Revolver Failure


October 1, 2010, 11:09 PM
Have you ever had a revolver fail to fire for some reason other than bad ammunition? If so, what type of revolver was it? What are the most common reasons that revolvers 'break'?

This thread has gotten a lot of attention...part of the reason I ask is that I owned a brand new S&W686 when I first got into guns. It was actually my first gun. I shot about 300 rounds through it and it stopped working. The cylinder would turn the firing pin would hit the primer but the rounds would not fire. I tried several different brands of ammo. I had the owner of the gun shop look at it. It appeared to be light primer strikes. So, I sent it to S&W and after about a month I got it working order, and no explanation of what was done to fix it. I sold the gun and purchased a Glock 30. Any ideas on what was going on and if it is something that I could have caused?

I just picked up a GP100 and a 642...and I'm hoping to use them as my primary defensive weapons without fear of 'failure'...

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October 1, 2010, 11:13 PM
Most common FTF problem with a revo is generally due to lightened mainsprings and or shortened strain screws.

October 1, 2010, 11:51 PM
Revolvers have closer tolerances than pistols so they're more sensitive to grit and debris. I had a friends S&W (in .45 ACP) lock up because of unburnt powder under the extractor star.

October 2, 2010, 12:47 AM
Right. Dirt can be an issue (including the kind of unburnt powder crud under the star mentioned above). I had the sear spring break on a S&W 66 during dryfire once. It had been shot thousands of rounds and dryfired so many times I hesitate to guess; at least 5 figures, probly 6. Replaced the part w/ a free replacement from S&W and still shoot it.

Let's see, what else...

Apart from ammo-related failures, I guess that's it. Strain-spring loose; dirt (under star or maybe in chamber, preventing full cartridge seating); and a broken spring. Those are the only Failures to Fire I recall seeing. I've heard of instances of built-in-locks accidentally engaging or being engaged. Never seen it and think it's less likely than a very unusual malfunction like my sear-spring breakage. Other problems can develop that don't cause Failure to Fire--most common is probably the ejector rod beginning to unscrew so you can't open the cylinder.

October 2, 2010, 01:30 AM
On one of the old style 'pin mounted on hammer' rather than frame type S&Ws.

It was a S&W M13 I carried as a duty gun in the Border Patrol. I shot it a lot and dry fired it probably more. No idea of how many times that pin clunked down on the frame, but I had the gun about four years at the time.

I replaced the firing pin and still have that gun.

The only other 'failure' is the matter of a soft primer backing up in the firing pin hole. Usually takes a rubber mallet or boot heel to knock the cylinder open.

October 2, 2010, 05:42 AM
Well there is a reasion why revolvers went out of style in like 1900. They just dont get along with dirt muck and such. If I had a buck for every jam I have had with a revolver I would have cash to by a new box of .45 colt ammo.

October 2, 2010, 09:15 AM
I had the ejector rod loosen up and lock the cylinder in the closed position on a S&W M25-2. Five min and some blue Loctite fixed it.

October 2, 2010, 09:17 AM
My ruger LCR predictably failed every 4th and 5th shot while using blazer ammo. Reason being was that the cases were non-reloadable and not crimped and the light weight gun allowed the bullets to recoil out of the casing and catch on the gun's frame. I had to dangerously hit the bullet back into the case to be able to open the cylinder. Strangely, the more I shot the blazer, the less failures I had, but then I stopped using blazer all together. NOTE TO SELF: MAKE SURE THE AMMO I BUY IS BRASS CRIMPED AND THE LCR IS VERY RELIABLE.

October 2, 2010, 09:50 AM
My Smith 325 had some firing pin housing issues. Scandium frame revolvers can sometimes be touchy pieces of engineering.

October 2, 2010, 09:52 AM
lock up because of unburnt powder under the extractor star


I have seen multiple times. Technically it may be ammo related.

Once at a class a guy blew the topstrap and the upper half of the cylinder into orbit. We never found the pieces.:uhoh:

He swears he couldn't have double charged his reloads.:rolleyes:

October 2, 2010, 09:58 AM
It had been shot thousands of rounds and dryfired so many times I hesitate to guess; at least 5 figures, probly 6.

I've had a few problems with my 686, but I use for IDPA, etc. and dryfire the batsnot out of it. Competition, and moreso, the live- and dry-fire, and reloading practice is very hard on revolvers.

