First Colt Revolver - 1920 Army Special! 38 SPC

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
No, not necessarily.

Some are, some go a long time. The issue is "baked in" the design. Take a Colt revolver and cock the hammer and
hold back the trigger just at firing. Then wiggle the cylinder. Then do the same with a S&W. The Colt is
locked up absolutely solid, but the S&W has a noticeable bit of rotational "slop". Folks think this is bad on
the S&W but it is why they keep time. Without line boring each cylinder hole in the frame of the gun it will
live in, using the cyl stop notches to align it, it is impossible to get each cylinder hole to line up perfectly
with the barrel. The lateral misalignment WILL be "corrected" at the instant a bullet leaves the cylinder
and enters the barrel - no matter what force it takes to make it happen. Won't bend the bullet, but
WILL flex the frame and push on the other parts.
At the moment of firing a Colt has the hand pushing the ratchet up hard, holding the cylinder against
the cylinder bolt (stop). When there is misalignment, the hand or bolt gets a mighty whack each shot fired.
Some guns (a lot of them) have very good alignment on all cylinders, will go a long time before they
wind up with a short hand. Other guns have a cylinder hole or two that are a touch off - will slowly
beat the hand into submission, get short timing issues. A few have many "bad" cyl holes, timing goes
more quickly. Most Colts are well made, last well.

Since your gun is old and has good timing, it is pretty likely to hold it for a long time, and the good
accy shows this too. Colts are more complex inside too, and parts have some critical shapes that
interact. When tuning, take off a few thousandths too much in one area of a couple of parts and you then
need to compensate by taking a touch off of the other end of a different part. Can take some tail chasing
to get it all "happy".

Old, surviving Colts that have good timing when you get them is a sign of a well fitted, happy
gun, and will likely stay that way for a long time, well unless it hasn't been shot much. If it shows
honest wear (meaning it was shot a good bit) and it is accurate and timed well, expect a long life.

Too much hand fitting required due to design tends to make Colts not as easy to build in today's
environment. S&W's design does well with "good enough" tight manufacturing tolerances.

Of course, huge amounts of manufacturing sloppiness is covered up by the fact that few shooters
can shoot a group better than 6-8" at 25 yds with ANY pistol. So, even a pretty horrible job will
satisfy a very large part of the market.

Bill
 

RicinYakima

High Steppes of Eastern Washington
If you read the directions that came with them, the user NEVER used a screwdriver on the gun or opened them up. The "tune-up" may have been only clean and lube. It was corrosion usually, not wear. The ammo was often black powder until the 1930's and corrosive primed. We live in a whole different world of gun maintenance now. And a box of .38 Special WC ammo cost 3.5 hours of wages. Not many guns were shot like they are today.
 

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
Don't get the idea that they are bad guns. They are NOT. They are really neat guns.

But, like I said, "They have their issues." Does not make them bad. Fine machines.

I bought an old Police Positive (.38 S&W - not Spl) and it had bad timing, short hand and
some knucklehead had unscrewed the side plate, popped parts out of position, then screwed
it back down, wouldn't go back, but locked it up. I found it for cheap on a gun show table,
and brought it back, reset the timing. Now, with good ammo, I have shot 1" groups with
it at 25 yds. So, even an old one with bad timing - is NOT a bad gun. They just need
some TLC some times. I also had fun learning how to work on them.

IMG_1421.JPG

Bill
 
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Pistolero

Well-Known Member
Usually Colt's had tighter (smaller) barrel dimensions, which improved accuracy. It is reported
that many of them had a bore diameter taper built in to the barrel, like .357 at the back and
.356 or .355 at the muzzle, again, to improve accuracy. I have not verified this issue, but
it has been repeated enough that I think it might be true.

Bill
 

RicinYakima

High Steppes of Eastern Washington
Bill, if you have 1/2 thousandths plug gauges, it is easy to see. However, it was done on their target guns and primo lines, Three Fifty Seven and Python. Some may have been done for special order PD's, but not all.
 

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
I only have a few Colts, Anaconda, PP Spl, PP and a Cobra. Never actually gauged the bbls
for taper.

PP Spl is a PD refugee from PRico, pretty hard life on the outside and have not yet worked
with it much, but really indifferent/crummy accy with first 5 or 10 groups tried with whatever loads
were handy. No measuring of throats, or possible frame constriction, forcing cone, etc. Not quite a
beater but tending that way. I'll make it around to it one day and see what it's issues
are.

