A Weekend of Wheelguns

I attended the academy starting in January of 1999, and at that time only two agencies in our region were sending cadets to the academy with revolvers. As of now, I do not know of any agencies outside of some correctional institutions that still issue revolvers as primary duty weapons. Outside of small, pocket sized revolvers, it isn’t common to run across a citizen choosing a revolver as their personal carry firearm either, and I must confess that I am firmly in the Glock camp as my choice for duty and personal carry; however, when I wear my class A uniform, I have taken to carrying a revolver because they are simply put: classy. It is just hard to argue against or not appreciate the elegance of a vintage Smith & Wesson revolver.

I feel that I must make the point that the revolver is still a viable personal carry or home defense weapon; however, the firearms industry has so strongly shifted towards polymer frames that revolvers and even metal frames pistols to a certain degree have decreased in market presence while increasing in price thus pushing them further out of the current mainstream, the venerable 1911 excepted of course. Furthermore, Smith & Wesson’s caving to the lawyers and the California legislature by manufacturing new revolvers with built-in key locks has led to the drying up of the once plentiful trade-in supply of affordable revolvers.

Take heart wheelgun aficionados, the revolver has not completely faded from the shooting world as evidenced by this past weekend’s Wheelgun Championship in Gainesville, GA, at the Cherokee Gun Club. As I mentioned in a previous piece, late last year I began shooting competitively on a regular basis, and I could not pass up the chance to shoot major match geared towards the venerable revolver, especially with it being in such close proximity.

The Wheelgun Championship is a sanctioned match of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). IDPA matches are broken down into five divisions based upon the type of pistol the shooter is using, two of which are revolver divisions, and the divisions are further broken down into classifications based upon the shooter’s skill set as determined by performance on a standard classifier course of fire and performance at sanctioned matches. Shooters compete against shooters within their own division and class. Shooters may earn a classification “bump” through various performance formulas. This was the first sanctioned match in which I have competed.

Although I have an affinity for wheelguns, I have very little true experience in actually shooting them, much less in a competitive environment or under stress. In fact, my classification going into this match was two levels below the level at which I compete with my Glock. For this match, I used traditional basket weave leather duty gear rather than the more customary kydex rigs seen at such events. After all, if you are going old school, you need to fully commit. I also shot a stock Smith & Wesson 586 revolver. Some of the shooters had more invested in the gunsmithing on their revolvers than I have invested in my entire setup.

At this point, I need to give a plug to Tom McElwayne of the Shooter’s Den in Watkinsville for putting together the ammunition that I used in the match. Tom being the perfectionist that he is went to great lengths to make sure I had quality ammo to use in the match.

As for the match itself, it was a long, long match consisting of 18 stages and over 175 rounds fired. The various stages contained shots at short, intermediate, and longer distance, and it had some stages that required multiple reloads. It was a good test of a shooter’s overall skill with a revolver.

I am happy to report that I won my classification in the Stock Service Revolver division. I also beat half of the field in the next higher classification and earned a match performance “bump”. I was the third most accurate shooter among the revolver shooters as well, which is what lead to the win as my times were on par with the other shooters. More importantly, I had a great time and met a lot of good people.

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