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Old April 1, 2013, 10:27 PM   #1
AID_Admin
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Where do you try a revolver before you buy it?

Hello. Sorry if this is a too naive of a question, I am fairly new to revolvers. I've been going to the range and renting a revolver to shoot for a while. I came to a conclusion that .38 Special is "my size of ammo" and want to own a revolver of this caliber. Logic tells me that try before you buy is the best approach. But the place near me (suburbs of Chicago) has only one revolver in this caliber for rentals: S&W 686. When I inquired about "other revolvers in this caliber" they looked puzzled and gave me what they called Model 620. Essentially it's the same revolver, but with a 7-bullets cylinder.

I did a search on the Internet and in the radius of 50 miles the only one range that had anything different : Ruger GP101 Technically speaking neither one is .38 Special revolver either, they both 357 Magnums.

S&W 686 looked a little intimidating (big) at first, but felt fine once in my hand. I liked the aiming, accuracy and fairly low recoil (shooting .38 Special). Trigger felt great with single action and not bad with double action. Over all I like this revolver very much. But I definitely want to try other brands and models before buying one. So, here is the question: how can I do that? Or, at least how do you, guys, make your decisions on buying a new revolver. Where do you try them?!

Thanks.
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Old April 1, 2013, 10:34 PM   #2
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You are already on the right track. Revolvers are not as popular as the once were with many people. For an everyday shooter you can not go wrong with the 686 you tried. My Favorites are the L frame Smith and Wesson which you shot and the K frame Smith and Wesson which is just a bit smaller. There will be very minor differences between shooting the Smith and Wesson and the Ruger. They are both well made revolvers and have a loyal following. I personally prefer the Smith and Wesson.
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Old April 1, 2013, 10:43 PM   #3
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The Smith Wesson 686 is a 357mag revolver which will also accept and shoot 38 Special rounds. The difference in the two is that the 357mag case is about a tenth of an inch longer. The 686 comes in two different models, the 686 and the 686Plus which holds seven shots. Both are exceptional revolvers. I can't think of a better choice to make. I've owned, and still own, several of this model and it is my favorite revolver to shoot. Good luck.
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Old April 1, 2013, 10:48 PM   #4
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Thank you for your reply! I am indeed fascinated by revolvers. I tried a number of handguns my friends own and came right back to a revolver. I love the simplicity and elegance of it. Most common argument against the revolver I hear from my friends is that it doesn't hold as many bullets as a gun. Well... yes, but I am not exactly going into the war here. I use it for target shooting and actually appreciate a reloading process. And I don't get jams every 50 or so rounds either, like they do. As for home defense argument, I think if you can't hit an intruder at least once or twice in six shots you shouldn't grab a gun altogether :-)

However my question remains: where can I try different types of revolvers? For example you've mentioned that K frame is a bit smaller. I would love to try one, as I find L frame somewhat large and heavy, although pretty comfortable. For target shooting it feels ok, but if I ever have to use it for a defense and shoot quickly using just one hand, I am not sure it will feel as good ...not that you should feel good in such situation, but still...
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Old April 1, 2013, 10:51 PM   #5
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Look for a gunshop/range with a "Try Before You Buy" policy and a larger selection. Which I never did, by the way. I recommend a .357, you can fire all the 38 Specials you want and have the option of using the heavier caliber when you desire.
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Old April 1, 2013, 11:30 PM   #6
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^heavy caliber?, don't confuse the man, most folks think heavy caliber means bigger caliber, i would say higher velocity caliber, far less confusing.
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Old April 1, 2013, 11:35 PM   #7
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I don't unless I bought from a friend/private sale. I have never bought a firearm except from a dealer though and have always shot after purchase.
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Old April 2, 2013, 12:01 AM   #8
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I like .38 special and think it's a good choice for a first centerfire revolver.

If you can't fire different 38s, then just try them on for size at the gun store.

If you're comfortable with the 686 then fit for a K frame should be fine to. They have the same size grip frame.

While the $100 model 10 is a thing of the past you can still get relatively good deals on them. Police trade in K frames are also a good deal.

The one thing to be aware of is that recoil in a K frame will be slightly harder than with the 686.
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Old April 2, 2013, 06:43 AM   #9
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The range is probably the best place to try out other guns. Most people will let you try their guns if you ask them about their guns and how they like them. They will provide the ammo too. Let people know that you are in the market to buy and are looking at different models. I let strangers shoot mine quite often.

I belong to a pistol league, and there have been many times where a member has brought out a newbie who is in the market just to try out lots of guns. People are typically lined up "here, try mine, try mine". A small gal came out last year and I bet she tried out over 20 guns. She even shot my 460 I advised against it, but she really wanted to try it. She did fine with it.

