Not sure how I found this civil war blog (Uncle? Tam? Someone else?), but it has a great article on Moore’s Patent Revolver - the first revolver with a swing-out cylinder (though not quite of the kind we're used to.)
It's also interesting in that it was one of the many guns which violated Rollin White's bored-through cylinder patent. History buffs may recall that White was a Colt employee who first presented his idea to allow a revolver cylinder to chamber metallic cartridges to his boss, Colonel Colt. Colt rejected it out of hand. White knew he was onto something, and left Colt to market his patent.
Messieurs Smith and Wesson, enterprising and astute gentlemen that they were, knew a good thing when they saw it and licensed White's patent. This agreement was really the foundation of their new handgun company, and they used it to produce their first revolver - the Model 1. That patent made Smith and Wesson rich, allowed them to grow like crazy relative to Colt, and should have made White rich too. It would have, if he'd bothered to consider the fine print.
You see, the licensing agreement required White to pursue all litigation against infringers himself. Moore, like many others, used White's patent without license - and White was obligated to go after his revolver and his company. White would sue, win, and then Smith & Wesson would somehow end up acquiring the infringing guns - which they would sell themselves. (I've never read the licensing agreement, so I can't be sure exactly how that transpired, but Moore's case isn't the only example.)
Ironically, Moore's company survived and was purchased by White's old employer, Colt, in 1870. More ironically, while Moore survived White's fortune didn't; his defense of his patent cost him nearly everything he made in royalties.
I'm thinking of a writing a firearms industry soap opera: "As The Cylinder Turns."
I'll start today with what I didn't see: any big introductions from the major revolver manufacturers. Smith & Wesson had a couple of Performance Center variants (I'd not seen the Model 647 Varminter before), Ruger was showing the previously announced four-inch SP101 in .38/.357 and .22LR (the smallbore having vastly improved sights), while Colt didn’t show any double action revolvers - and probably won't any time soon.
I had a great chat with Brent Turchi, the head of Colt's Custom Shop. He said that new revolvers weren't in the cards for at least a few years yet, and if they ever do release a new wheelgun it will probably be something like a King Cobra or Anaconda, or possibly a lightweight concealed carry piece based on the SFVI/Magnum Carry action. It’s all just speculation at this point, he emphasized.
The Python is gone for good, he said - too expensive to make, and they no longer have the skilled workforce to do so even if they could justify it economically. In fact, the people who today work repairing Pythons are nearing retirement, and when they go a lot of knowledge and skill will go with them. On the plus side, 2011 was a very good year for Colt as they were able to sell tons of 1911s. Of course.
The big handgun news at SHOT was the official U.S. introduction of the Caracal pistol. This is a new polymer striker fired pistol made in (of all places) the United Arab Emirates. Apparently the UAE has decided that even their large oil reserves won't last forever, and have decided to get into manufacturing firearms. Their first products are full-size (think Glock 17) and compact (Glock 19-ish) pistols in 9mm (.40 S&W versions will come later this year.) The Caracal is the brainchild of Wilhelm Bubits, former Glock employee and designer of the Steyr M series of pistols. His new design borrows some elements from the Steyr, but most of it is new.
I first heard about the Caracal when Rob Pincus went to Italy last year and found a couple of his students armed with this unknown handgun. Apparently it's been sold in Italy and a few other places for almost two years, and the reports he got from those students were glowing. The guns were used hard during the three days of intense training, and there were no failures. That says a lot about the design.
The Caracal is unusual in that everything inside the gun is modular. The fire control group in the frame, as well as the striker assembly in the slide, are modules that are quickly and easily removed for service, and just as easily replaced. The bore axis is very low, approaching that of an HK P7, while the slide mass has been reduced. The result, I'm told from those who have fired them, is reduced recoil impulse and muzzle rise.
Ergonomics, even for my small hands, are superb. The Caracal fits me better than either the Glock or the Steyr, and I can even hit the magazine release without too much contortion! The trigger is very smooth, very linear (once you get past take-up, of course) and has a nice, jar-free letoff. It's very impressive.
What is also impressive is the construction quality. The machining, inside and out, is superb - the underside of their slide makes a Glock look like a gravel road. Everything is polished, there are no tool marks, and even the plastic castings are perfectly clean. This is top-notch quality, an amazing feat for a young company.
