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Old January 31, 2019, 10:04 PM   #1
NorthIDIndependent
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Light hammer strikes S&W J-frame

I have a 90s J-frame 60-9 (I believe) which has reliably fired upwards of 2,500 rounds (estimate) It was passed down to me with approximately 1000 rounds of factory ammo fired with no mention of FTFs light hammer strikes or reliability issues of any kind. In the past two years I've fired slightly over a 1000 rounds of handloads Primed with CCI small pistol primers, And I haven't experienced any light hammer strikes. Ive used a handful of small rifle primers (Estimated 15 or so) when I ran out of SPP, Also with no FTFs but 15 is a far to small sample size to be suggestive of reliability.

The powder I primarily use in my loads Is Hs-6 at +p and magnum pressures (along with bullseye and trail boss for occasional light loads) .
Hs-6 Is known for performing best at pressures above standard and performs more consistently with a magnum primer.

Because of this I recently bought a 100 pack of CCI 550 Magnum small pistol primers, and yes, the powder seems to ignite and burn more consistently, Im very happy with that.
However, I experienced two FTF out of those 100 primers, Thats two TOO MANY. IMO. Both rounds FTF on different range trips, not back to back. And both rounds fired fine when struck a second time. Some basic observation of the primer lead me to believe the FTF was due to a light hammer strike.

Im aware the primers have a harder "cup" or "shell" so I went out and bought 100 pack of Winchester Magnum small pistol primers after hearing they are a bit softer than the 550s (not sure if thats really true) And In those 100 primers I experienced another two FTF, again, Not back to back. Again, both rounds fired on a second attempt.
Im sure the amount of FTF (2) with each primer type is purely coincidental.

So, naturally, I have a bunch of questions about the potential source of the issue. Im hoping someone more experienced can help me find answers.

Is it possible my firing pin is worn after thousands of round of use? Im assuming the only way that could be the cause is because of some hot loads I have put through it or even the few Hard SR primers ive put through it.
Could it be that my Hammer spring is worn just enough to start showing light strikes with harder than normal primers? (That would be understandable and a relatively easy fix assuming I could just buy a stock replacement spring)
Should I abandon the harder primers? I dont like that idea because im afraid is doesn't address the core issue of my hammer potentially striking light.

I should mention 500 round ago or so I bopped off the side plate and gave it a cleaning (it wasn't all that dirty) so i dont imagine its any dirtier in there now than it was then.

Could it be an error in my loading technique, I dont use tweezers to handle my primers like my grandfather always did, is it finally coming back to bite my backend?
Let me know if i should move this post to Handloading forum.
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Last edited by NorthIDIndependent; January 31, 2019 at 10:11 PM.
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Old January 31, 2019, 10:28 PM   #2
ammo.crafter
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J frame

Open the cylinder; and retract the cylinder release, cock the hammer and slowly pull the trigger while slowly lowering the hammer and observe how far the firing pin moves forward.

If it does not come through the firing pin hole it's a firing pin issue.
If it does, it might be a weak firing pin spring. An easy fix to replace.

Check the setting in the grip of your J frame if it has a leaf spring as the tension screw may have backed out a bit. If your J has a main spring, make certain the main spring is set in the main spring cup, it may have jumped out.

Good luck.
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Old January 31, 2019, 10:34 PM   #3
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I had a 60-9, no idea of the round count, but I did find a broken firing pin spring. I don't remember if there were light strikes, but I do remember replacing the spring. It doesn't seem real likely, but maybe a broken spring could sometime allow the firing pin a little too far forward thereby reducing the impact of the hammer, and cause the occasional light strike.

I have a different J with a 8 lb hammer spring (8.5 lbs is stock) and have never had light strikes with soft Federal primers.
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Old February 1, 2019, 05:50 AM   #4
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Intermittent light strikes could be an issue with the ammo rather than the gun. A primer which isn't seated quite all the way will display the same symptoms as a light strike because part of the hammer's energy is "wasted" finishing seating the primer. Such a round will almost always fire with a second strike.

