Lessons Learned

So a couple days back I went off to DFW Gun Range to get a little practice / exercise my Second Amendment rights / piss off the anti-gunners / all the above.

It was Handgun Day (not a holiday, although it damn well should be), because it was time I reminded myself which part of my handguns I need to press to make the boolet emerge from the naughty end.  Here’s what I learned, from the three I took for an outing.

1) If I’m going to use the S&W 637 snubbie for self-defense, the distance between me and the thing I’m defending against should be no more than six inches further than arm’s length.  Seriously:  the combination of that lightweight frame, lengthy DA trigger pull, .38 Spec+P hollowpoints and teeny lil’ barrel  does not lend itself to 1″ or even palm-sized groups in the target — at least, not if I’m trying to get off more than one shot per 5 seconds.  That, or I need to start practicing weekly with the damn thing.  I love the little gun:  it’s light, compact and behaves like a fork — you pick it up, and it works — but it really is a backup gun.

2) Next came the old warhorse, the modified Springfield Mil-Spec 1911.

I blasted off over a hundred rounds of the lighter 185-grain .45 ACP (as opposed to the normal 230-grain stuff which has started to beat up my elderly wrists if I shoot more than a box at a time).  Thankfully, the 185s are wonderfully accurate and target reacquisition is really quick.  I practiced with El Cheapo (Monarch) JHP, which worked just fine;  and when I switched to my hotter carry ammo (Hornady XTP, also 185-grain), my groups shrank still more.  Now that, my friends, is a carry piece.

3) Finally, to cool off, I pulled out the newbie, my Ruger Mk IV 22/45 (reviewed here) because I’ve only fired a couple hundred rounds through the thing since I got it over a year ago, and I’m pretty sure that’s against some state law.

And then the problems started.  I fired a couple-three mags without too much regard for bullet placement, just to get used to the Ruger’s trigger again — it’s better than earlier Ruger triggers, but not by much — and finally figured out where the sear would break in the pull.  Fine.  Time to get serious.

I should point out that for familiarization purposes, I was using Browning BPR .22 LR ammo, and when I did get serious, I started to get nervous:  shooting offhand, I couldn’t get all the rounds into a 1″ circle at 7 yards.  Indeed, no matter how hard I tried — and we’re talking five mags’ worth, 50 rounds), I’d get two inside the circle, then one low and left, then one back into the circle, then three low and left again, and so on.

Folks, I will readily admit that I’m not a good pistol shot;  but I’m not that bad.  I was just about to break out the old jeweler’s screwdriver and start screwing up adjusting the back sight, when I had a flash of insight.  I asked the guy in the next lane if he would pop a mag downrange for me, just to see if it was the gun, or me.  (He, by the way, was shooting a CZ 75B and putting all those 9mm Europellets into pretty much a palm-sized group, at 15 yards.)  So he fired away with the Mk IV, and lo and behold, he too couldn’t shoot it for shit:  either on target, or low and left.

Could it be the ammo?  I pulled out my go-to .22 LR ammo (CCI Mini-Mag), loaded up and let two mags’ worth fly.

One-inch groups, dead inside in the circle.  I switched to the Federal “Auto Match” (reviewed here) — a box of which had followed me to the range unnoticed:  same result as the CCI Mini-Mags.  [long sigh of relief followed]

So as far as the Mk IV is concerned, it’s going to be either Federal Auto Match or CCI Mini-Mag from now on.  The Browning stuff will henceforth be relegated to tin-can plinking duties.  (I don’t have much left, maybe 200 rounds, so it will go quickly.)

But:  I’m still not crazy about the Mk IV’s trigger.  Maybe I’m spoilt, having lately been shooting guns with excellent triggers, or maybe I just need a couple thousand rounds’ more practice to get used to it;  but the Mk IV is on notice — which means that if I find a good deal / trade opportunity on a heavy-barrel Browning Buckmark (with its trademark exquisite trigger action) sometime, I may just go back to familiar territory, so to speak.  The Browning is a bigger PITA to clean than the Mk IV, but them’s the breaks.  Priorities, right?

I’ll keep y’all posted.


  1. Two quick thoughts regards the Ruger…

    I also follow gun writer Michael Bane. He speaks highly of a gunshop located on Staten Island in NYC who does Ruger 22 work. Might want to see how much a trigger job on your 22/45 would cost.


    As to 22 ammo, I found this book to be an excellent guide to rimfire ammo. Written a few years ago it is a thorough test/eval of a hundred + brands. The author is the President of German firearm company in North America Anschutz. Well worth having it in the library…


  2. My S&W .22 pistol owners’ manual tells me not to use high-velocity ammo like mini-mags. Could that be the problem with the Ruger? (I think that Federal stuff is hot too)

    Try some decent standard velocity and see what happens.

