Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Colt Agent - First Issue

The Colt Agent First Issue

I like snubbies. A lot. So I have a few. Here's one I found recently in a LGS where I buy my reman ammo:

Much has been written about these revolvers, so I won't regurgitate published facts. My example traces to 1967 manufacture, so it is in the First Issue generation. Alloy frame, steel barrel, cylinder, etc. Leaf hammer springs.

The bonus is that it came with a set of Tyler T-Grips. What boggles my mind is that these are so good and inexpensive, yet the maker seems to limit availability - you can't order them on-line (links no good), and you have to fill out an order form and wait many weeks for your own!

Anyhow, I really like the Agent's weight (15oz unloaded, only 1 oz more than a S&W 637-1), and extra capacity: 6 vs 5 rounds - a definite advantage in my book. I load my first chamber on my snubbies with a CCI Big 4 shotshell - 81gr, #4 shot - i figure i'll have a better chance of running into a rattlesnake, water moccasin, coral snake or nasty dog vs a bad guy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Smith and Wesson Model 60 and Model 637

Review of the Smith and Wesson Model 60 (no dash) and Model 637-1 (no lock)

I recently ran across a pack of snubbies for sale at my local reman ammo manufacturer. Two of them caught my eye, so I bought one and brought it home with me (along with a 1,000 rounds of .38SPL 142gr JHP for $200). This page is my overview and observations regarding these two revolvers, the Model 60 no dash and the Model 637-1; much has been written about them and other Smiths, so I'll pass on the specs, and will only point out what I've learned and some of the highlights.

I hope this info will help some fellow shooters who may be new to snubby revolvers. My feeling is that while the era of polymer-framed semi-autos has made pistols for self-defense or recreational shooting very popular and more affordable nowadays, there may be some resurgence in single- and double-action revolver shooting and carry, and more interest in old-school, vintage designs (Rugers notwithstanding, which are totally different from Smiths):

The Model 60 No Dash

Here are two reasons I like the Model 60: all-stainless construction and fewer internal parts due to no insipid internal lock:

The model number is stamped inside the crane, while the serial number is stamped on the butt. Note that there is no dash to indicate a change in manufacturing or specs. My Model 60 dates to a year of 1984 or 1985 manufacture. It is a fine example of a stainless version of the Smith Model 36:

Here is the right side of the barrel, which is not pinned. Note that I've slapped some fluorescent lime paint on the front sight's ramp using a Wally World fabric pen:

Here is the origin and manufacturer info; the four lines was later changed to a simpler two-lines the next model or so (I forget when). The screw shown next to the text is used to enable removal of the crane/cylinder for cleaning:

Note the hammer contains the firing pin:

All Smiths since 1945 have a hammer block (there are also internal mechanisms, such as the rebound slide). This means you can carry this revolver fully loaded:

There is a downside to the Model 60: It weighs nearly a pound and half unloaded (although only two ounces more than a current-product Charter Undercover revolver, which is also stainless with the same capacity). This means that the 60 is a bit outside my comfort zone for pocket carry, as I don't want to look like a gang-banging homey with droopy drawers. My 60 came with these Pachmayr grips, along with the original wood grips, so I may do a re-weighing with the wood grips:

Cleaning Tips

Cleaning a Smith revolver is usually quite simple: empty the weapon, unscrew a frame screw located on the right side of the frame below the cylinder, then unlatch and slide the crane forward and separate the cylinder from the crane. Scrub away to your heart's content using some CLP and a nylon bore brush and let sit for a bit before swabbing and polishing clean.

The Model 637-1

 I was also fortunate to find a Model 637 on the same day as the Model 60. Of course I immediately purchased the Model 60, but then, after some thought, went back a day or so later and purchased this Airweight:

And again, you can see why I like this 637:

More important, this 637 is also a 637-1:

The 637 also came with a Master Lock gun lock, which AFAIK was only done for one year: 1997. The -1 attached to the model number also denotes that this revolver was the first in a line of +P capable Airweight revolvers, even though not marked as such on the barrel, and does not have a pinned barrel. (I believe Smith stopped using pinned barrels in 1982.) There is some debate, but some folks surmise that incorrect torque on barrel installation at the factory led to premature frame failure on some of these alloy-framed revolvers. I detected no crack on the underside of the frame by the chamber.

Where to Check for a Cracked Airweight Frame

Here is a picture of a cracked Airweight frame, albeit on a Smith 442; there is a picture of a cracked 638 frame on-line as well - but this is the area to check out if you are examining an Airweight for purchase. Some folks blame overuse of +P ammo, while others blame alloy defects and/or machining:

 A reputable LGS will not sell you a used Airweight with a damaged frame. However, I'd be wary of any pawn shop fare. Always carefully example any used weapon before purchase!

