Tiger McKee

Shootrite Firearms Academy

M&P 547

ImageA friend stopped by and we were doing the show-‘n-tell thing with S&W revolvers. He pulled out a “K” frame – three inch barrel and round butt – and handed it over to me for inspection. I’m thinking Model 13, which already had me drooling, but then I notice a short, stubby hammer that looked factory. There were funny looking holes in the cylinder and a strange looking extractor. With a questioning look I glanced over and he said, “Model 547, 9mm.” Not only had I never seen one, I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

The 547 was developed by S&W in the late 1970’s for the French National police, who were looking to standardize their arsenal. Basically it was the F.B.I. model 13 modified to fire 9mm. Two versions were produced between 1980 and ’85; a three inch round butt and a four inch with a square butt. (According to my Standard Catalog Of Smith & Wesson only about 10, 270 of these pistols were built.) After tests the French went another route, and the 547 never really caught on with revolver shooters or fans of the 9mm.

In order to run the 9mm the 547 had several unique design features. The extractor is grooved, and inside the grooves are six spring steel fingers that pop out to engage the extractor grooves in the 9mm case. A flat hammer, without a firing pin, strikes two pins, a free floating firing pin and a cartridge retaining pin. The retaining pin prevents the case from bouncing back as it’s fired, resulting in the firing pin punching a hole in the primer, and maintains the proper headspacing for the cartridge. A stronger mainspring was used to ensure ignition of primers, especially the harder primers found in most European ammo.

“If you ever decide to get rid of this,” I told Tim, “…” A few minutes later I was the proud owner of a 547. Finally, today, I hit the range to test fire it. The very first thing I notice is the short trigger pull, which I guess is due to the design of the pistol’s action. I also figured out real quick that my speed loaders for .38/357 wouldn’t work on the 9mm case. (If anyone has any HKS #547 loaders out there for sale let me know.) My quick solution was to use a 9mm magazine to feed the cylinder.

At seven yards, using double action, the pistol shot extremely well, more accurately than I could fire it. The trigger pull is stiff than due to the mainspring mentioned above. It never failed to eject empty brass. Feeding the rounds from a magazine, keeping the revolver in the strong hand, worked well because you have to kind of wiggle the rounds into the cylinder. Plus it’s an easy way to carry lots of reloads for the revolver.

I’ve never sent a revolver to S&W to have it reworked, but I think this will be the first. The 547 is cool, you don’t see many of them, and it’s one I’d like to get reblued and looking sharp. I’ll let you know how this turns out.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Revolvers | Leave a comment

Model 10 Rebuild

ImageWhen I decided to learn how to work on S&W revolvers I picked up a “throw-down” Model 10 – a K frame .38 special with a four inch barrel – to practice on. The blue finish was scratched up and worn but internally it was in good condition and the price was right. It was the perfect revolver for my first work. Then, somewhere along the process, what began as a test monkey ended up being a really fine fighting revolver.

The Model 10 is a square butt frame, so the first step was to cut it down and reshape it to a round butt, which is easier for me to conceal. Metal work was nothing new for me; I started with hotrods and Harley motorcycles decades ago. I used a cutting wheel, files, and lots of sanding to get the grip reshaped to a round butt. The key, like most things in life, is to take plenty of time, measure twice, cut once, and use the right tools for the job.

I also thinned the front of the trigger guard so it would be quicker to get my finger on the trigger. The sharp edges on the trigger itself were rounded off for comfort and control. Bobbing the hammer was mandatory for the old-school look and carrying. Those hammer spurs snag on clothing, plus for a fightin’ pistol you ain’t gonna be thumb cocking it anyway.

While the metal work was easy, working the action and internals was something I’d never done. A search with Brownells provided Kuhnhausen’s manual on S&W revolvers (924-100-001), stones for honing, proper size screwdrivers and springs. After reading and rereading I discovered there is much more to tuning a revolver than I thought. Not only does the trigger have to be worked, which involves tuning every other component inside as well, but I also learned about things like working the cylinder and latch so it opened easily and snapped shut crisply.

It took me a long time, but after working over everything and installing a Wolf rebound and mainspring spring (080-665-201) I had a revolver that snapped the hammer smoothly with a good crisp break.

I like XS dots, and for this pistol their Big Dot was ideal. The problem was how to install it on a fixed sight revolver. I studied on this for a few months, ordering, testing and measuring different sights from XS. I finally determined how to do it, and with a little help from Matt W. and some machine work we got it licked.

While Matt had the pistol for machining he asked me if I wanted it parkerized. After spending so much time with the 10 I’d grown found it so it needed some type finish to make it look sharp. I took him up on his offer. The sight installation and park job turned out perfect.

For stocks I went with a set of Precision Gun Specialties Hideout stocks (729-100-001), which fit my hand well and matched the pistol’s looks and personality. To provide them with extra friction I stippled them using my soldering iron.

