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Old July 1, 2022, 03:15 PM   #1
SIGSHR
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Heat treatment in older Colt revolvers

On another board a member asked if he could fire +P ammunition in his 1940 vintage Colt Oficer's Model. When Colt introduced the .357 in 1953 and then the Python in 1956 they used the Official Police frame and cylinder. did they use a different heat treatment?
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Old July 1, 2022, 03:35 PM   #2
Jim Watson
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I would hope so, but...
The OM of that era was "rated" for the .38-44 and other high velocity .38s.
But... why? Maybe a few to see what it feels like and then to repel boarders if it is his only home defense weapon. The usual load was to be .38 wadcutters and standard velocity roundnose.
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Old July 2, 2022, 03:31 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by SIGSHR View Post
On another board a member asked if he could fire +P ammunition in his 1940 vintage Colt Oficer's Model. When Colt introduced the .357 in 1953 and then the Python in 1956 they used the Official Police frame and cylinder. did they use a different heat treatment?
I don't know for sure. I don't know why it would not be safe, but one never knows considering that at that time, +p was outside the parameters the engineers had to abide by.
I have several old Colts and a couple old Smiths. My general rule is baby the old stuff and put the rounds through the new.
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Old July 2, 2022, 04:01 PM   #4
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FWIW, Colt revolvers did not have any special heat treatment until the 1970s. Frames were soft and were actually ranged by bending the frames. I saw a couple of Pythons that were bent by generously loaded handloads.

Early S&Ws were the same way. 27s and 28s were built on the N frame for a reason. Notoriously, Model 19s would shoot loose in as few as 50-100 full house magnum loads.
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Old July 2, 2022, 06:16 PM   #5
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As above, back before WWII Colt said that even the Detective Special could be used with the .38-44 hot ammo.
I suspect that Colt figured anyone actually using enough to damage the gun, they could replace it.

The medium frame Colt revolvers are "safe" to shoot with +P ammo, but use will increase wear of the action, especially on the non-heat treated pre-war frames.
They're not going to blow up, but will wear.

Colt began heat treating frames and cylinders in 1953 with the introduction of the Colt 3-5-7 Model. That was the worlds first .357 Magnum built on a medium frame.
Before that all .357 Magnum revolvers were built on Colt's big New Service or S&W's large "N" frame.

The pre-war Colt revolvers were built with standard .38 Special ammo in mind, and the Officer's Models were at their best with 148 grain lead Mid-Range Target loads.

Note that up until the 1970's standard .38 Special was hotter ammo then today's, and the +P ammo has been noticeably down loaded since then.
This is to the point that current +P is not much hotter then the older standard .38 Special.

This is no doubt in response to people shooting +P ammo in older small frame revolvers that were not made for hotter loads, like the older Charter Arms, S&W "J" frames and the ultra-cheap revolvers that were imported.
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Old July 3, 2022, 02:13 AM   #6
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Notoriously, Model 19s would shoot loose in as few as 50-100 full house magnum loads.
It may be "notorious", in some circles, but not in mine. I've owned a model 19, known lots of people who have, have seen and shot quite a few others, and this is the very first time I ever heard anyone claim a 19 would shoot loose in as few as 50-100 rnds.

I have a friend who did shoot a model 66 lose. It only took him 4,000 rnds, and S&W repaired the gun just fine.

I don't know what alternate reality would have a model 19 shoot loose in 50-100rnds of FACTORY full house magnum ammo, but I don't think it's this reality.

Handloads, on the other hand, can be anything. Including serious overloads on the gun. If you do that, all bets are off, and you cannot blame the gun for being overstressed. That's ALL on the guy doing the loading and shooting it. Try hard enough, you can break anything....

For those old enough to remember muscle cars (or anything standard, really) if you redline the engine and dump the clutch every time you shift, you WILL find a very short service life of several parts. That's not the fault of the designer, or the people that built it. Its the fault of the driver. No one else.
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Old July 3, 2022, 09:04 AM   #7
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I'm in the "why would you?" club, as well.
Even +P .38 Special is pretty weak sauce, compared to more modern cartridges, but why strain the old dear?
If the discussion is, "Did Colt rate their revolvers for .38-44 in the 1930s", I think the answer is yes, in the case of the medium- and large-frame models.
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Old July 3, 2022, 11:26 AM   #8
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I've got a reprint of a 1940 Colt catalog.
They rate the Police Positive Special, Detective Special, Official Police, and the Officers Model for 38/44 High Speed ammo. The New Service, and SAA too.
So they decided that all models of 38 Special, even their smallest frame guns were good with 38/44.
I still agree with the opinion " Why stress a 70plus year old pistol"
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Old July 4, 2022, 10:03 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by 44 AMP View Post
It may be "notorious", in some circles, but not in mine. I've owned a model 19, known lots of people who have, have seen and shot quite a few others, and this is the very first time I ever heard anyone claim a 19 would shoot loose in as few as 50-100 rnds.

