Revolver for Carry

For people who follow this blog you know I favor the revolver.  With that being said you could probably guess that when I carry its a revolver.

I have always liked the Smith and Wesson 686.  I can remember when they first came out (yes, I’m that old).  I read all about the new revolver in the gun magazines.  I can vividly remember the first time I saw one up close.  It was 1982, I was at the local shooting range when an off-duty sheriff’s deputy came by to try out his new service revolver.  When he pulled his 4″ 686 out I could not take my eyes off it.  It seemed like the perfect gun to me;  .357 magnum, stainless steel, beautiful wood grips, adjustable sights, and underlug barrel.  The deputy did not let me shoot it; he didn’t even let me touch it!  That day I told myself one day I would have one.

Smith and Wesson 686

Smith and Wesson 686 .357 magnum

This the is the gun I decided would make the perfect (for me) carry gun.  Its a full sized revolver so its on the heavy side.  Weight doesn’t bother me.  I prefer a heavier gun because it keeps felt recoil down.  Though not designed for target precision shooting, I also like the adjustable sights so I can set the sights to my hand loads.

686 in holster

My 686 strapped into its holster and ready for carry.

When I carry I have never felt under gunned by having a revolver.  I have six heavy loaded .357 magnum rounds.  The power and velocity of a heavy .357 can not even be approached by a 9mm.  Yes, I know, if the zombies come I won’t have a million rounds in high capacity magazines.  Let’s face it, the zombie hordes are not coming.  I will never need 50 rounds at my immediate disposal.  I will not be clearing rooms or facing angry mobs.  Be realistic!  Six rounds from a double action revolver is plenty for my needs.

.357 magnum ammo

If I ever feel the need for a reload I have several options

If I am ever in a situation where I might need a reload I have several options.  I can carry spare rounds loose in my pocket.  I can carry a speed loader or two either in a pocket or in a holder on my belt.  Or, I can put rounds in a belt slide like most cops did back in the 80s.  In a self-defense scenario, there has never been an instance of an armed defender needing a reload.

Like I said earlier, the short barrel 686 is perfect for me.  I like the double action.  No safeties to worry about.   If there is ever a mis-fire I just pull the trigger again.  The cylinder rotates and the hammer comes down on a new round.  There are no jams to clear with a revolver.  I’d rather have a revolver mostly because I am very familiar with them.  In a moment of panic I know I can operate the revolver without any real thought.  Just point and squeeze and it goes bang.  I believe carry what you want just know how to use it.

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Ruger Single Six for plinking and practice

The Ruger Single Six is a nice little single-action revolver.  Its not a handgun I’d use for hunting or home defense, but it is a good tool to practice handling the single-action without the expense of firing large caliber center-fire rounds.


Ruger Single Six

.22 cal. Ruger Single Six with 5 1/2″ barrel

This particular Single Six is blued but I swapped out a few parts to give it a custom look. The hammer and trigger come from Ruger already bright stainless steel.   The medallion and grip screw are also bright finished.  They all really stuck out.   So, I decided to swap the ejector rod, base pin, hammer pin, and trigger pin for stainless steel versions,  I think it looks pretty cool that way.  It also makes mine different from everyone else.

To get better at anything you have to practice and practice a lot.  Shooting is no different.  You have to shoot thousands of rounds to get good a aiming, sight picture, trigger squeeze, and gun handling.  Shooting thousands of rounds of .22 rimfire is much more affordable than shooting thousands of rounds of center fire ammo.  Even if you reload.  With the Single Six you can practice with a revolver that is very similar in grip, trigger, and hammer to the Blackhawk or Vaquero without the expense of shooting the bigger guns.  Very little noise and light recoil allows the shooter to practice without developing bad habits like flinching that can be caused by shooting magnum center fire revolvers

Also, the little .22 is just plain fun to shoot.  Spending a few hours knocking down cans with a .22 revolver is time well spent.  Like therapy.  As much as I enjoy shooting magnums, over the course of a year I’ll shoot a lot more rounds through my rimfire revolver than any other gun I own.

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My Ruger Old Model Three Screw

Ruger Blackhawk

Ruger Blackhawk ‘Old Model’ with three screws

In 1955 Sturm, Ruger and Company came out with a single action revolver they called the Blackhawk.  The Blackhawk was designed to be an improvement of the old Colt Single Action Army; it had better steel, better springs, and a stronger frame than the Colt.  The revolver was very successful and was in production from 1955 through 1972.  In 1973 further improvements were incorporated into the design and the Blackhawk was transformed into the New Model Blackhawk.

