Capabilities of J frame v. K frame

Capabilities of J frame v. K frame

This is a discussion on Capabilities of J frame v. K frame within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I was asked on another board: "can you shoot your J's better than or as good as your K's?" I said no, but since I ...

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Thread: Capabilities of J frame v. K frame

  1. #1
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    Capabilities of J frame v. K frame

    I was asked on another board: "can you shoot your J's better than or as good as your K's?"

    I said no, but since I have never really quantified it, thatís an interesting question. So I took three S&W snubs with me to our last class at the Rogers Shooting School to compare them. They were:

    640-1 fitted with an XS Standard Dot sight. The grips are an old set of Fitwell stocks from the 1960s that I have relieved for speedloaders.


    37-2 with red reflective tape on the front sight; idea courtesy of Todd Green. Equipped with Sile rubber grips.


    10-5 with front sight reshaped into a much more visible Patridge shape from the horrible Baughman ramp; this idea came from Ted Yost. After being reshaped, the sight also had red tape applied. The grips are Uncle Mikeís boot grips.


  2. #2
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    To minimize the variables, I decided to shoot each gun on two tests from our Handgun testing Program that do not have a draw component nor timed reload component. Both tests start from the Extended (Low) Ready, aimed at the base of the target frame, i.e., below the subject’s feet.

    For ammo, I used Bill Rogers' Bianchi Cup load, which is a 148 grain wadcutter by Master Cartridge that I have chronoed at 740 fps from a snub, yielding a Power Factor of 110. It’s not 158 +P, but it’s not a poof load either. I would have no problem carrying it in a snub for defensive purposes. It would cut a good hole and have adequate penetration. The speedloaders I used were Safariland Comp I and Comp II.

    test #1 requires the shooter to engage the body and head of T1 and then engage T5 at the top of the wall. There are three separate runs for a total of nine possible points. The time allowed for each run is 1.5 seconds. Here is a link YouTube - Rogers test 1 to a video of the test shot with an autoloader. The only difference between the revolver and autoloader test is the length of pause between runs. While there isn’t technically a timed reload involved, the pause for revolvers is only six seconds. As a result, a J-frame must reload twice in under six seconds. A K-frame has to reload at least once in under six seconds.

    Gun : Score
    640-1 : 9
    37-2 : 7
    10-5 : 9

    Doesn’t look like much difference, but there is more to the story. On T5, the group from the Model 10 was only 4 inches and well centered. The head of T1 was even tighter. The body shots on T1 with the M10 consisted to two overlapping hits with the third being about one inch away from those two. The group was centered over the aiming spot on the target. I couldn’t do that with either of the J-frames. The reloads were different, too. Even with wadcutters, reloading a K-frame is no big thing. I didn’t have any problem getting the Js reloaded, but it’s noticeably more work.

    As a benchmark, 7 was the median score for this test on the fourth day of our last class.

  3. #3
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    test #2, which is much like our Random 4 target drill Rogers Random 4 target drill , requires the shooter to engage four head targets; no body shots count. There are four separate runs for a total of sixteen possible points. The target array changes after each run in a specified sequence, with the targets moving further away each time. The first target is always T1. The time allowed for each run is 2.0 seconds. Again there isn’t technically a timed reload involved, but ammo capacity dictates a reload after each run when shooting a revolver. I felt like I boogered it up the first time with the 640-1, so I shot all three snubs again to get a second comparison.

    Gun : Score1 : Score2
    640-1 : 9 : 13
    37-2 : 8 : 9
    10-5 : 13 : 14

    The differences in groups again told a tale. The M10 group on the T1 head was a cloverleaf directly centered on the plate with the fourth about one inch away. Even on T6, which is about a 15 yard head shot (Michael Platt v. Dove and Hanlon), the hit was centered on the plate.

    As a benchmark, 10 was the median score for this test on the fourth day of our last class.

    Three reloads under pressure with each gun gave me a really good comparative feel for what they are like to reload. Once again, getting the K back into action seems quite easy. The J frame is noticeably more work. John Hanlon, who had to resort to his J frame backup gun, said of the Miami Massacre Federal Bureau of Investigation - Freedom of Information Privacy Act (half ass TV movie reenactment here) YouTube - The 1986 Miami FBI Shootout : “when I had to reload, I felt all the fight go out of me.” He was using loose ammunition from a drop (aptly called) pouch, ugh.

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    Itís difficult to make testing programs exactly comparable and this was no exception. What are the apples to oranges comparisons here?

    Sights are the most important. The 37-2 has the horrible Baughman ramp, albeit heightened with tape. The tape does help a lot. But that sight sucks. Itís a relic from the 1930s that exists only because S&W is too lazy or out of touch to change it. I first tried reshaping a snub front sight on an old Taurus and afterwards the sight was noticeably easier to see.

    This is a closeup of the reshaped K frame sight.

    Generally, I am not a fan of the XS sights but on a J frame, the Standard Dot front has grown on me. Itís much taller than the standard sight and since you are using a regular rear sight with it, the issues with shallow XS rear sight go away. BTW, I tried using Meprolightís tritium front sight and it is a big joke; numerous problems with it that I wonít go into. I am going to use the 640-1 in the IDPA Wheelgun Championship in May to get a better idea of what the XS front sight can do under pressure.

    Grips were a minor, and I think unimportant, issue. As long as you have stocks that fit your hand well, it shouldnít be an issue. Personally, Iím not impressed with smooth stocks, but thatís easy to test. Shoot an aimed full cylinder of your carry ammo rapidly (<2.5 seconds). If you donít have to readjust your grip during or after, then theyíre probably OK. If you do have to readjust, then you need to think about grips that are checkered, gritted, stippled, or roughened somehow.

    So thatís the long winded answer to an apparently simple ďyes or noĒ question. Or maybe the question wasnít as simple as it seemed.

  5. #5
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    I certainly shoot my Model 10-5 snub and Colt "Dick Special" more accurately than my 642. Both are heavier and much more controlable and sight picture is generally better. None of the sights are good on these guns obviously but these type of guns are generally point and shoot guns anyway. Thats the kind of practice you will be better served with using these handguns anyway. If the SHTF and you have to engage a threat, its likely within 10 feet or less so you just draw, point and shoot, this is normally all the time you would have anyway in most cases.
    When I leave the home port:
    S&W 642 Airweight, Ruger SP 101, Colt Detective Spec., CZ RAMI, Kahr PM9, Kahr CW40, S&W Model 10-7, Glock 30, 19, and 26, Browning Hi Power, CZ82, Colt Commander, Dan Wesson PM7, Ruger LCP

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