Caracal was all over Vegas; all of the buses for the convention had Caracal banners on their sides, their booth was large and set up for doing lots of business, and their marketing materials were big-league. The folks behind Caracal have invested a ton of money into both the product and the marketing, and it's obvious that they intend to be a big player in this business. If the product holds up to its promise, I think they will be. (Oddly enough, despite seemingly being on top of every little detail they still haven’t gotten their USA website up - even though the URL is printed on all their materials!)
I'm impressed with the gun, and so was nearly everyone I talked to who'd seen it. I think this might be one of the top autoloading pistol choices for defensive shooting, particularly when the sub-compact versions come out later this year. Caracal is worth watching.
Early last year I embarked on something of an experiment: carrying my gun not on my belt, as I've done for more years than I can remember, but in my front pocket. Exclusively.
I've carried in a pocket holster from time to time, usually when wearing a suit, so I'm not at all unfamiliar with the concept. I've never done so as my default method, and I wanted to see what it was like. What kinds of problems would I encounter?
My constant companion was one of a pair of pretty much identical, save for color, S&W Airweight Cenennials: a blued Model 042 and the dull silver-gray 642. Both of these are stock guns, meaning that I've done nothing to either one. (No, really!) I tried several holsters, and found that most of them really weren't terribly well thought out. I ended up using a cheap, cheesy, but serviceable Uncle Mike's pocket holster for the vast majority of the time. I carried my spare ammunition in Bianchi Speedstrips.
Why did I do this? For some time now I've been talking about the concept of congruency: that students should train with the guns that they'll actually be using to defend themselves, and further that instructors should be using the guns their students will be using. The problem, of course, is that people generally don't do that, and as a result instructors allow themselves to believe that their students really do conceal full-sized Government Models in their workaday world -- because that's what they bring to class. It's a delusional feedback loop.
In reality, most of the people I talk to who are carrying medium- to full-sized autoloaders in class sheepishly admit that during the week they tote a compact auto or a five-shot revolver in their front pocket, because that's what they can easily get away with in their place of employment. As a fraternity, instructors are not doing a very good job of getting past this deception; I don't think they really want to know. Classes are structured to artificially favor the larger autoloading pistols, because that's what usually shows up on the belts of students. The students, for their part, feel compelled to "up gun" for the class so that they can perform well and save face. The loop intensifies.
What the instructor carries every day is irrelevant; it's what the student carries that needs to be the primary consideration in curriculum design. I decided that I wasn't living up to my own criticisms, and resolved to spend the majority of 2011 carrying not what I like to carry, but what an awful lot of people who look to me for advice and guidance are going to be carrying. (No, I didn't make the "I carry a 'J' frame as a backup, so that counts" rationalization. This was to be my primary, and only, carry piece. Just like everyone else.)
Save for one instructor's conference, where I used a Glock because a) I hadn't had any serious autoloader trigger time in a couple of years and b) had no one to negatively influence, I carried and taught with those compact revolvers for the year.
I liked (actually loved) the ease with which I could dress around the gun. I liked that I could carry in sweatpants in the same place and manner of my street clothes. I liked that wether I wore a suit or work pants, my gun was in the same place all the time. I learned a lot about deploying the gun from that carry position, from the difficulty accessing it at speed to the occasional instances of the holster and gun coming out as a unit. I came away with some very specific ideas on how a pocket holster for a revolver should be made and marveled that almost none of the holster makers have figured this out yet. (Then again, it’s hard to find really well designed revolver belt holsters, a lament that I made in my book.)
Did I ever feel under gunned? No. I remain unconvinced that it’s necessary to carry a 51 rounds of ammunition just to survive a criminal attack, an idea that has great support amongst certain segments of the training industry. (I'm still looking for all those cases in which someone involved in a private sector defensive shooting incident was injured or killed because their gun didn't contain enough bullets. Haven't found any yet, though I keep asking people to forward them to me.)
At the end of the experiment, I'm finding it very difficult to return to my belt-mounted carry pieces. I'm actually happy about that, because I think I've now got a solid understanding of the limitations (and the freedoms) that my students experience. Suppositions have been replaced by evidence.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to decide between blue or plain aluminum for today.
Over the last few months I've gotten several emails about light primer strikes -- and attendant misfires -- with the S&W 686SSR revolver.
