On the weekend before Thanksgiving I traveled to the world renowned Gunsite Academy in Paulden Arizona for three days of full immersion into the universe of defensive revolver use. While I may not have come away with a new appreciation for the allegedly archaic wheel gun, because I have always believed in its efficacy, I can say that my base of knowledge was expanded massively.
What has become an annual event began a few years ago after conversations that Pat Rogers, photo at left, and Darryl “DB” Bolke of Hardwired Tactical Shooting had concerning making sure that the coda of the revolver as a defensive tool was passed along to future generations of shooters, along with the lessons paid for, in some cases, with blood from the hard, violent times of the 1960s into the mid 1980s on the streets of urban America.
Pat had been a combat Marine, and successfully fought gunfights on the streets of New York as a police officer and violent crimes detective. He absolutely knew his stuff and grew into one of the most respected and pre-eminent trainers on shooting and tactics. He was a friend, mentor and teacher to many of today’s top shooters and instructors, including DB.
Sadly, Pat Rogers passed away unexpectedly, and far too early, in 2016 before the first gathering of revolver mind share he envisioned could happen. But Bolke, and his business partner Wayne Dobbs, stepped up a put together the first installment of what is now the Pat Rogers Memorial Revolver Roundup at their base of operations in Texas. Quickly outgrowing the venue, the event moved to Gunsite and looks to continue there for the foreseeable future..
So it was on a chilly Friday night that many of the 80 plus attendees and most of the scheduled instructors gathered under the covered patio at Gunsite for a BBQ and introductory get together. The feed was sponsored by the good auspices of Simply Rugged Leather, Wilderness Tactical and Tuff Products. Master leatber maker Rob Leahy of Simply Rugged did the honors at the grill.
Once the food was done, Darryl Bolke stepped up to give some background on the event and to introduce the instructors and the curriculum for the weekend. The instructor cadre included names well known in contemporary training circles. DB and Wayne Dobbs, Bryan Eastridge, Greg Ellifritz, Mark Fricke, Caleb Giddings and Chuck Haggard as well as names that might be less well known outside the circle of top tier trainers such as Dave Dolan and Lew Gosnell, both of whom served multi-decade careers in Los Angeles law enforcement, and the latter a member of the Gunsite instructor cadre, made up the event staff.
In today’s world many who profess expertise won’t leave the house without a Glock and a couple of extended magazines. DB made the point in his remarks that men like Rogers, John Helms of LAPD, and many others did their work with revolvers, and they trained to do it well. He believes, as Pat Rogers did, that the revolver is still relevant as a fighting tool, no matter how many wags on the internet insist that it is not, For that reason the mission of this event is to make sure the knowledge and insights of those men who made their way in a violent world armed with a revolver are not lost.
As the evening drew to a close, sign up sheets were posted in the Gunsite classroom. Saturday and Sunday were broken into four, two hour blocks with the instructors split into pairs so one could teach while the other could act as an Assistant Instructor / RSO. They would switch roles back and forth during the day to be able to spread their expertise to as many students as possible and attendees could craft their experience to their learning objectives. Monday was reserved for a “fun day”. In addition one of the shoot houses would be open for both dry and live fire proctored by the aforementioned Lew Gosnell.
Opening the sign ups did lead to the one moment of shenanigans for the weekend as the paper sheets got mixed up and a couple were unwittingly, and temporarily, purloined as note paper. Order was humorously restored and all ultimately were able to sign up for the blocks they wanted. DB noted later that they’ve been working to bring an on line sign up system to the event but it wasn’t yet ready for prime time. He does expect it to be in place next year.
Saturday’s session began at 7:30 AM and an air temperature of 15 degrees. We opened with administrative and paperwork formalities followed by a welcome and safety brief in the classroom from Gunsite’s CEO Ken Campbell. With that we all headed out to the various ranges to begin the day in earnest.
My first destination was the York range. Bryan Eastridge, to the right in this photo, is part of a multi-generation law enforcement family in Oklahoma, and is an accomplished instructor. He also finds time to host the Off Duty On Duty Podcast, which is a must listen resource for law enforcement officers and trainers. Bryan is also a highly ranked competitive shooter in Police Pistol Combat (PPC).
This sport is essentially Bullseye shooting, only on silhouette targets and fired all double action at distances ranging from seven to fifty yards. Bryan brought several examples of both “production” and “open class” guns, the latter being heavily customized specifically to the sport.
After familiarization, history of the game and its targets, we were led through a 30 round exercise that are the first three matches of a PPC course of fire at seven, fifteen and twenty five yards. I used the four inch S&W Model 19 with which I took the Top Gun trophy in my academy class going on forty years ago and put up a respectable 288 / 300 points. We then stepped back to the 50 yard line to fire six rounds. I drifted two off the B-27 repair center, but still on the Option target backer, so they would have counted as 7s on a full target. In that respect not bad for an old guy… particularly for shooting the 50 yard stage double action.
