The answer is yes and no. The model 25 wasn't built to take the abuse that the Ruger single action 45's will. Be careful of following load data listed for the Ruger and Contender. That data is listed for those two guns only for a reason. The Smith will shoot the load your asking it to but I wouldn't make it a habit.
Most people recommend using a maximum load that generates between 25,000 and 30,000 CUP in the Smith's. If it were my gun I'd stick around 25,000 CUP. Checking the Hodgdon manual, there's plenty of data for the 300 grain bullet at the 25,000 CUP range that will give you the velocity you want. These figures were calculated using jacketed bullets so a switch to lead should reduce the pressure and increase the velocities.
This topic was covered here a few weeks ago, I believe you should be able to use the search option to check the other responses concerning the Smith 45 Colt. The 4 inch barreled model 25 was always a favorite of mine. Its a great size for carrying in the field and even with the more sedate loads will do just about anything you ask it to.
My interest in heavier loads for the 25-5 is for trail carry only. Otherwise, I would shoot factory equivalent 255 gr. SWC's. My biggest issue is...would a 300 gr. WFN @ 1000 fps be sufficient for black bear defense? If not, I'll pass on the 25-5 for a stronger DA revolver.
For a stronger double action, the next size up would be a Ruger Redhawk. This would represent a great gain in strength. The Redhawk would allow you to shoot any load listed for a six shot revolver and then some. With a 5.5 inch barrel this gun tips the scales at 49 ounces, only 5 ounces more than the Smith model 25. If a double action revolver is your choice the Smith is a little less heavy but gives up the brute strength offered by the Redhawk. In turn the Smith offers a much better trigger pull.
Now I'll throw a monkey in the wrench and recommend you think about a Ruger Blackhawk, Bisley, or Vaquero. These single actions drop the weight down to around 40 ounces depending on barrel length and you still have a brutally strong gun. After a bit of practice you'll be able to get your first shot off just as fast as with a double action and trim some weight off your trail gun.
As far as your bear load, it should be just fine, depending on the size of the black bears. I don't think you'd need much more. If I were hunting the bears I'd opt for more power, but for just in case loads what you have in mind fits the bill.
Overall, I would much prefer the Redhawk; however, for a packable trail gun, even the 5.5" version is a tank to carry. Ruger would have a hot seller if they'd offer the Redhawk with a 4" tube and rounded grip.
I have considered the Blackhawk (that is what a six gun should look like!) but my concern is the single action. From various bear attack/mauling web pages, all state only a DA revolver should be considered for a bear defense gun. To contrast, I've read other personal accounts that a single action is best. Linebaugh builds his bear cannons on SA frames...go figure? Which do you feel is best and why?
All I know about bears and bear attacks I learned from watching the Discovery channel and some reading here and there. All the time I ever spent in the woods in Michigan I never even saw sign of a bear. Now, I'd see them from the road but never on the trail. An attack from a black bear is less likely than from a griz and if it does happen its because we aren't doing our job. A wild bear will not want anything to do with you unless your a danger to cubs. The bears here in the Phoenix area only come around when they're starving. I believe they caught 12 this past fall. They were all in the city limits. None were big enough to be a danger to more than your garbage can. Hungry mountain lions and rapid coyotes worry me more than bears.
Personally I don't think there's enough of a speed issue when considering a handgun for the woods. If you need to make the shot, accuracy will count more than speed ever will. Lets say you've got a charging bear running at you. Are you going to blast off a shot from the hip or are you going to settle the sights and squeeze? Chances are you'll trip back that double action guns hammer for a nice single action trigger pull.
Your shooting technique should have you using both hands for precision work. After you draw your handgun, your weak hand thumb will be cocking the hammer as it settles in place to do its supportive work. This is the case whether your gun is single our double action. There is no difference in speed at this point. In the unlikely event that you have to draw and fire in the blink of an eye, some will argue that the single action gun is still faster.
