Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

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Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by BlueRidgeBoy on 11/22/2017, 8:43 am

In the course of putting a Model 52-2 up for sale on this board, member Mike Myers and I discussed why this is such a great target pistol, as well as its limitations.  He suggested that I post those comments here for the group.  In summary, there is no better pistol for teaching follow through and no finer a weapon on the short line than the Model 52-2.  However, due to the ballistics of the round it fires, the pistol is not always competitive at outdoor 2700 matches where the slow fire stage is shot at 50 yards.

Federal .38 Special Match uses a 148-grain wadcutter bullet that produces velocity at the muzzle of 690 ft./sec.  At 25 yards the bullet is moving at 648 ft./sec and at 50 yards, just 609 ft./sec.  For a gun zeroed at 25 yards, the bullet will drop 4.3 inches below the muzzle at 50 yards.
 
Compare these statistics to those for Federal’s .45 caliber 185-grain match semi-wadcutter.  That load produces muzzle velocity of 770 ft./sec.  At 25 yards the projectile is moving at 735 ft./sec, and at 50 yards, 703.  For a gun zeroed at 25 yards, at 50 yards bullet drop is 3.1 inches.
 
All of this is to demonstrate why the .45 round is less subject to displacement by wind than is the .38 – it has greater momentum.  If you’ve ever shot at Camp Perry, you will be acutely sensitive to the impact of intermittent 20 mph crosswinds on shot trajectory.  Xs become 10s.  10s become 9s, or, in gusts, 8s.  This is why the Model 52-2, marvelous as it is, is not a competitive 50-yard gun in outdoor 2700s, except those that are shot on the calmest of days.  However, in the hands of a skilled marksman, at 25 yards outdoors this pistol will eat the lunch of every other weapon on the line and that goes double for indoor 2700s shot at 25 yards.
 
For me, this is all about the 52-2's incomparable trigger.  Yes, it is by definition, light, just 2-1/2 pounds, a distinct advantage over the 3-1/2 pound triggers on .45 caliber 1911s.  But the 52-2's trigger is also smooth, crisp, short, and has a very palpable and quick reset – so important for maintaining one’s rhythm during strings of sustained fire.
 
To actualize this trigger’s potential, especially at 50 yards, I have found that the scrupulous practice of follow through is essential.  Allan Loszan describes follow-through like this:
 
“Perfect control of a shot demands full attention, as the critical moment of actual shot release cannot be precisely determined. To ensure that concentration goes beyond the hammer fall and the projectile leaving the barrel, all efforts towards creating a perfect shot must be extended beyond the actual shot release. Only full awareness of all fundamentals can bring about correct analysis of technique.”
 
Indicators of lack of follow through (i.e., loss of concentration, or, awareness) include:
 
·      Increased muzzle wobble at the moment the shot breaks.
 
·      A sudden rise in the muzzle – often while the bullet is still in barrel.
 
·      Inability to correctly call one’s shots.
 
Many shooters see the sights while holding in the aiming area and then see the sights after the shot breaks. But very few shooters actually see the sights through the shot, including at the precise instant that the shot breaks.

So, the question becomes “how does one learn to pay close attention to sight alignment while seamlessly integrating that awareness with control of the trigger?”
 
I hit upon the following technique one afternoon in practice while working on my 50-yard slow fire technique.  It is quite simply a meditative approach that gives one’s unconscious (subconscious in the popular vernacular) permission to release the shot since the unconscious is much more aware of when to break the shot than is one’s conscious mind.
 
First, in your most relaxed stance with your pistol in the low ready position, as you run through the mental checklist of fundamentals before you begin the string of fire, close your eyes and visualize being the bullet leaving the barrel with the sights perfectly aligned and flying downrange until it strikes the center of the X-ring.  This visualization is from first the shooter’s and then the bullet’s perspective.
 
