View Full Version : Revolver in IDPA

November 9, 2002, 10:42 AM
I've been in IDPA for almost a year now, like it a lot and have classified in two divisions so far. I've decided to go for being classified in all four, so I need to purchase a revolver. I have pistols that work in the other three divisions already, but the revolvers I own don't fit the rules (7 shot ported, or 5 shot snubs).
Basically I'm just wondering what you more experienced folks think would be better suited to IDPA, Ruger GP series, or one of the many S & W models? I won't be using this revolver for anything else, like hunting, so potential scope mounting and the like is no factor. So, which models need the least massaging for smooth operation, comes with the best trigger etc. Or, are there other mgfs I'm overlooking? I'd like to keep the purchse price in the $500 max range.

Old Fuff
November 9, 2002, 11:30 AM
I doubt you’ll do this, but if it was me I would look for an old-but-in-good-shape Smith & Wesson Military & Police model made during the late 1920’s through about 1947. Why? Because they have what is called a “long action” which lends itself to an exceptionally smooth hitch-free double action. They are also some of the finest revolvers ever built - made at a time when skilled hand workmanship wasn’t too expensive too use. Sights are fixed, but usually dead-on if you use standard 158-grain .38 Special loads or equivalent. Since most of today’s gun buyers don’t understand what these guns represent you can probably find one for $200.00 or less (probably less, especially if you opt for one with a barrel running over 4 inches).

My next choice would be an early S&W K-38 with a 4-screw sideplate (so called “5-screw” model). Either one with a 6” barrel (so called “Target Masterpiece”) or 4 inch barrel (Combat Masterpiece). The longer barrel could be shortened and the front sight remounted for holster use. These guns don’t have the “ long action” but the do have adjustable sights and very good double actions. Again they were made by highly qualified fitters. Cost would likely be under $300.00, and that might include shortening a barrel.

Another candidate, if you can find one, would be a pre-war or early post-war S&W model 38-44. This was a fixed-sight revolver chambered in .38 Special but built on the large “N” frame. They have the “long action” and usually are found with 4 or 5 inch barrels (usually the latter). They are large and heavy guns, but the weight will dampen recoil and with a tuned action make recovery between shots fast and easy. Speed loaders designed for the .357 Magnum work fine. Cost would probably be well under $500.00.

An easy way to tell the difference between the older “long action” vs. newer “short action” guns is that the former had fine checkering on the hammer spur where the later ones have course checkering. Once you see it you will understand.

Really good revolvers are expensive to manufacturer because a lot of skilled labor is required to make them. Today that labor is very expensive, which is why makers are always making changes to reduce cost, not necessarily make a better product. Custom shop guns may well equal older ones, but you will probably be looking at twice your budget or more if you go that way.

November 9, 2002, 11:37 AM
Thanks, OF, I'd not contemplated going that route, but I will now include looking at older models as well. By the way, can someone point me to an explanation of the "N", "K" frame designations as compared to what Smith shows on their website? For instance, the models 66, 65 and 686 are all called "medium" frame. Where are the larger frames, only in calibers above .357?

Old Fuff
November 9, 2002, 12:15 PM
Didn’t think you would (go my way). Few do, but after a half-century of experience I can tell you there is a difference.

Smith and Wesson currently make four sizes of frames, and all of their revolvers are based on one of them (excluding a reproduction of an 1870’s period revolver called the “Schofield” that is of no concern to you).

The “J” frame is the smallest. Think of guns in the models 36, 37, 42, 48 etc. series. Usually 5-shot snubbies.

The “K” frame is next. It originated in 1902 and was designed around the .38 Special cartridge. Think of models like 10, 13, 15, 19, etc.

The “K” frame proved to be a little light for continued use of .357 Magnum cartridges in models 19 and 66 so in 1980 they introduce the “L” frame, that is close to the Colt Python in size. Think of models in the 86 series (586, 686, etc.)

Finely there is the “N” frame, which was introduced in 1907. While a few .38 Specials were built on this frame years ago it is now used for .357 Magnums and larger 41, 44 and 45 bore models. (27, 57, 29, 25 etc.)

Sometimes a frame may be identified with a “T” such as JT, KT, etc. The “T” indicates adjustable target sights.

