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Swing-Out

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by beag_nut, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. beag_nut

    beag_nut Member

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    Nothing important, but I am wondering about firearms design/history a little bit. Specifically, why are SA revolvers equipped with a loading gate, but DA ones have a swing-out cylinder? Is it simply tradition to do it that way (even on brand-new models), or do there actually exist SA's with swing-out cylinders? Like I said, just an idle question. Thanks in advance for any info, whether obscure history or whatever.
     
  2. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    It is largely a matter of the evolution of the designs.

    The design of most single action revolvers goes back further than most double action revolvers.

    The Colt design dates back to 1836 with the Paterson Colt percussion revolver. By 1847 the design of Colt Cap & Ball revolvers was pretty much set in stone with the Walker Colt. These were Percussion revolvers, but the basic design was carried forward into Colt's cartridge revolvers, such as the Single Action Army.

    Here is a photo of a replica of the Colt 1860 Army Cap & Ball revolver. Notice the relief cut into the frame behind the cylinder. This relief was cut there so percussion caps could be pressed onto the nipples.


    pietta%201860%20close%20up%2002_zpszems5men.jpg




    Here is a Colt Single Action Army, almost completely disassembled, with all its parts. No, I did not take the loading gate out, it is still mounted in its position in the frame behind the cylinder. Notice that this is the same spot that was occupied by the cap relief in the 1860 Army. Both cylinders rotate the same direction, so that spot on the frame was the best place to put a loading gate.

    Second%20Gen%20Disassembled%2001_zpsxmlskocz.jpg




    Here is a photo of the underside of the SAA frame. Notice it is one solid piece of steel that has been hogged out, providing deep slots where al the lock parts will sit. Again, this is very similar to the Colt C&B design, just an evolutionary development of the earlier design.

    Second%20Gen%20Frame%2001_zpsmemb9zvh.jpg




    This is a different Colt, just showing the frame and barrel assembly, the trigger guard and the backstrap. Once all the lockparts were installed, the trigger guard and backstrap are screwed to the frame to seal the small parts inside.

    triggerguardandbackstrapandframe.jpg




    Don't get me wrong, there were double action percussion revolvers too, but the Colt and Remington designs were the most common.

    In 1877 Colt introduced the Lightning revolver, which was a double action revolver that loaded through a side gate.

    Although the internal parts of the Lightning were very different than the SAA, the parts were still sealed inside the frame by attaching the trigger guard and backstrap.

    Here is a link to a page about the Colt Lightning with some excellent photos.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt_M1877




    Smith and Wesson was making Top Break single action revolvers starting in 1869. You broke them open to load by lifting a latch and swinging the barrel down.

    unloading.jpg




    In 1881, Smith and Wesson built their first Double Action Top Break revolver. Here is a photo of a couple of them. These were large frame, 44 caliber revolvers.

    Two44DAs02_zps927bf180.jpg




    Unlike Colt, Smith and Wesson had always built their revolvers with a removable side plate. The side plate on this Double Action 44 has been removed to reveal the interior parts. The hammer is in the full cock position.

    hammerfullcock_zps14431fb4.jpg




    In 1896 Smith and Wesson introduced their first revolver with a side swinging cylinder. It was chambered for the new 32 S&W Long cartridge.

    32HE%201st%20Model%2003_zpse8iiptp6.jpg




    Here is a photo of the interior parts with the side plate removed. By this time S&W had moved the side plate to the right side of the frame, where it has been ever since.

    degreased_zps2ewmktdu.jpg




    Here is a photo of a nickel plated one with the cylinder swung open. Notice the cylinder swings out to the left, as have the cylinders on all S&W revolvers ever since. With the old Top Break designs extraction had been automatic. As the barrel rotated down a cam pushed the extractor back, and then when the barrel reached the full extent of its rotation, it snapped back into place, automatically ejecting all the spent cartridges. Usually anyway. But with the new side swinging cylinders it was not possible (or practical anyway) to include an automatic ejection feature, so ejection of the spent brass was accomplished by pushing the extractor rod back with the thumb. Because extraction was no longer automatic, the new side swinging S&W revolvers were often called Hand Ejectors, because ejection had to be done manually.

    32%20HE%201st%20Model%20Nickel%20Cylinder%20Open_zpsbcuzce2m.jpg




    In 1899 S&W introduced their first 38 caliber side swing revolver. By 1905 some internal changes had been made, and the Smith and Wesson revolvers produced today are basically the same design that dates from 1905.

