[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]he .44 Smith & Wesson Russian is a rather stubby little cartridge. It has an overall cartridge length that is just a bit shorter than a Sharps .45-caliber paper-patched 550-grain bullet, but its performance outshines its size. In recent years cowboy-action shooters have brought new life to this ﬁne old load.
One attraction for me is shooting blackpowder revolvers and lever-action riﬂes from the 1870s. Of course for me, shooting those guns is rather restricted to using the newly-made copies. Regarding revolvers – which we’ll concentrate on for the rest of this short tale – my guns are mostly second- and third-generation Colt Single Actions in .45 Colt and .44-40, and the Uberti versions of the S&W Russian Model 3. For me, the .44 Russian has a particular appeal because it actually predated the Colt Single Action and, well, the S&W revolvers did make their mark on the Western frontier, didn’t they? There is evidence of the slightly older S&W .44 American revolvers being present at The Battle of Adobe Walls in 1874. Maybe I’m just trying to justify my preferences, but even so, the Uberti copies of the S&W New Model Russian 3 are very good and certainly worthy of consideration as a nice shooting handgun.
HISTORICALLY, THE .44 RUSSIAN goes back to 1871, and it was a trendsetter because inside it used a lubricated bullet with the lube grooves seated down inside the cartridge case. It was also a trendsetter because of its accuracy; it has an accuracy that other cartridges often strive for but seldom duplicate.
Joining me with his own .44 Russian revolver was Lynn Willecke, whom I’ve been shooting with since the 1950s. We shot using bullets from Lyman’s mold No. 429383, which is still being made for the .44 Russian or Special. We often remarked that the bullet shot out of a .44 Russian seemed to be made for it. It turns out that it was. We shot blackpowder loads, using Olde Eynsford 2F powder in new Starline cases.
IN MIKE VENTURINO’S book Shooting Sixguns Of The Old West, he gives the .44 Russian quite a bit of attention. He comments on the accuracy of the cartridge and he even used an original S&W Russian 2nd Model with a 7-inch barrel to test it. Venturino also used Lyman’s No. 429383 and checked load speeds using 19.0 grains of GOEX FFg at 690 feet per second. He also checked speeds using the same weight of FFFg at 740 fps.
Willecki and I chronographed the load we were using. You can consider our ﬁndings to be an extension of Venturino’s published data. Our results were not quite the same since our Uberti revolvers have 6½-inch barrels, and we shot with 20 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F powder under Lyman bullets. Olde Eynsford was not available when Venturino tested his round, or I’m sure he would have included it. The average velocity from the ﬁve shots we checked was 705.3 fps, and the extreme spread of those velocities was only 10.7 fps. The tightest extreme spread of velocities Venturino recorded was 19 fps and that was with GOEX FFFg powder. In my opinion, the data from Venturino’s book (written about 20 years ago) and what we recorded supports one another very well.
THERE WERE A FEW differences between Venturino’s test and ours. Venturino shot at a distance of 50 feet with the gun ﬁrmly rested over sand bags. That’s the proper way to check accuracy. Willecke and I wanted to test ourselves just as much as our guns, so we shot offhand with a two-hand hold, and our targets were only 12 yards out. The results were very pleasing. I complained because Willecke outshot me – again – by getting a higher score (50-3X), but he too complained because my ﬁve shots fell into a slightly tighter group. Actually, we were both very satisﬁed.
WE MOVED ON to plinking and our hits were more frequent than our close misses. Neither one of us kept track of our hits, but the blackpowder loads were just as accurate as those loaded with smokeless powder, which were mainly loaded with Unique. All our bullets were lubed with a blackpowder lubricant because with good lube, blackpowder loads don’t seem to get the gun dirty.
The .44 Russian certainly lives up to its reputation for accuracy – if you accept our judgement, rough testing and all. We enjoyed our time so much that you can count on seeing us with one of these .44 Russian revolvers again. ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]“T[/su_dropcap]his is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.” The Rifleman’s Creed vibrated through my bones the day I became a United States Marine, and has recently taken on a whole new meaning. As the years have passed by, I find it challenging to recall the entire creed, which has intermittently faded over time. However, that first phrase always remained near my heart and astonishingly enough, relates to my children. I know that might sound different – the words gun and children combined together – but just like my rifle, my children are mine, there “are many like” them, but these two are mine.