November 9, 2002, 08:27 PM
Current IDPA wheelgun rules require a 4" barrel length maximum. Buying an older S&W and having the barrel cut, and the sights redone will cost as much as the gun. The hot setup today is a S&W 610 4". Since the power floor is only 125, you can run 165 T/C's at around 775fps, pretty soft. And the 610 loads from moonclips. The next best bet is a S&W 686 4"... but you will use speedloaders

Jim Watson
November 9, 2002, 09:04 PM
1. Serious competition gear, new gun money:
S&W M625
Action job
Powder-puff .45ACP loads.

2. Worthwhile but economical
S&W M15, M19, M586, M686 police tradein on .40 or such.
Might be broken in as good as most action jobs.
Safariland Comp III speedloaders (or SL Variant if you can find them.)
Common 158gr RN .38 Specials.

A nice smooth old long action gun will likely have a skinny barrel and small shiny sights. Very few Rugers in IDPA. Few Colts. I shoot a Python, but since gun and gunsmithing cost much more than S&W they are not very common. When I got mine, you could get a better DA and a heavier barrel than S&W, but that is no longer so.

Jimmy W.
November 9, 2002, 10:26 PM
I have been using my 686 for the IDPA matches. My friend introduced me to this fine gun. I like it so much that I don't even use my Python anymore. I have been very satisfied with it. It wouldn't hurt to take a look at one. I think the 4" models are perfect in size.

November 9, 2002, 11:11 PM
Buy a used S&W M10, and if it isn't perfect send it to one of many qualified artisans for massaging. Then you will have: perfect IDPA gun, carry gun, home defense gun, and it will be custom!
Nice guns.

November 10, 2002, 01:08 AM
Hmmm, some interesting input, thanks for the advice. The only people I know that shoot revolver use a 625 & a 66 respectively.
I have several .357 chambered pistols already, so I'm leaning toward the .357 platform, rather than the .45ACP. I figure I can use HBWC 38's, low recoil, accurate, familiar and relatively inexpensive. Should do ok for power factor too. I've thought about the .45, but don't yet have a reloading set-up, so I'd be relying on factory 230 gr. loads there. I will start looking around for a used revolver, see what I can find. Although, last time I looked, they were only a few bucks cheaper than NIBs (at least here, in my area).
I know I must have 4" barrel or less for IDPA, so I'll be ruling out anything used I find that is bigger. I wonder why Ruger GP100s are not seen more? Is it the trigger? My Taurus 627 has an incredible trigger, buttery smooth. I hope to find a 6 shot replacement for it, with a similar trigger, less the ports and the 7th chamber. But my son will be happy, as he'll be the recipient of the Taurus, for the cost of the transfer fees.;)
What a bummer, now I gotta shop for a new pistol:eek: :cool: :cool: :cool:
Life is tough, eh?;)

November 10, 2002, 09:35 AM
Find a copy of Shotgun News and look at the ads for police turn-in revolvers. In the last one I looked at Bachman Pawn & Gun had three-inch Ruger GP 100s, with holster, for $249. Four inch Service Sixes were $219. Either should work fine.

There are also usually ads for a variety of Smith .38 or .357 revolvers M66s, M15s, M65s etc. These are usually four inch guns.

I plan on shooting IDPA some this winter with a Smith .41 Magnum M58. If I didn't have that I'd probably buy one of the guns listed above myself. If I knew I was only going to shoot matches with it, I might just buy a .38 rather than a .357. HTH.

November 10, 2002, 11:05 AM
I just finished second revolver at the IDPA Nationals shooting a 3inch Model 10 in 38 special. I like the newer short action K-frame S&W's. Make sure your ammo makes the power factor. You have to load near top loads from the reloading manuals for 38 special to make it. Use round nose bullets for easy reloading. Good luck. Revolvers are fun. :)
Bill Nesbitt

Old Fuff
November 10, 2002, 11:51 AM

Do you mean standard or +P .38 Special loads?