Here's the left side of my 637's barrel:

And also note that there is nothing on the right side of the barrel:

This 637's serial number denotes a 1997 manufacture - just in time before Smith's sell-out to the Federal government. I think Smith revolvers with no internal lock are going to become more desirable; many collectors and/or shooters do not want revolver models with an internal lock. Other revolver lines with internal locks includes all Taurus models - a company with terrible customer service that does not sell any parts to owners - and many post-1997 Smiths.

Again, lettering was changed to two lines in the next year:

This 637 has a flat-faced hammer with a frame-mounted pin. Note the hammer block (which is not a transfer bar, such as that used in Ruger revolvers!):

This 637 is destined for pocket carry. It is compact, fits inside a Grovtec holster and weighs only 13-and-a-half ounces unloaded:

This is quite a bit lighter than the Model 60, so the 637 is going to work for me!

Range Report for the Model 60

Went to the range and ran 75 rounds of some locally fabricated reman ammo in .38SPL 142gr FMJ:

Ignoring the 5 o'clock flyer, I think the 60 ran pretty well in double action. This is the way these snubbies should be shot IMHO, although the single-action pull was much lighter.

Pull Weights for the Model 60

Using my trusty stainless 15-lb fish scale, I measured the following pull weights for my Model 60:

double-action: 14 lbs
single-action: 4.5 lbs

There is room for improvement here. It may also indicate that either the previous owner did not shoot the revolver much or had stronger hammer and/or rebound slide springs installed. I have not opened up the revolver, but may take a quick look to see if some lubrication is needed. I don't think I want to mess with the action just yet.

Range Report for the Model 637

Here is a range pic of the first 15 rounds through my new [old] 637. Quite accurate to POA for my needs, and I was pleased to discover that recoil was not a problem whatsoever (of course, I could be used to double-action and .357 loads in my Ruger SP101s).

Pull Weights for the Model 637-1

Again using my fish scale, I measured the following pull weights for my Model 637-1:

double-action: 11.5 lbs
single-action: 4 lbs

As you can see, this Smith - which appeared to have little use at all - has significantly lighter pulls than the Model 60. I don't think I'll venture to make any improvements on this revolver's action.


I am very pleased to be a new owner of these modern, yet older pre-lock Smiths. They are keepers, and won't be sold or traded in my lifetime. I may also be on the lookout for similar Smiths, such as the 642. Smith and Wesson does make no-lock variants of these double-action only revolvers, but I would prefer to find a used one in good shape. This may prove difficult if the popularity of wheelguns continues to grow. And I would really like to see a resurgence of cowboy action shooting!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Review of Ruger Shopkeeper

Tips, Traps, and Tricks of the Ruger New Bearcat Shopkeeper

It looks like I've come full-circle on my range shooting nowadays. First started out with small-caliber polymer-framed pistols, Zamak Saturday Night Specials, tiny stainless hideaways, folding pistols with arm braces, and takedown rifles.

Then I was bitten by the wheelgun bug. There's something about wheelguns that I like. The simplicity. The convenience. The one-on-one challenge for accuracy. The zen of loading, shooting, cleaning, and maintenance. The ability to personalize in style, fit and carry.

And now I own my very first single-action pistol. Kinda backwards, huh? Anyhow, I'm very happy with my new revolver: The Ruger New Bearcat Shopkeeper, a Lipsey 3" barreled stainless model.

First Impressions

One thing I've noticed is that in most on-line reviews, pictures of the ejector rod's half-moon finger piece show the finger piece moving all the way to the rear.

This originally couldn't happen on my Shopkeeper, as the ejector rod spring would not compress enough:

Better Ejection with Ejector Factory Spring Replacement

One fellow gunslinger on RFC suggested that an ejector spring for a 4" Bearcat had been installed. I subsequently ordered one ($10+s/h) and then compared it to the installed spring. Nope, my Bearcat came from the factory with a 'purportedly' shorter spring. Here is the original spring as installed (the replacement was 4"):

So I subsequently removed the shorter factory spring, put it away in the Ruger case for safekeeping, then clipped and installed a shortened replacement spring:

The original spring only allowed clearance as shown here:

The result of installing the clipped replacement spring is that the business end of the ejector rod protrudes one-eighth of an inch more out of the cylinder chamber. This makes for more efficient ejecting of empties with no modification of the ejector housing or use of a modified ejector rod:

My ejector rod's end is slightly beveled all around, not sharp-edged. I was initially worried about how it would work but went to the range for an initial fit and function, and ran 120 rounds of assorted ammo. 

