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

First topic message reminder :

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 mikemyers on 4/4/2018, 7:09 pm

Gil Hebard wrote about the M-52 in The Pistol Shooter's Treasury.  What he said about reloading caught my eye - I've been doing it for a long time, but in NO way does that make me an expert.  I hope I'm good at following instructions.  Anyway, because of what Gil wrote, I posted another thread here:
http://www.bullseyeforum.net/t9470-attempting-to-load-for-the-sw-model-52#80781
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by PMcfall on 4/5/2018, 8:08 am

The lesson I learned from shooting a S&W 52 was to sell it quickly and learn to shoot the 1911 .45acp.
Phil
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by spursnguns on 4/5/2018, 4:47 pm

PMcfall wrote:The lesson I learned from shooting a S&W 52 was to sell it quickly and learn to shoot the 1911 .45acp.
Phil

Hello PMcfall,

I was thinking it.  You wrote it.  I'll certainly agree.

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

Post by PMcfall on 4/5/2018, 5:05 pm

Well, you know what they say about great minds Laughing
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/5/2018, 5:25 pm

To me, it's a challenge.  I see how well it is capable of performing, and think to myself that it just needs time and effort to master it....    or at least get reasonably good with it.  

I still think Bullseye is a wonderful sport, but when I first got involved, not knowing anything more than the name, I expected it was a bunch of target shooters hanging out together.  I had absolutely NO idea of how complicated things were.   ...or that to do it properly, shooters only used one hand.  


It's like buying a camera.  Anyone can press a button and get a nice snapshot.  It takes a LOT more training and effort to get good photographs.  Anyone can buy a gun and put holes somewhere.  To do it well takes a more.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/7/2018, 3:43 pm

Went to the range today mostly to see if my reloads were good enough.  After that, I shot three more targets.

Targets are identical to NRA B-8, except I made them with a white background.  I learned from people here that if I'm shooting a black bull with steel sights, I need 6-o'clock hold, and I don't want to start messing with the sights on the M-52 until I'm good enough for it to make a difference.  So white targets work with my eyes, and the ring sizes are what they'll be IRL eventually.

Better than before, but a LONG ways to go...................

And I'll eventually stop trying to catch up with that Tesla on its way to mars........

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

Post by Wobbley on 4/7/2018, 5:36 pm

Looking at theses groups I see a 9 ring shooter. You have 90% in a 9 ring sized group.

Centering the groups is a matter of getting consistency in grip and stance ( the foundation). You’re presently changing something and you’re not seeing or feeling that yet. Keep trying to duplicate your grip and position so that the gun naturally falls yo the center of the target. Eventually you will be able to repeat the foundation then groups won’t shift.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/7/2018, 7:03 pm

Wobbley wrote:......You’re presently changing something and you’re not seeing or feeling that yet......
I wrote a "shot process" which covered what to do in what order.  Maybe I need to make it more detailed, as in exactly where I put my hand, fingers, etc., in what order, so I do that consistently.  That, and dry-fire with eyes closed, until the gun comes up pointing at the same place every time, naturally.  

I'm better at this with the 1911.  With the M-52, the grips don't "fit" my hands comfortably.  Maybe when the Pachmayr grips get here Wednesday, that will help.  That, or start shooting with my left hand in my pocket.  Shooting with two hands, everything "feels" wrong, so I'm trying to only grip the gun near the top.  It's difficult to be consistent at that.  In the S&W forum, they suggested avoiding putting force on the lower part of the gun with your right palm - they wanted the hands to be higher.  

What you wrote is 100% true.  I know I'm changing "something", but I'm not aware of it.  

(With my 1911, both hands grip just the way I read they should, and with the sharkskin grips the gun no longer moves in my hands.  Every time I hold up the 1911, I think I'm now very close to doing it the same way, time after time - but I know I can improve.  I use my left hand to put the gun into my right hand, and I try to wrap my fingers around in place in the same order every time, along with making sure my trigger finger is where it belongs.  With the M-52, nothing, including the trigger finger, feels like it's in the best spot.  The 1911 feels naturally comfortable, like a part of my body. The M-52 feels, well, uncomfortable.)
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by spursnguns on 4/9/2018, 2:22 pm

mikemyers wrote:Targets are identical to NRA B-8, except I made them with a white background.  I learned from people here that if I'm shooting a black bull with steel sights, I need 6-o'clock hold, and I don't want to start messing with the sights on the M-52 until I'm good enough for it to make a difference.  So white targets work with my eyes, and the ring sizes are what they'll be IRL eventually.

