Zeroing Revolvers for All the Different Loads

DMW1116

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I have half a dozen loads for my 357 Blackhawk, evenly split between target and full power magnum loads. I currently have my rear sight marked for the different windage changes between loads. Magnum loads shoot about 6” right of target loads at 25 yards. Elevation changes slightly. Usually one click up or down will take care of that.

Each category of load zeros differently and I’d bet each individual load zeros differently were I to use a rest for best accuracy.

I don’t imagine there is a way to simplify this but I thought I’d ask anyway. Since I don’t usually shoot it from a rest, a target zero and magnum zero are probably the best I can hope for.
 
The target loads are basically 38+P velocity from 357 cases. With one exception, it shoots better from the longer magnum cases than 38 Special cases. There is a substantial velocity and recoil difference. I typically shoot this gun with one hand. I haven’t found a really comfortable way to use two. For all its size, there isn’t much real estate on the handle.
 
You may want to consider target grips for two handed shooting. I have had to do this myself. If the recoil is so great that it's flinging shots 6" off the target I don't thing adjusting the sights is a good option. I have shot 38+P out of a S&W Airweight and it can is a harsh thing to shoot.
 
It depends on the starting point. If zeroed for full power magnum loads, target loads will hit 6” left. If zeroed for lighter target loads, full power magnum loads hit 6” right. This happens even shooting from a rest, but is more noticeable shooting off hand. I’ll try some two handed shooting, though I actually prefer one handed shooting with this particular pistol.
 
If you are getting the same 6" deviation shooting from a rest two handed isn't going to be much of an improvement. I have never had any gun, rifle or pistol, change point of impact that much at 25 yards from an ammo change. But then again I am still learning.
 
Could it be a bullet weight issue? There are some holes in that theory though I first noticed it with some 158 grain XTPs. 158 XTP, 158 lead SWC, and 125 XTP bullets driven with near max charges are the magnum loads. The lighter loads are Hornady and Berrys wadcutters in the 700-800 fps range. 125 grain cast RNFP in the 1000 fps range matched the target loads in terms of point of impact.
 
Don’t say that. It might hear you. I hope it’s just my astigmatism and not something wrong with the gun. It’s one of my favorites when range day comes.
 
Looking at my latest target, 6” might be generous. 4” for sure though. You can see here where I walked it to the left. The small holes are some 22 holes.
F0498A66-27A4-4E7E-A392-939F973AC63B.jpeg
 
No disrespect to your gun (I have favorites too) but a 6" deviation is not something that can be corrected or changed by ammo. I reload several different rifle and pistol calibers. It's not like I can throw my point of impact by changing my bullet/powder combinations. It would be like a "what ammo or reloads can I use to move my point of impact 6" to the left".
 
I’m not really sure what was going on but I had a chance to shoot the DEWC 38 and LSWC 357 loads side by side today. It was nowhere near as far off as I thought. The 357 load shoots about 1.5” right of the 38 load, and one click higher on elevation, ie I have to lower the rear sight for the 357 load to match the 38 load.

I shot both off a rest seated and offhand standing with one hand. Point of impact between the two positions is slightly different, with off hand shooting being a little more right and another click higher for both loads. Also, even though the 38 load is more accurate than previous tries, the 357 load is still ahead a little.

The difference in power also brought a big grin to my face with the first shot of 357 off the bench. HUGE difference when shot side by side.
 
When I used to bother about shooting tight groups at various
distances, rifle or handgun, I'd pick a load I and the gun seemed
to like. The adjustable sights were merely for varying distances
with a cartridge of same bullet weight, powder load, etc.

You'll go crazy and probably wear out the sights trying to
zero for a whole bunch of loads.

Elmer Keith used to amaze folks with his long distance handgun
shooting. But his .44 Mag load always had the same bullet, same
amount of powder and if he bothered to adjust sights, it was merely
to fit the distances. Usually he'd just "walk" the rounds in by
watching a few early hits.
 
