Editor’s note: In this piece we’ll reinvent a classic S&W wheel gun with components from C-More, Allchin and champion shooter, Jerry Miceluk with some help from Brownells.
It is said that one acquires wisdom by the time we reach our ‘golden’ years. (At least that’s the theory.)
What diminishes, as gun enthusiasts of a certain age can attest to, is eyesight.
Go to any range nowadays and the solution is evident because it’s mounted on just about every firearm in sight. Even if you’re not an aging shooter, everyone seems to be using red dot optics.
And for good reason.
Red dot optics really do improve your chances of hitting the X-ring, especially at longer distances. (Bullseye shooters figured that one out a long time ago).
Red dots are very much in vogue for semi-autos. Manufacturers, like Glock, go out of their way to cater this crowd by providing options to directly mount an optic on the frame rather than using a rail, which has generally been the conventional approach.
Until recently wheel gun enthusiasts were out of luck. Sure, there were rails you could acquire but they only added more weight and often looked a bit kludgy.
Leave it to the backyard gunsmiths of this world to come up with a better solution. Small companies such as Allchin Gun Parts, founded by John Allchin, have devised better ways to mount an optic on popular handguns from Ruger, Browning and Smith & Wesson.
Allchin knows his way around handguns. As a Grand Master USPSA Shooter, Master IDPA Shooter, 2009 Ruger Rimfire World Champion and 2009 Take-5 World Champion, he understands what a competitive shooter needs. He ended up designing custom parts for himself and in doing so realized there was a demand for other competitive and recreational shooters.
As an active competitor, he also knows his optics and not surprisingly, has zeroed in on the C-More platform. And for good reason. They are light, dependable and competition-proven. I happen to like their RTS2 and use it on several my Bullseye guns.
The Allchin mounts are pre-drilled to fit and are compatible with the newer Smith K, L, and N frames. They also will accept a number of different red dot models. No gunsmithing is required to install this mount, unless of course, you have an older gun in which case you’ll need to drill your own holes. (That’s because the configuration on the rear sights changed as the Smith wheel guns evolved).
My foray into a wheel gun makeover territory began with the S&W Model 625-2 model of 1989. I love this gun but as I aged, I found myself shooting it less and less. The iron sights simply weren’t as much fun as they used to be. The gun had attained near “safe queen” status.
However one sunny day at Kokohead range, everything changed. My buddy Mike showed up with his 625, sporting a red dot.
It was as if somebody suddenly flipped on the switch.
Why not me?
Mike owned a newer version of the 625, so he had no problem installing his mount. I had the older 625-2, a classic that a purist might say should never be adulterated.
To Drill or not to Drill?
Mr. Allchin told me there was no way around it. If I wanted to use his mount and add an optic, I had to tap and drill three holes. The gun would lose some value.
How much value? Would the loss engendered by my willful adulteration of a pristine 625 be the end of the universe?
You never know.
To answer this question I called Cassandra Faulkner, a representative at Blue Book Publications, which publishes Blue Book of Gun Values, an essential resource for collectors. (If you plan to insure your collection, it’s indispensable).
She told me flat out that “any non-factory alteration or customization could knock 20-50% off the value.”
I thought about it for about 5 minutes. Did I ever plan to sell the gun?
So the real question was, did I want to shoot the 625 or did I want a safe queen?
The verdict of course was, ‘drill baby drill’.
I took it to my smith, he performed his magic and it came back with a mount.
Getting a Grip
The 625-2 was red-dot ready but not quite ready for prime time.
I needed a better grip. The existing Pachmayr grip was too big for my hands (see below) and wasn’t all that comfortable. Enter the legendary Jerry Miculek, arguably one of the best shooters in the world. He’s another guy who took his competitive Savoir-Faire on the range and adapted it to firearms manufacture.
His S&W Competiton Grips are made of Pau Ferro wood, which is sometimes called Morado. (Because the wood is so similar in appearance and working properties to rosewood, it is also sometimes referred to as Bolivian or Santos Rosewood).
The Miculek design worked perfectly for me.
I find they allow for more consistent hand placement and provide a better purchase on the revolver. Of course, the “right grip” is a purely personal thing and if you can try them on for size before buying, it’s ideal. I got mine through Brownells, which has a terrific return policy so had I wanted to send it back, it wouldn’t have been big deal.