I've broken the hammer, and it locked the gun up (though I should disclose the hammer wasn't stock, but modified to DAO).

At a big match a few weekends ago, my gun suddenly locked up. The timer was running, of course, and revolver jams are never good, so it was an "Oh, darn" <edit -- Sam> moment. After losing 7 seconds, it suddenly "unjammed" and I finished the stage & match. Afterward, we found the firing pin spring ground itself into bits, so the jam was likely caused by a stuck pin.

We also discovered that the gun itself was in dire need of a tune-up, and included replacement of a bent crane screw/plunger assembly. The crane screw/plunger seems a weak link in Smith's design, as it's the only thing holding the cylinder assembly in place. Reloads put a good deal of strain on it, and bent plunger assemblies on competition revolvers aren't uncommon. Unfortunately, at some point they'll bend enough so the cylinder can't open and/or close (which did happen to another wheelgunner at this same match), or even fall out, so I'd consider this a FTF averted.

October 2, 2010, 10:04 AM
I had a Ruger Security Six that I suspect was the victim of a "bubba trigger job"

Whether that was the case of not, a mainspring fixed it.

I too have had crud build up under the star. I forget what I was shooting but it was particularly dirty ammo.

Had a Smith 19 that I bought locked up for a great price. Fixed it and gave it to my daughter for her 15th b day. I don't guess that it was a revolver that failed "on me" but it failed on someone.

October 2, 2010, 10:36 AM
Yes I have. The Taurus Mod. 65 .357 key lock safety system locked up. Did it again even after they had it for 2 months. Finally traded it.

October 2, 2010, 10:50 AM
S&W Model 60. Broken bolt. Locked it up tighter than a tick. Luckily, this was at the range and not during a social encounter.

October 2, 2010, 10:56 AM
Since I ALWAYS clean my guns after use (sometimes before I even leave the range), dirt is seldom a problem. May seem a bit obsessive, but it's hard for an old man to unlearn a 45+ year habit.

October 2, 2010, 12:23 PM
The only revolvers that have mechanically failed have both been Taurus, one with a crane out of alignment the other a Judge that I would have to jiggle the cylinder after each shot, I no longer own any Taurus products.

Vern Humphrey
October 2, 2010, 12:24 PM
We have had several accounts on this forum of revolvers -- especially Rugers -- breaking the transfer bar.

Other things include:

Bullet creep -- bullets moving forward under recoil and tying up the cylinder.
Primer lockups -- mostly metal flowing into the firing pin hole. A backed-out primer can also tie up the cylinder.
Crud under the ejector star.
Loose ejector rod.
Loose or backed out strain screw

October 2, 2010, 12:30 PM
My Redhawk had some light firing pin strikes in slow DA. Ruger took care of it.

October 2, 2010, 12:31 PM
My brother had to send his, back up ,gun for repair, it wouldn't fire. It was a Charter Arms.

October 2, 2010, 12:58 PM
Yes I have. The Taurus Mod. 65 .357 key lock safety system locked up. Did it again even after they had it for 2 months. Finally traded it.

Willing to bet it wasn't the key lock causing the problem. I had the same problem and the only thing i could figure was the key lock was locking up the gun, but i finally figured out that it was the extractor spring failing to press the pin back far enough in the closed position.

October 2, 2010, 01:12 PM
Two early Charter Arms .38 Spl snubbys that gave 50%-75% DA mis-fire rates right out of the box. No more Charters for me in the last 40 years.

An occasional S&W ejector rod loose 45 years ago.
They all get lock-tighted, along with the cylinder thumb-piece nut, when they follow me home since I knew better.

Colt & clone SAA broken bolt springs.
They all get Wolff music wire bolt springs now.

Compared to bottom-feeders, my list of revolver failures or parts breakage over the last 50+ years is probably 10-1 in favor of revolvers just always working.


October 2, 2010, 02:36 PM
I was a wheel gun fanatic in my early years and owned a Colt Python, S&W 29, 10 , 27, and 36, a Dan Wesson .357, and a Ruger Blackhawk. And the only issue I ever had was when shooting the DW with my brother's very hot handloads. I ran the snot out of all of them but I kept them spotlessly clean and well oiled. I guess I was just lucky, considering how much I shot.

But I have had a friend lock up a Taurus 85 when the 'cylinder poker upper thingee' broke and I saw an old Charter Bulldog blow up once when the guy was pumping hot loads thru the little thing as fast as he could pull the trigger.

