Revolver and Pistol Questions and Answers

The following information on left handed shooting of handguns and average scores comes from Section 21 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.

Barrels and Cylinders

Q. Is it necessary to have the inside of the barrel measure to a thousandth of an inch of the dimensions set down by certain manufacturers and gun cranks?
A. It is not, as target pistols and revolvers in nearly all cases use lead bullets and a thousandth or two would make no noticeable difference in the groups as the bullets would still be large enough to seal the barrel against the escape of gas around the bullet.

Q. Is a taper barrel that is one-thousandth smaller at the muzzle than at the breech more accurate than a cylinder or straight bore?
A. Yes; a slight taper in the barrel is of great assistance to fine shooting, as in this manner the bullet is tight at all points from breech to muzzle in its passage through the barrel.

Q. Does a deformed or damaged muzzle cause inaccuracy?
A. Yes; it will sometimes cause the bullets to keyhole and group in a different place and enlarge the original size of the group.

Q. How about chamfer at breech of barrel?
A. I have experimented with thousands of barrels to determine this point and find that a normal chamfer does not affect the accuracy. Starting with no chamfer at all and gradually increasing one-thousandth at a time until one-eighth inch was reached, I found one-sixteenth inch chamfer the most satisfactory of all and a slight variation one way or the other from this measurement made no difference in accuracy.

Q. Does imperfect alignment of cylinder and barrel affect accuracy?
A. Yes; if cylinder and barrel are not in line the arm is inaccurate, the bullets will be thrown out of balance, sometimes a part of the bullet will be shaved off and may cause a keyhole in the target.

Q. Why is a slight chamfer at breech of barrel an advantage?
A. As the bullet leaves the shell it is floating in what is called a gas envelope without the guidance of lands and grooves and is only corrected and started on its true flight when it reaches the barrel. The slight chamfer eliminates any shaving of lead due to chamber being slightly larger than top of lands and tends to press the lead into the bullet instead of shaving it off.

Q. Does clearance between cylinder and barrel affect the accuracy?
A. Yes; if it is in excess of the normal distance, three to five thousandths, the clearance must be greater in the .22 caliber revolvers than in the larger calibers due to Lesmok powder, which will bank up on end of cylinder and barrel causing the arm to jam if it is not wiped off after every forty or fifty shots. There is no advantage in a distance under three-thousandths between cylinder and barrel because, due to collection of powder residue on end of cylinder and barrel, one-half of that distance will be closed.

Q. Should the cylinder be held tight by the mechanism at instant of explosion?
A. Yes; it should be held tight and absolutely in line with the barrel.

Q. Should high velocity ammunition be used in revolvers?
A. No; the rifling or twist is not made to handle it and it is not as accurate as the regular load.

Q. Why do revolver manufacturers not guarantee their arms with high velocity ammunition?
A. Because high velocity may mean anything. Revolvers will stand charges well in excess of the regular loads but they will not stand pressures only fit for rifles. Revolvers will stand pressures up to twenty thousand pounds but will not stand pressures of thirty thousand pounds or more. It would not be practical if they did, and due to the excessive recoil would not be pleasant to shoot, and longer range ammunition for revolver than that now on the market would be useless due to short distance between sights.

Q. What is the cause of a ring or swelled barrel?
A. The arms were fired with an obstruction in the barrel.

Q. Is it a help to the accuracy if lands should finish at muzzle at just six and twelve o’clock, or top and bottom?
A. No; the position of lands and grooves at muzzle make no difference in accuracy.

Q. If by an excessive load a cylinder and frame should be blown up would the shooter be injured?
A. No; not one chance in ten thousand of his being injured.

Q. Which is the most accurate, a barrel with right or left twist?
A. The direction of twist would make no difference in the accuracy.

Q. What is the reason for a revolver spitting small particles of lead and powder between cylinder and barrel, sometimes striking the shooter next in line?
A. The reason is not enough chamfer in the rear of barrel to catch the flying particles of powder and particles of lead if the edge of barrel should overlap the bore of cylinder due to cylinder and barrel not being in line. The tendency of powder gases and particles of burning powder is to spread and the end of barrel must be slightly larger than end of cylinder to catch these flying particles.

Q. Will a slightly rusted or pitted barrel shoot accurately?
A. Yes; a barrel may be slightly rusted or pitted and still shoot accurately if it is not rusted at the muzzle.

Q. Is it necessary that lands and grooves should be exactly .0035 deep for extreme accuracy?
A. No; a slight variation would not affect the accuracy.

