What wheelgun and centerfire caliber for target shooting?


October 16, 2004, 12:02 PM
I'm considering a revolver just to casually shoot some targets at 25 yards. I'm talking about a play gun for relaxation, not for competition, hunting or self defense. Above all it need to be fun, then accurate, and then if it's pretty, that's wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

Which gun? I think I'm leaning towards a single action just because they look cool, are fun to shoot and because I love my 22LR/22Mag Single Six. I believe I also read here that single actions are inherently more accurate. Of course, There are some really sweet S&W target guns like the 45ACP targets and the model 15s so my mind just isn't made up yet.

Which caliber? .38 special is the price leader of cheap ammo, but this gun will be shot slow fire. I don't think it would be getting a heck of a lot of rounds through it. (Nobody even makes a single action in .38 special do they?) A .357 would be nice and I'd be able to shoot .38s in it as well, but I don't know if .38s are as accurate in a .357. A nice low pressure 45ACP is always fun and makes very satisfying near 1/2" holes in the target. Then there's the classic fun of 45 Colt in a single action.

So do any of you guys have a wheelgun that you just love to go out and shoot up paper with? Tell me about it.

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October 16, 2004, 12:35 PM
I have to say that the cost of ammo is a major concern for me. I'd probably go with a .22, because the ammo's so frigging cheap.

Then again, as my friend Jeff would say, "I feel like I'm shooting a Nintendo zapper gun." Some people prefer real recoil. In that case, go with .38 -- it's not as cheap as 9mm, but the next best thing.

October 16, 2004, 12:44 PM
I have to say that the cost of ammo is a major concern for me. I'd probably go with a .22, because the ammo's so frigging cheap. Thanks for the reply, but as I said above, I already have a Single Six in 22LR/22Mag with target sights and a 6" barrel. I do love it. I'm just looking for a centerfire gun now to keep it company in the gunsafe.

October 16, 2004, 01:24 PM
To be a little different, how about a Ruger Single-Six in .32 H&R Magnum. Very comfortable to shot and accurate. However this is a reloader's cartridge, IMO, as factory ammo is scarce and expensive. Otherwise for a fun gun you can't beat a Smith K-frame, ie., Model 10/64, 15/67 or 14. You can get cheap reloads or better yet reload yourself. Generic Remington/Winchester 38 special is also ok and not that expensive.

October 16, 2004, 02:08 PM
Hard to find a reasonably priced centerfire revolver that's more accurate than an S&W Model 14. If you want the Magnum combo, get a Smith 686.

Peter M. Eick
October 16, 2004, 04:14 PM
For best accuracy based upon my experience:

1) Early post war (1950) 38/44 outdoorsman. Good sights, adjustable sights, very heavy frame, 38 special and usually very nicely fit with great triggers.

2) For best power and accuracy 357 Registered Magnum. Mine is a nice 1939 version. Extremely well made and fit. Truly remarkable accuracy. Trigger and smoothness like no other gun I have fired.

3) If I wanted to just punch big holes in the paper accurately. A nice 1955 45 model of 1955. Mine is a tricked out target unit with jeweled hammer and trigger and great coke bottle grips.

Those would be my choices. If you don't like big heavy framed guns get a nice 60's/70's vintage python.

George S.
October 16, 2004, 05:52 PM
I have a Ruger GP100 in stainless with a 6" barrel. I use a lot of .38 Special wadcutters and off a wood block rest, it will give me 1.5" groups at 25 yds all day long. .38 Special 147gr FMJ and 357 Mag in 125 gr flat points are just about the same.

The GP100 is a very stong revolver and will handle some very heavy loads. It's very well balanced and the full lug barrel soaks up a lot of the recoil with heavy loads. The factory grips are a fairly soft rubber and the gripframe fits my hands just right. It's a DA/SA design and the trigger will get very smooth the more you shoot it or spend evenings in front of the TV dry-firing it.

BTW, I've had my Single-Six for 28 years and I really love to shoot it.

Standing Wolf
October 16, 2004, 06:24 PM
...I don't know if .38s are as accurate in a .357.

Yes, they are, although shooting .38 special rounds in a .357 magnum revolver means you've got a worse cleaning chore when you come home from the range. I load light .38 special target loads in .357 magnum cases—I just finished 500 rounds this afternoon, in fact—and enjoy light recoil and very good accuracy.

.44 special light target loads in .44 magnum cartridge cases can be wonderfully accurate, too, although the components are more expensive.

That said™, I'm sure I shoot 25 rounds of good old .22 long rifle ammunition for every round of center fire: it's the most affordable, challenging, and easiest on my arthritic wrist.

Jim K
October 16, 2004, 07:31 PM
FWIW, I have fired thousands of .38 wadcutters out of a Model 19 and a 686, and quite a few out of a .357 Ruger Blackhawk. Other than running a rotating brush or Lewis Lead Remover through the cylinder once in a while, I give them no special treatment and have had no problems in shooting .357 in them.

Given what you say you want, I would go with a K-38 (Model 14), Model 19 or a 686. I don't know where you get the information that a single action revolver is more accurate than a double action. Single actions are no less accurate as far as the barrel goes, but all have poor trigger pulls and long hammer falls, neither of which is conducive to accuracy. You can always use the regular revolver in SA if you want, but the SA only revolver gives you no choice.


Tony Mig
October 16, 2004, 09:08 PM
From what you say you are looking for in a centerfire revolver, I'd say to with a .357 magnum. You can shoot all the cheap .38 Spl's you want out of it with no ill effects, when the desire strikes, you can shoot off a box or two of .357 magnums. The great thing about the .38/.357 caliber, is the variety in choices of availible ammunition. There's a sporting goods store in my area that often sells the Remington-UMC .38 Spl's with a 158 Gr. lead round nose bullet for $6.95 per box of 50. If you live near a Wal-Mart, they usually sell the Winchester white box stuff for about the same price. If you decide to get into reloading, there's more components availible for the .38/.357 caliber than any other single caliber.