I've found this issue to be more common with press-mounted priming tools than with hand-priming tools. I personally gave up on the lever prime on my Lee turret press due to this very issue. Have you tried any factory ammo with CCI or Winchester primers? If the light strikes don't reoccur with factory ammo then I'd say primer seating depth is the most likely culprit.
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Old February 1, 2019, 01:13 PM   #5
NorthIDIndependent
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I think that’s a very likely culprit. I do use the press to prime my casings and although I firmly seat the primers, I could probably be more attentive. I wouldn’t put it past myself to have let a few slip through not fully seated. It should be easy enough to find out as well, I’ll just get a 100 more CCI 550s and put some more time into making sure they’re fully seated, shoot them, and I won’t be surprised at all if that solve the problem. I can’t buy pistol ammo legally as I’m only 19 but occasionally I see my father and I don’t think he’d have a problem gifting me some if I ask real kindly. Thank you for your helpful suggestions.
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Old February 1, 2019, 01:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Check the setting in the grip of your J frame if it has a leaf spring as the tension screw may have backed out a bit. If your J has a main spring, make certain the main spring is set in the main spring cup, it may have jumped out.
I was under the impression that all S&W J frames have coil mainsprings. Not true? I know that the I framed .32 S&W Long had a leaf spring though.

Last edited by dahermit; February 1, 2019 at 02:04 PM.
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Old February 1, 2019, 03:15 PM   #7
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Try this experiment: buy 2 boxes of any commercial ammo for your gun. Shoot those. Any failures to fire? How did the impressions in the primer look? Light?

If all shot well with the commercial ammo and the primer strikes looked good then it's likely a reloading issue. From what you said earlier there are a number of variations in your reloading techniques, which maybe you can minimize. A visit to a reloading sight, or that section of this forum, might be worth your time. Folks experienced with these matters tend to hang out there.

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Old February 1, 2019, 05:59 PM   #8
NorthIDIndependent
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This gun has already had over a thousand rounds of factory ammo with no issue. buying two boxes of factory ammo to put through it isn’t a helpful experiment.

More recently it has fired over a thousand rounds of handloads with standard(soft relative to magnum) SPP with no light hammer strikes or FTF of any kind.
Potential errors in seating may have been mitigated by the soft nature of the SPP, allowing the errors in my seating (which I hypothesis to be the culprit ATM) to go unnoticed until I switched to a harder primer.
My questions are more related to the potential wear of this type of gun with this aprox round count, and the potential of magnum primers being slightly to hard to be reliable in this gun.
Maybe a couple boxes of factory ammo loaded with the same model primers I excpirenced issues with could tell me something but being 19 it’d be far easier to buy another $3 pack of a hundred primers and take exceptional care in seating them as firmly as possible.
I think post #4 gives the most likely diognosis, given the specific symtoms.
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Old February 1, 2019, 06:34 PM   #9
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Ok. You have your answer then. Work on improving your reloading technique.

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Old February 1, 2019, 07:18 PM   #10
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Quote:
Ok. You have your answer then. Work on improving your reloading technique
.

And it that does not work, switch to Federal primers.

It may be of interest if you would state which brand of factory Ammo you used without any failure to fires. Could it have been Federal ammo?
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Old February 1, 2019, 08:23 PM   #11
Jim Watson
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I don't know the latest dashes.
Do you have a frame firing pin?
If so, check the spring. If it is broken or squashed and not holding the firing pin all the way back, misfires will result. Had that on my Python.
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Old February 1, 2019, 08:55 PM   #12
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Don't have a lot of experience with J frames. Lots with K & N frames. I have a K38 with aftermarket target spring that is lighter than factory. Never had any trouble with any ammo
or primers used in it. Put same spring in a m19 and had no problems, Win primers. Then gun was not grouping as well and got a few light strikes. It was with CCI 550s. The cause of
open groups and light strikes. In a Ruger BH they work fine. This isn't first time this problem has popped up. The only other light strike case with S&W that I have come across was a m10 police trade in. It was light striking because hammer was rubbing on frame when fired single action. It wasn't my gun and don't know what caused it. I've never put a
main spring in a J. It should be as easy as K&N which takes no effort, but they are leaf type.
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Old February 1, 2019, 09:41 PM   #13
Webleymkv
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Honestly, no matter how careful I tried to be seating primers on the press, I still had the occasional light strike. Going through the linkage of the press just doesn't allow me to feel the primer bottom out in the primer pocket like a hand priming tool does.

Now, one or two light strikes per hundred rounds of my handloads is really just an annoyance to me so long as my guns run 100% with factory ammo as I dont use handloads for self defense. However, if you can't accept any light strikes in your handloads, a Lee Auto Prime hand priming tool is only $19.99 from Midway and the shellholder set for it is about $15 or so.
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Old February 2, 2019, 01:11 AM   #14
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Take the cartridges that failed to fire and see if they will fire in another gun.

