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If I could be known for one specialty, it would be Colt revolvers. They are what started me on the road in gunsmithing, and I’ve been fortunate and grateful to have been compared to some of the “greats” in the Colt world.
I take great pride in the work that I do; whether it’s a Python or a Police Positive, an Official Police or a Detective Special, every gun gets the kind of “old world” treatment that is all too rare in today’s world.
Which Colt revolvers do I work on? The “D” frames – Detective Special, Cobra, Agent, Diamondback, Police Positive series – and the “E”/ “I” frames – Python, Officers Model series, and Official Police. I do not work on the SF-VI, DS II, or Magnum Carry.
The “Master” Action Tune
Colts aren’t like other guns – unless all aspects of the action are just “right”, shootability and durability will suffer. Through experience, I’ve learned that if some work isn’t done because it isn’t part of the “package” you chose, your gun will never be as good as it can be. Thus was born my Master Action Tune, and is type of action work associated with the Colt master gunsmiths of old. This goes far beyond even the best factory fitting; the difference is truly phenomenal!
I start by carefully examining your gun. I measure and record every operational aspect, and compare these measurements against factory limits. In some cases, I have more stringent specifications than the factory, as I’ve found that they are critical to the gun’s longevity. (If the headspacing, cylinder gap, or cylinder endshake are out of spec the condition(s) must be corrected before I will commence any action work.)
On disassembly, all parts are inspected and ultrasonically cleaned. The frame is checked for smoothness where operating parts contact; if at all rough, the areas are smoothed.
The gun is now adjusted for perfect timing and lockup; I pay particular attention to getting the same lockup on all cylinders, which benefits both performance and longevity. This is done by the time-consuming step of equalizing the star (“ratchet”) surfaces, by hand, and test-fitting at every step. This is not a job for the impatient!
Once the necessary repairs and adjustments have been made, I proceed with the type of action work, available only on Colts, that established their reputation amongst the most demanding firearms enthusiasts. I start by smoothing all operational parts of the action; all operational surfaces are polished to the greatest degree allowed by their manufacture and/or condition. (If the parts do not allow this, they will be replaced.) The geometry of the double-action sear surfaces are changed, which helps to reduce the characteristic Colt “stacking” (increase of pull weight toward the end of the trigger’s travel.) This is the “big secret” that the renowned Colt gunsmiths of old used to deliver their best actions. (Of course, if you prefer a bit of stack in the action, I can oblige you.) The sear surfaces are polished to the degree of fine jewelry, resulting in the utmost reduction in friction.
The bolt (which is the piece that pushes up into the cylinder notches) is adjusted and polished so that when you pull the trigger the bolt’s action is heard – yet not felt. (Try yours – you’ll probably notice that you can feel a “click” in the trigger; in extreme cases, you may even see the sights move!) All of the contact surfaces of the parts involved are treated with the same fanatical attention to detail that the sears receive.
On guns where the single action is retained, the single-action sear is adjusted and polished; even the surfaces that contact when the gun is cocked for single action are finished, so that the act of pulling back the hammer is smooth and slick. The single action is adjusted for a smooth, no-creep letoff that is crisp, yet without abruptness.
The cylinder’s bearing surfaces are polished to remove even slight amounts of friction.
All of the internal springs are tensioned and balanced for both light pull and reliable trigger reset, and the firing pin protrusion is adjusted to ensure reliable ignition at the reduced pull weight.
On occasion, I find cylinder locking notches that are very roughly machined; this results in a slight “chattering” feel in the last bit of trigger travel. If the notches are not smooth, I polish them so that they are. Depending on your tastes, this may require that the cylinder be refinished. (Note: I do not do refinishing. )
As any serious revolver shooter knows, the trigger pull is only half of the equation; the other half is the trigger return. I pay special attention to all of the things that affect the trigger return – smoothing it to the same degree as the pull. Not only will the trigger reset more smoothly, it will do so faster.
The final result of all this work is a reduction in felt pull weight, dramatic increase in smoothness, and virtual elimination of the Colt stacking. You end up the proud owner of a trigger that is consistent from start to end, and whose let-off is smooth and predictable – without the sudden jarring that is present in a lesser gun.
Believe it or not, this description doesn’t begin to cover all of the work involved. There is much more, all aimed at one goal: giving your Colt the best action that it can possibly have!