After I do that for a while, and it feels comfortable and unforced, I then call up a second visualization, which is from the target’s perspective.  It begins with a view of the muzzle of the pistol I am holding in the ready position with the sights perfectly aligned on the target, progresses through the bullet flying downrange directly at the center of the target, and ends with the bullet piercing the X-ring, all visualized from the target’s perspective.
 
That’s the second step.
 
After I do that for a while, and it feels comfortable, natural, and unforced, I then try to visualize both scenes – the bullet striking the X-ring from both perspectives -- at once.  The goal is just to hold those two images in my mind simultaneously, if only briefly.  If I can do that, even for a couple of seconds, I have found that I shoot more 10s and Xs.  I believe that this technique works because in essence we program the unconscious to successfully complete the task – shooting 10s and Xs – and give our conscious mind permission to step out of the way.

BlueRidgeBoy


Last edited by BlueRidgeBoy on 11/22/2017, 7:15 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by AllAces on 11/22/2017, 9:17 am

I have found that the Model 52 does not like a flabby grip. In fact, I have found that I must grip the 52 tighter than a 1911 to get good groups. I have also observed that with inexperienced shooters and the mild recoil of the 52, that they begin to loosen their grip, even to the point that the pistol will not cycle.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by Magload on 11/22/2017, 6:10 pm

AllAces wrote:I have found that the Model 52 does not like a flabby grip. In fact, I have found that I must grip the 52 tighter than a 1911 to get good groups. I have also observed that with inexperienced shooters and the mild recoil of the 52, that they begin to loosen their grip, even to the point that the pistol will not cycle.
I agree with that.  I tend to loosen my grip and just get a comfortable feeling of the gun.  Feels nice, but groups open up bad.  The 52-2 will really let you know you are did something wrong.  Don
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by orpheoet on 11/23/2017, 7:49 pm

I shot my best indoor iron sight slow fire with my 52-2, a 96. I find that good shots are better than you thought and bad shots are worse than you thought. It is probably my favorite gun to shoot. Unfortunately mine has proven to be not great at 50 yards.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by BlueRidgeBoy on 11/23/2017, 8:06 pm

orpheoet wrote:I shot my best indoor iron sight slow fire with my 52-2, a 96. I find that good shots are better than you thought and bad shots are worse than you thought. It is probably my favorite gun to shoot. Unfortunately mine has proven to be not great at 50 yards.

The 52-2 has been described as "unforgiving."  The theory is that these micro-disturbances in hold and sight alignment affect the bullet while it is still in the barrel, because the round is moving so much slower (about 100-150 ft./sec.) than a .45 wadcutter.  I am not sure if I totally buy that explanation, but I have no doubt that the 52-2 is a demanding gun.  That is why I regard it as a superior pistol for training purposes.  If you can learn to shoot a 52 well indoors at 25 yards over the winter, those enhanced skills will translate into marked improvements when 2700s move outdoors to 50 yards in the spring.

That 96 you shot at 25 yards is a kick-ass score.  Do you usually shoot that well outdoors when you shoot slow fire at 50 yards?

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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by kjanracing on 11/23/2017, 8:09 pm

Has anyone had their 52 double? It's happened a few times to me. I adjusted the trigger stop to give a longer reset. Tought that was it...great for a while, did it again last time I shot it.
Kurt
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by orpheoet on 11/23/2017, 8:17 pm

BlueRidgeBoy wrote:
orpheoet wrote:I shot my best indoor iron sight slow fire with my 52-2, a 96. I find that good shots are better than you thought and bad shots are worse than you thought. It is probably my favorite gun to shoot. Unfortunately mine has proven to be not great at 50 yards.

The 52-2 has been described as "unforgiving."  The theory is that these micro-disturbances in hold and sight alignment affect the bullet while it is still in the barrel, because the round is moving so much slower (about 100-150 ft./sec.) than a .45 wadcutter.  I am not sure if I totally buy that explanation, but I have no doubt that the 52-2 is a demanding gun.  That is why I regard it as a superior pistol for training purposes.  If you can learn to shoot a 52 well indoors at 25 yards over the winter, those enhanced skills will translate into marked improvements when 2700s move outdoors to 50 yards in the spring.

