Thursday, August 14, 2008

STEPHEN CAMP - SW 625 - 6 Revolver



Range Evaluation: S&W Model 625-6 w/3" Bbl

By Stephen Camp

Other than the J-frame snub revolvers, my preference is usually for longer barrels. (Exceptions include some of the K and L-frame revolvers.) I have always preferred to have a bit more sight radius and velocity, attributes that the longer tubes bring to the table. Therefore, I was a bit surprised when I actually wanted to buy a very clean (like new) S&W Model 625 3" at the last gun show. The dealer allowed me to closely examine the revolver and after a tiny bit of back-and-forth, a deal was struck with 10 moon clips thrown in as well.

This is the S&W "snub .45" used for this report. Shown with it are Corbon's .45 Auto Rim 160-gr. DPX and some 255-gr. CSWC handloads. The stocks are from Eagle and are their Secret Service model. Several rounds in both Auto Rim and ACP were fired.

The Model 625 is chambered for the popular .45 ACP round but requires the use of moon clips for the rimless round. .45 Auto Rim, which is a thick-rimmed version of the ACP can be used and is loaded in the same manner as any other revolver cartridge; just drop 'em in the cylinder. As most will already know, there is a plethora of .45 ACP choices available, but pickings are slim for the Auto Rim. Remington loaded a mild 230-gr. round nose cartridge for years, but it was never in great demand. More recently, Corbon has added the .45 AR to their lineup with a 160-gr. DPX in standard pressure. It is the same load as their "Compact Gun Load" in .45 ACP and is a standard pressure round. They also added a 230-gr. FMJ round for those wanting to use factory ammo in competition. Unless one handloads, such is about the crop of commercially available Auto Rim factory ammunition.

This revolver is built on the S&W N-frame. For decades this was the largest revolver frame offered by the company; it now plays second fiddle to their X-frame for the huge .500 S&W revolvers. It is a double-action revolver that is capable of single-action if desired and it holds the expected 6 shots. Constructed of stainless steel, the frame and cylinder have been matte finished. This one has an MIM hammer, trigger, and cylinder latch. The sights appear to be blued with the front serrated ramp having a red plastic insert. The rear sight blade is plain black and is adjustable.

For years I've owned a 5" version of this gun and it has proven a most accurate revolver, shooting most loads acceptably well and some exceptionally so! I had high hopes that this one would follow suit and the only way to know is to do; I grabbed a gob of ammunition, chronograph, etc, and headed to the range.

Shooting: I am interested in accuracy, both practical and mechanical. For this reason, shooting was done in slow-fire, single-action, using two-hands with my wrists braced at 15 yards. I didn't shoot at 25 yards for a very simple reason. It was too damned hot and that could wait. The only rapid-fire, double-action shooting was done at 7 yards using two-hands.

The first shots fired with this revolver were using Kead 255-gr. CSWC's that were handloaded several years ago. I have mistakenly labeled them as 250-gr. in the pictures.

These were the first shots fired with this "new" (to me) six-gun. I moved the sight elevation down 1-click and left the windage alone. The rest of the targets contain six-shot groups, but I splurged on this one…and I had a tub of these handloads, which was not the case with much of the factory ammunition.

Corbon's 230-gr. Match Load shot well in the short-barrel revolver. Recoil was mild and accuracy just fine.

Next up was a handload using some old Sierra 200-gr. Competition jacketed bullets, which were loaded several years ago as a mild "paper load". These have been stored inside for a dozen years and still shot very well. The CCI primers I used were bought in the "Dark Days of '94" and were labeled Cascade Cartridge Company in the old green checkered boxes. Older hands will recall the primer shortage sparked by fears of what Klinton had in mind for gun owners. They, too, had been stored well. I bought 5-thousand of them from an individual at a ridiculously low price and had exactly zero failures to fire.

Winchester's 230-gr. USA FMJ shot quite well and was very easy to handle in this revolver.

Winchester Ranger 230-gr. JHP (RA45T) grouped well and proved itself an accurate load in the Model 625. Like the 5" one I have owned for years, this one appears capable of very good accuracy with all of the loads tried so far.