October 2, 2010, 02:50 PM
Had a few revolver failures. Most due to crud under the ejector star, or ejector rods comming unscrewed. Also had a Colt Cobra that had an internal part breakage and locked up completely.

October 2, 2010, 02:57 PM
Properly used, with the barrel pointing skyward, the unburned powder falls out inside the emptys when you eject them.

If you eject with the barrel pointed down, all kinds of bad things can happen, including powder grains under the ejecter star, an empty case rim under the star, etc.

As you open the cylinder, point the barrel up, and hit the ejector rod. The cases & dirt will end up on the ground, not in the gun.


Big Bill
October 2, 2010, 03:05 PM
I've never had one of my revolvers fail me - NEVER! Probably because I am meticulous about keeping my guns clean. However, I've had a FTF because of faulty factory ammo. A while back, I started shaking ammo that has been stored for awhile. I've read that it's the thing to do. Maybe it's helped, maybe not; it's hard to say.

Almost all the problems I've experienced with handguns, has been with auto loaders.

rc- thanks for that reminder.

IV Troop
October 2, 2010, 04:48 PM
I was wearing my M29-2 in an El Paso tanker rig, under my jacket, which was unzipped. It was about 10 below and I was sweating, tromping through the deep snow hunting jackrabbits. I took a good tumble. After picking myself up and dusting off, I wiped, blew the snow off of my gun. The difference in the gun's temperature when worn under my jacket, then exposed caused it to freeze up. I could cock the hammer back, but the cylinder would not rotate. I tried for a few minutes to get it to work properly, to no avail.

I hiked back to the truck, tried again, but it was still frozen up tight. I then stuck it on the defroster, while I grabbed my Glock .45 and continued to chase bunnies.

The Glock .45 saved the day in that case.

October 2, 2010, 05:35 PM
The Glock .45 saved the day in that case

If the Glock saved the day, why did you take the picture with the 29 on the bunnies?

Those rabbits didn't look big enough to require a 45, let alone a 44 magnum.

Old Shooter
October 2, 2010, 06:27 PM
Trying to warm it up mayby?

October 2, 2010, 06:28 PM
The only revolvers I have ever had problems with were DAO models. My Charter Arms 44 Bulldog started having light firing pin strike problems with all types of ammo which were remedied by a trip back to the factory for repair and a firing pin replacement. It has been good to go for about 9 months now.

Just last week I bought a used Taurus 905 9mm DOA snub. As it was clean, I took it strait to the range without lubricating it. This was probably a mistake. I had light firing pin strikes which caused many rounds (almost 10 out of 50) to not fire. I was using HSM “police’ reloads. I have never had a problem with them in my Springfield XD 9mm Sub Compact. I was also experimenting with using and not using the full-moon clip. Same results either way.

Just today I took the 905 apart and inspected the hammer tension mechanism and spring. While the manual said that it should be adjustable it was not. I cleaned and lubricated everything thoroughly (especially the firing pin) and took it back to the range. This time I was shooting BDI reloads (a new ammo company out of Western Oregon) and used the full-moon clips each time. No problems at all over 50 rounds.

The 905 is just a back up piece for my XD, especially for when I am wearing light clothes. It is not very accurate and I wouldn’t trust it over 20 feet. I will be shooting it each Saturday for a while to make sure it is “carry worthy”.

October 2, 2010, 10:26 PM
I've pounded the transfer bar flat in two S&Ws, a model 60 & a model 66. Both were pre lock but MIM parts, frame mounted firing pin. When removed from the gun both looked like they had been mashed so the metal thinned out. Both had hads a decent amount of live fire (several thousand rounds) and an indecent amount of dry fire (beyond count).

October 3, 2010, 12:09 AM
I found a mainspring that had broken into two pieces, inside my S&W Model 58. A new mainspring had it going again. Leaf springs can break; that is life.

I have had dirty-burning ammo deposit "crumbs" onto the underside of the extractor during reloading, which prevented a full return of the extractor. This is actually an ammo problem, not a mechanical problem, though notably, my two older GP100s have "grunge grooves" under the extractor, which mitigates that problem. Too bad Ruger now skips that step in the manufacture of their DA revolvers. These older GP100s have to be just about the most potentially reliable DA sixguns on the planet.

