Information Overload.


      My intention with the following information is education. Knowledge is power. The power to make informed decisions and smart decisions. Everyone wants to know the secret to something and some people pontificate to have that secret, i.e. synthetic motor oil to lubricate your firearm. Certain things you just shouldn’t do. There are no secrets, just knowledge from years of trial and error with a bit of intelligence and perseverance. There are right ways and wrong ways to do something. Sometimes there are two ways to do something right and one way just seems better to you. Knowledge helps you figure that out. If this page helps you make better decisions because you are better informed, then I am really happy. I may see a lot less messed up revolvers in the future, but I know there will be a lot more people making smart decisions about the work they do to their revolvers or the work they have others do to them.


Section 1. Gunsmiths, Chefs & Philosophy

Section 2. Tips and Little Known Facts

Section 3. Myths and Bad Advice


Section 1

Gunsmiths, Chefs & Philosophy.


I talk on the phone with customers every day. The range of questions is quite broad, but a very common question is, “What is Premium Action Work and how is what you do different from ABC gunsmith?”. Every gunsmith has a different philosophy about their gunsmith work. Let’s look at action work for starters. First let me state that I believe; “Action work is the process of making the action smoother, lighter, more precise, more reliable with the benefits of better accuracy and making the revolvers’ parts last longer”. Action work is not the same thing to every gunsmith. This is why there is so much confusion around the issue. For some gunsmiths “action work” is a cash cow. Do the least amount of work, in the quickest time with the least cost to the company. Most accomplish this in 10 to 15 minutes per revolver. Better gunsmiths take 1.5 – 2 hours for one revolver. Let me use the analogy that gunsmiths are exactly like chefs and that action work is like a finely made dessert, really. Think of all the restaurants you have had the same dessert from. It is the same dish with the same basic ingredients, but each chef uses slightly different amounts and methods to accomplish the final product. You have had this dessert at places that really impressed you, some that were pretty good and some that you probably wouldn’t waste your money on again. Each chef has a different philosophy of cooking. Again, every gunsmith has a different philosophy about their gunsmith work. You can find gunsmiths doing action work for single action revolvers ranging from $75.00 to $600.00. You will have to try a few to taste/know the difference. Paying a lot more doesn’t mean you are getting more and paying a lot less doesn’t mean you are getting a great deal.

First understand that about 70% of what you feel when cocking a revolver is from the springs alone. That is why some gunsmiths don’t do much more than replace them or bend and grind them and call that action work. Who is going to know, right? Most people believe that what they feel when when they cock their revolver is what determines the quality. This is not the case. Here are some options for action work on a Colt or a Vaquero that should help explain this. Read all of them and then decide which one you want done to your revolver. Option 1. Take a New Vaquero out of the box, cut three to four coils off the mainspring and cut one leg off the trigger spring. On a colt, grind the mainspring and sear spring down – $00.00. This makes a huge difference in the way the action feels. Option 2. Take a New Vaquero or Colt out of the box and install reduced power mainspring and trigger spring – $16.00. Option 3. Send your revolver to a high volume company to have them polish all internals and install lighter springs, $160.00 – $195.00. Option 4. Send your revolver to a quality gunsmith that does what I explain below as “Premium Action Work”, $195 – $250. This revolver will feel a touch smoother than any revolver that had Options 1, 2 or 3, but most importantly it will be more reliable and it will last longer. Option 5. Spend $350 – $600 for action work. All of these are valid options and definately change the way the revolver feels when you cock it and shoot it. You need to decide which one of these options is right for you.

These first three options will feel just about the same to you, really. That is why on the Internet you have people say, “Just cut some coils off the mainspring and cut a leg off the trigger spring and save yourself a lot of money”. Again there is more to action work than just what you feel. High quality action work involves much more than installing lighter springs or polishing the internals. Quality action work involves altering angles, re-shaping parts and polishing specific areas to create an internal system that works together more efficiently and with less wear to the parts. Some of this work can’t be “felt”. Option 4 does save you money in the long run.

