View Full Version : suggestions for lubing the unhardened internals of old top break revolvers ???

Magnum Wheel Man
January 20, 2010, 11:28 AM
over the course of this last winter, I've accumulated a dozen or so old top break revolvers, of various manufacter, & barrel length... again, all will need to be at least "shootable" ( I have a thread in the reloading section describing my "pop gun" loads using round balls & Trailboss powder )... which is giving me a good "test for function" starting load, & maybe the chance to develope a good safe load to shoot in these... they are pretty equally devided between 32 & 38 S&W...

... most of these guns are early enough that the internal parts are not hardened at all, & thus are subject to wear, much more so than modern guns... I'm wanting to find a couple of each caliber that are strong enough shooters that they could be semi regular range guns... they are a real "hoot" to shoot ( sorry about the Iver Johnson owl head grip pun )

...to best maintain these "shooters" I'll be wanting to flush out the insides & relube all the contact surfaces with a good non gumming lube... looking for suggestions for cleaning out the insides ( I use automotive break cleaner alot for modern guns, but don't want to screw up the old nickel on some of these, & usually use Rem Oil for lubricating... just curious what others might suggest has worked well for them... thanks

January 21, 2010, 03:32 AM
You might be surprised at how hard some of these parts are. Hardening and case hardening techniques were well known after the Civil War and certainly by the end of the 19th century when most of these guns were probably made (unless you're talking about some early Smith & Wesson No 1 tip ups, for example).

As long as wear or "bubba" work hasn't worn through the hardened portion of a part, normal lubricants should be just fine. Usually, the soft parts will be the frames, barrels and cylinders, not the internals.

Magnum Wheel Man
January 21, 2010, 09:33 AM
I haven't opened too many of them up yet, but I'm trying to make all of them shootable, but would like to find a couple in each caliber that are strong enough shooters for semi regular range use with my popgun loads... so far, I'm liking the Hopkins & Allen Safety Police models... of the 4 or 5 that I've removed the grips on, they have coil springs rather than flat springs... I'm not sure on the Iver Johnsons with the owl head grips looking at the shooter rather than away, which are supposed to mean newer smokeless powder guns ( of course as long as the grips hadn't been changed out ) but alot of these were just cheap mail order guns, & weren't that "solid" the day they were sold let alone a 100 years later... I'd assume that my 4th model lemon squeezer in 38 S&W probably has "better quality" innerds than say the old H&R's or H&A's... or the brands they private labeled for ???

January 21, 2010, 12:39 PM
I would say that since you are concerned about wearing through the case hardening, you want something with pretty good lubricity. Older guns hopefully got cleaned right after firing corrosive ammo, so varnishing was never a consideration. Most modern firearm use better metals for the internals than many of those older guns, so primary concern is corrosion resistance and non-gumming. Soooo, if you need good lubricity:

Lubriplate: It's been around a long time for a reason.

Or just use the good old Breakfree CLP: good enough then, good enough now.

January 21, 2010, 10:29 PM
I fix up a lot of those old guns as a form of therapy (LOL). They're such a PITA, that you have a real sense of accomplishment when you finally get one working. Anyway, in general, as long as Bubba hasn't tried to recut a sear notch or tried to "improve" the trigger pull, you'll find that most of the internals are pretty hard. Usually, they have been used so much that they tend to shoot loose, and that is where you will generally have your problems.

Some of the older Iver Johnsons and H&Rs, when found in nice condition, make just as good a shooter as one of their modern counterparts

James K
January 21, 2010, 11:38 PM
One significant area of failure (other than springs) on those guns is the hand, which is usually not hardened and is easily bent, and the cylinder ratchet, also not hardened. They usually get out of time rather quickly as a result. With the exception of springs, most of those older guns and their parts were made from iron, not steel, and the frames wear out easily (the original reason Winchester rifles and Colt revolvers had case hardened frames).

The H&A Safety Police is well made and is a very large step up from the run-of-mill DAs of the era, featuring a unique way of dealing with the "blow to the hammer" safety concern. It is OK with smokeless powder loads

There are some exceptions, and in spite of advice from experts, the old guns will usually be OK with modern factory loads. (I have fired dozens, maybe hundreds, with modern ammo and not blown one - yet.) The ammo makers have carefully kept .32 S&W and .38 S&W down to pressures that will not wreck the old guns. But guns with very thin cylinder walls or heavy rust in critical areas should not be fired at all, with any powder.


Magnum Wheel Man
January 22, 2010, 09:36 AM
thanks for the suggestions & comments guys...