A gripping story about revolver grips. And speedloaders.

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So, you’ve got snazzy new grips on your wheelgun — congratulations!

Have you checked them to make sure that they won’t get in the way of the operation of the gun?

It’s surprising how many revolver grips, even from respected manufacturers, interfere with the use of speedloaders. Sometimes they even obstruct the ejection of fired cases! This is an especially common problem with grips on the Smith & Wesson “J” frame revolvers (like the Model 60, 640, 642, 442, and the like.)

Check your ...

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Do you need a trigger job?

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It occurs to me that not everyone who stumbles into my little corner of the internet necessarily knows what they really need. I receive quite a number of emails that essentially ask “should I have a trigger job done on my revolver?”

(I am aware that asking someone who became known as a gunsmith that question is tantamount to requesting that the fox guard the henhouse. Still, I’d like to take a crack – hopefully a fairly objective one – at ...

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More on the use of +P in older Colt revolvers.

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The internet “experts” just can’t let this one go!

If you’re new to this discussion, please read this short article on the use of +P ammunition in Colt revolvers. Apparently, the fact that a manufacturer would dare tell a customer what kind of ammunition they should use rubs some people the wrong way!

The latest argument from the “experts” delves into Colt advertising history. Way back when, Colt’s advertisements stated that their small revolvers were suitable for use with the .38-44 ...

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The case for the double action only revolver.

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I endorse the practice of rendering defensive revolvers double action only (DAO.) Many people ask why, and I thought I’d give you my thoughts on the matter.

Let’s start with the usual argument for retaining single action capability, which I call the “Walter Mitty scenario”: the mythical need for making precise long range head shots. Let’s face it, folks – this just never happens in real life!

However, let’s say that you’re having a Jack Bauer kind of day ...

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“Bullshit Tenths.”

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Pardon my French!

This is a term used by tool & die makers to indicate unobtainable levels of (perceived) precision. Why do I bring this up?

Last week, I was advising a reader on selecting pin gages for use in measuring chamber throats. The discussion revolved around which gages to buy, and whether or not he needed both plus- and minus-tolerance gages (no, in case you’re wondering.) He was concerned about their variance of .0002″ (that’s 2/10,000th of an inch, or 1/20th ...

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Maintaining your gun’s fine finish.

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Those who have highly polished guns – polished nickel plate, bright stainless, or Colt’s justly famous Royal Blue – often ask about the best way to keep these fine finishes looking good.

My recommendation: Selvyt. It’s not a paste or a wax, it’s a cloth – a pure cotton, non-impregnated cloth that jewelers have been using for many decades to give the finishing touches to highly polished gold, silver, and platinum.

The Selvyt cloth is simply a specially woven cotton that has ...

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Measuring chamber throats: apparently, I have critics!

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This is an expansion on an email I replied to recently. A loyal reader noted that my name had been brought up on one of the forums (sadly, he couldn’t remember which one) regarding my blog article on measuring chamber throats.

Apparently, the gist of the discussion was that the forum’s “expert” (every forum has one) opined that I was full of it for suggesting that throats couldn’t be measured ...

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A gunsmith I admire: John Linebaugh.

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John Linebaugh is a custom revolver maker who specializes in caliber conversions on Ruger single actions. Not just any conversions, mind you – he is the originator of the fire-breathing .475 Linebaugh and .500 Linebaugh cartridges.

John first became famous for his modified revolvers that would should heavy .45 Colt loads (250 grain bullets at 1,700 fps.) His work with those heavy loads lead him to develop the .475 Linebaugh and the mighty .500 Linebaugh: 435 grains traveling at 1,300 fps!

Now ...

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The Smith & Wesson Model 625 dilemma.

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So, you’re in the market for a S&W 625, and you’re torn between the “standard” 625 and the Jerry Miculek edition 625. Which to choose?

Well, you have to decide whether the “niceties” – such as the Miculek grips, interchangeable front sights, and the serrated trigger – are worth the extra money. There are some internal differences, though, which you may want to consider.

The Miculek edition is a little unusual, in that it uses a mix of MIM (metal injection molding) ...

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Bent ejector rods.

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A common complaint about the old-style Colt Detective Special is the unshrouded ejector rod. Many people believe that the exposed ejector rod is a liability; should it get bent during a struggle, the theory goes, it will tie up the gun and make it inoperable.

Not quite.

Many folks have experienced this problem with a Smith & Wesson. Since their ejector rods are locked at the front and rotate about the front latch pin, any small amount of runout (deviation from true) ...

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“Stainless” doesn’t mean “won’t rust”.

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I hear the advice all the time: “buy a stainless gun, because they won’t rust.” This kind of comment is what prompted General Norman Schwarzkopf to say “bovine scatology!”

Yes, stainless will in fact rust under the right conditions. What are those conditions? Generally, if you get moisture trapped in a place where it doesn’t evaporate normally (say, under a grip panel or inside the action), you have a situation that is ideal for corrosion. The situation is worse in very ...

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A gunsmith I admire: Hamilton Bowen.

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Someone recently asked me what gunsmith(s) I admired or respected, or that I would allow to work on my own guns. I gave him a few names, and thought you might be interested as well!