Another thing to keep in mind, the weight difference between the Redhawk, model 25, and various single action Rugers is only a quarter pound per step. The Redhawk is 4 ounces heavier than the Smith and the Smith is 4 ounces (give or take) than the Blackhawk family. A quarter pound isn't all that much in a good holster. Any of these guns will serve you well.
I'll second MT's suggestions regarding 300's @ ~1000 fps. Use them somewhat sparingly and do try lead in lieu of jacketed. You'll get higher velocity for less pressure, which equals less wear on your gun. BTW, I think the S&W 25-5 4" would make a great defensive gun against black bears, cougars, and most likely, trail thugs.
As to the preference for SA vs. DA guns, I think the DA gun does have an advantage for a purely defensive gun. That's because if you do need it, will will be at very close range and you'll need all the speed you can get. If you do have enough warning, which may or may not be the case, you can still cock a 25-5 and have the lighter single action pull for more precision. Truthfully though, with practice anyone with a modest amount of dexterity can do surprisingly good DA work at a distance. <i> With practice. </i> If hunting bears, where you'll pick the engagement range to a much greater degree, I'd opt for the stronger SA gun with heavier handloads.
If you want the Smith I'd get it. The 300 grain bullets at 1000 fps should be more than ample to dissuade a black bear from mistaking you for its next meal. Otherwise, it's much like walking around on the streets, be aware of your surrounding conditions. The Smiths carry much easier than the redhawk. As far as DA shooting goes, once you get used to it, drawing and placing your shot comes quickly.
You ask about the DA vs SA issue and speed in time of need. That is a personal issue, and one that depends upon what you get used to.
I've shot SA's for 20+ years nearly exclusively and their use comes intuitively for me. For example:
About five years ago I was hunting in the Idaho Panhandle for fall black bear over bait. I sat in my treestand and watched five different bears, (sows and cubs) before a nice chocolate boar showed up on the scene and ran everyone else off. When I hit him with my .44-325g WLNGC pill out of the SBH I was shooting, he started rolling down the gentle incline the other side of my bait. Having been this route the year before with a pooly hit bear, and a very nerve racking tracking job, I pumped lead at him until he stopped rolling. I did not realize, until the frakus was over, that I had emptied my SBH, ejected all the empties, reloaded from my coat pocket and fired a seventh round before he quit rolling!
I knew that I had shot several times... and the bear showed five solid hits from the .44 upon post mortem.
I know that it is all what you get used to, and that some very quick work can be done with a SA revolver when duty calls!
Don't worry about what type of action it is... just what you are most comfortable with for your purposes!
I called S&W this afternoon and asked questions about the 25-5 for sale (built in '86). The rep I spoke to stated moderate loads can be shot all day long but that +P pressure loads should be used s-p-a-r-i-n-g-l-y, if at all.
I had the opportunity this afternoon to put a 25-5 next to a 4 5/8" Blackhawk 45LC. The Ruger is definately a smaller, more packable sidearm. New, I can purchase a Blackhawk with a 45 acp cylinder for less than the used Smith. I can shoot loads far hotter in the Ruger than I could ever could with the Smith. Hmmm...less expensive, more compact, and far stronger...the little the refrigerator light goes on :^)
Tangent question: would you folks recommend a Bisley 45Colt and have the tube cut to 4.5" or purchase a Blackhawk and have it fitted with the Bisley conversion kit from Brownells?
I have no personal experience shooting Bisleys, just the standard frame Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk. Some people love them, others positively hate them. If I were you, I'd just get the regular gun and use it for a while. If you feel a need for more control, then you can try the Bisley frame conversion. But by then you're already more $$ than the S&W, which has a terrific feel and grip shape for recoil.
When it comes to the grip on that Ruger SA, it is all a matter of personal choice! I personally like the Bisley grip frame the very best of them all... however, I have very large hands with a broad palm... the Bisley fills up my hand, and I don't have to look for a resting place for my little finger!
However, many people much prefer the standard Blackhawk grip, as it comes from the factory. My advice would be to go to a local range, or perhaps a weekend cowboy event, and test drive them both... most folks are very understanding if you tell them what you want to do!
Choose the grip that best fits your hand, and gives you the most comfort level when shooting.