    Model%201899%2001_zps0apyjrmx.jpg




    One more comment before I sign off. Although both Colt and Smith and Wesson modern revolvers both have cylinders that swing out to the left, Smiths have always had the side plate mounted on the right side of the frame while Colts have the side plate mounted on the left side of the frame. And Smith cylinders rotate counterclockwise when viewed from behind, while Colt cylinders rotate clockwise. You will hear theories of why clockwise rotation is better than counterclockwise, but I don't buy them.

    smith_colt_compare01.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
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  3. .308 Norma

    .308 Norma Member

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    I might be remembering wrong, but it seems like an old buddy of mine had an off-brand SA .22 revolver of some kind that had a swing out cylinder. And from what I can tell from a Google search, Uberti might even still make them.:)
     
  4. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Some specialty match revolvers, such as the .22 Colt Officers, were swing-outs converted to SA only by removing the DA lockwork.
     
  5. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Think about how and why SA revolvers get made any time between the first decade of the 20th century and today:

    1) Nostalgia/familiarity/aesthetics. Obviously no call for anachronistically-advanced swing-out cylinders from people buying SA revolvers precisely for their old-timey appeal.
    2) Suitability of the beefed-up versions of the Colt-ish SA design to handle very high levels of recoil without having to be quite as big as something like the Super Redhawk or X-frame. Throw in a swing-out cylinder crane and you've just undermined this characteristic... you end up having to add more weight and pretty soon you've got something just as heavy and clunky as the SRH or XF.
    3) Suitability of the Colt-ish SA for artisinal/non-large-factory production. My understanding (I'm not a machinist or engineer) is that it is quite a bit harder to make a swing-out cylinder crane mechanism that gets to the same levels of alignment as the Colt-ish designs.

    So, I think the answer is that the very things that make someone want to look at an SA are things that work against swing-out cylinders.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  6. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Hi Standard used to make a nine shot double action rimfire revolver called the Double Nine. It looked like a single action, but it was actually a double action with a swing out cylinder.

    https://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/HSD9/hsd9.html

    Smith and Wesson Model 14 Double Action revolvers could be had at one time that were single action only. You could even buy a kit that had the parts to change over a standard Model 14 to Single Action only.

    Colt produced almost 358,000 Single Action Army revolvers from 1873 until 1940. I don't have the numbers for the Second Generation handy, but they produced quite a few. The most ever produced in one year was 18,000 in 1902, followed by 17,000 in 1883 and 1901, followed by 16,000 in 1907. Hardly what I would call artisinal/non-factory production numbers. I don't have the numbers for Uberti, but I'll bet they are nowhere near what Colt was cranking out during the early 20th Century.

    Of course it is simpler to drill a hole in the frame for the cylinder than to mount a swiveling yoke. Drilling a hole for the cylinder base pin you have to be sure it is parallel to the bore, as well as spaced the proper distance from the bore.

    With a swing out cylinder the hole in the frame for the yoke has to parallel to the bore, and the right distance away. The yoke (the hinge part) has to be made correctly, and both parts have to be parallel. And of course the cylinder and the internal ejector rod parts have to all be true. But S&W (and Colt) did this forever. They had gotten it down to a science, and were able to produce many thousands of revolvers with swing out cylinders.

    Model%2017-3%20Exploded%20View_zpszhjrrno8.jpg
     
  7. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    Driftwood Johnson's posts here should be "stickied" for the benefit of all.
     
  8. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Of course, of course! I was merely saying that the suitability of the SA design for lower scale production is one reason it has stuck around and being made by non-Colt makers.

    In contrast, not many custom makers build a swing-out DA revolver from scratch.
     
  9. Keith G

    Keith G Member

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    B262215D-858D-4363-A713-F4EB3BB72DD3.jpeg 1128B9E2-F5DC-46AD-92DE-BF02380D5D74.jpeg
    I have one. Fun little revolver.
     
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  10. Keith G

    Keith G Member

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    I should rephrase that to “It’s a fun little revolver when shot in single action.” The trigger pull feels about a mile long in double action.
     
