Revolver Trigger Pull


September 13, 2005, 12:08 PM
I don't have a lot to go on with this, but I now have 2 revolvers of my own and I was comparing pull weights on the triggers. I don't have a trigger gauge so it was strictly subjective.

The 2 guns are a 4 inch blued Rossi (I think it's an 851) in .38 Special and a Smith & Wesson 642 also in .38. I have had both guns since new and neither has been modified. The Rossi has maybe 500 rounds through it and the 642 maybe 300.

The Rossi has a butter smooth double action, very low trigger pull weight, slick cylinder movement, no stacking. In single action it's the most perfect trigger on any gun I have ever fired, light, smooth, and precise. Better even than the Custom Nighthawk 1911 I tried once, and THAT was nice. The cylinder release is also very slick.

The Smith 642 is pretty much the opposite. The DA only trigger is heavy, and ever so slightly gritty, this gives some difficulty in staging the trigger, making the cylinder movement seem stiff and jerky. The cylinder release also needs a firm shove to operate. I even tried out an identical gun just to make sure I didn't have a lemon and sure enough it was identical in every respect. I'm also a fanatical cleaner and careful luber, so this has no bearing.

I'm just left wondering what the likely cause of the difference could be. My options would be:

1. The Rossi is a bigger heavier gun. This somehow facilitates a better trigger pull.

2. Smiths have heavy mainsprings.

3. J Frames have heavier triggers by virtue of their design.

I have heard that Colts have exceptional triggers, but I'm just a little surprised that my junker revolver is the Cadillac while my Smith & Wesson feels like the Ford.

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September 13, 2005, 01:40 PM
The triggers on J-frame Smiths are probably the worst triggers on any Smith revolver in my experience. This is due, in part, to the coil spring and light weight of the guns. Proper double action trigger use calls for a straight pull back with no staging (it's in the S&W manual). But having said that, the trigger on J-frames seems setup for staging. The DA on larger Smith frame sizes, esp. the K and L frames is much better. Colts do not have exceptional triggers, their SA are very good, but their DA trigger pull sucks compared to a Smith K frame.

September 13, 2005, 01:57 PM
Who shoots double action anyway? The way I see it, if you have a hammer, cock it and shoot. I can do that almost as fast as double action shooting with much better accuracy. You would shoot single action when hunting or target shooting. And it seems to me that in self defense, if you really have to shoot someone double action, you'll be shaking more than that trigger would cause you to miss anyway. I don't worry about double action feel on my revolvers, good single action is important to me though. Maybe it's just me?

I realize your 642 doesn't apply, I'm just ranting away. ;)

September 13, 2005, 03:02 PM
Who shoots double action anyway?

GASP! :eek: I ONLY shoot double action. It just feel more natural.

As to the Rossi vs. the 642 ... did you buy the Rossi used? If so, there is a very good possibility that someone did a very action job on it while the 642 is just stock. Plus, the 642 is a j-frame, which do not share the same leaf-spring design as their K-frame breathren. Instead, they use a coil spring common in Ruger and Taurus wheelguns. In fact, you'll hear many say that their small-frame Tauri actually have BETTER triggers than comparable Smiths! :what:

September 13, 2005, 04:14 PM
Nope, both guns were purchased new.

If I could find a competent gunsmith I would probably have the 642 worked over to lighten and smooth the pull whilst maintaining reliable ignition.

September 13, 2005, 07:27 PM
Newton, wish my new Rossi 357 stubby had a DA like yours. Mine has horrendus stacking. Is this likely to improve with use? Otherwise I might have to trade it off for something else.

September 13, 2005, 07:30 PM
Colts do not have exceptional triggers, their SA are very good, but their DA trigger pull sucks compared to a Smith K frame.
The different actions are subjective to the person using it. Some prefer the Colt action and others prefer the S&W action. Neither one "suck", they are just different.

September 13, 2005, 09:29 PM
Originally posted by ulflyer Newton, wish my new Rossi 357 stubby had a DA like yours. Mine has horrendus stacking. Is this likely to improve with use? Otherwise I might have to trade it off for something else.