I have a friend who did shoot a model 66 lose. It only took him 4,000 rnds, and S&W repaired the gun just fine.

I don't know what alternate reality would have a model 19 shoot loose in 50-100rnds of FACTORY full house magnum ammo, but I don't think it's this reality.

Handloads, on the other hand, can be anything. Including serious overloads on the gun. If you do that, all bets are off, and you cannot blame the gun for being overstressed. That's ALL on the guy doing the loading and shooting it. Try hard enough, you can break anything....

For those old enough to remember muscle cars (or anything standard, really) if you redline the engine and dump the clutch every time you shift, you WILL find a very short service life of several parts. That's not the fault of the designer, or the people that built it. Its the fault of the driver. No one else.
I bought a Model 19 new in 1982. I handload and within a couple years I had put around 10,000 rounds through it. Everything I loaded was a full house round, lots of 110 grain JHP's in front of as much 2400 as I dared load. Elmer Keith would have been proud.

Mine never got loose in all that. It lost the nickel on the top strap where the cylinder meets the barrel. That's about it. Lost it in a burglary in 1988 so no idea how it is today.
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Old July 4, 2022, 01:53 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by RoyceP View Post
I bought a Model 19 new in 1982. I handload and within a couple years I had put around 10,000 rounds through it. Everything I loaded was a full house round, lots of 110 grain JHP's in front of as much 2400 as I dared load. Elmer Keith would have been proud.

Mine never got loose in all that. It lost the nickel on the top strap where the cylinder meets the barrel. That's about it. Lost it in a burglary in 1988 so no idea how it is today.
Elmer would have been more proud of you loaded wadcutters.
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Old July 4, 2022, 02:18 PM   #11
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Along about 1972 I bought a couple new Diamondbacks, 38sp & 22. The dealer I bought these from cut me a deal on a case of +P he got stuck with. I really liked that Diamondback.
Seemed little bigger gun than S&W J and smaller than a S&W m15. Over following several months shot up the bulk of +P. Didn’t get to the end of it before Diamondback shot loose. The same thing happens to Pythons if a lot of magnum loads are run in them. The M19 S&W is in this same bracket.
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Old July 4, 2022, 09:43 PM   #12
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Didn’t get to the end of it before Diamondback shot loose. The same thing happens to Pythons if a lot of magnum loads are run in them. The M19 S&W is in this same bracket.
So, did Colt fix your Diamondback??

I've never had a Python, never met anyone who had one that put it through heavy use. Always heard that they Python's high quality trigger action would wear over extended use, can't say if its true or not from personal experience. Can say I've never heard of people shooting them loose, but its possible, everything wears with use.

As to putting the Model 19 in that same bracket, you must have a very wide bracket. A couple of people in this thread alone, have said they've run thousandS of rounds through them without shooting them loose. I've done it, myself, and know many other people who have.

Any individual gun can wear "earlier than it should" but to put the model 19 as a group in that "bracket" when there is so much evidence otherwise,? Sorry, I've got to play the BS card on that one...
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Old July 5, 2022, 12:27 PM   #13
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When someone says that a revolver "shot loose" it doesn't really tell us much as there are several conditions that one might describe as being "shot loose." The two most common of these conditions that I can think of would be the gun going out of time and developing excessive endshake. These two conditions, while both serious and requiring repair, are symptoms of different sets of parts wearing and of very different causes.

When a revolver goes out of time, it is because of wear to the hand, ratchet, cylinder stop, and/or cylinder stop notches. Because these parts are responsible for rotating the cylinder and stopping its rotation when the chambers are aligned with the barrel, wear to them will cause the cylinder to not rotate far enough or not be stopped in proper alignment with the barrel thus causing the revolver to go out of time. One issue somewhat unique to older Colt DA revolvers is that their lockup is significantly different than that of a S&W, Ruger, Taurus, Charter Arms, or even a newer Colt revolver that most people are more familiar with. With most DA revolvers, a small amount of rotational play in the cylinder even when the gun is at full lockup (hammer fully forward, trigger held fully to the rear) is normal and no cause for concern. In older Colts with the double-pawl lockup (sometimes referred to as the "bank vault" lockup) there should be no perceptible rotational play in the cylinder when the gun is at full lockup and the cylinder should feel as though it's glued to the frame. The problem is when people not familiar with older Colts get ahold of one which is starting to go out of time and has a slight amount of rotational play at full lockup. In these cases, the timing issues are not diagnosed early and thus the revolvers continue to be shot until the more advanced symptoms of timing issues like misfires or shaving lead from the bullet occur. This is why older Colts have gained a reputation for being "delicate".