I have felt let down with both autos and revolvers, and have owned both autos and revolvers that have never malfunctioned, even when abjectly filthy from firing hundreds of rounds during all-day shooting classes. My idea of a post-apocalyptic handgun battery would be my Ruger Bisley Blackhawk Convertible, with its .45 Colt and .45 ACP cylinders, paired with a good .45 autopistol. Single-action sixguns don't have the type of extractor affected by dirty ammo.

IV Troop
October 3, 2010, 08:32 AM
"The Glock .45 saved the day in that case "

"If the Glock saved the day, why did you take the picture with the 29 on the bunnies?

Those rabbits didn't look big enough to require a 45, let alone a 44 magnum. "

The Glock allowed me to continue to hunt while the 29 unthawed on my defroster. The picture was taken with the M29 because thta is what they were shot with.

October 3, 2010, 08:47 PM
I've got a Model 60-9 S&W that has broken two hammer blocks. The original hammer block and the second that was sent by the factory were MIM parts. Cheap pot metal junk. Although not common, this type of breakage was apparently frequent enough that it was addressed by S&W. They now are sending stamped steel replacement parts.

October 3, 2010, 09:18 PM
My most recent revolver failure was a broken transfer bar on a Ruger Vaquaro after 1000's of rounds fired through it, and not to mention all the 1000's of times I've dry-fired it/them, as I have 4 of them. A month ago I broke a hammer plunger on the mate for the above gun. When you shoot Cowboy Action a lot, you tend to break parts sooner or later. LM

Four Knives
October 3, 2010, 10:11 PM
Shooting a range-owned SW MP340 with Magtech 158gr SJSP 357 had a cylinder lock up.

Lockup was caused from crimp jump as explained above, where the recoil from previously fired rounds in the cylinder caused a latter bullet to pull forward out of the shell from inertia.

The projectile came out of the case nearly 1/4".

October 3, 2010, 11:34 PM
Total revolver malfunctions since 1970: Two. The first was a brand-new Colt Python in which the hand broke after just a few dry-firings. Part was replaced and I never had another problem with it. The second was my fault; I was shooting some especially hot Magnum hand loads through a S&W Model 66 and a primer backed out. Fixed with rubber mallet and more attention to proper reloads. Many of the revolvers I have had over the years have had thousands of rounds through them, a few have had tens of thousands of rounds down the barrel.

With autoloaders, I have had the usual FTF, FTE issues as well as problems with springs, extractors and such. Those problems were rare, however, and easily corrected.

I keep all of my guns clean and oiled. And I don't have any complaints or concerns about them.

IV Troop
October 3, 2010, 11:42 PM
Four Knives,

I have had heavy cast loads jump crimp in my old 5.5" Blackhawk that was converted to a Bisley frame. I cannot really consider it a revolver failure though. A heavier crimp solved the problem.

I have also had a couple of 25-2s with lightened mainsprings give light primer strikes. One was a chopped 4" gun that I bought used and had been "bubba" gunsmithed.

Thaddeus Jones
October 4, 2010, 11:37 AM
In 40 years of toting and shooting revolvers, other than bad ammo, I've never had a failure to go bang.

I do preventative maintenance such as tightening screws, and checking the ejector rod. I also keep my revolvers meticulously clean.

And I don't own any revolvers made after the year 2000 either. So no MIM or other cost cutting problems to worry about. :)

October 4, 2010, 01:02 PM
Mod. 19 ejector rod loosened while fireing some heafty Norma 357 Mag. rounds.............loved that Norma Pistol Ammo......can't get it anymore I guess.
Anyway, finally got the cylinder opened, tightened the rod and walla......perfect again.

October 4, 2010, 04:39 PM
A fellow could take clean revolvers and pistols out of the safe, to the range and fire a few hundred rounds through them. Clean them and put them back in the safe and never experience a failure from a revolver in a lifetime. Maybe a few failures from a pistol.

The problem is that people who actually carry guns in the real world do not always have the ability to keep their guns so meticulously clean. Put enough dirt, mud, snow, or any other crud into any of them and you will eventually have problems. The revolvers will be the first to fail and the hardest to get working again.

October 4, 2010, 05:05 PM
Well there is a reasion why revolvers went out of style in like 1900.


Revolvers have never gone out of style...

My brother had to send his, back up ,gun for repair, it wouldn't fire. It was a Charter Arms.

That's kinda self-explanatory. Charter has never really fielded a good revolver. Most of'em will work...for a while anyway.

