Detective Special Closing Cylinder Issue
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Thread: Detective Special Closing Cylinder Issue

  1. #1
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    Detective Special Closing Cylinder Issue

    I didn't really want to create a separate thread, but this is a different Colt Detective with a different issue than my other one. Long story short, I had the opportunity to pick up a first issue Colt Detective Special, so I bought it. Everything about it is perfect, and it's in pretty nice condition for being from 1936. The only problem I'm noticing is that when you release the cylinder (to re-load) and go to push it back in, it doesn't naturally swing back into the frame. Instead, the front of the cylinder slightly overlaps with where it meets the back of the barrel (where it screws into the frame), stopping its path.

    If you pull back the cylinder release and swing it back in, it works fine. As well, if you simple slide the cylinder back toward the rear of the gun while swinging it back into place, that works too. But if you simply tried to naturally swing it in on its own, it stops when the cylinder comes in contact with the back of the barrel. My question is, how hard of an issue is this to fix? I've also noticed the cylinder when locked in place also jiggles slightly left/right more than some other detectives I've handled (the direction the cylinder naturally rotates), however I don't believe that's a major issue as it's not extreme. I haven't been able to shoot it yet, so I can't speak if it's caused any issues related to firing.

    More than likely, I imagine it will need to go to a smith, but depending how complex of a problem it is, I don't think I'd want to take it to any local run-of-the-mill shops that aren't used to working on these old hand-crafted pieces at risk of goofing something up. Does anyone know a respectable coltsmith that is still in business? Or at least a shop noted for their work on these types of guns? I'm in the Columbus, OH area if that helps any.
    Last edited by Spirit; 12-23-2019 at 09:27 AM.

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    The first thing I would check is to see how worn the crane lock screw is, or actually the crane lock. If the crane lock isn't holding the cylinder back this might cause your problem. With the cylinder open does the crane move forward and back. I have my Detective Special here post War but the crane doesn't move when open.
    dfariswheel might chime in he's pretty good at diagnosing these things
    Ken
    "I like Colts and will die that way"

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    Quote Originally Posted by kenhwind View Post
    The first thing I would check is to see how worn the crane lock screw is, or actually the crane lock. If the crane lock isn't holding the cylinder back this might cause your problem. With the cylinder open does the crane move forward and back. I have my Detective Special here post War but the crane doesn't move when open.
    dfariswheel might chime in he's pretty good at diagnosing these things
    Unfortunately I'm at work now, so I will check when I get home and get back to you on that. I can't speak for the screws, but with the cylinder open, I don't really remember the crane moving forward and back much at all. I do remember you could pull it slightly toward the rear of the gun but what feels like a spring shifted it back into place. Other than that, it didn't feel lose or out of the ordinary, but I'll have to intently inspect it later. And I imagined dfariswheel might pop in here sooner or later. Actually was looking forward to it, because like you said, he's pretty good at diagnosing these things!

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    It may need a thorough cleaning...crud could be impeding movement. That would be the easiest thing.
    kenhwind and oberon like this.
    Socialism is like a Jedi Mind Trick...it only works on the weak minded. SnidelyWhiplash
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    Good people do not need laws to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws. Plato



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    Quote Originally Posted by SnidelyWhiplash View Post
    It may need a thorough cleaning...crud could be impeding movement. That would be the easiest thing.
    When I was in armorer's school at Aberdeen Proving Ground, they taught us that the Number 1 cause of firearms' failures was lack of preventive maintenance.

    And here was have an older Colt and gun oil, particularly the bore cleaner dries up like varnish over the years.
    Ken
    "I like Colts and will die that way"

  7. #6
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    Here's some possible causes for the cylinder striking the rear of the barrel.......

    Stretched frame......
    There's no repair for this, but it's not a common problem.

    Excessive crane or cylinder retention stud wear.......
    If the retention slot in the crane wears it will allow the crane to move forward when it's swung out.
    If the cylinder retention stud is worn it also allows the crane to move forward.
    The test for both is to swing out the cylinder and try to move it forward.
    Don't confuse cylinder movement, since there will always be some of that. What keeps the cylinder itself in place is the cylinder stop on the lower-front of the side plate.
    You're looking for CRANE movement in and out of the frame. Just grab the crane and see if it slides back and forth.

