All Smith N-frames are not created equal?


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Quoheleth
September 13, 2011, 10:24 AM
I was reading Ken Waters' book PET LOADS this morning and was looking at the information on the .41 Magnum and .45 Colt. As I read and compared the data for the two rounds, I realized that he was using this data in comparable Smith & Wessons (with the exception of the Group III .45 data for Ruger/TC Contenders only). Looking at velocity and pressure, the .41 was loaded to velocities were the .45 is leaving off, @ 1100fps. Likewise, pressures are considerably higher in the .41 than the .45.

Conventional wisdom says, "don't try to turn your Smith .45 Colt into a .45 Magnum. If you do, bad things will happen. Yeah, you might get away with it for a few shots, but it's not made for that heavy of loads."

So, why is it that a handloader can crank the .41 Magnum (or, I assume even the .44 Magnum - I didn't look at those pages yet) up that much more than the .45? Is it all in the heat-treating of the gun?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not wanting to turn my 25-5 into a .45 Magnum. I'm just curious as to what is the difference between a 25-5 and a 57 (or even a 29) that allows so much more horsepower?

Q

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pendennis
September 13, 2011, 10:36 AM
Part of the reasoning goes to the fact that the heat treatment for the mangum calibers is different than that of the standard calibers. The Models 25-x also have bigger bores. The magnum calibers are at about .420 and .410. The cylinder walls of the magnums are also thicker.

Handloaders who jack up the performance above that of factory ammo, are on their own if they get a kaboom. S&W will politely say, "Sorry", and send you on your way.

"Conventional wisdom", in this case is spot on.

highlander 5
September 13, 2011, 10:38 AM
It's not the frame it's the chamber wall thickness and where the bolt cuts are made. I had a model 25 in 45 Colt years ago and I measured the chamber walls and they where thinner than the walls on my 45 Blackhawks plus the bolt cuts where made on the chamber wall as opposed to Ruger who cut the bolt stop between the chambers. The heat treatment may be different for the magnum class cyinders as well but I won't swear to that. Loads up to 1000 fps should be safe in a model 25,that should do anything you want under normal circumstances. The original black powder load with a 250 gr bullet was supposed to drop a horse in it tracks.

Lucky Derby
September 13, 2011, 10:46 AM
Different heat treatment+more metal in the cylinder.

USSR
September 13, 2011, 10:48 AM
It's not the frame it's the chamber wall thickness and where the bolt cuts are made.

Yep. I load my 25-5 with handloads that tend not to exceed 23k psi. Why 23k psi? Because the 25-2 S&W in .45 ACP uses the same frame and basically has the same size holes in the cylinder, and it will handle .45 ACP +P loads which are SAAMI rated at 23k psi. You can create some pretty potent loads and still stay within 23k psi.

Don

SlamFire1
September 13, 2011, 10:49 AM
Different forcing cone angles is another.

CraigC
September 13, 2011, 11:17 AM
Has nothing to do with heat treatment on post-war guns and everything to do with chamber wall thickness and the location of the bolt cuts in the cylinder.

1KPerDay
September 13, 2011, 11:29 AM
It doesn't make sense that they would have a different heat treatment process for each caliber. Does anyone have any evidence that this is the case?

4v50 Gary
September 13, 2011, 11:43 AM
Pendennis wrote:

Part of the reasoning goes to the fact that the heat treatment for the magum calibers is different than that of the standard calibers. The Models 25-x also have bigger bores. The magnum calibers are at about .420 and .410. The cylinder walls of the magnums are also thicker.

He's right. The heat treatment is different. I remember when in the wake of the Dirty Harry movies the M-29 44 Magnum's popularity was such that S&W could not meet demands. To meet consumer demands, gunsmiths were converting M-27 .357 Magnums by reboring the barrel and cylinder. It's not the same as a factory made gun.

rcmodel
September 13, 2011, 12:04 PM
Has nothing to do with heat treatment on post-war guns and everything to do with chamber wall thickness and the location of the bolt cuts in the cylinder. What he said.

The .357, .41, .44, and .45 N-Frames of that period were all the same strength as far a metal & heat treating.

But there is very little cylinder wall left at the bolt cuts when you bore .45 holes in them.

That is the weak link in the chain in the .45 Cal N-Frames, be it .45 Colt or .45 ACP.

rc

Quoheleth
September 13, 2011, 12:18 PM
The problem isn't the quality of steel but the amount of steel.
Got it.

Again - I am not looking to hotrod my gun and I'm not wanting to destroy it with foolishness. I like loads that are in the 800-900fps range - a nice authoritative bark with just enough recoil to make me smile.

