There are any number of gunsmiths who will remind you that when you remove the revolver’s hammer spur you also reduce the hammer’s overall mass. And when you reduce the hammer’s mass you reduce the total striking force produced when the hammer falls. This they warn us can lead to unreliable primer ignition. There are many other gunsmiths who will assure you that a properly removed hammer spur does not reduce primer ignition reliability. They argue that a slight reduction in the hammer mass will actually produce an increase in the hammer’s striking force. Their argument is that the hammer’s reduced weight leads to an increased in its falling (lock-up) speed. They go on to suggest that this increased velocity produces a squared increase in the final kinetic energy number. (i.e. Kinetic Energy equals the sum of Mass times Velocity squared divided by two.) Finally there is a third group of gunsmiths that will tell you that the bobbed hammer reliability issue is dependent on the weapon being discussed. The general rule with this third group of gunsmiths is that Smith & Wesson J- and K-frame sized guns and Ruger guns can be reliably de-horned without a reduction in ignition reliability. But they warn Colt revolvers are susceptible to ignition trouble if the work is done poorly. This is because Colt parts have a much more interdependent internal clockwork relationship with each other. Change something on one Colt part and you may adversely affect any number of other Colt parts functions including reducing ignition reliability. Now based solely on my personal exposure to a large number of bobbed hammer snubs I have to side with the middle-of-the-road gunsmiths. I have seen the work of third rate gunsmiths who have bobbed the hammers on J- and K-frame Smith & Wesson and the snubs are utterly reliable with every brand of ammunition. I also know of work performed by otherwise first class gunsmiths who removed the hammer spurs on Colts. Occasionally their work produces weapons with notable ammunition ignition issues. In the interest of fairness this situation may be exasperated by the very limited number skilled Colt gunsmith compared to the otherwise larger number of Smith & Wesson skilled gunsmiths. Because good Colt gunsmiths are so hard to find too many Colts end up in the hands of gunsmiths who lack the experience to properly attend to the work. Personally I am not concerned with ignition issues from any of my de-horned self-defense snubs. But I also only turn to master level gunsmiths for such work. I also test all my modified snubs with a wide variety of ammunition many featuring the hardest primers I can locate. Any shooter who desires a bobbed, hammerless or spurless hammer but is hesitant due to reliability concerns is encouraged to research his area gunsmiths before buying the service. If additional reassurances are required consider having a heavier spring installed to increase the striking force of the hammer. This is a belt-and-suspenders approach to ignition reliability but in a self-defense weapon it is a comforting one. Conducting a through ignition test following hammer spur de-horning is also always advised. One final note, in years past Smith & Wesson and Ruger to name only two offered factory produced bobbed hammers as after-market parts. Maybe these companies or a dedicated aftermarket manufacture can be imposed upon to reintroduce these parts again.
The exposed hammer spur has outlived its usefulness. For too many snubs riding in too many pockets the spur exists to either A) foul the draw stroke or failing that to B) tempt the shooter to thumb cock the weapon. We will consider the dangers associated with thumb cocking the hammer a little later in this text (See below.) For now let’s focus on the hammer spur’s relationship with the draw stroke. Whenever a situation requires a flawless draw stroke the armed citizen who carries a snub with an exposed hammer spur is at a decided disadvantage. An exposed hammer spur has an almost preternatural ability catch
a piece of the concealment garment and doing so whenever it will put the owner at the greatest possible risk. This misfortune is well known to many old time revolver instructors. Oddly though rather than advocated for one of the obvious mechanical solutions too many of these instructors offer up modified draw stroke advise. These advocates for an anti-snagging draw stroke often suggest using the tip of the thumb to shield of the hammer spur in order to create an impromptu hammer shroud. This draw stroke advice is most often directed at the gun owner who specifically carries his self-defense snub in a pocket holster. It also often assumes that the defender will anticipate the fight by having has his hand already on his snub. This suggestion might be practical if it was common to start the fight with your hand already in your pocket or failing that if it were easy to insert your hand into the pocket (mid fight) and simple cover the hammer spur. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. To begin with not every shooter is going to start the fight with his hand in his pocket and his fingers around the weapon’s stocks. The technique becomes even more problematic when the fights begins with the defender’s hand either out of his pockets or actively engaged in empty hand defensive tactics moves. Under such conditions it would be easy for the thumb to completely miss its covering position on the hammer spur. Once the hand is in the pocket there is still the problem of too little room to maneuver the fingers adroitly. There is precious little room space in most modern pants pockets to fit the shooter’s snub, his holster and his fist without adding to it by trying to locate and then shield the hammer spur all prior to the draw. If the hammer spur is missed the risk of catching the spur on the edge of the pocket on the draw remains the same as if the technique had never been initiated. Let me suggest that rather than risking the shooter’s safety on a problematic hand technique that we look to some other practical solution. Of the various available options let’s consider the three most common; 1) Remove the spur, 2) Shroud the spur or, 3) Encase the spur.