My name is Rachel Trexler and I grew up in the rural backcountry of Mims, Fla., I am a Marine Corps veteran and a mother of two adorable hell-raising tiny humans: my son, four-year-old Rylan, and his nine-month-old sister Raven. As I kiss their faces, my warrior heart echoes the reminder that there is no limit to the fierceness with which I will protect my family, which is why now, as a stay-at-home mom, I still choose to carry a gun in my day-to-day life.
I WASN’T RAISED AROUND FIREARMS. It wasn’t until the age of 14 that I fired my first gun. I can recall being anxious – it was a revolver – and I was qualifying my horse to receive a law enforcement certification. It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law-enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”
It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”
Years later, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology and an Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology. However, it was when I answered the call to join the ranks in the military that cemented the magnitude of our country’s freedoms, and the sacrifices others have made defending them. I can unequivocally say being in the military made a huge difference in becoming the woman I am today. It is not to say a woman has to be trained by the military to appreciate and/or own and shoot guns, but I still have fond memories of the M-16A2 service rifle with old iron sights. There is nothing compared to learning to shoot day in and day out – and it was all about you and your rifle. I memorized its statistics and range, I field stripped it, cleaned it and put it back together a million times over – I literally slept with it pretty soundly too, if you ask me.
I HAVE SINCE HONORABLY DISCHARGED from the Marine Corps, but have not stopped improving my shooting skills, and I now practice the art of tactical accessorizing. Much like the awesome feeling of getting a new pair of heels, I felt like a newly crowned beauty queen when I was gifted an Eotech Holographic sight for my AR-15 – was it Christmas Day? Being fashion conscious, I can’t leave the house without my Emerson Karambit knife. For Valentine’s Day, I was the girl who got a Tiffany’s dog tag with my children’s and fiancée’s initials inscribed, as well as a Gerber Ghostrike blade to take down the mountain with me as I shred on my snowboard. Outstandingly, women are now influencing the firearms market, which at one point exclusively targeted male consumers. I’m proud to be one of these women. Not all people choose to carry a weapon. Some choose to carry nothing at all, and that’s OK in my eyes. This is one of the rights protected by the United States Constitution. Anyone can choose.
FOR ABOUT EIGHT YEARS, I was head of security for a restaurant/bar in the historic downtown district of Melbourne, Fla. Closing in the dark and very early hours of the morning, I was grateful for my Second Amendment rights, as I retrieved my Smith & Wesson M&P Shield from the safe and headed for home. While the current debate on the legal right to carry intensifies, the number of women who are choosing to bear arms is increasing exponentially. My Shield is a prime example of this; gun manufacturers continue to increase products geared towards the ladies. After all, it’s a .40-caliber that can be worn on the waistband of my yoga pants and offers the luxury of a low recoil. The fact that two perfect worlds – gun carry and yoga pants– collide with my 5.11 range/yoga pants solidifies that women have made their presence known and manufacturers are listening.
IN BETWEEN HAVING my son and daughter, I chose to attend the police academy, ultimately achieving my law-enforcement certificate. It was during one of these academy days that I found myself competing against a fellow veteran – former 1st Battalion Army Ranger Nicholas Worthy (see American Shooting Journal’s Behind The Badge feature Heart Of Bronze in the July 2015 Issue) – in the tactical shooting challenge. Even though I took second in that competition, it was that decorated ranger who took first. He is now a field training officer with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and my handsome fiancée. Our beliefs run parallel – whether you are purple, minion blue, male or female, everyone is equal.
The Second Amendment, by varying degrees depending on the state, has recently led to a controversial topic – open carry. In Florida, legislators are introducing bills that would allow citizens to carry weapons openly. In my own rationale, any person who carries a gun also bears the very heavy yet necessary burden to carry responsibly. This responsibility extends to whether I carry openly or concealed. However, if Florida does pass open-carry laws, I just might be able to accessorize a few new holsters that would match my daily wardrobe.
As my wardrobe collection expanded, I found a convenient place for my Heckler & Koch P2000 SK .40, which is now secured under my steering wheel. It’s kind of the same to me as Burberry in the fashion world, and I love them both. There are plenty of other mothers like me, such as my children’s godmother, Deputy Michelle Sweet. She works for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and was a stay-at-home mother for 10 years. One day, she put on a pair of combat boots, pulled up her hair and enrolled alongside me in the academy. Deputy Sweet’s importance to the law-enforcement field is magnified because she is a woman and her leadership cannot be overstated.