Federal 230-gr. HST +P was without question the hardest kicking load tried today. Like the others, it grouped quite well.

The light-recoiling, light bullet Corbon 160-gr. DPX rounds grouped slightly lower than any of the other ammunition fired today. This is not at all uncommon.

As I said earlier, I'm more interested in precise shooting than rapid-fire "combat" style, but do see a place for both in this day and age. For that reason I included a 7-yard target that was fired standing and using a two-hand hold. Shots were fired as fast as I could get a sight picture. I didn't have a timer with me today, but I'd estimate the cadence at a couple of shots per second or so. I used the Kead 255-gr. CSWC handload as it had "enough" recoil to mimic the warmer loads tried and because I had quite a bit of it with me.

For those preferring the large-caliber, short-barreled revolver to the automatic, the Model 625 might be an option. It is not the most concealable revolver made, but I believe it would prove a capable performer in a fight.

Chronograph Results: 10 shots were fired for each load listed. Shooting was done 10' from the chronograph screens.

S&W Model 625 w/3" Bbl:


Average Velocity (ft/sec):

Extreme Spread (ft/sec):

Std. Deviation (ft/sec):

.45 Auto Rim

Corbon 160-gr. DPX




200-gr. Sierra Comp*




200-gr. Speer JHP **




Corbon 230-gr. FMJ




Kead 255-gr. SWC ***




.45 ACP w/moon clips

Corbon 185-gr. DPX +P




Winchester USA 230-gr. FMJ




Win. Ranger 230-gr. RA45T




Federal 230-gr. HST +P




*Handload: Sierra 200-gr. Competition JFP/4.2-gr. Bullseye/WLP Primer/R-P Cases/LOA: 1.17"

**Handload: Speer 200-gr. JHP/7.2-gr. Unique/WLP Primer/R-P Cases/LOA: 1.18"

***Handload: Kead 255-gr. LSWC/6.0-gr. Unique/WLP Primer/R-P Cases/LOA: 1.20"

No expansion testing was done. For those interested on how these bullets perform, here are some links that might be of use:

The expanding ammunition used in today's shooting has pretty well proven itself to be reliable in the case of the Corbon DPX. Likewise, Winchester's Ranger line of jacketed hollow points as well as the new Federal HydraShok 230-gr. HST, which has be designed to expand even if encountering intermediate barriers. I used the +P version today. This new bullet does not have the post long associated with the company's older HydraShok ammunition.

Velocity Comparisons with Other Handguns: For those loads I've shot in other firearms, I've included a table showing average velocities, all based on 10 shots fired 10' from the chronograph screen. The gun is listed with its barrel length (inches) in parenthesis next to it. All velocities are in ft/sec.

.45 AR/ACP Velocities in Different Bbl lengths:




Colt Defender (3")

SIG-Sauer P220 (4 1/4")

Kimber Classic (5")

Caspian 1911 (6")

CB 160-gr. DPX AR







200-gr. Sierra**














255-gr. SWC**







CB 185-gr. DPX +P ACP







Win. 230-gr. FMJ







Win. 230-gr. RA45T Ranger







*The figure shown for the Colt Defender is with their .45 ACP "Compact Gun Load." This is the same load as the .45 Auto Rim 160-gr. DPX. The only difference is the rim on the AR case.

**Handloads. (These have been listed previously.)

I could have included more loads in .45 ACP, but would have had to use different guns, some with 5" tubes or 4 1/4" to do it. It would have required a table with far too many columns. In any event, I thought it might be of interest and show that while rules of thumb for velocity changes per inch of barrel length may in general be "ball park correct," it's not a hard, cold fact. Even handguns of the same make and model can have significantly different velocities for the same load!

Conclusion & Observations: It appears that this later rendition of the 625 also groups well with more than one load. It appears not to be picky about what it will group…at least so far. I was pleasantly surprised that bullets in the 200 to 255-gr. range had almost identical points of impact out to 15 yards. Only with the very light-for-caliber 160-gr. DPX did we see a lower or different point of impact for the same point of aim. At closer ranges, it would probably not matter.

