View Full Version : How to fix my Colt Official Police .38?

January 18, 2005, 11:07 PM
I was wondering if anyone in here could tell me how I could fix my police special. It's an old Colt Official Police .38. Gunsmiths that I've been to don't generally like to touch them. Colt won't touch this model anymore (it was made in the early 1940's) It worked quite well when I bought it about 2 years ago. I recently repaired it and had it refinished along with a younger gun (probably made in the '60s or '70s) of the same model. The most common recurring problem with it is the bolt overshooting the cylinder 3 times out of six (or sometimes all 6 depending on the circumstances). I fool with the bolt spring, file on it. Come up with my own ideas. And if I fool with it long enough and watch the inner workings enough I am generally able to fix it. (The Lord has taught me a lot about the word "patience" when working on this gun) However, I am at a loss. The most recent problem to develop is this:

I just time repaired gun's bolt so that it pops into the crevasse that leads into the locking hole while rotating. (which is as it should be giving it a smooth rotation) Prior to this the bolt was popping back too early causing a little dragging against the cylinder during rotation. Unfortunately, my fixing it seems to have created another problem. Whenever I rapid fire the gun or jerk the trigger back hard (sometimes even when I pull off a smooth average shot) the bolt snaps back into place just past the locking hole (in which case the firing pin can't hit the primer. Reason being is because the momentum of the cylinder is so great that the bolt isn't able to hit the crevasse to lead it to the lock hole. However, my other revolver (also an Official Police) doesn't seem to have this problem. I can rapid fire it or jerk the trigger until my finger turns blue and the bolt winds up in the lock hole where it's supposed to. On an average squeeze, the bolt lands in the same place in the crevasse on both guns and each gun has a good bolt spring. What is causing this problem and how can I fix it?

Any ideas? Also, how can I get parts for it? Colt doesn't have parts anymore, and any vital parts (such as python parts) that they do have they won't sell to the public. Apparently dealers aren't able to sell these parts either unless you are having them sent to a specific gunsmith (which as I said don't generally like to touch them or if they do they have strong reservations about it.)

I appreciate any info anyone has,

Thank you,


January 19, 2005, 12:18 AM
For parts:
Gun Parts Corporation has always been the prime Colt parts house: http://www.e-gunparts.com

Brownell's carry some, listed under the Python:

Jack First is good, http://www.jackfirstgun.com

For parts AND for factory quality repairs to older Colt's:
Pittsburgh Handgun Headquarters
1330 Center Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15229
(412) 766-6100

Pittsburgh used to be Colt's warranty over-flow repair service.

As for the problem:
First, cut to the chase and buy a copy of Jerry Kunhausen's book, "The Colt Double Action Revolvers: A Shop Manual" volume One.
This is available at Brownell's, Midway, and can be ordered from most online and local book sellers for around $30.00.


This covers in GREAT detail how to fit parts on the old Official Police/Python actions, along with EVERYTHING known about diagnosing problems and timing.

If you do NOTHING else.....buy the book.

What you have happening is known as "cylinder throw-by".
In other words the cylinder is rotating TOO far, and bypassing the locking bolt.

This is a condition usually caused by timing the bolt TOO close to the actual locking notch in the cylinder.
The bolt should drop into the middle third of the lead. That's the "ramp" sloping down to the actual locking notch.

However, it's the nature of the Colt action that the shooter can INDUCE throw-by by pulling the trigger with a jerky or hesitant pull.
Even a properly timed Colt can exhibit throw-by if the trigger pull is jerky or hesitant.

For shooters who have problems with throw-by in a properly timed revolver, I would time the bolt a little early, into the first third of the lead.
This would cause a little more blue wear in the lead, but would usually reduce the problem.

There are other problems that can contribute to throw-by, including mushy bolt operation, and a bolt that's too short on top.

Here's my instructions from another forum on how to check timing on Colt actions:

To check Colt timing:

Open the cylinder and look at the small "lug" in the bottom of the cylinder window. This is the cylinder locking bolt.

Cock the hammer, and watch as the bolt retracts into the frame and pops back out.

The bolt MUST begin to retract THE INSTANT the hammer begins to move.
There MUST be NO (ZERO) hammer movement possible before the bolt starts to retract.

The bolt should retract smoothly with no hesitation until it's fully retracted, then it MUST pop back out with a clean "snap".
There should be no hesitation, and no amount of "creeping" back out.

Close the cylinder.
Use your left thumb or fore finger to again cock the hammer, closely watching the cylinder bolt as you SLOWLY cock the hammer.

As the hammer comes back, the bolt will retract away from the cylinder.

The bolt MUST retract far enough to unlock the cylinder BEFORE the cylinder begins to rotate.

If the bolt is still slightly engaged with the cylinder lock notch, the cylinder will be attempting to turn while still partially locked.

This produces a "catch" or "hard spot" in the trigger pull and will damage both the bolt and the cylinder lock notches.
This often appears as metal "pulled out" of the lock notches, with rounded off and burred notches.