Hello mikemyers,

Free advice, worth exactly what you are paying for it, "use a standard target".  Your white targets are drawing your focus/concentration away from the front sight.  I will bet your group size will shrink once you change.  You may not be liking the size of your groups but you are making groups....so adjust you sights once (don't constantly play with them).  Group shifting is as important as group size.

Good luck either way.

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

Post by mikemyers on 4/9/2018, 3:27 pm

spursnguns wrote:
mikemyers wrote:Targets are identical to NRA B-8, except I made them with a white background.  I learned from people here that if I'm shooting a black bull with steel sights, I need 6-o'clock hold, and I don't want to start messing with the sights on the M-52 until I'm good enough for it to make a difference.  So white targets work with my eyes, and the ring sizes are what they'll be IRL eventually.
.....Your white targets are drawing your focus/concentration away from the front sight.  I will bet your group size will shrink once you change.....
When I was shooting with my Les Baer, steel sights, the consensus here was to change from center hold to 6-o'clock hold, so I could see the front sight better as it fitted into the rear sight.  I guess I was stubborn for a while, but when I made that change, everything certainly did improve.  As I understand it, this was because I could see the black sights better in front of a light background.

I had cataract surgery, and no matter what I do, the target is going to be a blur - black or white.  My new shooting glasses are focused only on my front sight.  I don't think anything is drawing my attention away from the front sight, and I'm repeating to myself over and over those words "front sight", so I reinforce that habit.


It's interesting what you wrote.  The best way for me to find out one way or another, or if it even makes a difference, is to put up one of each, my new white target, and the same thing colored black (which works great with my red dot sight on my Salyer).  If I can reload some ammo today, I'll try that in the morning.  Personally, I would be happiest if it made no difference either way, but I'll try.  

(Part of me is thinking that the wood grips on my M-52 were shaped the way they are to work best with one hand.  With two hands, everything "feels" wrong, which may be preventing me from gripping the gun the same way every time.  I've read something like that in the S&W forum, and that fellow instantly improved when he put the Pachmayr grips on his gun.  I hope to do that tomorrow too...)

Thanks - one more comparison test to try out.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by spursnguns on 4/9/2018, 3:38 pm

Hello mikemyers,

I see three targets with three different impact areas.  One below the center, one at the center (with a flyer) and one above the center (with a flyer).  I think that a six o'clock hold on a standard target may get rid of the vertical variance too.

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

Post by mikemyers on 4/9/2018, 4:41 pm

Not sure yet how it will work out, but my Pachmayr grips arrived an hour ago.  It is a single "wrap-around" grip with a rubber front strap, and a separate rubber back strap.  I couldn't get it onto the gun, as the front strap didn't seem to be wide enough, but in thinking about it, I don't really want the rubber front or rear straps anyway.  So, a pair of scissors fixed that.  They now go right onto the M-52, and they "feel" like I'm holding a 1911.  It was immediately more comfortable.

Now to find out if I can shoot better with grips that fit my hands, or vice versa....

I will also try black and white targets.  If I'm shooting it better, I will change the sights for 6-o'clock hold and use only the standard targets.  No more testing.

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

Post by mikemyers on 4/10/2018, 1:46 pm

spursnguns wrote:......Your white targets are drawing your focus/concentration away from the front sight.  I will bet your group size will shrink once you change.....
Went to the range this morning.  First test, using up more of my Winchester factory ammo, group size shooting at black or white targets remained the same.  No difference.  Since all I was concentrating on was the sights, I don't think it would have mattered what the target was.

This is with the new Pachmayr grips.  Using them, I'm back to getting reasonable groups again.  If it wasn't for the occasional flyer, I'd say I'm now doing just as well with the M-52 as the Salyer.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/10/2018, 1:55 pm

Wobbley wrote:.......You’re presently changing something and you’re not seeing or feeling that yet.  Keep trying to duplicate your grip and position so that the gun naturally falls yo the center of the target.  Eventually you will be able to repeat the foundation then groups won’t shift. 
Agree completely.  I changed from the wood grips to the Pachmayr, and my hands went pretty much back to where they go on a 1911.  The only major change is how my trigger finger fits into the trigger - on the M-52, more of my finger is sticking out to the right, to place the joint on top of the trigger.  Everything works though!  But for occasional flyers, everything is now inside the 9-ring.  The last target of the day scored as 94 and 1-X.  