Due to the short .45 ACP/AR case length, ejection is positive whether done vigorously or slowly, something important if the revolver is being used for self-protection. Though there were no instances of any auto rim hull getting beneath the extractor, this is made impossible if using ACP cases with moon clips.

At the same time, the moon clips do add two extra steps in shooting the revolver: loading and unloading the clips. I use an inexpensive tool I bought years ago from Ranch Products to remove the fired hulls from the moon clips.

With Corbon's DPX loads available in .45 AR, the revolver, effective self-defense factory ammo can be purchased which precludes moon clips altogether with extra ammunition being carried in HKS speedloaders. I find the moon clips quicker to use, but less suitable for carrying unless in a carrier of some sort to prevent their being bent. It is my understanding that speedloader carriers normally holding a single speedloader can carry one or sometimes two moon clips.

The double-action trigger pull on this revolver seems a little heavier than on the normal N-frame; smooth to be sure, but a little heavier. I am told that this is to insure 100% ignition reliability. If a moon clip is somehow bent slightly and holding the cartridge slightly rearward from cylinder, the firing pin has to push it against the rear of the cylinder and still have enough power to detonate the primer. That said, DA shooting with this revolver was no problem.

My 3" Model 625 did exhibit considerably greater muzzle flip than my 5" gun. I was somewhat surprised at how much difference that extra 2" of barrel and shroud made. Recoil was not "bad" by any means, but there was more "torque" when firing.

As expected there were no malfunctions of any kind and all rounds fired without incident. Firing pin strikes were well centered and there were no flattened primers on either of the +P loads. Ejection was easy and no cases stuck. Most could have been shaken out of the cylinder w/o using the ejector rod at all.

But what purpose does a short barrel N-frame serve?

For its size and weight, a flatter semiautomatic can be more easily concealed and offer more shots to boot! For a holster gun, the 4 or 5" barrels offer more sight radius and increased velocity with most loads and probably less felt recoil and/or muzzle flip.

Speaking only for myself, it offers "neatness". It is something a bit different, a little more compact than its longer barreled cousins while still offering practical accuracy. The shorter barrel combined with its 45-caliber bore offer a gaping muzzle for the serious consideration of anyone "earning" the "right" to look down it!

More important to me is that I just enjoy shooting these revolvers. They are accurate and can be loaded with light to more potent loads w/o functioning concerns. I used my 5" one for years when shooting ammunition that was just not feed reliable in certain .45 automatic pistols.

At the same time, these revolvers can be effective defensive arms, albeit not the most concealable ones.

The Eagle Secret Service grips worked fine on this Model 625. They didn't interfere with either the use of HKS speedloaders or moon clips when using ACP ammunition.

My 3" Model 625-6 uses an internal firing pin, one that is not mounted on the hammer while my older 625 has the hammer-mounted firing pin. I noticed no differences in ignition reliability. Given a preference, the shorter 625 would also have the firing pin on the hammer only because it is easier to examine that way.

I like this revolver more than I expected I would. Most of its diet will be the 255-gr. CSWC handload, but if loading it for more serious issues, at this time I'll go with the Federal 230-gr. HST +P. Recoil was not significantly more than with the standard pressure 230-gr. Winchester Ranger, but the velocity gain was enough more to warrant a bit more "kick", at least to me. IF the 160-gr. Corbon DPX didn't hit a little low, I'd go with it as recoil is minimal and I'm convinced that the DPX bullet is one of the very best available. With this revolver, using the heavier +P expanding bullet allows me the same POI as with the inexpensive handload so that I don't have to mess with the adjustable rear sight at all.

I suspect that I'll be keeping this revolver. It packs enough "hootus" to deal with anything to be dealt with in my neck of the woods. ("Hootus" is a scientific term for "whammy". Both of these terms are integral in discussions of "stopping power.")

If you like large caliber revolvers as well as .45 automatics, one of these might be worth looking into.


Sen. John Edwards Endorses Sen. Barack Obama by dsmyre.