Continue to cock the hammer, laying your right index finger on the cylinder just enough to prevent "free wheeling".

Watch for the bolt to drop back onto the cylinder. WHERE the bolt drops is CRITICAL.

The bolt MUST drop onto the lead or ramp in front of the actual cylinder notch.
If the bolt drops too soon, (in front of the notch ramp), it will mar the finish of the cylinder.

The bolt SHOULD drop into the MIDDLE 1/3rd section of the ramp.

If the bolt drops late, (farther toward the actual locking notch) the revolver may display "cylinder throw-by".
In this condition, during double action shooting the cylinder may rotate PAST the locking notch, and fire in an unlocked condition.

It's the nature of the Colt action, that a hesitant or jerky trigger pull by the user can induce throw-by in even a properly tuned Colt.
The Colt trigger should be pulled with a smooth, even pull, with no sudden jerks at the beginning.

Continue to pull the hammer back and both watch and listen for the bolt to drop into the cylinder lock notch.

The bolt MUST drop into the actual lock notch BEFORE the hammer reaches full cock.

The most common Colt mis-time situation is the hammer cocks before the bolt drops into the lock notch. (Hammer is cocked, but cylinder isn't locked).

In this condition, with the hammer fully cocked, you can push the cylinder slightly, and you will hear the "CLICK" as the bolt drops into lock.

In my experience, most Colt's leave the factory with the bolt dropping a little late into the lead, but usually wear in to correct timing.

If the bolt drops onto the cylinder early, no real problem, but there will be extra finish wear.

If the bolt drops late (closer to the lock notch) the cylinder may "throw by" or rotate TOO far in double action and this can cause off-center primer hits and firing while unlocked.

Each of these checks should be done on EACH chamber. All of these checks are better done individually. In other words, do the bolt retraction check on all six chambers, then do the bolt drop test, and so on.

A properly tuned Colt will:
Have a smoothly functioning bolt with no sticky or hesitant movement.

Unlock before the cylinder begins to turn.

The bolt will drop onto the middle 1/3rd of the ramp.

The bolt will drop into the lock notch before the hammer reaches full cock.

Have a smooth trigger pull, which does "stack".

January 19, 2005, 12:12 PM
I think you know more about these Colt guns than every gunsmith and dealer I've talked to combined. I am definately going to get that book and maybe send that gun off to Pittsburg to be repaired if I can't do it myself.
I thank you for the information and time you put into it.

Many of the problems you go over I have experienced in the past, such as the "catch" or "hardspot" in the trigger caused by the bolt not clearing the cylinder before rotation. Both guns now work properly in that regard (the one with the problem has it's bolt falling into the ramp in either the mid 1/3 or the first 1/3 of the ramp)
The one thing I don't understand and I'd like to discuss further is it being "the nature" of the colt to "throw by" when jerked. I frequently rapid fire both my revolvers (which can be a handy tactic of suppression fire in a gunfight even if it isn't accurate) at the gunrange before and they haven't had this problem. Heck, usually to test the bolt and cylinder I jerk the trigger back as hard and as fast as I can to make sure it's doing it's job and after time and tinkering with it, it locks in fine.
It's been my experience that the gun seems to start "throwing by" over time and whenever I break the gun down to clean it...or sometimes even if I just open it to spray a little oil into it. I have noticed the metal "pulled out" of the lock notches, with rounded off and burred notches on the cylinder from past "catch" problems with the gun in the past....could this be part of the problem? If so how do you fix a cylinder?


January 19, 2005, 03:27 PM
If the cylinder isn't too bad, it can simply be polished and re-blued, taking care to polish off the worst of the actual burrs.

If it's bad, what to do depends on several factors:
Is is a valuable collector's model?
Just HOW bad?
Are replacement cylinders available?

If it's a valuable collector's gun, and you either want to keep it all original, OR there are no replacement cylinders to be found, the notches can be opened up slightly wider to remove the worst of the damage, then a new, wider bolt can be fitted.

This of course is EXPENSIVE and is reserved where the gun is valuable or a family heirloom, and price is no object.

On repairs to Colt revolvers, each and every part in a Colt is hand fitted at the factory, and each part preforms AT LEAST two functions.

In all cases, the Colt action is NOT "transparent" in that what LOOKS like what's going on, ISN'T.

With most parts, what you'd normally think a part is doing, and what appears to be happening, is usually not at all what the part is doing.

This non-logical operation, coupled with the tiny working surfaces makes the Colt they hardest revolver of them all to work on.

These older guns are often thought of as a "watchmaker's gun". Fortunately, I was also a Master Watchmaker, so I had a leg up on other 'smiths.

When you get the Kuhnhausen book, sit down with a PROPERLY working Colt action open but assembled, and just LOOK at it as you read the book.
Take each part in order and study the function as you read the info on it.

