Cylinder wobble - normal?


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ColtMember
May 31, 2006, 11:44 AM
I posted this on the S&W Forum but was hoping to get some more input here.

Last night I noticed the cylinder on my mid-60s Model 36 wobbles a bit near the yoke/barrel end when pushed left and right. It's not a massive amount of wobble, but enough that if I grip the gun and shake it, there's more clanking than just the cartridges moving inside the charge holes. Is this normal?

The gun locks up tight. I'm not talking about wobble while spinning the cylinder around the rod axis clockwise and counter-clockwise. I'm talking about the entire cylinder wobbling left and right. I hope that makes sense.

There is also no end-shake. I bought this gun NIB and it's only had ~300 standard pressure loads through it so far. The gun appears to function fine and is accurate. The ejector rod is tight.

I took some of my other S&Ws out of the safe yesterday, and I noticed some of my other revolvers had the wobble, while most of them did not. But, it didn't appear to correlate to when they were manufactured. For example, one of my 19-3's wobbled, while an older 19-2 didn't. My SP101 locks up at the front of the crane, in addition to the rear of the extractor star. Just wondering why some of my Smiths wobble while others do not.

I don't have any gauges, but the gap between the yoke and frame (when viewed from the front) seems to roughly change about a third of the thickness of a credit card.

I guess I'm just wondering if that gap is "within specs" or if it is indicative of a developing problem. As I said earlier, the gun shoots fine at the moment. 1/3 the thickness of a credit card isn't that much, but I guess I'm just more curious as to whether it's normal or not, since some of my other S&Ws do the same thing, while others do not.

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Old Fuff
May 31, 2006, 12:35 PM
The wobble you refer to is sometimes caused by a bent or "sprung" yoke. This is usually caused by someone "flipping" the cylinder open with a snap of the wrist. The condition can usually be corrected by an experienced S&W gunsmith, or at the factory.

As you pointed out, when the revolver was made, and how much it has been used makes a difference. Standards have become more relaxed over time as cost-cutting has become the rule.

Without actually inspecting your gun I can't say if you have a problem or not. A small amout of movement usually isn't consequental, but excessive play is. If the play is excessive I would expect the revolver to start spitting lead out of the sides of the barrel at the breech. If you continue to be concerned I would suggest that you return the gun to Smith & Wesson's Service Department for inspection and correction if necessary. They should be able to set it up so that there is no yoke movement when the cylinder is locked.

Standing Wolf
June 1, 2006, 12:43 AM
I don't have any gauges, but the gap between the yoke and frame (when viewed from the front) seems to roughly change about a third of the thickness of a credit card.

I'd buy a set of gauges and return with a number.

ColtMember
June 1, 2006, 01:22 PM
Thanks for the info! Being obsessive, I pulled all of my Smiths out of the safe last night and checked for movement on all of them. Some were tighter, and some were actually looser! My guess is my model 36 is within "acceptable specs" at the moment. Again, it was interesting to note that it didn't seem to matter when they were made. The majority of my Smiths were made in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. There were examples from the 50s that were tighter than examples from the 70s, and vice versa. I even have a couple of later production alloy guns from the same time period. One had movement, while the other did not. I thought maybe CNC would make the gun tighter. But it appears sometimes handfitting actually made the gun tighter.

Old Fuff, I will definitely keep my eye out for spitting lead. If that happens I'll definitely send it to a smith or S&W.

Standing Wolf, I was going to buy a set of gauges from Brownell's but they're currently out. I'll have to find someplace else to order them.

unspellable
June 1, 2006, 02:58 PM
Barring a sprung yoke or something this is mostly a matter of how well the factory fitted the gun. Try it with the trigger held back and the hammer all the way down. The will usually be a bit tighter in this mode.

Also, if you carefully observe what moves where relative to which, you will come to realize that on most S&Ws the cylinder is really only held shut at the rear ala Colt and the front ejector rod latch is really doing nothing. I've seen a few on which the front latch could be said to be locating the front end of the ejector rod, but not many.

Old Fuff
June 1, 2006, 05:22 PM
unspellable:

You need to examine some like-new examples that were made prior to the Second World War. You will find there is a barely perceptable gap between the end of the ejector rod, and the barrel's underlug. You may also notice that there is only a tiny hint of movement (or not even that) between the frame and yoke when the cylinder is latched.

This depended on careful adjustment by the final assembler, who in those days didn't quit until things were right. With the Great Depression on it was hard enought to sell new revolvers anyway, and customers weren't likely to lay their money down for a less then perfect product. The workmen at all of the firearms companies knew that no sales = no jobs.

I recently examned a Colt/U.S. Model 1909 .45 revolver that was made most likely during 1910. This revolver only latched the cylinder at the back. There was no play between the crane and the frame, and no cylinder end-shake. Zero - none at all.

I have a Smith & Wesson .38 Military and Police revolver in similar condition that was made in 1917 or perhaps early 1918. When the cylinder is latched the yoke moves not at all.

All of this depends on the assembler who puts them together - then and now.

unspellable
June 1, 2006, 06:38 PM
Pre WWII is a whole different ball game. I also have a nice tight Colt 1909 new Service. I've had a couple of pre-war S&Ws too.

dog repellant
July 27, 2010, 02:51 AM
Did you have your gun examined or warrantied? I am interested in the Charter Arms 38 (esp. the lefty version). I haven't seen one in person yet, but I hope they are well made. I do SA's, so this would be the first NSA I buy.
I don't want to spend $500 on it.

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