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Cylinder gap on a S&W

This is a discussion on Cylinder gap on a S&W within the Double Action Revolvers forums, part of the Handgun Forum category; I've heard older Smith and Wesson revolvers have a bit of a cylinder gap when compared to other brands and that it's normal. I'm wondering ...


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Old 12-03-2016, 09:34 AM   #1
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Cylinder gap on a S&W

I've heard older Smith and Wesson revolvers have a bit of a cylinder gap when compared to other brands and that it's normal. I'm wondering how much us too much. I watched a video online, the guy said if u can stick the corner of a credit card in the gap, it's too much. I tried and fortunately the card wouldn't fit. But then he said that when the revolver is in the 'locked' position (by cooking the hammer, keeping your finger on the trigger while slowly releasing), the the cylinder shouldn't move at all, forward or back/side to side. He said it should feel 'welded to the frame' We'll, mine doesn't . There's very little play, but still it's there. I have to tools to get an exact measurement but I'm just wondering if a little play in the locked position is normal. It's a 1953 k38
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Old 12-03-2016, 11:26 AM   #2
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The "welded to the frame" bank vault lockup is a nice idea, but rarely happens in reality. Rotational movement at full lockup is hard to measure exactly, but total play of 1/32" or so should not be alarming. Normal "endshake" is about .001 to .004. That's the difference in cylinder gap between the gap with cylinder pushed all the way forward and the gap with the cylinder pushed all the way back. A credit card is pretty thick, about .025 to .030, way too much for barrel/cylinder gap, which should be more like .004-.006. Spending $ 10 or so for a good set of feeler gauges would be a good investment.

Last edited by Shakyshoot; 12-03-2016 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 12-03-2016, 12:50 PM   #3
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Some visible cylinder play side-to-side with the hammer down and trigger held back is normal. That's one reason the opening to the barrel (the forcing cone) is larger than the bore.

As to cylinder gap, I have odd numbers on some guns, but all are in Ruger specs, which are pretty broad.

Bearcat 1 cylinder gap is .004 & .006, for an endshake of .002.

Bearcat 2 cylinder gap is .006 & .008, for an endshake of .002.

SP-101 .22 has a gap of .004 & .006, for an endshake of .002.

LCR-22 has a gap of .003 & .010, for an endshake of .007.

LCR-357 has a gap of .004 & .011, for an endshake of .007.

Ruger tells me the endshake on the LCRs is normal, due to play in the simple crane, and the cylinder assembly. Both of mine are replacements for guns I sent back for other issues. I take their word for it, the LCRs shoot fine with no issues.

.

Last edited by bearcatter; 12-03-2016 at 01:02 PM.
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Old 12-03-2016, 01:47 PM   #4
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I wouldn't lose a bit of sleep about the lockup as long as the gun is shooting, well, without a lot of leading or spitting lead. A little play is absolutely normal and, in some guns, is actually built into the gun, intentionally. Would love to tell you that I've found a direct relationship between a tight lockup and group size, but just ain't so. Have had some "sloppy" guns that were excellent shooters.

As for cylinder gap, the only negative to excessive gap is extra velocity loss and and for a mild, short range cartridge like a 38, that's a non-issue. Those old 38s were made with plenty of cylinder gap to make sure the cylinder would still rotate even when the front of the cylinder had lead and debris buildup from lack of cleaning or when used in combat conditions. That reliability is far more important than any extra velocity you might lose from a wide gap. Remember, a lot of those old Smith 38s were duty guns and target guns. Reliability was number one. No one even measured cylinder gap, in those days, and no one had the means to check velocity, anyway. Pretty much a non-issue until shooters started having access to affordable chronographs.