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  11. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    There were a great number of cheap (quality) and inexpensive (price) DA revolvers made which used a loading gate, or simply a milled out port to load/unload much like the SAA style guns. The other way around was much less common, but demand a bit of a premium. Swing cylinder single actions have been made, but they seldom lasted long enough to achieve notoriety. Some have actually been made somewhat recently, as in the NAA sidewinder. Historically, there have been a lot of makers, but again, they just don’t seem to catch on. I speculate that the main use of the guns plays into the scenario because pre-1900 guns were tools and the sidearms we think of we’re working guns used by lawmen and by Hollywood cowboys. Either way, it’s hard to wrangle multiple cartridges while on horseback and the loading gate design helps to wrangle the rounds by letting you rotate the cylinder to capture the cartridge once it’s in place. Post 1900 things started changing quickly. Colt and S&W got some serious DA revolvers into military use and lots of folks wanted those and started copying the designs. With modernization and less mounted travel, coupled with style factors and a couple world wars it became easier to load while on the move as one man was driving (or flying) and others were simply along for the ride. The need for contained cartridges during loading waned and speed became a bigger factor. Modern smokeless rounds like 38spl also were more powerful allowing smaller guns with similar power levels and that often meant reduced round counts, further driving the need for speedy reloads.

    But in reality it boils down to Hollywood. Hollywood showcased the cheap and plentiful surplus Colt revolvers driving prices and demand through the roof. People imitated that very closely to cash in on the cowboy craze. Those who varied, did so in a very calculated way, and even then it often was not financially viable in the long run. Moving away from cowboy guns, using a loading cut which was only available at half-cock was a simpler and much cheaper way to make “Saturday night special” revolvers. Thus the scarcity of the former, and abundance of the latter.
     
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  12. beag_nut

    beag_nut Member

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    Well, thanks to all who took the time to reply. Still, I don't see any bona-fide reason to not have a swing-out SA. If it's only because of tradition, then I see a niche for such a quick-loading SA, and the price should be the same or less than a DA, which is more complicated. But some company would have to make the investment first.
    Thanks for all the opinions and pics.
     
  13. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Member

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    DW Johnson- On the early nickel DA swing out cylinder revolver you show, there is no side catch for opening the cylinder. Was that accomplished by pulling the ejector rod forward?

    Also, was that a standard factory engraving/roll mark on the cylinder? If so, could we please see a closer photo......
     
  14. adcoch1

    adcoch1 Member

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  15. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    The only reason that I stopped in here was that, upon reading the @SUBJ, I just knew that Driftwood Johnson was going to show up. :D

    ... my only minor point of disappointment: no Merwin Hulbert images. :(

    I'm with Sistema1927 (and many others, I am sure) ... it would be nice if all of DJ's image posts were copied to a separate locked & stickied Thread. :)
     
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  16. FlSwampRat

    FlSwampRat Member

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    Awesomely informative post! ^5
     
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  17. FlSwampRat

    FlSwampRat Member

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    Since most DA revolvers can fire SA as an option and, quite obviously not the other way 'round, and DA is faster to shoot the whole cylinder full, DA is what someone is going to opt for who is looking for speed. SA Peacemaker style guns are going for the cowboy nostalgia market and a swing out cylinder isn't what the cowboys had "back when". Plus, the loading gate vs swing out cylinder is a lot cheaper to manufacture, hence a lot cheaper to buy.
     
  18. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    You are correct, there was no thumb piece on the 32 Hand Ejector 1st Model (Model 1896). The cylinder was opened by pulling the extractor rod forward.

    32%20HE%201st%20Model%20Nickel%20SN%201776%2002_zpsrzojjwt8.jpg




    As far as I know, the roll engraving between the flutes of the cylinder was standard. At least it appears on the two I own. Since it was a six shooter, there were six places between the flutes that were engraved and each place bears a separate inscription. As can be seen here, SMITH & WESSON appears in one place, and SPRINGFIELD MASS appears in the next. The next place reads USA PATENTED. Then some patent dates: JULY 1, 84 APRIL9, 89, then MARCH 27,94 MAY 29 94, then finally MAY 21, 95 JULY 16, 95. So that gives a pretty good history of the patent dates for the Model 1896.

    Cylinder%20Engraving_zpsbaglxwz2.jpg




    Speaking about the evolution of firearm designs, the S&W 32 HE 1st Model was kind of an evolutionary dead end.

    I'm not exactly sure why, perhaps S&W was in a hurry to put a swing out cylinder revolver on the market. I would have to look into what Colt was doing at the time.