The following explains what “Premium Action Work” is as performed by Classic Single Action on a Colt Single Action Army revolver. By the way, some gunsmiths do what I do. I am not unique or the most amazing one on this planet. I have just decided to talk about our differences to help you be better informed and make better choices. “Premium Action Work” starts with a twelve area inspection. Then moves into a twenty-six-point service wherein just the friction load surfaces are honed and polished. Any areas of the frame or parts that have sharp or roughly machined edges are cleaned up. The hand is altered in three areas to perform at maximum efficiency with the ratchet and reduce wear. Both trigger sear angles are precisely cut to mate with the newly cut hammer sear angle for positive and reliable engagement. The bolt head is altered in three areas, crowned, angled and positioned front to rear to perfectly match the cylinder notch and lead shapes. Both bolt legs are altered in two areas along with the hammer cam ramp angle for reduced hammer let-down friction and increased bolt leg life span. The bolt lip is altered on a mill for better engagement with the notches. (Detailed explanation below) The revolver is timed correctly. This means the bolt pops up on the lead precisely and the trigger engages the hammer sear just as the bolt engages the cylinder notch. The loading gate plunger is polished and lubricated. A custom made mainspring and hand-made sear spring are installed. The trigger release is set for reliability, safety and longevity. The revolver is test fired with new Starline bass and Winchester primers. This takes 1.5 to 2 hours per revolver and takes skill. I use small batch custom made mainsprings that cost six times what the popular brands cost and I hand make the sear springs using modern, expensive wire spring steel in three different gauges. You can also ask for one of two different custom flat sear springs to be installed. In addition, “Premium Action Work” work can be tailored in certain ways to your specific wants. Louder clicks, quieter clicks, no creep trigger, touch of trigger creep, (known as a “bullseye” trigger in 1911 circles), trigger pulls from 1lbs to 4lbs and heavier or lighter mainsprings in three versions.

“Premium Action Work” is the name I coined for my high-end action work back in 2008. I offered “Action Work” and “Premium Action Work” with an explanation of the two as many customers may recall. They had two different price points. In 2012 two companies copied the name “Premium Action” work. I have been told by customers that they claim to do the same thing I do. This is not true.

Below is an example of “action work” (Fig.A) a customer paid good money for. Pretty much Option 1. The mainspring is ground down and one leg of the trigger spring bent with other removed from the post for $75.00. Some revolvers are so stiff and rough from the factory that this actually feels better, but this is not quality action work at all.





Let’s look at two small areas of action work on a Colt single action revolver and see how different Gunsmithing philosophies approach these modifications differently. You might start to see that Gunsmithing is way more complex than you ever imagined. The first area we will look at briefly and the second in more depth. The following are two examples of different Gunsmithing philosophies.

       #1. Some gunsmiths “advance” the timing for competitive shooting. Time is money and when your business is profit focused this is what you do. Two taps on a grinder and you’re done. Advancing the timing makes the bolt drop on your cylinder, before the lead, and scars up your cylinder and wears the bolt out faster as it now travels farther under contact with the cylinder. Better gunsmiths will shape the bolt correctly and don’t advance the timing. It takes more time and precise work to shape the bolt correctly so you don’t have to advance the timing to make a gun reliable at speed. Different philosophy.