The 686SSR is from Smith & Wesson's "Pro" line, which sits between the semi-customs of the Performance Center and the run-of-the-mill production items. The 686SSR has, among other features, a 'bossed' mainspring (which looks suspiciously like a Wolff 'Power Rib' spring.) The idea behind the spring design is twofold: first, reduce the spring force at the beginning of tension, making for a trigger which feels more progressive; second, preserve the mainspring arch at reduced spring weight.
The second point probably deserves an explanation. A common method of lightening the hammer spring on a S&W is to shorten the strain screw slightly. When done with a standard flat mainspring the arch is reduced, which often leads to interference between the grip screw and the spring. Having a higher arch, which the ribbed springs provide, allows for full grip screw clearance even at reduced trigger weights.
The problem is that even with the so-called 'full power' ribbed springs misfires occasionally happen. This seems to be due to the slightly lessened spring force at the beginning of hammer travel, which is also the end of the hammer travel -- when ignition occurs. This is exacerbated by the new California-compliant firing pins that S&W uses, which are shorter and lighter than the old versions. This presumably allows the gun to pass California's drop test, as I can fathom no other reason for the part to exist.
The short firing pin can easily be replaced by an extra-length version from Cylinder & Slide or Apex Tactical. This usually solves these kinds of ignition issues, though thorough testing needs to be done with any individual gun to verify reliability.
Speculation abounds, and without the gun in hand that's all we can do. There is, however, one likely cause that has historical precedent.
S&W has over the years experienced cases of incipient cracks of the frame boss underneath the barrel in several models, the 442 Airweight Centennial being perhaps the best-known example. The cause has usually been attributed to over-torqued barrels. Whether that is the case here remains to be seen.
There could have been other flaws in construction or materials, or the ammo used may have exceeded the design parameters of the frame (more precisely, the gun's design parameters didn't encompass the entire range of projectile energies allowed under SAAMI specifications.) However, the kind of damage shown would be consistent with a catastrophic failure at the point described.
A Bad Idea is not magically transformed into a Good Idea simply by virtue of a rise in the MSRP.
When reports of a Smith & Wesson .410/.45 revolver began making the rounds on Monday, my initial reaction was great skepticism. Then it was confirmed by a trustworthy source, and finally showed up on S&W's website. It’s real. Unfortunately.
If truth in advertising laws had any teeth, they would require this thing to be called The Brawndo.
I've gotten the hint! People have reminded me that I've been neglectful in posting pictures. I remembered this as I was packing a gun up for shipment today, and decided you might like to see it. I stepped out the door, threw down a piece of corrugated aluminum, and took this quick snapshot.
The Model 13 with the heavy 3" barrel is one of my very favorite Smiths, and yet I've never owned one. This one came in with a gorgeous original finish, which the owner wanted changed to a Black Pearl finish. I talked him out of it (and cost myself some revenue), but it would have been a shame to destroy this beautiful, very shiny factory blue. There is a very small spot of holster wear at the front of the muzzle, but other than that it is nearly flawless.
The gun did receive a Super Action Job, along with chamfering the chambers and converting the gun to DAO. I had no problem with the conversion, as simply replacing the hammer - a common "K" frame part - is all that it would take to return the gun to a stock appearance.
A recent email asked my help with a problem. The writer, who had purchased a new gun to compete in the IDPA revolver class, had taken the strain screw out of his S&W 686 and shortened it to reduce the trigger pull weight. When he put his grips back on, he found that the grip screw wouldn't go through the frame, and he could see that the mainspring was now blocking the screw's path.
He asked why this happened, and what could be done about the problem.
When the strain screw is shortened, the mainspring arch is changed. The strain screw is very close to the bottom of the spring, near the pivot point where the spring contacts the frame, and has tremendous leverage. Because of that leverage, small changes in the screw's length make big changes in the amount of arch the spring exhibits. This in turn lowers the pull weight.
The problem is that the grip screws are all positioned on an assumption of the mainspring remaining in the stock position. As the arch of the spring is decreased, it moves toward the muzzle of the gun and ultimately intrudes on the path of the grip screw. This is why reduced rate mainsprings are produced by Wolff (and one or two others.) These springs are designed to have a reduced weight while maintaining a close-to-stock arch profile.
The solution to this problem is to get a reduced power mainspring and a new strain screw (which will need fitting to achieve the desired pull weight.)
