View Full Version : Revolver timing: How to set/change it.

September 24, 2004, 04:37 PM
OK, I've read in books and online forums about revolver timing. EVERY ONE talks about what it is, how to check for proper, and how it's unsafe to fire if it's off but no one talks about how to set or change it.
I realize that it's a gunsmith task but I would like to know just how they change this timing. Especially interested in old Colt double actions.

September 24, 2004, 06:48 PM
Without going into a LONG discussion, the older Colt's are re-timed by either fitting new parts, or by stretching or re-fitting the old ones, where possible.

For full details on just what is involved and HOW to do it, invest a few dollars in Jerry Kuhnhausen's book "The Colt Double Action Revolvers: A Shop Manual, Vol. One".

This is the best pistolsmith's reference ever published on the Colt's, and gets down to extreme detail on how to repair and re-fit Colt's the RIGHT way.

September 27, 2004, 12:32 PM
Fiddling with the Colt D and, especially, I frames is really work for a watchmaker, not a gunsmith, and certainly not shadetree gunsmiths (like me :D). There are major differences between how the S&W, Colt Mk III/V, Ruger DA and Colt D/I revolvers work, and they all differ in how to adjust timing. Buying the Kuhnhausen book on Colt D & I frames will probably convince you that you don't really want to fiddle around inside...but YMMV.

4V50 Gary
September 28, 2004, 09:44 PM
Python disassembly (http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19606) That link will also provide a link that describes the internal working of the lock.

October 12, 2004, 05:17 PM
I bought the Colt book and I don't even want to pop the side plate off a D frame I have. Does sound scary inside there. I have enough problems with a model 10 that has crappy timing. And the stop won't stay locked in the cylinder. Guess I have an idea what parts to get, but no extras on hand to test my theory. Gun was a dud when I bought it and I have not gotten much improvement. And S&W is considered much easier than a Colt to time out.
Cylinder & Slide shop can tune a Colt for you.

October 23, 2004, 09:32 AM
Thank you to all who responded to my question. The first was what I did already think "replacing parts or stretching them" or, I guess filing them down.
I have an old Colt "New Navy" revolver that is way off on the timing. I bought a new "hand" from Numrich for it and even though it's new, it's too short. The notches on the cylinder are not badly worn but the cylinder jsut doesn't turn far enough to "lock into place," As this gun is old, beat-up and in .41 Long Colt caliber, I may just go ahead and use it as a practice gunsmithing gun. It's not worth having it done by a gunsmith and I could learn a lot by playing with it. It does shoot OK if you cock it and then rotate the cylinder another couple of degrees but the damn ammo is REALLY expensive and hard to find. I'm going to try to fix the timing first and if I'm successful, I guess it's then time to choose between buying loading dies and some Starline brass or taking out a second mortgage on the house and buying some reloaded ammo (I saw a box of 50 reloads at the last gun show for $85...). Biggest problem is the bullets which are an oddball diameter, .386 or close, and hard to find, too.
Any suggestions for sources would be appreciated.

4V50 Gary
October 23, 2004, 11:52 AM
Too short is OK. Internal parts on the older Colt revolvers are 4140 steel which you peen it to stretch it to fit.

The top portion of the hand initiates the rotation and the 2nd step completes it.

Harry Bonar
January 18, 2005, 09:32 PM
Dear Sir:
Timing is used in several ways.
Usually it is seen in S&W and Colts as one or more cylinders no "locking" when the revolver is cocked slowly. Or, it can be that if locked the cylinder doesn't align with the bore.
S&W revolvers in heavier calibers (44 mag. esp.) will be out of time on shooting a box of 44 mag maximum loads (factory). Crane plan more than .010 will effect "timing." The width of the hand, or, the "cylinder star" can be uneven.
I stay away from them even though they are the best looking handguns made!
In the cap & ball revolvers, since they are S.A. you really have to have real wear for them not to time.
In the Ruger single actions I have peened the hand to advance the cylinder so that cyl. lock and sear engage at the same time. Also, the Ruger S.As' tighten the cyl. latch by peening the underside of the frame by the cyl lock. (Ruger does it this way). Also, a slight alignment of cyl. to bore can be done here.
If a revolver is really loose make a wall hanger with it.

Dave Sample
January 19, 2005, 01:12 AM
I don't do Colt DA's. I time up 1873 SA types all of the time. It is not for the faint hearted. I don't like the Rugers either. Ruger calls everything by funny names and I am not smart enough to translate. We time the SA's with new parts like the bolt. Disclaimer: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

James K
January 25, 2005, 12:24 AM
The question was general, so let's try a general answer. In a modern revolver at rest, the hammer is down, and the cylinder is motionless, locked (prevented from turning) by a cylinder stop (also called the bolt, or latch by some makers) fitting into a notch in the cylinder. When the gun is fired in double action, the trigger is pulled, the stop is pulled out of engagement from the cylinder notch, a pawl rotates the cylinder by engaging a ratchet, the hammer comes back, the cylinder continues to rotate while the cylinder stop is released to contact the cylinder. As the cylinder continues to rotate, the hand stops trying to turn it just as the cylinder stop engages the next notch in the cylinder. This must happen before the trigger moves far enough that the hammer will be released to fire the gun.

As you see, everything must happen in a precise series of actions, all at the right time. This process is called timing and when it is correct, the revolver is "in time". As you can also see, there are many places in the series where something can go wrong; there might be more than one such place. When that happens, the revolver is "out of time". That can mean failure to fire, firing with the cylinder unlocked, or something else that can cause damage to the gun.

When a gun is "out of time", it can be fixed by replacing parts, or working on the old parts. Sometimes, on old guns, parts are not available and the wear is such that the gun cannot be fixed by any economically feasible means. Then, the gun must be discarded or retired to wall hanger status.


James K
January 25, 2005, 12:35 AM
Single Action Colts and the predecessor percussion guns are simple.

Timing those New Army & Navy Colts (aka the Model 1892 -1905) makes the later PP, OP, DS, etc., look easy. Not only are all the springs leaf springs (you break it, you make it) but there are two cylinder stops, the bolt and the top of the trigger to get working together.

And I would rather not even think about the old Lightnings and the Double Action Army revolvers. Anyone working on them for less than the contents of Fort Knox is doing it for love, not money.