That 96 you shot at 25 yards is a kick-ass score.  Do you usually shoot that well outdoors when you shoot slow fire at 50 yards?
That 96 was at 50 ft. I've shot a 96 at 50 ft with a Colt .38 Wadcutter also but my slow fire scores are usually 88-92. I agree that the 52 is a great learning tool. They also have in my opinion the best iron sights.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by BlueRidgeBoy on 11/23/2017, 8:24 pm

kjanracing wrote:Has anyone had their 52 double? It's happened a few times to me. I adjusted the trigger stop to give a longer reset. Tought that was it...great for a while, did it again last time I shot it.
Kurt

Well, I don't have to tell you that this is not a safe condition.  I would call Smith & Wesson customer service at 1-800-331-0852 Monday through Friday 8 AM to 8 PM ET.  Explain the problem and they will most likely send you a mailing label so that you can send the pistol to them for inspection and repair.  The shipping costs you nothing, and many times they end up not charging for the repair, either.  They will charge you for return shipping, but they get a really cheap price from FedEx, and because it is a repair, no transfer is involved and they can ship it back directly to you rather than through an FFL.

If it were me, I wouldn't take chances.

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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by orpheoet on 11/23/2017, 8:35 pm

BlueRidgeBoy wrote:
kjanracing wrote:Has anyone had their 52 double? It's happened a few times to me. I adjusted the trigger stop to give a longer reset. Tought that was it...great for a while, did it again last time I shot it.
Kurt

Well, I don't have to tell you that this is not a safe condition.  I would call Smith & Wesson customer service at 1-800-331-0852 Monday through Friday 8 AM to 8 PM ET.  Explain the problem and they will most likely send you a mailing label so that you can send the pistol to them for inspection and repair.  The shipping costs you nothing, and many times they end up not charging for the repair, either.  They will charge you for return shipping, but they get a really cheap price from FedEx, and because it is a repair, no transfer is involved and they can ship it back directly to you rather than through an FFL.

If it were me, I wouldn't take chances.
S&W told me that not only do they have no parts for the M52, they also have nobody that works on them. I called them when I got mine because I was nervous about detail stripping it. They told me field strip only until I could locate someone that works on them. They very emphatically told me NOT to send a 52 in....
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by BlueRidgeBoy on 11/23/2017, 8:41 pm

orpheoet wrote:
BlueRidgeBoy wrote:
kjanracing wrote:Has anyone had their 52 double? It's happened a few times to me. I adjusted the trigger stop to give a longer reset. Tought that was it...great for a while, did it again last time I shot it.
Kurt

Well, I don't have to tell you that this is not a safe condition.  I would call Smith & Wesson customer service at 1-800-331-0852 Monday through Friday 8 AM to 8 PM ET.  Explain the problem and they will most likely send you a mailing label so that you can send the pistol to them for inspection and repair.  The shipping costs you nothing, and many times they end up not charging for the repair, either.  They will charge you for return shipping, but they get a really cheap price from FedEx, and because it is a repair, no transfer is involved and they can ship it back directly to you rather than through an FFL.

If it were me, I wouldn't take chances.
S&W told me that not only do they have no parts for the M52, they also have nobody that works on them. I called them when I got mine because I was nervous about detail stripping it. They told me field strip only until I could locate someone that works on them. They very emphatically told me NOT to send a 52 in....

I will get you the name of a qualified gunsmith, if possible.  Good to know that the mothership is no longer supporting this pistol.

