The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > Hogan's Alley > Handguns: The Revolver Forum

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old March 8, 2013, 01:03 PM   #1
Sweet Shooter
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 17, 2011
Posts: 472
Fixed cylinder versus swing out?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two loading systems? I'm only just getting interested in revolvers recently (hence my other flinching thread) and I wonder what is considered the ultimate design? In terms of strength, accuracy etc. I have the SP101, and wondered should I get into a Colt Army/Vaquero, I like the look of them.
-SS-
Sweet Shooter is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 01:06 PM   #2
Wyoredman
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 6, 2011
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 1,218
Those guns with "swing out" cylinders are mostly double action. Those with "fixed cylinders" are single action.

Double action means the trigger will cock the gun when pulled. Single action means the gun's hammer must be cocked prior to pulling the trigger.
__________________
Go Pokes!
Go Rams!
Wyoredman is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 01:16 PM   #3
dahermit
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 28, 2006
Location: South Central Michigan...near Ohio, Indiana.
Posts: 3,505
"Swing out" cylinders are much faster to reload. However, there is a third revolver cylinder style, the S&W top-break that ejected all the empties when opened. Two notable were the S&W Model Three and the Schofield variation. I remember some famous gun writer stating years ago that, functionally, the break-top was superior in function than the swing-out and with modern materials, should be further developed. The Schofield was distributed to the cavalry in small numbers (compared to the Colt S.A.A.), but lost out to the Colts because the Colts could use the shorter .45 Schofields cartridge and the Colt .45, whereas the Schofields could only use the .45 Schofield cartridge, causing logistics problems.
__________________
Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes you only pay more for what you get.
Three shots are not a "group"...they are a "few".

If the Bible is the literal, infallible, unerring word of God...where are all those witches I am supposed to kill?
dahermit is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 01:24 PM   #4
Sweet Shooter
Senior Member
 
Join Date: June 17, 2011
Posts: 472
Yes I have one of those S&W top break in 38S&W. I think it's about 100 years old. It's a bit worn out and timing isn't great on it. I just got the original—what looks like Bakerlite—grips for it. Is there a modern revolver that uses this system?
-SS-
Sweet Shooter is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 02:29 PM   #5
hardworker
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 4, 2010
Posts: 820
I think the biggest problem on those top breaks was the hinge getting worn out.
hardworker is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 02:50 PM   #6
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 18,637
The solid frame vs swing out cylinder has nothing to do with whether is gun is single or double action. There have been millions of solid frame double action revolvers made, and some swing cylinder single actions.

The solid frame tends to be an older design, used in England prior to our Civil War and in many millions of revolvers, of varying caliber and quality, since. But solid frame revolvers are generally slow loading, requiring ejection and reloading one chamber at a time. Top break revolvers are much faster to reload, but the latch is a weak point, no matter how well made and fitted. Also, ejection systems on most top break revolvers cannot handle long cartridges like the .38 Special and .357 Magnum.

The swing cylinder (called a "hand ejector" by S&W, as opposed to an "automatic ejector" top break which ejected the fired cartridges when the gun was opened) was a compromise - faster than a solid frame, slower than a top break, but stronger. And it could handle any reasonable cartridge length.

Note: Yes, I am aware of sideshows like the Merwin-Hulbert, and the Shattuck, but both were essentially dead ends, though the M-H did enjoy some popularity.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 03:06 PM   #7
Ferretboy
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 6, 2012
Location: Longview, WA
Posts: 214
I only have swing out at this time, I have used the single action style before, a little time consuming. Man I would love to get my hands on a top break .357 Mag with a 5 or 6 inch barrel, SS finish and some nice grips....(At a reasonable price.)
__________________
There is no such thing as Overkill, Dead is Dead!
Ferretboy is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 03:16 PM   #8
rclark
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 12, 2009
Location: Butte, MT
Posts: 1,549
All I shoot is Single Actions ... feed in one at a time, and eject one at a time... No need for speed in my world and it fits how I use my guns.... Tis the difference though between swing out and fixed in the frame. Some would argue that the fixed cylinder revolvers are a bit stronger. But revolvers like the Ruger SRH or RH are still really stout. Still you don't 'flip' the cylinder home as in the 'movies' stressing the crane a bit.... Treat 'em right and they'll last just as long as the fixed frame guns... I suspect... Comes down to what you need it for and then personal choice.

Also on loading you still have to load the swing out one shell at a time unless you use a speed loader ... but at some time before you had to load the speed loader one at a time .

