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Redhawk Barrel

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Walkalong, Apr 25, 2007.

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  1. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    I am looking at a Ruger Redhawk with an extra barrel. What does it take to change barrels on a Redhawk? Thanks, AC
  2. bigmike45

    bigmike45 Member

    Aug 12, 2004
    My suggestion would be to contact someone like Hamilton Bowen that specializes in Redhawk conversions.
  3. JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone

    JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone Member

    Feb 12, 2005
    Lynden, WA
    You saw that 7" barrel on Evilbay, didn't you..

  4. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Revolver barrels are absolutely NOT user changeable.

    First, it requires some expensive tooling like a lathe, special frame wrenches, barrel vises, and forcing cone cutting tools.
    Trying it by using the old gag of shoving a hammer handle through the frame WILL ruin the frame.

    Second, the barrel MUST be carefully fitted and adjusted.
    This involves trimming the barrel so the front sight is aligned at 12:00 O'clock top-dead-center, re-cutting and lapping the forcing cone, and adjusting the barrel/cylinder gap.

    Third, many of the barrels you see on eBay and at gun shows are defective.
    Either someone removed it because something was wrong with it, or they damaged it by improper removal methods.

    I strongly advise sending the gun in to Ruger for a new barrel.
    They do this at a decent price, and you know it'll get done RIGHT.

    In the case of buying a revolver with TWO barrels, you have to ask a serious question: Is the barrel on the gun the original, or has someone already changed it.
    If the barrel has already been changed, there's a very high probability that someone may well have damaged the gun by using improper tooling or methods.
    When you see a gun with two barrels, alarms should go off and it's very much a case of "buyer beware".
  5. foghornl

    foghornl Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    The only revolver I can think of that had even remotely easy to change barrels was the Dan Wesson "Pistol Pack" that had 2", 4", 6" & 8" barrrels, along with some sort of tooling.

    Can't remember what was involved in a change, and I haven't seen a DW "Pistol Pack" in many years
  6. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    This is a revolver with two barrels fit for that gun. One on the gun. One off the gun.

    The owner says he changes them by putting the barrel in a vise, removing the cylinder, and using a non marking lever such as wood , to turn off one barrel and turn on the other.

    This is basically how I change my benchrest barrels. I put the gun/barrel in a barrel vise and use a tool matched to the action to turn the action off of the barrel.

    Is this feasible for the redhawk or is he full of it? Thanks, AC
  7. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    This is the infamous "hammer handle through the frame" trick.

    This occasionally worked on the old S&W revolvers with the pinned barrels, because the barrels were sometimes not torqued in the frame that tightly.

    ALL modern revolvers have barrels that are crush fitted. That is, screwed in extremely tight, until the barrel shoulder is actually slightly compresses by the pressure.
    When you try the old wood through the frame gag the frame will either get bent, or it will crack right through the barrel threads on the under side.

    The owner who is switching barrels possibly got the original broken loose properly, and just doesn't torque the barrel up tightly.
    I seriously doubt that the replacement barrel is a proper fit, or was properly adjusted.
    This seldom makes for a very accurate gun, and due to unseen problems, I'd steer clean of it.

    People seem to have the idea that a revolver barrel is nothing more than a fancy piece of threaded pipe that can be screwed on and off at will.
    They're not, they're precision hand fitted and adjusted critical parts.

    To give you an idea of whats involved in fitting a revolver barrel, here's a quick look of how it's done:


    Barrel work is a MAJOR pistolsmithing job and requires a considerable amount of very expensive equipment.
    It involves a lot of steps that most people, including a surprising number of gunsmiths, don’t even know is required.
    Failure to do the job correctly insures an inaccurate revolver at best, and a destroyed frame at worst.

    The common do-it-yourself technique is to use “expedient” tooling techniques that are found in old gunsmithing books, and can still be found mentioned occasionally in gun magazines.
    These methods range from wrapping rope around the barrel and using it with a stick to form a sort of tourniquet to unscrew the barrel, to the most common, which is to use a hammer handle through the frame window as a “wrench”.

    The hammer handle method is to make up a pair of wood barrel blocks for the barrel.
    The barrel is sandwiched between the blocks, and are locked in a shop vice. One writer said to “Tighten the vise until your eyes bugged out”.
    A hammer handle or a shaped wooden 2x4 is shoved through the frame and is used as a “wrench” to twist the frame off.
    The new barrel is fitted by hand filing the barrel shoulder until the front sight is at 12:00, the rear of the barrel is filed, if necessary, to provide a small gap between the barrel and the cylinder, and you’re off to the range to shoot your fresh re-barrel.

    At least that’s how it’s touted as working.

    In reality, when the hammer handle is used to turn the frame, one of two things happen:
    Either the frame bends, or it breaks.
    Revolver frames are a lot softer and easier to bend then most people suspect, and when the frame itself is used as a wrench, the frame will almost always bend.
    Once bent, the frame is ruined even though it may still be shoot-able.
    A bent frame will often have timing problems, and always has alignment problems. All of which cause inaccuracy and possible spitting of bullet metal.
    Some owners who’ve tried this method of barrel work, are surprised that the factories do not have some kind of machine or device that will straighten the frame like bent car frames can sometimes be straightened.
    The fact is, once bent the frame can never be repaired, and the best a factory can do is replace it.

    The second thing that can happen is the frame will break.
    If you look at a revolver frame just under the area where the barrel screws in, you’ll see that the frame is very thin in this area.
    When the unsupported frame is unscrewed with the handle, it can crack right through the threaded portion.
    While there are ways to weld the crack, the very high expense of having a top level custom pistolsmith/welder do it is very prohibitive, and is reserved for repairs to revolvers of high historical value, with NO guarantee that it will work.

