Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We're big babies...

Part of being a Smith & Wesson fan is pissing and moaning and throwing a temper tantrum every time the company changes anything about their revolvers. It doesn't matter whether the change had any real effect or not, it's always a sure sign that the bean-counters are in charge and the company is going down the crapper and I'm never buying another gun from them and furthermore I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue see if I don't!

Presented for your consideration:

The Fifth Screw: Well, it didn't really do anything. A five-screw sideplate is a little easier to re-install than later ones, but apparently not all that much.

The Fourth Screw: This one actually did something. The cylinder stop bolt in modern Smiths goes in with a bunch of poking and tweaking at a tiny spring. On older ones you just dropped the bolt in and then inserted the spring and plunger through the hole in front of the trigger guard. then stuck the screw in the hole. No muss, no fuss. Of course, this only matters if you're taking the gun apart and putting it back together yourself.

The Recessed (countersunk) Charge Holes in the cylinder: They only did it in magnum revolvers anyway. No real loss.

The Pinned Barrel: Here's one that can start arguments. With the pinned barrel, you'd screw it in until the hole lined up, and then drive the barrel pin in. This worked fine provided that it hadn't been an off day and the threads were cut to spec. If the threads weren't cut to spec, the force of firing could bugger them all up over time. The barrels after '82 were crush-fit snugly which lessened the chances of this, but...

The Two-Piece Barrel: With the crush-fit barrel, it was torqued 'til tight. Sometimes, this resulted in the front sight not being, you know, straight. The two-piece barrel eliminates this by mounting the front sight on the sleeve, which is always straight, no matter how the actual barrel is tightened. Of course, the inner portion is still crush fit, which can cause distortion of the rifling, something that didn't happen with the pinned barrels... All three methods have faults; you pays your money and you takes your chances. However it's funny to hear people claim that Smith went to two-piece barrels because they're "cheaper". These people obviously can't count machining steps.

Metal Injection Molded Lockwork: Meh. It seems to work fine, but it sure does make it harder to get a nice trigger pull. It does get rid of the hammer-mounted firing pin, which is marginally more breakage-prone than the frame-mounted variety. The MIM triggers, with their hollow backs, look cheap, too.

The Lock: Lots of people have locks on their guns: Bersa, Walther, Ruger, Taurus, HK, Springfield Armory... But none of these people sell tradition like S&W does; it's gone over like New Coke or water-cooling on a Harley. It doesn't help that the lock is visually obtrusive and mechanically suspect, especially on the hard-recoiling flyweight revolvers that make up such a large part of S&W's lineup these days.

Anyhow, this ties into another thought I've had on the subject, concerning Smith & Wesson's new "Classic" lineup. More on that later.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I want to get a Classic series .44 Special, fixed sights in nickel in the worst way possible.

Great write up!

Vern from the Range!

Alchemyst said...

I like .45 colt, always have, always will. If I were forced to choose a single cartridge for me to use it would be .45 Colt. Make it a bit shorter (.45 Schofield) or a bit longer (.454 Casull) I'm a happy man. So when S&W came out with their .460 I resisted (cause I'm cheap) but eventually I broke down and made the purchase. Now let me tell you folks this is one hell of a combo - the new revolver and cartridge both. The fit and finish is truly nice and the engineering that went into the revolver is awesome. So tell me - why, oh why did the have to call it the 460. It uses the same .452 bullet as all other late model .45 Colt cartridges. Just stupid to introduce even more idiocy in our already idiotic cartridge naming system. But, OK I'm a big boy and can live with that. So what about being able to fire other .45 rounds in their new revolver. Great, I say. Then - why, oh why did S&W make the 460 case rim so much larger than the .45 Colt and the .454 Casull. Try and put a 460 case into any well machined .45 Colt shell holder and see what happens. If S&W were in the business of selling shell holders I reckon I could see it but otherwise I think it's just stupid.

staghounds said...

I thought they recessed the chambers in some .22s as well. Live and learn.

Anonymous said...

"I thought they recessed the chambers in some .22s as well."

Well, they do in all rimfires. Also, rimfire Hand Ejectors have always had frame-mounted firing pins.

Rimfire Smitties are different to their centerfire cousins in those respects.

-Tam (posting remotely)

SoupOrMan said...

The lock is the only real aesthetic problem I have with my 649. If they could have put it into a less-conspicuous area, it probably would be less reviled.

og said...

people are resistant to change, even when the change is good. Some diehards dislike the investment cast frames on later Winnie leverguns, or K31's as opposed to 1911's. Sometimes change is good, sometimes bad, sometimes change is just- well, change. The variety allows varied people to have varied stuff, and it's all good.

stainles said...

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for the Smith and Wesson Collector's Association convention, so I'm really getting a kick out of this post (and the replies)....

Malamute said...

"Then - why, oh why did S&W make the 460 case rim so much larger than the .45 Colt and the .454 Casull."



Most likely because 45 Colt shells have a very narrow rim, and tend to get shells under the extractor statr now and then. I've looked at them (25-5's)and tried empties, they can easily be gotten under the star. Keith mentioned it, as did John Linebaugh as happening sometimes to them. I would have bought a 25-5 if it hadn't been for that quirk.


Malamute

Firehand said...

"You CHANGED IT! It's not just like Grandpa's anymore! SACRILEGE!!"

zeeke42 said...

The real problem with shooting the shorter rounds in the 460 is getting full power 460s out afterwards. It's the same problem as shooting full house 357s after a bunch of 38s, but much much worse because of the much greater surface area.

