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Old July 7, 2013, 10:24 PM   #1
SaxonPig
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Colt I frames.

It always amazes me how often I read guys saying that Colts are delicate, wear out if you shoot them, break if you shoot them, and they all quickly go "out of time."

Really? Not my experience at all. I shoot my Colts... a lot. Nearly all were well used long before I got them and they all function just fine. The wear visible on the outside is testimony to the hard use some have seen, but they all shoot as they are supposed to do.

Made in 1950. Countless rounds fired. Works great.




Made in 1934. Barrel was lopped off at some point but the action is terrific.




Made in 1931 and used for years by a serious competitor. Maybe hundreds of thousands of rounds through it. Still tight, still "in time."




Made in 1909. Poorly refinished and the barrel swapped long ago, but the action is like silk and it functions like new.

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Old July 7, 2013, 10:29 PM   #2
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Agree. Colt used very good steel in those old guns. To adjust the timing parts were stretched. You didn't do that with S&W (you filed). Colt parts (IMO) tend to outlast others, but once replacement was needed, cost more (even more today considering Colt doesn't make them anymore).
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Old July 7, 2013, 10:41 PM   #3
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Agree. Biggest drawback to owning the older Colts, is, as Dfarishwheel would point out, finding a gunsmith to work on them. Which is a good incentive to learn to do it yourself,the manuals, visual aids and tools are out there.
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Old July 7, 2013, 10:56 PM   #4
James K
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I admit to puzzlement on that score also. When Colts were THE "cop gun", I knew of training guns that fired tens of thousands of rounds without any work whatsoever. And Colt revolvers were the preferred gun for center fire matches, and fired thousands of rounds a year with no problems.

Yet, I keep reading that Colts need to be rebuilt every few hundred rounds, that they always go out of time, that they are unreliable, that a Colt that doesn't lock up tight when it is cocked slowly in SA is bad and needs expensive work, etc.

I think that somehow folks have gotten more persnickety or maybe suffer from the "good old days" syndrome. By today's "standards", 80% of the Colts I took out of factory boxes would not have been good enough, yet somehow they were.

Jim
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Old July 8, 2013, 06:29 AM   #5
Mike Irwin
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I've only recently started purchasing Colts after years of being a confirmed S&W man.

S&Ws are still my first and preferred choice, but I've truly come to appreciate the Colt action.
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Old July 8, 2013, 06:53 AM   #6
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Actually, none of those guns are Colt I frames. I frame Colts were the 357 model and the Colt Python, only. Medium frame, with frame mounted firing pin = I frame. Medium frame with hammer mounted firing pin = E frame.

AFAIK, the pre war frames were not denoted by the same names, and the pre war frames slightly differ in size vs the post war frames.

As I said before, I've personally had 3 Colts that lost their timing and required sending back to Colt (or someone else) for repair. I sent all of mine to Colt. A 1969 Python, a 1953 OMM, and a 1954 357 model. In addition, my Grandfather's Python, a 1970s model, required re-timing. The problem with the whole cocking slow vs cocking fast opinion is that you aren't going to check to make sure the gun is in alignment before each shot. There is obviously a chance that if a gun cocked slow could be out of alignment, that under normal shooting it could occur as well. So when you have a Colt that can move out of alignment with the bore, you will just cause more damage and pre mature wear to the gun by continuing to shoot it. I don't think any of us took a Colt that was able to be moved out of alignment aka out of time, and then shot it 1000s of times, to verify that nothing would ever happen to that gun. Most Colts that I have had or handled had a cylinder which was tight as a drum with trigger back, and stayed locked with hammer cocked. That is how Colts are supposed to be, so to say thats not important, or that its heresay is just asking for it. But of course, I'm only saying what I would do, its your money, its your gun, its your ammo, etc so have a ball.

Its pretty evident, no matter how much anyone likes Colt DA revolvers, esp medium frame guns (I never heard of or observed any small Colt D frame with a timing issue), that their lockwork design predisposed them to lockup / timing issues. I wouldn't say they're fragile, but I also would not expect one to outlast a S&W, Dan Wesson or Ruger, when discussing action longevity.

Each design has its merits. I have Colt and S&W, and even though I am a S&W guy, Colts are good too, although this is a drawback to Colts. You have to be careful buying them as the factory will not work on many of these anymore. For example, those guns of Saxonpigs, Colt told me over the phone they will not work on any of those models. All I can say is, if you like Colts, fine, I do too, but make sure you thoroughly check the revolver out before purchase.

