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Which pistol for Pocket Pistol side match?


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I have been using a couple of S&W top break pistols that were manufactured in the late 1800's for the side match. Due to age I have been loading them with black powder. My concern with them is reliability. So far do good but the metallurgy back then did not promote long term reliability. I don't want to ruin some nice antiques.

 

I want to update my pistols to something a little more sturdy that I can shoot smokeless in. I have narrowed it down to two pistols, H&R 925 and Iver Johnson Cadet, both in .38 S&W.

 

My questions are:

 

Are they SASS legal for pocket pistol?

 

Is one more reliable than the other?

 

Hogleg

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Legal if they are break opens, because swing-out cylinder guns not allowed.  Also, fixed sight, pre-1900 design with barrel length of four inches or less.  You should verify that those exact models you are considering were first made no later than 1899. 

 

Not familiar with the H&R 925 model.  But it seems to be a top-break gun that was first made in 1964.  Which would have adjustable sights and also not meet the 1899 cutoff, IMHO. 

 

Have a book on Iver Johnson revolvers, and the only Cadet named model is the Model 55-SA, which was first made in 1965, is solid frame with swing-out cylinder, and would not be legal for a couple of reasons.  Can you find a Model name or number other than Cadet on it?  The Model 55-SA should say that on the top strap of the gun.  If there were other models marked Cadet, the Goforth "bible" on IJ firearms doesn't mention one.

 

So, sounds like neither one fits the rules found in the Shooter's Handbook on page 31.

 

Reliability will probably depend upon how much use/abuse/deferred cleaning they have seen.   Both were second line guns compared to the top-of-line S&Ws and Colts of the day.

 

good luck, GJ

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Posted (edited)

The Iver Johnson Cadet is a solid frame design with side loading.  it does not have a swi g out cylinder. I was hoping that "pre 1900 design" would include later guns that were "pre 1900 style" - like the Henry Big Boy and Ruger Old Army".

 

Any suggestions on a legal alternative?

 

pix144545311.jpg.dcc40e5fc3e5154317f4fa8ef0ae3875.jpg

Edited by Hogleg Hunter
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I shoot Iver Johnson black powder or smokeless era top breaks.  Never had anyone complain that the smokeless gun having better steel and a hammer safety is not legal for pocket pistol.  Even though the Third Model were not made until about 1908 -  the basic design dates from about 1894.   But your IJ Cadet is a LOT newer than that.

 

Most all of those old IJ guns will be "loose" and may not even stay latched when fired.  Check them carefully before you by.  Make sure the double action still is reliable.  Use VERY light smokeless loads.   Not even factory 38 S&W ammo if you want them to hold up for very long. 

 

Now, SOME pocket pistol match directors may allow a removable cylinder post-1900 design like your Cadet.  You can always ask.      

 

A lot of pocket pistol side matches are won with well-cared for Smith "lemon-squeezers."

 

good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
to call out a more accurate decision point
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Why not go for a Bond Derringer.  I have had several double action pocket pistols and have not been able to get a reliable one so I got a Bond Texas Defender and never looked back.

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Posted (edited)

Garrison Joe,

 

I'm more confused now than I was when I started this thread.

 

Why would a removable cylinder make the gun not acceptable? The British bulldogs were of that design and were put into production in 1872. Is the Bulldog or a copy legal for pocket pistol? 

 

Is there a reasonably priced reference for pocket pistols of this era that you would recommend? Goforth looked good but $100 is more than I'm willing to pay.

 

Thanks for your replies.

 

Hogleg

Edited by Hogleg Hunter
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4 minutes ago, Nickel City Dude said:

Why not go for a Bond Derringer.  I have had several double action pocket pistols and have not been able to get a reliable one so I got a Bond Texas Defender and never looked back.

 

I am ordering one this week for the derringer match. I want to shoot both side matches so I am looking to upgrade my guns. I have a Davis derringer and a German made .38 special derringer, neither of which I consider acceptable. The Bond fills this need.

 

I have 2 S&W pocket pistols of this era along with some Iver Johnson and U.S. Revolver Co. guns. I was looking for something that I would feel less guilty about beating the crap out of in the matches.

 

Hogleg

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15 hours ago, Hogleg Hunter said:

Why would a removable cylinder make the gun not acceptable?

 

Doesn't by itself.  It can be a clue, however, that the design may not be pre-1900. 

