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Old August 17, 2013, 04:09 PM   #1
Dave1911
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4" vs 6" Medium Frame Revolver

First post to what looks like a great forum.

Today I went out and put my hands on some 686s and GP100s in 3", 4", and 6" varieties. I actually felt the 6" was more balanced and more like the 1911 I am used to compared to the 3" or 4" models which to me felt "back" heavy. In reading thru the forums I see people touting the 6" as barrel heavy but not the opposite "back heavy" feelings on the 3" or 4". Having not fired the guns, am I missing something that after 100 rounds thru I will then realize. My primary intent is for plinking and target shooting which is becoming more of an obsession as of late. And I have other options for conceal carry.

Another question as one learning about revolvers but one who is pretty experienced with Semi Autos. I was at one of four gun stores today and after I begged to look at the GP100s in 4" and 6", I was told not to dry fire the pistols. Or rather I was scolded after dry firing the pistol 3 times. I was under the impression that dry firing a modern center rim pistol is not an issue. I politely sat down the gun and said thank you for your time at which point the salesman accused me of not be willing to listen and learn from him. I said he is welcome to his perspective and I will evaluate double action triggers and spend my money else where. So to my second question, is it "bad" etiquette to dry fire a modern center fire pistol you are seriously considering buying?
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Old August 17, 2013, 04:37 PM   #2
Jim Watson
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Serious target shooters have standardized on 6" barreled revolvers for many years. They WANT a muzzle heavy gun.

I don't know about the etiquette, but I sure would not buy a gun without trying the trigger, unless it were one of the few that won't stand it. I can only think of Star automatics and Colt Mk III revolvers as centerfires not recommended to dryfire.

You could ask if they minded and if they wanted to supply snap caps.
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Old August 17, 2013, 04:40 PM   #3
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I have a 6" 686 and like the extra sight radius it gives and it feels balanced to me. It was my first handgun. But there are a lot of people that prefer 4" barrels. The best shot on our company bullseye team used a 4" barrel.

I always ask if it is ok to dry fire a gun. Some stores have signs up no dry firing and some have locks on the triggers. I have asked if they can remove the lock so that I can feel the trigger and they did.

I once was going to trade a 1911 pistol at a LGS ( big mistake, ) . When I gave the counter person my pistol, as we waited for the person that could make the deal, he kept cocking the hammer and then riding the hammer down as he pulled the trigger. I asked him to stop riding the hammer down and just pull the trigger.
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Old August 17, 2013, 04:53 PM   #4
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What kind of holster do you like for the 6"? I was thinking about a shoulder holster but have never had one.
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Old August 17, 2013, 05:41 PM   #5
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Dave, you need to take in consideration that when you are on the revolver forum, most members are hard core revolver users. Revolvers have a certain feel to them where for most shooters consider 3"-4" barrels most balanced. Anything longer tends to be called barrel heavy. Thus usually there is no "back heavy" term, instead that feeling is called "balanced". Just a play of words I guess.

As to what barrel to choose, 6" is easier to aim than 4". It's not more accurate, at least at the closed range distances, but it does make a bit of difference on the accuracy and tightness of the groupings... at least for me. However, from what I've heard some competitions do not allow anything longer than 4". If you ever plan to compete, you need to look into it. If not, I think you may be happier with a 6" for pure target shooting.

I came across more than a few salesmen who would not allow to dry fire a revolver. There is an easy solution. Any time I go to the store I put a set of snap caps in my pocket. I was trying a Python in the store once, opened a cylinder and pulled my snap caps asking salesmen if I could dry fire the gun. He went into a state of shock for a few seconds and then replied... "sure!" I dry fired it a few times and gave the gun back. At that point he said "Thank you for using caps. We usually do not allow dry fire revolvers, but with caps it's a different story. You are the first person who offered it." I smiled and left.
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Old August 17, 2013, 06:11 PM   #6
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I too feel that a 6" barrel just feels more balanced than a shorter barrel.

There shouldn't be any problems dry firing either the 686 or the Gp100. I'd certainly make sure that I liked the trigger before I plunked my money down on a new gun. Out of the two by the way, I give the node to the the 686 by a hair or two. You can't go wrong with either gun however.

