Action strength, timing and/or indexing?


March 7, 2010, 11:22 AM
Let me start by saying I'm a revolver moron, I'm much more familiar with autos.

Anyway, I've got this 64-5 I use as a a night stand gun (with BB's variation of the FBI load). In this role, it is excellent. I have ammo I trust to stop an invader, and the gun is well....a k frame.

Here's the problem: If I lay the palm of my hand across the top of the frame, letting my fingers and thumb cover the sides of the cylinder, and I pull the trigger, the gun fails to index/lock up. Let me clarify by saying that I do not squeeze on the sides of the cylinder, this is simply allowing the fingers to curl around as they naturally do. The same thing happens if I try to manually cock the hammer, the pawl(?) gives up on rotating the cylinder before the hammer falls. a non-locked cylinder when the hammer falls is bad for obvious reasons. It seems to me that if the weapon were caked in mud or something else, that it might have trouble firing when needed most (hence why it's a nightstand gun).

Here's my question(s): Is this normal, and am I simply expecting this piece to function under abnormal conditions? Is this indicative of a problem (worn parts), or simply the nature of the revolver? When I run the regular timing/lockup test it runs fine, locks up no matter how fast or slow I cycle the action.

I understand with the Ruger design, lockup comes sooner in the cycle than it does on a S&W. I don't really know much, it's just something I've come to read from various sources over the years. It seems to me that the cylinder should be able to achieve lockup in virtually any circumstances, hence the reputation for reliability. I'm trying to like revolvers more (auto guy), but I guess I just don't know enough yet.

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March 7, 2010, 12:27 PM
A S&W should lock up with a very slight drag on the cylinder. If it fails to do so you have a "carry up" problem. Check the condition of the ratchet. IF it's in good shape then the fix will probably involve replacing the hand which is not too big a deal.

The exception to this rule is the gun show dealer who does not want you to do this check because it "puts excessive wear on the hand". In this case, walk away because the revolver will invariably have a carry up problem.

March 7, 2010, 01:19 PM
Alright then, I'm just a revolver idiot. It can walk itself up my arm if I pull the trigger quickly. Not so much if I do it slowly. I guess I'm just used to the SAA (taurus) clone I used to have. Regardless of drag, if you could pull the hammer back, the cylinder locked in place. Is there a DA revolver with that kind of action strength, or is it a necessary drawback of the DA convenience?

March 7, 2010, 03:35 PM
It can walk itself up my arm if I pull the trigger quickly.
i have no idea what this means...which part of the revolver is "walking" up your arm and why can it only do it quickly but not slowly.

unspellable - is on the right track, it's a timing issue...usually related to wear of the ratchet and hand. it needs to be seen by a knowledgeable pistolsmith

March 7, 2010, 04:06 PM
When I say "walking" I mean that if I lay the cylinder against my arm in upright position, the weight of the revolver, including some of my forearm (firing hand) is not enough to prevent the cylinder from indexing. Unspellable's advice, including other things I have read regarding timing/lockup tests have lead me to believe that I'm being worrisome where the situation does not warrant it, as it does indeed have a slight amount of drag where the catch pops up just before lockup.

My almost complete lack of experience with revolvers has me astonished that a gun of such excellent reputation as the S&W k frame is disabled by what I do not consider significant resistance against the cylinder. On my '95 nagant, you can grasp the cylinder very firmly, and all it does is make the trigger even harder to pull, if you keep pulling, it goes into battery. This was also the case with the SAA Taurus clone I used to have. I just don't see how a revolver caked with mud or other grit could possibly function when needed to.

March 7, 2010, 05:30 PM
When I went through a S&W revolver armorer class and checking carry up was discussed, it was mentioned that no drag was to be placed on the cylinder to check for normal cylinder rotation/carry up.

Furthermore, there's a difference when it comes to extractors in the old style versus the new style revolvers.

Old style revolvers with pinned extractors could be checked with empty charge holes.

New style revolvers, though, with extractors lacking the old-style pins, should be checked with properly sized dummy rounds in the charge holes. The dummy rounds (like live cases) are what properly position and hold the extractor to index off the hand.

FWIW, when cutting a new style extractor dummy rounds should be placed in the charge holes, as well, so the extractor ratchets will be cut with the extractor in the proper position relative to cases being in the charge holes.

Momentum resulting from a briskly pulled DA trigger stroke, like that developed with a briskly thumb-cocked hammer in a SA revolver, can potentially mitigate some drag created as a consequence of abusive conditions to a degree, but the gun should still pass a normal inspection for carry up when in clean condition.

Personally, I've always liked a bit of early carry up, myself. I've been told that newer S&W revolvers are being made where the 'timing', or carry up, can be closer to the edge of the stop's ball locking into a cylinder stop notch just before the hammer falls.