Because of women in strong roles and their resilience in a historically male-dominated career, other women confidently set their sights on similar positions, and are getting the opportunity to serve alongside male counterparts in all areas of formerly male-only jobs, including military combat roles, SWAT teams and other special operations units. This is proof that we as a society are evolving when it comes to understanding the capabilities women possess.
IN 1788, RICHARD HENRY LEE proclaimed, “To preserve liberty, it is essential the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them … ” It is pertinent that those of us who carry and train with weapons aid in the next generation’s safety, so mothers like us will practice, as well as teach our children the importance of gun safety and awareness. What is the best part of being friends with other mothers who carry? I don’t need to discuss why I just locked my purse up in her safe and opened that bottle of wine for a girl’s night in. The responsibility to maintain our guns in a safe manner falls directly on our shoulders. Practicing safety is paramount; there is no room for error.
When it comes to shooting, my family-owned Armalight AR-10 will always leave me smiling like I’m back cheering on the football field. My Burris 8-32×44 scope is excellent at spotting the rounds I’m sending down range. After all, it’s a long, long walk to that target. That unmistakable sound of a .308 or 7.62×51 will turn heads like a woman in a red dress.
What’s so exciting about our present day is there is no longer a norm for how things should be. Our rights protected under the Constitution are applied equally to everyone, as they should be.
MY NEXT MISSION IS LAW SCHOOL, although now that military infantry divisions are open to women, a girl could be tempted.
Going forward, I’ll be keeping a close watch on the evolution of new gun laws that may allow firearms to be carried on school campuses. Human beings have an inherent right to protect ourselves, our families and our properties. Our founding fathers placed such importance on this, it is second only to my freedom of speech.
Our first president, George Washington, declared, “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself … They are the American people’s liberty … ” The Bill of Rights is just as ingrained within my veins as my blood type. The Second Amendment, withstanding all opposition thus far, still remains to ensure that individuals who wish to bear arms can do so. And with that, the numbers of women who choose to legally own, carry and shoot guns will continue to multiply.
THE REASONS A WOMAN CHOOSES to carry are often as diverse as women themselves. But for me, I carry because I choose to be a wife and mother who will always be at the ready; to fiercely guard and protect those I love. I’m the woman who chooses to accessorize with an extended mag in my everyday carry, because the cop I’m marrying just simply wouldn’t fit in my purse. ASJ
[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]I[/su_dropcap] was looking for a gun. Not a real gun, but something I could use for target practice in my house or studio, and safely develop gun-handling skills. I am not a shooter by trade or hobby, but I wanted my new interest to look and feel just like a real gun. I also wanted it to provide some back pressure or a bit of recoil.
While perusing Pyramyd Air’s website, which is filled with all sorts of air gun options for any gun enthusiast, from pistols for plinking all the way up to .50-caliber air hunting rifles, I settled my sights on the S&W Model 586 revolver with a 6-inch barrel. It’s a bit of a cowboy gun to me, but the simplicity appealed to my senses. When I received my package in the mail – no FFL processing is a nice benefit – the revolver came in a solid box, just like a real gun, with proper foam padding and inserts for all the components. When I picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised to feel that the weight gave it a genuine feel. The gun did not come with an orange tip, as I had somehow expected that all non-real guns had them, but this made it look even more authentic. I later learned that orange tips are only found on airsoft guns that fire plastic BBs. Pellet guns and steel BB guns do not have this.
My new Model 586 came with two 10-round pellet clips, a CO2 cartridge, although I purchased several CO2 cases when I bought the gun, and an extra front sight.
The grip is made of hard rubber, so it felt strong and nice in my hand. I could actually put pressure on it without slipping like you might find if it were made of plastic. After reading the instructions – and thank goodness I did – I found that the CO2 cartridges that power the gun are located inside the grip. There are specific steps to take when replacing the cartridge, such as having to put one side of the grip on first before the other and in a certain manner. It was easy to understand once I read the directions. There is a tensioning screw that keeps everything solidly in place, which is good.
After I loaded my CO2 cartridge and pellets, I started firing onto a target that I made. If you are using this gun inside, you will definitely need a hollow target or one that has some depth or density to literally trap the rounds as they hit. The ricochet factor is pretty impressive, so eyewear is recommended for anyone in the area. The target that I built measures 24 by 24 inches and is about 2 inches thick. I used cardboard for the fascia and on the front stuck Shoot*N*C targets, which are great because of their reactive colors, plus you can just keep sticking them on top of each other. If you want to buy a trap target, Pyramyd Air has those too. I would recommend the Leapers UTG Accushot Pellet & BB Trap to avoid all the trouble I went through.