Changing the function of any part in a mechanism can have undesired side effects, and it is best to proceed cautiously unless you know with certainty the outcome.
In the past I've mentioned that I don't spend much time on the various gun forums ('fora', to be excruciatingly correct.) My free time is too precious to spend wading through such drivel as "my instructor can beat up your instructor" or "the .45 is so powerful it knocks people off their feet!" The only time, in fact, that I look at a forum is when I'm eating breakfast or lunch and have nothing better to read.
It was at lunch last week that I came across one of my personal favorites: the statement that stacking (increase in trigger pressure toward the end of the stroke) is a function of the mainspring used. It's usually stated in the form "don't buy a revolver with coil springs - it causes stacking. Buy leaf spring actions to avoid stacking."
Hogwash, and what's more it's easily illustrated to be such.
S&W revolvers, particularly the 'N' frames, are known for having pretty linear trigger pulls. They use leaf springs. Colt revolvers such as the Python and Detective Special use leaf springs as well, yet are (in)famous for their stacking triggers.
On the other hand, the GP100 has a relatively linear trigger, similar in travel to an 'N' frame Smith. It uses a coil spring. Wait a minute, though - the earlier Ruger "Six" series (Speed-Six, Service-Six, etc.), despite having a very similar action design, stack noticeably.
Simple. The type of spring, coil or leaf, has very little to do with the amount of stacking in a trigger. The real culprit is the geometry of the double action sear. The stacking on a Python, for instance, can be eliminated by changing the geometry of the sear surfaces. The Ruger "Sixes" can likewise be modified to produce a linear pull through the simple expedient of reshaping certain parts of the sear. If stacking were caused by the spring alone, this kind of modification wouldn’t be possible.
Of course this doesn't address the implicit assertion that stacking is bad and linear is good. Some folks prefer their triggers to stack and seek out those guns that do. The one thing they don't have to consider is the type of spring!
When the locks first came out there were a few reported cases of locks self-engaging. The wisdom of the internet held that the locks were just fine, that S&W would never knowingly introduce something that would put people at risk, that the reports were fabricated, and so on.
As time wore on it became apparent that the issue was real, but seemed to mostly happen with lightweight guns shooting heavy recoiling loads. Then I started getting reports of lightweight guns shooting normal loads experiencing the problem, followed by the "big boomers" and hunting loads. Most recently I've heard first-person accounts of steel guns (all J-frames, so far) shooting sane cartridges having their locks self-engage.
I've collected enough of these accounts over the last several years that I simply won't carry a S&W with a lock. The incidents are numerous enough, and the consequences dire enough, that I simply don't trust the mechanism. I recommend that all my clients seriously consider carrying a non-lock gun; if you tuned in last week you found that my usual carry revolver was a Ruger, partly because they don’t have such a mechanism.
(Just for the record: I have no financial stake in this debate, as liability issues demand that I do not deactivate a safety device - no matter how questionable - from a gun. I'm not making any money by suggesting that you carry a S&W sans lock.)
I realize that I've been neglectful with regard to pictures, but I just haven't "felt it" lately. This gun, though, I just had to show you.
This S&W 686+ was treated to a Super Action Job, Satin Steel refinishing, etc. What makes it unusual is that it has the uncommon unfluted cylinder. I loves me some unfluted cylinders, and just couldn't resist taking a snapshot of the thing before shipping it back to its owner.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2010 is finally here, and I'm still surprised about that. Back in 1979 the twenty-first century looked sooooooo far away that I thought I'd never see it. Here we are in the second decade already; where did the last ten years go? (So, this is what it's like to age....)
I took a four-day weekend for the New Year, though it wasn't really time off: I spent the time doing work around the farm, to the screaming protest of my muscles and joints. This brief respite reminded me that it's been many years since my last vacation (which, as it happens, I spent in a shooting class), and I think it's high time for another. I say so every year, but this time I'm going to do it. Of course, I say that every year too!
S&W GOES PRO: Remember a year or so ago, when I wrote about a limited run of no-lock Model 642? At the time S&W claimed that they'd "found" a stash of pre-lock frames and decided to put them together for sale. Apparently they were popular enough that the company has managed to "find" some more NOS frames, as they've brought out a couple of new editions: the "Pro" series 442 and 642. They're just like the non-Pro models, except they have no locks and have cylinders cut for moonclips. There are a whole lot of questions one could pose about the decision to bring these to market, but I'm glad to see them all the same.
