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Old July 19, 2014, 04:16 PM   #1
mikemyers
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How to properly install Spring Kits

I couldn't find any existing threads on this, which surprises me, as I figure lots of people are interested in doing so. I also don't want to bury it at the end of a (very long) discussion about my own S&W revolver, so I'm posting as a new thread.

Until recently, I assumed that if one wanted to reduce the trigger pull (staying within the range of what is safe and accepted), the part that would be replaced is the "rebound" coil spring that's found inside of the rebound slide. For a S&W 357 Highway Patrolman, this is an 18# spring. Since I was born without calibrated fingers to measure trigger pull, I ordered one of the small gages that measure the actual trigger pull. I should have that in a week or so.


Having learned a lot more about this over the past few weeks, I think that all these parts are designed to work together as a system, and to lighten the trigger pull, you need to replace both this small coil spring, and also the gun's Main Spring. I just got one of those kits from Brownells, which says right on the package "Designed and custom made by Walter Wolff".

In my case, I'm not going to do anything about this spring kit right now. I just got my gun re-assembled, and now that it works better, I want to see how it performs with all the "stock" parts, just as it came from S&W before I change anything.

The answer(s) I'm looking for, are how to go about using these spring kits, including:
  • If you ask a support person for assistance as you order a spring kit from Brownells, he will ask what you're going to use the gun for, as there are spring kits in various strengths. I avoided the extremely light strength set, as the tech person suggested it is only for experts, which I'm not.
  • When installing the kit, is it best to initially only replace the coil spring, and only if desired, also replace the mainspring? Or should you replace both at once, as they're designed to work together?
  • The Brownells kit came with 13, 14, and 15 pound rebound springs. Is it a good idea to start with the 14 pound spring, and then make a change if needed?
  • I assume the "strain" screw will be tightened down all the way, tensioning the mainspring, so that will not be an additional way to adjust the tension.
  • Lastly, I think I understand that none of these parts will make much of a difference, if any, in shooting SA, but will only be noticeable in DA.
  • All these custom coil springs, and the stock S&W springs, have the ends finished: there is a flat surface at the end of the spring. If you cut off a coil, you no longer have that flat surface. Is this a good reason to avoid cutting a spring to make it "softer"?


Please correct anything that I've said which isn't accurate. I probably won't get around to actually doing any of this for a few weeks, and I haven't been able to find a good article on the internet or the books I already own, that suggests how to do all this....
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Old July 20, 2014, 10:08 PM   #2
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There's a sticky on the revolver page called REVOLVER CHECK OUT that has step-by-step procedures with pictures. It goes way beyond replacing springs. It covers cylinder gap, head space, end shake, all kinds of stuff.
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Old July 20, 2014, 10:52 PM   #3
chuckpro
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Proper stoning is what is needed in most S&W's actions. You don't need to replace the main spring, you can pick and choose depending on what you want. A lighter main spring can cause the firing pin not to hit the primer hard enough. to light of a rebound spring and the trigger will reset slower and less positive. I have installed different Wolf springs in all kinds of Smith revolvers and personally i leave the main spring alone and put a reduced power return spring, start with 13 and see how it feels. Oh and you are correct, don't cut any springs and make sure the strain screw is tight.
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Old Yesterday, 12:22 AM   #4
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Yes, the two springs do play against each other. As you have found you can't go lighter on the rebound spring than the main spring will allow. If you try then the parts can't reset correctly and you have to push the trigger forward manually.

And even before you reach that point the lighter options will result in a slightly slower reset. For some speed event competition shooters this can mean that they are trying to pull for the next shot before the trigger is fully reset.
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Old Yesterday, 10:29 AM   #5
MrBorland
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I'll echo what the last 2 posters said. Yes, the main and rebound springs are meant to be "balanced", but where, precisely, that balance lies can depend on your application.

If you're not speed shooting, I'd first try the 13lb rebound spring with the factory main. The trigger may still have trouble resetting, so try the 14lb spring, etc.

BTW, when the return is too light, speed shooters don't generally run into trouble because the return's too slow. This is another "Miculek myth". They generally run into trouble because they ride the trigger on the return, letting the trigger push their finger back. This adds additional resistance to the return, and if the net return force is marginal to begin with, riding the trigger will result in short-stroking. Though it's generally a software, not hardware, issue, then, making sure the return doesn't lack for oompf is good insurance if you're gonna go fast.
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Old Yesterday, 11:44 AM   #6
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Yes, theres a neat little short stroke sweet spot where you can make the cylinder cycle, but not the hammer.
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Old Yesterday, 12:18 PM   #7
MrBorland
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That's because the DA sear doesn't re-engage until the trigger is almost completely forward.

Upon return, the 1st click you hear is the hand engaging the next ratchet in the ejector star. Pull the trigger after the 1st click, and you'll find the gun locked: That's because the hand is pushing the cylinder, but the trigger hasn't re-engaged the cylinder stop bolt, so the cylinder's still locked in place.

The 2nd click on the return is the trigger moving past the cylinder stop bolt. You can actually see the stop bolt move at this point. Pull the trigger now, and the cylinder will turn without the hammer lifting because the DA sear only re-engages with the 3rd click.