As you can guess the Blackhawk was never referred to as an Old Model or a Three Screw during its production run.  Those names cam about after the New Model arrived on the scene.  As most shooters are familiar with the New Model, I’ll try to describe the traits of the older version.  Though the New Model Blackhawk and the Blackhawk look very similar there are some very significant differences between the two.

Ruger .357 cal. Blackhawk

Very simple Ruger Blackhawk stamping with the Ruger logo

The Blackhawk had a very simple stamping on the left side of the frame.  The current guns have the stylized Ruger and the words New Model have taken the place of the logo.

Ruger barrel stamping

The barrel stamp before the warning label was added.

The barrel stamping was much simpler too.  New Models have the warning label stamped into the barrel.

Ruger Blackhawk

Ruger Blackhawk with the hammer in the ‘half cock’ position.

In the above picture you can see most of the different characteristics from old to new.  There is a ‘half cock’ position in the older model; this frees the cylinder to rotate for loading and unloading.  The hammer is flat-faced and there is no transfer bar safety (old models should only be loaded with five rounds).  The grip panel has the older, ‘skinny’ eagle logo.  You can also see the plunger behind the trigger instead of the current trigger return spring.

Ruger Blackhawk with three screws

The Blackhawk revolvers have three screws instead of two pins like the New Model.

How the older model gets its name: On the right side of the revolver you can see three screw heads. The New Models have just two pins.  Here you can also see the early five digit serial number.  This puts this revolver’s date of manufacture sometime during 1966.

Now you’re probably asking yourself ‘Why are these older revolvers so sought after by shooters and collectors?”  Well, speaking just for myself, the older models have a slightly more complex internal mechanism, the half-cock adds a step to reloading and unloading, the lack of transfer bar makes this gun a five-shooter and yet despite all that, the trigger pull makes it much smoother to shoot than a New Model.   I have bought fixtures to improve the trigger pull and done extensive stone work on internal parts to smooth and lighten the trigger on New Models and still can’t match the trigger on the old models.

The New Model Blackhawk is definitely an improvement over the original.  Its safer, easier to load, simpler, and allows the shooter to actually carry it loaded with six rounds. However, I’m not about to get rid of my Three Screw.  For one I enjoy having and shooting a revolver that’s older than I am and that smooth trigger is just too nice to let go.

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Modified Ruger Revolver

I really enjoy shooting single action revolvers.  I know they are slow to load and slower to reload but I love the powerful cartridges you can shoot from a strong single action revolver.  That power comes at a cost, however.  If you are going to shoot big heavy bullets at high velocities, you need a comfortable shooting gun.

I like the .44 magnum.  Its a very versatile round.  You can load it down to .44 Special power levels or you can soup it up to hot magnum loads.  Bullet weights can range from 200 grains up to and over 300 grains.

.44 magnum loads with 300 grain bullets can kick pretty hard.  That’s a lot of recoil and a big boom.  To control the rage of the big 44 you need a long barrel and a comfortable grip.  The longer barrel length has more mass and doesn’t raise up as bad when the gun goes off.  Short barrels kick up very quickly and snap the gun up so you really notice the recoil every time you fire the gun.  A good comfortable grip allows you to not only hang on during recoil, but also allows you to hold the gun better when aiming.

I have this Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 magnum.  I love Ruger’s guns and I love the .44 magnum.  Unfortunately, this gun just does not handle recoil very well.  Its accurate when I can hold it still and not flinch, but it punishes my hand every time I pull the trigger.


Ruger Super Blackhawk with 5 1/2′ barrel

When I bought this gun it came with a 5 1/2″ barrel and a regular Blackhawk grip frame.  I wanted a gun that would resemble Elmer Keith’s Number 5.  I thought this would be a pretty good poor man’s version.  Elmer’s gun had a 5 1/2″ barrel.  5 1/2″ may not sound very short, but it sure allows you to feel the recoil a lot more than the 7 1/2″ barrel that the Super Blackhawk normally wears.  To make it more like the Number 5, I’ve modified this gun probably more than any other revolver I have.  Not only have I swapped grip frames, but I installed an Elmer Keith style base pin and swapped out the original ejector rod for a bull’s eye style.  I also polished the internal parts for a smooth action when the hammer is pulled back.


Elmer Keith-style base pin


Super Blackhawk with bull's eye ejector rod

Bull’s eye style ejector rod

This gun originally came with a standard Blackhawk grip frame.  Because I have unusually large hands, I swapped that grip frame for a Super Blackhawk grip.  The Super Blackhawk grip frame is longer and allows me to have all of my fingers on the handle of the gun.  The bad part is that damn square back on the trigger guard painfully smacks the second knuckle of my middle finger every shot.