       #2. The bolt on a single action revolver is modified for lock-up differently by different gunsmiths. The bolt is one of the trickiest parts to work on and the most misunderstood. Let’s look at one of the five areas on a bolt that better gunsmiths alter, the front lip. Almost all new single action revolvers have bolt heads that don’t fully bottom out into the cylinder notches. The front lip of the bolt limits how deep into the cylinder notch the bolt crown goes. Many gunsmiths simply grind the front lip off so the crown will drop fully in the notch. About seven seconds of work. This will often cause the bolt to stay in the upward position if you cock the hammer with the cylinder removed. The leg that rides over the hammer cam cannot reset because it is too low. You have heard some gunsmiths say this is normal. “Just push down on the bolt head to free it up”. OK here we go. Read this slowly. My philosophy is different. The bolt pivots on the bolt screw. The more the top of the bolt wears down, two things happen. First it creates the lock-up condition just explained above and secondly and far less known, the more the bolt crown wears down, the farther reward the bolts crown moves on this pivot. As the crown migrates rearward it is now off center with the lead and the notch, towards the rear. (Fig.B) This leads to over rotation as the bolt will begin to skip out of the notch because it strikes it off center. I have repaired many revolvers that have had the bolt altered this way. Bolt crown to the rear of the lead and notch is one of the leading causes of over rotation at speed. It is my belief and philosophy (and Colts’ shop manual) that this lip is there for a very good reason, i.e., To prevent the aforementioned two problems from happening. Bolts need to be replaced when the crowns wear down to a certain point so you don’t damage your cylinder and have over-rotation problems. If the lip is removed, you eventually go beyond this point without knowing it. The photo below shows what eventually happens. The bolt head is contacting so far rearward, the cylinder is over rotating by jumping out of the notch. 





       So with my philosophy being different, how do I actually modify the bolt lip and why? With only the bolt and the cylinder in the revolver, I place a small piece of jewelers wax in a cylinder notch. I then press the bolt into this notch. The bolt lip stops it from bottoming out in the notch. I remove the pressed wax from the notch and measure it with digital calipers. This tells me how much deeper the head of the bolt needs to go into the notch. Usually .004” to .007”. (A human hair is .003”) I place the bolt in my mill and with a carbide end mill, I mill the top of the lip down by this measurement plus .003” to .006”. Now I check the bolt’s function in the revolver with the cylinder and without. When properly done the bolt will fully seat in the notch, have room for wear and not cause the bolt to stick in the up position with the cylinder removed. Now the bolt head cannot wear down to the point it will cause damage or over-rotation to your cylinder. This kind of work takes time and a lot of it. Fifteen to twenty minutes for this modification alone.

I hope that helps you see how some gunsmiths have different philosophies on Gunsmithing. Let me be really clear on something. In everything that was discussed above, I am not saying that one way is right and the other is wrong. I am merely illustrating, that gunsmiths have different approaches because we have a different philosophy about the end result, the time we are willing to spend and the profit we want to make. So what makes a procedure wrong and not just another way of doing it? Wrong, to me, implies that the procedure involves altering parts in a way that the original design and function are now being compromised. For example; There is a video on YouTube that states the way to time the bolt on a single action revolver is to lower the hammer cam by grinding or filing it lower. This is really wrong! Do not ever do this to time the bolt. Some things take a lot to explain and this is one of those things. So the short of it is that if you do this, the hammer cam now becomes the primary timing part when it wears on the edge that contacts the leg of the bolt. This is wrong. Now you cannot alter the bolt to change the timing when the timing goes south, like the parts were designed to work. You have to fit a new hammer or hammer cam. This is a procedure that involves altering parts in a way that the original design is now being compromised. Just don’t do it. Any procedures you read about on the internet, unless they come from a gunsmith with 20 years professional experience with that particular firearm, are not to be trusted.

    So how do you choose the right gunsmith to work on your revolvers? Pick one that does things the way you would like them done for the money you are comfortable paying. Choose a gunsmith that has a philosophy in line with yours. You might be fine with paying someone $75 to grind and bend your stock springs. You might be fine with paying a high volume, profit focused business to get it done sooner rather than later. You might like paying well north of $300 for action work because it makes you feel like you really got something. All of the options above are valid if you are OK with it and you know what you are getting. I am not passing judgement. I’m just explaining some differences to help you be better informed. As illustrated in Fig.A above, there are some really quick ways to make the customer think they got a great deal. We all try different restaurants to see where the food is best for our tastes. Don’t be afraid to ask your gunsmith what it is, exactly, that he is doing to your revolver. Ask the chef, “What is in that recipe”. I have explained my recipe above.


Section 2.

Advise, Tips & Little Known Facts


      1. Always put a single action revolver in half cock to remove and insert the cylinder. Yes, some people don’t know this, don’t laugh. With a Vaquero you obviously just open the loading gate.