    The advice to hand file the barrel shoulder to align the barrel and to file the end of the barrel to provide the barrel/cylinder gap always ruins the barrel, since it’s near impossible to keep the surfaces perfectly square.
    The result is tilted barrels due to uneven shoulders, and the end of the barrel not square with the cylinder.

    Here’s a brief description of how a revolver barrel is changed correctly:
    First, the barrel is locked in a special barrel vise.
    I had two, one was a small scale copy of the larger hydraulic jack type vises that gunsmiths use to change out rifle barrels.
    I used this one for older round barrels like the Colt Official Police.
    The second vise was large Wilton vise with heavily modified jaws.
    I had sets of custom machined brass or aluminum barrel inserts that were fitted to specific makes and models.
    As example I had sets for Pythons, Trooper Mark III’s, King Cobras, shrouded Detective Specials, etc.

    The action, or frame wrench, is installed on the frame.
    This wrench is a universal revolver wrench that fits around the front of the frame. It is fitted with brand and type specific hard plastic inserts.
    These inserts very closely fit the front of the frame around and below the barrel area to fully support the frame.
    Again, I had inserts for specific guns. I had one set for Colt “E & I” frames, another set for “J” frames, another set for “D” frames, etc.
    These inserts support the frame and spread the torque over a wider area to allow unscrewing the frame without over stressing the frame and damaging it.

    With the frame and barrel tightly locked up, and with no “spring” to the setup, the barrel is unscrewed.

    With the barrel off, the frame threads are cleaned up with brass brushes, solvent, and if necessary are “chased” with a tap to insure clean, uniform threads.
    The replacement barrel is closely inspected and it’s threads are cleaned and chased with a die if necessary.

    The barrel is test fitted to the frame to determine where the front sight is and how much material has to be removed to allow the front sight to be at 12:00 top-dead-center after being torqued in place.
    How much to remove is largely a judgment call based on experience.
    Using a lathe or a bench trimming device, that amount of metal is removed from the barrel shoulder.
    The barrel threads are coated with anti-seize compound and the barrel is threaded on the frame, everything is relocked in the barrel vise and frame wrench, and the barrel is torqued in place.
    If the barrel is torqued with insufficient torque the barrel will vibrate loose.
    Too much and you run the risk of pressure dimpling or constricting the bore in the thread area, or even cracking the frame.

    With the barrel in place, the barrel/cylinder gap must be set.
    This is done with a special cutter tool that works down the bore.
    A Tee-handle rod is put down the bore and a cutter tool is attached on the end. The rod is pulled outward and rotated, trimming the end of the barrel.
    Care has to be taken to insure the end of the barrel is not scalloped from uneven pressure.

    With the barrel/cylinder gap set to an ideal .005”, the forcing cone has to be re-cut.
    The forcing cone is very misunderstood, and even some gunsmiths have no idea it has to be re-cut and gaged or that it must be gaged at all.
    The critical dimension of the cone is not it’s “length” or taper, but the outer diameter of the mouth.
    If the outer mouth is too big, the gun will be inaccurate. Too small and it’s inaccurate AND will spit bullet metal.

    The same Tee handle tool is inserted down the bore, but this time a cone-shaped cutter head is attached.
    The cutter heads come in various tapers, and you can set a barrel for exclusive use with lead bullets by using a longer taper, or for jacketed with shorter tapers.
    The factories use a good compromise that works with everything.
    The Tee handle is pulled outward, pulling the cutter into the forcing cone. The handle is rotated and the cutter head cuts the cone.
    Again, care is taken to prevent scalloping and the progress is checked often with a special plug gage.
    This drop-in plug gage gages the outer diameter of the cone. The difference between too large and too small is very small, so gauging is done often.
    The cone cannot be "eyeballed", it has to be gaged.

    After the cone is cut, yet another head is attached to the Tee handle, this time a brass cone-shaped lapping head.
    Valve grinding compound is applied to the lap, and the forcing cone is lapped to a smooth finish.

    After lapping, the barrel and frame is carefully cleaned of all metal chips and lapping compound, and the revolver is reassembled.
    The last step is firing the revolver for function, and to check accuracy off the sandbags.

    As you can see, there’s a LOT more involved than first thought, and all steps are CRITICAL.
    Unless you’re willing to invest quite a bit of money in custom made tooling and spend the to learning how to properly use it, attempting a do-it-yourself re-barrel job is a very fast way to ruin a good gun.
  8. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    That is basically what he alluded to. I was skeptical, which is why I posted the question. Thanks for your very informed answer. I will definitely steer clear of this one. Thanks greatly, Anthony
  9. highlander 5

    highlander 5 Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Why would you want to change the barrel on a Redhawk? with either a 4,5.5 or 7 inch barrel you do have a nice choice for a packing pistol or hunting.
    Dan Wesson pistols used a barrel/shroud assembly that worked like this, the barrel was threaded at both end you screwed the barrel into the frame and set the gap with a feeler gauge then placed a shroud over the barrel that was held in place with a slotted nut that was tightened with a wrench designed for the job. This set up might sound haphazard but DW revolvers would shoot circles around every other revolver made
  10. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    Because it came with two barrels and the owner said they could be changed back and forth easily. I wanted to know if that as true and if not there may already be damage. :eek:

    Thanks again to dfariswheel for his very informative and helpfull answer to my question. AC
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