Last edited by north country gal; 12-03-2016 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 12-03-2016, 03:50 PM   #5
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Colt DA revolvers normally had that tight lockup but with a Smith & Wesson a little rotational play is normal. Their systems are different. That tightness is part of why Colts are less durable than S&Ws. If there is none on a S&W, you have to be careful that the lock bolt goes fully into the notch. A bit of play takes care of that. I have had many S&W revolvers, old and new. I have only one that locks up tight like a Colt. Older ones usually had good gaps, as listed by others. I have seen excessive gaps when S&W quality was bad, such as the 1980s. I have seen .012" on brand new revolvers. Some endshake is good to allow for variations in case rim width and such. As NCG said, reasonable clearances will not cost accuracy.

Some feeler gauges are indeed useful.
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Old 12-04-2016, 03:55 AM   #6
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My shooting buddy has a Colt Python that he is in love with. He encouraged me to shoot it. I shoot right handed and he shoots left handed. That said, I did shoot the Python twice just to satisfy his offer for me to try it out.
Well, things did not go as I had expected. the Colt had all of the expected goodness when it came to having the feel of a very well made gun. When I fired it things changed for me.
I felt a sting on my left cheek just under my glasses. Then again on the second shot it happened again..
I told him I appreciated the chance to shoot it and gave it back to him.
His love for the Python was too great for me to tell him there was something wrong with the head spacing and I kept quiet. After all he shoots left handed and he will never know there is a problem. I still have not told him of the problem so as not to hurt his feelings for his treasured Colt.
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Old 12-04-2016, 08:06 AM   #7
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If it's spitting lead that regularly, he needs to have it looked at and therein lies the problem. I wouldn't let just anyone take apart a Colt.
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Old 12-04-2016, 11:30 AM   #8
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I've always wondered why more pistols aren't like the Nagant M1895.
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Old 12-04-2016, 11:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 303Lithgow View Post
I've always wondered why more pistols aren't like the Nagant M1895.
I think that system had problems of its own. Not really worth the trouble for the very small gain in velocity. Used a special cartridge and had a loading gate like SAs.
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Old 12-04-2016, 12:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bearcatter View Post
I think that system had problems of its own. Not really worth the trouble for the very small gain in velocity. Used a special cartridge and had a loading gate like SAs.
Agreed. It required a lot of complexity and an overly long firing pin, and makes a gun more sensitive to fouling buildup, and the gains over a proper gap, .004" to .006", are insignificant. The fact others never bothered is a good clue it was not worthwhile.
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Old 12-04-2016, 03:48 PM   #11
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. Looks like I don't have anything to worry about. The gap is very minimal and it shoots fine. I will get some feeler grades tho, sounds like it be good to have on hand, especially if I were to buy a used revolver in the future
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Old 12-04-2016, 03:58 PM   #12
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Hey Kimber, don't take this the wrong way as my intentions are good. Suppose the next person to shoot that colt is a pretty young lady who holds the gun about the same way you do but just a little higher without Shooting glasses? Guess what I'm sayin is maybe tell him, be tougher to sleep with the consequences of not telling him than the temporary hurt feelings of tellin him. Just sayin.
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Old 12-05-2016, 04:03 AM   #13
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Dennis, I know what you are saying. I know I should tell him about the alignment problem, but whether or not he will believe me is another thing. The next time he has it at the range, I'll ask to shoot it and then bring up the problem. I really hate to hurt his feelings over his loved pistol, but your thoughts might save someone's sight. I appreciate your input.
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Old 12-05-2016, 04:32 AM   #14
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Glad you took my comments in the spirit they were intended kimber.
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Old 12-05-2016, 08:21 AM   #15
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Anybody really understand measuring barrel / cylinder gap? I've always understood it was measured with the cylinder pushed forward. Pushed back is just to get your endshake difference, and endshake doesn't matter if the headspace is right. All confusing.

There is a respected smith on one of the Ruger forums, and I've read him define the gap as being forward, or back, depending on the day and post !

Jerry Kuhnhausen's book on single action Rugers defines it as with the cylinder forward, IIRC. I have the book, but can't find the page.
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Old 12-05-2016, 10:03 AM   #16
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It should be forward. There needs to be some clearance in back so the cylinder will rotate with the maximum thickness rim or cartridge length allowed by specs.

This for/aft play also is why firing a primed case may lock up the cylinder.
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