Thanks,
Q

CraigC
September 13, 2011, 12:24 PM
To meet consumer demands, gunsmiths were converting M-27 .357 Magnums by reboring the barrel and cylinder. It's not the same as a factory made gun.
The only issue with this is the shorter cylinder of the model 27. These guns are routinely converted to fancy .44Spl's and the Keith load is often used in them. Strength is a non-issue.

Walkalong
September 13, 2011, 07:51 PM
As USSR posted, there is no reason a 25-5 cannot take .45 ACP pressures as does the 25-2, and that makes the .45 Colt pretty potent. Not .44 Mag potent obviously, but stout enough for many things.

Owen Sparks
September 13, 2011, 10:11 PM
The .41 has much thicker cylinder walls than the .45, that alone is the difference. If you want to hot load the .45 Colt get a Ruger or better yet a Marlin with a 20" barrel if you really want high velocity.

Quoheleth
September 13, 2011, 10:34 PM
I read a little further in PET LOADS on the .45 Colt page this afternoon and was surprised that Waters' #1 reason not to Magnumize the .45 Colt is the strength of the case! His #2 reason had to do with the gun. When he spoke about the gun, his analysis was that posited here - the cylinder walls and notch weaken the cylinder.

Thought it was interesting that #1 reason was the brass.

Q

harmonic
September 14, 2011, 12:40 AM
It doesn't make sense that they would have a different heat treatment process for each caliber. Does anyone have any evidence that this is the case?

That's almost funny that people believe that. The frames were mass produced and then picked at random depending upon which model they were tooling for. It's the same frame for the 29, 28, 27, 25, etc. Then they would stamp the model they were producing. All the frames were manufactured identically.

DWFan
September 14, 2011, 03:02 AM
Check your cylinder throats for uniform diameter and use the proper size bullets. This is a problem area for both the S&W and Ruger. You can load the RCBS 45-270-SAA 270gr SWC to run 1000-1100 fps from your M25.

Walkalong
September 14, 2011, 07:47 AM
Waters' #1 reason not to Magnumize the .45 Colt is the strength of the case! The case can obviously take it.

CraigC
September 14, 2011, 09:36 AM
Didn't realize Ken Waters was perpetuating that weak case myth as well. T`was the only time ole Elmer was wrong.

SlamFire1
September 14, 2011, 10:09 AM
I read a little further in PET LOADS on the .45 Colt page this afternoon and was surprised that Waters' #1 reason not to Magnumize the .45 Colt is the strength of the case! His #2 reason had to do with the gun. When he spoke about the gun, his analysis was that posited here - the cylinder walls and notch weaken the cylinder.

Thought it was interesting that #1 reason was the brass.

Ken Waters does not have a degree in mechanical engineering, materials, or physics, for all the articles he has written he is incapable of asking intelligent questions on structures, strength of materials from industry people who could have set him down the path to enlightenment. Ken Waters has created or perpetuated a number of terms “over bore” being one, “efficient” another, these terms are only useful for creating sound and fury over nothing.

If the brass is the same, if the hardness is the same, if the head and sidewall thickness are the same, than the ultimate and yield will be the same. There will be differences in taper, wall thickness, primer hole size, but all things being equal, the predominate strength issue with cases will be the materials used and the thickness of the case head. The case is simply a gas seal and is not intended to carry load. If the case is not supported it will rupture. Case support is usually the difference between what gun writers call a “weak” case and a “strong” case.

Case support is so important, you see images all the time of blown case heads in Glocks, be it 45 ACP, 9mm, 40 S&W, and the difference between Glocks and other designs which were not having issues is case head support. Or should I say was, because Glock redesigned their barrels to provide better case head support.

It is obvious examining the cylinder wall thickness of a N Frame 44 Magnum and a 45 LC cylinder that the 44 Magnum has thicker walls. Thicker walls means the thicker cylinder will stretch less given the same load, which means the case will stretch less for the same load. There are probably subtle issues with frame flexing that only CAD models would reveal, so I am ignoring those.

For me, the best reason not to attempt to magnumtize the 45 LC has to do with cylinder thickness and the fact we don't know if there is a difference between the cylinder materials and their heat treatment for 45 LC's and 44 Mag's. There is no reason to assume that they are the same.

harmonic
September 14, 2011, 10:23 AM
There is no reason to assume that they are the same.


Yes there is. Smith and Wesson isn't going to have two heat treating procedures when one will do. They'll just heat the 45 the same way as the 44 and 41 at half the cost.

SlamFire1
September 14, 2011, 12:01 PM
Yes there is. Smith and Wesson isn't going to have two heat treating procedures when one will do. They'll just heat the 45 the same way as the 44 and 41 at half the cost.