      2. Remove your cylinder without scratching it. Fig. C. Cut a piece of paper the length of your cylinder, front to rear and 8.5 inches long. Place the revolver in half cock and slide the paper around the cylinder from the left side. Now remove the base pin and the cylinder will come out without scarring it.





      3. Should a full length removable cylinder bushing be removable or not? If the cylinder bushing is allowed to move freely inside the cylinder, there are now two areas of friction as the cylinder rotates. Outside the bushing and inside. This results in more rotational friction/drag and it will wear the cylinder out under extended or competitive use. You will need a new cylinder if this outside area wears a lot. If the bushing is friction fit, it cannot spin on this outside surface. Now there is only one area of rotational friction, and it’s smaller, the inside of the bushing. The action is now smoother. When the base pin and/or the bushing wear out you can replace one or both. No need for a new cylinder. I reccomend you ask your gunsmith to friction fit the bushing if the revolver is for competition or will be shot a lot. You can ruin the bushing if you do not know how to do this correctly! For black powder shooters it is better to have the bushing spin freely. Call me if you want to know why. It is pretty lengthy.


      4. Is a base pin with a full ring locking notch better than one with a half notch? Man that half ring notch on Pietta revolvers is annoying, but it actually saves your frame from wearing out at the front and rear holes. It doesn’t allow the base pin to spin. If the base pin spins freely, it is just lapping those frame holes all the time. Fixing this to tighten up a wobbly cylinder is costly. Be happy if your base pin does not spin. Especially if you are a competitive shooter. Good gunsmiths can modify base pins to keep them from rotating. Pietta designed their revolvers with #3 and #4 for a very good reason.


      5. What are Colt crush washers? Crush washers are pictured to the left of the screwdrivers below. All Colt SAA revolvers leave the factory with red plastic crush washers under every screw. They keep the screws from backing out. When the screws are tightened properly they will never come loose. If you over-tighten the screw, you destroy the washer. The screws should be tightened between 5in lbs. and 6in lbs. of torque, not foot pounds. This is a dilemma you may not be able to solve unless you have the proper tools. When I work on Single Action revolvers, I use the screwdrivers you see pictured below. Two of them are variable torque and three of them are not. They cost from $135 to $185 each. Call me if you want one of these screwdrivers. They are made in Germany and come with independent lab certificates of accuracy. They are used in Aerospace and Electronic Engineering applications that require exact toque speciations on the fasteners used. The proper torque for screws without washers is between 10in lbs. and 12.5in lbs. Again, not foot pounds.




      6. Can you have a light trigger spring and a heavy trigger pull? Yes. Let me be absolutely clear that better Gunsmiths don’t put lighter trigger springs in revolvers just to make the trigger pull lighter. The real purpose of the lighter spring is to make the action smoother. A by-product of this is that it does make the trigger pull lighter if you do nothing else. Many of you have put lighter sear/trigger springs in your revolver and then been dissapoited that you had a hair trigger. That is because you only did half the job. Better gunsmiths then re-cut the trigger and hammer sear angles to achieve the proper trigger pull. Trigger pull is determined by the angles cut, not the spring used. Most of us like 2.5lbs. to 3lbs. If all you do is replace the stock trigger spring with a light one you will have a lighter trigger pull weight, maybe too light.


      7. “Misfires” can be the toughest to diagnose. There are more reasons a revolver will misfire than bullets in a backstop. Here are some of the most common I see. #5 is in here for laughs.

Misfire #1. If your base pin has popped forward, out of the notch. This will cause misfires and cylinder scaring. If your base pin is not all the way in and locked in the notch, your revolver can misfire and feel hard to cock. Scaring at the rear of the cylinder will also be visible. I have had more than a few customers send me their revolver because it was “misfiring”. When I received it, the base pin was not locked in the notch. The firing pin strike on the primer will be off center and light.