Timing issues, by and large, are not caused by shooting +P or Magnum ammunition as the parts that control timing really aren't the ones that bear the extra stress of more powerful ammunition. Timing issues are actually more likely in a gun that sees lots of hard, fast DA shooting particularly if that gun has a larger, heavier cylinder. I have personally seen more S&W N-Frame .357 Magnums that were out of time than I have K-Frames and I've heard many competent revolver smiths say the same. The reason for this is that starting and stopping the N-Frame's larger, heavier cylinder puts more wear on the aforementioned parts than doing so with the K-Frame's smaller, lighter cylinder.

The other issue commonly described as "shooting loose" is excessive endshake which is caused by stretching of the frame and battering of the cylinder against the yoke. Excessive endshake most certainly is caused/accelerated/exacerbated by shooting more powerful ammunition, but in my experience it isn't all that common unless the gun has an aluminum or other non-steel frame, large amounts of very powerful ammunition (i.e. maximum loads) is shot, and/or the problem is not diagnosed or ignored and allowed to get worse (endshake will accelerate if not corrected once it becomes excessive).

As far as S&W K-Frames "notorious" reputation for not handling full-house magnum ammunition, it depends a lot on what specific type of full-house magnums we're talking about. The notion that they'll "shoot loose" in 50-100 rounds is nonsense as I've personally put that many rounds of magnum ammunition through various K-Frames in a single range session with no ill-effect on multiple occasions. The K-Frame Magnums I've owned have been shot nearly exclusively with factory full-power magnum ammunition or equivalent handloads and are still in fine shape today. However, I limit them to magnum ammo with bullets no lighter than 140 gr as the lighter, faster 110-125 gr magnum loadings do seem to be particularly hard on any revolver but K-Frames especially.

As to the OP's question, my personal policy on shooting +P ammunition in old guns is as follows: if the gun is all-steel, made by a reputable manufacturer, is of WWII or later vintage (the 1940 vintage Colt is close enough to fit this criteria), and is in good mechanical condition I will shoot a limited amount of +P ammunition for the purpose of confirming function and zero if I intend to use the gun for self-defense. If the gun has an aluminum or other lightweight frame material, is from a less-than-top-tier maker, of Pre-WWII vintage or is not going to me used for self-defense, I don't shoot +P ammo at all.
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Old July 5, 2022, 07:37 PM   #14
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Old July 5, 2022, 07:38 PM   #15
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Elmer would have been more proud of you loaded wadcutters.
I shot lots of those too. Generally 158 grain again with a good dose of 2400 behind it. But for indoor ranges I loved those 110 grain bullets. Huge fireball each time I pulled the trigger. Normally cleared the range out so I had it all to myself.
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Old July 5, 2022, 08:53 PM   #16
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Agree with weblymkv, except on the cause of excessive endshake. The yoke doesn't get battered that bad, but the engaging surfaces between the rear of the cylinder and the frame. To me it is the weak point of revolver design. It takes up a significant part, if not all, of the recoil impact, and yet the surface area is small.

Frankly I doubt many revolver shooters really know when a revolver is loose. Only few have heard of endshake.

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Old July 6, 2022, 12:01 PM   #17
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Originally posted by tangolima
Agree with weblymkv, except on the cause of excessive endshake. The yoke doesn't get battered that bad, but the engaging surfaces between the rear of the cylinder and the frame. To me it is the weak point of revolver design. It takes up a significant part, if not all, of the recoil impact, and yet the surface area is small.
I probably should have been a little more specific, the yoke being battered is not a cause of excessive endshake but the yoke is a factor in endshake in that stretching the yoke is one way to correct it. The other, more common method is adding endshake bearings.
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Old July 6, 2022, 04:16 PM   #18
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I probably should have been a little more specific, the yoke being battered is not a cause of excessive endshake but the yoke is a factor in endshake in that stretching the yoke is one way to correct it. The other, more common method is adding endshake bearings.
The standard method for correcting endshake is indeed to stretch the yoke tube or the gas ring, or to add shims (bearings) there. It is good for small amount of endshake. It will bring unintended consequences if the endshake is excessive. Pushing the cylinder to the back opens up cylinder gap and lessens head clearance. Either one is only tolerable to a point.

Perhaps better way is to repair the battered engagement surfaces between the rear of the cylinder and the frame. It is possible but more difficult.

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