Q. What is the correct head space between head of shell and recoil plate and frame?
A. Just enough to clear with all makes of ammunition.

Q. Why are some shells loose in the chambers of a revolver?
A. Because there is a variation in the size of shells made by the different ammunition companies and the chambers of the revolver must be made large enough to hold them all.

Q. Does this slight looseness affect the accuracy?
A. No; it does not. As the explosion occurs the shell, being lighter than the bullet, starts backward until it seats against the recoil plate, expanding to the full size of the chamber as it moves and sealing backward flow of gas; then the bullet starts forward, guided by forward end of cylinder; as pressure decreases the shell will return to nearly normal size and can be easily extracted if elasticity still remains in the shell.

Q. Would it increase the accuracy of the pistol or revolver to polish inside of barrel until all marks and scratches disappear?
A. No; I have tried this many times, first shooting the barrel in the original state and again after polishing, and the best groups were made by the barrel in the original state.

Q. What is the shooting life of a barrel?
A. With metal case bullets in the .45 automatic the barrel is very accurate for five thousand shots, and with lead bullets the barrel is very accurate for one hundred thousand shots if properly cared for and muzzle undamaged.

Q. Will any barrel become wrung or swelled in one part if the arm is not fired with an obstruction, such as another bullet (due to weak cartridge) or some obstacle which nearly fills the barrel cavity?
A. No.


Q. What are the sights on a revolver or pistol used for?
A. The sights on a revolver or pistol are used as a guide by which the arm may be properly pointed or aimed at a certain point.

Q. Are revolvers and pistol sights corrected to place the bullets at the point aimed at?
A. No; the sights are usually corrected to hold at six o’clock on the bottom of the black in target shooting. The bullet to strike center or one to four inches above line of sight as the size of the black and distance may determine. A few shooters hold center and in these cases the sights are corrected to place the bullet at the point where sights line up on the target.

Q. If arm is shooting to the left, how may sights be changed to correct?
A. Move rear sight to the right or front sight to the left.

Q. If arm is shooting to the right, how may sights be changed to correct?
A. Move rear sight to left or front sight to right.

Q. If arm is shooting low, how may sights be changed to correct?
A. A higher rear sight or a lower front sight.

Q. If arm is shooting high, how may sights be changed to correct?
A. A higher front sight or a lower rear sight.

Q. Why are sights of different heights on the several models of revolvers?
A. The weight of the arm, the cartridge used, length of barrel, etc., all help to determine the height of sight. The lighter arms using the same cartridge as the heavier arms will require a higher front sight or a lower rear. The .32/20, .38/40 and .44/40 will require a lower front sight due to the slow burning powder used. Each model requires a different height of sight and this can only be determined by actual shooting; when this height is decided upon, the arms are so manufactured. One hundred arms of any one model should be shot and an average taken from the heights obtained after sights have been corrected.

Q. What is the correct amount of light to be seen at each side of front sight when the arm is in shooting position?
A. This must be determined by the shooter, as some men require more light around the front sight than others.

Q. Can all men shoot accurately an arm which has been properly sighted by an expert?
A. No; what a happy little world this would be if they could. Eyesight, method of holding, grip, trigger squeeze, and whether arm is tipped to right or left all enter into this grouping of shots in a different place.

Q. Will the bright sun in different parts of the horizon affect the grouping of shots in the bull’s-eye?
A. Yes; the group will always drift toward the bright side. If shooting from north to south and sun should be in the east the shots would group toward nine o’clock. If sun should be in the west the group would be toward three o’clock. If sun is directly behind the shooter and shining brightly on target and sights the clearer vision will usually call for a group high in the bull’s-eye. If on a dull, cloudy day when sights and target are not so clear it is customary to use a wider white line below the bull’s-eye and a lower group will be the result. If the sun is shining in the shooter’s face with the target dark, the group will be low in the bull’s-eye.


The function of the frame of a revolver is to hold each piece of mechanism in place, to form a handle or grip by which the arm may be held when shooting, and to hold the barrel in line with cylinder assisted by the crane upon which the cylinder is mounted. Also to hold the rear sight. The most satisfactory frame is formed from a drop-forging hardened to the proper degree to withstand a pressure far in excess of that developed by the ammunition used in the different arms and also to withstand any amount of abuse. Target shooters, of course, do not drop or abuse their revolvers, but with the police this is different; anything may happen to a police revolver and this must be taken into consideration when the frame is made. The proper alignment of holes for hammer and trigger pins and all points which assist in holding the parts or mechanism of the revolver must be correct. The trigger guard is also part of the frame whose function is to protect the trigger, act as a guide for the finger, and to prevent accidents. How this may be used to advantage in police work may be found under the head of “Disarming a Criminal.”