Particularly notice the OTHER functions each part plays, and notice how a minor change on one part, has an effect on TOTALLY different functions all the way on the "other side" of the gun.

Good luck.

January 19, 2005, 10:54 PM
"This non-logical operation, coupled with the tiny working surfaces makes the Colt they hardest revolver of them all to work on."

So I've heard and experienced firsthand *whew*. Tell me this, just why are Colt revolvers (after all these 150 years) been so complicated? Does this complex design have it's advantage? Do they typically last longer than Ruger or Smith & Wesson revolver?

The Colt's OP is great once you get it working, has a nice old plane jane look to it. Shoots straight. Doesn't have all the bulk of more recently made revolvers.


Thank you again for the information

Sir William
January 19, 2005, 11:15 PM
www.cylinder-slide.com and I am going to give www.coalcreekarmory.com a try soon. Both have good reputations. The best thing to remember is, those revolvers were hand fitted. We need to really NOT try to improve on them. I have one Police Positive Special that a gungorilla "smoothed". It is going in for repairs.

January 19, 2005, 11:24 PM
"If the cylinder isn't too bad, it can simply be polished and re-blued, taking care to polish off the worst of the actual burrs."

Okay, after letting the revolver sit for a while after cleaning it out and moving parts around (no filing involved just bending the bolt spring a hair to get the rebound lever to hold onto it a little longer so it drops onto the ramp in time) the revolver seems to be functioning as it should.....except for one notch. One notch out of five seems to be a little burred than the others causing it to throw by say 1 out of every 4 or 5 cylinder rotations. How does polishing and re-bluing help anything? The metal that was there to catch the bolt and secure it in place has been worn away.


January 20, 2005, 01:32 AM
Polishing only removes the burr of metal pulled out of the slot, and gets it out of the way mechanically and cosmetically.

If there's enough metal pulled out that the actual side of the slot is compromised, you're looking at a replacement cylinder, or the slot re-cut and over-sized bolt job.
EXPENSIVE, and rarely done.

The old Colt action was designed in the late 1890's, and is very much on the same order as a hand-made British double gun.......Beautiful, historic, quality like nothing made today, but overtaken by invention.

These are a relic of a day when a man's labor wasn't worth too much, and a company could lavish hand labor on firearms.

The British doubles are the finest quality guns possible, but when you get right down to it, a Remington 870 Express will shoot just as well, and at about $100,000 LESS in price.

The intricate Colt action was a marvel in it's day, but no gun maker can afford to spend that kind of production time on a pistol.
In a day of Taurus and Ruger revolvers, the Python sells for well over $1200.00 for a reason.......Hand labor.

It was the complicated, hand fitted action that caused Colt to discontinue most of the old Colt's in 1969, and bring out the first machine fitted, transfer action Colt revolvers like the Trooper Mark III.

As to advantages or disadvantages over other brands, the Colt action will not take abuse.
Abuse like "Bogarting" the gun by snapping the cylinder open and shut with a flick of the wrist, or firing the gun by yanking the trigger as hard and fast as you can.

NO revolver will take much of this, but more modern revolvers have larger, sturdier parts, and will take MORE than the old Colt's.

Where the old Colt's have it all over other brands, is in accuracy.
All that hand fitting, and the Colt "Bank vault" cylinder lock up produce accuracy that's almost always a step above other guns, and in the case of the Python, is the most accurate of any production DA revolver in the world.

January 20, 2005, 01:44 PM
For parts AND for factory quality repairs to older Colt's:
Pittsburgh Handgun Headquarters
1330 Center Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15229
(412) 766-6100

When you say "factory quality" do you mean just that? If I sent my gun to them would they do what was necessary to make it a quality lasting gun. The last time I "sent a gun off" to be fixed somewhere (I won't mention names or places) because like like now it was "throwing by" three out of six (on just squeezing the trigger very slowly) and it came back....usable but the timing was still a tad off in single action (very minor point that I could live with because it doesn't seem to affect the gun....or does it? I was told "catching" wasn't a big deal until you told me different) and very shortly after I got it back the cylinder started catching on the bolt. I was told by one gunsmith that those older models just do that, they never did function smoothly.
After I got the gun back I found another Official Police at a fairly cheap price because so much of the finish was worn off. I decided to buy it as a backup gun (it's good to have two guns in case one has to be fixed you're not left without in the meantime). Examining the second Official Police gun at the store I compared it with the one I already had (the one I had "sent off" to be fixed) and noticed that the second gun WAS NOT catching and was pulling back even smoother as my father's brand new model 10 smith & wesson and still does to this day. The dealer took me to the back of the store to see their gunsmith to let him take a look at the gun I had just gotten back from repairs. He told me 1) the timing is off on single action, and 2) the bolt isn't clearing the cylinder before rotation. He sumed it up this way. I had sent a gun off to be repaired and they sent it back in less than ideal condition.
I don't want to get it back from Pittsburg after spending $79 to send it up there for 3 months and $200+ to fix it and have it messing up after firing 100 rounds in it.
I'd like your further opinion of Pittsburg Handgun Headquarters.