Bill
 
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Bret4207

St Lawrence river valley, NY
Good explanation on the internals of a Colt Bill. Most seem to last rather well, but any of them (or a Smith) can be boogered up by abuse.
 

oscarflytyer

Well-Known Member
And... Last night, committed to a Colt PPS in 32-20! Shot it. Didn't get the SN/DOM. It is a 4" bbl. same grips as the 38 CAS - chipped, as expected. Not removed/checked, but certain they are original, and expect to be SN'd to the gun. This one is my buddy's Grandfather's gun - so technically 2nd owner! guessing ~20's dom... Gun, ~3 boxes yellow box Win ammo and 2 boxes yellow box Win bullets (only). Prob get the old school gun rug too. Will seal the deal in the next cpl of days. Psyched! only negative is that his GF had guns stolen back in the day, and engraved his SSN on remaining guns - this one. But, it is a period correct SOP/alteration, which in my mind makes it even better. And I am buying it as a shooter, not a safe queen/collector! Stay tuned!
 
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oscarflytyer

Well-Known Member
Watching with attention!
HereYaGo, Ric!!! Picked it up tonight. And re-read your 32-20 articles last night!

Original serial numbered grips (will replace them with new stock to shoot it). 4" bbl. DOM 1923. Blueing is 85-90%, with one slightly less area - where a holster grip strap would have been. But bbl blue is really not worn. as shown, grip chipped, as usual. VERY tight for ~100 yr old gun. I have shot it. Only REAL negative is the original owner's SSN etched on side plate. Was a buddy's grandad's gun. GD had had guns stolen, and as was SOP back in the day, etched his SSN on the ones they didn't get. Of note - the SSN starts with 000!!!!!!

These two Colts are not SAAs ( I LOVE SA revolvers, and have a bunch), but no way I will ever afford one of those in reality. But, they are ~100 yo Colts, and in calibers that are perfect for cast bullets and cheap to reload. I also have a ~1922-1924ish S&W HE 3rd mdl Regulation Police in 32 L. Perfect trio. Will prob pick up a cpl more like these. Maybe a Colt Army Special in 32-20 also.

Now gotta find a cpl old model molds in 95-100 grn and 115 grn for the 32s...!
 

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Pistolero

Well-Known Member
Nice lookers. I shot a .32-20 once when I was a teen, probably 50 years ago.
My only memory was that it was LOUD! But we had pretty poor hearing protection
in those days.

Bill
 

Pistolero

Well-Known Member
So what kind of velocity does the .32-20 actually make in a 4" revolver? No clue,
never paid any attention to them, other than knowing that they were pretty high
velocity....but not sure what that actually means.

Bill
 

Bret4207

St Lawrence river valley, NY
I don't recall the exact numbers with my Colt AS 32-20 but I do know it was in the 1200 fps area with the loads I was using, the Rem 100 jsp or 311316 and the 10/2400 Elmer thought so highly of. But that was hard on brass and very, very loud. It also didn't shoot great in my gun. I think I settled on a load Ken Waters suggested in Pet Loads that got around 1050-1100 give or take. It shot decent and wasn't so much of an eargensplittenloudenboomer. I shot it less and less as my eyes went and I found the rifle easier to use. I do recall having a lovely load with the 311316 that lumbered along at like 850 and was real to shoot well, kind of like a 38 with a mid range load and a bullet it liked. Can't find that note book anywhere.

BTW- Mines a 6". I also have one of those 9 1/2" Ruger SSM in 32 Mag. I haven't done a lot with it but I found that just havening a longer barrel was no assurance of higher speeds or better accuracy. I can't shoot that long barrel with the open sights fer nuthin'. It's my sole scoped handgun.
 

RicinYakima

High Steppes of Eastern Washington
From 1999: RCBS 98 grain SWC with 6.0 grains SR4756 = 1059 f/s (Max load from a 6"): From 3.5" S&W and #311316 3.3 grains Bullseye was 721/ 5.8 grains of SR4756 was 960/ 9.5 grains of SR4759 was 902. NOT RECOMMENDED LOADS, BUT FOR YOUR INFORMATION.