    The old pre-war Colt cranes had a square cut groove for the retention stud to lock into and they seldom wear.
    Probable cause of actual crane movement is usually a worn retention stud.
    Fortunately cylinder studs are readily available.

    Excessive cylinder end shake........
    This is back and forth movement of the cylinder in the frame when closed.
    If the cylinder has end shake, that allows the cylinder to move forward, and can allow the cylinder to hit the barrel when closing, and worse, can allow the cylinder to strike the rear of the barrel when fired.

    To measure.....
    Use a cheap automotive feeler gage set.
    Push the closed cylinder to the rear and hold it there as you gage the gap between the front of the cylinder and the rear of the barrel.
    Push the cylinder forward and hold it as the gap is gaged again.
    Subtract one measurement from the other and that's how much cylinder end shake is present.
    Note that the measurement with the cylinder to the rear is the actual barrel-cylinder gap, which should be between 0.004" to 0.008", with 0.005" considered to be "perfect".

    The Colt spec for cylinder end shake is very tight....NO MORE then 0.003" is allowed before the revolver requires repair.
    Failure to do repair and continuing shooting will batter the cylinder, ejector, and frame causing damage.

    The good news is that the older Colt's have a flange on the crane that the cylinder butts against, so a fitted shim washer can be slipped over the crane to correct end shake.
    Newer Colt's don't have the flange on the crane so the only repair is to have a Master pistolsmith who has a special hydraulic machine stretch the collar on the front of the cylinder.
    Virtually no one has the machine so see the below recommendations for a pistolsmith.

    Sprung crane.......
    Older Colt cranes were rather soft steel and can be sprung or bent by "Bogarting" the gun.
    This is doing the old movie trick of opening and closing the cylinder with a flick of the wrist, slamming it open and shut.
    A sprung crane can allow the cylinder to hit the barrel when closing, and causes miss-alignment between the chambers and bore.
    A good pistolsmith can correct this using the correct techniques and tools.
    Repair usually requires a precision "thimble" that fits over the stripped crane and will enter the frames locking hole in the breech face when the crane is correctly straightened.

    To your notice of the cylinder having rotational movement......
    Some Colt's will have more then others and that's a sign of a worn bolt, a bolt that's not tight in the frame, or worn cylinder locking notches. This movement of the cylinder while the action is at rest is not critical.
    What matters is: Does the cylinder lock up tightly when the trigger is held back, and is the chamber in alignment with the bore?

    The older Colt's have the famous Colt "Bank Vault" lock up that when the trigger is pulled the cylinder is forced into alignment with the bore and locked there.
    That's one reason the old Colt action revolvers were noted for superior accuracy. The bullet entered the bore perfectly aligned and the bullet wasn't deformed by striking the forcing cone off center.
    If with the trigger held back the cylinder has rotational movement it needs pistolsmith repair.
    If the action or cylinder notches are worn or damaged alignment can be gaged using a precision Range Rod that's slipped down the barrel with the trigger held back. If it catches on the chamber edges the alignment is off.

    To test lock up just pull the trigger and hold it back while you try to rotate the cylinder back and forth. The harder you pull the trigger the tighter the cylinder is locked in place. (Within reason, you can damage the action by pulling too hard or turning the cylinder too hard).
    There should be no movement of the cylinder.
    If there isn't any rotational movement, you're good.

    If you need professional repairs the forum recommends two Master Colt pistolsmiths.......

    Frank Glenn, a well known American Handgunner magazine Top 100 Pistolsmith who's a member here and who's done a good bit of work for members to top ratings for price, turnaround, and quality of work done to Colt factory specs and standards.

    Frank Glenn-Glenn Custom Complete Gunsmithing Service Glendale AZ

    Spartan Firearms is also a member and was trained at the Colt factory by a legendary Colt gunsmith.

    https://bpczubak.wixsite.com/spartanfc
    Spirit, Kerz and Collects like this.

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    @dfariswheel Once again, just wanted to say thank you for the detailed and comprehensive response! You're much appreciated, as always.

  9. #8
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    dfariswheel, This much information, and for free!!!

    Seems like info for 1911s is everywhere, revolvers not so much. Thanks for the info,
    will help in my search for my first wheel gun.
    Mike


 

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