It looks like snubbies just don't have great triggers - I'd stick with it, they all improve with time. I'd recommend getting some snap caps and sit clicking away while you watch tv. A few thousand dry fires should help.

Hope it works out for you


September 13, 2005, 09:34 PM
Everyone knows that you can't hit anything shooting a revolver DA. Just ask Ed McGivern or jerry Muculek.

The only time I don't shoot DA is when using a 1911 or Blackhawk...

My 442 of 1996 vintage has always had a decent DA and the sideplate has never been off yet. J frame DA will rarely be as good as a K frame because of the design, but of the four that we have had here all were very serviceable.

September 13, 2005, 09:53 PM
Just ask Ed McGivern or Jerry Miculek.

Or Bill Jordan. Or Elmer Keith. Or a grillion competitive shooters. Buncha rubes :rolleyes:

September 13, 2005, 10:28 PM
I could give a crap how anyone shoots, names mean nothing to me in this regard because those same folks will tell you SA is more accurate. For competitive shooting where speed comes into play, I can see it. For target or hunting where accuracy comes into play, your an idiot to shoot DA. I don't shoot in competition though so it makes no difference to me, it just does nothing for me.

However, I know some guys that can shoot SA faster than most can shoot DA on their best day and I don't do too bad in that regard. With that said, I own many, many more DA revolvers than I do SA. Maybe it's because of the selection and styles, I dunno? But I can't remember the last time I was pulling that hammer back using the trigger instead of either of my thumbs. That exposed hammer is there for a reason and it's not to carry with the gun cocked. Anyway, that's why I concentrate on SA trigger pull and feel.

September 14, 2005, 01:26 AM
in self defense, if you really have to shoot someone double action, you'll be shaking more than that trigger would cause you to miss anyway

Wow, so you'd go single action with a revolver in SD?

September 14, 2005, 02:09 AM
I will repeat myself, Colt DA trigger pulls suck. They are different than Smiths, yes, but there is something basically wrong with a trigger that stacks before it releases.

Nobody uses SA for selfdefense or combat shooting in this day and age and it's been that way for decades.

September 14, 2005, 06:44 AM
Ron in PA your opinion is duely noted. And vehemently disagreed with by me and alot of others.
Unlike 20th century S&W revolvers Colt made several different actions. Each has a different feel.
Colt was the preferred target revolver for most of the 20th century.

Now regarding the difference between Newton's Ross & S&W.
Over the past few decades S&W trigger pulls have gotten heavier.
This abominable condition is cause by the lawyers afraid of liability and the beancounters trying to save a ha'penny by cutting quality control.

Rossi (owned by Taurus) in Brazil is still churning out revolvers the old fashioned way.

Taurus reminds me of the old Avis rental car ads in the 1960s and 70s.
"We're #2, We try harder."

September 14, 2005, 08:46 AM
Wow, so you'd go single action with a revolver in SD?

Absolutely. Unless, I am very close and have to rely on multiple shots quickly, like get off my belly. But, if someone breaks into my house and my revolver is all I have, which will never be the case but, the first thing that will happen is the cocking of the revolver.

Old Fuff
September 14, 2005, 08:58 AM
It is generally acknowledged among those that have experience with such things, that the mechanics of Smith & Wesson's old "long action" design afforded - at least in theory - the best possible double-action. However, as Blues Bear has pointed out, the Colt revolver was much preferred by thumb-cocking target shooters. Since champion target shooters could, and did influence handgun sales (somewhat in the manner that “combat” and “cowboy action shooting” top dogs do now); Smith and Wesson introduced a faster lock time/easier to cock “short action” following World War Two. In doing so they sacrificed some of the edge their long action’s double-action feature had offered.

