Hot-Rod J-Frame Part 2: Springs, Grips, and Pocket Autos

If you haven’t, go back to read part 1 here. We go over the purpose and methodology of this little experiment.

Data Collection and Shooting? Sign me up.

I’ve had a pair of range trips and was able to shoot the standards and change a set of parts in both the S&W 640-3 and the Ruger LCR. I also brought out my Ruger LCP to add another data point.

A note about the testing. I slightly altered the 5-yard roundup’s scoring. I only used the ‘-5 points for each shot over time’ since the time element is critical but I omitted the ‘-10 points for shots off of the 10″ circle’ portion of scoring. Mostly because I wanted some resolution in the scoring and a shot off the 8.5×11″ printer paper was counted as a zero anyway. I felt this was a good compromise given what I’m trying to get out of the testing.

640-3 APEX Duty/Carry Springs

Apex Spring/Firing Pin kit

As soon as I installed the spring kit and dry-fired, I knew it would improve my scores. I was right, but I was surprised at how much. You can see the chart below. When recording my times, I recorded a string-by-string score and split times on each string. I wanted maximum resolution on what was going on. The big takeaway is that the APEX spring kit improved my scores by an Average of approximately 22%. This is across all categories of pure accuracy, pure speed, and a careful blend of the two. This is a substantial improvement. It’s one that I feel is worth it the expense.


The Ergo grip is available for both the LCR and J-Frame. It looks bizarre, and frankly feels quite bizarre. It is meant to fill the hand and change the grip angle to be more like a Glock. It’s also worth noting that there is no obvious index point when trying to draw the revolver with these on. The bumps of the grip blend seamlessly into the bump of the trigger guard, which causes confusion for your hand as you go to make your grip. Luckily, the numbers make the decision easy for me. Across the battery of tests, the ERGO grip made me 10% worse.

Anyone want to try a set of ERGO grips, I know a guy who has an extra set…?

Baseline Data for Ruger LCP .380

The last thing I had time for was running the testing with a Ruger LCP. I wanted some pocket gun data to see how much I’m handicapping myself by carrying a j-frame. It turns out, I’m not. You can see in the data that some things went better with the LCP, and others went worse. My split times and one-handed work really tanked my scores. I also had some trigger freeze issues when trying to run it as fast as possible. This is useful testing as one more data point. I plan to run several other small pistols, and maybe a duty sized gun just for the data.

The Complete Data as of 4/24/19

An Experiment Worth Doing

After seeing these results, I am encouraged that this might be a relatively worthwhile experiment to continue. I have various sights and grips (stocks) lined up to try as well. Though I’ll be honest, I’m not looking forward to removing the APEX kit. I might just call the APEX spring equipped gun the new baseline and work the upgrades from there.

Thanks for following along!

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6 thoughts on “Hot-Rod J-Frame Part 2: Springs, Grips, and Pocket Autos”

  1. I put the Ergo grip on my 640 a few years back. The first qualification course was wonky, and after another box of ammo through it and everything came together and the scores went up, the recoil impulse went down, and the reloads got faster. It really fills the hand and makes the gun point naturally for me. I won’t run anything else on my J-frame. I actually like the stock grip on my LCR, but I have bought an Ergo grip for it as well. I guess I’ll have to test it out and see which is better on that gun.

    1. Yeah, I have no doubt that with ongoing practice the scores would normalize. I believe my experience with traditional grips affected the scores. I agree that it really does FEEL nice in the hand and fills the palm pretty well. Much better than standard stocks. I’d be interested to know your results if you decide to run some testing! Cheers.

  2. I have experienced similar results when shooting my LCR vs RM380. I’m consistently a better shot with the LCR than I am with the RM380.

    I’m enjoying reading this series. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for reading John. Yeah the little .380 autos are just not the same as a LCR or J-frame.

      I enjoy your blog very much. I’m always surprised who is actually reading my stuff. I see we were at several of the same classes at Tac Con this year. If you go next year, let’s say hi and shake hands!

  3. Mark, have you been able to pursue this experiment any further? I bought a set of Apex springs and they’re getting installed on my J frame. I’m planning on picking it up tomorrow and running some tests to see how it affected things for me.

    1. I haven’t been able to get to the range much since I started my new job. But I’m testing several sets of grips the next time I can go. I think the APEX spring kit is the best improvement for the buck. Sights will be next/eventually. Sorry I let this slide.

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