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How often to detail strip a revolver?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by rubicon923, May 5, 2009.

  1. rubicon923

    rubicon923 Active Member

    My question is how often should one remove the sideplate from a S&W revolver to clean and lubricate? I know this doesn't have to be done often. When a revolver action smooths up due to a fair amount of live or dry firing, doesn't that really mean that small particles of metal are wearing off where the parts fit together? If so, don't these small metal particles mix with the factory lubricant and form abrasive gunk (a technical gunsmithing term)?

    Every 5 years? 10 years?

    Also, how should it be cleaned and lubricated? I was thinking of removing the sideplate, but not the internal parts. Just cleaning the old lubricant off with maybe a q-tip and reapplying new lubricant. It would probably be sensible to have a gunsmith do the cleaning, but I like to learn how to maintain my own firearms as much as possible. And I figure that if I don't remove the internal parts, I won't have to worry about reassembly mistakes.
  2. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    You might find a quicker answer if you have this post moved to the gunsmithing forum, rubicon923.

    Jim H.
  3. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

    the S&W is amazingly simple to detail strip...getting it back together is a mite harder.

    when i shot PPC we used to shoot 600-1000rds a week during the season. we might open the sideplate once every couple of years to see if the gunk was building up

    i don't think trying to clean it without stripping it make much sense. get yourself a disassembly guide, take it apart, clean it all and relube...get the guide first and see it the job looks too complicated for you. if you're going to send it to a gunsmith, you mind as wel get it tuned up since it's already opened
  4. DoubleAction

    DoubleAction Well-Known Member

    First off; You do not use something like a screw driver to pry the side plate off.
  5. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Years ago the sideplates were so closely fitted that could hardly see the line. If you have one of these you want to remove the sideplate as infrequently as possible. Current day guns aren't that precise, and the sideplate can be removed more often, depending on how much use it's seeing. Ruger revolvers don’t have sideplates, and are designed for easy disassembly for cleaning.

    As for when, the answer is when you think it’s necessary, and not before.
  6. Oro

    Oro Well-Known Member

    That is about as simple as you can say it. I have opened a few dozen, to do a purchase inspection, etc. The only ones where it was indeed necessary to do so, it was obvious beforehand - a sticky action, loose action, etc. Unless something appears wrong, it just isn't worth doing unless you are very familiar with the process and have a reason.
  7. rubicon923

    rubicon923 Active Member

    Good information. Not sure how long your season was, but it sounds like at least 10,000 rounds between sideplate removals. I do have the Jerry Kuhnhausen book on S&W revolvers which seems excellent.

    I'm wondering if time is a variable in determining how often the sideplate needs to come off. In other words, if you shoot 100 rounds a year (like I do) through a revolver, is it a good idea to remove the sideplate for a clean and lube based on time rather than round count?

    I agree with the point made about Ruger revolvers being easier to maintain. I have a GP100. Unfortunately, Ruger doesn't make a 15-ounce pocket revolver like the S&W airweights so I'm stuck with S&W for this type of gun.

    Oh. One other question. What lubricant should I use?

    Thanks for all the helpful suggestions.
  8. armoredman

    armoredman Well-Known Member

    Umm, I have never ever removed the sideplate on any Smith revolver I ever owned, and they all worked just fine, in fact, the one I have now is the best dadgum shooter I ever owned. That's just me, and I do try to keep them as clean as possible.
  9. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Unless for some reason your revolver has accumulated an unusual amount of internal fouling, is or suffering from a mechanical problem, there is no reason to remove the sideplate. Lubricating and cleaning are two related but different issues. To lubricate it (which is seldom necessary) cock the hammer and put one or two drops of lubricating oil (not bore solvent) down the hammer face and then double-action it a few time to distribute the oil. On an S&W remove the stocks and put a drop or two around the frame and rebound slide. If you have an air hose or canned air you can shoot a blast in the back to help distribute the oil. You can also use a spray can and accessory tube to squirt some oil into the innards, but do so sparingly as more guns are over-lubricated then under-lubricated.
  10. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Well-Known Member

    Rubicon923; check out the new Ruger LCR. Most of the talk is good about them. I'm looking forward to handling one. It is a 38spl. I suspect it will be introduced in 327 Federal too.
  11. batmann

    batmann Well-Known Member

    Old Fluff gives good, solid advice, I have never had the side plate off any Smith I own.
  12. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

    If you don't leave it out in a sand storm, or drop it in salt water, it shouldn't be necessary to ever remove it, short of repairing a broken gun.

    Take off the grips, blow it out with gun-scrubber, compressed air, and re-oil with Rem-Oil spray lube.

    Drip-Dry and use the air hose again, then put the grips back on.

    Many more S&W's & Colts have been harmed by unnecessary side-plate removal then by not removing it, ever.

  13. jaydubya

    jaydubya Well-Known Member

    I've owned a 637 Airweight for seven years and fired around 2,500 rounds in it. I also have had a 686+ for three years and fired about 3,000 rounds in it. I have never unscrewed THAT screw. I'm leaving that for my grandsons to do decades from now. Add me to the crowd that says, in effect, "If it ain't broke don't fix it." Just clean it each time you shoot it, lightly oil its moving parts, then wipe it down with a silicon cloth.

    Cordially, Jack
  14. Thingster

    Thingster Well-Known Member

    Neither of mine have ever had the sideplate off and they're '52 and '61 production and have always been shot.
  15. chriske

    chriske Well-Known Member

    Remove the side-plate ? Hardly ever. The less, the better.

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