Misfire #2. Cock your revolver slowly. If your trigger pops forward with the bolt in the lead and the cylinder still needs to rotate considerably, your trigger is worn short. Your revolver can misfire. Over the years I have had a lot of target shooters that have brought me revolvers saying they were misfiring intermittently. They cocked them slowly, carefully and deliberately. They stopped pulling back on the hammer when they heard and felt the forth click. With a short trigger, the cylinder still needs to rotate in order to lock the bolt in the notch and align the cylinder properly. The firing pin strike will be on the case next to the primer at the edge, off center at 3 O’clock.

Misfire #3. If the action work on your revolver was done correctly and you have hammer stops, the trigger should pop forward just about the same time the bolt locks into the cylinder notch. In 2020 had a top 10 SASS shooter brought me his newly worked on revolvers saying they were misfiring, usually when he cocked the revolvers slower? The first thing I noticed when cocking the revolvers slowly was that the triggers popped forward as the hammer stops hit and the cylinder still needed to rotate for the bolt to engage the cylinder notches. When a revolver is cycled really fast this isn’t usually a problem. Inertia will carry the cylinder the rest of the way. If you slow down or the cylinder gets dirty and doesn’t spin freely, you will have misfires. The firing pin strike will be on the case next to the primer at the edge, off center at 3 O’clock. Hammer stops can create a problem if you do not know how to keep them in adjustment.

Misfire #4. If your revolver is misfiring and you see no evidence of a firing pin hit on your primmer and/or the hit is way off on the head of the case, your cylinder is over-rotating or bouncing back, not actually misfiring. Cylinder scarring and binged up cylinder notches are usually also noticed. Commonly caused by improper bolt fitting and/or wear on the bolt crown. Do not let someone grind your cylinder notches larger! This is horribly wrong.

Misfire #5. The craziest misfiring revolver I ever worked on happened during a SASS match. It turned out to be a piece of #8 shot that fell/flew into the revolver from a stage next to them. They got off three rounds and the gun stopped working. The piece of shot had wedged itself in front of the tranfer bar on a Vaquero.

Misfire #6. With the mammer down on and empty cylinder. If your cylinder moves forward and backward alot, .015″ to .020″, you could have misfires because the firing pin is too far away from the primer. This will start to happen with revolvers that have excessive wear on the ratchet and/or the cylinder bushing.

** There are easily ten more reasons revolvers misfire. In order to provide the customer with a definite reason and a solution, the gunsmith will need:

a. The revolver uncleaned and in the condition it was at the time of the misfires. b. The rounds that misfired. c. A few empty rounds that did not misfire.


8. If you can see your firing pin showing through the recoil shield when your Colt style hammer is in the “Safety” notch, you have a short trigger. This is dangerous.


9. If you feel the trigger is sticking in the safety notch or the loading notch, you have a bent trigger. Get it fixed.


10. Don’t ever let the hammer down from loading notch. This can jam a four click action and will scar your cylinder considerably.


11. Don’t ever lower your hammer to the safety or loading notch from full cock. This can jam a four click action.


      12. Lubricating your SAA revolver. Grease attracts and hold dirt in place. Don’t use it. Oil allows the dirt to migrate and cause less damage. After cleaning your revolvers, I see seven places that need oil and one place to never use grease. I use a ¼ oz needle oiler purchased from Brownells. Fig.1 Front bearing surface, smear one drop. Fig.2 Rear bearing surface, smear one drop. Fig.3 Inside the bushing, 3 drops. Fig.4 Hammer Roller, one drop each side. Fig.5 Ratchet Ramps, smear only two drops across all six ramps. Fig.6 Hammer Cam, smear two drops with hammer back. Grease is OK here only. Fig.7 Hammer Shelves/Notches, place two drops and cycle action twice to spread. (Fig.6 & Fig.7 can be accessed when the hammer is at full cock. Remove the cylinder for safety.) Grease does not need to be used anywhere on a single action revolver, however the hammer cam (Fig.6) is one area that it is OK to use it. The hammer roller is the worst place to put grease. The roller will stop spinning and wear a flat spot that will destroy the roller! Fig.8 The roller has a flat spot. You need to oil the roller axel as shown in Fig.4.