Y
When I used to bother about shooting tight groups at various
distances, rifle or handgun, I'd pick a load I and the gun seemed
to like. The adjustable sights were merely for varying distances
with a cartridge of same bullet weight, powder load, etc.

You'll go crazy and probably wear out the sights trying to
zero for a whole bunch of loads.

Elmer Keith used to amaze folks with his long distance handgun
shooting. But his .44 Mag load always had the same bullet, same
amount of powder and if he bothered to adjust sights, it was merely
to fit the distances. Usually he'd just "walk" the rounds in by
watching a few early hits.
Ya! Teeny sight adjustment screws with dainty threads will probably wear pretty quickly if the OP is dialing to compensate with each load swap for a multi-inch deviation at 25 yards.

I have a lot of loads that I shoot through my revolvers, and most will alter the point of impact on targets primarily vertically rather than horizontally. (Lower velocity loads often print high for many of my guns.) I do zero with the load I shoot the most, then I will alter my hold to compensate if I am shooting one that hits higher or lower. (The same goes for my fixed sighted revolvers or autos, can’t do much else when different loads vary on target.)

But for the OP…I am wondering how much of the left-vs-right deviation is in anticipation of the greater noise/blast/recoil of your magnum loads vs the milder .38-level loads?


I freely admit that I have an annoying tendency for this to affect the precision of my handgun shooting, and it can become more pronounced as the horsepower increases. 🤔

Just a thought. Good luck finding the cure! :D

Stay safe.
 
I have half a dozen loads for my 357 Blackhawk, evenly split between target and full power magnum loads. I currently have my rear sight marked for the different windage changes between loads. Magnum loads shoot about 6” right of target loads at 25 yards. Elevation changes slightly. Usually one click up or down will take care of that.

Each category of load zeros differently and I’d bet each individual load zeros differently were I to use a rest for best accuracy.

I don’t imagine there is a way to simplify this but I thought I’d ask anyway. Since I don’t usually shoot it from a rest, a target zero and magnum zero are probably the best I can hope for.
Very easy to simplify. SWCGC 158 with full load of 296. Hornady xtp 158 with full load of 296. KISS. Then get you a rifle. Simple.
 
When I was shooting IHMSA Handgun Silhouette with 357 Magnum chambered guns (10" T/C Contender for production and 6" Model 19 for revolver class), I shot basically the same load in both guns and I had determined sight adjustments for each gun at the various ranges. Both guns performed well with the same load although I may have improved performance by developing gun specific load for each gun. At the time, I did not have multiple firearms in the same cartridge to really have different cartridge loadings developed for.

Since I do not shoot full power magnum loads much any more, I load a mid range load and sight in my 357 magnum guns to that load. Then, any gun I had loaded with that particular loading, shot reasonabky to the point of aim I was looking for.

This objective is not adequate for competition or serious hunting ammunition but works well for general plinking ammunition. These days, I have several 357 Magnum revolvers that I like to shoot and mid rang loads are adequate for paper punching and targets of opportunity use.

If and when I get back to needing a specific longer range carpet, I'll work up a load for that specific firearm.
 
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The target loads are basically 38+P velocity from 357 cases. With one exception, it shoots better from the longer magnum cases than 38 Special cases. There is a substantial velocity and recoil difference. I typically shoot this gun with one hand. I haven’t found a really comfortable way to use two. For all its size, there isn’t much real estate on the handle.
When your shots go that far to the right at 25yds, what does the group look like? Is it loose and all over the place? Try cupping your gripping hand in your weakside hand, rather than wrapping your weakside around the gripping hand. It's an older two-hand method but works pretty well on short grip guns. See if your right deviation improves any. A right-hand shooter will tend to deviate right when shooting one-handed. If your groups are pretty centered at shorter ranges I feel it is you and not the gun, especially given the grip style and the heavy loads. You may have to modify how you hold the gun in your gripping hand. Go a bit further up, putting the bend of the grip lower in your palm.

