Revolver Accuracy


by Jeff Quinn


It has become popular in recent years for some shooters, and some writers, to accept mediocre accuracy from their handguns. This new trend in accepting four inch groups at 25 yards as good accuracy from a quality revolver is insane. It may be in part due to the proliferation of new semi-automatic handguns on the market which can't hit the side of a barn from the inside. For a defensive handgun to be used at a range of six feet, this might be alright, but many shooters find this level of accuracy acceptable in every handgun that they own. Many gunwriters also proclaim a sidearm accurate if the shots will group into a four to six inch circle at 25 yards. This may be due in part to an effort to please their advertisers, but they should know better. The acceptance of this type of accuracy is becoming widespread. I don't buy into this at all. Forty years ago a new gun would be proclaimed inaccurate with this type of lousy performance. Revolvers, good revolvers that is, in the sixties and seventies were, for the most part, very accurate. The Smiths, Rugers, Dan Wessons, and others of those days were some of the best-shooting handguns ever produced. In the last ten years or so, shooters have come to expect to pay for a premium, limited production or custom shop gun to get the level of performance that was once expected of any brand-name sixgun. Most gun makers today are more concerned with producing lighter weight, exotic metal plastic-sighted revolvers, and have let accuracy take a distant back seat to everything else.

This is not entirely the fault of the manufacturers. They will produce what will sell. As an excellent example, and not to pick on them alone, the newest Smith and Wesson .22 Kit Gun doesn't hold a candle to the older models 34 and 63, in my experience, when it comes to accuracy. I have an all-stainless model 63 that is superbly accurate, but the new lightweight Kit Guns that I have personal knowledge of, just don't cut it. The reports that I have read on them are the same as my experience: three-and-one-half inch and larger groups at 25 yards. Is it S&Ws fault for not making the model 63 anymore? I don't think so. If the demand was there, they would make them by the thousands.

The sport of Cowboy Action Shooting has produced a proliferation of single-action revolvers of the Colt 1873 type. The accuracy of many of these replicas is awful. Some of the Ruger Vaqueros that I have shot were very accurate, and some were not. The accuracy of a gun, be it a handgun or rifle, is a combination of the ammo, the gun, and the shooter. The ammo companies are, for the most part, producing a very consistent product. The shooter can eliminate much of the error attributed to him by using a steady rest. A good solid rest with a variety of ammo should produce good groups. Some guns just will not shoot into a decent group.

The problem is not with the gun as a design, but a result of poor quality  control. Many name-brand revolvers will, after reaming the forcing cone, lapping the barrel, retiming the action, and honing the cylinder throats, produce two-inch or better groups all day long. The gun should come this way from the factory. 

A hunting gun that shoots four inch groups at 25 yards will shoot sixteen-inch groups at 100. If you factor in a shooter with a ten-inch wobble, the chances of hitting the target get real slim.

There are many good sixguns on the market that have attained a good reputation for accuracy. The guns of Freedom Arms, some Dan Wessons, Smiths, and Rugers are accurate. A few imported Colt replicas will shoot. The Colt Python, in its heyday, was superbly accurate. I am not saying that there are not any accurate sixguns produced anymore; just that shooters have come to expect lousy accuracy from most new revolvers. 

That is sad. With the state of the art in  manufacturing being what it is, when a shooter pays upwards of 400 bucks or more for a quality revolver, he shouldn't have to pay another 400 to get it to perform. This is reminiscent of the 1970s and 80s when a shooter would pay dearly for a Colt 1911, and then pay a kings ransom to make it work.

Good revolvers should be accurate. It's that simple. They don't need the loose tolerances of many semi-autos to make them work. The basic design has been around for at least 165 years. Poor performance is not, to me at least, acceptable. When I carefully select my ammunition, load the gun, take aim and squeeze off a shot, I want to be able to rest assured that when I miss, it was my fault.

Jeff Quinn


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