Saxonpig, have you had any lockup/timing issues? I understand that those guns were carried, but that doesn't mean they had "hard use" it can just mean they were carried a lot. In the same respect, a really high condition gun could have been shot 1000s of times, and the owner simply took care of it.
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Old July 8, 2013, 09:18 AM   #7
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I wonder if the 1954/55 Colt Marshal got the same heat treatment as the Pythons.

The 1931 32/20 is pretty accurate, and yes, I have had to stretch and file a few parts to get things working correctly, also worried about finding parts.
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Old July 8, 2013, 10:00 AM   #8
redhawk45
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While I basically agree with Winchester 73 it should be noted that the Colt Trooper in 357 cartridge was also a firing pin in frame model with the same frame size as the Python and model Three Fifty Seven.
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Old July 8, 2013, 10:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
it should be noted that the Colt Trooper in 357 cartridge was also a firing pin in frame model with the same frame size as the Python and model Three Fifty Seven.
Yes, that is correct. I did not know that but I looked into it. The trooper 357, from inception to its discontinuation, in favor of the MKIII series, was the I frame. The E frame guns were the 38 and 22 Troopers, Official Police, OMS and OMM. The MKIII series gun are J frames.
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Old July 8, 2013, 11:20 AM   #10
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Most people will lump the I and E frames in together, the same way people do with the S&W
J and J Magnum frame. Differences are fairly minor IMO.
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Old July 8, 2013, 07:49 PM   #11
SaxonPig
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I was unaware of that distinction, so consider it inclusive of both.

My guns have been shot a lot and not just carried. Several are former competition guns.

Couple more Es and Is (as the case may be)?





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Old July 8, 2013, 08:09 PM   #12
redhawk45
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Well, lets not leave out the Army Special as it is an E frame very much a similar gun to the Official Police and produced until 1927. Produced in 38 special, 41 colt, 32-20 and perhaps some others.

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Old July 9, 2013, 08:29 AM   #13
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Some I/E frames.

1926 (transitional) Army Special.



1943 Officers Model Target .22




Ultimate Stainless Python (90's)



The Army Special and the Python get a good amount of my holster/carry time. Those two are my "go to" mid frame double actions.

The OMT has had wouldn't even want to guess how many rounds though it and still chugging away.

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Old July 10, 2013, 12:23 PM   #14
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The Army Special became the Official Police; all they did was change the name on the barrel.

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Old July 10, 2013, 12:43 PM   #15
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I think that much of Colt's reputation for being "delicate" comes from a misunderstanding of how their old lockwork was supposed to function as it's quite different from most other common DA revolvers like S&W or Ruger.

The Colt double-pawl hand creates two very distinctive features for the revolvers' lockup: the cylinder stop may not engage until the revolver is in full lockup (trigger fully to the rear) and the cylinder should have no perceptible rotational play at full lockup.

Unlike most other revolvers which have their hands not in contact with the ratchet when the gun is at full lockup, an older Colt's hand is in contact with the ratchet from the time the cylinder begins to rotate until the time that the trigger is released. This means that the cylinder is not rotated fully into position until the trigger is fully depressed because the action would bind otherwise. Also, because the hand is pushing the cylinder against the cylinder stop, Colts should not have any rotational play at full lockup. This is in contrast to S&W and Ruger which have their cylinders locked in place by the cylinder stop only and thus typically have a small degree of rotational play.

Where the confusion starts is when someone familiar with S&W and/or Ruger revolvers tries to evaluate a Colt based on the same criteria. Because a cylinder which does not lock into place prior to the hammer coming to full cock on a S&W or Ruger is indicative of timing issues, many would assume that a Colt which displays such a characteristic is also out of time when such is not the case. Conversely, because rotational play a full lockup is normal on a Ruger or S&W, many might assume that such is also the case with a Colt when, in reality, it is indicative of problems and the need for a gunsmith's attention. When Mr. S&W/Ruger's new-to-him Colt starts spitting lead or otherwise behaving badly in very short order, he liable to assume that it's "delicate" because he did not realize that it already had issues when he bought it.
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Old July 10, 2013, 08:16 PM   #16
Dfariswheel
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That's good info except the part about an old type Colt action that doesn't lock fully until the trigger is pulled is in time.

This is incorrect.
A properly tuned Colt will fully lock when the hammer is slowly cocked and will fully lock up just as or slightly before the hammer reaches full cock.
While a Colt that fails to fully lock when slowly cocked is out of time, when the trigger is pulled, the hand will push the cylinder into full lock up unless the action is really bad.