(I do wish they'd get consistent with their naming conventions: they have the 642 PowerPort Pro Series revolver, which has a ported barrel AND a lock, but no moonclip capability. The only thing these models have in common is a matte black finish, which harkens me back to the days of selling high end camera gear: you could get many cameras in either chrome or black finish, the black models inevitably referred to as "professional". At least they're not calling them 'tactical'!)
SPEAKING OF MOON CLIPS: I get several queries per month regarding moonclips for a carry revolver, and I recommend to all that they be limited to range use. Yes, they are faster to reload (the margin depending on the cartridge) - but I don't believe that outweighs the fragility of the clips themselves, as even a small bend will tie up the gun. (There's always someone who writes back "well, I've carried moonclips in my pocket for years and have never had a problem!" I'm sure that's true, just as I'm sure that someone, somewhere has a perfectly reliable Colt All American 2000. I'm not willing to bet my little pink bottom on either one, however.)
MORE SMITH NEWS: The regular Model 642, along with the 637 and 638, will now be available with 2-1/2" fully lugged barrels instead of the 1-7/8" tubes. I always liked the .357 version of the Model 640 for its slightly longer barrel, and am glad to see it come to some other models. That little extra weight up front helps with control on the lightweight frames, as well as providing longer extractor travel. (Sadly, they are still afflicted with the silly lock.)
WELCOME TO OREGON: This holiday season saw three groups of people lost in the Oregon woods - thanks to an over-reliance on GPS navigation. This should serve as a cautionary tale: ceding your health and safety to something (or someone else) is an invitation to disaster. Take responsibility for yourself; make sure your brain is always engaged. You'll notice that these are consistent themes here at The Revolver Liberation Alliance, and they have application well beyond protecting yourself from human predators. (Oh, and buy a decent map when venturing out of the confines of the suburbs.)
AN ADVENTURE: Spent some time last week working on a project with Rob Pincus. You'll have to wait a while to hear the details, but a good and educational time was had by all. (Yes, Rob, it's still raining here.)
LUBRIPLATE COMES THROUGH: Got an email from Alex Taylor, a District Manager at Lubriplate. They're now selling the superb SFL #0 grease in consumer quantities in their online store! Comes in a 14oz can for $23.01, plus shipping. Glad to see them recognizing the firearms market; now let's see if we can get them to sell their FMO-AW oil in small quantities too!
THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN EVERY DAY: Remington recently announced that they've produced their ten millionth 870 series shotgun. I knew they were popular, but ten freakin' million? I would never have guessed anything close to that. The shotgun, it appears, is alive and well in America.
THIS IS JUST WRONG: I'll take some of what I just said back: certain shotguns are alive, but not well. Apparently trying to out-silly the S&W TRR8, Stoeger recently announced the availability of the Double Defense - a tactical side-by-side shotgun. Yes, a SxS with a fore-end rail. Black, of course. (Folks, I couldn't possibly make up something like this. It takes a marketing department to do so.)
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: A University of Alabama prof has claimed to have invented a revolutionary sighting system that promotes "intuitive aim." Knowledgeable readers will recognize the concept as being eerily reminiscent of the Steyr "trapezoid" sights as used on the 'M' and 'S' series pistols, which have been available for a decade now. Hmmm...
Getting a late start today, and that means I'm already behind for the week. Sheesh - where does the time go?
Tam talks about the checkering on her gun. While this would seem to be an issue limited to autoloaders, sharp edges on the trigger and frame (particularly inside the cylinder window) have the same effect for wheelgunners. When people ask "what's the best modification I can do to my revolver?", I usually say round the trigger and dehorn the gun. It makes shooting much less of a chore.
Every so often a client will send me one of the S&W Scandium guns for work, and I'm always reminded of how much I dislike shooting the little beasts. Even with standard pressure Specials, the recoil gets to me very quickly. I can't imagine actually shooting one with Magnum loads, and I intend to never find out!
For me it's merely discomfort, but for others the experience could prove more serious.
I constantly encounter women who've been sold those guns, because the sales clerk wrongly assumed that "light" was synonymous with "best for the little lady." This weekend I ran into yet another such case: a thin, older lady. She wanted to know if the Magnum rounds the shop had sold her with the gun would be good for her to shoot! (My immediate thought was "only if you use them on the idiot who sold you this thing!", but I held my tongue.) I cautioned her that the combination of those rounds with her very thin, somewhat frail build could result in permanent nerve damage to her hands. I hope she got the message.