January 20, 2005, 03:54 PM
Pittsburgh Handgun used to be the Colt factory's overflow center for warranty repairs, when Colt couldn't keep up.

In other words, COLT used them as a repair service.

Pittsburgh was also listed as a factory-authorized service center.

I used Pittsburgh as my warranty repair service simply because of the quality of their work.

I started this one year when I had a police officer needing fast warranty work and the factory told me they were months behind.
They told me they quietly used Pittsburgh themselves and I tried them too.

Quality of repairs was AS GOOD as the factory, and turn-around was also good.
Frankly, I did have failures from some of the other Factory authorized service centers, so that's why I stuck with Pittsburgh from then on.

I will say this: I NEVER had a failure from Pittsburgh.
You can take that as an endorsement, with the qualifier that I haven't used them since I retired.

Now, I'm retired, and it's been years since I've used them, but I hear from people I've recommended them to recently tell me they were totally satisfied with turn-around, quality, and price.

These days I'll only recommend Colt revolver repairs from people I PERSONALLY know are qualified.
LOTS of people CLAIM to be qualified, but these people I know ARE:
Pittsburgh Handgun.
The Colt factory.
Cylinder & Slide.

The factory no longer has parts for many of the older guns, but I'm surprised they won't still work on the Official Police, since it uses the same parts as the Python.
If they won't, it's likely a case of not wanting to take on work, then NOT having a OP-specific part.

Cylinder and Slide is mostly a custom shop.
They're EXPENSIVE, and slow, and I recommend them mostly for true custom modifications to Colt revolvers.
Want a super trigger job or a custom alteration, they're as good as it gets.

Pittsburgh, from my experience is as good as the factory, fast, and fair on price.
Best, they apparently have a good stock of parts for older guns.

If you have doubts, CALL them, and talk to them.

As in all things, there are NO guarantee's on anything, but Pittsburgh has never failed to my direct knowledge.

As for being told that "older models never work right" that's total BS.
It was very UN-common to have a Colt leave the factory in anything other than proper adjustment.

Due to the high-end skills needed to assemble and adjust the old Colt actions, Colt only assigned Master fitters to the process.
These people went through extensive training and their work was closely inspected.

Again, the "problem" with the older Colt action is, it just won't take abusive treatment.

You often get this business about the "weak" Colt action after inspecting a revolver that's been treated like a cheap, used pickup truck.

The reason many Colt's you see are out of adjustment, is the treatment they've had.

I have a Colt 6" stainless Python that I've had since very shortly after Colt introduced the stainless model.
It's had an unknown number of rounds, somewhere over 3000 with about 1/2 of them Magnum's, and MOST of the shooting double action.

When I bought the gun I checked timing and adjustment, which were 100%.

It's STILL 100%.

I have another 4" stainless I bought in 1991.
It too was in 100%, and after at least 5000 rounds, almost ALL double action, and more than half Magnums, it too is 100%.

The difference between MY Colt's and the ones that are "Almost never right"????
I take CARE of mine, I shoot them but I don't abuse them.

January 20, 2005, 10:24 PM
Should Colt gun internal workings be so sensitive that they alter upon just opening the gun and cleaning?
About six months go, when my OP was "hanging.' I opened it up and gutted it taking my time CAREFULLY figuring out how everything came out and gave each part and the inside of the frame a good cleaning out with some cleaning solution and gun scrubber with a toothbrush and cloth. I put everything back in and.....the hanging stopped and the timing was fine in DA. Pulled back smooth. The next day I decided to take it to a gunsmith in Houston to have it reblued. I got it back "hanging" again. (The gunsmith had already told me prior to my bringing it in (when it was still hanging) that he didn't want to work on it internally because colt's were so hard to time and he thought it would be better business to refuse. He thought maybe the gun just needed a little working in and was a little stiff because of it just having been reblued). I fooled with it and.....managed to get it to stop hanging to throwing by again :p. I got my hands on what I believed to be a few unused Python bolts (they are a little different from the OP bolt I think. The piece that hangs down that the side rebound lever connects to is a little shorter on Python bolts) and fooled with them. The gun was still hanging because the bolt end that goes to the rebound lever was too short and the lever wasn't lifting it in time when the paw started the rotation of the cylinder. Then a month ago got the bolt that came with the gun, fooled with it a little......put a new bolt spring in and the gun still threw by......so I put the gun away.....got up the next morning and dryfired the gun again and it worked fine (fixed itself in the night....I guess. What's that all about?) While the gun was fixed the bolt still popped back a little too early causing a little drag. Over time this started to get annoying. And here is where we come to the night before last when I opened the gun up after coming back from the range and just took a few parts out....and put them back....and then the gun started throwing again. And so here I am. Should the gun be this sensitive? To where just opening it up throws everything off?

