Colt Lockwork Changes


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zinj
July 12, 2008, 02:23 AM
A call out to the resident Colt afficianados:

In my research it seems there ia a common thread that the original lockwork in double-action Colt revolvers, while producing a tight lockup and good trigger pull, has a tendancy to go out of time when shooting magnum loads. Compounding the problem, very few smiths are qualified to work on Colt DAs, and they are swamped with work.

However, I have also found references to changes that were made in the Colt lockwork as cost cutting measures that result in a more durable action (though less refined). Anyway, I have three real questions:

What models had this updated lockwork?

How durable is it compared to the Smith and Wesson action?

How well will it stand up to reasonably frequent use of .357 Magnum ammunition?

Thanks in advance for your services!

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Shade00
July 12, 2008, 04:55 AM
I am reasonably certain the Trooper MK III and many later Colts have this lockwork. I do not have my Standard Catalog or another Colt reference handy. However, it is widely believed that the frame the Trooper MK III is built on is one of the most durable handgun frames there is.

Virginian
July 12, 2008, 05:14 AM
I believe the Mark V, the King Cobra, the SF-VI, and the Anaconda had the revised lockwork, but I am not an expert.

dfariswheel
July 12, 2008, 07:05 PM
The idea of the older Colt action going out of time from shooting Magnum ammo is somewhat an "urban legend".

Colt qualified gunsmith Grant Cunningham has written a good explanation about this:
http://www.grantcunningham.com/blog_files/colt_python_delicate.html

In 1969 Colt discontinued most of the older type action revolvers due to the high cost of building what was a hand-fitted action.
These later models have actions more on the line of the S&W, Ruger, and Dan Wesson, with Ruger and Dan Wesson drawing on Colt's ideas very heavily.

These later guns all have a transfer-bar actions, and Master gunsmith Jerry Kuhnhausen thought these were the strongest medium frame DA revolvers ever built.
These models were:
The Trooper Mark III.
Lawman.
Metropolitan Police.
Official Police Mark III.

Trooper Mark V.
Lawman Mark V.
Peacekeeper.

King Cobra.

zinj
July 12, 2008, 08:40 PM
The idea of the older Colt action going out of time from shooting Magnum ammo is somewhat an "urban legend".

Colt qualified gunsmith Grant Cunningham has written a good explanation about this:
http://www.grantcunningham.com/blog_..._delicate.html

I've seen that before, and it says that Colts need regular parts replacement. I have no desire to own a gun that is going to need to be sent off to need a new hand fitted after several thousand rounds.

So any of the Colts with transfer bars have the new lockwork?

Hawk
July 12, 2008, 09:14 PM
It's an irony of the modern age that both those that note that the Python isn't "delicate" and those that assert they're likely to need maintenance that's difficult or impossible to get will cite the exact same Grant Cunningham article.

At least I've been known to do so. :)

The action is designed so that the hand - which is the easiest part to replace - will take the majority of the wear, and is expected to be changed when wear exceeds a specific point.

This is considered normal maintenance in a Colt revolver, which is not the case with any other brand. To get their famous "bank vault" cylinder locking and attendant accuracy, you have to accept a certain amount of maintenance; it goes with ownership of such a fine instrument.

I've often made the statement that a Colt is like a Ferrari; to get the gilt-edged performance, you have to accept that they will require more maintenance than a Ford pickup. Unlike gun owners, however, folks who own Italy's finest don't complain that they are more "delicate" than an F-150!

For those of us that had a Python most likely ruined by a local 'smith there is absolutely no practical difference between "delicate" and "requiring maintenance that's difficult to impossible to get".

I tend to accept that Grant's comparison to Ferrari is accurate. The 800 pound difference is that I could get a Ferrari maintained locally - I wouldn't have to ship it back to Maranello.

"Needing impossible to obtain maintenance" pretty much defines "delicate". I'd accept the "not delicate" assertion if Grant was accepting work and local. He's neither.

Old Fuff
July 12, 2008, 09:21 PM
So any of the Colts with transfer bars have the new lockwork?

Yes, except for those that were made on the small D-sized frame (think Detective Special) that had a mix of old and new lockwork.

Two points:

I have an old pencil-barreled Detective Special that was made during the latter 1950's. It is perfectly timed, locks up like a bank vault door, and is deadly accurate out to 100 yards. It has never been sent back to the factory or anyone else. I take care of it myself, and while it has seen a lot of rounds go down range it has never been abused. Abuse has ruined far more Colt's then simply shooting them.

Right now is a great time to pick up the post-1970 new-style Colt revolvers. I have picked up like-new Official Police Mk III's for as little as $140.00 At the present time they don't have a cult following, but that will change. They will digest unlimited numbers of whatever cartridge they are chambered for. The only real fault is that if a firing pin should break (seldom happens) the gun will have to go back to the factory.