The accuracy was pretty impressive and at an initial 12-foot range, I was achieving about 1 minute of angle shooting single handedly, and about 5 MOA at 25 feet. As for the pellets, they are powerful enough to penetrate the target and front cardboard. Don’t think that just because this is an air gun that there isn’t enough power. You would be mistaken.
The cartridges that I had lasted for about 50 to 70 rounds, which I thought was pretty fair. The one thing I noticed was that once I started getting to the end of a CO2 cartridge and tried to continue shooting, the pellets started to jam in between the clip and barrel. This was simply from lack of force to propel them through, but something to note. Instead of counting all my rounds, I found that when I started to hear a little bit of a lag between the gun firing and the pellet penetrating the target, this was my signal to replace the cartridge. Once I did that, no more jams.
If I have one negative thing to say, it would be about the cartridges, and this is not a negative on anything but the industry overall. I am a big recycler but I have no idea what to do with the spent CO2 capsules. It would be nice to have guidance on how to dispose of them instead of simply throwing them away. My research has shown that most places, like recycling bins and scrap-metal yards, simply won’t take them. That is a shame.
Overall, I love this gun. I love the realistic feel, the grip, the power. Even if it is not a real gun, it did exactly what I wanted it to do. Couple this with excellent customer service and you have a winner. When I called Pyramyd Air, I spoke to Tyler Patner who not only took the time to break everything down for me, but also sent me links to all sorts of air guns that fit my requests. Patner explained the benefits of each, what I would need because I wouldn’t have known what to get, the differences between a CO2 cartridge gun and a compressor pressurized gun – there are differences and you should not assume you know what you want without talking to them. Overall, it was a really great experience. Bravo! ASJ
Story and photographs by Robin Taylor
Three Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters wheeled over and roared in low, setting up for a mock gun run. Below them, youth teams from every corner of the country looked up in wonder as the helicopters accelerated to attack speed and hissed overhead. Between the mini air-show, the 105mm start cannon and the blend of prestige and industry support, the 2015 Scholastic Pistol Program (SPP) Southwest Regional competition, highlighted the growth in the industry.
SPP has more or less exploded onto the national stage in the last few years, with youth teams popping up everywhere. The junior high/high school nationals drew more than 300 competitors this summer and the Southwest regional (one of several such events) drew more than 100. Those two matches alone put SPP on par with the largest speed-steel-shooting organizations in the United States. With support from the NRA and the Boy Scouts of America, its current thousand-plus membership, represents what one might call “openers.” The near-term growth potential for SPP has no equal.
My youth group, “Team Gotta” of Custer, Wash., flew down to the Southwest Regional for a chance to shoot against the two top-rated high school teams in the nation, the South Texas Juniors and Red Dawn Marksmanship Academy; both hail from Texas. Many top college teams were present, including the US Military Academy from West Point, Southeastern Illinois College and the Naval Academy. These teams were all there to test themselves against our hosts, the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.
According to Kevin Jimmerson, match director and Texas A&M coach, the Southwest Regional started three years ago with just 40 shooters. It doubled to 80 the following year and grew to just short of 120 this year. Sponsorship and sporting excellence has tracked that growth, and with more industry support, high-skill athletes are turning fresh eyes to the sport.
Coach Bruce Hering, from Southeastern Illinois College (SIC), showed up at the Southwest Regional with a four-person squad, all shooting on scholarships. Hering is known for coaching shotgun competitions, but he and team captain Alex Aguilar, made no bones about it; they were here to recruit action-pistol shooters for SIC and had a two-year, full-ride scholarship, for the right candidate. “This is our first match as a (scholarship-level) team,” says Aguilar, who’d been tasked by Hering to form the pistol squad. “What SIC is doing, it’s really an opportunity of a lifetime for me.”
Hering’s current crew is made up mostly of top shotgunners who have picked up the pistol, but they’re looking for someone to come the other way – a national-level pistol shooter who can learn shotgun. Hering sees value in cross-training shotgun with speed-pistol and it helps him maximize his scholarship dollars. “I think we’re going to stick with this model,” he says.