TJP said...

If you have problems with thin rims on 45 Colt cases, then you're either using 50-year-old balloon head cases, or Winchester branded cases. The Winchesters also have narrow pockets which make CCI primer seating difficult, and the rim gets distorted in the shell-holder when resizing. Nearly every Winchester 45 Colt case I have has a distorted rim that, when in the proper position, will allow the ejector to slip by. I don't like to criticize Winchester because they make the only widely-available commercial loading in 45 Colt.

I use Remington, but if you've got the bucks, you can try Starline. (Personally, I find their cases too thick and too stiff for soft lead bullets, but well-made nonetheless.) You can blame it on the popularity of Colt Model P clones, where the diminutive cylinder limits the maximum diameter of the case heads.

ZerCool said...

I've got the Smith bug in a bad way. My first was a 28-2 4", which had been refinished to nickel. Sweeeeet shooting gun.

Shortly thereafter I traded a crappy WASR-10 AKlone and a little cash for a NIB "New Classic" 21-4 - also in nickel. That has become my go-to hunting pistol, after I replaced the factory itty-bitty grips with some nice big combats.

A friend recently pointed me to a shop that had bought an estate, and I'm sitting through the waiting period on a 647, which is rare on its own merits - produced from 2003-2004, it's a k-frame stainless 8-3/8" .17HMR. Can't wait to get it home and try it out - it will likely become my new squirrel hunting gun.

Locks are OK with me. Obviously I'd prefer not to have one, but I'm willing to accept it in order to have a S&W - because dammit, they just feel right.

the pistolero said...

why, oh why did the have to call it the 460....
To placate the fans of the big-block Ford who felt slighted by the naming of the .454 Casull? ;-)

NMM1AFan said...

How about the MIM parts? I'm sure they're here to stay, but are there any caveats for the gunsmith working a MIM part?

I'm interested in learning how to do a polish job on my M22, so it's not just academic.

Best regards,

Frank W. James said...

Tam: I'm in tune with everything you've posted except the frickin' lock. My problem with that abortion is the absolute cluelessness of how it's designed. I'm not arguing they didn't need one to survive commercially. I'm just saying they could of thought of at least a dozen different ways of doing it that would have been better than the way they chose. Stupid bastards!

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Tam said...

Maybe "mechanically suspect" didn't convey my distaste for it enough, although I'm not much for the guns on which it seems to be the biggest problem.

Gewehr98 said...

Crush-fit barrels can suffer distortion, too.

My 696 has a very visible ring in the rifling just forward of the forcing cone where the barrel shank threads into the frame. Discussing it on the S&W forum, it appears mine isn't the only one. I can't send it back to S&W for another one, though, so I'll just live with it and observe closely over time.

Word Verification: Menomp. "MenompMenomp" from the Muppets/Sesame Street?

Tam said...

"Crush-fit barrels can suffer distortion, too."

I thought I said that? I should probably have made that more clearer. :o

"Of course, the inner portion is still crush fit, which can cause distortion of the rifling, something that didn't happen with the pinned barrels..."

Tam said...

NMM1AFan,

"How about the MIM parts? I'm sure they're here to stay, but are there any caveats for the gunsmith working a MIM part?"

From what I've heard, the biggest thing to be aware of is that the case hardening is very thin, and so less is usually better when it comes to polishing on them.

For example, I know Gunsmith Bob and Shannon won't do a trigger job on a 1911 with a MIM sear without replacing it with a machined steel unit.

TOTWTYTR said...

I went on a tour of the S&W factory last fall. A lot of what they are doing is to make the manufacturing process more efficient. Which does in fact lower their costs and I presume allows them to keep our cost lower as well. While of course allowing them to make a healthy profit.

The two piece barrel takes fewer steps to make according to our tour guide. I think it was also engineered to solve the sight alignment problem.

If you ever get the chance to take the tour, I highly recommend it.

HTRN said...

Some of these things, have little real "cheapening" of the product in the perfomance quality category, like no longer pinning the barrel(Ever seen a rifle with one?) or the two piec barrel/sleeve setup(Dan Wesson really pionneered the concept, and "cheap" isn't a word I'd use to describe them).

Other things though - MIM parts in particular I find distasteful. I wonder if anybody is making tool steel lockwork yet? And the internal locks.. Blech.

Dr. StrangeGun said...

I never understood why, if they're using a nonrotatable barrel sleeve, why not use a noncrushing thread on the barrel and re-engineer the front sight to be post-mounted, with the post as the pin that locks the barrel to the sleeve...

Ride Fast said...

[...] Expert or Professional [...]

Wow! That's an amazing amount of details.

NMM1AFan said...

Thank you for the info, Tam!

Heard you on Gun Nuts last night, I was surprised, I thought you would have had a southern accent.

Best regards,

Gewehr98 said...

like no longer pinning the barrel(Ever seen a rifle with one?)

Yup. The Chinese SKS in my safe has a pinned barrel. I'm sure it's not the only one.

All of my AKs have pinned barrels, too.

Reese said...

You promised more. Where is the more?

gamachinist said...

Sometimes it's easier to make more cuts on two parts than less cuts on one part.
The barrels are probably being made on a cnc lathe ( horizontal turning center) with little regard to timing required.
Are the outer sleeves castings or MIM?

On the one piece barrel the threads had to time up to the barrel with the frame, meaning that the start of each thread has to be in the correct place for the barrel to stop with the front sight aligned.