Q. What is the life of a good revolver?
A. A good revolver properly used will last a lifetime with very little repairs or overhauling. I have one that has been fired nearly two hundred thousand shots and it is still hitting on all six and has never been overhauled. However, to obtain the latest improvements in sights, frame, etc., and new appearance as to blueing, it is advisable to purchase new arms every eight to ten years.

Q. Will a revolver held in a vise shoot accurately?
A. No.

Q. Will a revolver held in a machine rest group the shots where the sights indicate or line up?
A. No; the shots will group from a good machine rest but I have never seen one that would group the shots in the bull’s-eye with sights pointed as in offhand shooting.

Q. Can an arm rest be used in the proper sighting of a revolver or pistol?
A. Yes; if properly made and both arms used, holding the revolver as in two-hand shooting and no part of the hands touching the rest. An inclined shelf that arms may rest on comfortably from standing or sitting position with a brace outside each arm to rest the arms against along the entire length of the forearm and about three inches high, a padded rest for side of head to get the eye behind the sights in the same position every time, will assist in rest shooting. Do the same thing the same way every time; care must be taken that rest shooting is not indulged in to the extent of injuring the off-hand scores.


Q. What is the most accurate center-fire revolver cartridge?
A. The .38 Colt Special and S&W Special cartridges. The Colt Special cartridge will cut a slightly larger hole in the target due to the flat nose of the bullet.

Q. What is the most powerful revolver cartridge?
A. The .45 Colt cartridge, forty grains, black powder; velocity, nine hundred ten feet per second; striking force, four hundred sixty pounds.

Q. What is the most accurate revolver cartridge of larger caliber?
A. The .45 Colt cartridge and .44 Special cartridge.

Q. Why?
A. The .44/40 and .38/40 cartridge are rifle cartridges and usually loaded with slow-burning rifle powder, which will not all burn in a revolver barrel. Particles of unburned powder may be found at a distance of eight to twelve feet from the muzzle.

Q. What is the length of revolver barrel considered most accurate for target shooting?
A. The six-inch barrel is considered most accurate for all distances. Many use the seven and one-half inch, but the six-inch is the favorite. The five-inch while very accurate will never be used in matches when six-inch barrels are allowed. The four-inch barrel in the heavier models is very accurate. In police matches many wonderful scores have been turned in with the four-inch barrel.

Q. Is the .32/20 an accurate cartridge?
A. What was said of the .38/40 and .44/40 cartridges is also true of the .32/20 as to powder; it is not as accurate as the .32 Police Positive or the .32 S&W cartridges.

Q. Why do empty shells sometimes fall under the ratchet or extractor when ejecting them from a revolver?
A. Because the front of revolver is tipped downward instead of upward when the ejector rod is pushed in to extract the shells.

Q. Why will a cartridge hang fire, sometimes exploding several seconds after hammer falls?
A. This is due to deep-seated primer, too small a hole between primer socket and powder chamber, firing pin too short, defective primer and powder oil soaked, and obstruction in firing pin hole that will slightly slow up the hammer fall, also excessive thumb pressure against side of hammer.

Q. Is hand-loaded ammunition as accurate as factory ammunition and as safe to use?
A. Yes; if the proper care is taken. Remember you are playing with powders that one added grain will increase the chamber pressures from two to three thousand pounds.

Q. What is the cause of a keyhole?
A. Wrong ammunition, as trying to shoot .22 Long Rifle cartridges in a W.R.F. revolver, a .44 S&W Special in a .45 Colt, a .38/40 in a .44/40 revolver, a cylinder which does not line with the barrel, a defective muzzle, a deformed bullet, a light powder charge, and a wrung barrel.


Q. Would very loose chambers in the revolver cylinder affect the accuracy?
A. A certain looseness or tolerance must be allowed to accommodate the different makes of ammunition. A very loose chamber would affect the accuracy.

Q. When revolver is fully loaded and great pressure must be exerted to draw hammer to rearward position, where would be the first place to look for trouble?
A. Look at firing pin hole in recoil plate for burr, which may be filed off to correct trouble. See that latch is in proper position. If that does not correct the trouble, look for loose bullet in shell which may jump forward and bear on barrel.

