Since their introduction in the late 19th century, double-action (DA) revolvers have typically fired rimmed cartridges. Classic revolvers like the .38 Special, .357 Mag and .44 Mag, all feature a prominent rim for proper headspacing and to expedite extraction of cases.
But, like many things in life, there is an inevitable break in tradition. Back when the U.S. entered World War I, it was quickly determined that the inventory of small arms fell far short of what would be needed for a prolonged conflict. This shortage included handguns and despite the fact that the 1911 pistol had come on line a few years earlier, there simply weren’t enough to go around.
To help fill the gap, both Colt and Smith & Wesson began chambering their large frame revolvers for the .45ACP. In order to adapt the rimless .45ACP case to a revolver cylinder, half-moon clips were developed. Half-moon clips were nothing more than a thin piece of sheet metal that held three .45ACP cartridges. One simply inserted a pair of half-moon cartridges to bring the revolver to full compliment. After firing, the user opened the cylinder and stroked the ejector rod to kick out both the moon clips and the captive empty cases.
During the war, S&W made over 153,000 .45ACP revolvers, many of which were sold on the surplus market in the 1920s. In the years that followed, S&W continued to market a series of .45ACP revolvers that met with limited success.
More recently, revolvers chambered for the .45ACP have enjoyed a renaissance of sorts. Shooters who compete with revolvers in various action disciplines have discovered that the .45ACP revolver offers the fastest possible reload. Full-moon clips holding six rounds have proven measurably faster than conventional speed loaders. Hey, if this stuff works for the gamesman, it would certainly offer the same advantage to users who prefer the revolver for self-defense.
Over the last decade, S&W has offered a couple of different .45ACP revolvers, including a few optimized for self-defense. Revolvers chambered for rimless cases have not been limited to .45ACP and copies made for the 9mm have also been produced. To make it even more interesting, S&W turned out a number of 10mm M610 revolvers back in the l990s.
I’m pretty fond of my S&W M625 Mountain Gun and was eager to see what some newer S&W revolvers would do. Big bore, non-magnum revolvers have always scored pretty high on my fun meter and plans were made to check out a pair. First up for consideration is an M625JM from S&W’s Champion Series. The M625JM was designed with input from world champion shooter, Jerry Miculek, and incorporates several desirable features to help you be at your top game.
Next on the list is something a bit different. I have long been a fan of the 10mm cartridge and a new version of the M610 just couldn’t be passed up (see sidebar on page 42). Big steel revolvers that shoot big bullets have a very special appeal to me and I was eager to jump into this project.
Jerry Miculek is, without question, the greatest DA revolver shooter of all time. Jerry has nailed down just about every conceivable revolver action shooting title there is and continues to push the performance envelope into areas you might think are beyond the realm of possibility. To get right to the point, Jerry’s skill with a revolver is on an entirely different planet. To compete favorably against him, most of us mortals would require something belt-fed.
For either sport shooting or self-defense, the M625JM will do the trick. The JM version is best described as an enhanced M625 that incorporates a few Miculek signature features.
Built on the heavy duty N-frame, the M625JM sports a low reflection bead blast finish. The Champion Series M625JM tips the scales at 43 ounces and is constructed entirely of stainless steel. This is indeed heavy metal by contemporary standards, but that extra beef goes a long way in taming even the stoutest .45ACP loads.
A very distinctive Miculek touch is the 0.265 of an inch wide grooved speed trigger. This represents a big deviation from the smooth combat triggers S&W has been putting on their DA revolvers for the last 25 years or so. On my sample M625JM, DA trigger pull was relatively light and smooth, superior to standard S&W production revolvers. Sights consist of a micrometer adjustable rear and gold bead Patridge front with an interchangeable base. In my younger days, I favored an all black serrated ramp; however, I now prefer something that grabs my attention. The classic gold bead on a black ramp certainly helps the cause.
Barrel length of the M625JM is 4 inches. The fully lugged barrel casts a profile very much like my old M686 service revolver. Another unique touch of the M625JM is a one piece, smooth wooden grip bearing Jerry’s initials.
In addition to the .45ACP, the M625JM will also handle the .45 Auto Rim. Designed in the 1920s by Peters, the .45 Auto Rim can be utilized in .45ACP revolvers without resorting to moon clips. The Auto Rim loads and extracts just like any other rimmed cartridge case and gives any .45ACP revolver greater versatility.
The Smith & Wesson M625JM was fired to assess accuracy potential and in various combat drills. A representative sample of both defensive and training ammunition was fired through an Oehler 35P chronograph to measure muzzle velocity out of the 4-inch barrel.
A wide variety of .45ACP and .45 Auto Rim ammunition were selected for testing in the M625JM. The M625 proved as accurate as any revolver I’ve tested in the past and five-shot groups fired from a stable rest were truly impressive. In fact, three different loads averaged less than 2 inches at 25 yards. Best performance was posted by Black Hills 185-grain JHPs, which came in at an incredible 1.5 inches.
Defensive potential for the big N-frame was also very good. High-tech .45ACP hollowpoint loads by Remington, Federal, and Black Hills would all be very decisive stoppers. A real surprise was CorBon’s 160-grain DPX .45 Auto Rim load. This all copper hollowpoint hit 1156 fps (feet per second) and promises to be an exceptional performer.
Can a round gun cut it in a square gun world? From what I have seen, I would have to answer in the affirmative. If you fancy a revolver and aren’t inconvenienced by a heavy handgun, the M625JM can get it done.
In fast-paced combat drills, both revolvers excelled. When hammering away at the steel plates, the Champion Series M625JM had a superior double-action trigger pull. But is this big blaster and full-moon clips really faster? Indeed it is! Reload times (shot-reload-shot) were measured with a Competition Electronics Club Timer. Ten efforts with the M625JM yielded reload times in the 3- to 4-second range.
Variables such as bullet shape, stress, and skill all figure in to speed of the reload. As a lefty, I also endure a slight handicap in speedloading any revolver. Revolvers are clearly right-handed tools and require southpaws to switch hands. You however, may be able to run a bit faster. Bottom line? All things being equal, moon clips are faster.
I’ve got a few odd holsters for 4-inch N-frames but the Custom Fit 567 from Safariland is hard to top for sport or casual concealed carry. Made entirely of synthetics, this open top, paddle design proved very fast yet reasonably secure. Retention can be fine tuned by adjusting a pair of Allen screws.
Let’s not forget speedloaders. If you can do without the hassle of moon clips and instead prefer the .45 Auto Rim, HKS has you covered. The HKS 25M speedloader holds six rounds of .45 Auto Rim. As we have seen, moon clips are faster, but for certain applications, the old Auto Rim with a couple of HKS speedloaders may be the ticket.
Although a revolver diehard, my personal carry piece is a lightweight autopistol. I don’t necessarily like it better, it just appeals to my sense of practicality. The fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of users prefer the pistol for self-defense. But not everyone. Folks who prefer the revolver would be very well served by either of the revolvers reviewed herein.
I would imagine most potential users of the M625JM would be revolver action shooters. The M625JM holds a slight edge for competitive shooting, but the M610 isn’t all that far behind. Either gun would be a very solid choice.
Big revolvers firing big bullets have a unique appeal. Unlike the hard kicking magnums of similar proportions, the M625JM and the autopistol cartridges it fires, proved user-friendly. For sport or self-defense, this S&W Champion Series revolver has it all covered.