BTW, what exactly is a "trigger job" or "action job"? What does it do? Does that make it easier to pull the trigger back? Is there a reason NOT do do it?



January 21, 2005, 12:53 AM
Colt actions are sensitive and complicated.
When you've got one that doesn't work properly, all kinds of weird things can go on.

All this is exacerbated by switching and swapping parts, especially when you don't understand how they're supposed to fit and function.

There is NO difference between Official Police and Python bolts, they're the same part, same part number.

It's probable the parts you had were used, which means they were previously fitted to a different gun. This means they were altered and possibly unusable before you even started.

My advice is to send this one in to a pro who can set it right.
In a case like this all you're doing is frustrating yourself, and chewing the cylinder up.

A "trigger job" is actually an "Action job".
What's involved varies from brand to brand.

On a Colt the action is given a higher level of "polish".
This DOES NOT mean "like a mirror". (Actually "smoothing" or "honing" is a better term).

This means SOME key parts are smoothed slightly to remove any rough machine marks and to give a smooth surface.
Some springs MAY be lighten slightly.

Most people think the idea is to lighten the trigger action, but the real purpose is to give a SMOOTHER trigger pull in double action.

Honestly, the people who benefit the most from "trigger jobs" are advanced shooters.
Nobody wants to hear it, but the average shooter wants a trigger job because he's been led to think it'll be a big benefit, not because he really needs it.

This is something like golfers hearing that Tiger Wood is using some fancy new, expensive piece of gear, so all the duffers rush out and buy one too.

Bottom line is, if you want a trigger job, can afford one, and can get it done by a PRO, go for it.

Reasons NOT to have a trigger job: Again MOST people are not qualified to work on the old Colt action.

While most modern gunsmith's can do reasonable action jobs on S&W or Ruger revolvers, they have NO idea how and why a Colt works, and it's very common to have a good Colt action ruined by a unqualified "trigger job".

What often is done is cutting or filing on the "vee" mainspring and improper alteration of parts.

Within the last 20 years, the people capable of doing a really great action job on a Colt numbered about FOUR.
One was Reeves Junkind who may or may not still be working, the others are dead.

GOOD action jobs can be done by Colt and Cylinder & Slide Shop......and that's about IT.

January 21, 2005, 11:33 AM
That settles it then. I'm sending it to pittsburg in a month or so (after taxes are paid and all) :barf:
What about cleaning a gun out? A gun needs a good cleaning out about once a year doesn't it (depending on how much you fire it I guess). After this forum discussion and personal experience, I don't feel at all comfortable letting any gunsmith in Houston touch either of my gun.

January 21, 2005, 02:30 PM
Revolvers don't "need" to be cleaned out every year.....but I recommend it.

Lube dries up, runs off, or gets gritty. Best to clean it up and re-lube from time to time.

January 21, 2005, 03:52 PM
will the Pittsburg gunworks do it? I 'd hate to send it off paying $79 for shipping for a $40 dollar job of cleaning out. On the other hand I am hesitant to send it to a gunsmith around here. I want them to know what they are doing.

How many rounds are guns supposed to take on average before they start giving out? The OP with the problem is about 60 years old. I take all three of my guns (2 OPs and a Springfield 1911) shooting whenever I can (about three or four times a month at about 50-100 rounds per gun each time)

You said you've had your pythons (at least one of them) about 14 years now with about 5000 rounds on it. At my rate of pratice, I would meet that many rounds in about 2 years

January 21, 2005, 08:06 PM
For ordinary cleaning I recommend buying a copy of the Kuhnhausen book.
Using it, you can safely remove the side plate and spray everything down with Crud Cutter or another spray cleaner, then spray with a lube.

If you prefer, you can also do a full strip and clean and lube each part.

I know you had a problem with disassembly, but this is a fluke.
A properly adjusted Colt will not be harmed or changed by simple disassembly, as long as you leave the bolt in place.
Everything else comes out, and goes back in with no trouble.

As for revolver life, there's one man on another forum that's got over 45,000 rounds through a Colt .38 Diamondback.

There really IS no "service life" on a revolver. What counts is to take care of it, don't abuse it, and shoot good ammo through it.

There is NO reason a good revolver shouldn't go AT LEAST 50,000 rounds with little or no problem, and after that you should expect to need a tune and adjust job, then go another 50,000 or so.

The most any revolver has been shot that I PERSONALLY know of is a S&W Model 19 owned by a retired cop.
He bought it with his own money when he became a cop because he didn't like the S&W Model 10's they issued.
The last I heard he was closing in on 80,000 rounds.

He's had it back to S&W several times for minor repairs, and since he shot A LOT of 125 grain full Magnum loads, he had to have the barrel replaced because of a worn forcing cone.
The gun is nowhere near to being worn out, and I don't expect it to.

The fact is, there isn't much data out there on just how long a revolver will last, because most people just don't shoot that much, and most people who do shoot that much don't seem to wear them out.

