Ep 197: Snubbies

#1
Enjoyed this episode, since I'm spending a year shooting mostly wheel guns (as documented in this thread). I also signed up for the Pat Rogers Memorial wheel gun class in Dallas this October, and I'm looking forward to that.

As a disclaimer: I'm not a cop, not a high speed guy, not even a world class shooter. I'm not trying to say I'm an expert or even know what the heck I'm doing. But the comments about how you shouldn't use a thumbs forward grip on wheel guns jumped out at me. I'm a younger guy who came up shooting semi autos. I started shooting wheel guns in competitions this year with a traditional revolver crossed thumbs grip, before transitioning to shooting thumbs forward because I thought it was giving me better control of the gun during follow up and faster splits.

So I set out to test my "feelings" vs the comments of Darryl Bolke in favor of the traditional revolver grip. What I found surprised me, and I thought it was worth sharing to see what others thought or whether my experience was unique on this front.

Test set up: 4 wheel guns. 642 J frame, a 2.75" Model 66 K frame, a 586 L frame, and a 4" 627 N frame. All in 38/357. I shot Federal 158 gr LRN through all guns for this test. Target was standard USPSA cardboard at 10 yards. Test consisted of a 5 shot string, aiming for center A zone with each gun twice back to back. Once with a traditional grip, once with a thumbs forward grip. A zone at 10 yards was picked for consistency. Goal with each gun was nothing but good A zone hits, so I worked to get a decent sight picture on the center of the A zone between each trigger pull. I know humans as a rule are inconsistent, but I hoped this would help regulate my speed a little and provide some consistency for the tests.

I'll be honest. Despite Darryl having a lot more revolver experience than me, I thought I was going to "prove him wrong", because after shooting K and N frames in competition with both grips, I was pretty sure a thumbs forward grip was superior. So I started the test by shooting the 642 with a traditional grip, then thumbs forward. Traditional was faster. I was ready to quit the test, admit that his experience vastly outweighs my subjective feeling while shooting, and concede I don't know what I'm doing.

Then I moved on to the 627, the gun I've been shooting the most in competition this year, and got the exact opposite result: I was shooting faster splits with a thumbs forward grip. Interesting....so I kept the test going. 586 and 66....same result. Faster with a thumbs forward grip.

So after these results, I went back to the 642 one more time. I had started the test first thing at the range with it, maybe I just wasn't warmed up, excuses, excuses. My splits were substantially faster with both grips than they were the first time, so warming up a bit did improve my J frame shooting. But the result was the same the first time I shot the 642: A traditional revolver grip gave me faster splits than a thumbs forward grip.

Here's a chart of my split times with each gun, the averages, etc:



I recognize that those are not blistering split times. Keep in mind that I was going for a consistent sight picture between every shot to keep the test "fair" across all 4 guns. I can average ~.25 splits with revolvers on things like a Bill drill, but this was about accuracy at speed, not pushing speed to the limits of accuracy.

What I think I learned is that if you have enough frame on the gun to get a good thumbs forward grip on it, just like with a semi auto...more meat on frame>less meat on frame. (Disclaimer: I have short thumbs. Even on a J frame, I can get a thumbs forward grip without putting my thumb in front of the cylinder. People have different sized hands. This may or may not be the case for you). The J frame was different for a couple of reasons I think. 1)So little space to grip. It's just hard to get a good two hand grip on such a small gun. 2) 158s make the J frame jump a lot more than even the K frame does with the same load. My left hand thumb would slip off the frame under recoil repeatedly. I've been shooting mostly 148 gr wadcutters in my J frame before this test, but I wanted to keep ammo consistent across all guns. I don't have nearly as much trouble keeping my grip on the gun shooting 148s, and I'd love to repeat the test with wadcutters at some point in the future to see if the lower recoiling wadcutters make a difference for my J frame splits with the different grips.

The TL;DR: summary for all this is Darryl was spot on for J frames for me. Since the episode was all about Snubbies, despite my initial disagreement with his premise based on shooting larger wheel guns, he is right. If you're shooting a snubby, a traditional revolver grip produced faster splits than trying to use a modern thumbs forward grip for me. However, I found the opposite to be true with K, L and N frame guns. I'm wondering if you've got enough frame and grip to get your mitts on, if thumbs forward is faster for everyone...even with wheel guns. All I can say for sure is that seems to be the case for me, at the moment.