In both S&W and Colt revolvers, the excellence of their respective actions required careful finishing and hand fitting. For example I recently disassembled and photographed the lockwork in an almost-like-new S&W 1905 H.E./Military & Police .38 that was made in late 1917 or early 1918. To my surprise I later discovered that the side of the hand was so highly polished that I could see a clear image of the camera’s lens reflected off that mirror-like finish! With the passage of time this sort of handwork is no longer done and the smoothness of revolver actions has suffered as a result.

A lot of the stacking in later Colt actions equipped with a stamped “V” mainspring was caused by the two leafs coming together before the hammer had reached the end of its travel backwards. Earlier forged springs generally didn’t have a problem, although the actions were heavy to insure that less sensitive primers would be detonated.

September 14, 2005, 09:49 AM
Who shoots double action anyway?

That's a joke... right?!?


September 14, 2005, 11:13 AM
Single-action revolvers served defensive needs admirably for years.

Prior to the percussion cap, flintlocks were state-of-the-art.

Unless I have no choice, I am NOT going to compromise my grip on my defensive handgun to thumb-cock a revolver for a single-action shot.

I guess consistently hitting a target not much larger than a playing card (the X-ring of the B27 silhouette target) at 50 yards is not really accurate (NOTE: I did not say "always," I said "consistently." That is, of the 24 rounds fired from 50 yards in the old PPC course, most are 10s with a fair number of Xs.)

As far back as the 1970s, when I was a PPC competitor (NRA High Master classification), the winning shooters fired DA, even from the 50-yard line (where SA was permitted).

My favorite EDC is a M642; I will only consider transitioning to a SA revolver for some very specific reasons, and only under protest! :scrutiny:

Now a SA semiauto, on the other hand . . . :D

September 14, 2005, 12:10 PM
I am NOT going to compromise my grip on my defensive handgun to thumb-cock a revolver for a single-action shot.

Why in the world would your grip be compromised? You have two thumbs and your opposite thumb is right there. :scrutiny:

Maybe I've just been around guns too long or something? To me single action is natural while pulling a hammer back by use of the trigger is unnatural. It heavier, takes a longer pull and compromised accuracy just as any DA tigger pull does.

To each their own.

September 14, 2005, 01:16 PM
Ohhh, I see. You're assuming you'll have two hands on the handgun!

As you say, to each his own. I prefer to train one method (DA) to be used at whatever range at whatever rate of fire. This (I believe) will best serve me at bad breath range or at extended range. I don't have to think about one hand or two hands, cock with shooting thumb or offside thumb, or just DA it.

Just my thoughts (and the thoughts of a number of others who've actually had to draw a weapon in self-defense or performance of duty).

September 14, 2005, 01:25 PM
It may be "to each his own", but I shoot DA almost exclusively, qualified that way in my LEO days at 98%, and don't appreciate being called an "idiot" by someone just because I don't agree with them. If you want to live in the past that's fine, but don't start judging others by the same rule.

September 14, 2005, 01:27 PM
In the heyday of revolver use for bullseye shooting Colts were the preferred gun. I remember reading an article (early 1960s) in the American Rifleman that featured interviews with the best handgun competitive shooters of the day. The guns they shot were listed and the Colt target revolvers were the most mentioned. I suspect the reason was because Colts might have had a slight accuracy advantage over the K38 Smiths, esp. at 50 yards slow fire.

September 14, 2005, 02:02 PM

No, yes I am assuming I will have both hands, if I don't then I shoot differently. I guess everyone that practices shooting two-handed assumes they'll have two hands, wouldn't you say? But, if you prefere to shoot DA only and only one-handed, that's your choice. I prefer to practice shooting left and right handed, two handed and single handed.

Shooter, IMO if someone is target shooting or hunting and shooting DA only, they are being an idiot, yes. There is no way that's it's as accurate or easier. But as I say, if you think so, then more power to you.

September 14, 2005, 02:41 PM

Why does it always have to be one way or the for you people?

Why don't y'all just act like children and start calling each other names and see who's dog can pee higher on the tree.

My question to the rational thinking people reading this is why not use all of the options available to you? There's more than one colour in the crayon box kids. Try a new colour every now and then. You might like it. Sometimes it might be a better choice.