MOST revolvers are damaged or ruined by neglect or abuse.

You'll see a Colt Python with 1000 rounds through it and the owner complaining it's out of time.

You used to commonly see policemen retiring after 30 years on the job, still using the same Official Police they were issued 30 years before.

The difference is, in those days, you took care of your gun because you didn't have the kind of money to just run out and buy another.

January 22, 2005, 12:34 PM
It's been said by the CHL instructor whose class I took (depending on the size and condition of the "bad guy") that double tapping can ensure that the "bad guy" will be stopped with a .38 or 9mm. I frequently practice double tapping at the range. Would you consider this abusive?

Would you consider complete rapid for suppression purposes abusive? (I always thought these things to be normal uses and functions of the gun)

January 22, 2005, 03:34 PM
It's not abusive IF you aren't jerking the trigger as hard as you can.

There's a definite difference between speed shooting and abusive trigger jerking.

Every time you pull a revolver trigger you're causing wear to the action and cylinder notches, but one method causes wear, the other causes damage.

The difference is something like a good driver speed shifting a manual transmission and a hack jamming the transmission into gear.

One method causes the transmission to wear faster than slower, more careful shifting, and the other causes missed shifts, chipped gear teeth, and damage.

It's hard to explain the difference between fast trigger work and jerking the trigger hard.
It's mostly a matter of technique and practice.

You can also damage a revolver in single action.
I once encountered a shooter at the range shooting a S&W 686, which is a tank.

He was cocking the hammer with such force that I could hear a loud "CLACK" all the way down the line.

He asked my opinion of his revolver, which he'd bought a month or so before.

The cylinder notches were so badly battered and deformed, I was surprised it still locked up at all.
The bolt was deformed and has bad side play from battering.

When I asked about his technique, he informed me that "These 686's were designed to take it, and it didn't hurt them".
I got the impression he thought it was "cool" to shoot that way.

Needless to say, in 2 months of occasional shooting he'd ruined the gun.

On the other hand, there was an old NRA pistol shooter that owned a 1930's Colt Officers Model target revolver he bought new in the late 30's.

He'd been shooting it in matches up until the mid-1980's, all single action, and the action was virtually unworn.

He was wearing his action, the other guy was abusing his.

Same thing holds for double action.
Fast DA will wear the gun, but the right technique will JUST wear it, not destroy it.

January 22, 2005, 05:30 PM
That makes me feel a lot better about getting this OP fixed. It's about 60 years old and I was wondering if it would even last long even if I did fix it.
I'm definately sending it to Pittsburg to get it repaired and have them do a complete checkup on the gun's inner workings.

On another note, I own another Official Police that looks like it's a little more modern than the one that is messed up. I guess it was made around the '60s and '70s(The sight has a small slant down the back of it instead of being a perfect half moon like my older one, the back of the hammer is a little more flat than the older one, the cap on the end of the ejection rod is a longer than the old one, and the long crevasses that run along the sides of the cylinder aren't as deep as the older one.) The problem I have with it is that the recoil plate has fractured and is depressed into the back of the gun slightly (I'm guessing some idiot used .38+P in the gun) :rolleyes: causing primers what have popped outward from the cartridge a little after discharging to hang in the depression (jamming the gun) in about 1 out of every 20 or 30 shots (and depending on what kind of ammo, Federal and Winchester {sometimes} seem to do it more than others). Gunsmith told me the cheapest way would be to send it to the factory. Not a problem there, although it is the most reliable defense gun I have as opposed to the older one that "throw's by."

However there is one little thing the bolt does that kinda catch my eye whenever I pull back on the trigger. Whenever I pull off a slow and easy shot, the bolt snapps into place so hard in the ramp that it wiggles the cylinder a little. This has no effect on my shot, my sight doesn't move at all, and their is no dragging at all, it's still one of the easiest guns to handle and is one of the most accurate in our household. But is this bolt snapping going to hurt the gun in the longrun?

January 22, 2005, 07:42 PM
You'd have to check the bolt spring to be sure it's an original part, and not some stronger spring someone dropped in.

A fractured recoil plate does NOT sound good.
The reason is, that kind of over-pressure also usually stretches and otherwise damages the frame.

Be wary of shooting this one until you have it checked by a Colt qualified 'smith.

January 24, 2005, 05:15 PM
I definately plan to have this gun sent to Pittsburg Handguns after the older one is fixed in a month or two.

If this helps your evaluation of the gun a little more, I have fired it at the range since I got the gun (the gun has has the jamming problem since I got it about a year ago I only found out what was causing it about two months ago). The gun has had around 1000 rounds fired in it experiencing only occasional jamming from the depressed recoil plate.

It's the only defense gun I have that I can depend on in an acceptable (but not ideal) degree. (I have a 1911 A1 but I don't like carrying automatics for defense....and it's harder to conceal)

James K
January 24, 2005, 11:08 PM
Wow! Quite a tutorial on the old Colt revolvers.