I would personally pick up a SA New Vaquero or BH and experience it for yourself. You might just fine yourself 'hooked'. Of course I have hooked since a teen and never looked back.
__________________
A clinger. When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Single Action .45 Colt (Sometimes improperly referred to by its alias as the .45 'Long' Colt or .45LC). Don't leave home without it. Ok.... the .44Spec is growing on me ... but the .45 Colt is still king.
rclark is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 03:17 PM   #9
Bob Wright
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 10, 2012
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Posts: 1,708
hardworker said:
Quote:
I think the biggest problem on those top breaks was the hinge getting worn out.
Actually the latches wore out before the hinge bolt did. When I was a kid we could buy old top breaks from second hand stores or junk shops for $1.50 to $2.00 that had the frame lugs rounded off. This allowed the gun to "jump" open when fired. The local service station or steel shop would build these up for us and we would dress them down with a file to restore them to shooting condition.

Bob Wright
Bob Wright is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 03:22 PM   #10
Bob Wright
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 10, 2012
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Posts: 1,708
Note to James K:

An interesting revolver was a "Bulldog" .44 made by Iver Johnson. This had the cylinder pivot out to the side, swinging out horizontally, then pushing the cylinder down on its quill for ejecting. The cylinder was loaded while open, the shut for firing. Never seen one, just in IJ's old advertising.

Bob Wright
Bob Wright is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 03:41 PM   #11
m.p.driver
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 25, 2009
Location: Ohio
Posts: 552
Most fixed cylinder follow the 1860 line of single action revolvers,Colt and Remington among others.Swing open cylinders follow later Da/Sa Colt and S&W revolvers.Fixed/Sa pretty much stagnated because, why make a fast firing DA revolver,that couldn't be reloaded fast?There will be MANY comments to follow to critique this.
m.p.driver is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 03:51 PM   #12
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 18,637
Hi, Bob,

Yep, that is the "Shattuck" I mentioned. I think C.S. Shattuck patented the cylinder swing out system which was made with his name as a spur triggerr single action in .32 RF. I have one of those, and its grips have the figures of two assassinated presidents, Lincoln and Garfield. It is marked "C.S. Shattuck, Hatfield, Mass." and "Patented Nov. 4, 1879". Later, Lovell used the system in a double action (Flayderman 8A-166.5), with the guns being made by Iver Johnson. Flayderman says they were made in .32, .38, .41 and .44 CF calibers, but the advertisement shown by Goforth mentions only .32 S&W, and that is the only caliber I have seen. The Lovell revolvers are marked with the same patent date as the Shattuck and Iver Johnson may have acquired the patent, but the illustration of the Lovell in Goforth's book shows simultaneous ejection, not the single ejection as in my Shattuck revolver, and as you describe.

Goforth mentiions European use of the Shattuck system in larger caliber revolvers, but shows no pictures and I have never seen one. Perhaps that explains the large caliber guns mentioned by Flayderman.

An interesting system, but still a dead end, losing out to the top break.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 04:05 PM   #13
roaddog28
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 15, 2009
Location: Fallbrook, CA
Posts: 851
For those who don't remember H&R made a lot of double action revolvers that were the fixed design. I once had two of them. Back in the day these revolvers were quite common.
Howard
roaddog28 is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 04:16 PM   #14
carguychris
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 20, 2007
Location: Richardson, TX
Posts: 5,266
A few more added notes...

One primary design issue with any revolver is proper axial alignment of the chamber with the forcing cone and bore. Solid frame revolvers have this licked easily, as the cylinder rotates around a central pin that is held in alignment at both ends.

With a swing-out cylinder, this gets more complicated, as the cylinder needs to be supported by a yoke or crane that is strong enough to resist bending with normal use. The cylinder pin also needs to be held in alignment, at least at the rear and preferably also at the front, using some sort of mechanism that allows the cylinder to be swung out easily. This adds mechanical complexity and cost. Different revolver makers have toyed with various different methods of accomplishing front cylinder alignment.

