Smith & Wesson revolver question

Discussion in 'Technical Questions & Information' started by pkcgbifaid, Apr 29, 2010.

  1. pkcgbifaid

    pkcgbifaid Member

    Nov 12, 2003
    Charleston, WV
    We had a trooper bring in a Smith revolver the other day asking if we could fix a problem for him. We are all Smith & Wesson pistol armorer certified, but none of us are revolver certified, but we said we'd look at it for him.

    The problem:
    When you push the thumbpiece forward to try and swing the cylinder out to load or unload the chambers, the revolver does not unlock enough to swing the cylinder out. If you push rearward slightly on the cylinder, the cylinder and extractor rod all move rearward and the revolver unlocks and opens.

    What I've noticed:
    Under magnification, I have noticed that when the thumbpiece is pushed all the way forward, the center pin (inside the extractor rod) does not push forward enough to be flush with the front of the extractor rod. So, the locking bolt in the barrel lug is hanging up on the lip of the extractor rod. Pushing the cylinder to the rear moves the extractor rod back enough that the center pin is flush, allowing the locking bolt to ride over the edge of the extractor rod and unlock the action.

    Is there an accepted way to fix this problem?

    Any suggestions are appreciated, and if you have a question please feel free to ask.

  2. nffritos

    nffritos Active Member

    Nov 14, 2009
    Reno Nv
    I would add to the other comments that it is VERY easy to do serious damage to the revolver by shearing off the locator pins or bending the center pins. An amateurish solution is to use empty cartridges in the charge holes when loosening or tightening the parts. The real solution is to get the special tool from Brownells which makes extractor and center pin removal an easy job. Remember - with guns, it is all about having the correct tool for the job.


  3. Helix_FR

    Helix_FR Active Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Imperial, MO
    Swing the cylinder out and take a look at the thumb piece bolt while pushing forward. Is it flush with the breech face? If not, the locking bolt (thumpiece) needs to be refit or replaced.
    If it is flush, then the extractor rod was undercut or the yoke has a excessive amount of end shake.
    End shake:
    Check the yoke or crane for a forward and back motion in the frame. The yoke should remain flush to the frame any excessive movement must be fixed. Its not terribly hard to do. Let me know the results. PM would work better for this. This is not a home job, you can really screw it up if its done wrong.

    Undercut extractor bolt:
    Some trimming of the thumbscrew can be done to alleviate the problem but too much can cause the cylinder to not lock fully. I often times do this only as a last resort and only if its just a few strokes of a file. Otherwise the extractor bolt needs to be replaced.
  4. Helix_FR

    Helix_FR Active Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Imperial, MO
    Though there are tools to do this job, they do nothing different than using empty casings. In fact the S&W factory repair guide shows empty casings as a option. The thumb piece clamp is the only really useful tool needed but not totally necessary. But you are right, do it wrong and you'll be one unhappy person.;)
  5. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA

    As Helix_FR stated the cylinder may have end shake. That means the cylinder moves in the frame too much forward and back. There are specs for that and a common fix is a washer on the axle of the cylinder that takes out the end shake by forcing the cylinder back a few thousandths of an inch.

    My guess is the gun is ready for more than a few shim washers. It probably needs the factory to inspect and rebuild/adjust it. Usually when there is too much end shake there is also too big of a cylinder to barrel gap and you get lead spitting out of the cylinder gap which would now be excessive. But S&W would know as would a Revolver Certified S&W repair shop. These specs are basic to revolver repair as is the adjustment. The end result may be that the barrel has to be set back as well as the shim washers added.

    S&W revolvers are fine guys but eventually can shot loose. That's the price you pay for finesse verses heavy duty (Ruger is the example of the later). But any S&W revolver that still looks good and shoots relatively good is worth repairing, in my opinion. But get it done right.

    For a lot more information see the Kuhnhausen book on S&W revolvers:

  6. Popgunner

    Popgunner Active Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    Have you checked to see if the extractor rod is screwed in all the way?
  7. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    Way to go, Popgunner! Everything the OP wrote is consistent with an unscrewed ejector rod, so I suggest he try that before getting into esoteric discussions on shims and the like.