A couple of minor comments just on things I noticed. The little metal displacement on the edge of the bolt notch is not the cause of throwing by, it is the result.

Throwby can be caused by improper timing, but also is often the result of the cylinder's own momentum. A loaded cylinder picks up a lot of rotational momentum in rapid fire. So what can happen is that the bolt drops, the cylinder starts around moved by the hand (pawl), but the cylinder, being heavy, picks up a lot of momentum and tries to move ahead under its own inertia, out of contact with the hand. The cylinder notch then passes the bolt position before the bolt is released to rise and engage it. The result is throwby. Any hesitation on the trigger, of course, makes the situation worse. Another cause is some mechanical hesitation built into the gun, like a ratchet notch that is not smooth or a sticking place on the cylinder arbor that can cause the cylinder to jump ahead of the hand when the hesitation is past. If the bolt catches the edge of the notch just as it goes past, it raises a small piece of metal.

This does not happen in an S&W because the S&W cylinder stop (Colt calls it the bolt) comes up early, causing the drag line that is normal on a S&W revolver. Colt did not do this, partly to avoid the line, but did make the leade longer and increased tension on the bolt spring. As you found, the solution does not always work.

One thing that can sometimes help is to cut the top of the bolt at an angle so the high edge rides into the notch sooner. Not guaranteed to help, but it may.

The Colt system worked well for many years, though it was always cussed by gunsmiths. The need for very skilled (and highly paid) fitters was one reason Colt revolvers were always expensive and why Colt was continually on the edge of bankruptcy. When they finally saw the light and revamped the guns around 1970, the new design was never fully accepted by Colt fans, saying that it was a copy of the S&W design (which it was to some extent). So Colt fans didn't like the old design, but then didn't like the new one either. It was a lose/lose situation and I sort of felt sorry for Colt.


January 24, 2005, 11:43 PM
Throwing by didn't start until these markings on the edge of the notch appeared. At least it didn't seem to. Now that throwing by has started, it hasn't stopped even on slow and easy shots in some cases. (The gun is throwing off and on been throwing by from shoddy repair job to shoddy repair job....well, you've read the gun's life story from previous messages) The throwing by usually started after the cylinder would hang for a while (I guess that's what ultimately caused those notches....Until now, I was never told hanging was harmful just an irritating point that I would have to live with)

February 10, 2005, 06:11 PM
Regarding the newer OP made in the early 60s, what would you say could have caused the fractured recoil plate?

At first I assumed it would be .38+P being fired in the gun by the previous owner but since you and about a half a dozen other gunsmiths and shooters in here have told me about the durability of the OP in regards to even hotter loads such as the .38-44 I seriously doubt that now.

What could have caused the fracture?

I notice the trigger is a little tighter than my other revolver making speed shooting difficult. I wind up trying not to jerk the trigger back being abusive but in doing so I lessen the strength in my trigger pull somtimes causing energy in my squeeze to let off before the trigger is fully pulled back causing the trigger to in turn snap back forward against my finger.

I plan to send this gun off to Pittsburg as soon as I get the other one back (They tell me the cylinder is fine on it....so says a 40 year experienced gunsmith that works for them :o but I'm not so sure, I'm still trying to work that bad taste out of my mouth from Colt skeptic gunsmiths and their not so good workings on it) but what should I tell them to do about the trigger pull. Or would you even recommend my having them do anything to it?


February 10, 2005, 09:03 PM
The action could be full of dried up lube and dirt.

Likely the newer gun has a newer mainspring and these are usually stronger than old, well used guns.
Pittsburgh will insure the trigger pull is within factory specs, but you might mention it to them.

A cracked recoil bushing is NOT good.

Of the ways this might happen the most likely are someone shooting a +P+ or even HOTTER round in the gun.
In this case, the gun needs to be carefully checked for signs of over-pressure damage.

Pittsburgh will take care of this for you when you send it in.

February 10, 2005, 09:58 PM
But I thought the OP could handle .38-44 What could be hotter than that? That's even hotter than .38+P (.357 of course but those are too long to fit in a .38 special gun)

February 11, 2005, 01:31 AM
There are law enforcement-only Plus P Plus (+P+) .38 Special hot loads that are basically mini-Magnum level loads intended for use ONLY in .357 Magnum guns.

And then there's "Billy Bob's Special reloads" that will overstress a S&W N-frame .357 Magnum.
They of course will shoot them in a Detective Special or an Official Police.

People just insist on over-loading the .38, OR picking up the wrong can of powder.

On one of the forums is a really awful set of pictures of a Colt Anaconda with an scope sight that's just blown to bits.

The cylinder was blown in half, the frame is BADLY distorted and bulged.

The owner apparently did pick up the wrong can of powder.

Over the years I've seen a little bit of everything, and what I've come to expect is that people will NOT be careful, and sensible.

If they have a .38 they'll try to turn it into a HOT .357 Magnum.