If your revolver is capable of single action fire why not train on how to use it also?
There are times, even in self defense, where a more preceise aim is needed.
In that situation being very familiar with how your weapon works in SA mode would be very beneficial.

But you should always use whatever technique is best for you at that given time.

The only idiocy I see here is the belief that there is only one way to git'erdun.
Many problems in this world have more than one solution.
A wise man understands this and knows how to adapt.
A fool is one who never looks for the alternatives.

September 14, 2005, 03:03 PM
Blues, agreed. Actually I came back and re-read my post and realized it came across too harsh. I don't mean to call anyone an idiot, more the act itself in those two situations.

As far as using what's available, absolutely! I've shot my guns for enough years to know that I can shoot DA at close range if needed and be just fine. It doesn't take a lot of practice to do it accurately at close range. But as you pointed out, there's more than one way to skin a cat and IMO, SA is so much easier to be accurate with and in a defensive situation, other than what I mentioned, I see it being much more advantageous.

If someone wants to shoot DAO no matter what, all of the time, fine. I see it as a drawback for them however.

September 14, 2005, 03:04 PM
I have to agree with bluesbear on this......I have revolvers that are DAO and of course that is how I practice with them......I also own revolvers that are capable of S/A fire and I practice with them both D/A and S/A....
I read this thread a couple times and was wondering if anyone was going to bring this up, or was I the only person here thinking that way.....hey, at least if I'm crazy I'm not alone, eh bluesbear? :D
I can get off a shot quicker DAO though, it may only be a split second but it could make a difference.....

September 14, 2005, 03:40 PM
Hey, come on guys I was just asking about my revolver triggers, no need for any falling out.

We're all friends here, let's go have a beer :)

September 14, 2005, 04:02 PM
Newton.....I got all caught up in this and forgot the original intent of the thread.....I agree with others that the newer smiths just don't have the trigger of the old ones......I have four j frames, 442-nothin, 642-1, 38-nothin, and a 640-1 and the triggers on all of them are pretty nice, the best being the mdl 38.....I had a 342 that had a really bad trigger, my local smith said he could fix it but I sold it before I got around to having it done......tom

September 14, 2005, 04:29 PM
Yes, back to the original topic!!! :o

I have no experience with Rossi, but my 642, purchased new, had a pretty rough trigger. I did 3 things:

1) rounded & polished the trigger face (purely ergonomic, but it does ease the "slide" of the finger across the DAO trigger).

2) replaced the rebound slide spring with a lighter weight version (from Wolff).

3) fired & dry-fired the heck out of it!

Result? It's actually pretty smooth, now! I suspect Action #3 above is the primary reason. :rolleyes:

I considered replacing the mainspring with a lighter weight Wolff offering . . . well, actually, I DID replace the mainspring. Fired a few boxes, had no failures to fire, but came to my senses and replaced the original, full-strength mainspring. Guaranteed ignition (for a CCW) is vastly more important to me than is a slight reduction in trigger weight! Smoothness is a bigger factor than weight, anyway.

Try dry-firing extensively and see if that helps. Rent a Mikey Moore mockumentary, remove all live ammo to a different room, and . . . . .

September 14, 2005, 05:49 PM
Yeah, they don't make Smiths like they used to, but the most recent ones certainly beat anything produced in the 80's and 90's.

-When I wanted to shoot faster, the trick was to learn to slowly shoot and correctly.....
-Even though clay pidgeons and doves have little in common, shooting the former make hitting the latter easier (and after dove season those pidgeons just seem to float out there).
-My dog can pee higher on the telephone pole than your dog
-When I have a hard time shooting well at 15yds, I try a couple groups at 25 or 50 yds, back at 15 yds shooting seems "easier".

If you shoot well, variety will improve all of your skills.

Of there was only one right way to do things, well.....we wouldn't have Smiths, Colts, and Rugers to argue over.

September 15, 2005, 11:19 AM
Thanks again for the responses guys.

I would like to try the steps described by scbair, but don't want to "bubba" my otherwise excellent 642.