Ruger Super Blackhawk

Super Blackhawk grip frame is barely big enough for my hand

Well, I have a modified revolver that somewhat resembles the Elmer Keith Number 5.  It looks pretty good but I hate shooting it.  If I want to shoot it more, something must change.  My next modification may be to try a Bisley grip frame.  If anyone has an extra Bisley grip frame, let’s talk.

For now this revolver just sits in my gun safe and every now and then I’ll fire some light .44 Specials through it.  Magnum loads are just too painful.  I like shooting single action revolvers, just not this one.

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New Grips=New Life for an Old Gun

686 Smith & Wesson with 8 3/8" barrel

Smith & Wesson 686 with those ugly skinny rubber grips

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you have seen my long barreled Smith & Wesson 686.  It had that cool long stainless steel barrel and those horrible black rubber grips.  The grips were too thin and never did feel right in my very large hands.  I was getting tired of it and took it to Bud’s Gun Shop to see what I could get in trade.  I drove over to Bud’s with my dad and the two of us went up to the counter to see what was in the cases and see how much they’d offer me for the gun.  I handed the gun to one of the guys behind the counter and he took it to the back room for several minutes.  I estimated the revolver’s value at around $700.00 and figured they’d offer me about 70% of that as a trade value.  A 30% mark-up seems about right to me for used gun sales.  I was expecting an offer of around $490.00 to $500.00.  When the guy came back he offered me $400.00 for it, I asked if he’d go a little higher.  He was quick to say ‘no.’  I said to my dad, “If they’re going to give me only $400.00 I might as well keep it.”  It was then my dad said “If you’re going to keep it, I’ll give you an old pair of Smith and Wesson target grips I have.”  He never told me he had a pair of old target grips for a Smith and Wesson!  You’d think a father would share that kind of information with his son!

long barreled Smith & Wesson 686

The walnut target grips give the old 686 a whole new look and feel.

After a short car ride to dad’s to pick up the grips, I was soon back at my home to put the grips on the 686.  Once the grip panels were installed and the grip screw tightened it was like the clouds parted and the sun shone on the revolver for the very first time.  My ugly revolver now was looking like a revolver should.  Once I picked the gun up and held it as if aiming at the wall of my shop, a love affair had begun.  Those old target grips fit my big hand as if they were made just for me.  They filled my hand allowing me to grip the revolver like never before.  The long barrel suddenly became less nose-heavy.  My aim was more steady.  I knew I would love shooting this gun with its new feel and looks.  After a quick trip to the range, my thoughts and feelings were confirmed.  Recoil was lessened.  Aim was improved.  Accuracy increased.  Love level heightened.

target grips on 686

Very large hands need the bigger target grips for better feel and control

The gun that I was so ready to trade is now in the ‘keeper’ category.  Two pieces of walnut have transformed my ‘ugly’ gun into one of my favorite pieces.   The grips fill my hand and give the gun a much better feel with improved control.  Lesson learned:think about changing a gun before trading a gun.



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M1 Garand Accessories

One of the fun parts about having military surplus rifles is all the military surplus accessories that go with them.  Having accessories adds to the enjoyment of collecting, provides tools and cleaning items to help maintain the rifles, and gives you a feel for what the guys who carried these weapons may have also carried as part of their everyday gear.

When it comes to accessories for the M1 Garand it comes close to amount and number of accessories for the AR-15.

M1 Garand bayonet

This is a later, 1950s version of the bayonet worn by a well-dressed M1. The scabbard is a M8A1.

The first accessory I think of for the M1 is the bayonet.  Early bayonets were actually old WW1 bayonets that were used on the 1903.  They were cut down and adopted for use during WW2.  Later bayonets like the one above were made specifically for the Garand.  There were so many versions and styles of bayonets used for the M1 that collecting them all would make a hobby of its own.

M1 Garand cleaning tools

Cleaning tools for the M1 Garand

The cleaning tools available for the Garand also make an interesting collection.  Above you can see a sectional cleaning rod that fit in the butt of the rifle; just below that is the cleaning rod that would have been used at camp or base.  The two cardboard packages below that are cleaning kits still in their original wrapper.  They are both dated from the 1960s.  Below that is a broken shell extractor, a mirrored device that allows you to peer down the barrel, cleaning solvent, grease pots, an action brush, a chamber brush and at the bottom are two different lubricant tubes.  Most of this would fit in the butt of the rifle.

garand cleaning brush

Here you can see how the action brush fits into the lubricant tube so it would fit into the butt of the rifle.

Behind the trap door in the butt plate of the rifle would fit everything need to maintain the rifle in the field.  This is accomplished by each tool being specifically designed to fit together and take up as little space as practical.