My Shopkeeper was flawless. I was even able to achieve a small bit of accuracy right off the bat - but make no mistake: shooting a single-action revolver with a short barrel and iron sights is a challenge.

Best ammo was CCI Minimags for accuracy. Opening the gate, putting the wheelgun into half-cock, then rotating the cylinder to have the rod slide along the trailing edge of each cylinder chamber worked just fine for extraction, and I was soon zipping empties onto the bench top.

There are some nice touches here, such as the laser-engraved cylinder. I think it's funny that some folks are paying gunsmiths to remove these 'rollmarks':

The Shopkeeper even comes with a handy finger-slicer built in - LOL! Of course the secret to not hurting your fingers is to properly hold the gun for extraction. I open the gate, put the gun into half-cock, then hold the gun in my left hand, turning the cylinder while at the same time pressing down the extractor with my index fingernail (making sure that the muzzle is, always, pointed down range).

TIP: You don't even need to look at your Shopkeeper while using the ejector. Place the hammer in half-cock, open the gate, then rotate the cylinder until you feel a 'click'; this indicates you're all set to eject, and the ejector rod will be in the right place alongside the trailing chamber wall to catch the lip of the empty case. Try it!

If you get the hang of it, you'll soon be handling your Shopkeeper safely like a long-time pro:

One tip: always ensure that your cylinder pin is firmly and properly seated. This will avoid any problems with alignment:

One thing I always seem to do on all my guns with iron sights is to deploy a daub of fluorescent lime-green acrylic paint from my $2 Wally World paint pen (found in the fabric section):

If you're interested in the Shopkeeper, but worried about all the problematic reports (most of which seem to center around the 2013 time-frame concerning cylinder chamber diameter, or OCD owners disappointed with grip sizing and fit) - don't worry! Ruger will make things right for any problem with your plinker, but there is little to go wrong with this single-action. You may find a timing mark on the cylinder face, and a factory smith is required to fit the action before the gun leaves the factory.

Important ShopKeeper Tips, Tricks, and Traps - How to Avoid Lockup

I found no problems with my Shopkeeper. Here are a few tips, tricks and traps I've learned as a new single-action rimfire wheelgun owner:

1. Read the manual! This is essential if you want to use your new gun properly.

2. In particular, pay attention to the proper COCKING! Here's the relevant info from the manual, found on page 15:

And not only will the cylinder be out of index, but you may experience the dreaded 'lock up,' that some folks complain about! I have found that you can indeed lock up the action if you do not ease the hammer forward. You can do this from the half-cock and loading or unloading:

- after the gate is closed, ensure the cylinder is rotated counter-clockwise
- pull back slightly on the hammer while at the same time very slightly pulling back on the trigger
- when you feel the hammer release, take your finger off the trigger and ease the hammer forward

3. You can also experience a slight 'lock up' if your cylinder chambers get too dirty while shooting. This can happen at any point, especially if using lousy ammo, like Federal bulk or American Eagle (in the 40-round boxes). If you want to pretend you're shooting black-powder revolvers, fine, but this shit is simply awful:

What happens is that you'll be unable to fully seat the rimfire cartridges, and the rotation of the cylinder will be impinged by the outsized cases. You can also run into seating problems by first shooting shorts or longs, then switching to long-rifle ammo.

TIP: Take a small bore brush with you and clean out your cylinder chambers somewhat to continue shooting. And try not to mix ammo types during extended (100-round+) range sessions.

4. If by the off-chance that you do experience lock-up, you will need to remove the cylinder by depressing the latch button and extracting the cylinder rod. BE CAREFUL IF YOU HAVE AMMO IN THE CHAMBERS!

Your Shopkeeper Holster

I like to have a Ruger holster for each of my Ruger wheelguns. The sky is the limit if you want a good holster for your Shopkeeper. Prices range from all the way on the low end for a nylon waistband version all the way up to a custom Western-style leather.

The middle ground for quality and fit for me is a Triple K holster.  Ruger's version is a Triple K:

This is similar to my other Ruger holsters for my SP101s. Unfortunately, Ruger does not offer a holster specifically for the 3" barrel Shopkeeper. The good news is that there is a much-better fitting and more appropriate Western-style holster available at a reasonable price-point: the Triple K #675:

This holster is a great match for this little single-action. You may not be a fan of the leather thong strap for securing the hammer, but it works fine for me:

I hope you enjoy your Shopkeeper. I have now put more than 500 700 rounds through the gun and enjoy shooting it. Here's a recent range pic using three cylinders of CCI Mini-mags:

It's a nice companion to my small 100+ year-old Smith and Wesson Safety Hammerless:

here's a range pic w/a new(old 2013) Bearcat in a shoot-out:

Tips for Shooting the Ruger Shopkeeper (and most short-barrel single-actions)

I was somewhat frustrated when I first started shooting my Shopkeeper. I though there must be something wrong with the revolver, as I was getting inconsistent groupings, flyers, and bullets didn't seem to be hitting to point of aim.