On a related note, most solid-frame revolvers can be reloaded by pulling the cylinder pin and removing the entire cylinder rather than using a loading gate, and a few older designs rely primarily on this method; however, there is an obvious risk of fumbling the loose parts. Most modern solid frame SA revolvers are not intended to be reloaded this way; it's possible, but not easy, and it may require tools.
Quote:
The Schofield was distributed to the cavalry in small numbers (compared to the Colt S.A.A.), but lost out to the Colts because the Colts could use the shorter .45 Schofields cartridge and the Colt .45, whereas the Schofields could only use the .45 Schofield cartridge, causing logistics problems.
One interesting footnote to this story is that S&W was supposedly approached about redesigning the Model No. 3 Schofield to take the .45 Colt cartridge, but they reportedly weren't interested because they had enough outstanding orders from Imperial Russia and Imperial Japan to keep the production line running at full capacity for the foreseeable future. In other words, S&W management wasn't interested in spending money to redesign the gun in order to sell a few thousand more to the U.S. Army, when they were already selling TENS of thousands of the existing design.

IIRC during the 19th century, S&W actually sold more No. 3's than Colt sold SAA's, by about a 60% margin; it's just that the lion's share went to foreign militaries rather than to the U.S. Army and the American commercial market, so the Colt was always more commonplace stateside.
__________________
"Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules... MARK IT ZERO!!" - Walter Sobchak

Last edited by carguychris; March 8, 2013 at 04:18 PM. Reason: minor edits...
carguychris is online now  
Old March 8, 2013, 04:39 PM   #15
Wyoredman
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 6, 2011
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 1,218
Quote:
The solid frame vs swing out cylinder has nothing to do with whether is gun is single or double action.
Thanks for the correction.

I thought I knew something and, obviously, I was very mistaken.

Learn something new every day.

Appologies.
__________________
Go Pokes!
Go Rams!
Wyoredman is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 04:52 PM   #16
Bob Wright
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 10, 2012
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Posts: 1,708
James K saith:
Quote:
An interesting system, but still a dead end, losing out to the top break.
Ah, but those "dead ends" are so fascinating!

Bob Wright
Bob Wright is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 06:09 PM   #17
g.willikers
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 28, 2008
Posts: 4,310
Sweet Shooter asked if anyone still makes a top break model.
Yes.
http://www.uberti.com/firearms/top-break.php
__________________
Lock the doors, they're coming in the windows.
g.willikers is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 07:14 PM   #18
Jim March
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 14, 1999
Location: Pittsburg, CA, USA
Posts: 7,237
Wyoredman,

The revolvers based on a fixed-cylinder single action setup are usually a clone or near-clone of the 1873 Colt SAA. Ruger's single actions (Blackhawk, Vaquero, New Vaquero and Single Six) are all "loose SAA replicas" with features like coil springs, modern safeties and in many cases improved sights grafted in. The fixed-cylinder system does have theoretical accuracy advantages. The most accurate revolvers in the world are either custom rebuilt Ruger single actions or from the facWyoredmantory, the Freedom Arms revolvers are the best out-of-the-box accuracy you can get, with some specimens dropping all their rounds into one inch at 100 yards - in other words, rifle-grade accuracy.

Being a complete lunatic in some ways, I set about trying to seriously improve the firepower and reload speed of the 1873 type guns. What I came up with is "Maurice", a Ruger New Vaquero re-chambered to 9mm Parabellum and rigged up with automatic gas-powered empty shell ejection and magazine feeding. Yeah...you read that right. It's called Maurice because some people call it the Space Cowboy . I also severely upgraded the sights.

I carry it with five rounds in the cylinder plus two in a short "carry magazine". Once those seven rounds are downrange I can switch to foot-long 9rd magazines. I could, if I wanted to, stack 9rds in a long mag on top of five in the cylinder, but it would be ungainly at best in the holster .

So far this feed cycle hasn't been used on any other personal weapon that I know of, handgun or rifle. And yes, it could be done to a DA gun with or without a swing-out cylinder, or even to a gun that started life as a swingout but gets converted to fixed because with Maurice's feed cycle the swingout isn't necessary for reloading any more. It basically represents a direction that the industry could have gone in circa 1890 or so, but didn't, opting to switch to semi-autos instead.

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=511297
__________________
Jim March
Jim March is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 07:26 PM   #19
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 18,637
Just as a sidelight. The Army solved the ammunition problem for the SAA and the Schofield in a simple way. They never made or issued ANY .45 Colt* ammunition from 1874 to the end of the single action era. All the revolver ammuntion made at Frankford (and the Army issued nothing else) was of the intermediate length which could be used in either revolver.

In fact, the Army never issued ANY .45 Colt ammunition after 1874. While testing what became the Model 1909, the Army found that the small rim of the .45 Colt caused the case to jump the extractor and hang up the gun. So they had Frankford make a special cartridge with a larger rim and that was the issue ammunition with the Model 1909 revolver.