  8. Popgunner

    Popgunner Active Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    Hopefully it's that easy. My model 15 combat masterpiece shot the ejector rod loose a few years ago. I just had to screw the rod down to fix it.
  9. Helix_FR

    Helix_FR Active Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Imperial, MO
    true, but he never did say it was hard to close. Just open
  10. pkcgbifaid

    pkcgbifaid Member

    Nov 12, 2003
    Charleston, WV
    Thanks for the suggestions guys!

    The ejector rod was the first thing we checked and it is nice and tight. We have now checked the bolt of the thumbpiece and it is flush with the breechface. The yoke itself does not move at all, it is just the cylinder that moves.

    LDBennett, I've looked at just how much back the cylinder has to move in order to unlock and I think you are probably right... it leaves a pretty significant gap between the cylinder face and the forcing cone of the barrel.

    I think I'm going to suggest he send it to Smith to get it looked at by the professionals. It's a really nice blued Model 19... and they just don't make them like that anymore. I would hate to booger it up.
  11. Helix_FR

    Helix_FR Active Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Imperial, MO

    Good call. If it moves back that far to open then if you had spent brass in it good luck opening it at all. If there is room to open it with the brass in it then you got a head space issue too. Fix the head space, now you barrel/cylinder gap opens so your setting the barrel back and recutting the forcing cone.Not a super hard job but ya got to have the right tools to do it.
    Better off having someone who has done S&W barrels to check. If head space checks out and b/c gap is OK then your going after the ejection rod. I doubt the way your describing the ejector rod is a fault.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2010
  12. Popgunner

    Popgunner Active Member

    Dec 3, 2005
    Can't remember what Smith specifies for the gap between the cylinder face & the forcing cone but .004"-.006" is what I remember. It's more than that on the gun you're working with? Could the guy have removed the cylinder & not replaced an existing shim when he put it back together?
  13. pkcgbifaid

    pkcgbifaid Member

    Nov 12, 2003
    Charleston, WV
    I dug out a set of feeler guages... if I push the cylinder all the way back, the .013" feeler guage fits in the cylinder gap. It the position where it usually sets, the .003" feeler gauge just barely will fit. If I fit a .011" or larger feeler gauge in the cylinder gap, the revolver unlocks and opens. With the .010" gauge or less, it will not.

    Popgunner, I'm sure you know how this goes. Getting ANYONE to ADMIT they took something apart is next to impossible!

    We had a trooper field strip his duty weapon, a Smith & Wesson 4566TSW, and reassembled the pistol WITHOUT the mainspring! It wasn't caught until the next time he had to qualify and his hammer wouldn't drop. Of course he didn't want to admit he had taken the gun down that far and lost parts... but he had no choice since it functioned fine the last time he qualified with it.

    Thanks again for the input everyone!
  14. Helix_FR

    Helix_FR Active Member

    Apr 14, 2009
    Imperial, MO
    .003 is right. gotta check the head space now. If everything lines up and the headspace is right (.060-.074 for 38sp, .060-.070 for 357) then you have a end shake issue b/c you getting a forward motion on the cylinder when the thumb piece is pushed forward I bet the cylinder is binding on the forcing cone when the thumb piece is pushed but its also making the bolt fall short of being flush with the thumb screw.
    If the cylinder is not binding on the forcing cone when the thumb piece is pushed ie still at .003 then the ejector rod is short.
  15. Old Chief

    Old Chief New Member

    Jun 19, 2010
    Northern California
    I'm a former LE S&W Revolver armorer and I checked the manual for the rear and front gauge. The Model 19 should gauge between .012 and .018 in the rear and between .004 and .010 in the front. These are factory specifications. The Model 60 is the same in the front but between .062 and .068 in the rear. Each part of a S&W revolver must be properly fitted or it will cause problems in the proper function of other parts. If there is any doubt in what you're doing, I suggest you enlist the help of a qualified S&W revolver smith.
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