I blamed the gun: it was the timing; it was the chambering; it was the cylinder gap; and it was the sights (I kept shooting to the left).

But I was wrong: It was me. All me.

Finally, after more than two bricks of various ammo, I went to the range and set up 4" bulls at 15 feet. Standing steady with a firm grip on the Shopkeeper, I aimed at the bulls with the sights lined up underneath the bullseyes with both eyes open, and slowly squeezed the cocked trigger, making absolutely sure to pull straight back.

Suddenly my little revolver was hitting where I wanted it to! Here's a pic of the range session (Nov. 14, 2019). I used the cheapest rimfire .22LR I had on hand: $0.03/round Aguila Super Extra:

I think I'm finally getting a handle on single-action iron-sight shooting with my Shopkeeper.

It's a [Shop]keeper for sure!

Monday, September 23, 2019

In-Depth Review of the Rebel Silencer SOS-22 V2 Suppressor

Review of the Rebel Silencer SOS-22 V2 Suppressor

I like shooting a lot of .22LR with my Ruger pistols and 10/22. Early in 2019, my LGS demo'd a small .22LR suppressor for me and piqued my interest. However, this was several months before the shop got an order kiosk installed, which makes the entire process of paperwork, fingerprinting, and payment a whole lot easier - no running around to get passport photos or fingerprint cards: Simply create an online account, verify some information, fill out the forms, scan your fingerprints and upload a digital photo - then sit back and wait.

I purchased a Rebel SOS 22 V2 on June 17, 2109. And then I must have hit the BATF lottery as I received my tax stamp in 96 days - it was signed Sept 14, 2019!

One nice thing about buying from my LGS was that it gave me the privilege of conjugal rights to any purchased suppressors "waiting in jail" (I fully anticipated waiting a year). Since we have monthly get-togethers at an outdoor range, I had a chance to run the Rebel suppressor on my MkIII w/Paclite barrel, my 10/22 SS TD, and my three Chargers (two blued, one SS).

Parts Overview

The V2 suppressor looks quite a bit different from the current online reviews and videos of earlier models; there are five sections:

The 'SOS' in the products name stands for "Screw On Stack," as you can see in the picture above. The serial-number section does not have a baffle, but the subsequent four sections do, and you can mix and match - there is no specified order for the stacks, unlike other suppressors. Each baffle has a hole drilled to 0.25" (although i did find one that was closer to 0.26"):

The end cap attaching to your pistol or rifle's threaded barrel is a thick aluminum with wrench flats, while the business end of the suppressor has serrated knurls. There is no need to use a wrench or pliers to tighten this suppressor:

A Helpful Tool

However, the silver end cap can sometimes be tightly affixed to the your muzzle at the end of the range session, and when you go to unscrew your SOS-22 you may find yourself unscrewing the first section and not the entire suppressor!

One odd feature of this suppressor is the use of a 27mm flat on the end cap. Don't know why this was chosen, as it is an odd size. A pity 26mm wasn't used as you can find a Park Tool cone wrench in that size at any decent bike shop. However, I was able to easily find this oddball cone wrench in 27mm that works very well (note: pic is representative and shows 15mm, but my wrench is 27mm):

I stuck the wrench in the range bag and now I don't have to worry about removing the suppressor after used.

Also, note that the suppressor's muzzle end cap is also recessed w/an inverted cone. You can make a 'shorty' suppressor using just the first section and this cap if you're shooting quiet .22 Shorts:

Function at the Range

I ran CCI minimags HPs, CCI SV LRN, CCI quiet LRN, CC1 Shorts CPHP (which cycled on my Charger using a modified BX-1), Remington HP Subsonics, and Winchester LRN M-22s. All functioned with no problem... (the Paclite barrel required about 400 rounds to break-in with smooth feeding - especially non-waxed rounds, but is now reliable). I ran w/two sections, three sections, and the whole enchilada... three sections significantly reduced sound level... all five sections and no hearing protection needed. Here is a the full taco plate:

Here's the SOS-22 V2 with only three stacks:

I don't have a chronograph, nor a sound-level meter... and don't see a need to get either (perhaps a chronograph if i were into hand-loading).