    Anyway, unlike any other S&W side swing revolver, the cylinder lock up mechanism was very unusual.

    The cylinder locking method was a throw back of the old Tip Ups from the 1850s and 1860s.

    There was a bump on the top of the hammer. The bump was actually part of the firing pin.

    32HEandTipUpHammers_zpsfe73f0a8.jpg




    The bump had a knife edge in front, and was rounded on top.

    rearsightandfiringpin_zpsaad5d7b8.jpg




    The locking bolt was actually above the cylinder, in the top strap, rather than under neath the cylinder in the frame, like almost every other revolver. It was pinned in place, and could rotate slightly to free the cylinder to rotate. A spring held the bolt down in the locked position.

    bolt_zps54afd4c2.jpg




    When the hammer was cocked, either single action or double action, the rounded bump tilted the rear of the bolt up, retracting it into the top strap, to allow the cylinder to rotate. When the hammer fell, the knife edge separated the legs of a split spring which held the bolt down, so the bolt did not rise again, but kept the cylinder locked in battery.

    splitspring_zps15effa86.jpg




    The rear sight was part of the bolt. When the hammer was cocked, the rear sight would rock slightly. That is why it was placed directly above the pivot point of the bolt, so it would not move at all vertically.

    rearsight01_zps8edf7451.jpg




    These photos of a S&W #2 Old Army 32 Rimfire may explain the concept better.

    No%202%20Old%20Army%2032%20RF_zpstvyooh4g.jpg




    To load (or unload) the latch at the bottom of the frame was disengaged, the barrel was rotated up, (hence the name Tip Up) and the cylinder was removed. Spent brass (or copper in this case) were poked out by using the rod under the barrel. Then the cylinder was reloaded, popped back into place, and the barrel was rotated back down and latched.

    No%202%20Old%20Army%2032%20RF%2002_zpsoiq747wy.jpg




    Here is a view of the bolt, and the split spring directly under it.

    Side%20View%2001_zpsoq3drmnx.jpg




    The tiny notch at the rear of the bolt was the rear sight. When the hammer was cocked, the rounded bump on top of the hammer rotated the bolt up out of the cylinder locking notches.

    Hammer%20Detail_zpsfiwutmsw.jpg


    Rear%20Sight_zpstufx6onh.jpg



    When the hammer fell, the sharp front edge of the bump divided the two legs of the split spring. The spring then kept the bolt down, engaged in one of the cylinder locking slots as the cartridge fired.

    Split%20Spring%20Detail_zps8hsxrzsg.jpg




    Here is the business end of the bolt protruding down out of the top of the frame.

    Bolt%20Detail_zpssmz1t8pd.jpg




    The cylinder locking system employed by the Tip Ups was very simple, and it worked very well. The only real drawback was the split spring under the bolt could break easily. It is very common to find an old Tip Up with a broken spring, with only one leg remaining. When the Top Break revolvers replaced the Tip Ups, they used a conventional bolt underneath the cylinder.

    But I have wandered a bit.

    I suspect S&W reverted back to this strange cylinder lockup system because they had not quite yet perfected the system they eventually used in the 1899 Military and Police model. Checking one of my Colt books it appears Colt first offered a revolver with a swing out cylinder in 1889. So perhaps S&W decided to offer their unusual Model 1896 just to be competitive.

    Anyway, the 32 HE 1st Model was only made until 1903, when the 32 HE 2nd Model (32 HE Model of 1903) appeared. By this time, the bolt under the cylinder was standard, with a thumb piece to unlatch the cylinder.

    I don't have a 32 HE 2nd Model, but here is a 32 HE 3rd Model. Notice the straight vertical section of the frame in front of the hammer is gone by this time. The 32 HE 1st Model was the forerunner of the I frame, which became the forerunner of the modern J frame.

    32HE3rdModelloaded_zps8c0b34b5.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  19. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Did somebody say Merwin Hulbert?

    Most people today do not know that even though a Merwin Hulbert was emptied by rotating the barrel and pulling the barrel and cylinder forward.............

    unloading%2008_zps2btufvmx.jpg




    They had to be reloaded through a loading gate. It was physically impossible to reload when the cylinder was pulled forward, I can explain why if anybody really cares. But to reload you had to reload one round at a time through a sliding loading gate.

