View Full Version : Loading Lever Comes Loose When Firing

January 18, 2010, 11:28 AM
When I fire my Armi San Marco replica 1851 Colt Navy .44 with any powder charge, normal or maximal, the loading lever becomes unhinged from its locking mehcanism on the front underside of the barrel. I believe this is because the recoil from the shot is enough to compress the spring in the locking mechanism and release it.

Has anyone encountered this or know how to fix it? Thanks in advance for the replies.

Fingers McGee
January 18, 2010, 11:51 AM
'51 Navies had two different sized loading lever catches on the barrel. A thin one and a thick one. Yours may be one of the thin ones. If it is one of the thin ones, you can widen the dovetail and replace it with one f the thick ones. Or, regardless of which one it is, you can cut the notch in the catch on the barrel deeper for more positive latching. You could also stretch the spring under the latch to provide more tension that would have to be overcome.

Doc Hoy
January 18, 2010, 12:58 PM
Welcome to the forum.

I had a colt clone with that problem and determined it came from the fact that the latch had reached the end of a wear cycle. The bearing surface of the latch (The surface on the bottom) had worn down. I replaced the latch with one which was in better condition. Also in the process, I dressed up the lug on the barrel with a jeweler's file.

I believe this condition came from latching the lever by simply squeezing it into place. Doing this allows the latch to slam into position as it bears against the lug. The vertical surface on the lug forces the latch to retract into the lever as the lever is moved toward the fully latched position. Then when the latch clears the vertical surface of the lug it springs out until it is fully extended holding the lever in place. Unfortunately this very action wears the tip of the latch. The latch on my pistol was worn so badly that I could open the lever without even touching the latch. And of course when the pistol was fired, the lever dropped out of the stow position.

Now, I pull the latch back on all of my pistols with my thumb and forefinger as I close it. I hope this lengthens the wear cycle of the latch.

January 18, 2010, 02:10 PM
Thanks for the quick replies. I'm not sure cutting the notch deeper into the stud on the barrel would have much effect, as the distance the latch can travel is limited by it being pinned into the loading lever. I don't know if it can really travel any farther than it already does. Doc how would I go about getting a replacement lug? It looks like from the schematic that it isn't fastened to the barrel with pins or screws, so I'm not sure how I would be able to get it off to replace it.

It sounds like the easiest thing to do would be to remove the latch, stretch the spring, then replace the latch. How would I get that pin holding the latch to the load lever in and out? Could it be tapped out with a hammer and a scratch awl or something pinpoint?

Thanks again.

Fingers McGee
January 18, 2010, 03:20 PM
The catch, or lug is held on by a dovetail. It'll just drift out by tapping it sideways. replacements can be had from VTIgunparts or Taylor's

January 18, 2010, 09:51 PM
There isn't any wear on the lug or the latch, so I think the only other cause is a weak spring in the latch. To remove the pin holding the latch and spring to the loading lever, do I just tap it out? It seems like it will be real tough to get it back in after it is removed, but it looks like this is the only way to fix it.

Doc Hoy
January 19, 2010, 05:16 AM
Tap the sear pin out with a nail used as a drift. File the tip of the nail flat so there is a nice flat surface before you start. If you use anything sharp, you risk deforming the end of the sear pin. You don't have to take the sear pin all the way out. Just drive it out far enough for the latch to clear the sear pin. I did not have much trouble driving the sear out once I found a good nail to use as a drift.

When you remove the nail after driving the sear pin out of the way, the latch will want to spring out, so be careful not to lose it or the spring.

A poor man's technique would be to cut the slot in the latch just slightly deeper, allowing the latch to further engage the lug that is dovetailed into the barrel. Stretch the spring so it bears against the latch with more force. I would say this is not desirable over replacing the parts with new stuff. It'll just get you shooting again while waiting for the replacements to arrive. (From VTI that is only about four days.) Plus..It is fun working on the pistol.

When I answered your post, I did so based upon my own experience but there is a second possibility, a second possible source of the problem. It is possible (but I think not very likely) that the lever itself is worn in the area of the screw that holds it in the barrel. I have never seen this on any of the pistols I have worked on (which is not many) but it might be a good thing to check. Just take the lever screw out, take the lever out, and then examine the hole in the lever and the screw itself. Any wear should be obvious.The hole will be deformed or the screw will be obviously worn. I doubt that you will find such wear, but again...It is fun to do and it is worth knowing about the condition of the pistol.

Unless you note some wear or some deformity of the lug, I would not replace it. As Finger's says, it is easy enough to do and it is not an expensive part. (VTI - 6.00). If the latch is also in good shape then you only need the spring. I would buy a spare sear pin as well. It is not listed on VTI's parts list but they probably have them. Dixie Gun Works lists the part as MP1804 - $3.50.

If it was me, I would get the sear pin, the spring and the latch.

BTW, when you put it back together, make sure the latch is installed in its original orientation. It will go back together two ways. The bearing edge should be towards the floor.