 

Did the design that this specific manufacturer (IJ) used for this model (the Cadet 55-SA) originate with IJ before 1900?  No, it first was used by IJ in 1961 or so.  So, IMHO, this makes the Cadet not a legal "SASS pocket pistol."  I have seen several British Bulldog guns with short barrels used successfully for pocket pistol matches.

 

IMHO, the rules for Pocket Pistol are just about the hardest to understand and make accurate application of,  in all of SASS's regulations.   Be aware also that there are usually very few pocket pistol side matches.  Usually takes a state match or higher for there to be enough attendees to get to a critical mass of PP and Derringer shooters to make a side match go.

 

good luck, GJ

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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Lots of time we incorporate the pocket pistol/derringer into our local stages.

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Garrison Joe,

 

Thanks for the clarification. In the past I've shot derringer and pocket pistol at the FL and GA State Championships and Idea of March. At most that's 3 times a year. My local club even had a  derringer side match at their annual one year. Since I recently retired I've been spending my time getting everything fine tuned to shoot more matches hence all my questions.

 

Hogleg

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2 hours ago, Nickel City Dude said:

Lots of time we incorporate the pocket pistol/derringer into our local stages.

 

Our cowboy club puts on a Concealed pistol/home defense match each month. They added a derringer and a single barrel shotgun into the stages this month. 

 

They sometimes add something different at our cowboy annual match. One year it was a trapdoor Springfield.

 

Hogleg

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Five-shot pocket pistols in .32 or .38 S&W are plentiful and relatively inexpensive.  You can find examples of them at most every gun show, and frequently at cowboy matches, as well.  I enjoy looking for them at gun shows and auctions.  There are still a lot of them out there, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of demand, so it's a buyer's market.  I like Iver Johnson's and H&R's.  Get one that's locks up tights and indexes correctly.  You probably won't shoot it enough to ever wear it out, but you can always buy another one.  Finish isn't so important if you're wanting to shoot it at side matches.  If you find one that seems like it has a weak or broken spring, replacements are usually available, or you can fabricate your own.  I've have half a dozen of them so far. 

 

Load your own low-powered ammo with light bullets and have fun. 

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I have 13. I don’t know that the IJ cadet would be legal. I saw a guy shooting some sort of recent vintage IJ, had adjustable sights. I pointed out that adjustable sights weren’t legal for PP, he said they had been shooting it with no questions asked. While I don’t think the adjustable sights make a difference, thems the rules!  And for want it’s worth, it wasn’t a very fast pistol. 

 

The best are the S&W. Just better made. I do have an Iver Johnson that’s ok. H&R, American, several other off brands. I even have a Merwin Hulbert. Neat pistol, but not fast. I always scout pocket pistols at gun shows. 
Bond derringers are the way to go for derringer side matches. I have a 85 Remington, hammer spring came from a 58 Buick.  Plus it’s a pain to load 41 rimfire. I changed out hammer sping on my Bond, put in a Sp 101 spring. Cut off a couple of coils, added washers until it would reliably light off primers. 
 

1/2 the fun of PP us finding one that will work! 

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These are my pocket pistols.  I have used them all at one point or another...

Pockets.thumb.jpg.cec5dddb367ebd58a8cf711d17c891a4.jpg

 

The upper right is an Iver Johnson.  Here's a closeup of it.

IJ.thumb.jpg.af42af255e1d6ef86a76a32c82ac8d6b.jpg

 

When I was getting ready to go out to EoT a few year ago, I wanted to use this gun because it's "newer" than the others and safe for smokeless.  (.38 S&W)  I was worried about the big target grips, so I posted this pic here on the wire and and asked if it was still okay for use as a pocket pistol.   I believe it was Palewolf, who said that this pistol was okay as is.

Something like this can usually be found for a fairly reasonable price.   (Everything else in the collection pic is a BP pistol.)  If you don't like the big target grips.  They can be replaced by standard ones, or just find an example of this gun itself with regular grips.

I have found it to be rugged, reliable, and a fairly fast shooter when it needs to be.   For precision work, if such an event exists, it has a good crisp SA trigger as well.  (So does the Merwin & Hulbert)

If I wanted another pocket, I'd get another one of these.

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37 minutes ago, Cpt Dan Blodgett, SASS #75655 said:

HMM would a webley MK IV work??

 

A mark IV Webley in .455 would be too big.