For more on this, read the Jerry Kuhnhausen Shop Manual on the double action Colt's, Volume One, where he fully explains Colt timing, particularly the sections on fitting and checking the hand.

Due to sometimes factory quality errors or like new guns that have been mistreated, it's possible to see Colt's in otherwise perfect timing to fail to fully lock with the hammer fully cocked.
Sometimes, a gun that leaves the factory in time, but close to the edge will "seat" as it's used and the seating may cause the gun to lose proper timing and fail to lock up properly.
This may be seen in factory new guns, but it's still an error and the gun is out of time.
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Old July 11, 2013, 01:55 PM   #17
Webleymkv
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Quote:
That's good info except the part about an old type Colt action that doesn't lock fully until the trigger is pulled is in time.

This is incorrect.
A properly tuned Colt will fully lock when the hammer is slowly cocked and will fully lock up just as or slightly before the hammer reaches full cock.
While a Colt that fails to fully lock when slowly cocked is out of time, when the trigger is pulled, the hand will push the cylinder into full lock up unless the action is really bad.
How is the action kept from binding? I'm trying to visualize this and I keep coming back to the mental image of the hand trying to push against the ratchet when the trigger is pulled but the cylinder being prevented from further rotation due to being locked in place by the cylinder stop. It seems to me that such a condition would cause the action to bind and prevent the trigger from being pulled.
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Old July 11, 2013, 04:34 PM   #18
Dfariswheel
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Binding could occur if you had too much movement after the cylinder totally locks.

Note that the cylinder locking bolt should drop into the cylinder locking notch "as, or just before" the hammer reaches full cock.
You don't want the cylinder locking up with the hammer a good distance from reaching full cock, because that would allow excess hand movement which would cause stressing the action and cause binding.

My Pythons are in perfect timing, and they fully lock JUST before the hammer reaches full cock.
If you very slowly cock the hammer the cylinder will fully lock and the hammer will be just short of being cocked.

You would occasionally see a factory new Python that was slightly out of time, and that was a factory defect.
You would also occasionally see a Python in near new condition that had been timed a little too close and use caused seating of the action and a slight out of time condition.
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Old July 11, 2013, 06:31 PM   #19
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Good info, dfariswheel. Any Colt I ever handled, as I said in my other post, locked up with hammer back, in contrast to WebleyMKVs statements.

I did not know that the gun actually locks up before the hammer is fully back. That is interesting. A question for dfariswheel: I noticed that on many Colt DA revolvers I have or have handled, there is a full lockup when the trigger is held back, with no play, but with the hammer cocked there is a tiny movement, like that of a S&W. I suppose that is normal?
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Old July 11, 2013, 09:32 PM   #20
Webleymkv
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Quote:
Binding could occur if you had too much movement after the cylinder totally locks.

Note that the cylinder locking bolt should drop into the cylinder locking notch "as, or just before" the hammer reaches full cock.
You don't want the cylinder locking up with the hammer a good distance from reaching full cock, because that would allow excess hand movement which would cause stressing the action and cause binding.
So it sounds as though when the cylinder is locked into place by the cylinder stop as the revolver is cocked, it should still have a slight amount of rotational play until the trigger is pulled to allow for the additional movement of the hand. However, when the trigger is held fully to the rear, the lower notch on the hand should be pushing the right side of the cylinder stop notch against the cylinder stop thus eliminating any perceptible rotational play. Am I understanding this correctly?
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Old July 12, 2013, 06:54 PM   #21
Dfariswheel
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Yes.

This was known as Colt's "Bank Vault Lockup".
If you just cock the hammer, the cylinder locking bolt should drop into the cylinder locking notch and lock the cylinder, but the cylinder will have some rotational movement.
When the trigger is pulled, the cylinder is forced into tight lockup with no cylinder movement at all.

This is for the old Colt action ONLY.
Later Colt's like the Mark III-King Cobra, S&W, Dan Wesson, Ruger etc. are deliberately designed to allow the cylinder to be slightly loose even with the trigger pulled.
This is so the bullet passing from the chamber to the barrel can force the cylinder into alignment with the barrel.

In these guns, when the trigger is pulled the cylinder may seem to lock tighter but that's only some spring pressure.
The action has enough backlash built in to allow the necessary cylinder movement.
With the hammer cocked, the cylinder is as tight as it's going to get. pulling the trigger tells you nothing.
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