IRifle grenade for the M1 Garand

A rifle grenade, a grenade launching devise, and the sights to make grenade launching more accurate

To make the M1 rifle capable of launching grenades, the military devised a grenade launching system.  A devise was fitted to the end of the barrel.  The rifle grenade was slid over this devise.  The power of a blank cartridge was used to propel the grenade several hundred yards.  A grenade sight was attached to the stock of the rifle to make aiming the grenade a little more accurate.

Rifle grenade launching sight directions

Grenade Launcher Sight directions for use on several military rifles.

One of my favorite M1 Garand accessories is the cold weather trigger.

Cold Weather trigger for the M1 Garand

Cold Weather Trigger for the M1 Garand rifle.

The cold weather trigger allowed the M1 to be fired even when the shooter was wearing cloves or mittens.  I think of American GIs using such a devise when they were fighting near the Chosin Reservoir

M1 Garand with cold weather trigger.

Cold Weather trigger on an old M1 Garand rifle

Here you can see how the cold weather trigger works.  The soldier could fire the weapon by squeezing the devise.  Gloves or even mittens could be worn and a person would still be able to shoot the rifle.

These are just some of the accessories available for the M1 Garand shooter or collector.  There are way more than I have pictured here.  Like I said a person would have a fine hobby by just collecting accessories.

If you have any accessories i don’t, you can send them to me.  I do another write-up.

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Surplus Ammo for the M1 Garand

Let’s start off by saying I have no problems shooting new, modern ammo.  Its just that when I shoot the M1 Garand, I like to shoot the stuff that was made specifically for it.  That means shooting old surplus .30-06 M2 or 7.62x 63mm ammo.

After World War 2 and the Korean War the United States supplied several countries with hundreds of thousands of Surplus M1 Garand rifles.  Countries like Greece, South Korea and several others used these Garands to equip their entire armies.  As you can imagine, these countries manufactured their own ammo to supply the armies for target practice and to store for possible future armed conflicts.  Once the Garand became obsolete as a battle rifle and was replaced by by more modern weapons, millions of rounds of stock-piled .30-06 M2 became available on the civilian market.

Surplus M1 Garand ammo

.30-06 M2 surplus ammo from around the world. Greece, the US and Korea

While in a military surplus store in Flagstaff Arizona, I came across several hundred rounds of .30 cal. linked machine gun ammo.  I have pulled hundreds of these rounds from their links and pressed them into surplus en-bloc clips.  They shoot well but are corrosive.  Anytime you shoot older military ammo you have to be prepared for dealing with corrosive ammo.

GI Rifle Bore Cleaner

GI surplus rifle bore cleaner in cans that are that are roughly the same size as a loaded en-bloc clip.

The best thing to use for cleaning the rifle after shooting corrosive ammo is GI bore cleaner.  It was designed to clean up corrosive fouling and comes in cute little cans.  The cans were designed to fit into the same ammo pouches that held and 8 round en-bloc clip.  (Yes, its called a clip and not a magazine.  The 8 round clips are fed into the magazine.)

color coded M2 ammo

Clips of different ammo. L to R: dummy/practice rounds, silver incendiary rounds, black armor piercing, red tracer, and plain ball ammo.

Different ammo for the M1 are color coded for quick recognition.  The red tipped rounds are tracer rounds; they leave a red trail so the bullet’s path becomes visible.  The black tipped rounds contain armor piercing bullets capable of penetrating lightly armored targets.  Silver tipped bullets are incendiary rounds.  ( I thought these were incendiary rounds but they turned out to be Winchester Silver Tip ammo)  The plain copper jacketed bullets are the most common M2 ball rounds.

Surplus ammo was canned for long-term storage.  You will find ammo in ‘Spam’ cans that require a key to open or in the more common .30 cal. ammo can.  The rounds inside can be either boxed in 20 round boxes or already loaded in 8-round clips and on bandoleers.

30cal. ammo cans

Flip-top 30 cal. ammo cans can contain rounds linked, in clips or packed in boxes.

Greek 'Spam' cans

Greek ‘Spam’ cans with both boxed ammo and loaded clips.

Bandoleers of 8 round clips

Bandoleers of 8 round clips packed in .30 cal. ammo can.

30-06 surplus ammo also comes in Match Target rounds.  They were made specifically for target shooting and were packaged in specially sealed 20 round boxes.  They are becoming very difficult to find.  I don’t have any.

Collecting and shooting old surplus rifles naturally leads to collecting and shooting old surplus ammo.  At some point I think my stash of ammo may become more of a collection and less of a shootable stock pile.  Then I just might turn to modern rifles and modern ammo.  Time will tell.

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