As far as holster, I use my 686 for hunting and carry it in an OWB Bianchi holster. I would think a 6" barrel in a shoulder holster might be a bit hard to carry.
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Old August 17, 2013, 07:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
my second question, is it "bad" etiquette to dry fire a modern center fire pistol you are seriously considering buying?
It is just common courtesy to ask first inasmuch as some consider it harmful whether it is or not.

My rather unique view of the matter is, I do not care about the nature of the trigger a revolver I am going to buy. I am going to have it apart, modified, and smoothed soon after I get it home anyway...I do not expect the factory trigger to be very good. So, other than finger exercise, trying the factory pull means nothing to me..it is not a deal breaker either way.
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Old August 17, 2013, 07:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
My primary intent is for plinking and target shooting which is becoming more of an obsession as of late. And I have other options for conceal carry.
Then a six inch barrel would seem to be the better choice. Longer sighting radius, more muzzle heavy than the four inch for better target/plinking results. If you had intended on using it for carry, then you have to deal with compromises like barrel length.
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Old August 17, 2013, 07:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Another question as one learning about revolvers but one who is pretty experienced with Semi Autos. I was at one of four gun stores today and after I begged to look at the GP100s in 4" and 6", I was told not to dry fire the pistols. Or rather I was scolded after dry firing the pistol 3 times. I was under the impression that dry firing a modern center rim pistol is not an issue.
Taurus specifically recommends against dry firing their revolvers. From personal experience I can say that there is good reason to heed that.

Other revolvers? Should be OK.

Quote:
is it "bad" etiquette to dry fire a modern center fire pistol you are seriously considering buying?
The gun shop's behaviour -- their shop, their rules. I ask first. Dry firing will eventually leave a turn ring, which they may want to avoid. Nothing says you have to buy from them. I wouldn't want to purchase a revolver if I couldn't try the trigger on it first.

Quote:
3", 4", 6". "barrell heavy"
I have two and four inch revolvers. To me, my 4 inch Model 19 is huge.

Full length underlugs have been all the rage for many years. That probably contributes to the perception that six inch barrel guns are "barrel heavy".
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Old August 17, 2013, 09:51 PM   #10
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It is considered good etiquette to ask before dry firing a revolver. Smith and Wesson double action revolvers with a frame mounted firing pin are okay to dry fire but extensive dry firing those with a hammer mounted firing pin can damage the FP. Most late model Colt double action revolvers can be dry fired, though I've read that dry firing some Lawman Mark III revolvers is not advised due to either soft or brittle steel (can't remember which). Many rimfire revolvers cannot be extensively dry fired. So, ask before doing so and carrying snap caps is a good suggestion.

I will say that I will often try a trigger on a revolver by controlling the hammer as I pull the trigger. I can gauge the pull pretty well that way without impacting the firing pin.
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Old August 17, 2013, 10:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
So to my second question, is it "bad" etiquette to dry fire a modern center fire pistol you are seriously considering buying?
You need to ask first, then just do it once, maybe twice, regardless of gun type.
I know it bothers me a great deal when someone handling my guns starts dry firing without asking, regardless of possible damage.

If you like the feel of the 6" barrel at the store, you probably aren't going to grow to hate it.

When I bought my DA revolver last year I was able to compare a 4" GP100 and a 4" 686 SSR side by side. The Ruger just felt a little more natural in my hand. Turned out to be a great decision, I'm shooting the best DA groups of my life. Not because the gun is more accurate, but because it just fits better.
FWIW, I bought the GP100 with the soft Hogue grips, but switched to the old style Ruger grips w/panels that give me a higher grip on the gun reducing muzzle flip and felt recoil. They look better too.

Last edited by Hammerhead; August 17, 2013 at 10:30 PM.
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Old August 17, 2013, 10:24 PM   #12
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BYW, not all centerfire handguns are safe to dry fire. Freedom Arms revolvers should never be dry fired and there are others too.
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Old August 17, 2013, 10:49 PM   #13
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Ask First

As stated above, it is always better to ask.

I know that the "gun counter guys" seem to take a lot of heat on this and other sites and sometimes it is well deserved. In their defense however, I wil say, that I see what they have to put up with. I frequent a larg, high volume gun store, and I see people get handed guns, and then dry fire, swing the cylinders closed, point the gun at them or someone else or start passing the gun around to there other buddies, try to stick the gun in there waist band and ask ignorant questions about "killing" power,etc.

