The one time dominant force of the revolver class may now be out-gunned by the 627 and 929 with recent changes to USPSA rules. Is the 625 now outdated, or is it still a great firearm?
An overview of the S&W 625
The 625 in its original iteration was introduced in 1988 as a limited edition IPSC (International Pistol Shooting Confederation) commemorative revolver. A regular production model soon followed in 1989 and the revolver has seen a few different revisions over the years. In 2005 Smith and Wesson introduced the model we will be discussing today, the 625JM edition. For those of you who aren't as familiar with competitive shooting, the JM stands for Jerry Miculek. If you haven't seen this man shoot, I highly recommend you pay a visit to his YouTube channel.
The S&W 625 is chambered for .45 ACP and is cut for moon clip usage. While the 625 will chamber this round without the moons and headspace them on the case mouth similar to how a semi-auto would, it has no facility to extract the cases without the moon clips. For a competitive shooter, this is about as quick of a reload as you will get on a revolver. With the short, stubby .45 ACP rounds and moon clips one can almost drop the loaded clip above the cylinder and land a reload.
The barrel length on the JM version of the 625 comes in at 4 inches. I believe this was chosen in order for the revolver to be legal in certain IDPA classes. The gun is topped with an adjustable rear sight paired to a brass bead front sight. The overall length of the revolver is 9.38" according to Smith and Wesson's website. This isn't exactly a carry gun. The 625 is an N-frame revolver, so it may seem quite large to those with smaller hands. The upside to the 625 being a Smith and Wesson means a relatively large selection of grips are out there on the aftermarket. However, the stock Miculek designed wood grips do deserve a try. I find them to fit my hands quite nicely.
At the Range
Shooting the 625 JM is about what one would expect from a Smith and Wesson revolver. The trigger is pretty nice for a stock revolver. While it is a slightly heavy double-action trigger, the pull is smooth and linear. It never feels gritty or tough. In single-action, it feels great. It has very little creep and a nice crisp break. The JM comes with a fairly wide and serrated face trigger, specified by Miculek himself. Some of the people I have let shoot it really hate it. I'm of the opinion that it's perfect. It makes for a very consistent and positive trigger finger placement. I try to place my trigger on the pad of my finger right between the joint and the tip of my finger. With this trigger my finger pretty well stays where I put it, even during rapid competition style shooting.
The grip, as I mentioned earlier, is generally a love it or hate it kind of situation. It fits my hand rather well. The wood surface gives enough positive grip that I have never had an issue with the gun shifting in my hands. A side benefit of the relatively smooth finish becomes noticeable on the draw. Not every draw is perfect, and the grip on the 625JM allows for an easy adjustment between the initial draw and the first shot on target.
The S&W 625JM points quite naturally and has a good sight picture. I would, however, like to change the front sight out for a fiber optic for faster acquisition in competition shooting. The brass bead that comes stock is great for indoor shooting in good light conditions, but is easily washed out in the bright Oklahoma sunlight. Transversely, it is slightly better in low light conditions than a black sight post, but not by much. Luckily, there are many options for aftermarket sights and the front sight is held in place by a roll pin, meaning it shouldn't be terribly difficult to swap out.
What about the accuracy, you ask? Well, that is one area this revolver delivers in a big way. The S&W 625 JM has consistently delivered out of the box hits in nice groups for me. I've ran a few different boxes of factory ammo through it with good results. That said, I have primarily fired my own reloads through it. I've had extremely good results running X-treme plated bullets through it in the 230 grain round nose flavor. Currently I'm trying out Bayou Bullets 230 grain round nose coated bullets in my loads, and have had similar success. In general, shooting off-hand at 15 yards nets me groups under 2 inches with boring regularity. The group in the photo bellow was shot using the Bayou Bullets referenced above, at the same 15 yards, standing off-hand, unsupported. The reason the hole is so large is because I ran out of paper and started moving down!
The S&W 625 is still a winner
Even though eight round neutral stages and the new rules that enable eight shot revolvers to compete in the minor power factor revolver class do tend to favor those revolvers now, the 625 JM can still be competitive under the right circumstances. The reloads are still slightly quicker and easier with the .45 ACP rounds compared to the .38 specials, however, the new 929 might give the 625 a run for it's money there. At some levels, the major power factor leniency can sometimes be advantageous to the 625. All that being said, if you always work for the A-zone hits many USPSA stages are going to be faster with the eight shot guns. Outside of USPSA, I do believe that the 625 may be competitive in it's class in I-core. It is also still a blast (pun intended) in Steel Challenge, provided you don't need the make-up shots.
Outside of competition, the gun is an outstanding range revolver. It is loads of fun to take to the range. It delivers great accuracy with a wide range of .45 ACP loads. Hand-loading introduces another bit of fun to the revolver. It would also make a good bedside firearm with a moon clip or two full of high quality hollow point ammo. I've heard of a few people using it for a belt gun on the ranch, and even a couple of folks as a carry gun. I don't know how much I'd recommend it for a carry gun, though. The grip is quite long, the gun is quite wide, and it isn't light either at 40.3 ounces. However, if you're comfortable with it, accurate with it, and don't mind trying to conceal a hand cannon, it has been done.
Overall the Smith and Wesson 625 JM is a well rounded, high quality revolver. If you come across one for a good deal and are interested in getting into revolver competition, I highly recommend you to give the gun some consideration. Likewise, if you are a lover of revolvers and would like something in .45 ACP to round out your collection, there aren't many better than this!
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