It must be pointed out that the goal of the Master Action Tune is the absolute best double-action pull available. Because of the changes to the sear geometry to achieve that goal, the single action will increase in pull weight – usually ending up in the 4-1/2 to 5lb range. (If you want to retain a light single action trigger, see the “Super Action Job”, below.)
(Note on stainless and nickeled guns: Stainless and nickeled triggers cannot be modified for stacking reduction; for these guns, I will fit a standard carbon trigger to which the modifications are done, and polished so that it closely matches the gun. The original unmodified trigger is returned with the gun. There is no extra charge other than the cost of the part.)
The “Super Action Job”
If you prefer a gun that is tuned more to single-action shooting than double-action, then you want the Super Action Job. It includes everything in the Master Action Tune above, except the traditional Colt stacking is retained and the single action is honed for light and crisp let-off.
Other Popular Colt Work
Front Sight Modification (post-1972 Detective Special, Cobra, Agent, Police Positive Special): One of the few complaints about the post-’72 “D” frames concerns the ramp front sight. The long ramp, no matter how painted, tends to “gray out” in bright lighting conditions. By recutting the ramp to a steeper angle and serrating it, you get a sharp clear sight picture in all conditions. (Pictures of the reshaped sight available on request.) The job includes recutting, serrating, and finishing the sight in red or black.
Double-Action Only Conversion Package: Highly recommended for any carry or duty gun, the DAO Conversion Package eliminates the single-action cocking notch. The trigger face is polished smooth to remove the sharp edges and the serrations, and the hammer spur is removed (“bobbed”) so that the hammer cannot be pulled back. I bob the hammer in a shape that both complements the lines of the gun and retains necessary hammer mass for reliable ignition. It does not look like your typical “bob the hammer with a hacksaw” job! The back of the hammer is then blued (finished to semi-matte on stainless guns) to reduce glare and distraction when you’re pulling the trigger.
Cylinder Chamfering: To make reloading easier and faster, the edges of the cylinder mouths are chamfered. Where necessary, the chambers are polished. Highly recommended for carry and duty guns!
Trigger Smoothing: The trigger face is polished smooth to remove the sharp edges, and radiused so that it feels superb to your trigger finger. In addition, the sharp corners on the back side of the trigger are chamfered for complete shooting comfort. (If desired, the width of the trigger can be reduced.) Note: This service is included in the Double Action Only conversion package.
Muzzle Crowning: If there is any fault of modern revolvers, it is that the muzzles are often poorly crowned or sometimes not crowned at all. I’ve found that a good crown not only protects the all-important rifling, many times it improves the accuracy as well. I cut a deep 45-degree crown, and then polish it to a literal mirror finish – elegant enough to match the rest of your fine machine. The effect is visually stunning.
“Dehorning”: There are many sharp edges on revolvers that can make handling, especially reloading, painful – particularly when you are moving “at speed.” Dehorning gently smooths those edges so that your hands (and clothes and holsters) won’t wear as readily. This is NOT a “meltdown” – the edges are smooth, but the appearance of the gun is not dramatically altered. I like to say that this is a modification that you FEEL, but don’t SEE! This requires that the gun be refinished, unless you like a very “well worn” look. (Not available on alloy frame guns.)
Refit Hand: Colt revolvers utilize the hand to lock the cylinder at time of ignition; the hand pushes the cylinder against the bolt, locking it solidly in place. A Colt cylinder, when in full lock, should NOT MOVE AT ALL. This has been referred to as the “bank vault lockup”, and is what made the Colt DA revolvers famous. By the nature of the design, the hand will wear over a period of time and requires occasional replacement. The owner is expected to check the action regularly, and have the hand replaced when it shows any sign of wear. If the gun is used past the point where there is discernible cylinder play, the other parts of the action – the functions of which are all interrelated – will experience uncharacteristic wear, and need to be replaced. This can evolve into an expensive undertaking, and can be prevented by having the hand refit whenever it starts to wear.
Action Restorations: I receive many requests for action restoration and repairs on older Colts that have been improperly serviced, or simply used beyond the limits of normal maintenance. Since the work required in such cases varies so widely, I will make quotations only after consultation; in some cases, I may need to see the gun in person.