The best recommendation I have for such cases is a box of the 125gn Federal Nyclad standard-pressure Specials.
Serendipity...I wrote last week about a 2" Model 15 I'd recently worked on, and since then I've run into several of the things. The latest was yesterday, when buddy Jim Jacobe opened a case and said "weren't you just talking about how much you liked these?" I swear, if I wrote about a .577 Tranter he'd pull one out of his safe to show me...
Now it's time for me to get some work done. Happy Monday!
I recently received an email asking about the feasibility of mounting a light on a revolver. The writer was concerned about clearing his house at night and being forced to shoot one-handed with a separate flashlight. Would it be possible, he asked, to somehow mount a light to his wheelgun, to approximate those that are widely mounted on autoloaders?
That's a tough one to answer, because it's really two questions in one: can it be done, and should it be done.
I'll address the feasibility portion first: yes, it can be done, though the approach varies a bit with the make/model. In all cases, their are some limitations - mainly, the light has to clear the ejector rod as it swings away from the frame. The larger the light, the smaller the gun, and/or the more closely the light is mounted to the bore axis or to the cylinder, the more likely it is to interfere with proper cylinder opening.
The best choice is to make provision to mount the light in a forward position, in front of the ejector rod. This is the approach taken by S&W in their 327 TRR8:
The problem with this is that it makes activating the light on a momentary basis from a firing grip difficult (if not impossible.) One is left with the necessity to turn the light on and leave it on if one wants to shoot with a two-handed grip.
To provide a platform on which the light can be mounted, a short section of Picatinny rail can be attached (via screws) to the barrel's underlug. If the particular gun doesn't have an underlug, the barrel itself can be carefully drilled & tapped to accept the rail - only, of course, if the barrel is of a bull (heavy) configuration. There are also some clamp-on solutions available.
The other half of the question is "should you?" I'll put on my Tactical Tommy hat here, and say that I think it's a bad idea except in very specific circumstances.
For a gun to be used in an ensconced position the attached light has merit. All you're required to do is wait, and the light is nothing but a shooting aid: confirm the target, and allow a clear sight picture.
Using it to check your house, on the move, is another matter entirely. In this case, the light takes on multiple functions: navigation, search, identification, and (in the worst case) shooting aid. The trouble is that if it's attached to your gun, then you have a loaded weapon pointing in all sorts of directions that proper safety habits say it shouldn't!
A loaded gun is not a tool for navigation or searching, and using it as such is (in my opinion) irresponsible. Think of it this way: would you be pointing your gun in all directions and places in the daylight? I would hope that the answer would be 'no.' If that's the case, why would you deem it acceptable to do so in the dark?
The light on the handgun is a limited-use device. Don't try to make it into something it shouldn't be.
A long-time client called me a while back, and told me that he'd just acquired one of the Smith & Wesson Model 25 "Lew Horton" editions with the 3" barrel. He wasn't happy with the gun, and asked me to do a makeover.
If you've hung out here for long, you know that I love 3" barrels. I don't know why, exactly, except that I like 'em. This gun is no exception, and to say I was excited about the prospects would be an understatement.
I've actually written about this gun once before - it had the worst double action trigger I've felt on a factory gun in a long, long time. He wanted that fixed, and the gun converted to DAO. (It's an IDPA/carry gun for him, so he sees no need for single action capability.) The gun came replete with sharp edges, so sharp that I sliced open my left forefinger when I first handled it! Those needed to go as well. He also wasn't happy with the stock S&W sights, for which the gun had already received warranty repair - the first rear sight actually broke in two when shooting! Finally, he wanted general competition-friend modifications that would also be usable "on the street."
I started by getting rid of all the sharp edges, on all surfaces. The gun then went to the bluing shop for my Black Pearl finish. (This particular gun has the very hardest barrel steel I've ever encountered, and it caused no end of headaches in refinishing. The result is that this gun has a little more shine to it than any other Black Pearl finish I've done.)
Speaking of the barrel, the crown was both crooked and rough. The hard barrel, with its thin walls, made a normal crown out of the question. I made a very, very small crown, just enough to correct the problems.