1858
July 12, 2008, 09:40 PM
What standards? A Colt, when the trigger is pulled and held back, should have absolutely no cylinder rotation. None, zip, zilch - absolutely no movement at all! Not a little, not a bit, not a smidgen - zero movement. A S&W, on the other hand, normally has a bit of rotational play - which is considered absolutely normal and fine. - From the article "Is The Colt Python Delicate" (link posted by dfariswheel).

Of course, after reading that I immediately grabbed my Colt Python and S&W 629 to check for cylinder rotation and play forward/backward with the hammer cocked. The cylinder on the S&W has some rotation (but zero forward/backward movement) but the cylinder on the Python has some rotation AND forward/backward movement!! :( In both cases the rotation is very, very small but the cylinder on my Python doesn't have zero movement as described by "Grant". Admittedly, I bought the S&W lightly used and had it "rebuilt" be a gunsmith. The Python was bought new and I'd estimate that I've shot a couple of thousand rounds through it at most, maybe 75% .38 specials and 25% .357 magnums 99% of which were "softer" reloads. According to Grant, I should send the Colt away before all kinds of problems crop up!! :cuss:

Old Fuff
July 12, 2008, 10:05 PM
If you did not do so previously, check the Python again. But this time cock and lower the hammer while holding the trigger all of the way back - as far as it will go. Then check and see if there is any rotational movement in the cylinder.

Note that the same test won't work with Smith & Wesson's.

zinj
July 12, 2008, 10:15 PM
On a related note, when checking the lockup of the later Colts is some rotational play allowable in the cylinders like other makes?

1858
July 12, 2008, 10:38 PM
If you did not do so previously, check the Python again. But this time cock and lower the hammer while holding the trigger all of the way back - as far as it will go. Then check and see if there is any rotational movement in the cylinder.

I just tried what you described i.e. I cocked the hammer and lowered it about half way (holding it there) while pulling the trigger all the way back and the cylinder has no movement (rotation or front/back). So what does this mean? :confused: Is that good?

For the heck of it I tried it with the 629 and as you said it didn't work. Can you explain the differences between the two firing mechanisms because obviously there's a difference?

Thanks
:)

1858
July 12, 2008, 11:15 PM
I didn't understand what Grant meant when he said "when the trigger is pulled and held back" which is probably very obvious to you. :o Thanks for straightening me out.

:)

By the way, I'm still thrilled with the cylinder release that I worked on. It's a joy to pull back now.

:)

Old Fuff
July 12, 2008, 11:28 PM
I just tried what you described i.e. I cocked the hammer and lowered it about half way (holding it there) while pulling the trigger all the way back and the cylinder has no movement (rotation or front/back). So what does this mean? Is that good?

Yes, that's good, but understand that the only time the cylinder is supposed to be bank vault door tight is when the hammer hits the firing pin. Otherwise within reasonable limits it doesn't matter. And it's likely that when the hammer is released "you will" be holding the trigger all of the way back.

The problem with Colt's is what you just discovered takes skilled hand fitting - something that is seldom seen on modern revolvers because of the high cost.

Also, each of the principal makers, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and (used to be) Colt had they're own way of doing things. Each has some features that are good, and others that are less so, but when you get to the bottom line they all make (or in the case of Colt, made) quality products - but each were (or are) different in their own way. You cannot judge one against the standards intended for something else.

Old Fuff
July 12, 2008, 11:33 PM
On a related note, when checking the lockup of the later Colts is some rotational play allowable in the cylinders like other makes?

Yes, because on this point they are made like current Smith & Wesson's and Ruger's. However that slight movement hasn't seemed to affect accuracy.

1858
July 12, 2008, 11:55 PM
Yes, because on this point they are made like current Smith & Wesson's and Ruger's. However that slight movement hasn't seemed to affect accuracy.

Are the current SAA Colts "later" Colts or has the design remained unchanged for years? Is my Python considered an "earlier" Colt. I bought it new in '92 but have no idea when it was made.

Thanks.
:)

Old Fuff
July 13, 2008, 11:20 AM
As a rule of thumb:

All Colt-made Single Action Army revolvers have the same lockwork that came out in 1873, but the parts are completely different then those used in any Colt hand ejector double-action revolver. Don't get the two mixed up because they don't work the same way.

The so-called "older" Colt hand ejector/double action revolvers go back as far as 1888, but the ones usually referred to were made from 1908 to about 1970. Excluding the Python, those made after 1970 were "new" models with the transfer bar safety.

The Python's basic design dates from the Army Special, which was introduced in 1908; so the Python is an old model or old style gun.

The older revolvers were exceptionally fine guns, but they required skilled hand fitting, and Colt could no longer make them for a price that would be competitive against other brands.

1858
July 14, 2008, 02:59 AM
This really is a great site! :D

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