A revolver shooter’s lament

Why is it that most fixed sights on revolvers chambered in .38/.357 are regulated for 158 grain bullets going slow? And adjustable sight wheelguns usually come from the factory with the sights set up for 158 grain bullets going slow as well.

640 Pro front sight

My 640 Pro Series came from the factory with great sights. It’s too bad that the only loads that shoot point of aim with these sights are 158 grain standard pressure LRN. Which would be fine, except the majority of carry ammo on the market these days is in the 110-135 grain range, and is usually pushing about 300-400 more FPS in velocity than standard pressure 158 grain stuff. That means that it shoots really low with sights that are regulated for 158 grain bullets. Out of the 640, multiple samples of +P 125 gr JHP hit 4-6 inches low at 7 yards. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have to hold on the top of an IDPA head box to get hits in the chest down zero area.

Now, I understand why things are this way. They’re like this because that’s how we’ve always done it, going back to the days when a lead round nose bullet at 750 FPS was the hot ticket in your .38 revolver. But these days, you’re far more likely to find 130 grain FMJ practice ammo at 850 or faster, and most defensive ammo is going to be 125 grain or 135 grain +P cooking at anywhere from 900 to 1100 FPS. Believe me, that makes a difference on where the actual bullet impacts the target.

I don’t mind having to adjust the sights on guns that come with adjustable sights. I once had a gun from [redacted] that required something like 15 clicks right and 16 clicks up just to get it on paper. But I actually prefer fixed sight guns for self-defense, because less breakable parts are a good thing. So if we could just get those sights regulated for the rounds people are actually using, that would be great.


  1. You mean you’re going to try to shoot at something more than 5 feet away with that gun?? And actually use those sights?
    Be careful, or you too might be accused of trying to be like Elmer Keith, leaning back against a tree and shooting at targets with his snub nose at 100 yards!

  2. Maybe you should write to R&D at S&W, Ruger and ask them; I am sure you know they sell different heights of sights you can install (on guns with removable sights of course).

  3. As a wheel gun lover who prefers 3″ fixed sight guns myself, I’ve often thought the same thing.

    There’s always bubba elevation, aka filing down the front sight, in *very* small increments. (you can always take more off, but you can’t add it back).

    Of course that’s not ideal and doesn’t work with those dot fronts.

    Related: I find 158 gr factory ammo all the time. Also, reloading…

  4. With modern CNC machining is it realistically -really- that much more expensive to mill a dovetail or other changeable option for a front sight, as opposed to milling a one size fits none front sight into the barrel?

    1. No. My complaint is that at 7 yards, the 125 grain JHP hits 4-6 inches low.

      But if you’d read the post, you would have known that.

  5. Where does it say 4″ – 6″ low, no where. It relates the off aim point distance to a specific type of target that may or may not be known to those who patronize your website. You also did not specifically say it was with 125gr JHP ammo nor at 7 yards. What post were you reading?

  6. You complain that the sights are accurate for a bullet travelling at 750fps but not a bullet going 1100fps.
    My limited understanding of physics leads me to believe that a faster bullet of the same shape will hit higher, not lower than a slower bullet.
    A falling object, like a fired bullet, accelerates down at 9.8 meters per second squared. At handgun velocities there is not enough time for a bullet to drop 4-6 inches. Do the math or look up the bullet drop at 50 yards and you will see what I mean.
    It is impossible for the sights to be accurate for a slow load but not a faster load at that range.
    Therefore we must find another source of this problem.

    I have noticed that some sights are set up for a “six-o-clock” sight picture where you can see your intended target. Other sight pictures require you to obscure your intended target with the front sight.
    Alternatively, you could be sensitive loud rapport of the magnum loads.
    Are the shots low and to the left?

    1. You must be new here.

      I am 100% certain rounds aren’t hitting low because I’m flinching. Also, your understanding of physics isn’t correct; because there’s more going on with a revolver under recoil than bullet drop. The very simple explanation is because a heavier bullet is going slower, it has more dwell time in the barrel. That dwell time means the gun has already begun to be affected by recoil, causing the heavier bullets to strike higher than a lighter, faster bullet which has less dwell time.

  7. The whole issue is further complicated by two other factors. Traditionally, handgun sights have been regulated for longer distances than the 7 yards or so that many of us shoot at in “practical” shooting. Given the trajectory of any given round, it may still be in the “climbing” part of its path, thus shooting low at a shorter range than the one the sight has been regulated at. One can also see the problem of parallax, given the distance between the line of the sights and the line of the bore at short distances. This is a notable problem with those shooting open guns (with optic sights being much higher than the bore) and 3 gun shooters with their optic mounted rifles used at short ranges. It may not be so notable with a snub nose revolver, but added to the other issues, can effect the outcome.

  8. Last two sentances of the second paragraph:

    “Out of the 640, multiple samples of +P 125 gr JHP hit 4-6 inches low at 7 yards. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have to hold on the top of an IDPA head box to get hits in the chest down zero area.”

    Now it’s possible that Caleb went back and edited his post after your comment, but he usually (I’m tempted to say “always” other than I really, REALLY, hate to speak in absolute certainties when it’s a behavioral issue being examined 😉 ) adds an edit note to indicate he’s updated something.

  9. Darnit! Threading didn’t work — the above post was in reference to comradewhoopie and Daniel S.’s posts.

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