Like many other mass produced products handguns in general and snub revolvers in particular are designed to be all things to all possible owners. No manufacture can know which individual gun he produces will be used by the buyer as a sportsmen’s kit gun, a target shooter’s range training tool, an armed citizen’s deep concealment weapon or a collector’s investment piece. Subsequently every snub makers need to produce products that will meet a minimal functioning standard for every possible use category. Unfortunately we (self-defense gun owners) are left with a product that often fails to possess those minimum features necessary on a basic self-defense snub revolver. Fortunately with just a few dollars and a little after market attention the snub’s owner can produce for himself a practical task specific (self-defense) snub.
Among the very basic modifications we are going to look at there are the necessary gunsmithing options. Though the available gunsmithing options themselves are nearly limitless, minimum self-defense snub modifications are limited to only four basic items; the shrouded hammer, improved sights, a double action only (DAO) trigger and, a chamfered the cylinder. We will look at each in some detail in the upcoming blog posts.
On a slightly related note Saturday’s guest snub book posting from Mike Boyle regarding Pocket Concealment Systems Cross-Draw holster (www.pcsholsters.com) led to a nice conversation with PCS’ owner Michael Meredith. Mr. Meredith and I talked about the commonly ignored elements that make a practical snub holster. Mr. Meredith subsequently shared with me information on an appendix style holster he made up many years ago for some unusual customers. Several of the holster elements that Mr. Meredith described match nicely with some very similar elements Bobby McEachern (www.bobmacs.com) puts into his currently available appendix holsters, one that he co-designed one with EQC trainer South Nark and the other that he co-designed with late and much missed Paul Gomez.
Halleluiah! Christmas is here and Mike LaRocca is finished with my bobbed barrel, rounded butt .22 K-frame. As soon as his shop opens that I am off to pick it up and make a beeline to the range. Thank you Santa!
The SERPA is an injection molded retention holster from BlackHawk. It features an Active Retention Lever locking system mounted flush with the outer shell of the holster. This locking “lever” retains the weapon via a locking catch and is held in place under spring tension. When the shooter’s trigger finger is extended along the outside of the holster the finger is in position to depress a lever, disengage the lock and draw the weapon straight up and out of the holster. This “straight up” draw stroke is very reminiscent of SouthNarc’s Extreme Close Quarter (ECQ) fighting draw stroke method. (See below) Though the SERPA is popular among US service members the holster system also has its detractors. Nationally known firearms trainer Paul Gomez is of the opinion that the exposed lever is susceptible to the introduction of detritus that will under certain circumstances prevent the shooter from drawing the weapon. He also notes that occasionally if the shooter attempts the simultaneously draw the handgun and activate the lock release the retention lever can bind rather than release the weapon. Rather than debate the validity of his concerns I prefer to focus on the holster’s unique ability to optimize the shooter’s draw stroke skills. If a shooter trains with the SERPA in a controlled and clean environment and focuses on a smooth rather than a fast (“smooth is fast”) draw he will guarantee himself a solid grounding in the mechanics of the most practical and effective gun fighting draw stroke extent. As a draw stroke training tool the SERPA is unmatched. Like the dumbbell to the weight lifter or the punching bag to the boxer, no serious student of gunfighting should be without a SERPA holster in his training regiment.
Training Tip – I friend of mine just e-mailed me asking for some low tech training tips he can use when it is too cold to get to the range. My recommendations were to practice the South Nark style ECQC Draw Strokes and practice “Getting off the X.” If you are home alone and have a dummy gun then you might try this too. Stand in your hallway facing an empty room. Place a piece of painters tape across the open doorway at about chest height and place your hands on the edges of the doorway above the tape. Practice drawing your dummy gun high enough to clear the tape and extending your arms beyond the painters tape. This will help you develop that inverted “L” that is the cornerstone of South Nark’s practical fighting draw stroke. For the second drill again place your hands on the edges of the doorway above the tape. Now when you draw your dummy gun add in a step to either side of the door jam getting out of the fatal funnel. Be sure to alternate stepping to the right and left after each draw stroke. Remember to practice for smooth movement rather than speed. Remember also though that while the edges of the walls are concealment only and not to be thought of cover the point here is to practice the inverted “L” draw stroke while conditioning you to “Get off the X.” When the weather warms up you can do the same exercises on the range by setting up a portable target stand a few inches in front of your toes. Be sure to set the top of the stand at about chest height and close enough to you so that you will be require you to draw your gun high enough to clear the top of the stand. Start the drill by standing OFF SIDE to either the right or left of the ½ height target stand. To shoot get off the X and behind the ½ height stand. Then draw high enough to clear the ½ height stand. This will encourage you to 1) Get off the X, 2) Practicing the Inverted “L” draw stroke and 3) Reflexively getting behind some sort of cover and/or concealment every time you draw a weapon.