Hogue, which manufactures the grip for Miculek, provides detailed instructions on how to install them. It’s a more of an effort than the rubber variety but not a big deal. The fit is quite tight and the grip needed some persuading to get it ensconced.
I used the old Pachmayr grip to tap it in which worked perfectly! No marks on that exotic wood and I was able to cinch it down with the screw located at the very butt end.
Adding a red dot to a S&W Model 27
I am also lucky enough to be the owner of a Model 27, the classic Smith .357.
Like the 625, I no longer used it a great deal and thought I’d also give it a new lease on life with a red dot.
Similarly, I had to drill and acquired the identical Allchin mount for this N-Frame revolver. I didn’t have an extra RTS2 around the house but I did have a slightly used Vortex Viper optic which has a different footprint than the C-More. No problem, with the Allchin’s pre-drilled holes it easily conformed to the mount. The Vortex is designed with cavities (see photo) on its base that will accept tiny pins to buttress the optic’s placement on the mount.
The, Viper, which retails in the neighborhood of $200, is not in the same league as the C-More but for a ‘mid-range’ priced optic, it’s more than adequate.
RIMZ moon clips
Denny Bennett, founder of Beckham Products Design (manufactuer of the RIMZ product line) is yet another example of a firearms entrepreneur who has found a product niche that improves upon an old standard by an order of magnitude.
His invention is a high impact polymer moon clip.
A moon clip is necessary to load a 625. For those not familiar with them, a moon clip is a ring or star-shaped object that bears a striking resemblance a snowflake. It’s designed to hold multiple cartridges as a unit in order to simultaneously insert and extract rounds from a revolver cylinder
Traditionally they are manufactured from metal and you need special tools to add or remove the rounds from the clip. They work fine but are a bit labor intensive. In other words, the old-fashioned variety are a pain in ass.
That’s where Mr. Bennett’s RIMZ products come into the picture. In contrast to the metal variety, his moon clips are manufactured from high hydrocarbon polymer. They are incredibly strong yet pliable enough so that you don’t need a special tool to add the rounds to the clip, much less remove them.
The plastic moon clips are incredibly easy to use. You pop the round in with your fingers and easily dispense with the empty cartridge in the same manner.
They come in 9mm, 10mm, and 45 acp.
The 45 ACP version comes in two varieties. The RIMZ 625-style moon clip is made from a more flexible Polymer material (compared to the RIMZ 25 moon clip) and is designed for the newer 625 models (625-4) and up. It’s intended for the range only and the fit on the cartridge is quite loose compared to the RIMZ 25.
The RIMZ 25 is made of a much stiffer polymer and will retain the rounds more securely if you accidentally drop the clip on the ground. It’s designed for competition and for the pre-625-4 models, such as mine, a 625-2. (I tried the RIMZ 625 on my gun and it flat-out won’t allow the rounds to slip in the cylinder).
If you shoot a S&W 625 or any other revolver that uses moon clips, you’ll buy Denny Bennett’s plastic moon clips and never look back.
A state of the art optic combined with an old fashioned wooden grip make a compelling upgrade for the 625 that is both eminently practical and aesthetically pleasing.
All the parts function harmoniously.
The RTS2 has a crisp, red dot and its (CR2032) battery can be easily swapped out without dismounting the sight. It has a 10-position push button intensity switch so there’s plenty of latitude for choosing the illumination power I need. It comes with a removable Picatinny / Weaver Rail Mount so the sight can be directly mounted to handgun, which is of course, what I wanted. You can also discern the quality when zeroing in the optic. The tiny adjustment screws have a solid “click”, which is usually not the case with less expensive optics such as the Viper.
The grips were ergonomically ‘correct’ and looked great. They didn’t have the “stickiness” of rubber but gave me the purchase I needed for shooting offhand.
The parts–mount, optic and grips were acquired in one fell swoop from Brownells. In my case, the guns needed some smithing but typically this is a DIY endeavor. (Check with Allchin or Brownells superb tech support team, if in doubt).
The plastic moon clips are also a nice touch, making the revolver light years easier to load.
After a minimal amount of work and time investment, I’ve got a couple of guns that I will able to use into my golden years.
I’m a happy camper and, hopefully I’ll acquire some wisdom in time for my old age.