Looking forward to meeting folks and learning more about shooting wheel guns in Dallas in October.
 

nyeti

Moderator
Moderator
#2
Figure I need to log in and participate here now. So, we run into the issue of flat range and sport shooting versus defense use of the revolver. This is not just about grip. You get a crap grip on the gun as happens a lot in actual shootings and two things can happen...or both. Thumb or fingers end up in front of the cylinder and shooting many street loads or your gun is out of time a little and you will injure yourself in the middle of a shooting. Option two is your thumb gets cramped against the turning cylinder while you have less than optimal tactile feeling in your fingers and you bind the gun. Option three...gloves and material binds up the cylinder.
I talked to a buddy retired from a huge department last night and we got a laugh about this subject. When you have qualified and watched thousands of iterations of cops running wheelguns you get to see all of this stuff. It is simple....wheel guns recoil different and work different-period. It’s like an automatic versus manual transmission car. Much of the fundamentals is the same, but operation is a bit different and it gets really interesting as the speed and complexity of tasks start to build. I could discuss this in depth when I was driving my old manual transmission 70 Road Runner street race car in downtown San Francisco. Those hills get thrilling from a dead start in traffic versus launching off a Christmas tree at the track.
I am at the point in life where if you know better and want to shoot your auto grip...knock yourself out and laugh at the old guys who don’t know crap because they were using these things in the field during some of the most violent times of our history versus the guys winning split time fights.
 
#3
You raise good points about suboptimal grips.

As for the rest...very disappointing to see that kind of attitude regarding learning/testing things about how we can shoot faster and more accurately from competition from someone posting on P&S, given how many podcasts have discussed just how counter productive that exact attitude is to improving and developing how we shoot and train. I'm sure lots of cops laughed their heads off at a whole lot of things advocated for by this forum, learned from (among other places)...competition. Red dots on pistols come to mind.

I wasn't claiming to "know better", but testing my own experience with shooting larger framed revolvers using both traditional revolver grip and a thumbs forward grip versus your recommendations for J frames...and ended up validating your recommendations on the clock when it comes to snubbies, in fact.

If anyone else is reading, I'd love for someone who's interested in testing things instead of sharing tales from the '70s to put some time in on the clock with the different grips on different sized revolvers and see if my results are an anomaly or not on the larger framed guns.
 

nyeti

Moderator
Moderator
#4
You know....you’re right. This was a bad idea. Sorry for tales of the 70’s. I guess all that crap we did when we actually carried and used this stuff daily for real we didn’t learn anything, like where fingers and hands end up in fights and during stress combat courses, particularly at night. And for what it’s worth, I was shooting a red dot revolver in competition in like 1990. Also...prototyped the Aimpoint Micro on a Pistol.
 

Simms65

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
#5
I too have experimented with various grips on revolvers. Hell, just the past two weeks I delved back into j frame life.

I agree being able to go as fast as possible is good.

At the same time I also see what happens to people in situations when they are close contact, have fallen down, are in a car, are running during their draw stroke etc. Since I have a range where I can literally do whatever the fuck I want I tried drawing and firing from a number of sub optimal positions.

I found when I establish a typical thumbs forward semi auto style grip on a j frame a couple things happen.
1. My recoil management is shit. I lose grip much easier and follow up shots are far more difficult.
2. I can FEEL the cylinder moving. I know if I squeezed the wrong way I could quite possibly cause the cylinder to jam up, especially if I was weaing gloves.
3. I have average sized hands and wear a M/L glove depending on the brand. Cylinder gap = thumb gets peppered. At best it doesn't feel great.

I know personally I will continue to shoot revolvers with a crossed/tucked thumb grip. I believe it's the better choice for defensive shooting.
 
#6
"someone posting on P&S".....what are we, the fucking borg?

"tales from the 70s".....gotta know where you been to know where you are going.

I don't shoot with a timer, or worship at the alter of split times...been shooting with a thumbs forward grip since about 1988...taught to me by an old timer before it became the norm.

Put it to the test for yourself is great....but that means more then a few runs of one drill on the square range.

