I like revolvers.
This ain’t a secret. I have been shooting revolvers with some regularity for the better part of 3 decades. I have hunted with revolvers, both of the single action and the double action variety, and have taken whitetail deer and hogs with both types. I have done considerable competitive shooting with revolvers, primarily in IDPA, but a little bit in USPSA matches, and a bit more in National Match (Bullseye) competition. I have also become certified as an NRA Pistol Instructor with the revolver (as well as the autopistol) and have taken a good deal of training in the use of the revolver from such luminaries as Massad Ayoob, John Farnham, Clint Smith, and others over the years.
I have carried revolvers for personal defense for many years. Yes, I admit my primary sidearm has been more likely to be an autopistol of some variety more often than not, but I’ve been known to strap a sixgun on my belt for months at a time as my daily carry pistol under certain circumstances, and I’ve never felt undergunned in doing so.
So you might say I have a fair bit of experience behind the hammer spur of a sixgun.
So it should come as no surprise that when Darryl Bolke and Wayne Dobbs started up an annual revolver get-together in the DFW area about 7 years ago, I was very interested in attending. It was not yet called the Pat Rogers Memorial Revolver Roundup at that time. Pat, who had been a huge influence in the law enforcement and tactical training community for many years, was scheduled to be an instructor at the 2016 Roundup, but passed away unexpectedly only a few weeks before that. The fellas who run this show named it after Pat thereafter. (More on Pat Rogers in the postscript, below.)
My schedule did not permit me to do so that first year, and since then one thing or another has undercut my efforts to attend the annual shindig. But this year the stars aligned: Chuck Haggard, who has been an integral part of the Roundup for many years, sent me a text message announcing the Roundup arrived on a day where I could act on it, my ER schedule had that weekend open, my wife gave me her blessing to go, and my credit card deposit wasn’t declined by my bank… and so it was that I found myself at the gates of Gunsite a little over a week ago with a bag full of revolvers and an expectant attitude.
My first contact with the Roundup happened Friday evening, when my training partner and friend David Maglio and I stepped into the Gunsite office and shook hands with Ken Campbell, Gunsite’s CEO. Ken is another well-known gun guy who has been a part of the Revolver Roundup since its inception. I have known Ken online for many years, going back to the 10-8Tactical discussion boards, but this was the first time I met him in the flesh. Ken runs a tight ship on the Gunsite property. But it’s a friendly ship, for all that, and he made us feel more than welcome from the get-go.
Saturday morning opened with an all-hands-on-deck meeting to get the organizational housekeeping stuff taken care of, and then we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t know about you, but any time I attend a function that starts out with the Pledge I have the sense that I’m in the right place and the right time. So it proved to be.
I should mention that there were 70+ people in attendance. There was more gray hair in evidence than any other color, but that’s to be expected among revolver aficionados. What was truly interesting to me was the wide variety of wheelguns on display in various rigs. I was somewhat surprised to see as many folks carrying AIWB as I did… this was the second most-common carry option seen. The number of folks with their guns on the strongside hip was only slightly greater, and was about evenly split between outside- and inside-the-waistband carry. The types of ammo carriers was similarly highly diverse. HKS speedloaders still dominate, but there were a lot of other speedloader types in evidence from Safariland Comp2’s and Comp3’s, Jetloaders, Zeta, and various iterations of speed strips.
As for the types of revolvers in evidence, they ran the gamut. I saw one Kimber, a good number of Colt’s, but most were S&W offerings. There were one or two single actions as well, which is a viable carry option in my opinion for the skilled user. Most of the revolvers were small or medium-frame guns, but there was a smattering of N-frames as well. The variety in grip types and materials was impressive. I found myself constantly snapping my head around as I caught a glimpse of an exceptional set of horn or ivory grips out of the corner of my eye! There was an equally impressive display of quality leather as well.
Myself, I brought one of my competition-tuned S&W 686 revolvers as well as a 3″ S&W M65. I ended up using the M65 exclusively for this confab, and was perfectly comfortable with it. The classes are all geared toward the revolvers that folks actually carry; as such, there were a lot of small-frame revolvers in evidence, J-frames, Colt Dick Specials, SP-101’s, and so forth. David brought only one gun, a 3″ Ruger GP-100 expertly tuned and refinished by Gemini Customs. I’m not a Ruger revolver fan, but this GP-100 is not only gorgeous, but its action is as smooth and clean as any decent S&W I’ve used.
The Roundup was organized so that multiple instructors were able to hold multiple sessions simultaneously. The courses were organized into 2-, 3-, or 4-hour blocks on several of Gunsite’s excellent ranges. There were also lecture-style classes at various times, on various topics. Attendees were free to attend any of the classes as they saw fit. This led to some very full firing lines now and then, but the instructors adapted and so did we as attendees.
I can’t speak for every class, but I will touch on a few that I attended that spoke to me. By the way, all of the instructors were/are very experienced folks. Most are active or retired law enforcement, and all have deep experience with carrying and shooting revolvers.
Starting out, I tried to attend a tandem class taught by Mark Fricke and Wayne Dobbs on revolver carry options and fundamentals, but that class was waaaay oversubscribed Saturday morning, so we slid down one range and joined Dave Dolan’s snubbie class. I had to borrow a snub for this, as I hadn’t brought one with me… next year I will do so. There were several classes devoted to aspects of carrying and shooting snub revolvers, particularly the ubiquitous 5-shot J-frame revolver. Dave covered details on ways and means of carrying and drawing the snub, and he took us through some good practice drills to illustrate ways to train with the snub.