November 10, 2002, 12:28 PM
Old Fuff,
Depending on bullet weight you are near top for standard loads with heavy bullets and into plus P using lighter bullets. Many factory loads don't make a 125 power factor.
Bill Nesbitt

Jim Watson
November 10, 2002, 12:42 PM
If you don't reload, you probably should stick with .38 Special. You should probably use 158 gr RN "Police Specials" but the 130 grain jacketed economy loads might suit you better. Don't worrry about it. Few matches short of the Nationals chronograph and standard factory loads will be accepted. You might have to take +P to the Nationals, depending on the individual gun's performance. My reloads are the maximum listed for standard pressure and velocity.

Wadcutters will NOT make power factor, and are slower on the reload anyhow. Some dummy rounds and six empties will let you practice dryfire with speedloaders. Lots of dryfiring will smooth up the action, too.

I have read of good GP100 trigger jobs, done DIY by determined shooters. Maybe there is a shop working them over. Otherwise, they are strong and reasonably priced. I have seen some very nice Security/Service/Speed Sixes.

I think the K-Smith has the best basic action for DA shooting. The others can get close, if you just want a heavier gun; so it is not a huge thing.

Bill and ACP230 to the contrary, I recommend adjustable sights. Not because they are adjustable, but because they are bigger. Taurus actually has the best rear sight (type, I don't know about quality) with the desirable "barn door" image. Also a full 4" barrel for weight and sight radius.

November 10, 2002, 03:14 PM
If I was going to buy a revolver specifically to compete in IDPA it would be a M66, an M15, or the stainless version of the same gun M64?

I like to shoot various guns in the local matches. I started with a High Power, tried a Colt Cobra, and a Colt 1991A1. This year the M58 is the gun of choice.

November 10, 2002, 04:46 PM
Thanks again for the info. I agree that adjustable sights are better (for me) than most fixed, the larger gap Jim mentions being a big part of it, obviously, it's nice to able to change your POA/POI if needed. I'm going to look around locally, see if I can come up with a used gun, you have all given me a pretty good idea of the various models I should look for. I don't mind blued guns, in fact, I get a bit tired of everything being stainless.
I did see some decently priced S&W model 10s & 15s in the Shotgun News, including a heavy barrel model, with a 4" tube.
That could be just the ticket, if it's in good condition.
Jim, I didnt think about the reloading problem using wadcutters, good call. I'm probably not going to have to really worry about the power factor too much, don't plan to get above the local SoCal competition level and if I did, I'd choose to use one of my "bottom feeders";) , as those are my favorite type of pistol.
But the revolver should be fun, fumbling for speeloaders etc!;)

Jim Watson
November 10, 2002, 08:57 PM
You cannot lose shooting a revolver.
If you can't keep up, well, no one expects much out of those obsolete wheelguns. If you can, everyone is amazed!

November 11, 2002, 01:36 AM
Still laughing over the looks I get when I pull out my 7.5" Redhawk.
And a can o' wup-a$$.

November 11, 2002, 09:17 AM
You cannot lose shooting a revolver.

I was amazed at the last IDPA shoot I did, wasn't the fasted in SSR class, but I was faster than several people in CDP and ESP...:D

November 11, 2002, 10:15 PM
Well, don't get me wrong, I was talking about ME fumbling with reloading! I've seen folks in IDPA revolver, that do beat the semi-auto shooters reload times. That sorta inspired me to go for all four divisions, previously I'd just figured to pass on the SSR.
Today I was looking at some revolvers in a shop near work, there were a few possible new models, but no used that would fit. There isn't the wide range of revolvers in most display cases here, mostly autoloaders. I'm gonna keep looking though, if I'm patient, I'll run across something sooner or later.

November 12, 2002, 08:39 AM
I just shot my first classifier is SSR with a sweet old S&W M19. It was a bunch of fun, especially when you take into account that I'm left handed. It was as much fun for the folks watching as it was for me.:D Actually, there's two other guys that are lefty's where I shoot, one SS and one MA.

I did manage to make Sharpshooter though so now I'm classed SS in SSR and SSP. Two down two to go.

November 12, 2002, 10:47 AM
Hey, good job Buddy, I'm only Marksman in ESP and SSP so far. I keep screwing up the third stage in the classifier, which is the longer distance. I just have a difficult time practising like we shoot the classifier, at the range you can't kneel behind the barrel etc. But i have no excuse for not spending more time trying to improve my offhand 20-25 yd scores.:rolleyes:

November 27, 2002, 11:55 AM
Not sure if you're still looking... but you have mail