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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by Magload on 11/23/2017, 8:49 pm

I had to completely strip my 52 to replace some parts.  Parts are hard to come by and expensive when found.  A couple posters on here helped me out with some springs.  Make sure it is not your trigger finger causing the double fires.  There is a post on this forum about that as someone else was having that problem.  When I got my 52-2 the trigger was breaking a 1 1/4 pounds  that is why I had to find parts and learn how to replace them.  Just be safe and get it fixed if it isn't your finger that needs fixed.  Don
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 11/23/2017, 9:38 pm

BlueRidgeBoy wrote:.....I will get you the name of a qualified gunsmith, if possible.  Good to know that the mothership is no longer supporting this pistol.
It would be good if those gunsmiths could be identified here, so we all would know where to turn for help if necessary.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/1/2018, 8:01 pm

I assume the answer is "no", but do reloader do something differently for 50 yards compared to 25?  

Is a problem that the bullet "tumbles" on its way to the target?  I read that long ago, but have lost track of where, or how reliable the source was.

I just finished getting my press set up for reloading, following Terry (Magnus Bullets) suggestions for load.  My plan is to switch the press back and forth between 38 and 45.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by BE Mike on 4/2/2018, 7:44 am

mikemyers wrote:I assume the answer is "no", but do reloader do something differently for 50 yards compared to 25?  

Is a problem that the bullet "tumbles" on its way to the target?  I read that long ago, but have lost track of where, or how reliable the source was.

I just finished getting my press set up for reloading, following Terry (Magnus Bullets) suggestions for load.  My plan is to switch the press back and forth between 38 and 45.
The bullet doesn't tumble (somersault thru the air) and with factory match ammo it doesn't keyhole (enter the target completely sideways). These are descriptions of what I have read about the .38 SPL wadcutter (mostly on the internet), but are inaccurate. The head of the bullet stays relatively stable and the base of the bullet gyrates somewhat around the axis. This often creates a "scuff" on the target, but doesn't affect accuracy. No need to make two different loads for the short line and long line. The swaged hollow-based wadcutter was what the pistol was built for and the recoil isn't a factor IMHO. The HBWC bullet needs low powder charges to keep the "skirt" from being blown away from the rest of the bullet. Some top shooters and reloaders have tried to duplicate the 50 yds. accuracy of factory match loads, but to my knowledge, the big three factory match loadings still rule the long line. One economical solution is to hand load for the short line and practice and save factory match for the long line. The swaged HBWC bullet needs to be seated flush with or slightly below the case mouth. Some folks use a taper crimp and some use a slight roll crimp. Some use a bit of both. If you can get a copy of Gil Hebard's "The Pistol Shooter's Treasury", Gil goes into a lot of depth about the pistol and reloading for it. I didn't make outdoor master until I gave up the S&W model 52 and went with the 1911 in .45 ACP for the centerfire match. This advice was from some top shooters on the old Bullseye-L back in the 90's.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by Wobbley on 4/2/2018, 9:03 am

The bullet doesn’t tumble but it does yaw and that’s what people see.

The accuracy of the factory HBWC incomes from the crimp used and case cannelures used to retain the bullet (instead of relying on crimp alone). Handloader can’t duplicate that. But you can come close. Most HBWC sold to handloaders aren’t very good. The Remingtons Winchesters are when you can find them. DEWC are good for the short line if your gun likes them.

So shoot factory for the long reloads for the short or leave the 52 in the box in big matches and use it to develop your CF process. It’s a great tool for that,
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/2/2018, 12:47 pm

BE Mike wrote:....One economical solution is to hand load for the short line and practice and save factory match for the long line........

Terry (Magnus Bullets) suggested 2.8 grains of Bullseye under his #514 148 grain .357" diameter bullets.  People here agreed with him.  Is this still the best choice of one is only going to shoot at 25 yards?

Once again, there seems to be much better information in this forum than "on the internet". 