       Fig.1      Fig.2

                                                       Fig. 1                                                                                                                Fig. 2


        Fig.3      Fig.4

                                                      Fig. 3                                                                                                                     Fig. 4  


        Fig.5      Fig.6

                                                      Fig. 5                                                                                                                          Fig. 6


          Fig.7      Fig.8

                                                             Fig. 7                                                                                                                     Fig. 8


      13. WD-40 is not a firearm lubricant. Look it up. It was designed by NASA as a cleaner and protective film for the Saturn rockets. It also displaces water really well. Let’s not get silly and use synthetic motor oil, machining fluids, hydraulic fluid or transmission fluid either. They are not “secret/magical” lubricants for firearms. Chemists with PHDs work for the companies that make gun oils and greases. They are highly specialized formulas to work on firearms, not transmissions, engines or tractors. Would you take a multi vitamin the vet gives you for your dog because a dog’s metabolic rate is higher, ergo the vitamin is stronger? Use gun specific oils and greases. After cleaning your revolvers properly, you should use a quality gun oil sparingly in seven specific areas I identified in #12. Over the last 30 plus years I have tried to use every gun oil and grease that was available. 98% of them are more than adequate. I don’t like ones that dry up. They are better as a protectant (WD-40) than a lubricant. I hate to even mention what I use now as there are so many that are good, but since you are asking. Since 2018 I have been using the Lucas Oil brand for firearms. Their chemists developed two unique oils and a grease for firearms that work really well on SAA revolvers under all conditions. Colt includes one of these oils with every new SAA revolver.


      14. WD-40 does make a great firearms cleaner for Mounted Shooting and CFDA revolvers. I have tried a lot of different products for cleaning Mounted Shooting residue specifically. Nothing cleans a caked up barrel faster than WD-40. Spray some, a shot or two, in the barrel with the straw and let it set for 15 seconds then hit it with the barrel brush. Wear gloves and keep the gun level or pointed downward to keep the crud from getting into the hand slot or bolt window. I use Shooters Choice (polymer safe) Quick Scrub to do the final spray down of the barrel and cylinder before I wipe them inside and out with a lightly oiled rag and patch.


      15. There are two factories in Italy that make all the revolvers imported into the United States. All Uberti made revolvers now have a three click action with a retractable firing pin in the hammer. All Pietta made revolvers are authentic Colt reproductions with four click actions and a “solid” firing pin. If you care which type of action you want in your revolver, you need to ask who made it before you buy it. You can turn a three click action into a four click with a new hammer and a modification to the trigger. See my Gunsmith page.


      16. Fast Draw bolt modification. “You can’t cock a gun fast enough to benefit from this”. That is what Thell Reed (look him up) told me one afternoon in his hotel room in Tombstone AZ. I was returning three of his revolvers I had just put grips on that were going to be used in the movie Tombstone. I had asked him about the funny looking modification he had made to the bolts on his guns. He continued to tell me that if I could fire a single action revolver twice and make it sound like one shot, this modification was needed. Back in the 50’s and 60’s it was very popular to cut a bolt this way for Fastdraw, real Fastdraw when they (real men) used live ammunition that could kill you. No spoons in the holsters either! When people saw the “Big Dogs” doing it, they all wanted it. Thell Reed is actually the fastest draw with a Single Action Army that has EVER lived. No one has ever beat him, …ever. He was so good he won every competition he entered and every challenge that came his way. For more than 20 years he had a standing challenge outside of competitions. You could challenge him and if you won, you got $10,000.00. If you lost you had to buy him two consecutive numbered, nickel plated Colts fully engraved with ivory grips. He had more than 28 pairs of fully engraved, consecutive numbered, nickel plated Colts with ivory grips before he stopped competitively shooting. He never had to pay anyone the $10,000.00. The other big names, and you know them well, didn’t like losing all the time so they started their own Fast Draw events and made them “invitation only”. He was never invited. That is one way to get rid of the competition. Thell moved on and has become an extremely successful gun coach and armorer in Hollywood. Back to the hotel room in Tombstone. He showed me a couple of gun handling tricks (remember Josey Wales in the trading post?) that I have passed on to one of my sons, but the most impressive thing I have seen to this day was when I asked him to show me how fast he was. I still get goose bumps remembering that moment. He did it for me twice because the first time I thought he had tricked me somehow. He was literally so fast I didn’t see him move, no lie. Sorry, this was the lengthy way of explaining that you won’t benefit from this bolt modification except in show off points. This modification does have a down side. It makes the bolt strike the edge of the cylinder notch twice every shot and wears it down rather fast. You will need a new cylinder when it does. Thell replaced his cylinders every 1-2 years. Your revolver will also have five clicks because of the bolt crown snapping over the edge of the cylinder notch twice. Shaping the bolt crown angles properly is all you need so you don’t need to do this modification or advancing your timing. I perform this modification for some customers, but they know their reasons for wanting it and the consequences of doing it. Mostly nostalgia. 