Oh, and the one you have been trying is as good of choice as any. But it's always a good idea to try as many as you can.
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Old April 2, 2013, 09:11 AM   #10
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I would look for a K-frame revolver in .38 Special. The best ones are the post-WWII Masterpiece (6" barrel) and Combat Masterpiece (4" barrel).

In 1957, these were assigned the model numbers 14 and 15. These are finished in blued steel and very occasionally, nickel. Later, the M15 was offered in stainless steel as the Model 67.
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Old April 2, 2013, 07:04 PM   #11
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I want to thank you all for an input! Some great recommendations. I would feel shy of asking someone to shoot their gun on the range, but by reading some posts here, I assume it's more or less a common practice. I will try that.

I also found a range not terribly far that has Ruger GP100 4" and SP101 as well as S&W 60 3", 686 4", and 686 6". Not a huge variety. But at least it's more than a choice of 686 in 6 or 7 shots the range I usually go to has...

Thanks again. Any other recommendations are welcome as I am somewhat of a newbie. I got some gun training 20-some years ago in Russia, so I am a decent range shooter (for an amateur), but most of my experience with revolvers is purely theoretical :-)))
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Old April 2, 2013, 07:13 PM   #12
Gdawgs
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Quote:
I would feel shy of asking someone to shoot their gun on the range, but by reading some posts here, I assume it's more or less a common practice. I will try that.
You most likely won't need to ask to shoot their guns. I never ask someone if I can shoot their gun. But I get to shoot lots of others. Just go up to someone, ask them what gun they are shooting (if you don't know) and ask them how they like it. Then tell them you are looking into buying a new gun. At that point, there's a 90%+ chance that they will then say "you want to try it out". Then you just grin and say "Sure!"

Then be sure to pay it forward when someone asks you about your gun someday!
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Old April 2, 2013, 07:49 PM   #13
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I used to go to an indoor range that had a gazillion different model pistols you could rent and try 'em out.

That's how I got my first 1911. Rented a Springfield Armory and just loved the way it shot and felt. Soon I had my own SA stainless 1911A1 GI!
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Old April 2, 2013, 08:30 PM   #14
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I never have except for this last one which
was a semi.
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Old April 3, 2013, 12:34 PM   #15
BigJimP
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I would not suggest you ask to shoot someone's gun at the range..- unless you at least know them.....but at least show some interest.../ ask some questions / and if you approach people the right way, most of us would let you put a few rounds thru a gun we own at the range - and help you with the process before you buy. Ask about barrel lengths, would they buy the gun again, holsters, etc...

Your local range officers / range safety officers ...might know some members that are big into revolvers...might know what days they tend to come to the range...so you could try and be there when they're around so you can talk to them - or take your contact info and give it to them next time they're in - to ask them to contact you - talk to you a little.
----------
Yes, I would suggest you try ( in S&W ) some K, L and N frames....

K frames ...Model 19's or 66's in .357 mag are common
L Frames ...Model 686's
N Frames ...Model 27's or 28's in .357 mag...

but when you try a gun - holding it in a retail store - or on range / make some notes on the grips that are on it ...a lot of us, put older wood finger groove style S&W grips on, or the standard wood target grips and some guys keep the rubber Hogue grips on them...and size and style of grips make a huge difference on how the guns feel in our hands.
----------
In terms of carrying ...or using a revolver for tactical practice...a 4" gun in a K frame is about as small as I will go ( smaller ( J frame) doesn't fit my hands very well)...and a 2 1/2" is a little too short a sight plane for me even in a K frame / 6" barrels are just too long in and out of a holster - might be just right for a nightstand gun ...but too long to carry in my view. N frames are great guns...but just a little heavier to carry ...so a K or L frame in a 4" would be my best overall choice.

Running my tactical drills at the range...I will sometimes run a K frame( like a model 18 4" ) in .22 for 60 shots or so ...get my draw and in and out of holster move cleaned up ...then go to a Mod 19 or 66 in .357 mag ( and shoot some .38's thru it ..then go to .357 mag ) ...and use same holster...if I go up to an L or N frame then I need to change holsters...and shoot the L or N frame in .38's or .357 mag for awhile.../ do some draw - double taps...back to holster / draw - double taps / draw - double taps - and mix in some reload drills ..( get some speed loaders )...and just have some fun ( center chest area on silhouette target at 15 Ft, 21 Ft, 30 Ft....)...

so a lot of us, that are into revolvers, tend to have more than one frame size...in one caliber...

Last edited by BigJimP; April 3, 2013 at 12:43 PM.
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Old April 3, 2013, 12:38 PM   #16
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Welcome to TFL, AID Admin!

There is no such thing as a question that is "too naive." We were all new shooters at one point or another: new to revolvers, new to semiautos, new to somethin'. With that said, I can't help you find a place to try out revolvers, but we do have a thread that might prove handy: THE REVOLVER CHECKOUT - 10 year anniversary update.
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Old April 3, 2013, 12:57 PM   #17
deepcreek
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Here in Denver Co we have a couple of ranges that have a decent collection of guns you can rent.

