hammer block and early S&W revolvers


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Guillermo
September 19, 2012, 05:07 PM
Greetings Fellow THRers,

My query is about old S&W Hand Ejectors.

Everything I have read says that those guns do not have a hammer block, therefore could have an unintended discharge if fully loaded and dropped.

Well I have a couple of old revolvers, including an I-Frame and a M&P (3rd change 38 special)

While I have not taken a mallet to the back of the hammer, I see no indication that the hammer, when the trigger is not to the rear, can move forward.

Is it REALLY a danger to load 6?

http://i600.photobucket.com/albums/tt82/BillLoeb/IMG_1464.jpg

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rcmodel
September 19, 2012, 05:17 PM
They all do have a hammer block.

It just works different then the new improved mechanical foolproof model still in use on todays S&W's.

Those on yours are mounted in the side-plate, and are spring loaded to pop out sideways and get slightly between the hammer & the frame.
Not all the way between like the current hammer mechanical block though.

The weakness IMO was they could easly become fouled with dirt or dried oil and not pop it out anymore.

In addition to that safety, the rebound slide is also a hammer block of sorts, because it sets under the hammer when at rest and prevents hammer rotation until it is moved foreward by cocking SA, or a DA trigger pull.


Conventional wisdom is that it is unsafe to carry a pre-mechanical hammer block S&W fully loaded.


Myself?
I do load six, but I don't drop my guns much, hardly ever.

I kind of look at them as a heck of a lot safer then a fully loaded SAA Colt, but not as safe as a modern S&W.

If they went off when dropped as easly as folks today seem to think?
I'd say all the police in the USA would have been killed or wounded by thier own guns over the 50 or so years every cop in the USA that carried a S&W carried them fully loaded.

BTW: Here are some great photos of the pre-war hammer block:
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=632115&highlight=hammer+block

rc

Jim K
September 19, 2012, 05:32 PM
There are two issues here, so please be patient.

The first is hammer rebound. Old revolvers usually did not have a rebounding hammer; in fact, the reset of the hand depended on the firing pin staying in the primer of the fired round. That was OK with top break revolvers as well, since the movement of the cylinder upward took it away from the firing pin.

But when swingout cylinders were invented, a problem cropped up. Without a means of retracting the firing pin, the cylinder could not be opened. Some revolver makers just required that the hammer be placed on half cock, but the quality makers (S&W and Colt) decided to use a "rebounding" type hammer. The systems though different internally, do the same thing in that releasing the trigger causes the hammer to move back and the firing pin to be retracted into the frame.

At first, it was believed that the rebound mechanism would be enough to also ensure that the gun would not fire a cartridge in the top chamber if the hammer were struck. That, unfortunately, proved not to be true, and both companies developed a hammer block safety that would interpose itself between the hammer and frame when the hammer was at rest and which would only be moved out of the way when the trigger was held back.

S&W developed two designs of hammer block; both were spring loaded and fitted into the sideplate. But they both had a flaw; if the spring broke or was impeded by rust or dirt, the hammer block didn't work.

Colt, in the meantime, developed its "positive" hammer block, which was not dependent on a spring. They used the term "positive" to distinguish those revolvers which had the new safety, hence names like "Police Positive" and "Pocket Positive."

So it is not true that S&W did not have a hammer block safety before WWII. They had one, it was just not good enough. It was one of S&W's "non-positive" hammer block safeties that failed during WWII and led to the invention of the current type which is about foolproof.

But you cannot make either type fail simply by finger pressure on the hammer. The rebound slide alone will be enough of a block to prevent the hammer from moving under anything but a hard blow. In S&W's testing of the new hammer block, for example, they used a heavy machinist's hammer to pound the gun hammer hard enough to break it, destroy the rebound slide and bend the frame. The gun didn't fire.

Jim

Guillermo
September 19, 2012, 08:22 PM
Jim, and RC,

Thank you both

looking at the old girl I see that how it works.

Not exactly a carry gun for me, in fact, I only own it because Old Fuff convinced me how good the long-action trigger pull is.

Also, thank you for the history lesson. I did not know about the "positive' part of the Colt naming.

Old Fuff
September 19, 2012, 10:22 PM
Keep in mind that some S&W models made before World War Two had only the rebound safety, the 1917 .45 being an example. While it probably isn't necessary I usually carry pre-war S&W revolvers with the hammer down on an empty chamber, as I consider them to be "fun-guns." Those that are carried as weapons are fully loaded and have the later "positive" hammer block, including "long action" pre-model 10's made in 1945 and '46. Those I think are the best of the lot. So far as Colt's go, all of the double-action/hand ejector revolvers made after 1908 have both a rebounding hammer and 2nd. positive hammer block. If in good shape they are safe to carry fully loaded.

Old Fuff
September 19, 2012, 10:27 PM
Not exactly a carry gun for me, in fact, I only own it because Old Fuff convinced me how good the long-action trigger pull is.

The trigger pull is only fair until you remove the front part of the trigger guard... :uhoh: :D

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