In today’s modern age, the polymer framed high-capacity pistol is what you will most likely find in the holsters of law enforcement officers and concealed weapon permit holders. Does this mean that the medium framed double action revolver is obsolete? Is the revolver still relevant? Can it meet the needs of the self-defense shooter if he or she is capable? Having carried a wheelgun as a duty weapon in a previous life I believe it can. The Close Quarters Pistol class put on by Hardwired Tactical Shooting (HiTS) seemed like the perfect venue to test my theory.
Revolver gear has come a long way since break front holsters and dump pouches. I chose some of the best equipment I could find. To start I chose a Ruger GP100 “Wiley Clapp” 357 magnum. The gun is a simple medium frame double action revolver with a six shot capacity, three inch barrel and excellent Novak sights that feature a plain black rear with gold bead front. Being a practitioner of appendix carry I chose the JM Custom Kydex AIWB to carry my GP100 on a Talon Tactical 1.5” Cobra belt. To feed the monster I used traditional Safariland Comp II speedloaders and the Austrian JetLoaders from BufferTech. Safariland Split-Six, CD-2 and CD-6 carriers were used in addition to my pants pockets to keep enough ammo on my person to prevent holding up the rest of the class. I didn’t cheat and use powder puff ammo. I ran commercial 158 grain plated round nose 357 Magnum reloads from LAX Ammunition. I dressed normally in Wrangler cargos and a baggy t-shirt. I did cheat a little with one piece of hidden gear. I wore Hold-Up Suspender Company Hip-Clip suspenders to keep from having to readjust my pants.
The HiTS Close Quarters Pistol class was held in Dallas at a local police range. A thorough safety brief was given by Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs. After the safety brief we were advised of the strict accuracy standards we would be held to. Head shots had to be inside of the 3”x5” eye box and upper torso hits needed to be inside the black of a B-8 repair target. Any hit outside of that was considered a miss and resulted in a counseling session. Time standards were enforced. The ranges were from seven yards to contact distance. We started off easy from low ready with drills progressing to drawing from concealment, drawing on the move, shooting on the move and negotiating lots of No-Shoot targets. Thinking was required and sweeping No-Shoot targets with your muzzle was not accepted. We fired 500 rounds over the weekend and I had to reload, a lot.
I learned quite a bit during the HiTS class and ran the GP100 harder than I have ever pushed a wheelgun. I did not feel handicapped by the long double action pull because it was so smooth. The excellent sights and good trigger allowed me to meet the accuracy standards. Eighty-something reloads later I realized that during fast paced drills I could get the cylinder hot enough to be very uncomfortable. I experienced zero weapon related malfunctions. Extraction of empty cases was always as positive as the smack I gave the ejector rod. The Lett style rubber grip of the GP100 soaked up recoil well and my hands, elbows and shoulders appreciated not being abused by recoil. Although I met the time standards I can admit that I generally was the slowest shooter.
The positive release of the Comp II’s and the lightning fast JetLoaders kept me running with near fumble free reloads. I have to admit that for as fast and easy handling as the JetLoaders were they lack a concealed carry friendly solution for toting them around. I was left using just my pockets. I found the CD-2 to be fast but not carry worthy as it held too little tension on speedloader to trust in a scuffle. I would gladly use them again in another class to keep extra ammo on me. The shape of the CD-6 was just uncomfortable and didn’t last through the first day before being tossed into my range bag. The Split-Sixes were a nice blend of discreet carry, comfort and speed with the Comp II’s. I cannot complain about the performance of the JM AIWB. The excellent staff at JM Custom Kydex happily made a few minor tweaks to the holster with feedback I was able to provide after two-hundred plus draws. The Talon Tactical belt held up my pants, GP100 and eight loaded speedloaders comfortably all weekend. The LAX Ammunition reloads were uniform and shot clean. I experienced zero ammunition related malfunctions or gear related failures.
So can the medium frame double action revolver still be considered relevant in today’s polymer age? I still think so. I also think several of my classmates walked away with a better appreciation of the venerable wheelgun. I’ll close with a quote.
Hearing six REAL “booms” from (Brandon H) followed by the jingle of six .357 magnum brass hitting the ground followed by the loader click and the cylinder closing was music to mine and Wayne’s ears. ~Darryl Bolke
Links: http://www.safariland.com, http://www.talontactical.com, http://www.jmcustomkydex.com, http://www.buffertech.com, http://ruger.com, http://www.laxammo, http://hardwiredtacticalshooting.com, http://www.suspenders.com