Competition Revolver Technique: An Introduction

Shooting competition revolver, I have noticed that there’s a lot of wisdom floating around the Internet about how to do so, and very little of it written down in one place. While revolver and semi-auto in a run-and-gun sport like USPSA are more similar than you might expect, there are still substantial differences in the finer, shot-to-shot techniques. One of the obstacles to coming to Revolver division as a newcomer is that you are largely left to your own devices in finding those differences, understanding them, and developing the skills to address them. I aim to fill that gap in the world of written shooting instruction.

This is a project I’ve kicked around for almost a year now. The first question I expect is, “Aren’t you a C-class scrub?” To which the answer is yes1, but bear in mind that I’m not presenting much in the way of original work here. Information on competition revolver techniques exists—it just hasn’t been compiled yet. Look at me as your librarian more than your instructor, and expect me to say if something I’m doing is something I figured out myself, or something I’m recording from more experienced wheelgunners.

That’s all I have for this first post. Keep an eye on the ‘revolver technique’ tag worn by this post for future entries. I’m hoping to have one out this week on stage planning and finding places for reloads, using a real stage and a local Single Stack shooter for comparison. It is, however, a match week, and one I’m running to boot, so we’ll see if I have the time.


  1. At the time of writing, which may not be the time of publication, I am in fact the #1 C-class revolver shooter nationwide. King of the Scrubs2
  2. At the time of continued writing, I’m now a B-class scrub, so I’m doing something right, or at least not as wrong as I was before. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jul. 7, 2021)

Reloading press update: I’m looking now at a Dillon XL750, which seems to hit the right balance between price, size, and capability.

Projects

  • Lots of stuff around the house.
  • Parvusimperator remarks that he’s been engaged in planning the plan for a committee to lay out the vision for the forthcoming plan for architecting a future project. $GOVERNMENT_CONTRACTOR life!
  • The Glockblaster 3D project I wrote about earlier in the year is nearly done. I need to write a progress update. I’ve been sharing more frequent, less formal updates at a semi-private forum for a collection of centrist and right-leaning tech enthusiasts. It’s a pleasant place, and if you find the tenor of the less politically neutral grab bag pieces agreeable rather than aggravating, you might like it there too.

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Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 16, 2021)

I’m thinking about getting a progressive press to make my USPSA reloading go a bit faster. Any recommendations? I’m thinking about waiting for that Frankford Arsenal FX-10 jobber to go on sale before I make a final decision.

Fishbreath’s Story of the Week

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The ‘Rona

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Revolver belongs in USPSA

Over the past few months, I’ve heard a number of high-level shooters express the thought that Revolver is an anachronism with no place in the modern USPSA1—perhaps not in so many words, but it’s fairly clear from their comments how they feel about wheelguns in our sport. As a Revolver competitor myself (although not at all a distinguished one, as of this writing), I’d like to offer some counterweight to those opinions.

First, and most pernicious: the idea that revolver doesn’t belong in USPSA because it’s unpopular. Unpopularity is not a crime. 1911s (in single and widebody form) are unpopular, by the standard of ownership numbers. .40 S&W is unpopular. We shoot those anyway, because the rules either allow them (in the case of Single Stack) or encourage them (in the case of Limited Major) in spite of their unpopularity.

But, even beyond that, we ought to answer a question about what USPSA is, and what it ought to be. It is the big leagues for competition handgun shooting in the US, full stop. Depending on where you are in the country, it’s either the best option for practical handgun shooting, or the monopoly player in the field. What it ought to be is more or less what it already is: the sanctioning body for the top level of pistol competition in the United States.

In both of those cases, the arguments for excluding revolver are on shaky ground. If USPSA is the sanctioning body for the top level of handgun competition, how can it justify withdrawing its support for fully half of the pistol taxonomy2?

If the USPSA is the monopoly provider for high-level handgun competition, and it preaches competitive equity, how does forcing revolvers—which are nothing if not very different than semi-autos—into Limited3 fit that aim? Make no mistake, that would happen, because USPSA is the only option for a great many people with philosophical disagreements with IDPA4. I can get to the entire USPSA Western PA section and a few Ohio clubs in a shorter drive than it would take me to reach the nearest ICORE club.

You can’t say USPSA shouldn’t have a carve-out for revolvers without also saying that USPSA ought not be the last word in top-level pistol competition. If you are saying that, you should be clear that you are. Further, you can’t say that there shouldn’t be a Revolver division while also saying USPSA should be about competitive equity and the division system should be about pitting like against like. Making wheelguns shoot against semi-autos is in fundamental opposition to the ideal of competitive equity.

I mentioned ICORE just now, which leads me to anti-Revolver assertion number two: USPSA doesn’t adequately or accurately test revolver skills.