So would a Mark IV .38.

The Mark III .38 and the the .32 caliber Webley's might be okay, but I am not sure.

A general rule of thumb can be worked out this way.   They are supposed to be "small framed."   It is also said that an SAA Sheriff's model is NOT a pocket pistol.   So, since small frame is not actually defined, then if the frame is smaller than an SAA frame, you are at least in the ballpark.   There is a maximum barrel length as well.  There is actually no stated caliber restriction.  (Unless some things have changed since last I read the Handbook.)  Yes, the vast majority of pocket pistols are .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long and .38 S&W, but there others out there.  Even some .44's.

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7 hours ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

These are my pocket pistols.  I have used them all at one point or another...

Pockets.thumb.jpg.cec5dddb367ebd58a8cf711d17c891a4.jpg

 

The upper right is an Iver Johnson.  Here's a closeup of it.

IJ.thumb.jpg.af42af255e1d6ef86a76a32c82ac8d6b.jpg

 

When I was getting ready to go out to EoT a few year ago, I wanted to use this gun because it's "newer" than the others and safe for smokeless.  (.38 S&W)  I was worried about the big target grips, so I posted this pic here on the wire and and asked if it was still okay for use as a pocket pistol.   I believe it was Palewolf, who said that this pistol was okay as is.

Something like this can usually be found for a fairly reasonable price.   (Everything else in the collection pic is a BP pistol.)  If you don't like the big target grips.  They can be replaced by standard ones, or just find an example of this gun itself with regular grips.

I have found it to be rugged, reliable, and a fairly fast shooter when it needs to be.   For precision work, if such an event exists, it has a good crisp SA trigger as well.  (So does the Merwin & Hulbert)

If I wanted another pocket, I'd get another one of these.

The Lightening likely has a 4 1/4”  barrel, which makes it too long for PP side matches. When I bought mine I figured it was 4” but it 4 1/4. They did make some shorter, some longer but the majority are 4 1/4

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From what I've read there is nothing better than the S&W that I have?  My most used pocket pistol is the S&W on the right in the picture. I load all my pocket pistols with APP rounds. I have a S&W  lemon squeezer and various Iver Johnsons in addition to these two.  I had assumed that all of these were black powder only.IMG_20210420_112502.thumb.jpg.42593f5ce639feb79fec615fbabbce78.jpg

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I don't understand why the cadet 55A doesn't count as a pocket pistol? It's cylinder doesn't swing out, up or down. It's held in by the cylinder pin. Pull the pin and it falls out, just like the ssa and nearly every pocket pistol designed prior to the invention of the first top break and even predates center fire ammo. To me it's like the vaquero of side match guns, modern look alike of a historic firearm, same as the bond "derringer"...

 

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I'm partial to this one:

Magnum Research BFR Revolver

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The Iver Johnson top Breaks that were made for BP only have a cylinder latching lead-in cut that is long, like the picture of the blued IJ above.  Their smokeless era top breaks have the shorter cut, like the nickeled S&W in the picture from HH.  Perhaps the easiest way to tell for the IJ guns.   Since their model labeling scheme is rather complicated.

 

If original gutta percha grips are on the gun (never swapped out with replacements), the owl on the top of grip is also an indicator.  Owl looks at cylinder for BP era guns (1st and 2nd Models).  Away from cylinder for 3rd Model.   But, grips are VERY often not original on lots of the guns you will run into, since they break easily.

 

Here's some pics from Goforth's book.

 

Good luck, GJ

 

IJ top-break made for BP.jpg

IJ top-break made for Smokeless.jpg

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Also note that 1st and 2nd models don't "bolt lock" the cylinder.  The hand presses the cylinder so that the lock bolt sits against the flat end of the latch cut.  That means the trigger has to be pulled without backing off pressure during the stroke. 

 

The 3rd Models drop the latch bolt into the transverse slot and locks the cylinder when it's aligned with the barrel.

 

For pocket pistol side match, you may never notice this.  When the early models get included in main matches and shot by pards not familiar with the gun, they may be less than enthusiastic with their trigger pull, and fail to keep cylinder rotated fully.  The cylinder is "free-spinning" when the trigger is not applying pressure to the hand, too.   So, pulling a 1st or 2nd model over a table top can roll the cylinder off of the position where you expect it to be.

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

Edited by Garrison Joe, SASS #60708
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H&A pistols.jpg

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