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Colt Detective Special timing question.

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by ruger357, Jun 14, 2004.

  1. ruger357

    ruger357 Well-Known Member

    Have heard that they can get out of timing easily. How true is this, and what would cause them to get out of time. I always thought they were sturdy guns.
  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    The old Colt “D†frame revolvers were prone to having timing problems if someone flipped the cylinder in and out, causing the crane to become slightly sprung. This was made worse, because unlike some competitor’s guns (S&W for example) the cylinder was only locked at the back and not at the crane and/or the end of the ejector rod. I have cured a lot of timing problems by simply realigning the crane.

    Colt used to recommend that Police Departments return their revolvers once every couple of years for a checkup. Usually an out-of-time gun could be fixed without replacing any parts in 15 or 20 minutes – sometimes less, by a factory armorer.

    The real problem now days is that there are very few gunsmiths left who understand how to fix or adjust these revolver actions, and working on them does take someone that knows what he’s doing. However the design originated around 1908 and remained into the 1970’s and 80’s – and is still with us in the Python. Obviously if there had been serious problems with timing (or anything else) changes would have been made within there first two decades of use.
  3. Johnny Guest

    Johnny Guest Moderator Emeritus

    You thought correctly - -

    - - They are indeed sturdy guns, but do not accept abuse gladly. the "movie private eye cylinder flip" is perhaps the worst type of abuse commonly encountered.

    Shooting the revolver does NOT constitute abuse, though I'd be careful about liberal use of +P factory or handloaded ammo.

    You're probably aware that the Detective Special is merely the Colt Police Positive Special with a shorter barrel. Run a search for posts by member Clark over in Handloading & Reloading forum here on THR, using the phrase "Police Positive," without the quotation marks. Clark has shot some extremely heavy loads in some old PPs and has reported on his testing. NOT recommended practice, certainly, but there it is, with proper cautionary notes.

    I'd have no qualms about shooting and carrying a Det Spl, if in decent condition.

  4. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    I can add only that dropping any Colt double action revolver can wreak havoc with the innards, more quickly with the D and I frame models than later revolvers.

    Nothing else comes close to those grand old designs—as long as they're properly maintained and cared for.
  5. bountyhunter

    bountyhunter member

    My buddy locked his det special up by firing about a dozen rounds of +p through it. I am not sure I would bet my life on one of those guns, as defense loads tend to be loaded pretty hot.
  6. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    There is often misunderstanding about timing on those Colts. Revolver "experts" often say that a timing problem can be detected by cocking the revolver slowly while holding the cylinder to put drag on it, and any revolver that does not fully lock up is out of time. In fact, using that test, every Colt DA revolver is out of time. The reason is that the Colt double hand does not move the cylinder into the locked positon until the lower part of the hand engages the ratchet, and when that happens there must be additional movement to allow the hammer to cock. If cocked slowly enough, Colts will rarely fully lock up until the trigger is pulled. Under normal conditions, though, cocking the gun imparts enough momentum to the cylinder that it locks up in cocking.

    The S&W system is better in that respect; most S&W revolvers will lock up in cocking, even if a drag is put on the cylinder.

  7. 4thHorseman

    4thHorseman Well-Known Member

  8. bountyhunter

    bountyhunter member

    Maybe yours in a newer model. The gunsmith who fixed the thing specifically said they would not handle +p ammo.

    All I know is what I read in the gunsmith journals. The Python is also notorious for being knocked out of time because the design of the trigger and hand are such that a significant amount of recoil energy whacks the hand. Their design is different from SW in that regard. In a SW, the hand pushes the star until the point where the cyclinder locks into place and then "slides by" on the right edge of the star block to complete the rest of the trigger travel. The hand is not actually engaged to the star at firing. FWIW, a lot of gunsmiths say the Colt's get knocked out of time more easily than the SW.
  9. 4thHorseman

    4thHorseman Well-Known Member

    Jim Keenan, I fully agree with everything you say about old lock work Colts.
    They are totally different animals than S&W. You cannot compare the lock work of Colts to S&W and look for a similiarity between them. There is none. But people still think there is.
    One very simple way to tell if on is out of time is check the spent shell.
    Did the firing pin hit dead on the primer? If yes, it's in time.
    There is no way for the timing to be out if the firing pin struck the primer. The gun is not made or designed to do it.
    I also fail to understand how dropping the Colt old style action revolver would throw the timing off. I guess anything is possible, but very unlikely.:)
  10. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Hi, 4thhorseman,

    The Colt frames are not as sturdy as they look, because so much is cut away. When one of them is dropped hard, the grip frame can bend enough to disturb the interface between the rebound lever, which is mounted in the middle of the grip, and the bolt, throwing the revolver out of time. (The rebound lever cam operates the cylinder bolt, and it is a delicate interface at best.) This rarely, if ever, happens with the more solid frame of the last guns, but the old "thin grip" guns were very much prone to it and so were some of the later ones.

    Revolvers can be more subject to problems than one might think if handled harshly. Police who carried them were told not to use the revolver as a club, that that is what blackjacks and "batons" were issued for. Whacking a BG with the butt of a revolver can bend the frame and even striking him with the barrel can twist the frame. Contact with the cylinder can spring the crane as previously mentioned.

    Those problems have not gone away with the adoption of auto pistols, and the business about using a baton or blackjack is still good (though chemical spray is more likely to be used today, and some departments have banned blackjacks). I know of one cop who hit a BG with his Glock and (to his horror) watched the slide pop off and fall to the ground. Before the Glock haters jump on this, be it noted that pistols are not designed to be clubs; if one must use a club, use a club, not a pistol.


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