Pulling the trigger at any point before the 3rd click (i.e. full reset) are all known as "short-stroking the trigger".
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Old Yesterday, 12:54 PM   #8
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For one gun I actually made up a spring that was lighter than the 13 lb lightest Wolff kit spring. It made for a truly delightful DA trigger for regular plinking. But as MrBorland suggests it could easily have resulted in a short stroke situation. But the events I've shot with that gun were "one shot, next target, one shot, next target, etc" and just plain slow fire target shooting. So I didn't run into the short stroke issue like I would for fast double taps used in IPSC or IDPA.

So yeah, there's room to play even outside the spring kit options. But how you set it up will be determined by what sort of shooting you're doing.
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Old Today, 09:14 AM   #9
mikemyers
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From reading all the above, I think I was wrong once again. The most basic question about any of this, to me, is "why are we even changing the spring at all?"

Until today, I thought the reason to go to lighter springs was to improve the accuracy in firing the gun. To exaggerate, it's difficult to worry about accuracy when you're struggling to simply pull the trigger back smoothly. From what you fellows have written, it seems to me that the more likely reason to lighten the trigger is to improve firing speed. The lighter the trigger pull, the faster one can shoot.



Not sure that it has anything to do with this, but I finally got back to the range yesterday with my S&W Highway Patrolman, and was rather surprised at the results. The gun now has the factory springs in it, so the return spring should be 18 pounds. I found it more difficult to attempt to keep the sights lined up in DA as I pulled the trigger to take up the "mile of trigger travel", but the results were that excluding the first shot, my grouping was essentially unchanged firing DA from firing SA. My expectations were that I'd be far, far worse in DA, and need to work on the springs until I could shoot DA as well as SA. I think I might have been completely wrong about this.



(One other question. Am I wrong in thinking that simply loosening up either spring, perhaps cutting off a coil, or loosening the strain screw, can lead to damage in the gun? I know I've read in these forums that the gun can start to function poorly, but can't it actually damage internal parts if it's not working as intended? Someone I know told me that the action might get very rough, but it can't hurt anything. I told him that to both prevent damage, and also to keep the gun action working smoothly, the strain screw should always be bottomed out, and he should only consider using a lighter main spring, and trying lighter return springs, but not to go too light. He told me that his friend had done a "poor man's trigger job", and nowadays I think that's a mistake, and one should do it "right".)
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Last edited by mikemyers; Today at 09:20 AM.
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Old Today, 09:19 AM   #10
sarge83
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Proper stoning is what is needed in most S&W's actions. You don't need to replace the main spring, you can pick and choose depending on what you want. A lighter main spring can cause the firing pin not to hit the primer hard enough. to light of a rebound spring and the trigger will reset slower and less positive. I have installed different Wolf springs in all kinds of Smith revolvers and personally i leave the main spring alone and put a reduced power return spring, start with 13 and see how it feels. Oh and you are correct, don't cut any springs and make sure the strain screw is tight.
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I did a spring change on my Dad's old model 49 bodyguard and the thing absolutely would not fire with the lighter main spring, had to put the original back in. The stoning and lighter rebound spring helped but this particular 49 was not having any part of a lighter main spring.

Did the same spring change on my model 49 and it worked great. I do have to say the internals of my Dad's model 49 were very rough for a S&W. His model 49 was made in the late 1970's.
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Old Today, 10:43 AM   #11
MrBorland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemyers
Until today, I thought the reason to go to lighter springs was to improve the accuracy in firing the gun. To exaggerate, it's difficult to worry about accuracy when you're struggling to simply pull the trigger back smoothly. From what you fellows have written, it seems to me that the more likely reason to lighten the trigger is to improve firing speed. The lighter the trigger pull, the faster one can shoot.
You are correct that if you're struggling to pull the trigger back smoothly, your accuracy will suffer. So smoothness and pull weight matter, but while the trigger's gotta be smooth and consistent, it only has to be light enough so you don't struggle. Often, when the action's tuned well, and your grip is good, the factory pull weight is fine.

As far as lighter = faster, it depends on each person, their shooting style and how much power they have in their trigger finger. Power is force times speed. You can strengthen your finger to apply more force, but trigger finger speed is harder to develop, as it's a neuromuscular thing.

Some can't apply a lot of force, but get power by applying what they do have to the trigger fast. They'd benefit from an über-light action. Conversely, some can apply more force, but not as fast (it's that neuromuscular thing), so they wouldn't benefit much from that über-light action. For most, the factory action would likely slow them down a bit, so going a little lighter would help their speed (and fatigue factor), but going much below a 7 1/2 - 8lb DA trigger likely wouldn't further help their speed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemyers
The gun now has the factory springs in it, so the return spring should be 18 pounds. I found it more difficult to attempt to keep the sights lined up in DA as I pulled the trigger to take up the "mile of trigger travel", but the results were that excluding the first shot, my grouping was essentially unchanged firing DA from firing SA. My expectations were that I'd be far, far worse in DA, and need to work on the springs until I could shoot DA as well as SA. I think I might have been completely wrong about this.
There's no "trick" to shooting DA well. If your DA trigger is smooth and consistent, and you're not struggling through the pull, there's no reason why the sights shouldn't stay aligned through the "mile of trigger travel". When they don't, it's a user issue.


Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemyers
Am I wrong in thinking that simply loosening up either spring, perhaps cutting off a coil, or loosening the strain screw, can lead to damage in the gun?
I'm in the "do it right" camp, but as long as the gun cycles, and you don't have to force it to cycle (and you don't modify non-spring parts), I'm not aware of any actual damage that a poor man's trigger job can cause.
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