January 19, 2010, 09:12 AM
Thanks Doc, that makes it sound pretty easy. I will order the pin and spring through Dixie's- I assume that their spare Pietta parts will fit my ASM. There is no wear on the loading lever screw or the screw hole, but when I first got the gun the loading lever did have some lateral, side-to-side movement. I did not do anything about this before taking it to the range for the first time. I don't think this would have contributed to the loading lever dropping, because there isn't enough lateral movement for it to completely clear the lug and drop down, but still I think tightening it might contribute to solving the problem.

January 19, 2010, 09:13 AM
My '58 Remington had this problem right from the factory, but I was able to file the notch a bit deeper to remedy it.

Doc Hoy
January 19, 2010, 09:37 AM

I did not see that your pistol is an ASM. Fingers is right. Best source of ASM parts is VTI if they have what you need. You may find yourself buying the entire loading lever. They will know what will fit and what won't. They are very nice folks.

I have had some luck getting Pietta parts to fit ASM.

January 19, 2010, 10:21 AM
When you drift the latch pin from the loading lever don't remove it completely, just enough to remove the latch and spring. That well make assembly much easier. You may be able to match the existing latch spring at you local hardware store. The latch parts are pretty generic and may not need to be brand specific.

January 19, 2010, 10:38 AM
I looked at the VTI website, it seems they have parts for just about every ASM gun except the 1851 navy, oddly enough. I'm just gonna try and find a matching spring at the hardware store, shouldn't be too hard.

Doc Hoy
January 19, 2010, 11:58 AM
With ASM parts, what they list on the website may have nothing to do with what they actually have in stock. This is why they are:

1) So good at recommending alternatives.
2) Such blinkin nice people in the first place.


Fingers McGee
January 19, 2010, 12:47 PM
The loading lever catch doesn't necessarily have to be from ASM to work/fit. IIRC, Pietta parts are closer in dimensions to ASM parts than Uberti is. Like Doc, I've had better luck fitting a Pietta part to an ASM than a Uberti part. From what I've heard, Deer Creek is the place to get ASM parts; but, I've never tried them. Deer Creek Products, the black powder sutler, does not have a web site. Their address is PO Box 246, Waldron, IN 46182. The phone number is 765-525-6181. Their location is 6989 East Michigan Road.

Doc Hoy
January 19, 2010, 06:31 PM
I mis-spoke. Fingers was typing VTI and I was thinking Deer Creek. Indeed Deer Creek are the right people for ASM parts. But again, ASM parts are getting harder and harder to come by.

Both VTI and Deer Creek are very good folks to deal with. They are both genuinely interested in making the customer happy.

I love projects like this.

Fingers McGee
January 19, 2010, 07:37 PM
Sorry Doc. Didn't mean for my typing to be so loud that it bumfuzzled you. :D

January 20, 2010, 12:21 AM
When you go to put it back together, you'd probably be better off pressing the pin in with a vice than pounding it in with a hammer. May need to peen the end of the pin a bit if it tends to want to drift back out.

January 20, 2010, 11:00 AM
When you go to put it back together, you'd probably be better off pressing the pin in with a vice than pounding it in with a hammer. May need to peen the end of the pin a bit if it tends to want to drift back out.

Great tip, if you have some aluminum jaws it does not mare the finish. I think your hardware store plan is the best bet.

January 20, 2010, 12:57 PM
When you say press it in with a vice, do you mean use a vice grip to squeeze it back in? Also, peening the pin- are you saying I should bend it slightly before re-inserting it to ensure it doesn't drift back out?


Doc Hoy
January 20, 2010, 03:36 PM
Not in a vice grip, in a bench vice. Much better control.

Go to Home Depot and get a piece of aluminum angle stock. Cut two pieces that are as long as the vice is wide (Probably somewhere around four inches). Use these to line the jaws of the vice so as not to bung up the finish on the lever.

If you take the pin all of the way out (which is not necessary nor recommended), start the pin back into the hole by hand if it will start or with a few light taps with something soft like the handle of a screwdriver. Once you have the pin started into the hole, put the latch spring and latch back into the lever. Put the whole mess into the vice and use the closing action of the vice to squeeze the pin back into the loading lever.

I attached a little sketch of how I would set it up in the vice. You have to rotate the sketch 90 degrees clockwise and blow it up a little to see it. The loading lever is butt-end down so the latch and spring will just sit in the lever. Then once you get the pin to enter the lever far enough, you can just mash down on the latch with the forefinger of your left hand, while closing the vice with your right hand.


January 20, 2010, 07:45 PM
Thanks for the sketch Doc, that really clears it up!

January 20, 2010, 10:58 PM
Also, peening the pin- are you saying I should bend it slightly before re-inserting it to ensure it doesn't drift back out?

There are probably any number of ways to do it. When mine was a little loose I tapped the end of the pin using a hammer and sharp center punch to flare the end enough to hold it. I did this using an anvil as a support.

January 21, 2010, 10:29 AM
Great jpg Doc, I can't even run a etch-a-sketch:rolleyes:.

Doc Hoy
January 21, 2010, 04:02 PM
I started a drafting and design technology course at Penn State in September of 1968 and did not flunk out until January of 1969. I have a record of academics which stands to this day.

Drinking beer was every bit as important then as it is now.