it, as could any number of other cleaners, especially if used with an ultrasonic which enhances thread penetration."
There are certain "miracle" gun lubricant products out there that contain chlorine compounds, and have become popular amongst the more "martial" crowd. In addition, ultrasonic cleaners have been very popular at many police agencies over the last decade or so.
Well, I got an email from one of the employees at the agency, and he claims that they use Hoppes bore cleaner, and that they do not have an ultrasonic!
So we're back to the first possibility. Given Ed's expertise, I suspect that his analysis is the correct one.
-=[ Grant ]=-
Thursday, May 18, 2006 Filed in: Revolvers, Personal opinions, Gunsmithing
There is an assertion that comes up with surprising frequency, particularly in the internet age where everyone is an expert: the Colt Python (and all other Colt revolvers) are "delicate", "go out of time easily", or "not as strong/durable as a S&W."
Let's start with the construction: a Colt revolver, for any given frame size, is as strong as any gun with that frame size. Their metallurgy is absolutely the best, and their forged construction is of superior quality. They are superbly made, and their longevity is a testimony to that fact. You are never compromising when you choose a Colt!
How about the charge of "delicate" or "goes out of time easily"? In my work, I see a lot of Colts; I shoot them extensively myself. With proper maintenance, I've seen no tendency for any Colt to go out of time. Yet, the rumors persist!
Why do such opinions exist if there wasn't some basis to them? Is there some amount of truth? I think I can answer that!
Let's start with some facts: Colt revolvers have actions which are very refined. Their operating surfaces are very small, and are precisely adjusted to make the guns work properly. Setting them up properly is not a job for someone who isn't intimately familiar with their workings, and the gunsmith who works on them had better be accustomed to working at narrow tolerances, on small parts, under magnification.
Colt's design and construction is unique; it uses the hand (the "pawl" which rotates the cylinder) and the bolt (the stop at the bottom of the frame opening) to hold the cylinder perfectly still when the gun fires. The action is designed so that the hand - which is the easiest part to replace - will take the majority of the wear, and is expected to be changed when wear exceeds a specific point.
This is considered normal maintenance in a Colt revolver, which is not the case with any other brand. To get their famous "bank vault" cylinder locking and attendant accuracy, you have to accept a certain amount of maintenance; it goes with ownership of such a fine instrument.
I've often made the statement that a Colt is like a Ferrari; to get the gilt-edged performance, you have to accept that they will require more maintenance than a Ford pickup. Unlike gun owners, however, folks who own Italy's finest don't complain that they are more "delicate" than an F-150!
I truly think that the negative reputation that Colts have in some quarters is because their owners - unschooled in the uniqueness of the Colt action - apply the same standards of condition that they would to their more pedestrian S&W guns.
What standards? A Colt, when the trigger is pulled and held back, should have absolutely no cylinder rotation. None, zip, zilch - absolutely no movement at all! Not a little, not a bit, not a smidgen - zero movement. A S&W, on the other hand, normally has a bit of rotational play - which is considered absolutely normal and fine.
There's another measurement to consider: at rest, a Colt cylinder should move front-to-back no more than .003" (that's 3/1,000 of an inch.) This is - in the absolute worst case - about half of the allowable S&W movement!
Now, let's say a S&W owner, used to their looser standards of cylinder lockup, buys a Colt. He goes and shoots it a bit, and the hand (which probably has a bit of wear already, as he bought it used) is approaching the normal replacement interval. He checks his gun, and finds that the cylinder has just the slightest amount of movement when the trigger is back, and half of his S&W's longitudinal travel. Heck, he thinks, it's still a lot tighter than his Smith so it must be fine to keep shooting it.
WRONG! It's at this point that he should stop shooting, and take it to an experienced Colt gunsmith to have the action adjusted. Of course, he doesn't do this - he keeps shooting. The cylinder beats harder against the frame, compresses the ratchet (ejector), causing the hand to wear even faster, and the combination of the two leads to a worn bolt. If left unchecked, the worn bolt can do damage to the rebound lever. When it finally starts spitting lead and misfiring, he takes it in and finds to his astonishment that he's facing a $400 (or more!) repair bill, and perhaps a 6 month wait to find a new ratchet.
Of course, he'll now fire up his computer and declare to anyone who will listen that Colts are "delicate" and "go out of time easily" and are "hard to get parts for." That, folks, appears to be the true origin of these fallacies.
Colts do require more routine maintenance, and a more involved owner; that's a fact. But, as long as the maintenance is performed properly, a Colt will happily digest thousands upon thousands of rounds without complaint. The owners who take care of them will be rewarded with a gun that is a delight to shoot, wonderfully accurate, and visually unmatched. Those who don't will sell them off at a loss and complain on the internet.
I sincerely hope that you will choose to be the first type of Colt owner. If, however, you are the second, please drop me a note - I'm always in the market for Colt revolvers at fire-sale prices!
-=[ Grant ]=-
Lots of people ask me about speedloaders - as in "what speedloader should I buy?"
Well, there are really only a couple of choices these days: Safariland and HKS. (The superb SL Variant models are no longer imported, the Maxfires don't - at least in my mind - qualify for the "speed" part of the name, and the Australian "Jet" loaders are close enough to the Safariland Comp III that we'll consider them the same.)
Personally, unless I'm using a gun for which they don't have a model, I use only Safariland speedloaders. Here's why.
First, they're simply a whole lot faster to use. Not only are they faster to release their payload, they hold the rounds in a solid, fairly rigid package. That rigidity makes it faster to align the bullets with the chambers than the "floppy" HKS style. This is an important, and often overlooked, advantage.
Second, they're more secure. Over the years I've listened to people bad-mouth the Safariland speedloaders, with the statement that they release their rounds too easily - when in a pocket or dropped, the story usually goes.
I've been carrying Safarilands on my person for about 10 years now, and I've never had a single round released when I didn't want it to. They won't, unless you forcibly jam an object into the release button which is in the middle of the rounds. I've had more than one HKS let go while in the speedloader pouch, let alone my pocket!
Dropping? When this argument comes up I pull out the oldest, most used Comp II that I have. (It's been used for practice for a decade, and I stopped counting when it reached 5.000 reload cycles. I keep it loaded with dummy rounds - regular bullet, case, but no primers- for practice.) I drop it on the floor or ground, then pick it up and throw it on the ground; if there's a wall nearby, I'll either kick it or throw it into the wall. I've done this little demo hundreds of times, and I've never had a round fall out.
However, the only way to get this kind of performance and reliability is to load the things correctly! Safariland doesn't help their case, as they sell competition "loading blocks" that force you into loading the things improperly.
Most people will put the rounds into the speedloader, then turn it face-down onto a table so that they can push on the button to lock the rounds. This is almost guaranteed to leave a round (or two or three) that isn't fully seated, and when the speedloader is dropped it/they fall out. No wonder people think they don't work well!
The key is to hold the speedloader BULLETS UP, and push the button up while simultaneously turning it to the right. You'll feel the rounds "lock in", and they won't come out until you want them to!
UPDATE: I've now seen several guns whose cranes (yokes) have been bent apparently due to the side loading forces of Maxfire speedloaders. I strongly recommend that you not use Maxfires!
-=[ Grant ]=-