In the afternoon we attended Caleb Gidding’s session on Speed Shooting. Caleb is a perennial IDPA champion, and knows what he’s doing in this arena. This was a highly enjoyable class for me, as a guy who used to live and breathe IDPA revolver competition (and I still do it occasionally, though my zeal for competition has waned somewhat). The short answer to “what’s the secret to speed?” is, in a word, cadence. Caleb covered the concept well, and showed the class ways to improve your cadence, as well as an approach to planning your training in ways to get your cadence (and thereby your speed) to continually improve. I can’t say I learned anything new in this class, but I agreed 100% with everything he said. It flat out works. I’ve used the same techniques myself to win 3 IDPA state titles and a regional title. As most of the folks in that class were not serious competitors, this was welcome new material… and a number of these people told me they really appreciated this new information.
We finished up with a classroom session that afternoon with Darryl Bolke, who has a wealth of knowledge of revolver lore to draw from. In all I attended 4 of his lectures, and was fascinated each time. As my friends will tell you, I don’t sit well in lectures… but Darryl’s presentations were fascinating and I didn’t have to try borrowing anyone’s Ritalin to sit still.
Day 2: Sunday morning we revisited Mark and Wayne’s tandem class, and I was very, very impressed. In the first half of the class, Mark covered a broad range of revolver carry options, particularly the types and uses of the various means for loading and reloading our wheelguns. Now, I have a pretty decent knowledge of loader technology, but Mark’s class blew me away. He had examples of every type of loader I’ve ever heard of, and quite a few I had not. Moreover, he had the latest and greatest offerings out there for us to look at and handle. To say I was very impressed would be a gross understatement. He then took us to the line where we practiced loading our revolvers with various types of loaders using dummy rounds. For me, the most entertaining part of that was the pocket dump we had to do first, to make sure we had no live ammo on the line, and then the frisk-your-neighbor exercise to ensure no live ammo had inadvertantly been brought to the line. There were a few “oopsies” up and down the line, but these were quickly remedied and nobody got shot. So all was well.
We then went on to Wayne Dobbs’ Fundamentals session, ably co-instructed by Mark Fricke, which was simply outstanding. I can’t tell you the last time I had my double-action technique so thoroughly critiqued and corrected. As an instructor–and perhaps like most instructors–I tend to view another instructor’s approach to correcting my technique with a hard squint. To be honest, I often find myself critiquing the instructor’s instructional technique more than I find myself learning from him/her. But not in this class! Wayne and Mark were exemplary in their conduct of the class. I found it perfectly natural and easy to slide into the role of student, as these two gentlemen truly know their stuff. My “aha!” moment came about half-way through the session, as we were working on ball-and-dummy drills to improve our DA trigger roll, and Wayne came up behind me and said, “James, you’re staging the trigger. You don’t want to do that.” And he was right, I was staging the trigger… albeit unconsciously, and perhaps most of the time quite subtly, but staging it I was, and sabotaging my DA trigger roll in the process. BOOM. I consciously watched myself after that, and sonofagun if my groups didn’t tighten up considerably thereafter.
Our afternoon class was “Real Revolver Techniques”, as best as I can remember the title, with Chuck Haggard as instructor. Again, the quality of instruction was superb. Chuck engaged us with a mix of revolver technique and real-world experience, with a smattering of interesting anecdotes to punctuate the mix. He then brought us to the line to try some ball-and-dummy drills. After the coaching I’d received in the morning from Mark and Wayne, Chuck’s contributions sealed the deal for me. I ended up the afternoon shooting what was quite possibly the best 5-yard group I’ve ever shot with a revolver, 24 shots into a single ragged hole… but the 24 shots were punctuated with about 120 dry “clicks” as the hammer fell on fired cases. The utility of the ball-and-dummy drills was brought home to me in a big way.
By the way: the take-home my students get in all my Tactical Anatomy classes is that putting your bullets where they need to go, first shot and every shot, is the most important aspect of using a firearm to defend your life. The instruction I received on Day 2 from these 3 instructors underscored that lesson heavily. Moreover, I am grateful to these guys for actually improving my own accuracy skills with my personal revolver.
On Day 3, we had a mix of range time and classroom. Again, the quality of the instruction was excellent and I was thoroughly engaged in the class material and approach. One highlight of the day was Chuck Haggard’s ballistic gelatin class, in which he demo’d a variety of common revolver ammunition offerings to illustrate their relative utility (or lack thereof). For many of the attendees, who do not have access to this body of knowledge, this was the highlight of the day and perhaps the whole weekend. Knowing WHAT to load your personal defense revolver with is a critical decision, and your life could well depend on it.
Over the lunch hour, Ken Campbell gave us a guided tour of Jeff Cooper’s home, which is preserved as it was when the Colonel and Mrs. Cooper lived there. I will admit to feeling pretty pleased to having my picture taken in Col. Cooper’s office chair in the Crow’s Nest, his tower-top study. The tour was very much appreciated by the attendees.
We finished up Day 3 in the classroom, with Darryl giving a presentation of Pat Rogers’ personal revolvers and retelling of some of the best Pat Rogers lore I have been priveleged to hear. We then segued to his presentation of the “Fitz” revolver, and a discussion of the origins and utility of this unique form of revolver. Many of the attendees had to leave that afternoon, however, so they missed a stellar presentation.
Would I recommend the PRMRR to anyone else? Heck yeah! In fact, I have signed up already to go again next year.
Postscript: For those who don’t know, Pat Rogers was a phenomenal human being whose personality and talents touched a lot of lives in the firearms world. I was privileged to attend one of Pat’s carbine classes in 2008, which I regard as one of the two most important firearms classes I ever took in my shooting life. His untimely passing in 2016 from heart disease was a shock to me, as it was to many others who held Pat in highest esteem. The fact that Ken, Darryl, and Wayne chose to name their annual revolver get-together in Pat’s honor was and is a fitting tribute to the man we all benefitted so much from.