My first entry in this occasional series is Hamilton Bowen. Bowen is perhaps the gunsmith that the rest of us aspire to be; he combines technical ability, commitment to quality, and a definite style that is hard to define but easy to recognize. Bowen does it ...

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An unusual lubrication problem.

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I get the most interesting phone calls!

A client who works for a public agency in California contacted me with a problem. As you may know, California has pretty strict ideas about what constitutes a carcinogen. Management in his agency won’t let him use any lubricants that contain “substances known to the state of California to cause cancer.” That, ladies and gentlemen, excludes most anti-wear and anti-corrosion additives!

After some consultation with experts, I was able to come up with a recommendation. ...

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Getting your gun engraved.

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The lure of a personalized and decorated weapon is centuries old. Embellished swords and knives from the 17th and 18th centuries are well known; before that, soldiers in high standing had their armor decorated. Some of the earliest firearms in existence are lavishly treated, with inlays and fine woods.

Today many people desire to have their favorite guns engraved. But where to start? There are so many engraving styles, not to mention engravers, and asking someone to recommend an engraver without ...

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The importance of endshake.

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An often misunderstood aspect of revolver construction is the idea of endshake. Endshake is nothing more than the amount of back-and-forth movement (or front-to-back, if you prefer) that the cylinder is allowed to make.

Measuring endshake is easy: using a set of feeler gages, the cylinder is pushed forward and the barrel/cylinder gap is measured. Then, the cylinder is forced backward as far as it will go, and the gap measured again; the difference between the measurements is the endshake. (When ...

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Triggers are three-dimensional.

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It’s surprising how little attention is given to the back of a revolver’s trigger. I recently came across a gun that had been worked on by another gunsmith (more on this in a future blog post), and one aspect of the gun illustrated the limited understanding of revolver shooting by many ‘smiths.

The face of the trigger had been polished smooth, but done in such a way that the sides tapered to meet the back, leaving an untouched knife edge. For ...

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Battle of the “J” frames?

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The internet forums sporadically ignite with a common debate: what “J” frame is the best?

The disagreement seems to center around the fans of the exposed hammer models (who hold out the dream of needing to make a “precise, long range” single action shot) and those of the enclosed hammer Centennial models (who opine that the lack of entry points for dirt outweighs ever needing single action capability.)

I’m not going to talk about tactics, but there is one salient point that ...

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A primer about primers.

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When doing action work, I ask my clients how they’ll be using the gun. For instance, a competition shooter who handloads their own ammunition can utilize a lighter action than someone who needs the gun to work with a variety of factory ammunition.

Why is this? Well, primers are not created equal – the brands vary in terms of their sensitivity. Some of this is due to the type and thickness of the metal that the cup is made from, but ...

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A bit of opinion about MIM parts.

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Heard about “MIM” parts? MIM is an injection molding process for metal parts, and it has been revolutionizing many industries. In the revolver business, both Smith & Wesson and Taurus have made use of MIM parts. Like any new process, however, there are those who decry the new technology; some gunsmiths spread the misinformation that MIM parts can’t be worked on, and refuse to take in guns using MIM parts. Adding fuel to the fire are a few well-publicized parts ...

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Let’s talk about triggers.

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I had an interesting email recently. The writer said that he’d contacted a number of gunsmiths to inquire about action work. In every case, he said, all he could get out of them was “we can make it lighter.” Occasionally I’ll get an inquiry from the other side of this phenomenon – someone whose only question is “how light can you make it?” Why this fixation on pull weight? I believe it’s because people just haven’t been properly educated!

If you’ve ...

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Measuring chamber throats – calipers vs pin gages.

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There is a huge amount of misinformation regarding revolver accuracy. Folks, assuming that you have a gun in proper repair – timing, lockup, chamber-to-bore alignment – the most important factor in accuracy is the chamber throat dimension.

What is the chamber throat? It is the slightly constricted opening in the chamber, just in front of the cartridge mouth, that the bullet passes through on its way into the forcing cone. The throat gives the bullet its first stabilizing guidance, and many ...

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Why I don’t work on Taurus revolvers.

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Occasionally someone will call or email: “I’m looking for a good gunsmith – do you work on Taurus revolvers?” When I politely inform the person that I do not, the result is often indignance, as if to say “how dare you decline to work on my fine possession! You have insulted me, suh!” (Delivered in the best antebellum manner, of course.)

Taurus revolvers possess many positive traits: they’re available in a wide variety of calibers and configurations, they are usually fairly ...

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Lubrication 101: Gun oil, snake oil, and how to tell the difference.

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Introduction

Firearms enthusiasts are the targets (pardon the pun) of some of the most misleading advertisements regarding the proper lubrication of their guns. The purpose of this article is to give a background on basic lubrication concepts, the technology behind them, and some guidelines for selecting lubricants based on facts, not hype.

Before going further, let’s make something perfectly clear: with a very few obvious exceptions, firearms lubrication isn’t terribly difficult. Compared to many more common objects, guns just don’t make big ...

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What is a “good” trigger?

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I recently met a fellow who was shooting a Colt Detective Special. We talked about his gun a while, and I asked him if he’d had any action work done to it. He said he hadn’t; sure enough, on trying his gun, I felt the typical Colt factory trigger – heavy and ugly. Since I happened to be carrying my own Colt that day, I offered to let him try it’s trigger.

Surprise! He handed back with thanks, but opined that ...

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