Call them up and ask them. Then tell us what they say.

USSR
September 14, 2011, 12:03 PM
Didn't realize Ken Waters was perpetuating that weak case myth as well. T`was the only time ole Elmer was wrong.

Actually, Elmer wasn't wrong - when he initially said it. Prior to the 1950's, .45 Colt brass was balloon head brass, and was weak. For about the last 60 years, .45 Colt brass is no different than any other modern handgun brass. Where some of these writers run into problems is, they take things that are said or written out of the context of the day and age in which they were said.

Don

CraigC
September 14, 2011, 12:32 PM
Elmer Keith did not just say that the cases were weak. He blamed a "weak case" for the destruction of a milsurp 1st generation blackpowder Colt. It wasn't the case that let go, it was the sixgun with his 300gr cutdown .45-90 bullet over a caseful of blackpowder that let go. Keith was wrong and the myth was born.

USSR
September 14, 2011, 03:04 PM
CraigC,

He blamed a weak case in a case design that had structural deficiencies. All balloon head cases are by design weak. That's why they quit making them.

Don

CraigC
September 14, 2011, 03:59 PM
Regardless of your view of what happened to Keith's Colt or how he worded his report, that is where the myth comes from.

The biggest issue with balloonhead cases was not necessarily the design but that they were customarily loaded with corrosive powder/primers and if not cleaned quickly after firing, they were quickly weakened by corrosion. There never really was much grumbling about balloonhead cases in the .44Spl when kept clean. Taffin was even able to reproduce Keith's results recently using balloonhead cases and Dupont #80 powder.

USSR
September 14, 2011, 06:23 PM
The biggest issue with balloonhead cases was not necessarily the design but that they were customarily loaded with corrosive powder/primers and if not cleaned quickly after firing, they were quickly weakened by corrosion.

Oh, yeah, that must be it. All those guys using black powder in the 40's and 50's.:rolleyes:

Don

CraigC
September 14, 2011, 08:20 PM
No reason to get pissy.

USSR
September 14, 2011, 08:42 PM
Not getting ***** (is that enough asterisks, owen:D) at all. As a Programmer/Analyst, I was just following your logic to it's conclusion.

Don

Steve C
September 15, 2011, 02:48 AM
Smith and Wesson isn't going to have two heat treating procedures when one will do. They'll just heat the 45 the same way as the 44 and 41 at half the cost.

Oh they most definitely will have 2 or more procedures as the cycle times will be different. The heat treat process will be after the machining is done so the cylinders will be designated for caliber before entering heat treat.

The .38 spl and .45 Colt have similar standard pressure limitations for example and likely similar hardness requirements for their cylinders. Since the furnace doesn't care what cylinders or other parts for that matter are in it, it is logical that they would treat parts with similar process and cycle time requirements together. There can be hours difference between the time spent in heat treat needed to get different hardness to metal and that translates into manufacturing cost that every successful company tries to minimize.

There is a reason lesser calibers usually sell at a lower price point than the magnums and its not all marketing.

BSA1
September 15, 2011, 09:27 AM
I don't have nay way to measure the heat treatment on cylinders so I will rely on my observations.

1st: S&W guns are mass produced. The more I manufacture parts to the same standards the lower the cost to make them along with simpifying inventory.

2nd: A friend had a 357 N-frame cylinder rechamber to 45 Colt. When he tested fired it a small hole blew through one of the cylinder walls into a locking bolt cutout. The gunsmith must of been a little sloppy with the reamer. Lesson learned is 45 Colt wall above the locking bolt cutout is very thin and held to critical tolerances.

3rd; S*W redesigned their N-frames A few years ago to take higher pressure loads. As I recall it involved changing the locking bolt cutout on the cylinder, changing the design of the bolt slightly and some changes to the frame.

USSR
September 15, 2011, 09:55 AM
I also have no way of knowing or measuring the degree of heat treatment of N frame cylinders, so I stay within the pressure parameters of .45 ACP +P ammo for all my N frame .45 Colt loads.

Don

ddixie884
October 10, 2011, 03:53 AM
The only thing that let go on Kieth's SA was the loading gate, It almost severed his trigger finger.......

Kerf
October 10, 2011, 07:05 AM
there's always a but.

Ken Waters has created or perpetuated a number of terms “over bore” being one, “efficient” another, these terms are only useful for creating sound and fury over nothing.

