Wednesday, February 20, 2008

S&W M34-1 2 Inch

I recently got this gun because another blogger, Xavier, had posted about his find in a pawn shop. I don't think I got away as cheaply as Xavier but it is a fine little gun. It came to me with Pachmayr rubber grips but I didn't like them and after trying several others ended up with configuration of the standard grips plus a Tyler "T" grip adapter. That is until that grip set-up was moved to my 642 and the "bananas" went on it (as shown). These feel just like the standard grips with the Tyler-T adapter but are a bit longer.

The "J" frame kit guns were a development from the Bekeart "model". San Francisco gun dealer Philip Bekeart placed a special order with Smith & Wesson for a .22 caliber revolver built on a .32 caliber "heavy frame" with 6" barrel, target sights and a special extended grip. Smith & Wesson obliged and produced a limited run of 1044 revolvers. Philip Bekeart received 292 from this first production and the balance went to other dealers. Later, more "kit" guns were made up on the "I" frame and then when the "I" frame was superseded, on the "J" frame.

I'd wanted one for a long time and had settled for the S&W M422 as more practical/less expensive and the Ruger Single-Six as more useful but still wanted one. Xavier's post sent me over the edge and I actually went looking for one. In the process I learned a lot about some sellers across the country and the vagaries of pricing. I think his post got a lot of others "thinking" too as there were a number of guns available before the post and many fewer after. I'm certain that he drove the price up. Anyway, I found this gun on GunsAmerica and made the necessary arrangements and sent off the money.

I was pretty happy when I got it and couldn't wait to shoot it. First thing through it was some Aguila Super Colibri. That ammo worked pretty well and I was able to keep walnuts rolling at 10-15 yards with no need to wear hearing protection. However, with standard rimfire ammo such as the Winchester PowerPoints or Dynapoints (modified to SGB profile, of course) this gun barks pretty good! However, I never got it to the range until 12 September 2007 when I finally managed to take this gun and my Bearcat to Hite Hollow Range and see how she does with some different types of ammo. Aside from unmodified Dynapoints, I tried some old, Russian-made, steel cased Junior.

Shooting small groups at 25 yards is an exercise with these guns requiring perfect sight alignment and very consistent trigger control. Single action I was able to keep almost all rounds in about a hand's breadth. One unanticipated problem was that the Junior ammo sometimes didn't "go" quite as vigorously. In other words, some rounds didn't have "full power". So, every once in a while, a round will sink considerable away from the group.

One other problem, common to the S&W kit guns is that as the gun got dirty it became harder and harder to extract all cases. This Junior ammo is particularly dirty and sometimes it appeared that I must have a small fire in my hands because the smoke really rolled! Of course that fouled the pistol quickly and so I had to clean it up in order to continue shooting.

As usual with the Winchester PowerPoint ammo, groups were consistent and among the best that this gun delivers. It is hard to tell, but this gun might just give better groups with the Winchester Dynapoints modified to SGB configuration. With this gun's short sight radius there's just enough doubt about my consistency to make me wonder which ammo is best. This is where the use of a rest like the Ransom would give one a definitive answer as to which ammo is more accurate and eliminate that nagging doubt over one's own abilities on any given day.

Marshall Stanton SGB

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