October 4, 2010, 05:15 PM
I've never experienced a failure in my revolvers. (Knock on wood)

October 4, 2010, 05:27 PM
I had a new Virginia Dragoon .44 mag I went out to shoot. On the second round the stainless steel hammer shattered like glass! I lived in Virginia at the time and dropped it off by Interarms. They fixed it and then the gun worked. It was wildly inaccurate, though, and the cylinder throating was almost non-existent. It was just a bad gun.

October 4, 2010, 06:35 PM
I've only really had one revolver fail to fire, and that was my first gun, a Taurus 83. The front of the cylinder wasn't close to being flat, and as soon as it got warm, it jammed up. Off to Taurus it went, and they fixed that one problem, totally ignoring the totally messed up rifling that loaded the barrel with lead to the point it had to be pounded out with a brass rod, and the timing issues it had. They claimed the gun was normal, and when I sent it back again, they said, "No problems found". I gave up at that point.

October 4, 2010, 07:31 PM
No failures in either my wife's or mine. . .yet (momentary pause to knock wood). Even with her VERY light Wolff springs, I just had to commit to using Federal primers in all her ammo (haven't bought factory ammo for anything in about 14 years) and she has had 0 misfires in about 4000 rounds. So far so good. But then I'm VERY OCD about cleaning and reloading.

October 4, 2010, 08:52 PM
I looked at a friend's S&W 629 that was giving light hammer blows. The tension screw had backed out.

October 5, 2010, 06:10 AM
- Loosened ejector rod (binding cylinder opening)
- Broken firing pin
My fault :
- Backed-out mainspring strain screw (youthfully ingorant attempt to lighten trigger pull)

Mr Woody
October 5, 2010, 07:20 AM
I picked up a S&W Mod 19 back in High School that I carried at work after College. It saw me through being a new shooter into the PPC master class. Still have it. Anyway it started Jamming once in a while when the cylinder rotated with a DA pull of the trigger. It was intermittent and the gun smith/s had difficulty finding the problem. Turned out to be worn out bolt. That malfunction caused me to take up with a 1911.

The other major malfunction I had was with a new Uberti single action .45 LC. During a day of shooting the gun became inaccurate. When I got home and started cleaning I found the barrel was split from the frame all the way to the end of the barrel. Uberti's first questions was what kind of load was I shooting. After telling him my load was almost 30 gr. of 3f black powder the gun was quickly replaced.

October 5, 2010, 03:48 PM

They make a 500 Mag if that 44 Mag isn't enough for those bunny's? :p

October 5, 2010, 05:37 PM
I have had three failures:

An S&W Model 627 Pro had light strikes because of a backed-out strain screw. I had not touched its innards. A dab of Loctite fixed it.

A bubba'ed S&W Model 10-7 that I bought second-hand has frequent light strikes. I am going to put spec springs into it someday.

A Taurus Tracker in .22lr tightens hard after a just a few cylinders. A quick scrub of the cylinder face and the lip of the forcing cone will get it going again, but the tightness returns fairly quickly. It is an accurate shooter, but the DA pull is inconsistent between chambers when I start having the buildup problem. I hang onto it so that I have a handgun for oddball .22lr ammo that will not cycle a semi-auto. I really should have held out for a K-22 or a 617. Buy once; cry once.

October 5, 2010, 08:02 PM
Regarding broken Ruger transfer bars, I remember reading an article by an exhibition shooter, in which he stated he replaces Blackhawk transfer bars every 5000 rounds. It makes sense to me, that a part so heavily pounded would be a consumable part, needing replacement at intervals.

October 5, 2010, 08:29 PM
Had this transfer bar break on my Super Blackhawk. Had the thing since 1983 and I must have dry fired the thing a gazillion times.

So I replaced it, shoots good now!

Did I mention that a cylinder head on my truck engine cracked, and I replaced it!

And the brake spring broke, but I did not have to throw out the truck. Because I replaced that too.

You know, somethings things break. But you can a life afterward. Really.

October 5, 2010, 11:31 PM
S&W 686. Something got into the channel which the frame-mounted firing pin rides in and peened the front of the firing pin. On the last round the firing pin jammed in the forward position - game over. Cylinder wouldn't turn, hammer couldn't be cocked. Took about fifteen minutes of messing with it to get the cylinder opened. A new firing pin from the factory fixed it right up.

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