As for the gun, if you want a double action.....get a Smith & Wesson....(686)

if you want a single action.....get a Ruger.....(Blackhawk, or Vaquero)

October 17, 2004, 05:31 AM
I agree with Golddog!...Smith model 14 and 148 gr. Wadcutters. This was the combination for serious target shooters for a good part of the 20th. Century.

October 17, 2004, 08:43 AM
Thanks for the suggestions guys. I'm kinda surprised there weren't more suggestions for a bigbore such as 45ACP or 45Colt.

I guess I'll just look around and see what strikes my fancy.

October 17, 2004, 01:09 PM
I don't think you can beat a SA .45 Colt for fun! If you like Smith N-Frames the new .45 Colt Mountain Gun is a lot of fun. Buy a new piece, I imagine that's what your thinking or, slightly used. As far as I am concerned, recommending a used gun manufactured 40yrs ago is rather a pain in the a$$, maybe this time next year you would find one in decent shape at a reasonable price. Might be a little exaggerated but, you get my drift, doesn't do you a whole of good unless you happen to just luck out.

Ala Dan
October 17, 2004, 03:26 PM
6" Smith N' Wesson 686.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

October 17, 2004, 07:03 PM
Any of the "K-38" S&W revolvers are a blast to target shoot with.


They are available pretty well everywhere, and an added "bonus" is most are quite inexpensive.

Good Luck...


October 20, 2004, 05:42 PM
K-38 masterpiece, 6" , target hammer and trigger, blue,DA. Get an older one and have it looked over by a GOOD revolver guy. .38 spl, of course.


Black Snowman
October 20, 2004, 06:55 PM
Find a good gun you can get a good deal on. I really enjoy 38 Specials out of my Taurus 669 and it was CHEAP used. Only problem has been 1 loose screw on the cylinder release and Loc-Tite fixed that.

6", adjustable target sights, has a comp (not just a port) and is really accurate. Previous owner had trigger work done making it a sweet shooter and it only set me back $250 and that was conisdered a bad deal.

October 20, 2004, 11:28 PM
If accuracy is important to you, try a Smith 629 Classic and have the Performance Center do a trigger job, forcing cone cut and bring all of the tolerences into spec. Match grade .44 special ammo cannot be believed and even Blazers aren't too shabby. Then go out to a rifle range and try the longer distances.
After all, distance makes the heart grow fonder. (groan)

October 22, 2004, 01:41 PM
.38 spl is the way to go. Light loads, WC's or SWC's. I've got 2 guns that shoot them well: a model 14-3 and a model 686. Both are 6" barrels. My favorite is the 686. The cylinder build up issue is over stated. Dry brushing after shooting takes care of it.

P. Plainsman
October 22, 2004, 04:30 PM
The .38 Special is a traditional target chambering for revolvers. Lots of people over the years have also praised .44 Special. You should probably go with one of those. Assuming you use factory ammo, .38 is the cheaper round at every quality level.

I'd say the 6" barrel S&W 686 is the best bet among revolvers of vaguely normal price. A 6" Colt Python (lightly used) is your best bet for a little under a grand.

If you want a truly premium revolver for your purpose, then by all means get a Freedom Arms Model 97 in .357 Mag or .44 Spl, with the 7.5" barrel. (FA offers a dedicated .38 Spl cylinder for its .357s.) I have never seen an article about a production FA revolver that did not rave about their accuracy. They are beautiful too: sort of a smoothed, abstract Platonic vision of the SAA-type sixgun. I want one dearly.

Will cost you about $1700-$2000 new. That's a lot of money, which many of us understandably cannot spare. But the same is true of an Ed Brown 1911, and plenty of autoloader buffs seem willing to spring equal or greater bucks for those.

Bad Flynch
October 22, 2004, 08:46 PM
I have an S&W M15, a real old K-38, a couple of S&W 10s, along with a Dan Wesson .22, and a S&W 617 .22. I also have two Pythons--one in .357 and one in .38 Special Only.

I like Pythons, they shoot great, and it does not matter whether it is the .38 or the .357 when it comes to Remington 148 gr HBWCs and a little PB.

The Smiths shoot fine, too.

Your .22 shooting will improve a little if you get a revolver that is .22 LR only. The .22 convertibles are really built oversize for the mag cartridge and the LR suffers a little.

Buy what you like and have fun.

Ala Dan
October 23, 2004, 01:13 PM
Ruger "old model" Blackhawk .357 magnum Convertible! :D

Cuz you can shoot .38 Special and .357 magnums out of the
magnum cylinder; then change cylinders and shoot 9m/m's.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

October 23, 2004, 03:53 PM
I shot slow fire bullseye last year with a S&W 627 and 38 special wadcutters. I was happy with it

This year I'm back and forth with the same set up or a 45 ACP springfield that I had tuned and worked over from Kustom Ballistics.

Depending on the day I shoot better with one or the other:scrutiny:

October 24, 2004, 10:46 AM
For the money, the S&W 14 is the way to go. It is also called the K-38. Pretty much any S&W K-frame with a 4", 6" or 8 3/8" bbl with adjustable sights in either .38spl or .357 mag will shoot better than a human can hold it.

I like the S&W 19 becuase I have found that .357 mag WCs are more accurate than .38spl WCs in my .357s. .38 WCs are probably just as accurate or more so fired out of a .38spl only gun. I am talking about slight differences but in Bullseye at 25 yards, I noticed it.

S&W K-frame models that I can think of that will fill the need:
1. 19
2. 14
3. 15

There are others.

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