This is plowed ground, I think it might be wise to listen to the guys that plowed it.
 

Chad H/BC520

10-32 Solutions
Moderator
#8
Enjoyed this episode, since I'm spending a year shooting mostly wheel guns (as documented in this thread). I also signed up for the Pat Rogers Memorial wheel gun class in Dallas this October, and I'm looking forward to that.

As a disclaimer: I'm not a cop, not a high speed guy, not even a world class shooter. I'm not trying to say I'm an expert or even know what the heck I'm doing. <sni>

Looking forward to meeting folks and learning more about shooting wheel guns in Dallas in October.
Since you brought up Pat...

Did you know Pat? Several of us here did. And you dishonor his memory by making fatal mistakes of tunnel vision and bias in discounting what is valuable experience.

I knew Pat. His lessons in gunfighting didn't involve timers, but mindset, history, and fundamentals. And he would maybe counsel you, subtlety, about how to open your closed mind to include that path before doing instructor triage and focusing on those there to actually learn.

There is a time and place for timers and using them to improve shooting skills. There are skills done on a range that cannot be done in a gunfight. There are gunfight skills that cannot be done on a stage. The true student takes the time to learn which is which and when to apply each so to better master their skills.

Mr. Bolke is a gunfighter, and his skills and knowledge of the way things are done, why they were done that way, and how they've evolved over time are way more important than your minutiae of a lack of perspective. Like Pat's is.

Don't you dare dishonor Pat further by going to his memorial shoot with this current attitude and outlook. Open your mind up, then you also may be one of the ones that "Learning has occurred" applies to.

I'm done.
 
#9
You know....you’re right. This was a bad idea. Sorry for tales of the 70’s. I guess all that crap we did when we actually carried and used this stuff daily for real we didn’t learn anything, like where fingers and hands end up in fights and during stress combat courses, particularly at night. And for what it’s worth, I was shooting a red dot revolver in competition in like 1990. Also...prototyped the Aimpoint Micro on a Pistol.
Lets back up a minute and try again, because I think some wires got crossed. I’ll try to explain my original post a different way and hopefully things won’t get lost in translation this time. I’m sorry that my communication skills are subpar. Here we go:

As a guy who is trying to learn how to shoot wheel guns, before this podcast I was shooting N and K frames in competition. I had experimented with different grips and reloads, trying to figure out what worked for me. Thumbs forward on a large frame wheel gun felt better than traditional revolver grip, and produced better recovery/splits for me in competition.

After the podcast, I tried thumbs forward on a J frame and it was a failure. Slower at everything. I shared that result, because I was really curious if anyone else had a similar experience when it comes to shooting larger framed wheel guns vs smaller framed guns using different grips, and thought it was a nice learning moment for me on the value of what you were sharing in the podcast, because you were 100% right. Which just made me more confused about why a non traditional grip was working better forme on larger guns.

Whatever it came across as, I was NOT trying to claim I knew better than anyone. I was NOT advocating “my way” as superior for self defense, competition, or anything else. I was just curious if anyone else had similar experiences shooting large frame revolvers with a different grip, and was excited I had learned something new about how my “competition grip” for an N/K frame was subpar for use on a j frame, even in the context of just competition shooting. I was also wondering if those results meant my traditional revolver grip just needed more work to be better than a thumbs forward grip on the large guns, or if there was ever any value in a thumbs forward grip, even if just in the context of competition shooting.

I posted about learning something about shooting wheel guns thanks to your comments, and the response I got was condescending. I have never responded well to the “this is how it’s done because this is how we’ve always done it” method of teaching, because I learn way more and much more quickly when I get the “why” of things, which i appreciated about the first part of your post. It was the second half “I told my cop buddy about someone trying to learn how to shoot wheel guns through experimentation since no one bothers to explain the whys and we laughed and laughed” that ticked me off.

“That’s how we did it in the 70s” doesn’t explain anything. I’m looking for the whys behind how to shoot wheel guns, and was looking forward to learning more on that front.
 
#10
Since you brought up Pat...

Did you know Pat? Several of us here did. And you dishonor his memory by making fatal mistakes of tunnel vision and bias in discounting what is valuable experience.

