90 Year Old S&W M1917 Trigger Work


May 11, 2007, 10:05 AM
I've had the good fortune to finally get my hands on a good mechanical condition S&W M1917. It's a shooter, not a museum piece. Someone long ago (like 50 years from what I'm told) filed the Property of US Gov off the barrel along with some other stupid cosmetic things, so no need to worry about ruining a collectors item.
The thing some of you may find funny is that this is the only revolver we own and my wife and I plan on using it in some local Run and Gun matches that have a revolver stage. Yes, we will be shooting mild loads in it. No boom boom of the cool old gun from hot loads um kay?:rolleyes:
I'm comfortable working on my 1911's and Hi-Powers etc. So what can I do (or have done) to the trigger to make it as smooth as possible in double action? Single action really does not matter for our type of shooting. But I'd like to get the DA working as smooth as possible. So oh sages of the wheel gun, where do I start? Is there a good book or on-line article I can read about doing a trigger job on an old N-Frame?

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May 11, 2007, 10:18 AM
My all original 1917 has like a 20lb trigger pull, so if yours is the same, you might want to think about a Wolf Spring kit.

If the action hasn't smoothed out in the past 90 years of shooting, I don't think an action job would be of much help, unless you feel something grating.

Knuehoussen (spelling?) has a great book on smithing S&Ws.

May 11, 2007, 10:21 AM

You also can get this from Brownells. Excellent book for all aspects of S&W Revolvers.

May 11, 2007, 10:43 AM
Yeah, it is 90 years old huh? I don't know why I didn't consider that it's probably about as smooth as glass on the inside just from use over the years. The trigger pull is not really that bad, just heavier than I want it to be. It's a real kick in the pants to shoot just the way it is. :D
Thanks for the book link. I'll put the Wolf spring kit on my next Midway or Brownells order. Standard power, right? Won't the reduced power have a problem lighting off some loads?
Thinking about putting some better sights on it too. Maybe these>

May 11, 2007, 10:51 AM


May 11, 2007, 01:19 PM
Standard power, right? Won't the reduced power have a problem lighting off some loads?

You probably already have "standard power". If you want to lighten the DA pull you will need to go to the reduced power springs. Just don't use a hard primer. (Federal is soft. CCI is hard. Although I put a reduced Wolff kit in my Mod 14 and have had no problems with any primer.)

May 11, 2007, 02:39 PM
Okay I'll give the Reduced Power and see how it works. I have a RCBS Pro2000 with the APS Priming system so I only use CCI primers. If I have problems I'll swap it for the Standard power.



May 12, 2007, 01:35 AM
But I thought that the older guns had better trigger pulls?:rolleyes:

But seriously, give it the ole mainspring bend trick before you buy new springs.

May 2, 2008, 02:06 PM
Forgot to mention my gun is fixed and what fixed it. Swapped out the mainspring for a new stock Wolfe spring and all is good now. I tightened down the tension screw and it functions perfectly now.
Still has a nice smooth trigger pull in double action and single action is just about perfect. Makes me want to change the sights out.

May 2, 2008, 05:46 PM
You might have noticed while putting the spring in that it didn't have the hammer-block safety bar of the later S&W's made after about WWII.

As such, it is not as drop safe as a more modern gun.

Bottom line is, don't drop it on the hammer on a real hard surface.


May 2, 2008, 11:58 PM
Oh I noticed all right. It has one smooth sweet action to it. Makes me want to buy another one. What would be the equivalent gun (same era) in a .38 Special?

May 3, 2008, 03:44 AM
1st, this is interesting - I have a 1916 S&W .455 HE with a heavy trigger pull. I wrote it off to the design - maybe I should switch springs like you. So that's all it took? Just a standard Wolfe "N" mainspring or something specific? I'm guessing the old steel has gotten brittle with age?

.38 Equivalent - well, the EXACT equivalent is the .38/44 Heavy Duty - that's the same N frame as the 1917 chambered in .38. But the "classic" .38 is the slightly smaller "K" frame. The model is the "Military & Police" - came out in 1899 and still produced as the S&W Model 10. Very sweet gun. I have a 1947 model in 5" and love it - also the same as the "Victory" model revolver of World War II (be forewarned - US models are .38 special, but UK models are NOT - they are .38 S&W, not the same cartridge. Twice as many UK models as US models were produced, so normally you encounter them and need to be aware of the differences).

The definitive book on S&W's is called "The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson" by Nahas and Supica. It is a very good value at $25 at Amazon.com. It is well written, profusely color illustrated and just a great book. I'd suggest that if you feel you are interested in getting into the S&W brand to any degree. It's a gorgeous coffee table book, too - you won't regret it.

May 3, 2008, 06:56 AM
I have a S&W that has lost collector value also due to new sights/modern grips I bought in CA also for a very reasonable price recently on hold for me at a gunshop due to our 1 a month laws.

I seen a few of these older Colt and S&W 1917's lately with period modifications. I have a snub one I might sell off done on a Colt and I have a Colt done like my S&W but with a jewelled hammer and trigger and it had some very large Herretts targer grips.

I replaced them with Pachmayrs, very hard to find for a Colt New Service style gun, and I've been mostly pleased except the Colt lockup is a little lazy but it doesn't spit lead.

I got both the Colt and the S&W for around $225 each recently. The snub was $300.

May 3, 2008, 07:11 AM
Buy and read the Khunhausen books.

May 3, 2008, 07:39 AM
Pre WWII S&W revolvers usually have a nice smooth action from the factory.

They also have the long action that I find preferable.

Swapping springs may help but mostly I find shooting them and getting used to the action is the best thing.

Other comparable S&W? Any of the unnumbered models. And any pre WWII revolver.

They are great revolvers.

You should enjoy it for a long time.

Old Fuff
May 3, 2008, 09:48 AM
Long Action Smith & Wesson's were made a a time when primers were far less sensative then the ones made today, and the springs reflected this. So far as the 1917 model was concerned, they were expected to work in trench mud, and under the worst of wartime conditions. Again, the springs reflect this.

If one is fortunate enough to obtain either a K or N frame long action revolver the first step should be to clean out the fouling and dried grease that has brobably collected inside of it. I have found that the simple substitution of a post-war mainspring and proper lubrication will work wonders and not reduce reliability. Also be sure to check for cylinder endshake, which can cause a good gun to go bad.

Do not decide to do an "action job," or start polishing this or that. Make a mistake and you'll have an expensive paperweight.

May 4, 2008, 08:57 AM
What would be the equivalent gun (same era) in a .38 Special?

S&W .3 Special Military & Police Model of 1905, 3rd variation.


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