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Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by mustang 22, Oct 22, 2006.

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  1. mustang 22

    mustang 22 Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Western Washington
    I would very much like to re barrel one of my 2nd generation Colts. I even considered doing it myself, but I'm not interested in messing up a nice shootin iron. Has anyone out there whos done this be willing to share their experiance?
  2. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    In order to re-barrel any revolver requires a significant outlay of money to buy the specialized tooling and equipment.

    This is NO job for anyone but a trained, qualified pistolsmith, and attempting it yourself is a fast way to destroy a good gun.
    I strongly recommend getting a good pistolsmith do do the work.
    I recommend the Colt factory.

    Here's a description I wrote on what's needed to re-barrel a revolver, and this holds true for the Single Action:
    Here's a brief explanation of how to change a revolver barrel.

    The old barrel is locked up in a barrel vise.
    I used a dedicated bench vise into which I put a pair of custom made brand and model specific barrel inserts made of aluminum or a hard plastic.
    As example, I had Colt Python inserts, Colt Trooper Mark III inserts, Colt shrouded barrel Detective Special inserts, etc.
    Since almost all of my barreling work was on newer revolvers that had ribs and lugs, this worked well.
    For round barrels I used a standard rifle type vise with split brass inserts.
    I had old model "skinny" barrel Detective Special rings, Colt old model Trooper rings, Official Police rings, etc.

    With the barrel locked up, the frame wrench with brand and model specific plastic inserts is attached to the frame.
    The wrench with the fitted inserts supports the frame and prevents either cracking or bending (tweaking) the frame.
    I had inserts for the Colt medium frame guns, inserts for Colt "D" frame guns, etc.

    The frame is "broken loose" and unscrewed from the barrel.

    The frame threads are cleaned with solvent and brush, as are the threads on the new barrel.

    The new barrel is test fit to determine how much needs to be cut off the barrel shoulder to allow the front sight to be at 12:00 o'clock top-dead-center when the barrel is properly torqued in place.
    The amount needed to be cut is a judgment call based on experience.

    The barrel is turned in the lathe to cut that amount off the shoulder.

    Once the barrel is properly adjusted, the threads are coated with anti-seize compound.
    The barrel is screwed in place and locked into the barrel vise, the frame wrench is attached to the frame and the frame is screwed on the barrel and torqued up until the front sight is aligned at 12:00.

    Torque is critical.
    Too much and and when the barrel is torqued until the front sight is aligned at 12:00, the bore may be compressed, leaving a tight spot in the barrel where the threads are.
    Accuracy is poor.
    Early non-pinned S&W revolvers had this problem from too much torque.
    Too little torque and the barrel will unscrew from firing vibration, or can even turn FARTHER in.

    With the barrel set, a special tool that works down the barrel's bore is used to set the barrel/cylinder gap.
    This tool is a Tee handled rod passed down the bore with special cutter heads then attached to the rod.
    A flat faced cutter is attached, and by pulling and turning the rod, the cutter will trim the rear of the barrel to set barrel/cylinder gap.
    Care is taken to prevent scalloped or "wavy" cuts, and to insure the end is at 90 degrees to the bore.

    With the barrel/cylinder gap set, another cutter head is attached, and this one is used to re-cut the forcing cone.
    The forcing cone is a little understood barrel feature.
    It's absolutely critical to accuracy, and the critical dimension is the OUTER diameter or "lip" of the cone.
    If the outer edge of the cone is too big in diameter, accuracy will be poor.
    Too small in diameter and accuracy is poor AND the revolver will spit lead.
    Even used barrels MUST have the cone re-cut during installation.

    The cutter heads are tapered cutters that cut a funnel shape in the rear of the barrel until the cone gages to the right outer diameter.
    Various TAPERS may be used for special purposes. As example, a longer taper works best in a revolver intended for use mostly with lead bullets, a shorter taper for jacketed bullets.
    The factory taper is a good compromise.

    The cutter tool is used to cut the taper, and the progress is checked with a special plug gage that drops into the cone.
    When the cone gages as in spec, a brass lapping cone head and fine valve grinding compound is used to lap the cone smooth of cutter marks.

    The final step is shooting the gun for grouping.

    As you can see, the barrel is NOT "just a piece of threaded pipe" that can be screwed on and off at will.
    One sure-fire way of ruining a good revolver is to use the old gag of locking the barrel up in some rough wooden barrel blocks, shoving a hammer handle or piece of wood through the frame window and twisting the frame off.

    This will either spring or bend the frame, or the frame will break through the frame's barrel threads, which are very thin on the bottom.
  3. mustang 22

    mustang 22 Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Western Washington
    Well, it is patently obvious that my new problem is finding a good gunsmith for this task. There is no way I would attempt this project myself.
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