I suppose after a long Saturday of this, I might get a bit snappy, too. Doesn't make it right, but look at it from their perpective. And it is their responsibility, if not their gun.

BTW, What do you mean you had to "beg" to look at the 4 and 6 inch revolvers?

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Old August 18, 2013, 02:02 AM   #14
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I always ask if it's OK to dry fire, but then stick my finger between the frame and hammer anyway, so it doesn't hit the firing pin. I also close my eyes and concentrate on the feel-- it seems to help me, at any rate.

I always thought a 5" barrel both looked and felt the best on a medium or large frame revolver, and would prefer a 4 or 4-1/2 over a 5-1/2 or 6 inch. For a dedicated hunting revolver, a 6 or 6-1/2 inch is a good compromise of velocity vs. portability.
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Old August 18, 2013, 05:35 AM   #15
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I prefer 4".
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Old August 18, 2013, 11:42 AM   #16
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I shoot mostly rimfires in revolvers. If the gun has a full underlug I prefer a 4" barrel, otherwise a 6" is OK. I had S&W 617s in 4 and 6" and sold the 6". The 4" felt perfect, the 6" was too heavy. My old 6" Model 17 without the underlug feels nice though. All of those are medium-sized K-frames.

In centerfire I've owned a 4" S&W 66 (K-frame) and currently own a 5" 627 (it's a large N-frame though with an underlug that is sort of 3/4). Both of those feel very well-balanced to me. I have been considering getting a 686 and after handling both sizes I would go 4" on that one.







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Old August 18, 2013, 12:06 PM   #17
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In a recent thread on using revolvers in defensive pistol shooting competition, an experienced revolver shooter remarked that he generally scored about 30% higher with a five inch barrel than with a four inch barrel.

By pure coincidence, I had just acquired a 686 Pro Series seven shot revolver with a seven shot cylinder and a tapered underlug.

I like the balance better than that of a a friend's four inch 586.

I always ask for permission to dry fire, but if the answer is no, no sale.
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Old August 18, 2013, 12:45 PM   #18
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Thanks for the feedback. Lots of action on this forum. And very cool pics Photoman. But please don't talk me into a 627 . I did hold a 625JM the other day as well. I think for what I am looking for the L frame feels better.

And as I have read elsewhere, the 4" / 6" debate does not seem to have one "perfect" answer. For me, the following chart is really making me think I should follow thru with my 6" leanings. If the graphs are accurate, they show there is a 650 ft lb to 800 ft lb increase in energy going from 4" to 6" or 23% increase. That's pretty substantial.

357 Energy vs Barrel Length

And at the end of the day, I feel more comfortable shooting pistols than I do rifles for some reason. Its more fun, and I am just better at it. Meaning the 6" could be my "all hell's broken loose companion". Of course then I think maybe I should go with a 4" 686 and then add a 6" 629 later . But that's just being down right glutenous.

As for the shop, I was really set back. I am an informed shopper and always approach guns with safety and courtesy. I went in with desire to buy a 357 in either 4" or 6" with leanings toward S&W. I told this to the guy at the counter as I looked at a 3" 686. He did show me the 3" 686. However, he did not even tell me he had the GP100s in both sizes in the counter. After I gave him back the 3" 686, he ignored me and went on to another customer at which point I noticed the GP100s. I waited several minutes for him to come back. When I finally got his attention and asked to see both guns, I practiced "good" handling techniques (not pointed at anyone, pointing mostly at the floor, etc). I then SA and DA a few times on the 6". That is when he and I had our first real conversation. And I sat down the 4" and said thanks for the time. At the end of the day I feel he had already deemed me inferior to him (you know the attitude I am talking about) and felt he could talk me down and generally ignore me. Fine. No big deal. I will go else where. In fact, the dry firing conversation was the straw that broke the camel's back. Had he been a nice guy to start with, the conversation may have gone differently. In the future I will take a set of snap caps with me. But then you run the risk of them thinking your loading the gun. Obviously you must ask before loading.
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Old August 18, 2013, 01:02 PM   #19
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You said this:

Quote:
My primary intent is for plinking and target shooting

Then you said this:
Quote:
...there is a 650 ft lb to 800 ft lb increase in energy going from 4" to 6" or 23% increase. That's pretty substantial.
Which then begs the question: If your primary intent is for plinking and target, why do you care that the energy from a six is more than from a four? More energy for that purpose is moot. Inorganic targets do not care. At some point, one must make-up his mind what he intends on using it for.
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Old August 18, 2013, 01:16 PM   #20
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627....buy one

.357 Mag - 8 Times...need I say more?