I can also run this suppressor on my Ruger stainless Takedown 10/22 or my three Charger pistols. The suppressor is especially effective when shooting CCI Quiet (710fps) LRN with my Volquartsen Firefly bolt, and even more so when running CCI Shorts in a modified BX-1.

Accuracy is not bad and equal to no suppressor with three sections attached... POI dropped an inch at 7 yards with the whole enchilada the first time out, but i'll run some more tests now that i have full custody. This is in contrast to my other suppressor, a Dead Air Odessa9 (which handles .22 thru 9mm) still in jail, which did not affect accuracy at 25 yards...

Coming Clean About Cleaning and All Hail Froggy!

Let's be clear about this aspect of ownership: Cleaning a rimfire suppressor is a bitch. I don't take shortcuts and I use elbow grease - it's part of the post-range zen for me... For my first couple range sessions I coated all parts inside and out with Breakfree CLP, gave it a chance to sit, then used a knife-sharpened bamboo dowel (wife unit's plant stakes from the dollar store) to work off the carbon... This was followed up with a gentle brush with an old, used .357 bronze bore brush, then a second go-over with some CLP and a re-sharpened bamboo dowel (chisel-point, btw)

The whole process took about an hour, and was a LOT easier and a LOT faster than getting the lead out of my revolver bores from use of the crap PPU .38SPL I made the mistake of buying last year (i've gotten rid of that stuff since).

Rebel Silencer recommends that you use FrogLube paste to coat the interior of the suppressor to make cleanup easier. I would not use this product on my guns, but subsequently purchased this coconut oil-spearmint-paraben concoction.  It is expensive for what it is, but I got a tub, and liberally lubed up my SOS-22 V2.

Next, at the range I blew a new asshole on a target using Winchester M-22, my Ruger Charger, and a GSG 110-round drum. Came home, and.... holy feck the crap wiped right off!

I followed up with a quick scrub in some cool water and dish detergent using a nylon brush. Maybe next time I'll dip into some of the bacon grease in the fridge for a smell treat range test.
CAUTION: The stainless caps are press-fit set and adhesed using Rocksett. Do not immerse your SOS-22 in hot water for any length of time unless you want to have to re-glue your suppressor together!

Overall Impression

The quality of build? Not bad. Not perfect, but not bad.  You can feel some 'rough' catches on thread starts, but the cerakoting is quite good - no drips, etc.  Machining of the threads is OK - everything screws together by hand, and I've had no baffle strikes on my:

- Mark III w/a PacLite 4" unfluted barrel,
- 10/22 Takedown stainless
- Charger Takedown stainless
- Charger Takedown blued
- Charger Takedown blued and WhistlePig Acculite 12"

Thanks, Ruger!

The 'stacks' all line up, the end caps are perfect, the aluminum body w/steel cup inserts enable easy clean up of lead deposits, and while CLP gets the job done, Frog Lube is easier. Hey, I was skeptical, as I think Frog Lube should not be used on weapons - it's crap for that purpose. Either way, there is no need for dips, ultrasonic, corrosive cleaners, tumbling, etc. I have more than 500 700 1,000 rounds through my SOS V2 and it looks pretty good.

Here is a sample stack:

After cleaning I swab a Frog Lube'd finger inside and on the baffle cones. The suppressor comes apart easily if you keep the threads heavily lubed. Keep in mind that I always clean my gear after a range session as I don't like dirty weapons or gear.

Here is everything you need to keep this suppressor clean (besides patches or the odd scrap of rag). If you don't have Frog Lube paste (which I now recommend). CLP will work, but takes more effort:

Just my $0.02 on this suppressor. I'm happy, and this range toy will keep me shooting on my pistols and 10/22 while i wait for my Odessa9. (My Odessa9 Form 4 approval arrived in 89 days!)

Oh, and thanks to the examiner who processed my form so quickly!

And now I have a trio of MK II frames for shooting suppressed:

I continue to like my Rebel suppressor. I swapped some grips and ran my FrankenRuger MKII PacLite w/my SOS22 at the range one morning. The pistol cycled 100 rounds of Remington Goldens, 100 rounds of Winchester M-22 (only one failure to fire), and 50 rounds of Aguila Super Extra with no problems whatsoever. Accuracy improved somewhat by only using two stacks - base+1:

 I thoroughly enjoy shooting this suppressor. I also have a Dead Air Odessa9 and a Sig Sauer SRD22X (still in jail), but the SOS-22 V2 never disappoints. Here it is coupled with a MK II slabside competition target model:

Having a lot of fun!