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Discussion Starter #1
I just signed on, so if this has already been asked (and I expect it may have been), please excuse me!
I have several Colt DA revolvers including Pythons, Diamondbacks, a probably 1960's vintage Detective Special, a 1909 and a 1917 New Service. The 1909 has timing problems that are being fixed.

My question is, what exactly is the reason for this seeming timing problem on Colt revolvers? I keep hearing and reading about it but none of my other Colts exhibit this problem. I have read about the hand needing replacing etc...but why should this be true of Colts and not other brands like S&W?
I am planning on buying another 1917 in lesser condition than the one I have as a shooter and I want it to be reliable. Just wondering! Thanks!
 

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By design the cylinder of all Colt "v" spring DA revolvers made since the early 20th century actually "locks up" immediately prior to cartridge discharge. The hand is directly involved in this mechanical operation.

Remember that your 1909 was made before modern alloys were introduced and before what we would today think of as "controlled" heat treating was used by any handgun manufacturer.

S&W revolver cylinders do not lock up like this, in fact, positive control over cylinder rotation in the sense that we speak of in Colt revolvers is entirely absent in S&W's.

This, along with the superb quality of the best Colt barrels, is why during the time when the revolver was the dominant type of handgun used in competition Colt revolvers were considered by the great majority of top shooters to have an accuracy edge over S&W's.

So what you're looking at is a tradeoff in mechanical engineering. In the hands of a really good shooter many Colt revolvers will produce an extra point or two over the course of a match compared to a good S&W, but S&W's are a bit more durable. Perhaps more exactly stated, the problems that S&W revolvers do develop are often more easily fixed by the majority of gunsmiths. S&W K, L, & N frame internals are quite straightforward, but the rebound lever (for instance) of a Colt "v" spring action is a multi purpose part with many hand fit details all of which must be "just so" for optimum function.

To my mind the timing problem is usually overstated. Two major things contribute to it. The first is the use of loads beyond the design parameters of the ammunition in use at the time the revolver was manufactured. The second is simply very extended use of the revolver. Heck, your 1909 is nearing one hundred years old. Of my own revolvers I've repaired in the past year a 1908 manufactured S&W triplelock that had timing issues, as well as a 1915 manufactured Colt PPT with similar problems.

Bob

[This message has been edited by bfoster (edited 12-26-2003).]
 

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If the two causes of timing problems can be attributed to extended use and hot ammo. then why would my Python w/ less than 100 rds. of use have mild timing problems along w/ my OMM .22 which has also seen little use. Both of these are from the same general era - late 60's to early 70's.

I'm not disagreeing w/ the 2 main culprits but I wonder if lack of use for extended periods (years) could also contribute to the problem.
 

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The hand holds the cylinder fimly in place with the bolt during firing of a Colt. This insures the proper lineup of the chamber's throat with the barrel's bore. The very tip of the hand that does all the work absorbs the recoil and torque of the cylinder. Overloads and rapid DA shooting exerts extra pressure to this small piece of metal. Timing is lost when the tip of the hand begins to wear and the positive lineup changes. By comparasion a Smith's hand retracts and the cylinder is allowed to self center itself by the bullet as it leaves the throat and enter the forcing cone.
The timing problem is really not as prevalent as some make it out to be, except in revolvers that have been abused or extremely old models that have been used extensively.

More than likely Shortcut you had a metalurgy problem with the parts. The parts just weren't hard enough when manufactored.


[This message has been edited by Majic (edited 12-27-2003).]
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the information. I can see now why the hand could be the problem. Probably the thing to do would be to buy a tight 1917 and maybe pick up a hand for future reference.

I was a bit confused by the talk on many gun forums about Colt revolvers and this timing issue. These DA Colt revolvers were used by thousands of police officers and military men for a century; I feel if this problem were as bad as some say, these guns would not have had this kind of popularity and longevity within police and military circles.

And thanks for the warm welcome to this forum!
 

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Getting a few extra parts is a good idea.

