Smith & Wesson 1917 DA .45 revolver-need help


William Mattes
September 20, 2011, 02:44 PM
I acquired a very very nice 1917 .45 hand ejector model and this past weekend I finally got around to cleaning the old heavy weight. What a cannon. This is my first smith & wesson and I'm very ecstatic about it. The gun cleaned up very nicely with a few minor problems to overcome. That's where you guys come in. It has a serial number of 139038, it has all the correct markings, 5-1/2" barrel, ramp front site, United States Property on underside of barrel, exploding bomb near hammer on left side of frame. It also has "S" markings near the trigger and cylindar swing arm hinge. Next to these marks there is a stamp that looks somewhat like a penguin, What is that, the makers mark? With respect to the serial number I'm thinking it was the second or third shipment out of the factory entering 1918. I'll send the appropriate paperwork into smith and wesson to obtain the correct date of shipment to Springfield, MA unless you guys can help me out. My next question conderns the cylindar and the shaft spindle it turns on. This gun is virtually perfect except for the fact that there is too much play in the cylindar. It moves back and forth too much. You can see where its making contact with the frame when the cylindar is released and then you try to close it. Hits right in the lower right corner of the cylindar entrance on the frame. Is this a spring/shim/bushing problem? The bushing looks brass in color and the spring I'm thinking has lost a bit of tension. If this is the problem can I can the parts to do the fix. Again this is the only thing that I need to do to get this revolver to 88-92%. I'm considered rather tough on the appraisal scale. I am truly sorry I don't have any pictures. I have a lot of guns but no cameras. If any of you guys want to tell me what kind of camera I should get to post some pictures please feel free to give some advice. Something simple to use, easy to operate, make it easy to post pictures etc. The more idiot proof the better. This is my first smith, I have colts, winchesters and rugers but I have truly fallen in love with this piece. It truly is a nice piece of steel. I'm so happy with it I'll be saving up for the new model so I will have a nice pair...the new and the old. You have to love a gun where when you run out of ammo you can always use it as a club. If "Dirty Harry" was running around the 1920's I'm sure this is the gun that would have made his day. I can't thank you guys enough for helping me out on this, much thanks, Bill

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September 20, 2011, 03:12 PM
Not sure what you got going on???
But there are no brass bushings in any S&W crane or cylinder I ever saw.

lower right corner of the cylinder entranceAssuming you are looking at it from the left side?

The cylinder stop stud located at the bottom rear of the frame near the window is all that keeps the cylinder from falling out when it is open. There is a lot of movement possible, and it's made that way.

It's supposed to rub there on occasion, depending on if the gun is pointing up, or down.

Actual end-shake is measured with the cylinder closed.
Push the cylinder as far foreword as you can, and then look at the barrel/cylinder gap.
You should be able to see a thin crack of light between the cylinder and the barrel.
If you can, end-shake is probably fine.


William Mattes
September 20, 2011, 06:58 PM
Thanks for the reply RC. I know I wasn't very clear but here goes. Your right about the location. Your alo right about when the gun is pointing down in closes and sounds like it should. Even still though if you open the gun in a normal fashion it catches that area you discussed, at the rear frame window. You can see under magnification where its making contact. I just think there's too much travel in the you say...back and forth. The nicks at the contact point look fairly new which leads me to beleive something happened. I'm wondering if some knucklehead shot some hp ammo and or without the moonclips. I checked the gap like you asked, looks very good in the closed position. Its got some shake in the closed position. What about the spring in the cylinder extractor, if that is not up to stuff won't this contribute to the problem. When you drop the cylinder and look at the front of the cylindar, there looks to be a shim/washer/bushing between the cylinder and the swing arm. The gun other than this is very nice. Your probably right, I'm makin' a big deal out of nothing it just doesn't seem right.

September 20, 2011, 07:48 PM
Not a gunsmith, so I can't help you with that. The funny penguin is an eagle. The S stamps usually have a number near them, eg s2, s3 etc, and signify which US Army inspector passed the parts.

William Mattes
September 20, 2011, 10:15 PM
Thanks Rad, eagle it is... appreciate you could tell I didn't know, thanks again for the information. I have S2 and S9 markings on mine. I guess inspectors 1,3,4,5,6,7,8 where off that day.....

September 20, 2011, 10:35 PM
"Ramp front Sight"..?

Can you post an image of this?

