View Full Version : Cylinder flutes...why?

44 AMP
November 1, 2007, 11:12 PM
Ok revolver gurus, please tell me why some revolver cylinders have flutes, and others don't. Why did they come into being in the first place, and why do some guns not bother with them? Perhaps no one really knows for sure, but please, give me your ideas. Here are all the ones I could think of;

Saves weight (?)

gives fouling/debris someplace to go, so promotes functioning (??)

looks good (!)

and the one that came to me the other night, gives a method for indexing the cylinder by feel (in the dark), which would be important in a SA revolver
So, what else could be the reason, or is it as simple as one of these?

November 2, 2007, 01:12 AM
Main reason I see is that it saves weight and makes things easier on the mechanism. The lower the rotational mass, the less stress is put on the cylinder stop when it pops up into place.

November 2, 2007, 06:43 AM
What crosshair said.

Unflutting doesn't really strengthen the cylinder, the thinnest part of the cylinder is not affected at all wheter the cylinder is flutted or not. On a double action revolver I prefer the cylinder to be flutted, but on a single action such as a Ruger Super Blackhawk, BFR or Freedom Arms, the unflutted cylinder just makes the gun look more brute. Just my opinion.


Magnum Wheel Man
November 2, 2007, 07:02 AM
reflects my thoughts as well...

November 2, 2007, 10:20 AM
The engineering reasons are good, but my take is from a user perspective.

The fluting gives the hand an index for reloading. By placing my index finger on top of a chamber, I am better able to insert a moonclip into the cylinder of my 625 *without looking*. It's also easier to do while moving.

November 2, 2007, 02:00 PM
I always thought that it was started with single action revolvers to make it easier to load the gun.

November 2, 2007, 03:06 PM
Nahh I think it was for weight reduction always. But some did not do it just because it was an extra step of machining. The SAA army Colt is trimmed to be a lightweight for the size revolver I think. Look at the long thin barrel. The frames are not all that thick either. Just another step to make the gun lighter and more comfortable to tote around all day. SOme of the Colt black powder percussion revolvers were made with flutes, some not. Mostly the later ones, as they had found they could make a lighter revolver without weakening the cylinder that way.

November 2, 2007, 05:38 PM
Flutes also increase the surface area of the cylinder for cooling purposes.

Jim March
November 2, 2007, 08:38 PM
I'm pretty sure indexing on the SAs was the most important original purpose.

44 AMP
November 3, 2007, 12:22 AM
Right not I am leaning towards the flutes originally being for indexing the single action revolver. It allows loading/unloading in the dark. This is just a theory, but considering that the cap&ball pistols generally are not fluted, and many late 1800s DA guns (especially British/European) are not fluted, I think that it was popularised by the Colt SAA, and other similar guns.

Yes, it does save weight, and by doing so lessens rotational stress. And it does provide more surface area for cooling, but I don't think either of these was the intended purpose. I find it rreally hard to believe that cooling was at the top of the priority list of 19th century black powder gun designers (Colt, etc.) and looking at the guns that were contemporaries of the SAA, lots of them do not bother with cylinder flutes until a few years later. Did Colt start a fad? A fashion? Or a tradition?

And I think that the reason we see fluting on the cylinders of virtually all the DA revolvers until recently is that it is what the buying public has come to expect, with unfluted cylinders somehow being reguarded as having an "unfinished" look. Today, we have a few guns without fluted cylinders, but the majority still spend the extra time and money to flute them.

Today, perhaps, the trend is going the other way, with the Ruger Super Blackhawk, and the S&W Hunter models among others having unfluted cylinders, I think intending to convey the impression of extra strength. I know they really aren't any stronger, but they look more massive, and look stronger. Interestingly, My Ruger Single Six convertable has both. The .22LR cylinder is fluted, and the .22 WMR cylinder isn't. Does let you know at a glance which cylinder is in the gun.

November 3, 2007, 05:07 AM
I think Colt started fluting with the 1862 Police revolver, which is a shorter (5.5")barreled version of the 1860 Army (8") and those are cap and ball revolvers.
If it was indeed first used on shorter barreled versions, it indicates that weight loss was an important important factor. Basically fluting is Jenny Craig for revolvers:)

November 3, 2007, 09:49 AM
I'm not so sure about the indexing theory. I've never paid much attention to the flutes while loading a traditional single action, rather listening and feeling for the audible "click". I tend to not look at the sixgun while I load it, unless it's a New Model Ruger.

November 3, 2007, 02:32 PM
Besides having a great look, my feeling is unfluted cylinders are a little easier to clean. LOL

November 3, 2007, 11:58 PM
As most gun history nuts know, the 47 walker had problems with its cast iron cylinder. The reason for its KA-BOOMs were more than just the metalurgy of the time. (too much FFFg powder, placing conicals in backwards, and possible timing issues just to name a few... )

It was discovered later on that by placing a rounded cutout on the surface between a pair of cartridge holes would reduce the possibility of growing cracks on the surfaces around the openings. The flutes didn't need to proceed to the back of the cylinder as there was no exist pressure to speak of. Either with cap-n-ball or with cartridge cylinders.

The added benifit of having more surface area for cooling and less material were secondary to the goal of reducing the growth of cracks in the surface.

I seem to recall that this was documented some where at Colt's engineering dept.

44 AMP
November 4, 2007, 12:43 PM
I had never heard that one before, but it makes sense. So, the "fix" for the cylinder cracks was carried on and copied by others after the original problem model went away. And the buys of the time would assume that a cylinder without flutes would be prone to problems, so the manufacturers keep the flutes going, giving the buying public what they want. After enough time goes by the original reason fades from memory and folks just figure that is the way they "ought" to be made.

Thanks for the info.