    These photos are of a single action MH.

    reloading%2003_zpsvvumyoow.jpg




    So shame on me for not remembering the double action Merwin Hulberts also had a loading gate. This is a small 38 caliber double action Mewin.

    38%20Merwin%20Hulbert%2001_zpsed0kxn4y.jpg

    38%20Merwin%20Hulbert%2002_zpsudropt5z.jpg




    Here it is with the barrel and cylinder rotated and pulled forward for unloading.

    38%20Merwin%20Hulbert%2005_zpsspdiijvi.jpg




    And here is a round being loaded through the sliding loading gate. Note: the 38 caliber Merwin Hulberts were chambered for a proprietary 38 Merwin Hulbert cartridge. That is actually a 38 S&W round I am chambering. Everything I have read says the 38MH round was pretty much identical to the 38 S&W round. So one of these days I will have to load up some 38 S&W with Black Powder and try out this little guy.

    38%20Merwin%20Hulbert%2008_zpssglftudt.jpg


    P.S. I don't own any large frame double action Merwin Hulberts, but I have examined a few. They too had to be reloaded through a sliding loading gate.
     
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  20. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    One thing you are overlooking is any revolver with a side swinging cylinder MUST have a rebounding hammer. If the hammer does not rebound so the firing pin is withdrawn from the dent in a fired primer, it will jam when trying to swing the cylinder open. Almost every single action revolver I own, and all those I have examined, do not have rebounding hammers. So if somebody was going to make a single action revolver with a side swinging cylinder, a rebounding hammer would be a must.

    Yeah, not a big deal, but it would have to be done.

    Here is a photo of my S&W Model 14-3. This is the model that was available on a limited basis as a single action only revolver. This model was very popular with Bullseye shooters, and there was no need for double action in Bullseye (at least I don't think so) so S&W offered it in a single action only version. And as I said before, for a time you could buy a kit to replace the hammer and trigger to make a standard model single action only. Or, you could just remove the double action sear from the hammer. I think.

    model14-3box02_zps33983522.jpg
     
  21. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Absolutely.

    Used Colt Single Action Army revolvers were so cheap just before WWII that the movie studios bought them up like popcorn. From 1930 on, Colt was only producing a few hundred SAAs every year. In 1935 and 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, Colt only produced 100 SAAs each of those years. Production in 1940 topped out at 859 units.

    I still cry today when I see some cowboy in an old oatburner kick a 1st Gen Colt across the floor or throw it into the dirt.

    Anyway, Colt stopped producing the SAA in 1940. They had to make 1911s for the war effort. They had no plans to reintroduce the SAA after WWII, Colt figured nobody would be interested in buying anymore of such an old design. Then a guy named Bill Ruger introduced a little 22 rimfire single action revolver, the Single Six, in 1953 and they sold like hotcakes. In 1955 Ruger brought out the 357 Magnum Blackhawk. What Colt had not realized was thousands of GIs had returned home, taken advantage of the GI Bill, and gotten a good education and a good job. One of the results was there were now thousands of television sets in thousands of new houses and cowboys were galloping across countless family rooms, rekindling interest in the old SAA. So in 1956 Colt finally saw the handwriting on the wall and reintroduced the SAA.

    Just for fun I did a little bit of research. In 1873 the Army was paying $13.00 each for the SAA. The S&W Schofield model was introduced in 1875, and a few were available on the civilian market at $17.50 each. I have a letter for one of my New Model Number Threes that states it was part of a shipment of 4 that shipped for $13.00 each in 1882.

    Using an online inflation calculator, in 2019 dollars, the Colt would cost $276.84 in today's dollars, the Schofield would cost $406.55, and my New Model Number Three would cost $325.70.

    You can't touch a newly made SAA for that kind of money, and you can't touch an Uberti version of the Schofield or NM#3 for that kind of money either.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  22. LoneGoose

    LoneGoose Member

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    Driftwood Johnson, you are an encyclopedia of good information. Thank you for sharing it with us in an easy-to-read style. All good info.

    THR rocks.
     
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  23. Monac

    Monac Member

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    I have a single-action top-break revolver, a 22 LR Harrington & Richardson model 199. It's the same as their well known double-action model 999 "Sportsman", but with the DA mechanism removed. I guess this was supposed to give a better SA pull. I have not fired it much yet, because the spring for the frame-mounted firing pin is dead, and the pin snags on the cartridges.
     
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