Action-pistol scholarships were not available just three years ago; and combining shotgun with pistol was considered lunacy. Now, talented young pistol shooters have suddenly become valuable assets to a growing number of school teams. Let’s be clear: Most shooting teams don’t cross-train the way Hering does, nor have scholarships, but thanks to SPP, young pistol shooters are looking at college programs in a whole new way.
If you’ve never heard of steel shooting, it’s simple. Steel shooters start from a “low ready” position with their pistol aimed at a flag on the ground. On signal, they raise their pistol and engage five steel plates of various shapes and sizes until they each shoot one, ending on a “stop plate.” Your score is the time it takes to shoot all five, even if extra rounds are required. Each person shoots the arrangement of plates five times and calculates the best four runs. There are four specified courses, so in all you will shoot 100 targets in a match.
It’s fast, feedback is instantaneous and everyone can tell whether a shooter is doing well or not. On top of all this, there are even endowment prizes available.
I’m not sure what magical powers SPP directors Scott Moore and Tammy Mowry have, but they’ve managed to bring exceptional support to SPP. Glock’s Ed Fitzgerald and Smith & Wesson’s Tom Yost not only support the sport in material ways, but they appear in person at many of the big matches – corporate reps literally doing the heavy lifting to help make the sport a go. In a few weeks, I will attend the NRA Level I coach school, dedicated to the SPP competition. The idea that this highly conservative organization would adopt a new program into their coaching school was simply amazing. The weekend schools are elevating the prestige, safety and overall quality of the program, coast to coast.
One would expect college-age teams to dominate the sport, but instead freelance gun-club teams, made up of middle and high school students, have moved into the forefront of the competition. These teams are out shooting, out-competing and out growing all comers to the sport, particularly in rimfire. For example, the Red Dawn Raiders Marksmanship Academy boasts more than 30 members, all of whom focus on action-pistol sports. South Texas has a similar number. When these two teams show up, accompanied by coaches, parents and friends, you would think a tour bus had arrived.
SPP focuses primarily on centerfire (9mm) handguns, but shooters are allowed to use a .22 pistol for up to two years. For many reasons, the very young have flocked to the rimfire division and no college has been able to catch the juniors (yet).
This year South Texas Shooters fielded young Ethan Inocando, who shot the fastest score of the match with a blistering 41.59-second round. Team Gotta’s Adam Thomas (a high school senior), was right on his heels with a 42.26-second round (winning “senior” division). Both far outpaced the leading collegiate competitor, Chandler Lewis at 50.86.
Shooting as a team, the A&M Corps of Cadets won the collegiate rimfire category (with a score of 246 seconds) but were dramatically out shot by the younger guns. Team Gotta set a national course record with a score of 183.85 seconds, followed by the South Texas Juniors with 194 seconds.
Centerfire is another game altogether and here the colleges run slightly ahead of the juniors. College student Anthony Vieth, for example, laid down a truly impressive 43.31-second run for the individual win, and the Texas A&M team posted an excellent 204.45. “That was pretty good,” says Jimmerson, whose cadets set the centerfire record last year with a score of 186 and hope to do it again.
SPP is changing fast and the shooters with it. The sport is so young, some of the youth teams and coaches enjoy an experience advantage. However, this current crop of high school marksmen will soon graduate and join college teams like the Aggies. When they do, they’ll take that experience with them and the colleges should then dominate the centerfire side of the sport. High school senior Jordon Castro from Bellingham, Wash., holds the record at 39.32 seconds. That’s under 1/2 second per target, making him an excellent candidate for any college competing in this sport.
Right now, top-flight competitors are able to engage all 80 steel targets (SPP Course) in just over 40 seconds. Remember that when you throw away the four slowest runs, you have 80 targets left.
“The sport is maturing so fast, it won’t be long before we’re looking at whole teams with (individual) scores in the 30’s,” predicts Moore.
It’s a changing landscape for youth sports. In a world where liberal politicians want to label our schools as “gun free zones,” SPP is sending kids to college on the strength of their skills with a handgun. And that’s an encouraging thought. ASJ
Posted in Competitions Tagged with: Adam Thomas, Bruce Hering, GLOCK, Jake Overstreet, Jordon Castro, Kevin Jimmerson, Robin Taylor, S&W, scholarship, Scholastic Pistol Program, Southeastern Illinois College, Southwest Regional, SPP, Team Gotta, Texas A&M