I was also reminded by an armorer instructor, and a very senior revolver armorer, that creating intentional drag on a revolver cylinder can make it seem as though a revolver is 'out of time' (has a carry up problem) when in fact it's within normal specification and working as intended.

Replacing the hand with the next size up oversize hand can create the potential for different problems to occur. Having to correct a 'long ratchet' condition involves filing the offending ratchet, which isn't something for the kitchen table gunsmith to attempt. Finding yourself with the situation of possibly having to open the frame window can create even worse problems if done improperly (and unnecessarily), since that's the serial numbered part of the gun. ;)

A trip to a gunsmith "before fixing anything" can help determine whether your M64 requires some repair or is fine.

March 7, 2010, 06:02 PM
I'm fairly certain at this point that no problem exists. There is just a very slight amount of carry up (I believe what you refer to as carry up is when the cylinder is locked in place, but the hammer and trigger continue to travel?). I've never had an issue with lead spitting, firing out of time, etc. An examination of spent brass reveals perfectly (as near as the eye can tell) centered firing pin strikes.

Again, my only remaining question is why does a conventional DA revolver not have the strength to turn the cylinder when meeting more than minimal drag? It seems to me that environmental fouling would completely disable the firearm, especially if the stop notches become clogged.

March 7, 2010, 06:03 PM
If a S&W is cocked at normal speed with no drag on the cylinder it will have enough momentum to go into lockup and a short carry up may go undetected. That's why you need enough drag on it to prevent it from coasting past the end of carry up and locking when it has short carry up.

I'm not a fan of some of S&W's ideas on revolver smithing. I've also noticed that I am not without company in this regard.

March 7, 2010, 06:52 PM
Have you compared the extractor ratchets and hand in a S&W to the pawl (Ruger still call it that?) and the cylinder ratchets in a Blackhawk? ;) How about a Redhawk? (I once had to return my Redhawk to the factory for a new cylinder, hammer & trigger due to a 'timing problem', FWIW. Things can happen.)

Again, my only remaining question is why does a conventional DA revolver not have the strength to turn the cylinder when meeting more than minimal drag?

Hard to know what you mean by 'minimal', and under what conditions you expect the drag to occur ... Firm and brisk DA trigger stroke? An incredibly sloooowwww DA trigger stroke in an attempt to 'stage' the trigger?

It seems to me that environmental fouling would completely disable the firearm, especially if the stop notches become clogged.

The susceptibility of a traditional double action revolver to adverse environment conditions ... like sand, sediment, course dirt, gravel, mud, etc ... has been discussed and debated quite a bit. History has often given us any number of examples and opinions regarding this subject by folks who have used the guns in conditions from 'normal' to bordering on the harsh and extreme.

Machinery generally doesn't like sand & grit.

Of course, semiauto pistols don't like adverse or extreme environment conditions, either. ;)

I get a chance to see quite a number of firearms exposed to sandy conditions on a firing range. Generally, firearms don't like being dropped in sand, dry or wet.

I've had the opportunity to see the puzzled (and disappointed) expressions on any number of faces when just a magazine is dropped onto loose sand (like during a reload, or when fumbled and dropped) and then the pistol starts to exhibit failures to feed and won't function normally. Not always, but enough to make it unsurprising when it does happen. I've heard my fair share of responses along the lines of, "But I thought this gun was built and tested to work when buried in sand?" :rolleyes:

Now, S&W has been using more or less the same basic design for their DA revolvers since the turn of the previous century. Metallurgy and manufacturing have changed, as has some design elements.

Personally, I tend to like Ruger and S&W revolvers. I also tend to think Ruger builds a more robust revolver, overall. (Although I've had my problems with some Rugers.)

I'm not terribly keen on Colt DA revolvers, myself. That may be because I once upon a time had an older Colt .38 which didn't like to stay timed, although it was a well-used 'beater' gun I was given by my father. Then later I had the chance to listen to a LE revolver armorer complain about how it took more to keep Pythons running when subjected to the rigors and abuse of being carried in cop holsters compared to S&W K-frames. Dunno. I wouldn't accept a Charter Arms or a Taurus as a gift ... and you'd have to pay me quite a lot to take one (which I'd immediately trade in one something else).

I suspect that quite a number of otherwise good serviceable revolvers suffer at the hands of owners who are convinced they know better than the manufacturer how to 'make it better'. (Not that this is limited to revolvers.)

I take reasonable care to maintain my revolvers as recommended by the makers, and and focus quite a bit on maintaining my revolver shooting skills .... and I worry less about the environmental situations in which I may find myself needing to actually need to use one. I might have little to no control over that, anyway.

I don't pretend to have the answer to your question, but just felt like offering my thoughts in response to those you posted.