*.45 Long Colt if you prefer.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 08:08 PM   #20
Lucas McCain
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 7, 2013
Location: Callaway, MN
Posts: 145
The Schofield got it name because general Schofield, a cavalry commander, helped design a pistol that was friendly to the cavalry soldier. When the govt issue was cap and ball they carried extra cylinders. When the 1873 came about the unloading operation using the ejector rod required 2 hands and the reload wasn't easy either.
S & W Schofield could be unloaded easily with one hand and a flick of the wrist and loading didn't require turning the cyl. just drop the cartridges in and close. They did have two faults, The latch on the Schofield would come undone when the pistol was holstered. When it was removed from the holster it would fall open and spill the cartridges, NOT GOOD. This was solved with the Model 3 design with a new style latch. And the Schofield all but died.
The second was the ammunition and the logistics. If fort had all S & W's but on occasion the quartermaster issued Colt ammunition which couldn't be used in the S & W pistols. Put that with politics and they lost out to Colt.
The S & W was very popular with foreign governments,especially the Russians, they bought a lot of them, actually most of them were 44 Russian caliber.
__________________
If you have time to do it twice, then you have time to do it once right and put your name on it
Lucas McCain is offline  
Old March 8, 2013, 08:46 PM   #21
Bob Wright
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 10, 2012
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Posts: 1,708
James K, et al:

The .45 M1909 cartridge did indeed have a larger diameter rim. It was so large that six cartridges could not be loaded in a Single Action, they could only be loaded in every other chamber as the rims would overlap. The larger diameter cylinder of the New Service would accommodate six rounds, however.

Bob Wright
Bob Wright is offline  
Old March 9, 2013, 12:27 AM   #22
DaleA
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 12, 2002
Location: Twin Cities, MN
Posts: 1,322
Quote:
All the revolver ammuntion made at Frankford (and the Army issued nothing else) was of the intermediate length
Quote:
The .45 M1909 cartridge did indeed have a larger diameter rim.
Do you know how these cartridges were headstamped?

How was civilian .45 Colt ammunition marked in the late 1800's (let's say between 1874 and 1900)?
DaleA is offline  
Old March 9, 2013, 10:01 AM   #23
dahermit
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 28, 2006
Location: South Central Michigan...near Ohio, Indiana.
Posts: 3,505
"general Schofield, a cavalry commander"?
"...Major Schofield had patented his locking system and earned a payment on each gun that Smith and Wesson sold ..." From:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_%26_Wesson_Model_3
__________________
Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes you only pay more for what you get.
Three shots are not a "group"...they are a "few".

If the Bible is the literal, infallible, unerring word of God...where are all those witches I am supposed to kill?
dahermit is offline  
Old March 9, 2013, 10:35 AM   #24
Bob Wright
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 10, 2012
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Posts: 1,708
DaleA asketh:
Quote:
Do you know how these cartridges were headstamped?

How was civilian .45 Colt ammunition marked in the late 1800's (let's say between 1874 and 1900)?
Cartridges made by Frankford Arsenal in the 1870s bore no headstamp, they were copper cased with Benet primers, and bore no similarity to commercial ammunition. Later cartridges were Boxer primed and were either tinned brass or plain brass. The H/S was always F A and the last two digits of the year, such as F A 89. This continued up through WW I. Some early .45 M1875 cartridges are H/S FA R 83, the "R" indicating "Revolver" but this was short lived.

Commercial ammunition of the era is pretty much as current practice. I have "UMC .45 Colt", "WRA .45 Colt" etc. Early black powder ammunition has a brass case with a copper primer, semi-smokeless with a brass primer, and smokeless with nickel primers.

Semi-smokeless powder was used in place of smokeless powder in handgun cartridges as it worked at lower pressures than the smokeless powder of the day while giving less smoke and flash.

Head stamps have always been placed radially around the head of the case and reading right-side up with the mfr. in the upper half and caliber designation in the lower half

Bob Wright
Bob Wright is offline  
Old March 9, 2013, 10:40 AM   #25
Bob Wright
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 10, 2012
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Posts: 1,708
Further, as to headstamps, ammunition made by E. Remington never bore a headstamp. It is identified by the raised center portion around the primer, and that Remington only made ammunition of proprietary calibers, such as .44 Remington for example.

Bob Wright
Bob Wright is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 11:26 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2013 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.15076 seconds with 9 queries