The single biggest change is that before today, the gun never felt comfortable in my hands.  With the new grips, I was so comfortable I was "expecting" all the shots to be good.  That score would have been better but for two flyers in the 8-ring.

What seems most difficult, is that it's hard for me to begin to apply pressure to the trigger, when the gun wants to fire as soon as I even think about it.  My 1911 requires more effort.  I guess I just need lots more dry-fire, and lots more practice at the range.

I don't think the groups will be shifting much in the future, as every time I pick the gun up, all my body parts fit right back where they belong, even the trigger.
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by mikemyers on 4/13/2018, 10:46 am

I was reading again last night in the various threads in the S&W forum discussing the Model 52. So many threads described how difficult this gun is to master.  They went on and on about the gun shooting highly accurately one minute, and then suddenly becoming just as highly inaccurate.  To me, this means there is something wrong with the gun, or with the shooter.

 
Later, before going to bed, I started dry-firing the gun, but because of what Cecil wrote in a different thread, I wasn’t trying to control anything, just watching what the gun did as I fired.  I held it different ways, and put my trigger finger in many different positions.  Most of the time I could see the sights move as I fired, no matter how carefully I pressed the trigger.  I did find a grip, with one specific part of my trigger finger resting on the trigger, that didn’t seem to disturb the sights.  (Now I need dry-fire practice, so this grip becomes the way I naturally use the gun.)
 

I had a similar issue months before with my 1911s, but it was much easier to position my hand so the sights (and later the red dot) stayed put when I fired. Probably because of the heavier weight, and weight distribution, the 1911 was easier to stabilize as I fired.  (Maybe there are other reasons I'm not yet aware of.)
 
Thanks to Cecil, I think I have found a way to block anticipation, so the group size in the targets I’m shooting now is only limited by ability to control the gun - no anticipation to mess things up.
 
If I’m right about what I just wrote, what’s next is a lot of dry-firing, paying complete attention to not disturbing the sights.  This includes how to grip the gun, where and how to position my trigger finger, and not disturbing the sights as I apply pressure to the trigger.  Fundamentals.
 
 
Nothing up above is “new”. I think most of you guys now do all this without thinking much about it.  I’m learning.
 
 
One more thing though. 

If I’m correct, and the reason I find it easier to shoot a 1911 than the M-52 is because of weight (or the lack of), then I figured last week I might be able to make the M-52 like the 1911 by buying one of the “barrel weights” for $60 from D J Precision.  So I ordered it, and it just arrived this morning.
 
As a test, to see if this is a good idea. I picked up a broom, first by the heavy end, and then by the handle, and pointed it in front of me.  When the heavy end was towards me, with the light handle sticking out, it had a greater tendency to wobble.  When I reversed it, so I was gripping the handle, and the heavy end was away from me, it had a “slower” wobble.  Adding weight to the end of the broom away from me gave it more “inertia”.  With a ten pound weight at the end of the handle, I doubt it would have any noticeable wobble.  So in that sense, adding weight towards the front end of the gun might make it easier to keep it steady.  
 
I put the weight on an hour or so ago.  By taking measurements first, the locking set screw should be right on top of the “dimple” on the gun, so nothing gets scratched.  In dry-firing, I don’t yet know how it may or may not improve my shots when I do things correctly, but deliberately gripping the gun incorrectly, or using many different “wrong” parts of my trigger finger barely makes a difference.  Last night, doing things wrong made the front sight close the gap on one side of it. Doing the same thing now makes a much smaller change.  
 
I’m hoping this helps with my grouping when I get to the range next week. 
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Re: Lessons Learned from Shooting the Smith & Wesson Model 52-2

Post by Ray_Grigsby on 5/14/2018, 6:33 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
Have you weighed your trigger.  Mine was barely 2#.  Tweak the sear spring to put more pressure on the sear.  I was able to get it to pick up 2-3/4# just barely with that adjustment and that should also help a lot with any tendency to "double".

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

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