Over the years I have bought a number of snub holsters from some well-known holster makers. Of them only a tiny minority produce products that display the perfect combination of workmanship, designed and functionality. One of the few is Matt Del Fatti. Del Fatti’s holsters are an exemplar of a master holster maker’s craft. The material is top notch, the stitching is flawless and the whole holster radiates decades of craftsmanship. All of these elements are blended into an exceptionally practical working tool. Del Fatti’s SSR holster is as near a perfect outside-the-waist belt slide holster as the hand of man can craft. The basic SSH holster comes standard with the centerline of the cylinder positioned above the centerline of the belt. Fortunately Matt Del Fatti is very receptive to customer requests. My Del Fatti’s SSR holster was special ordered with the cylinder drop one-inch lower than on the basic model. This one-inch drop aligned the cylinder’s centerline with the belt’s centerline for a perfect combination of retention, concealment and range-of-arm-motion draw stroke. I had this modification applied to a right hand and a left hand set of SSR holsters both built to fit a 2-inch K-frame revolver. I have never been happier with any holster and it is always my first choice whenever doing a public presentation.. I am planning to have an additional pair produced with the same deep cylinder drop but this time featuring a thumb break safety strap. Due to the demand for Del Fatti holsters, there are often stretches where he can not take any additional customer orders. This new order hiatus can sometime last from a year-and-a-half or more. And when new orders are accepted delivery times can run six to eighteen months. Having benefited from the resulting workmanship, I will cheerfully accept the wait.
Personal Note – No snub book posting today – I will be on the range from the morning through the early afternoon qualifying with my snubs. Following that I will be over at Mike LaRocca’s to drop off two guns and take a look at the soon to be snub nosed, round butted m17 S&W .22.
While on a hunt for a practical inside-the-waist band (IWB) holster I lucked upon the JS Holster web site. While not normally a fan of Kydex I was taken with the practical design of their Zulu-7 holster. After a review of their web site material I made a phone call to Jason Sharf, the sales half of the JS team. I discovered you don’t order a JS holster as much as you get interviewed for it. After explaining what I was looking for Jason peppered me with questions about my gun, my preferred carry cant, the expected level of retention, common features I anticipated, and my usual gun belt width. After gathering this information he said they could make what I wanted. Six days later it arrived. The Zule-7 is a one-piece IWB Kydex holster. It incorporates a C-hook that rides over both the top of the waist band and the gun belt. Their C-hook features an unusual concave curve facing away from the natural curve of the body. This ensures maximum retention against the belt and minimum chance of the holster shifting forward or rearward along the waist line. The trailing edge of the C-hook also features a shallow half-moon cutout for your finger to aid in the removal of the holster. The holster comes standard with a straight drop (0°-cant) which is what I wanted but it is available in a wide range of cant angles as well as seating depths. On my particular holster I requested a sweat guard incorporated on the inboard side. This not only protects the finish of the weapon from sweat but also preventing shirt tails (and love handles) from getting pinched during re-holstering. The Zulu-7 does not feature any retention screws. Molding the holster to the weapon’s specific frame shape ensure that there was nothing to come loose. Per my request the retention level was “factory set” at moderate. I found that the supplied retention level was ideal. This degree of retention is light enough for rapid drawing but not so loose as to risk losing the gun during strenuous activity. I found that the comfort level was much more that I would have expected from an IWB Kydex holster, but this may be due to the pleasure of having all the extras available as standard features. The Zulu-7 is one of my favorite holsters for cold weather carry under several layers of cover garments.
Bobby McEachern, owner of BobMacs.com is a custom maker focused on snub holsters and spare ammunition carriers. McEachern brought something amazing to the snub holster designs, a willingness to ask questions of the end users. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel he went out and contacted the country’s best known snub trainers and EQC (extreme close quarter) fight instructors and asked them what they wanted in a practical fighting holster. McEachern quickly identified the must have features and separated them out from the commonly offered but not necessarily important elements. Bobby then builds hand crafted versions of the instructors’ requested designs. Working with the instructors’ wish lists he would sent the prototypes to the trainers for reactions, suggestions and corrections. The results were holsters that many of these practical firearm trainers had only been dreaming of. Once the professional were happy with the prototypes Bobby began offering these same models to the shooting public. After Bobby went through the top trainers he even executed two designs for me. The first was a security holster for my housing authority police work and the second was a very unconventional half-paddle half-belt slotted model for my snub class programs and idea testing. Both functioned like a dream and boasted every feature I had ever hoped for.
Bobby continues to improve and refine his snub holster design. I have seen several of his soon to be released designs. These are further joint collaboration requested by still additional instructors and trainers many of whom I have personally trained under. I can say that the shooting public is going to continue to get great things from McEachern’s workshop.