If going for the Bisley, and you want a short barrel, I've found that often times you can get a used, (sometimes new) factory Ruger take off barrel, with sights in the shorter lengths from the various custom revolver smiths who do the big custom guns, for ฮ-35 which is very reasonable... then it is simply a matter of having it installed and the barrel/cylinder gap set (which you will want set at minimum specs for best shooting anyhow.) then you will still have your factory original barrel if you should ever want it later!
I'll take all of the "very biased opinions" and experience you care to provide :^)
There is a big gun show this Saturday in Portland, OR. My Father-in-Law has been chomping at the bit to go...the wives are staying home...things could get ugly upon our triumphant return from said show :^)
I currently have four 45 Colts, two S&W's, Ruger Blackhawk, and a Colt Anaconda.
I use 255 gr swc with 9 to 9.5 grs of Unique for standard every day shooting. I have used the same powder charge and upwards to 10 grs of Unique behind a 300 gr swc.
In the Ruger and the Anaconda I use 18.5 grs of 2400 behind the same 300 gr swc.
I would not feel undergunned using any of the above loads to discourage any critter that walks on this continent. The Ruger is the lightest weight and carries a 4 inch tube. The two S&W's carry 5 in tubes and the Colt carries a 6 in tube.
Yes, this show is one of the 7 Rose City 2001 Gun Collector shows. Sadly, Measure 5 has put a huge dent in the quality and volume of big and small gun shows. There were 1000 tables present this weekend and the volume of guns normally present has easily dropped by a third since Measure 5's passing. The largest shows will be in April (20,21, and 22)) and Sept (7,8, and 9) with 1400 tables each.
It was great to see a strong SASS presence. I watched several video clips from Cowboy Action Shooting events (looks like WAY to much fun!). I am going to a city south of me in a couple of weeks to watch an action shoot and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to shoot a few SA's.
I did not come home with anything from this show (well, not really - I bought a brick of 22 shells...always need 22 shells!) I did learn, after handling Blackhawks and Bisleys, that I much prefer the Bisley grip. I have yet to shoot one but it sure does fill the hand well and the balance is wonderful. All of the Bisley revolvers were Bisley Vaqueros...not one adjustable sight Bisley to be found in over 2000 handguns (one exhibitor accounted for 1/2 of that number). For my trail gun purposes, I don't know if a fixed sight revolver is a help or a hindrance? The only other handgun that interested me was a 4" stainless 41 mag Taurus Tracker. This is a very packable sidearm and it's a sufficient caliber. My only concern is the overall quality of this sidearm (seems there is a love/hate relationship re: Taurus on various sites).
Sorry for being long-winded. I'll now have 2.5 months to make up my mind :^)
My Bisley Vaquero is easily my favorite handgun. After a small amount of work thinning out the bottom of the grip panels (and refinishing to make what was very ugly wood look very nice) the Bisley grip is the best for my hand. In addition to being more comfortable, it helps tame recoil as well.
The fixed sights were something I wanted to have on my field gun. There's no danger of adjustable sights being knocked out of alignment or being damaged in a fall. It's true that some guns will need a little help shooting where your looking, but its a pretty simple job. The only real disadvantage is for the shooter that likes to use a wide variety of bullet weights and different velocities. Point of impact will change enough to ruffle some folks feathers. My gun will be fine tuned for my favorite load and the rest will be close enough.
I shoot my 5.5 inch barreled Bisley Vaquero as well as my adjustable sighted Bisley with the standard 7.5 inch tube. Accuracy does not suffer at all. An added bonus is that with the Vaquero line you can choose the barrel length that you prefer. Buying the adjustable sighted Bisley is like buying a Ford Model T. Instead of any color you like as long as it's black, it's any barrel length you like as long as it's 7.5 inches. The Bisley Vaquero will save some money and time waiting for the barrel to be cut or replaced with the length you want.
Hopefully the Cowboy match your going to will allow you the chance to shoot a fixed sight gun so you can get the feel. Sounds like it's going to be a long 2.5 months till the next show.
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