I knew Pat. His lessons in gunfighting didn't involve timers, but mindset, history, and fundamentals. And he would maybe counsel you, subtlety, about how to open your closed mind to include that path before doing instructor triage and focusing on those there to actually learn.

There is a time and place for timers and using them to improve shooting skills. There are skills done on a range that cannot be done in a gunfight. There are gunfight skills that cannot be done on a stage. The true student takes the time to learn which is which and when to apply each so to better master their skills.

Mr. Bolke is a gunfighter, and his skills and knowledge of the way things are done, why they were done that way, and how they've evolved over time are way more important than your minutiae of a lack of perspective. Like Pat's is.

Don't you dare dishonor Pat further by going to his memorial shoot with this current attitude and outlook. Open your mind up, then you also may be one of the ones that "Learning has occurred" applies to.

I'm done.
The only way I mentioned Pat at all was expressing excitement about going to the shoot this October to learn.

I certainly had no intention to dishonor the man. I’m not sure how you even got to there from my post.

I didn’t know Pat, but I’d hope he would have no issues with an ignorant student looking to learn like myself.

What a weird post.
 

nyeti

Moderator
Moderator
#11
I am the biggest “why” dude on the planet. I spend a ton of time digging as far back as possible to understand how we get places and about wins and failures.
I can give you a really simple answer “why” on your grip working on bigger guns in a sport environment....familiarity. That is simply how you are used to holding a firearm. Very few people learn to shoot on revolvers anymore. Here is the reality...we have made forward progress with auto grips because we have stopped using revolver grips on them. Think about that a minute. When we made progress in games like USPSA and IPSC it is because grips that were revolver based were modified to fight a totally different recoil force. The combative revolver grip controls the cylinder turning and recoil that is simply muzzle rise. Old auto grips based on revolver grips (which is how I used to shoot) simply controlled muzzle rise. Newer grips control the slide movement not found in a revolver that is a critical part of sight tracking on sights that are attached to a moving slide.
I am currently amused at all the folks who are doing the EXACT same thing with revolvers that we did with autos back in the day....applying what works for squeezing oranges to peeling an apple. I cannot emphasize enough is that revolvers and autos are totally different animals. You hold them different, you press the trigger different, follow through is different, manipulations are different and recoil control is different.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from a legendary LE firearms instructor was “son....that Glock ain’t a 1911 and you need to quit holding it like one”. Pure genius and took my shooting to a different level. From that day on I adapt my grip to the individual tool I am using and do not force my grip onto everything I pick up. If this was a big deal with different auto’s, imagine what it is like with a revolver to auto. Then you have size differences. Like autos....size makes a difference. Try that big canted support hand and thumbs forward to a LCP or better yet a Seecamp and let me know how that works?
I think you will benefit from exposure to old guys who aren’t just telling 70 stories but folks who have seen tens of thousands of cops run revolvers under stress and some of the failures we have seen. We have also seen wins. I can tell you we teach what we teach not because we are stuck in the past, but because we are teaching what works. You have to understand that most of us were taught the old one hand b.s FBI point shooting crap with our revolvers for close work and bullseye techniques for longer distances. Trust me....that crap don’t work in fights. We are teaching fight proven best practices. Not sport shooting best practices, revolver gunfight winning in low light and chaos best practices.
Hope this helps-DB
 
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#13
I really enjoyed this episode. I learned to shoot on a SW 586 and carried it around as a ranch hand for a few years to shoot snakes. It's not doing so great these days but I love that gun. I come through Jackson Armory occasionally so maybe I'll run into Darryl there, who knows.

I have some questions about snubbies vs. single stack autos in a non-permissive environment and was hoping someone with a lot more experience could answer them. I have been in two situations where people believed there was a shooter in a "gun free zone." One was in a train station where someone let off a firecracker, the other one was at my college when a student was shot by someone in a passing car. Both were pretty terrifying, and I really don't want to be defenseless again if something like that happens.

I think that revolvers have a lot of advantages in a close-up encounter, and they are inherently a lot less likely to cause an ND. However, to paraphrase Darrell's words in the podcast, I think something like a Glock 43X or an SW Shield makes a better "go to trouble" gun. The "gun free zone" unfortunately puts you in a situation where you are potentially going into a bad spot where you might have to engage someone far better armed than you are, but you also need to have a gun that conceals extremely well.