Next I returned to the classroom for Concealment Options led by Dave Dolan with DB in support. This was an extremely informative session as I came away from it with three pages of hand written notes and some valuable takeaways around context and mindset that I will be able to share to a deep level with my own students down the road. The concept of the “Three C’s” as explained by Dolan was solid gold, as were the deeper details that come from spending more than 30 years policing the streets of Los Angeles.
Following a hearty lunch on the patio catered by a local vendor I headed to the North Range for a block on ankle holster use and tactics. This was led by Chuck Haggard of Agile Training & Consulting, ably assisted by Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training. Both are career law enforcement officers with a lifetime of experience in the real world using ankle holsters and deploying guns from them.
The session focused heavily on gear, and Chuck explained that a quality holster mated with a “de-horned” gun is vital to success. As a group we worked dry through several variations of the draw stroke, and then worked with live fire. The last element of the block, deploying from a grounded position, was done dry as the berm was not quite high enough to conduct a live exercise from the ground in complete safety.
I wrapped the first day with a block on competition shooting in IDPA led by Caleb Giddings. A sometimes controversial figure on what I call the Gunternet, Caleb is without question a top tier competitive shooter, typically using revolvers, across multiple disciplines and is also an accomplished military trainer. Of late he has joined the marketing team at Taurus.
I carry an Expert classification in IDPA for stock service pistol and marksman in revolver (which rating is another story), so I could very much relate to the information Caleb presented. We finished up with a terrific head to head competition Caleb borrowed from Scott Jedlinski at Modern Samurai Project and I had reinforced to me a very valuable lesson that I preach often, but neglected to follow in that moment.
Sunday opened with temperatures in the teens again and I reported to the Henneken range for a block on reloading tools and revolver manipulations under stress led by Mark Fricke of AFTT. Mark is a law enforcement veteran and an accomplished trainer who also has the most complete reference collection of gadgets associated to reloading a revolver that I have ever seen in one location. The session began with a show and tell focused on what works, what doesn’t work and how the tools have evolved over time. We also learned that prevailing conditions can have significant impact on these tools. One relatively new speed loader design would not release its payload, no matter how hard we tried and strip loaders can become brittle and tear apart… a lesson I had reinforced for me soon after.
Following that we moved on to the range for some live fire work with reloads under time constraints. Working with the S&W Model 640 and the HKS speedloaders I carry daily, I was able to turn in reloads in two seconds, and sometimes a bit less. I’ve always had great confidence in my ability to get the empty gun back into action, and this session in frosty conditions with cold hands proved to me that my confidence is not misplaced.
Then it was off to the North Range and a block on optimizing reloads using “Speed Strips” led by Greg Ellifritz. It would not be an understatement to say that Greg is very much a data driven guy. His penchant for research and his obviously well honed communication skills make a presentation he delivers rich in content, context and insight.
Greg walked us through a variety of timed evolutions establishing baselines for reloading using strips to a full cylinder and variations on a less than full cylinder. Throughout I felt more like we were in a data gathering and analysis exercise. Not that it was a bad thing. To the contrary, the methodical progression of exercises and the analysis that followed each helped drive home the learning points. We were able to see that a technique Greg attributes to noted snub revolver guru Michael J. de Bethencourt is the fastest way to get the revolver back into the fight when using strip loaders. It was in this block that I also found just how fragile a strip loader can be in very cold weather, partly tearing a tab of one strip and starting a split in another.
Following lunch it was back to the North Range for another session with Greg and Chuck, this time on Close Quarters fighting with the revolver. Much of the doctrine around it comes from the mind hive that is the ShivWorks Collective and its founder Craig Douglas, and that was largely the doctrine the session was based on, but focused on the revolver. After diligently sanitizing all the participants of all weapons, we broke into pairs and threes for some low speed person on person work using “blue guns”, which are non firing made of resin analogs. These can be a very valuable training aid, I have a dozen or so of various types. The meat of this presentation was in the instruction on how to work with the revolver at close quarters as it must be approached differently than with a semi-auto pistol for a number of reasons. Greg also walked us through the four step decision tree that must be followed when using a gun in an extreme close quarters action.
From there it was off to the Henneken Range for a session on Revolver Fundamentals led by Wayne Dobbs, with Mark Fricke assisting. This had been billed as an introductory skills class best suited to less experienced revolver shooters, and DB had asked that more experienced shooters should leave the early sessions for newer shooters. While the session may have been on the basics it was informative and I learned some new ways to approach running the revolver. Wayne is a masterful shooter and a superb communicator who engages generously on the firing line with the students. I hope that I can train with him more down the road as he made the basics downright fun for a guy like me who has been shooting revolvers for five decades.
Monday, as promised, was a very fun day. With the formal training sessions wrapped up with many of the instructors holding drop in sessions involving qualification shooting. Two shoot houses were open as well and DB held sessions in the classroom on “Revolver Options” and “Recommended Revolver Modifications for Combat” with Dave Fink from the on site gunsmithy.