But I agree with the advice to decide on one load and stick with it.
 
I carry a 686 as my EDC. I do not use target loads and full loads. I use only one bullet type at 158 grains and one load for it. This is my target loads, my practice loads, and my self defense loads. Everything across the board is and remains the same always. I concur with others, 6 inches is too much of a deviation and I don't get that much of a deviation at 50 or 100 yds. Everything remains point of aim.
 
As to holding with 2 hands I will throw this in. First my hands are very slightly over medium hand size according to the American glove size chart. Just enough to make leather gloves slightly tight until broken in. I have two BlackHawks, one with factory grips and the other with Hogue finger groove rubber grips. I can do a two handed hold on either of them but it is much easier with the Hogue's as they are larger and also allow you to get your little finger in a groove. Larger hands may have more trouble than mine.

I will confess to having the same thing as rio mouse with heavy loads. I anticipate the recoil. With the noise and recoil it is impossible not to for me. The factory gripped 357 is a hand full with full house loads and I seldom shoot them as it quickly becomes unpleasant. It rotates to the left and rolls almost straight up in my hand.
 
As to holding with 2 hands I will throw this in. First my hands are very slightly over medium hand size according to the American glove size chart. Just enough to make leather gloves slightly tight until broken in. I have two BlackHawks, one with factory grips and the other with Hogue finger groove rubber grips. I can do a two handed hold on either of them but it is much easier with the Hogue's as they are larger and also allow you to get your little finger in a groove. Larger hands may have more trouble than mine.

I will confess to having the same thing as rio mouse with heavy loads. I anticipate the recoil. With the noise and recoil it is impossible not to for me. The factory gripped 357 is a hand full with full house loads and I seldom shoot them as it quickly becomes unpleasant. It rotates to the left and rolls almost straight up in my hand.
That's awesome . That grip rotates with recoil so I don't fight it. 44 mag is same way. But more. Practice one handed. Others won't agree but it's my way . I bought a Hogue for a convertible and it felt so weird. They are for double actions. Can't make a GP out of a Blackhawk. Thanks for sharing.
 
I have found that a target load and a magnum load requires site adjustment also. I do not have the data in front of me ( out in the shop ) but the magnitude of adjustment is approximately what you have for 25 yards. It is for a Redhawk 71/2" and target loads are about 750 FPS and the mag loads are about 1350 FPS. Both are with a 300 grgc hard cast.
 
Might not be good for others but sight mag load for 25 which will work for 50 when you get there. Then load you 38 sp imitation loads and move closer till you find your zero. There you go . Personally I go at it like sighting in a rifle to hit two inches high at 100 and put two bullseye's on target. As long as you know where it's going to hit. Doesn't matter what others know
 
That's awesome . That grip rotates with recoil so I don't fight it. 44 mag is same way. But more. Practice one handed. Others won't agree but it's my way . I bought a Hogue for a convertible and it felt so weird. They are for double actions. Can't make a GP out of a Blackhawk. Thanks for sharing.

The Hogue'a work great with mild to regular 38 special loads but I haven't tried it with full house 357 and don't intend to. I will save those for the factory gripped one. 44 mag is a done duck for me. Wrist won't take the load anymore. My three are very pleasant to shoot with 44 special.
 
You'll have to re zero for each load - you may get lucky and find a couple that hit the same POI or close to it. Here's a target I shot with my S&W M69 - 4 1/4" L Frame 44 mag. Only shot two of each load to reduce target clutter and minimize recoil induced fatigue. 25 yds rested - big center diamond was POA for all loads. What surprised me at the time was the lateral dispersion.
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79cf3682-14c8-463f-b020-3fb50c9d3ea6_zps20b8a2ae.jpg

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And for what it's worth, I have a Freedom Arms M97 - 4 1/4" 45 colt that will print a 320gr at 1,140 fps and a 270gr at 915fps within one each of each other at 25 yds

Paul
 
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