It's my hiking companion but I think most people would be well-served by a 686.



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Old August 18, 2013, 01:36 PM   #21
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Quote:
Which then begs the question: If your primary intent is for plinking and target, why do you care that the energy from a six is more than from a four? More energy for that purpose is moot. Inorganic targets do not care. At some point, one must make-up his mind what he intends on using it for.
Yes, target shooting is my primary objective. And with the balance vs barrel heavy vs longer site radius making my decision difficult, I see the 23% increase in energy as an additional consideration.

If adding a 357 magnum revolver to my collection, I see an advantage to having one that extracts more capability from the 357 magnum round that could be beneficial in longer range shooting which would differentiate it from my other pistols (and when combined with the longer site radius that makes sense to me).
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Old August 18, 2013, 01:57 PM   #22
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I prefer a 6" revolver barrel for balance and performance, but not for concealed carry. Like anything, select the proper tool for the job.
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Old August 18, 2013, 03:16 PM   #23
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3" or 4" with underlug seems to balance well for me. 6" without the underlug is good, too.
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Old August 18, 2013, 05:21 PM   #24
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As far as dry firing - its their guns - you need to ask before you dry fire anyone's guns ( your buddies, in a shop, at a gunshow, etc.)....

Not all modern center fire caliber guns can be dry fired....new Freedom Arms revolvers have a firing pin that will bottom out / and they should not be dry fired...( I have a Freedom Arms that was made about 18 months ago in .357 Mag ...and broke a firing pin ...because I dry fired it -- and their instructions said not to do it !! )....and I screwed up! If you dry fire a Freedom Arms -you need snap caps.

Revolvers for "Target or Bulls Eye"...in a .357 mag...I'd go with an L or N frame S&W in a 6"...../ for "Tactical shooting" ...in an L or N frame I'd go with a 4" ....I find a 6" barrel on a revolver is too long a gun to drag out of a belt holster ( you have to get your elbow very high )...vs a 4" its just fine. Shoulder holsters work fine - if you like a gun high - like when you're fly fishing...but many ranges will not let you wear a shoulder rig and draw a gun at their range ( its hard to draw from a shoulder rig and not "sweep" the area...or other shooters....

For a "Target" gun - you don't need a holster....

My favorite S&W revolvers are all .357 Mag....and I give the N frame, model 27's, a little edge over my 686's ( L frames) ...but they're both outstanding guns. But you can't really go wrong with either model.../ and I would pick almost any S&W revolver over the Ruger options....S&W has way better triggers in my view in both DA and SA - and better fit and finish - and they'll hold their value much better, in my opinion.
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Old August 18, 2013, 05:26 PM   #25
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Dave, I can't argue with the idea that you find the possible increase in velocity (power) at least noteworthy and part of the whole equation. On that, I am with you. I'd like to mention, however, that a lot goes in to the differences in those two inches. Basically, the two inches might have an average percentage of effect, but this would only be if ALL other bits were precisely, completely identical. Obviously in the real world that we live in, this is unlikely to be the case.

You'd need two bores that were (nearly) identical and even more important, you'd need a flash gap between the two to be identical before you'd realize the increase. I'm unsure if the chambers themselves have any effect on things, but it would seem as if they would.

I'll put it another way...
If you had two examples of the same model of .357, but one was a 4" and the other a 6", and each were at extremes in the range of tolerance, with the 4" having everything conducive to velocity while the 6" ran the edge of acceptability before being allowed to ship out... you might find the difference in a chrono reading between the same ammo in both guns to be incredibly close.

And to further muddy things, the difference in those two inches will vary simply by the ammo that you feed them. Some loads concocted will show more variance due to those two inches than a different load would.

I definitely get your point, just want to keep it a tiny bit in check!
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