The existence and nature of ICORE argues very strongly against that claim. ICORE is pretty much USPSA, except with time-plus scoring5, D1 targets instead of the silhouettes and octagons, some revolver-specific divisions for those people who want to shoot optic-and-compensator guns or six-shooters, and six-round neutrality instead of eight for the six-shooter-shooters. Those are, to within a rounding error, the meaningful distinctions between USPSA and the sport revolver enthusiasts designed specifically for testing revolver shooters.

USPSA is an entirely valid test of revolver shooters and revolver skills.

The final line of reasoning I’ll address is that the existence of Revolver somehow cheapens other divisions. The logic goes that because Revolver has fewer participants, it has less heat. It’s easier to reach the top of the heap, and therefore being Revolver national champion is less meaningful than, say, being Limited national champion.

For one, and to be entirely frank, I find this complaint to be rooted in ego: “I finished 20th in Production, and my percentage is comparable to the revolver guy in 10th! How unfair!” This is not a problem with the system, or with Revolver—it’s a problem with you. Do you care about how your raw score stacks up against Open or PCC? If no, then why do you care how your percentages stack up against Revolver? Divisions are not directly comparable in raw hit factors or stage times, but they’re also not directly comparable in per-division match percentages and placements. That’s one of the best things about this sport: it’s like automotive endurance racing. Multiple divisions get to compete on the same track, speak the same language, and see each other perform, even if they aren’t scoring themselves directly against each other.

The other assertion backing this line of argument—that it’s easier to climb the ladder to the top of Revolver because there are fewer competitors—I consider unlikely. There’s a video floating around of Michael Poggie, reigning revolver champion in the post-Miculek years, putting about a 1.3-second reload on the clock. I urge you to try to hit that mark, or even to get under 1.56. Now do it on the move.

Suffice it to say, it’s not easy to match the top dogs. If you look at the odds of me winning a Revolver national championship and compare it to the odds of me winning, say, Production7, they’re similar, and they’re both long shots.

Of course, you can always prove me wrong. Strap on your wheelgun and climb the ladder! If it’s easier than your semi-auto division of choice, it shouldn’t take you very long, right?


  1. Curiously, the two I’m thinking of are either Production-first shooters (Ben Berry, in a blog post from a few months back), or recently successful in Production (Mason Lane, on the 2021 Locap Nationals episode of the Shoot Fast Podcast). You’d think people in what’s pretty clearly going to be next Single Stack/L10 would have a bit more self-awareness in calling for the end of an unpopular division, but let it pass—this footnote notwithstanding, I’m more interested in sniping at bad ideas than the good eggs who sometimes end up proposing them. 
  2. Granted, not by participation, but none of the anti-Revolver voices are calling for the end of Single Stack division, and despite their prevalence in competition, 1911s and 1911-derived guns are a much smaller branch of the modern family tree of handguns than revolvers. 
  3. Revolvers are technically allowed in Production, but Production-legal holsters for N-frames and Redhawk-size guns are not readily available. 
  4. Even if I didn’t think IDPA’s rules make it a less serious competition than USPSA, I’m not exactly drowning in IDPA matches around here, either. 
  5. The Soapbox has always been at least half in favor of hit factor scoring, but now I believe we’re entirely in favor—parvusimperator came around on it, at least as of the last time we talked about it. 
  6. A year and a half of fairly focused practice has me into the one-point-fives, but not yet close enough to call it a second and a half. 
  7. Caveat: if I took it as seriously as I’m taking Revolver. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Jun. 2, 2021)

According to WordPress, I missed numbering one of these 113. The auto-post-numberer adds a ‘-2’ to duplicate names, so if I hadn’t renamed this one, it would have been 112-2-2.

Anyway, on to the news. Or, in some cases, the olds.

State-Sponsored Hijacking in Belarus

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Science and Technology

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Wednesday What We’re Reading (May 19, 2021)

Another two-week gap, but happily, I don’t think we have very much breaking news to turn into yesterday’s news.

Projects

  • For some reason, my 3D printer is still having a devil of a time with miniatures (after having worked perfectly previously). Maybe it’s the nozzle. I plan to switch it back to a larger nozzle, with which to print some more Little Wars bits and bobs, before I eventually go back to miniatures.
  • If you’ve been following the video half of my content production, you will have noticed the revolver reliability problems. I think I’m finally almost done with that. We’ll see sometime next week, most likely, when Bowen sends me the Ruger double-action revolver bushing tool I ordered.

Defense

Non-Breaking News

Iron Dome

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (May 5, 2021)

A bit late on the draw this week: work has been ridiculously busy, as has been the pattern lately.

