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Why is a revolver bolt a bolt?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by SleazyRider, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    Forgive my dumbness, but it's my understanding that the little tombstone-shaped "indexing tab" that locks the cylinder of a revolver into place is called a bolt. Why is it so named, when it performs a different function than the bolt on a rifle? Or am I missing something in the definition of "bolt" that applies to both rifle and revolver? After all, a trigger is a trigger and a sight is a sight, so why is the same term used to describe two very different things?

    Just curious, is all.
  2. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    It is worse than that.

    On a Smith & Wesson, the thing that stops the cylinder from rotating is, wait for it... the "cylinder stop." The S&W "bolt" is the internal bar that the thumb piece drives against the center pin to let you swing out the cylinder.

    On a Ruger the cylinder is latched against rotation in the firing position by a "cylinder latch."

    "Bolt" for that part is a Colt term.

    Sorry, I can't help psychoanalyze the gun designers and builders.
  3. BBBBill

    BBBBill Well-Known Member

    Think of it like bolting (or latching) the door. When you bolt (or latch) the door, you are securing it in position until you wish to unsecure it. Same with a revolver cylinder or rifle bolt. Vastly different appearance and a lot of differences in other ways, but the core function is the same.
  4. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Well-Known Member

    I'm guessing that, like many other things, these devices/components take their names from a variety of sources, such as convention, component function, component shape, and so forth.

    And, as Jim Watson said, different companies may have different names for the same thing.

    In practice, I'd say that one should become familiar with the technically correct name in accordance with the manufacturer of the firearm so that it's clearly understood by others who have the same firearm. It's also a pretty good idea to learn other names by other manufacturers so that you can discuss similarities with other people.

    Just add this to your list of interesting trivia things to talk about.

  5. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for that. In the same vein, today I disassembled a .22 striker-fired Sterling semi-automatic, and learned that the takedown index/sear cam spring housing (thingy) is called the hammer, though it performs no such function as it does in a revolver, in fact, it doesn't even move when the trigger is pulled. Confusing nomenclature, to say the least.
  6. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Well-Known Member

    Heh! Maybe we should get into the business and come up with our own names for such components! Imagine the fun we could have!

    I just got done designing components for two sets of specialized tools to be used to straighten a bent copper bus bar on a large pump. These bus bars can't be replaced outside a factory setting, which means that replacing a bus bar requires replacing the whole pump.

    One, also named after the engineer I worked with on this, is called the "Bend-O-Matic". The other I call the "Mangletron 5000".

    I'm laughing inside, because the paperwork documenting the tooling and procedures got sent to several other agencies...including the prime contractor for the pump and NAVSEA. I'd give anything to be a fly on the wall when some of these people read "Mangletron 5000"...

  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    I once invented a 'Pallet Plucker' for a large companys warehouse operations!

    Top that!

  8. RetiredUSNChief

    RetiredUSNChief Well-Known Member

  9. il.bill

    il.bill Well-Known Member

    Thanks - that is a very good explanation. Even if you just made it up, it is quite rational and one that I will be using from now on.
  10. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

    Also the fact that, on early revolvers, they likely WERE bolts.
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam


    They were hand filed screws then.

    They hadn't invented bolts quite yet.
    (Cept for door & garden gate bolts.)

    So, we are truly lucky Colt cylinder bolts aren't called cylinder door screws by Colt, and cylinder garden gate bolts by Ruger.

    Of course, S&W would have called them cylinder screw-tops out of necessity, just to be different then Colt & Ruger.

    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013
  12. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    Supposedly Peter Paul Mauser was inspired by the bolt on a gate, just as Sam Colt was said to have gotten his bright idea from a ratcheting hold on a ship's wheel.

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