Cleaning a used revolver


April 13, 2007, 04:58 PM
After a very long dry spell with no DA revolver of any type, I bought a used DA S&W today.

The single action pull is OK, the double action is passable unless one "hesitates" at the end in which case the last few millimeters feel a touch "gritty". Although apparently lightly used I thought it'd be prudent to give it a good flushing with Remington's "action cleaner" in case there were bird's nests, ant farms or river silt in the internals.

Any reason why that would be a bad idea? I don't see much in this forum on opening up S&Ws to clean the things. I've got the impression the sideplate is best left in place but sure wouldn't bet the rent on that assumption.

What say the gurus?

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Peter M. Eick
April 13, 2007, 05:02 PM
I would take the sideplate off (assuming you have proper screwdrivers) and scrub the unit down lovingly. I found that a good cleaning and modern lubes did wonders for my handguns!

April 13, 2007, 05:36 PM
I like to use kroil to get all the junk out of the action and follow it up with Militec-1 on all the bering surfaces. These two products are amazing to me. Be sure to get hollow-ground gunsmith screwdrivers (Grace or Forster are good) and a plastic or rawhide mallet to tap the opposite side of frame...DON'T pry the sideplate up with a screwdriver. Just tap until it comes off onto a strategically placed towel.

April 13, 2007, 07:44 PM
I guess I'd better download a manual. I've got a set of Brownell's Magna-Tips but those slotted screws look delicate.

Thanks for the help - I guess just hosing the internals with Remington-branded brake cleaner is pretty cheesy.

Got her home and took a couple pics - it's what I assume to be that "awkward age": too late for pinned / recessed but early enough for no lock. I don't have issues with locks but I kept hearing Old Fuff posts in my head while I was standing there. That, and the lock-up was impressive while I was pretending to remember / understand Mr. March's post on checking used wheel guns.

There's not much of a turn line but I intend to rectify that pretty soon. Now I need .41 Mag dies. :)

Old Fuff
April 13, 2007, 08:33 PM
You may find that your problem has more too do with lubrication rather then grit in the works. I usually fully disassemble, clean and lubricate - but that's sometimes overkill. Some 19th century models are ... well... difficult to fully disassemble, and in those cases I sometimes use a mineral spirits bath and then use an air hose to blow out the excess. A few drops of CLP dribbled down the face of the hammer finish the job, and a shot of air from the hose will distribute the oil.

Also, swing out the cylinder, hold back the latch thumbpiece, and dry-fire the critter a bit. That, and just plain cocking and releasing the hammer will burnish the lockwork, and not ring the cylinder. I think it may be suffering from being too new. ;)

April 13, 2007, 08:35 PM
The first thing I do when I get a gun, new or old !
Is taking it down to the last screw, break all sharp edges with some fine grinding, before cleaning and assembling the gun again.

This way I know exactly what I am shooting and what to expect from the gun, if You have the right tools, You will only gain from this practice.

Old Fuff
April 13, 2007, 08:44 PM
The internal lockwork in a Smith & Wesson revolver is case hardened. There are no "sharp edges" that need any "grinding" and some of those sharp edges are supposed to be sharp...

To the degree that something needs to be done, burnishing - not polishing or grinding will do what's necessary, and burnishing doesn't remove any metal.

Before anyone does any polishing or grinding on revolvers with pre-MIM lockwork they'd better consider that getting replacement parts is getting harder too do, and also much more expensive.

Master Blaster
April 13, 2007, 09:06 PM
Unless you really know what you are doing dont take the sideplate off and mess with the internals.

When I get a new old revolver, I take the grips off, I take out the front most sideplate screw remove the cylinder, and then hose out the internals with remington solvent cleaner. I do this outside, I push the cylidner release forward, and hose it again after I work the trigger a bit. If its an N-frame usually I disassemble the cylinder ratchet, ejector rod, center pin and springs, degrease and add a little blue locktite to the ejector rod threads, but only if it unscrews easily. I have found on N-frames the ejector rod will come unscrewed as I shoot the gun a bunch. I have never had this problem on any other frame size, K,L,J.

I then let the frame dry, and put a couple drops of good oil in the various openings. I reassemble the crane and cylinder to the frame. And its good to go.

When I have taken the sideplate off I find that there isnt much gunk in there anyway, and none on a gun I have given a good hosing with action/brake cleaner.

I dont mess with the springs because I like the reliability of the factory springs, this includes the rebound slide trigger return spring, which some folks like to cut a coil off of to lighten the trigger pull. I have done this on a couple of guns but it also could affect the reliability in cold weather, and is not a good idea on a self defense gun. On a target gun, I shoot those single action anyway, and the return spring has no effect on the single action trigger pull.

After you shoot the gun a couple thousand rounds, take the cylinder off hose it out as above and relube, the trigger will have smoothed up if it wasnt already smooth.

April 13, 2007, 11:16 PM
I usually open up a S&W revolver to get a bit of BreakFree on the lockwork, and a dab of Tetra grease on the sear. Here's an article I wrote about how to safely do it. Cracking Open a Smith & Wesson (

April 14, 2007, 12:08 AM
Nice guide.

The "start with a beater" point looks like advice worth taking - as well as being a nice excuse to buy another gun.

The 57-3 looks lightly used and dry as a bone. I'll oil it up and run it a bit before dismantling.

Thanks for the resource.

April 17, 2007, 07:31 PM
Old Fuff hits one into the cheap seats:

A little bit of non-takedown lube, and 100 rounds of .41 mag and things seem to be coming along rather nicely - it probably was "too new". Evidently, one should be circumspect of used revolvers with little to no "turn" mark.

I am busy making the turn line much easier to see.

Dang, I was thinking I was immune to revolvers - now I'm looking at the 686 the dealer had. Sure, it was loose, but I could just send it directly to Cunningham, enh?

BTW, Fuff, the bogus baby browning lightweight also acquited itself well. Two 3-point jams in 50 rounds but I was finding it difficult to get a hold of the grip far enough down to not inhibit the slide. Everything fine once I got the "wine glass" grip down. Not surprisingly, a .25 doesn't offer "slide bite" it's more like a "slide butterfly kiss".

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