I have asked people at the range about their guns and a good amount of the time they ask me if I would like to shoot them. I do the same when people ask me also.
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Old April 3, 2013, 02:25 PM   #18
AID_Admin
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Again, thank you guys for all the input. I completely agree that asking questions about the revolver that lead to an offer to try it is a better approach that simple asking to shoot it. I will use this "strategy". Also, I understand an important factor of good grips now.

I really have to go on that range I mentioned that has better variety of revolvers. There I can try 3", 4" and 6" and they have a choice of some S&W and Ruger, so I feel that I will get a much better idea after I fire them all.

Since we are on the subject of trying different barrels I have another question. Even though I want a gun that will provide a decent home defense, the primary use will be at the range. And I am very much into precise aiming/ accuracy. I understand that basically longer barrel provides better aiming, but does it really make all that much difference between 3" and 6" barrel? Also, do adjustable sights matter much? Thanks
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Old April 3, 2013, 04:13 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AID_Admin
I completely agree that asking questions about the revolver that lead to an offer to try it is a better approach that simple asking to shoot it. I will use this "strategy".
I'm late to the party, so welcome, AID_Admin. Asking wheelgunners about their gun will often be followed by an offer to shoot it. In addition to the range, see if there's an ICORE or IDPA match close by. Chances are you'll get the opportunity to check out several revolvers if you started asking curious questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AID_Admin
I understand that basically longer barrel provides better aiming, but does it really make all that much difference between 3" and 6" barrel? Also, do adjustable sights matter much?
In theory, the longer barrel makes it easier to shoot more accurately because the sights can be aligned more precisely. This is certainly true when comparing, say a 4" barrel to a snub nose, but isn't as clear when comparing 3" or 4" barrels to 6" or even 8" barrels, since balance of the gun begins to play a role as well. IOW, if you find the longer barrel to be muzzle heavy, and your hold is less steady, and/or you're less confident as a result, the longer barrel isn't a net benefit. Personally, I do best with a 4" barrel - I'm less accurate with a 3" barrel, but not more accurate with a 6" barrel.

As to the rear sight, I recommend an adjustable rear sight. It's "adjustable", of course, but IME, the rear blade makes for a better sight picture. And you can often replace the blade itself with another that's got a wider/deeper notch if that's what you prefer.
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Old April 3, 2013, 05:02 PM   #20
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Don't overlook the used market. There are many on-line dealers and sites that offer guns in .38 Special an 357 Magnum. Be careful though, there are some folks asking absurd prices. You could check the S&W K, L, and N frames; Colt; and Ruger Six series. The Ruger Six series includes the Police Service Six, Security Six and Speed Six. Many years ago when I started I thought Ruger was a cheap Johnny come lately (low quality) brand. Boy was I proven wrong. I wish I had one of the Security Sixes that I passed on years ago.
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Old April 3, 2013, 05:25 PM   #21
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Well, as of right now I would be afraid to buy a used gun simply because I don't yet have an experience checking it for the problems. I already glanced though "THE REVOLVER CHECKOUT - 10 year anniversary update" document on the top of the page. But reading is one thing and knowing what you are doing is another. Then again, if it's a reputable dealer I would assume they check and test used guns before putting them for sale... some older Colts look gorgeous BTW and some people say these were the best revolvers ever made :-)))
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Old April 3, 2013, 11:34 PM   #22
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Older Colts are placing themselves beyond parts & service, so think twice if you're tempted to buy one.
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Old April 4, 2013, 12:10 AM   #23
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Interesting (and sort of off track) I have never heard of the 620...I just looked it up. It's essentially an L-Frame 66. Now I need one.

Anyway, for a first revolver your best bet is a Ruger GP-100. Used S&W's are EXCELLENT values, but you would need to do a lot of research to find a good deal, and be able to assess the mechanical shape and overall condition. A new Ruger GP-100 is a quality gun with a great company standing behind it for less than what a new S&W would cost.
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Old April 4, 2013, 12:56 AM   #24
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I kind of share the feeling that the first "every day" gun needs to be new. Even though I did a lot of research already and familiar with most popular revolvers out there knowing about them and knowing them is not the same thing...

Now that I said it, I am an inch away for getting a Nagant 1985 I know that goes against all the conclusions I stated above, but I don't really consider it a primary gun. It seems like more of a "fun gun", even though there is nothing funny about a good 7.62 bullet. But it's my heritage: my grandfather carried one during WWII.
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Old April 4, 2013, 02:19 AM   #25
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The Nagant is an interesting curio, but ammunition is not cheap & surplus stuff won't be around forever.
You may not find yourself shooting it much.
It's awkward to load & not particularly accurate.

It's also a poor choice for any type of defensive use in both the gun itself and the ammunition it fires.
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