Jim K
September 21, 2011, 12:38 AM
I think I know what you mean. The part is called the frame lug and it is pretty much a permanent assembly to the frame. It has two "steps". The first stops the cylinder and keeps it from coming out backward when it is swung out. The other "step" is cut away so that it doesn't get in the way of cartridge case heads when the cylinder is closed. There is a pretty small engagement with the cylinder and if the cylinder has any "wobble" it can miss the lug, ride up on that second "step", and not close properly.

Because the 1917 was made for use with a rimless cartridge and half moon clips the lug is a bit different from the normal one for rimmed cartrdges.

My first thought is to check the cyiinder to be sure someone didn't put in one for a .44 caliber and ream it to .45 Colt, a fairly common conversion. If the cylinder is correct for .45 ACP, then the only choice would be to send the gun to one of the revolver specialists and have them replace the lug. It is not (IMHO) a job most gunsmiths will tackle and some might but shouldn't.


William Mattes
September 21, 2011, 12:48 AM
The front site on this gun is 0.7325" high centered on axis with a width of 0.073". The sight is not removeable, its forged into the barell. Its a ramped/bladed sight similiar to if you cut a third off of a dime or penny you would be close.

Sorry I do not have any pictures, camera

William Mattes
September 21, 2011, 01:27 AM
Your right about the lug, Its looks like its almost forged into the frame. I've got a couple of burrs on this one, nothing real bad, but I know its there and will have to be fixed....I hate the wobble effect......The bolt screw,plunger and plunger spring look good. The cylindar shows normal wear where the pin contacts the cylindar....What about the center rod spring, the ejector collar and the ejector spring? I'm thinking new springs new ejector collar will take up the slack where the cylinder moves along the center rod. The shim/bushing that I refered to is the ejector collar. I will have to micro this when I take it apart to see if it meets the specs if I can find the specs. The cylinder is the real thing. I still think something caused this. The gun really looks good, the blue is awesome, it doesn't seem possible to me that it should be this way. I'm still thinking it was an ammo problem. I think someone tried it out some time, purchased some high power .45acp ammo, probably didn't use any moonclips either. I realize the moonclips don't make that big of a deal, but when your dealing with the unknown, I factor in everything. The high power charge has such a bigger stronger blow, thus crushing the ejector collar. I'm sure I'm all wet, and going down the wrong road but hopefully I will find the right path. Hope I find a gps soon :))

September 21, 2011, 06:13 AM
You are describing a round blade or half moon front sight, which is correct for this model. A ramp front sight is close to vertical at the front, with the rear being a ramp at roughly a 30 degree angle. Of course, with all things S&W there are exceptions to the rule.

The maximum SAAMI pressure for .45 ACP is 21000 PSI, for PlusP 23000 PSI, so Plus P should not have hurt this gun. On the other hand, it was originally a .44 Special design and that has a maximum of 15500 PSI. Hmmm... I would expect a bulged or split cylinder rather than a stretched frame with really over maxed ammo, as S&W didn't start heat treating cylinders until around 1919/1920.

September 21, 2011, 06:47 AM
Take it to a S&W armorer and let them determine what is or is not wrong witht the revovler. Without a hands on inspection it will merely be speculation to say.

Most S&W revolvers have a little play in the cylinder and many hit the frame when closing. The ratchet hits the face of the frame.

As for ammo, the revovler was built before WWII, I would use regular pressure ammo. Keep the +P for the numbered models, ie Model 25-2.

September 21, 2011, 12:23 PM
like its almost forged into the frameThe cylinder stop stud on all older S&W's is a separate part.
It is pressed in place from inside the frame.
Starting with the change to MIM parts and frame mounted firing pin more recently, it became part of the frame and cannot be replaced.

Without good close-up pictures, it's very difficult for anyone to say whether you have an actual problem or not.

However as I said, it is perfectly normal for there to be a good deal of movement in the cylinder when it is in the open position.

Without the cylinder stop stud contact, the cylinder assembly would be free to fall out of the gun when it is open.

The cylinder assembly consists of the cylinder, gas ring, ejector rod, ejector rod housing, extractor collar, extractor, and two springs.

But the springs have absolutely nothing to do with keeping the cylinder assembly from moving back and forth in the crane.

The back of the cylinder hitting the frame lug when it is open is all that keeps it from falling out.

Perhaps since this is your first S&W, maybe you could go to a gun shop or gun show and look at some other older S&W's to see if your cylinder stop stud is really truly damaged, or just showing normal finish wear.


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