The Model 10 looks unique; I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It combines the best of the old school revolver modifications with new technology, and .38 +P’s are a good round. I’ve only had a chance to test fire it and haven’t had time to work on accuracy to see how the Big Dot works so I’ll save that for another column. From what I’ve done so far I can safely predict it’s going to be a great combination.

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Revolvers | Leave a comment

Revolver Gear

ImageCarrying a revolver means you pack extra ammo. Five or six shots may solve your immediate problem, but without ammo to reload you’re unprepared for anything else that might kick up. How you carry ammo and the gear used is just as important as your tactics and training.

For semi-auto pistols you carry extra magazines. With a revolver there are ways to carry loose rounds, speed strips, and speed loaders. Shoving a handful of rounds into your pants pocket is not advised. The ammo should be located and positioned in a consistent manner so you can get to it efficiently from any position. Below are a few things that work well for me. Your application, personal preference, or how you have to dress dictates how your carry.

I’m a big fan of pouches and carriers for the belt. I’m don’t carry ammo in a pocket. Your body position in a fight may not allow quick access to a pocket. I like it on my belt, and the ability to grab one or two rounds for tactical reloads – replacing rounds fired with live ammo -an essential skill for the revolver. There are lots of options for belt carry. The two I use most often are an old six round slide loop carrier from Milt Sparks and a pouch El Paso Leather calls a “2-6 Pick Box,” which hold six rounds in three separate compartments. Both of these allow you to carry extra ammo in a fairly concealable manner with quick access.

I’ve tried speed strips, which are like metal stripper clips for ammo except made of rubber so you can strip rounds off once they are chambered. They are a good way to carry ammo, but for me they are difficult to carry and my old hands don’t work with them very well. If you do carry strips they should be inside a pouch. You can put a strip in your pocket, but over time the rounds will twist loose and attract lint and grime like a magnet.

Speed loaders are almost like carrying a magazine, it just takes a little more skill to work them. With a revolver if you’ve fired until empty, or shot four out of the six rounds it holds, dumping everything and loading all six chambers fresh is the way to go. This is the job of the speed loader. The disadvantage is they are bulky, making them more difficult to conceal. I use El Paso Leather’s Double Speed Loader pouch.

The key with revolvers, as with all weapons, is learning how to operate them and the related gear. This process takes a little more time and research because there are several options for manipulating revolvers, like keeping it in the strong hand to manipulate or swapping it over to the support hand. There are also a variety of ways to carry ammo. Once you determine what works well for you then make time for plenty of practice.

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Gear, Revolvers | Leave a comment

The S&W Model 12 Airweight

ImageScottsboro Gun & Pawn (256-259-0693) is the “Cheers” of gun shops located near my home. They know everyone worth knowing, you can catch up on all the latest happenings, and they never fail to have some very nice revolvers on the shelves, both Smiths and Colts. I would like to visit more often, but it’s like every time I stop by there’s another “must-have” pistol capturing my attention.

My most recent purchase is a Smith & Wesson Model 12 -3. I didn’t really know what it was when I saw it in the display case, I just knew it wasn’t something uncommon. Plus, it had a really nice nickel finish, which would fit well with my other shiny S&W K frames.

Research revealed that the Model 12, introduced in the 1950’s, is basically the same as the .38 Spl K frame Military & Police Model 10 except the 12’s frame is made from a strong aluminum alloy, a “new” material at that time developed during WWII. The first models had an alloy cylinder as well, but this was changed to steel after it was discovered to crack, even using a special low-pressure .38 cartridge known as the M41. Early 12’s have a frame that is .080″ thinner than standard K frames but the 12-4, 1984, has a standard width frame allowing it to use standard K frame internals and grips. The Model 12 came in round and square butts, blued and nickel, and in 2″ and 4″ inch barrels. According to the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, 3rd Edition, 5″ and 6″ barrels were cataloged, but are not to be found. The model was discontinued in 1986.

I occasionally buy firearms because they are rare or models that I have strong attraction to, but most of my weapons do see carry and use. At a minimum I want to know that they will actually shoot. If it won’t function reliably what you have is a sculpture of a firearm, a non-firing replica. I also want to make sure it’s zeroed, or in the case of non-adjustable sights any variation between point-of-aim and point-of-impact noted. Any firearm I own can be retrieved, loaded if needed, and used in defense against a threat.

Because of my job I don’t carry revolvers as much as the 1911, but for defensive use I’ve never felt under-armed, especially with the .357 magnums and the ability to reload. Should you decide to carry a revolver you are going to have to practice with a revolver. Don’t train/practice exclusively with a semi-auto, “because that’s what everyone else is shooting,” when all you carry is a revolver. Choosing two different type weapons means you’ll need to practice twice as much to be efficient with both, otherwise you’re better off picking one and being the best you can with it.

I have some firearms that don’t get fired often, and some “Sunday-go-to-meeting” pistols worn for special occasions such as weddings and such. But, if necessary, all of ’em will fight.

March 8, 2012 Posted by | Revolvers | Leave a comment