I did at least fix the occasional ‘your IP address has been blocked’ message you might have been seeing: that page was getting cached as the homepage when spammers visited. It’s not fixed in the sense that the anti-spam plugin and the homepage play nice, but I turned off the anti-spam plugin and cleared the cache, so it looks solved from your perspective, non-logged-in readers.

Onward!

Defense

Sport, Motor, Formula

China, Coronavirus, and Other Related Topics

Twilight of the West

Grab Bag

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 28, 2021)

Again with the Skypirates! developer log in place of a what-we’re-reading last week, since the news folder was looking a bit light.

Not so this week!

The Cyberpunk Future

  • Prospectus on Próspera – Astral Codex Ten’s Scott Alexander on a particular instance of the charter city movement, where a private company receives limited grant from the government of Honduras to compete with the government of Honduras. The typically clear-eyed Alexander says, “If you were a completely ordinary Honduran, making $1,300 a year, having a medium lifetime risk of being murdered, with the government occasionally taking your land and killing you if you complained – would you want the option of moving to Próspera? With its civil rights, property rights, strong security, good education, and higher salaries? I have these things right now in America and they’re great.”

Have you tried turning it OMFV and on again?

  • Everyone’s favorite IFV program, after a brief cancellation, is back in the news
  • BAE’s entry – Parvusimperator notes: looks like an Elbit UT30 Mk. 2 turret on an AMPV hull, which is a turretless Bradley hull with some mine resistance and layout changes.
  • Oshkosh is partnering with Hanwha, to (probably) enter the AS21 or something similar
  • Rheitheon/Raynmetall are back too, along with GenDynLandSys (the only entrant last time)
  • There are some small business entrants, as well: MettleOps and Point Blank Enterprises – Since phase 1 is basically just concept art, you don’t need much to get a foot in the door. Both of the wee tiny entrants seem to plan to work with bigger manufacturing partners if their entries get the nod for further development.

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Science and Technology

Games

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Skypirates! Development Log #2: RPG Layer

At the very bottom, Skypirates!1 is an RPG. World entities like characters and airplanes have rollable attributes, and those determine how they interact. Those interactions are out of scope today, though. We’re going to cover how the RPG layer works at its very core: the dice, or at least the simulated dice.

If you’ve been around a very long time, or spent a long time trawling the archives, you might have come across a set of rules for building zeppelins in Savage Worlds. This was the jumping-off point. Skypirates designs past used a step dice system Savage Worlds players would have found very familiar. Start at d2, and skills/vehicle characteristics go up to d12 by die size, then to d12+d2 and d12+d4.

That last clause indicates the problem: step dice have poor resolution. For a moment-in-time, quick-playing tabletop RPG, it’s sufficient. For a PC game where I expect the timeline to run from about 1922 to 1937, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for multiple generations of airplane, in a period of time wherein aviation technology would advance even more quickly than in reality owing to greater conflict between the major powers. It leaves even less room for variation in individual airframes2. So, regrettably, step dice had to go, simple as they are to reason about.

In abandoning physical dice as the underlying abstraction, I found myself wondering, “Why not a 1-100 system?” A number between 1 and 100 represents each skill or characteristic. To roll it, generate a random number between 1 and the skill value. Highest number wins. Hard to do with physical dice, trivial with computers.

It doesn’t quite capture everything, though, so I brought in an idea familiar to players of D&D Modern: advantage. Roll two dice, take the better result. But, I don’t plan on using it primarily for rolling character skills with a bonus. Instead, in a form I’m calling ‘capped advantage’, it’s a way to combine pilot skill with airplane characteristics.

Say a plane has Agility 50 and its pilot has Flying 70. I take that to mean that the pilot knows where the edge is, and can use every bit of the plane’s agility. So, behind the scenes, we roll Flying with capped advantage Agility: roll both skills, and take the better of the two, up to a cap of the best Agility result. If the rolls are Agility 37 and Flying 64, the pilot has hit the cap, and the final result is 503.

I’ll go into the representation of planes and characters at some later date, but I wanted to make sure we got through the week with some content here, even if it’s not the allegedly-weekly news update.


  1. While the exclamation mark is part of my official branding plan, I am likely to omit it in the running text for reasons of forgetfulness. 
  2. The Secret Horsepower Race relates a story of six production Spitfires, which varied in tested top speed from 330 mph to 360 mph. 
  3. I plan on doing something similar with aerial gunnery: roll the gun’s accuracy with capped advantage the pilot’s Gunnery skill. For simulation-fun reasons, lighter guns are more inherently accurate, but that doesn’t mean a pilot can shoot better than his overall skill just because the gun helps. 

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Apr. 14, 2021)

The last two updates were 109 and 110, fun numbers if you’re a Messerschmitt fan.

Last week’s Skypirates! developer log was a calculated choice, to give us time to build up a list of interesting stories for you.

Defense

Science and Technology

Guns

Grab Bag