The real highlight of Monday was ballistic testing facilitated by Mark Fricke and Chuck Haggard. These sessions are held annually at the Roundup, and participants are encouraged to provide samples for the ongoing data collection.49 different loads were tested from short barreled revolvers that day and Mark collected every bullet and meticulously recorded each individual result. I saw my long time personal carry load tested with less than desirable results out of a 1 7/8 inch barrel. I came away with a new appreciation of the lowly midrange wadcutter as a defensive load, and I plan an article on it in the near future.
After observing several tests I ran to the range next door where Caleb Giddings had a number of offerings from Taurus available for familiarization firing. There have been any number of knocks over the years on Taurus guns from workmanship and quality control to spotty performance in the field. We heard over the weekend, and not just from Caleb, that the company is taking an entirely new approach and is committed to a higher standard in manufacturing, quality control and post sale service. I fired examples of their 856 Defender small frame and 65 medium frame revolvers, as well as their 905 model, a sleek and short barreled 9mm loaded with moon clips. All were quite accurate and didn’t seem to mind the frigid weather.
The real star was an example of their 856 Executive Grade chambered in .38 Special and rated for +P ammunition. The fit, finish and down range results were as good as, or better than, many of the recent examples I’ve seen from Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center line, and at a very competitive price point.
Over the remainder of the day I fired several qualification courses. First up was the LAPD Combat Course proctored by Wayne Dobbs, I fired a quite credible 295 / 300 on it. Then came a snub revolver qualification with Mark Fricke. This one featured real world like par times as well as discretionary decision making. While a straight forward shooting exercise of just 25 rounds, it is a stern test of skills with a snub gun that is easy to not pass. I passed it and came away with a couple of points to work on. My last was the Kansas POST qualification proctored by Chuck Haggard. I notched 49 out of 50 for a pass and called my one shot outside the scoring area but still on the target. Sadly I didn’t have enough time to make it to a focused session on Single Handed Shooting with Greg Ellifritz or Bryan Eastridge running the Oklahoma State Magnum Revolver Qualification course. Maybe next time.
Sandwiched around all that shooting and learning was lunch and a wonderful classroom session with DB that was something of a symposium on revolver history. There were more than a dozen revolvers of various vintages displayed, including one of the only made at the factory “Fitzed” Smith & Wessons.
J.H. Fitzgerald, known to his friends and posterity as “Fitz”, worked for many years at Colt and was, in without question, the father of the modern snub revolver. He developed the concept by shortening the barrels of service sized revolvers, bobbing the hammer spurs and shortening the grip frames to make them more concealable. The other modification, which is most widely recognized, was to cut away the front half of the trigger guard to aid firing the revolver with a gloved hand.
But what was most impressive were example of revolvers that had “been there, done that”. Revolvers that had belonged to some of those gunfighters DB had referred to in his opening remarks three days before. The guys whose experiences inform our doctrine today. Two of those revolvers are pictured at left. They are the primary and back up guns carried by the late Pat Rogers over part of his NYPD career. They do not fit the Hollywood stereotype of a gunfighter’s gun, but are simple and purposeful tools that clearly have spent a lot of time in holsters, which is as it should be.
By the end of Monday I truly felt like I had been immersed in an ocean of knowledge and history. And I remain firmly convinced that a good quality revolver in competent hands is a very capable tool and will continue to be. I approached the event as an opportunity to learn from some of the best in their field, to make new friends, grow my network, come away with insights that I can share with the next generation of shooters, and have a really good time. By that measure it was an end to end success. If you are a devotee of the revolver, a skeptic who asks “what is that anachronistic thing” or somewhere in between, this event is truly for you.
A special note of thanks to Ken Campbell and his entire staff at Gunsite Academy. The facility, founded decades ago by the late Colonel Jeff Cooper, is one of the true meccas of defensive shooting. History, along with pride of purpose and professionalism, is everywhere at Gunsite. The staff; from the business office and the members of the instructor cadre who participated, to the Pro Shop and the Gunsmithy were on top of their game every minute of every day.
Thanks also to Simply Rugged Leather, Wilderness Tactical, Tuff Products and Taurus USA helping bring it together. I hope to see you all again next year.
Photo credits :Pat Rogers photo sourced at John1911.com. All other photos by the author.
6 thoughts on “AAR- Pat Rogers Memorial Revolver Roundup 2022”
Thank you for the AAR. I’ve planned to be at the event for two years in a row now and haven’t been able to pull it off due to work and family commitments. Perhaps next year… fortunately it only seems to be getting better every year.
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Thank you for an excellent AAR! Having attended the Roundup both last year, and this, I can attest that this is an amazing event, with an outstanding cadre of instructors, and hosted by the world’s premier defensive training organization/facility.
Putting my money where my mouth is, I’ve already signed up for next year PRMRR, at:
(PS. Ignore the “Register for the 2022…” in that page’s first line; it’s really now open for next year’s [Nov 18-20] event.)
Great write up! I hope to make it to one of these in the future.
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I was able to attend the 2022 event, and will be back for the 2023 as well. I learned a whole bunch, and thought the instructor cadre was top-notch. The Friday evening comments by Daryl Bolke were pure gold, old-school facts, and set the tone for the whole excellent training experience. Special thanks to Ken Campbell for suggesting I attend; glad I signed up.