I changed out the main spring in a single action. For that gun, Wolff offered 14, 15, and 16# versus the factory 17#. I tried the 15#. Out of a hundred of my handloads, I had about three or four FTF. I restruck the primers with that gun several times with no ignition. But since I had changed the main spring, I had an idea what the problem was.

I put the cartridges with the dented primers in another gun, and they fired -- every one of them. Needless to say, I went back to the factory 17# spring.

I realize your spring hasn't been changed recently, but if another gun fires those cartridges then you'll know the gun is striking them lightly and you can renew the mainspring and solve the problem. If another gun doesn't fire them, it may be the ammo or primer was defective upon loading, or that the light strike ruined it. So firing it in another gun doesn't answer all the questions unless it does fire.

Personally, I wouldn't fuss with different primers. The gun should fire anything that isn't ruined. Do keep your primers clean. I usually don't use tweezers, but I don't handle them. I dump the straight from the box into an RCBS hand priming tool flipper tray. Flip them, and place the cover on. Then I prime all my cases. If one gets away or refuses to flip, I will use tweezers, or nitrile gloves. If I was priming on press, I would use the gloves.
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Old February 3, 2019, 01:11 PM   #15
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use the dime firing pin check. if it passes that then it is most likely the ammo you are making since factory fodder works all the time.
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Old February 4, 2019, 10:26 AM   #16
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Personally, I would order a complete set of springs for your revolver as they are low cost and very easy to install. Springs wear out and break. People that tell you to do a home action job by cycling the action 10,000 times have never really caught my attention. I do not own a gun that I have need to be concerned about which type of ammo I have to shoot to guarantee it goes bang.
Assuming you are reasonably handy there are plenty of videos that will walk you through the job.
If you do follow the videos, I suggest disassembling the gun while it is inside a large clear plastic bag which will save you from a lot of time on your knees with a flashlight and a magnet.
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Old February 4, 2019, 11:24 AM   #17
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Take the cartridges that failed to fire and see if they will fire in another gun. . .

. . . I realize your spring hasn't been changed recently, but if another gun fires those cartridges then you'll know the gun is striking them lightly and you can renew the mainspring and solve the problem.
That actually doesn't eliminate the possibility of it being a reloading issue. It is quite common for the firing pin to seat the primer and thus for the round to work on a second strike, whether in the same or a different gun. Actually, giving them a second strike in the same gun could be a rough test for poor primer seating.
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Old February 4, 2019, 11:53 AM   #18
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I believe the op has already figured out that it's a reloading issue. So now I think he's working on isolating and fixing that problem.

tipoc
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Old February 4, 2019, 01:11 PM   #19
NorthIDIndependent
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I suspect it may be a reloading issue. I have nothing "figured out". Im not sure what gave anyone that idea.

Please, Keep the advice coming folks!
It's been very helpful so far.
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Old February 4, 2019, 01:16 PM   #20
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I Think I will replace the springs with new stock spring as they are relatively inexpensive, Im curious about the "dime test". I'll do some more research on that.
Then I intend to test some Federal magnum primers.
Thanks for your time and advice, folks!
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Old February 4, 2019, 02:50 PM   #21
tipoc
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Quote:
I suspect it may be a reloading issue. I have nothing "figured out". Im not sure what gave anyone that idea.
Well it was you who said:

Quote:
This gun has already had over a thousand rounds of factory ammo with no issue. buying two boxes of factory ammo to put through it isn’t a helpful experiment.
That about rules out the idea that it's the gun that is the problem. But coupled with the information that you also supplied:

Quote:
More recently it has fired over a thousand rounds of handloads with standard(soft relative to magnum) SPP with no light hammer strikes or FTF of any kind.
That info along with your description of having shot 200 of your own reloads with 2, failures to fire. All points away from it being the gun about as definitively as it gets.

It's your reloads. You're doing something inconsistently.

I knew a fella said he had a problem with his pants he said. So I'm a sucker and I asked him. Said he left the house 30 days the previous month and for 30 days his pants stayed up but on the 31st they fell down to his ankles. So what was different that day, I asked. Nothing he said, I just didn't buckle my belt, but it was the same pants.

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2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger till you are ready to shoot.
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Old February 6, 2019, 03:18 PM   #22
Master Blaster
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CCI 550 Magnum small pistol primers

CCI magnum primers have a harder cup, and they are slightly larger, so it could be that you did not completely seat the primers on those two rounds. First hammer blow seats primer, second fires it.

Answer: use factory rounds for self defense, or buy 100 more CCI primers and seat them harder, or use Winchester magnum primers which are softer.
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