Q. Does it harm a revolver to snap it when empty?
A. No; it will never harm a good revolver.

Q. Why is the hammer nose or firing pin loose in a revolver?
A. Because in that way guided by the hole in the recoil plate the blow is more direct. With a rigid firing pin the blow is downward, as in some of the older models.

Q. Is a checked front and back strap an advantage in holding the revolver?
A. Yes; the checked front and back strap is an advantage as the arm does not have to be grasped so firmly to prevent slipping. While checked wood grips are of great help the checked back and front straps are an advantage.

Q. If trigger is not released when hammer falls or after every shot, will cylinder turn?
A. No!

Q. Why does the muzzle of a revolver or pistol flip or move upward at the instant of explosion?
A. Because the handle or grip is below the center of the bore.

Q. What is the cause of a wrung or bulged barrel?
A. This is caused by an obstruction in the barrel. A piece of tobacco, candy or even a wad of paper may cause this, but in a large per cent of the cases it is caused by the absence of powder or a weak charge with just power enough to drive the bullet part way through the barrel; firing another bullet after the first will cause a ring or bulge in the barrel and destroys the accuracy. The foregoing is not the fault of the revolver as many shooters think; even a very tight bullet may be fired without damage to the revolver. Careless reloading is many times the cause of this condition.

Q. Will a new arm always group as well as after use?
A. No; a new barrel will group well but will improve with use.

 On The Range

Q. If target bull’s-eye should stand several feet above the eye height or line of vision, what would be the effect with a correctly sighted revolver or pistol?
A. The group would be low. A height of six to eight feet above eye height would cause the group to drop from one to two inches depending whether the distance the shots were fired from was twenty-five or fifty yards.

Q. At what distance, twenty-five or fifty yards, will the group be lowest on the target when target is six to eight feet above eye height?
A. At twenty-five yards.

Q. If the target bull’s-eye should be six to eight feet below the eye level what would be the effect as to place the normally sighted revolver or pistol would group?
A. The group would be high or about the same distance above the center of the bull’s-eye as it was below center when shooting at a raised target.

Q. Would rough or uneven ground at firing point help or handicap the shooter?
A. Rough, uneven ground is a handicap to the shooter. He should try to place the feet in as near a normal position as possible.

Q. Would rough, uneven ground between target and shooter assist or handicap the scores?
A. This condition would slightly handicap the shooter. Better scores can be made on a level range.

Q. Do clean, new, carefully pasted targets improve the scores?
A. Yes; clean targets allow a clearer vision.

Q. Is a white, shiny target the best for shooting?
A. No; a dull white or light straw color target will give the best results.

Q. Will a shadow across the target and bull’s-eye affect the score?
A. Yes; the best shooting can be done on a target evenly lighted.

Q. Can best results be obtained when shooter is standing under a tree in the shade?
A. No; this was clearly demonstrated at the National Shoot in 1919. One firing position was under a tree and the scores made from this point were lower than at any other point on the range.

Q. Can good scores be made when standing under a roof or awning for shade?
A. Yes; unlike the tree, with its moving shadows of leaves and branches, the shade from roof or awning is solid and does not distort the vision of the hand and sights.

Q. Do white pasters overlapping the black or black pasters overlapping the white lower the scores?
A. Yes; the bull’s-eye will appear out of round. The original line of the bull’s-eye should be clear to the shooter and to the man who pastes the target, otherwise a close shot may be scored one point lower or higher than its value.

Q. Should the targets be perpendicular?
A. Yes; if targets are tipped to right or left it may cause the shooter to tilt his revolver in the same direction. Some men line up the revolver as to canting by the target they are shooting at.

Q. Will a loose target or one swaying in the wind affect the scores?
A. Yes; the target should be stationary. The arm will do all the swaying necessary.

Q. Should a shooter practice rapid fire from raised pistol position or from position of extended arm?
A. From raised pistol position, otherwise when shooting on a range where this rule is enforced his scores will show a decided decrease.

Q. Should the shooter place the foot, leg, knee or body against any object which may be at firing point (bench or table)?
A. No!

Q. Should a shooter load with six cartridges when the score or half score calls for five?
A. No; the shooter should load with five cartridges in any match which calls for five or ten shots as a score. It is dangerous to have a loaded cartridge in the revolver or pistol after the score is finished.

Q. Should any windbreak, whether object or person, be used by a contestant in any match?
A. No!

Q. Should wrist straps or arm braces be used?
A. A wrist strap may be used if muscles are strained or sore, otherwise no braces or straps should be used.

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Revolver and Pistol Questions and Answers

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