If they're reloading, it's way to much to expect them to pay attention, and not dump a case full of Bullseye.

In EVERY case, "It's the guns fault, it shouldn't have done that".

February 15, 2005, 02:37 PM
A perfect example of why I would NEVER reload my own ammunition cartridges. A lot of people like to clean up at the range line and sweep up the discarded empty catridges. I wouldn't trust myself in reloading those things. I depend only on what I can buy in the store in a box from someone who knows what the heck they are doing.

I would be very interested in knowing how I could get my hands on a box of .38-44s. Probably never use them at the range much but, being armor piercing, they would make a handy defense round. :cool:

February 15, 2005, 08:09 PM
Sorry, most 38-44's were NOT armor piercing.
Most of it was loaded with lead bullets.

I'm not sure when most companies stopped making the 38-44, but by now the ammo will be aging.
I'm not sure I'd want to trust most of it.

Reloading your own ammo is entirely safe, as long as you keep your mind on "business".

Where people get into trouble is in just flat not paying attention.

Reloading is MUCH safer than driving a car or operating a power saw.
It's when you you start getting careless is when you make mistakes.

In many thousands of miles and who knows how many thousands of rounds reloaded, I've never had a car accident, and never had a problem with a reload.

February 15, 2005, 10:27 PM
Sorry, most 38-44's were NOT armor piercing.

Hmmm....I've heard that there are parties out there that do manufacture .38-44 in FMJ but that they cost a pretty penny.

Also, I thought even the old lead round nose types were considered armor piercing in that their purpose was to penetrate steel in cars (same purpose in why they made the .357 back in 1935)


March 1, 2005, 04:31 PM
I just called Pittsburg Handgun and they told me that my gun (the 1944 OP)was ready :cool: fixed and adjusted to factory specifications :) and told me if I take care and don't abuse it that it should last me another 50 years ;)

I look forward to getting it the mail this weekend and after what I've been told about the sturdiness of the OP, I feel like buying a fresh box of .38+P rounds and taking them down to the range with it Saturday.

Gonna send them my 1961 OP next to see about fixing it. :)

BTW, does anyone think that a S&W Model 10 from the 1970s and 80s would be able to handle .38+P?

Thank you to D Fariswheel and Jim Keenan for all the help and tips given on this subject


March 1, 2005, 06:50 PM
For the "official" word on +P in 80's S&W's, I'd email S&W.

March 6, 2005, 04:34 PM
I E mailed S&W about +P rounds and they told me their official position is that in theory any .38+P is can be handled by any K frame revolver made after 1956 but the representative told me that they wouldn't feed a steady diet in some of the older guns.

I got my OP from 1944 back from Pittsburg this weekend. Fired it yesterday and it worked beautifully :o

NO problems at all at the range and very accurate now too now that it's not hanging or dragging or anything. I officially made it my primary defense gun over my other OP and Springfield 1911. (the other OP is going out on UPS to Pittsburg to have it's problems addressed next week)


April 29, 2005, 10:11 AM
I just got the second OP back this past weekend (1961 version). I took it to the range and put 50 rounds .38 special and about 20 rounds .38+P and it works beautifully. Apparently, it was not that the recoil plate was fractured but that someone had filed it down to the point where it was sinking into the gun. Pittsburg looked it over and found no signs of stress on the frame.

I now have both guns back and they make great shooters and great CHL pieces. Their actions feel as smooth as Pythons (can't get better than that) I've fired .38+P in both guns (including the 1944) and half expected them to blow up or fall apart but quickly got used to it after about 6 rounds. THe guns hold up great under .38+P.

Thank you for all information you provided. At some point I need to get the Handgun guide you recommended. (However Pittsburg strongly suggested that I NOT dissassemble the gun or even take the panal off the side for any reason, that any tampering with the inside of the gun from just removing and cleaning parts could alter the gun's inner workings. They suggested I leave it alone and keep it clean on the outside dropping oil in the inside from time to time and it will last me another 50 years. I hope they do last that long. By then they will make great conversation pieces for any grandchildren I have. ;)

April 29, 2005, 01:13 PM
It wasn't uncommon to find a Colt revolver that had been issued to a cop in the police academy, carried during a 30 year career in all weather, and find it still in 100% internal shape.

That's one advantage the revolver STILL has.....load it, put it in a desk drawer and leave it untouched for 50 years.

When you take it out and pull the trigger, it'll fire just FINE.

You can remove the side plate on your revolvers and clean them out every now and then, BUT ONLY if you feel competent to do so, and have the RIGHT gunsmith's screwdrivers.

Pittsburgh goes on the assumption that you don't known anything about revolvers in general, and Colt's in particular.

Since they and I have seen MANY cases of people who didn't know about Colt's, this make excellent sense, and good advice.

Your refurbished Colt's likely won't last JUST another 50 years.
With any care at all, your GREAT grandkids will be giving them to THEIR kids.