  3. That bitch Arthur (itis) is a painful reminder of what we use-ta-could.
    Personally, I have adjusted my carry guns to partially compensate for the ravages of age.
    The Airweight Smith snubby with buffalo Bore 158 gr +P, is now a stainless 640 with 125 gr. +P Remmy Golden Saber hollow points & Crimson Trace laser. The 1911 is now a Springfield Range Officer compact. Aluminum Officers frame, 4″ commander sized slide in 9mm fitted with Trijicon nite sights & Crimson Trace green laser. The full sized & weight pistol is now a Browning Hi Power with 15 rd. Mec Gar Mags. To bring myself into the slightly more modern era, a Sig 229 with nite sights is available too. All 9mm use 124 gr.Fed HST +P . Most are carried in the superb quality holsters of Dragon Leatherworks.
    All of the above are practiced with regularly. God bless the Gunshine state of Florida!

    1. I’m planning on buying a Dan Wesson 9mm Commander style next summer.
      I’m old enough to avoid unpleasant recoil whenever I can.

  4. Try some CCI Standard Velocity, too. I’ve had that work in guns that didn’t even like the AutoMatch. Of course, I’ve not tried the Minimags, so I don’t know how they compare.

  5. Kim,
    I traded my Ruger Mark-III for a Buckmark and haven’t looked back. The only complaint I have about the little Browning is that stinking 2mm c-clip that is supposed to hold the spring over the guide rod. I hate that little c-clip. Definitely the Achilles heel of the Buckmark design. That said, the trigger is nice, the gun is far more accurate than me, the sights are very user-friendly, and, it makes a great little pistol for introducing a noob to shootin’ … unless I’m destitute and on the verge of being tossed to the street, I’ll never sell mine. Hopefully, if my daughter cooperates, I’ll have a grandson to whom I can pass the gun.

  6. For what it’s worth, I use CCI LR MiniMags (not the hollowpoints) in my Ruger Mark 4 Target in my pistol league and rarely have a problem. As far as the trigger goes, have you tried an aftermarket trigger? There was an article in Guns and Ammo a while back that had some good options for the standard Mark 4, though I’m not sure about your options for the .22/.45. Admittedly, you can get into a fair bit of expense and time with this method for the purposes of dressing up a .22, but if it works…

  7. One nice thing about revolvers is they are really conducive to dry fire. I use snap caps, but you can probably do fine without.
    The wall drill is one that works wonders on double action. Find a blank patch of wall, unload, dryfire while focusing on keeping that front sight steady.
    Ball & dummy drills are also useful- when at the range, load the cylinder with a mix of live & dummy rounds.

  8. Ditch the 185gr ammo in the .45acp. 200gr should be adequate. The 185 is flinch inducing, and the snappy recoil is hard on the body. The muzzle blast is a bitch, also.

    Find a set of soft grips that cover the backstrap of that snubbie, with a flat or broad rear surface. Consider moving to standard pressure ammo in it. The recipient (unless its a bear or similar) won’t notice the difference, but you will. My preference is 125gr HP for the .38 snubbies. I bounce tincans at 40 yds with mine. Changing the grips doubled the accuracy of my snubbies. (I suspect multiple factors are involved, but the grips have been proven to be central to this data)

    .22rf is the definition of ammo type/brand sensitivity. Even identical guns may prefer different ammo. I’ve seen no theories to explain this odd situation. Another mystery of the universe.

    1. Forgot to mention I shoot the snubbies DAO. Never occurs to me to do it single action, as their only purpose is self defense/concealed carry, so none have a spur hammer. They are lightweight or airweight models.

  9. I’m still delighted with my MkII 22/45 pistol. I don’t get to shoot it enough (range trips are still too far between and there’s too many things to shoot, including working with my CCW pistols). It eats everything except the low velocity stuff (standard is ok) as long as it doesn’t have truncated cone ammo with a shoulder (like Yellow Jacket), and groups it nicely. But it likes Mini-Mags and the old Russian Junior match ammo the best, though the excess grease on the latter gums it up after 40 or so rounds.

    Possible range trip this weekend but I need to test a couple rifles so no time for handguns again…

  10. My experience has been that all Ruger .22 semi’s, either handgun or rifle, are ammo sensitive…..some VERY ammo sensitive.
    My best results have been with CCI Blazer, the worst (which I now reserve for bolt/slide guns) is Federal “American Eagle”.

  11. Try installing a Volquartsen trigger kit in the Ruger. That should get the trigger situation straightened out.

    Then start practicing at 25 yards. If I can get results at 50 meters with a percussion revolver made in 1863, you can manage half that distance.

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