When I see the above terms "overbore" and "efficient", I associate them more with P. O. Ackley, Weatherby, and the Powley Computer. (We all remember the Powley Computer?) I'm sure Ken Waters was in there also. But, I'm poor, and changing a barrel on a rifle every couple of months is a little more than sound and fury over nothing. So, I like cartridges that are "efficient" and versatile like the 6.5X57 vs. the .264 Wxxx Magnum. Unlike my brother-in-law who keeps showing up in deer camp every year with his .300 WM to shoot a deer at 40 yards. For 20 years I've been telling him, he's going to shoot that barrel out. He only fires it 3 or 4 times a year.

If the brass is the same, if the hardness is the same, if the head and sidewall thickness are the same, than the ultimate and yield will be the same.

That's the crux of the issue. The brass isn't the same. The old .45 Colt cases (that Keith was using) were made by folding over the brass to form the rim of the case. The rim potion of the case was not solid/drawn brass. Hence, the term, "balloon head". They worked fine for shooting, once, but were not real good for reloading. The rims would tear off frequently. More trouble than they were worth. Everyone was happy when they stopped making them.
The new .45 Colt cases are very strong (and to your point) are as strong as the gun you fire them in.

What was this post about...?

Kerf

madcratebuilder
October 10, 2011, 07:16 AM
Has nothing to do with heat treatment on post-war guns and everything to do with chamber wall thickness and the location of the bolt cuts in the cylinder.
This!

It's about cylinder wall thickness and bolt notch locations. I really do not believe S&W would have a different heat treat for different calibers. It would be frame specific.

StrawHat
October 10, 2011, 08:04 AM
http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc194/StrawHat/scan0001-1.jpg

His own words. It seems he spread the blame around a bit. Thin brass, thin cylinder, too much bullet...

StrawHat
October 10, 2011, 08:07 AM
Suggested reading

http://www.handloads.com/articles/default.asp?id=12

http://www.customsixguns.com/writings/dissolving_the_myth.htm

Jim Watson
October 10, 2011, 09:02 AM
A friend had a 357 N-frame cylinder rechamber to 45 Colt. When he tested fired it a small hole blew through one of the cylinder walls into a locking bolt cutout.

And he wasn't the only one. I have read of cylinder stop cuts bulging or blowing out or even being cut through by the .45 reamer. One school of thought is that S&W took more care in cutting the notch of the .45 cylinders. Which flies in the face of the "all the same basic parts" theory. I have also read of S&W factory .45 Colt cylinders bulging into the stop notches with "Ruger loads."
This was the reason given by Skeeter Skelton for converting .357 Highway Patrolman and Blackhawk to .44 Special instead of .45 Colt, too thin chambers, especially under the notches.

On heat treatment, all I have to go by is a reprint 1939 Stoegers. The .357 Magnum is cataloged with cylinder of "Heat treated chrome-nickel steel." Thing is, the .38 Special M&P is said to have "chrome nickel heat treated cylinder" and the .32-20 version adds "heat treated chrome nickel steel cylinder of extraordinary strength." Even the .32 and .38 S&W Regulation Police had "heat treated chrome nickel steel" cylinders.
Was the heat treatment different, as is commonly said? I don't know. Who does?
Sorry, I no longer have a connection with a metallurgist who could get a handle on it with a hardness check. Too bad, I would not mind a little dent on my M28 and M14, they are well worn and it would not show much.

Even thick steel, even "heat treated" is no substitute for sensible loading. Skeeter described testing his .44 chamber reamer on a M27 cylinder with a chamber "jugged" by overload. (He found that it would not hand ream smoothly and had to have a gunsmith set it up in a lathe.)


The brass isn't the same. The old .45 Colt cases (that Keith was using) were made by folding over the brass to form the rim of the case. The rim potion of the case was not solid/drawn brass. Hence, the term, "balloon head". They worked fine for shooting, once, but were not real good for reloading.

There are three types of .45 Colt (and other period) case, not two.
The original type described here is more usually known as "folded head." I think it dropped out of use before WW I and maybe before the turn of the century.
The "balloon head" which Elmer Keith was probably using was a drawn case with turned rim. The primer pocket can be seen protruding into the interior and the head and wall webs are thin; but the rim itself is solid. In fact, UMC headstamped this type of case "S.H." for Solid Head. They did not mean the present type of solid head in which the case head web is thicker than the depth of the primer pocket. Note that Elmer said "the case head blew off," not that the rim of a folded head case blew out.
Henry Stebbins wrote in 1960 of the unusual find of some "modern" type solid head .45 Colt empties on the range, "the only ones known to science", so the balloon head had a long, long run.

The biggest issue with balloonhead cases was not necessarily the design but that they were customarily loaded with corrosive powder/primers and if not cleaned quickly after firing, they were quickly weakened by corrosion.

