I did some pseudo science after listening to a Primary and Secondary podcast on Snubbies this week.
One of the guests was very anti thumbs forward grips on revolvers. I'm a fan of shooting even wheel guns thumbs forward. Well, I went out to the range to "prove him wrong". Instead, I got a mixed bag of results.
The TL;DR of the test is that I had faster split times with a traditional crossed thumbs revolver grip when shooting a J frame. However, my splits were faster with the K, L and N frames when I used a thumbs forward grip. I was shooting my standard competition load (factory 158 gr LRN) for the test. I'd like to repeat the J frame portion of the test with 148 gr wadcutters and see if the results are any different, but instead of proving myself right....I learned something. Even better.
Here's a copy from the P&S website where I posted my results and talked about the podcast epsiode, so some of it is a little off topic for this thread, but it's easier to just copy/paste:
Enjoyed this episode, since I'm spending a year shooting mostly wheel guns. I also signed up for the Pat Rogers Memorial wheel gun class in Dallas this October, and I'm looking forward to that.
As a disclaimer: I'm not a cop, not a high speed guy, not even a world class shooter. I'm not trying to say I'm an expert or even know what the heck I'm doing. But the comments about how you shouldn't use a thumbs forward grip on wheel guns jumped out at me. I'm a younger guy who came up shooting semi autos. I started shooting wheel guns in competitions this year with a traditional revolver crossed thumbs grip, before transitioning to shooting thumbs forward because I thought it was giving me better control of the gun during follow up and faster splits.
So I set out to test my "feelings" vs the comments of Darryl Bolke in favor of the traditional revolver grip. What I found surprised me, and I thought it was worth sharing to see what others thought or whether my experience was unique on this front.
Test set up: 4 wheel guns. 642 J frame, a 2.75" Model 66 K frame, a 586 L frame, and a 4" 627 N frame. All in 38/357. I shot Federal 158 gr LRN through all guns for this test. Target was standard USPSA cardboard at 10 yards. Test consisted of a 5 shot string, aiming for center A zone with each gun twice back to back. Once with a traditional grip, once with a thumbs forward grip. A zone at 10 yards was picked for consistency. Goal with each gun was nothing but good A zone hits, so I worked to get a decent sight picture on the center of the A zone between each trigger pull. I know humans as a rule are inconsistent, but I hoped this would help regulate my speed a little and provide some consistency for the tests.
I'll be honest. Despite Darryl having a lot more revolver experience than me, I thought I was going to "prove him wrong", because after shooting K and N frames in competition with both grips, I was pretty sure a thumbs forward grip was superior. So I started the test by shooting the 642 with a traditional grip, then thumbs forward. Traditional was faster. I was ready to quit the test, admit that his experience vastly outweighs my subjective feeling while shooting, and concede I don't know what I'm doing.
Then I moved on to the 627, the gun I've been shooting the most in competition this year, and got the exact opposite result: I was shooting faster splits with a thumbs forward grip. Interesting....so I kept the test going. 586 and 66....same result. Faster with a thumbs forward grip.
So after these results, I went back to the 642 one more time. I had started the test first thing at the range with it, maybe I just wasn't warmed up, excuses, excuses. My splits were substantially faster with both grips than they were the first time, so warming up a bit did improve my J frame shooting. But the result was the same the first time I shot the 642: A traditional revolver grip gave me faster splits than a thumbs forward grip.
Here's a chart of my split times with each gun, the averages, etc:
I recognize that those are not blistering split times. Keep in mind that I was going for a consistent sight picture between every shot to keep the test "fair" across all 4 guns. I can average ~.25 splits with revolvers on things like a Bill drill, but this was about accuracy at speed, not pushing speed to the limits of accuracy.
What I think I learned is that if you have enough frame on the gun to get a good thumbs forward grip on it, just like with a semi auto...more meat on frame>less meat on frame. (Disclaimer: I have short thumbs. Even on a J frame, I can get a thumbs forward grip without putting my thumb in front of the cylinder. People have different sized hands. This may or may not be the case for you). The J frame was different for a couple of reasons I think. 1)So little space to grip. It's just hard to get a good two hand grip on such a small gun. 2) 158s make the J frame jump a lot more than even the K frame does with the same load. My left hand thumb would slip off the frame under recoil repeatedly. I've been shooting mostly 148 gr wadcutters in my J frame before this test, but I wanted to keep ammo consistent across all guns. I don't have nearly as much trouble keeping my grip on the gun shooting 148s, and I'd love to repeat the test with wadcutters at some point in the future to see if the lower recoiling wadcutters make a difference for my J frame splits with the different grips.
The TL;DR: summary for all this is Darryl was spot on for J frames for me. Since the episode was all about Snubbies, despite my initial disagreement with his premise based on shooting larger wheel guns, he is right. If you're shooting a snubby, a traditional revolver grip produced faster splits than trying to use a modern thumbs forward grip for me. However, I found the opposite to be true with K, L and N frame guns. I'm wondering if you've got enough frame and grip to get your mitts on, if thumbs forward is faster for everyone...even with wheel guns. All I can say for sure is that seems to be the case for me, at the moment.
Looking forward to meeting folks and learning more about shooting wheel guns in Dallas in October.