It would be nice to have a self-cleaning, completely sealed and environment-proof revolver, though, wouldn't it? ;)

March 7, 2010, 07:34 PM
It would be nice to have a self-cleaning, completely sealed and environment-proof revolver, though, wouldn't it?

Kinda how the M16 was touted as being self-cleaning when first introduced?

Anywho, I suppose I deserved that. Allow me to explain exactly why I bought a revolver, and why I'm asking these questions.

Long story short, last year I had to crawl under the trailer to retrieve one of the cats who had been outside for a week (during the -10 temperatures). During the course of doing the low crawl in mud, trash, and other unpleasant things, I discovered that the .22 I was toting probably wouldn't have worked past the 1st round. I had it with me for obvious reasons (raccoons, etc.), whereupon I decided a revolver would be better suited for that purpose, based on reputation and CCI shotshells (any excuse for a new gun, really). I wound up with the 64-5 I speak of.

Obviously machines don't like sand. At all. Nevertheless, I'm wondering if there is a DA which will still work if the outside of it happens to have a fair coat of mud on it, or do I need to stick with a SA for that purpose? I take care to meticulously maintain all my firearms, but $sh1t happens.

March 7, 2010, 07:52 PM
Yeah, somebody was selling a bill of goods about the M16A1 being 'self cleaning', huh? :neener: Still good for a laugh in AR armorer classes, BTW, when looking back over the development of the system.

Anywho, I suppose I deserved that.
I wasn't poking fun at you. I understand exactly what you mean and I'd also like to see something made along those lines. ;)

Having carried a couple of issued revolvers in rural areas where mudslides, sand and general bad stuff could be present, I'd say that it's worth the effort to have a good revolver holster that protects the gun. That can be a bit contrary to one designed to allow fast access from the drawing & presentation perspective ... but there's another one of those potential compromises that seem to be always present when it comes to carrying a defensive handgun.

Our firearms guys back then apparently decided the Hoyt breakfront was the best for our needs, although they came with their own disadvantages under some circumstances. They seemed to provide a surprising level of protection for the guns, though.

Maybe you might find a solution to your particular needs by considering a change of holster to a design which better covers and protects the revolver, protecting it from the elements?

Or course, how often do you plan to get down and crawl around in the mud, anyway? ;)

March 7, 2010, 08:11 PM
As long as it's a choice and I'm not forced to, I happen to like crawling around in the mud.

The whole issue arose from there being no holster involved. Under normal circumstances, a holster would effectively negate the problem. Since I was on my belly, a holster would have dramatically reduced the ability for rapid presentation in the even I had needed to defend myself.

Perhaps in the future I'll just rubberband my revolver and hand inside a ziploc freezer bag?

March 7, 2010, 08:24 PM

Yep, and wearing pants slows us down in answering nature's call, but it works rather well when it comes to protecting some rather sensitive parts when crawling around in the mud and rocks. ;) Not to mention making it easier to get along in polite society.

I 'd think that if I absolutely had to crawl underneath something like that, I might think about it and devise a way to flush out any critters before I poked my nose under there.

Of course, I know of a time when a fellow had to crawl into a restricted space in really nasty weather (mudslides) to look for a large & dangerous animal. As I recall, he poked the muzzle of an 870 ahead of him as he crawled along with a light ... and they both proved mighty handy. The 870 had to be deloused and cleaned up, a bit.

Cats can make people do some things that folks might not ordinarily be inclined to do, can't they? ;) I think they do it on purpose, myself ...

March 7, 2010, 08:49 PM
Pants you say? I wondered why the police kept saying something about "indecent exposure".

There wasn't really a way to flush anything out, since it was the underside of the trailer, and there had been an opening in the skirting for a while. In the left hand was the flashlight, in the right was the .22. Search, move, search, move....

Regarding the cat, yeah, I coulda killed him myself. There was a hole in the skirting obviously just large enough for it to squeeze through, so I took off the whole panel. The cat was right near it, then he decided to go clear on the other side. I did a combination of low and high crawl through about 70 feet of fallen insulation, mud, and trash to rescue that little bastard. He'd lost a lot of weight, and was missing a substantial patch of skin on his front right leg, but you'd never know it to look at him now.

March 7, 2010, 09:25 PM
This was your cat? I thought cats were supposed to have enough smarts to come in out of minus ten degree weather on their own.

We once bought a house that came with a semi-wild outdoor cat. Came the minus ten degree January cold snap we took pity on the cat and brought her in and put her on a leash next to her bed and a litter box. She hated that leash and would try to bite and claw to prevent it being put on. Got fed up with that and tossed her out the door a couple of times. Didn't take her long to decide being on a leash beat being out in the minus ten degree weather.

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