The rear sight was replaced with one of Hamilton Bowen's superb Rough Country units, and the front carries a gold bead sight from SDM Fabricating. The result is a fast-acquisition sight picture, useful for both competition and defense.
Of course the gun received a Super Action Job, along with chamfering the chambers. The trigger was reworked to the modern, thin S&W style, rounded and polished smooth for comfortable double action work. The DAO conversion required bobbing the hammer, and on this gun I tried a new style: a kind of "scalloped" hammer. I've already decided that the next one needs a bit of modification (the bottom scallop is too deep to balance the top), but I'm pleased with the result and the way in which it offsets the cylinder-heavy profile of the gun. The trigger weight dropped from 15 lbs. to 9 lbs., and is of course smooth in both pull & reset.
Finally, we needed some decent concealment grips. They're made of a very nice walnut in a "boot" style by Don Collins, with some specific modifications to his basic design (to better fit my client's hands.)
The result: a more "special" Special Edition. (My client reads this blog, and hasn't seen the gun yet. To him I say: don't worry, it's coming back to you this week, but I couldn't wait to show it off!)
A client recently sent me a brand new S&W Model 25 for some work. As part of my normal checkout routine, I measured the trigger pulls. In single action, it was a nice and crisp 3-1/2 lbs. In double action, it....pegged my digital force gauge!
I had to get out the old mechanical unit to read the trigger pull of nearly 15lbs. Holy Sore Forefinger, Batman! Not only that, but the trigger return feels like a mile of bad gravel road. (Since I live on a mile of bad gravel road, I am something of an authority on the topic.)
Oh, did I mention that this was one of S&W's "Special Edition" Lew Horton models? That's right - S&W apparently doesn't feel that handing them close to a grand for one of their revolvers entitles you to a decent trigger. On the other hand, perhaps I should look at it as a perverse form of job security...
Many people have been following the situation with the North Carolina Dep't of Corrections and their self-destructing S&W revolvers. If you haven't,here's a link to the story.
These pictures of one such occurrence have been floating around the net:
I've been exchanging emails with C.E. "Ed" Harris, who many will remember from his days as the head of Q.C. at Ruger - when they experienced a similar problem. Here's what he had to say:
"Old problem rearing its ugly head again, not really a new problem. A troublesome sporadic one when people forget about good shop practices and get sloppy.
Stress corrosion cracking is generally caused by contamination by solvents or cutting fluids too high in chlorides. Over-torquing barrels barrels creates a stress rise at the root of the thread which makes the problem worse. Microscopic examination of the failed barrels would be obvious to a competent engineer, especially familiar to those with aerospace or nuclear power systems experience.
Ruger had a short run of this back in the 1980s when they first starting making stainless magnums. I saw a few dozen guns come back when I worked there. All were traced to one guy on night shift who was over-torquing barrels on Redhawks which didn't quite line up, instead of taking a pass off the front of the frame on a Blanchard grinder as he should have done. He also used a wrong, slippery high sulphur thread lubricant intended for chrome-moly instead of the anti-seize compound used with SS.
This condition is aggravated by tight fit of barrel threads, such as when using a class 3A, combined with high stress, high temperature, and high barrel torque. Ruger fixed their problem by changing to a looser 2A fit on the barrel threads and assembling barrels to the frames using a Loctite product to cement them solidly while reducing stress on the threads and positively preventing any seepage of cleaning solvents into the barrel threads after they left the factory."
If true, this wouldn't be the first time S&W has over-torqued a barrel: the Model 442 Airweight Centennials, particularly in nickel finish, are somewhat notorious for frame cracks under the barrel. A phone conversation with a S&W representative confirmed to me that the cracked frames were caused by barrels that had been screwed in "too tightly."
However, there's always the possibility of user error, such as the use of certain products that contain chlorine compounds (brand name removed for obvious reasons):
"Use of [lubricants containing chlorine compounds] "could" do it, as could any number of other cleaners, especially if used with an ultrasonic which enhances thread penetration." There are certain "miracle" gun lubricant products out there that contain chlorine compounds, and have become popular amongst the more "martial" crowd. In addition, ultrasonic cleaners have been very popular at many police agencies over the last decade or so.
Well, I got an email from one of the employees at the agency, and he claims that they use Hoppes bore cleaner, and that they do not have an ultrasonic!
So we're back to the first possibility. Given Ed's expertise, I suspect that his analysis is the correct one.