I never heard of corrosive powder. Black powder will tarnish a case very ugly but the ones I left uncleaned for way too long did not display any pitting or loss of thickness. They finally cleaned up with ceramic tumbler media.
The potassium chloride residue of corrosive primers is not nearly as bad on brass as it is on steel. Lots of rifle reloading was done with chlorate primers and no failures blamed on it that I know.
On the other hand, ol Elmer may have run up on some mercuric primers. The army quit using them in 1898 but they stayed in commercial use for a while. In fact, some of the early "noncorrosive" primers were actually mercuric. That didn't hurt the gun barrel but it was death on the brass.

USSR
October 10, 2011, 09:28 AM
Good post, Jim. Just thinking here, but, wouldn't a cylinder be heat treated at the factory AFTER being bored, reamed, and polished? And, wouldn't a gunsmith reaming out a .357 cylinder to .44 or .45 remove the hardness of the inside of each cylinder chamber, since heat treated steel typically has a harder exterior than interior, and the local gunsmith is unlikely to re-heat treat the cylinder after he is done?

Don

David Sinko
October 10, 2011, 09:43 AM
In regard to modern S&W .45 ACP revolvers, some shooters are shooting .45 Super in their 625s with excellent results. And some 625s are rechambered to shoot .460 Rowland. I'm not sure what the pressures are with these two cartridges, but both offer a considerable step up in velocity over .45 ACP +P.

Dave Sinko

Jim Watson
October 10, 2011, 09:47 AM
I would assume (and hope) that the big parts like the cylinder are of an alloy and heat treatment for through-hardening for tensile strength. I don't know factory practice. Heat treatment after machining saves wear on machine tools but can cause warpage. The Luger was soft fit, heat treated, then hard fit to get everything just right. I doubt S&W does that. Some makers now advertise the use of pre-hardened material made practical by carbide and harder steel tooling.

The little stuff like the hammer and trigger are case hardened for surface wear resistance.

Old Fuff
October 10, 2011, 09:57 AM
So far as material and heat treating are concerned, All older N-frame, frames are the same. But Magnum cylinders (.357, .41 and .44) are different in terms of the steel alloy and heat treating process is concerned. If anyone doubts this I suggest that they call the Smith & Wesson company and ask.

So why are the cylinders different? because making Magnum quality cylinders is more expensive, they didn't use the same material/heat treating in cylinders chambered to use lower pressure cartridges such a .38 and .44 Special as well as .45 ACP and .45 Colt. because the higher cost cylinders were unnecessary.

Within reason, rechambering a .357 Magnum to .44 Special, .45 ACP or .45 Colt will not cause any issues because they would be stronger then an original cylinder chambered to use the above round. Besides being stronger, N-frame cylinders chambered in .41 and .44 Magnum are also longer then the one used in Model 27/28 .357 Magnums.

USSR
October 10, 2011, 12:15 PM
...Magnum cylinders (.357, .41 and .44) are different in terms of the steel alloy and heat treating process is concerned. If anyone doubts this I suggest that they call the Smith & Wesson company and ask.

IMHO, it is unlikely that the steel alloy used is any different. It just does not make business sense to order and have hanging around 2 or more alloys, when a different heat treat process is all that is necessary to cover a range of pressures. I would be happy to hear what alloys S&W told you they use for magnum cylinders as opposed to non-magnum cylinders.

Don

Old Fuff
October 10, 2011, 02:34 PM
Besides the obvious sales appeal of telling Magnum buyers they have "special cylinders," the fact is that S&W has made enough Magnum cylinders to justify buying the material for both standard and Magnum revolvers, plus the savings of not having to go through a double heat-treat process where it isn't necessary.

Incidently, Colt does the same thing, relative to .357 Magnum cylinders made for their Single Action Army model, and they are stamped "M" on the back to identify what they are.

If you have questions, you call the companies. :banghead:

USSR
October 10, 2011, 03:12 PM
If you have questions, you call the companies.

Sorry Old Fuff, you are making the claim, so you support it.

Don

Old Fuff
October 10, 2011, 06:05 PM
Sorry Old Fuff, you are making the claim, so you support it.

I don't need to support it. There are some who follow my posts that will believe it, and some others that won't, and a big majority that don't give a rip.

When someone is willing to pay for the research and a report I'll do it (which is part of what I did to make a living). Moonlightning on The High Road is of course for free, but the service doesn't include anything more then a post.

Guillermo
October 10, 2011, 06:56 PM
There are some who follow my posts that will believe it

I have followed Old Fuff for years and I totally trust him on matters concerning the construction of revolvers.

On the modification of revolvers....well that is a different subject:rolleyes:

YMMV

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