Regarding reloading, I discussed this with Larry Meyer at RCBS, and he made me a special "seater die" for use with these bullets.  He knows all about the Model 52 and how to reload it.  The standard seater die makes it difficult to properly seat the bullet.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/3/2018, 8:32 pm

I was just reading this thread in the S&W Forums:
http://smith-wessonforum.com/smith-wesson-semi-auto-pistols/383105-problem-shooting-my-model-52-a.html#post139988381

Can anyone here offer advice on how to get the best results from this gun?  How to hold it differently, than with other guns.  How to grip it better despite the smooth shiny grips?   Pachmayr grips were recommended.  They worked well for the person who posted the thread.  Do the barrel weights help?
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by Jack H on 4/3/2018, 9:31 pm

Trvth.   Dedicate yourself to the 22 for thoroughly learning fundamentals, and building physical and mental strengths.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by Sa-tevp on 4/3/2018, 9:41 pm

mikemyers wrote:...

Can anyone here offer advice on how to get the best results from this gun?  How to hold it differently, than with other guns.  How to grip it better despite the smooth shiny grips?   Pachmayr grips were recommended.  They worked well for the person who posted the thread.  Do the barrel weights help?

I like

Herrett model 52 grip

DJ Precision S&W Model 52 Barrel Weight

I have a Timed Fire 95-6 shot in competition on my wall of best targets using Zero 148 ammunition. I must have flinched right as my best 22 X count is 5.

The M52 is just for fun. I use 22 and 45 for competitions where I need to make points.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by Wobbley on 4/3/2018, 10:12 pm

Grip the pistol as hard as a 45. Don’t expect a great group with one until you do.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/4/2018, 11:07 am

My S&W Model 41 (in my hands) performs well.  When cataracts got in the way, I mounted an Ultradot II on a Clark barrel, but now that I have had cataract surgery, I can also use either steel or red-dot - but I prefer the dot.  

Switching to a 1911 was a disaster, but from advice and dry-fire, it is now going reasonably well.  I wasn't "bad" with my Les Baer and steel, but the cataracts ruined that too, so this past January I bought a Salyer wad gun from someone on this forum, which now has an Aimpoint H-1.  I want to do better, but I'm already doing reasonably well with it.

As to the Model 52, I wasn't gripping it "overly tight".  I will try that next time, maybe tomorrow or Friday.  Everything seems to go well, the sights are still lined up reasonably well when the gun goes [click] or [bang], and the tiny set screw on the rear sight is tight - but the bullet holes were splattered randomly all over a sheet of white writing paper.  I wasn't paying that much attention to "follow-through" - I will concentrate on that next time.     .....the gun is so light and smooth and recoil free that I expected good results.  As I used to say, it's "back to the drawing board"...

Barrel weight is now on order from DJ Precision - thanks!!
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by LenV on 4/4/2018, 11:56 am

You still have to grip tight with these but they will feel better when you do. NFI  32.00 with shipping is a good price for these.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/PACHMAYR-Signature-Model-S-W-Model-39-Grips-No-Screws/253418939138?hash=item3b00f22302:g:B7EAAOSw8RZafg6u

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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/4/2018, 12:19 pm

Len, this is what I have on order; I wonder if they are the same thing?

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002INPHA/ref=od_aui_detailpages00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by LenV on 4/4/2018, 4:18 pm

The picture is wrong but the wording is right.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/4/2018, 5:02 pm

It should work - doing it your way would save me money.  Amazon is a bit more expensive.

I took some time this afternoon to do some dry-firing with the M-52.  Gripping it the same way I grip a 1911 is not a good idea - bits and pieces of my hand end up in a "wrong" position.  The trigger certainly moves the gun when I fire.  Nothing felt "right".  I eventually re-positioned my hand so applying trigger pressure doesn't move the gun.  That, and gripping the gun much harder.  The web link from the S&W forum warned about applying to much grip pressure to the BOTTOM of the backstop of the gun. So, I found a way to apply the pressure higher up.

I'll take a huge piece of white paper to the range, and draw some "crosses" to use as targets.  I'll try out lots of ideas, one each, on a separate cross - shooting from a rest, different ways to grip the gun, my ammo vs. "factory" ammo, etc.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

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