I'm on the lookout for a really competent gunsmith who could give the gun the trigger it deserves. If Rossi can make a cheap gun with a smooth trigger that has provided me with 100% reliable ignition, then I should be able to get the S&W to the same condition.

That 642 sure would be sweet with a smooth light trigger.

September 15, 2005, 11:24 AM
Where are you located Newton?

Old Fuff
September 15, 2005, 12:22 PM
The problem with using a lighter rebound spring is that this spring not only pushes the trigger forward, but also rebounds the hammer and positions the trigger to re-set in the cylinder stop. If any of this goes wrong, of if the shooter tries to pull the trigger a second time before it is fully forward, the revolver will jam. On "toys" this might be acceptable. On defensive weapons I'd think it wasn't. :uhoh:

September 15, 2005, 12:40 PM
Who shoots double action anyway?

Many of the bullseye shooters I shoot with swear by double action only. They claim it's more accurate. It's not for me.

September 15, 2005, 12:50 PM
The trigger pull depends on the gun more than the model or the name brand. My 686 2" and 4" have an excellent DA - the 4" more so.

The model 60 2" also has an excellent DA. The LS 36 - needs a trigger job - stiff as anything, even the single action.

My New Single Six has an excellent single pull. I tried someone's Tomcat (Beretta) at the range and it had the worst single action pull I've ever felt on a gun.

My Ruger SP is good but will send it to a smith for work, the GP doesn't need it. To me it varies by gun so I try not to generalize. Wish I had a trigger gauge to compare....

September 15, 2005, 12:54 PM
Old Fuff has a valid point. Don't "lighten" any springs without careful thought, and thorough subsequent testing.

In my own defense (pun intended), my replacement of the rebound slide spring has resulted in no problems. I first did this modification in an old S&W M19, back when it was THE state-of-the-art service sidearm and I was a LEO. I fired it in "Distinguished" qualification on the PPC, and also carried it as a plainclothes/felony stakeout officer. I've fired thousands of rounds, with nary a problem.

I've now fired several hundred rounds through my 642, also with no "short-stroke" on the trigger return.

YMMV!!! Test before relying on any machine.

September 15, 2005, 02:29 PM
I've had good luck with a good lubrication of the moving parts. Now given that lots of stuff goes on inside a revolver and you've really got to remove the sideplate to lubricate the innerds properly and I've perviously been roundly criticized for recommending that you do this yourself ... I suppose you could take your Smith to a gunsmith and ask that it be properly lubed by him.

In other, similar threads it's been recommended that you drop a few drops of oil on the inside of a cocked hammer or, if it's like a 642 put oil on the trigger when holding the piece upside down but I've never tried this. Struck me like putting oil where it's easy and hoping for the best but I could be and often am wrong.

I'd recommend Militec oil and grease (where appropiate) but there's a lot of other good stuff out there.

If you're not happy with the results, you can have more work done on it...stone moving parts, lighter springs, whatever.


September 15, 2005, 04:01 PM
BluesBear - I'm in Phoenix.

Old Fuff
September 15, 2005, 04:21 PM

Frequently removing the sideplate to simply lubricate the lockwork isn't necessary, and in the long run causes burring along the edges of the sideplate even if the removal is done correctly. If you put 2 or so drops of oil down the hammer face and/or the hand window, along with the cylinder stop window and at the back of the rebound slide (after removing the stocks), double-actioning the trigger will distribute the lubricant. If you have one of the small "J-frame" guns, a drop of oil on the (coil) mainspring strut is also advisable. Too many people get into trouble over-lubricating a gun then under-lubricating it. A shot of air from an air hose in the back will also help move the oil around.

September 15, 2005, 06:32 PM
Hmmmm ... Old Fluff gives good advice. Do like he said. I especially agree with the over-lube problems comment (forgot to mention that) and I never thought of the shot of compressed air to move the oil around.

I'd lube the piece just like he said and see how it works out. ..may solve your problem completely w/o removing the side plate, trip to the 'smith, etc.


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