However, do not expect to be able to just drop in a new part & have every thing work just fine. This is rarely the case with Colts, especially the I frame.

I saw it written that Colts have too few of parts doing too many things. When you change one component, it will likely affect the operation of others. So hand fitting to ensure proper operation is the norm. Unfortunately.

As an example I have swapped in 3 different hands (Python) into the same gun and all three reacted differently. One was brand new and the other two came from perfectly time guns.

Just be aware that our beloved Colt revolvers do not lend themselves to owner provided service. For this reason there are too few gunsmiths that can work on them with any degree of success.
 

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SHORTCUT:
Lack of use will have no effect on the action, other than a possible problem with dried out lube making things sticky.
Sometimes a "timing" problem is corrected by a cleaning and fresh lube.

The operating parts in the older Colt's, of which the Python is one, are simply smaller, and somewhat delicate.

One major contributor to timing problems is abuse, intentional or unknowing.

Among these are "Bogarting", or slamming the cylinder open and shut with a Hollywood flick of the wrist, force cocking the action, giving the trigger a very forceful yank when shooting double action, and shooting high pressure loads.

The parts simply get battered by all this.

Another contributor is the decline in quality at Colt from the early 70's.

As I've said elsewhere, you can't judge a gun based on year of manufacture.
Guns aren't bottles of wine...there are no "vintages".
Each must be judged on it's individual merits.

BUT...Colt's (and everyone else's) quality declined, and many of the problems with newer guns was caused by misfitting at the factory.

Too many Colt's were just too "close to the edge" and barely timed correctly, right from the factory.

Combine this with older guns that saw hard service and just wore, and you have the reputation for timing problems on Colt revolvers.

The old Colt design is a marvel of engineering, with an intricate multi-function operation. To work properly, the Colt MUST be in proper adjustment, or the action gets out of time, looses accuracy, and in general noticeably fails to work properly.

Other brand guns, have less intricate actions that don't need to be perfect to work. When they develop problems, the problems are masked by the less sophisticated design.
Many owners of these guns are surprised when a gunsmith tells them their revolver isn't working properly and needs repair.

The owner never noticed there was something wrong.

All this comes down to quality of function.
The amazing accuracy of the old Colt design requires a perfect action.

A $100,000.00 Italian sports car just requires more care and maintenance than the family Ford or Chevy.

Colt's require more fitting and owner care than a S&W or Ruger. They don't take abuse, and if not properly fitted at the factory, they won't hold timing under any use at all.

For every out of time Colt I've seen, I've seen Colt's with many thousands of rounds out of them that are still in perfect time.

My best advice:
Treat your Colt properly.
If you have a problem, get it fixed NOW.
More shooting just makes it worse.

Once the gun is properly timed, (note the word "properly") it should last for many, many years with no proplems.
 

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Thanks dfariswheel. I've never abused my Colts as you've described but I did get them used & have no idea how they might have been treated by previous owners. They both appeared to be cosmetically excellent & locked-up solid when trigger held back & hammer down.

What really bothers me is my lack of knowledge. More accurately it's my ".. little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing" situation.

It's probably best to send them back to Colt for repair but if anyone on this forum knows a gunsmith in PA competent enough to repair Pythons I'd appreciate knowing their name.

[This message has been edited by shortcut (edited 12-27-2003).]
 

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There was a top factory authorized Colt repair service.
They were so good, Colt used them for their over-flow warranty repairs.

The company was Pittsburgh Handgun Headquarters, in Pittsburgh.

I haven't heard anything about them for a few years, so I'm not sure if they're still in Pittsburgh, or even still in business.

I'd try to locate them, or failing that, send it in to the factory.

A word of warning about the older style Colt handguns:
It's fairly easy to find otherwise qualified pistolsmiths who claim to be Colt revolver-qualified.
Most of them AREN'T.

Trust the Colt factory, Cylinder & Slide in Nebraska, or Pittsburgh Handgun.
 
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