Original Fast Draw bolt modification. Yes it is cool, but do you really need it?


      17. What does it actually mean to have a 23lb or 15lb Wolff spring in your Vaquero revolver? A 23lb spring means that it takes 23lbs of static weight, applied vertically, to the central axis, to fully compress the spring. Your revolver does not do this, so…… a 23lb spring will actually require 5 to 7 pounds of resistance to pull the hammer to full cock. It will vary by 5-7 pounds through the arc of the hammer pull to full cock. A 15lb hammer spring will require about 3-4 pounds of actual resistance to pull the hammer through the arc of the hammer pull to full cock.


      18. If you order a set of two-piece grips through the mail they will not fit your revolver by most peoples definition. Sometimes the only way to learn this one is to try it once. Most of the time the grips will go onto your revolver’s grip frame, but there will be areas where the grips hang over the grip frame and areas that grips are smaller than the grip frame. Just look at factory Ruger grips. The angle at the top of the grip that looks like a 90˚ is not and 99% of the time pre-made grips will not fit this area perfectly at all. All grip frames on single action revolvers are hand fit to the gun. Even consecutive serial numbered guns will have grip frames that are not finished to the same dimensions. If you want grips that fit your revolver perfectly, you can’t buy them pre-made. Don’t ever buy a one piece grip already made. It will not fit your revolver. Think about it, why would I have a waiting list with over 300 people on it with a twenty-four month wait?


Section 3.

Myths and Bad Advice


     Bad Advice. “Ultrasonic cleaning your revolvers is the way to go”. Don’t use an ultrasonic cleaner, ever. I get it. You just came back from a SASS or Mounted Shooting event. You are exhausted, tired and have all that gear, horses, trailers and stuff to put away. It is late you are hungry. “I’m just going to pull the grips off these revolvers and drop them in the ultrasonic cleaner while I get settled. They are stainless guns after all, right?” Did you know that 95% of a stainless revolver is made out of 316? Not a marine grade stainless and it rusts. Also, the springs inside the firing pin cups and other places you didn’t even know springs were, are not stainless and will rust considerably. I repair a lot of revolvers with rusted and broken springs. (Photo) The main spring and trigger springs on Ruger revolvers will turn black and become very weak. I see grip frames and the inside of the frames on stainless Vaqueros coated in rust by people that use ultrasonic cleaners. There is a method to doing it right, but that requires TOTAL disassembly of the revolver, an ammonia based cleaner solution, a high volume/pressure compressor, a water displacer, an oven at 150˚ and about 30 minutes per gun after the ultrasonic. Just clean it the old fashion way and save time and headaches later. Would you put your horse through a carwash after a muddy ride because you were too tired to wash him by hand? 



Rusted and broken pawl plunger from Ultrasonic cleaning.


    Myth. Heavy hammer springs equal faster competition times. Absolute nonsense. In theory and mathematically yes, in practice/reality, not going to happen. I have a customer that has worked as an engineer for Raytheon for more than 25 years. He happens to have won the World Championships in CFDA and come very close in WFD. He wondered if heavier springs would equal faster times. He is always looking for that edge. It took three weeks of testing with sensitive engineering instruments and hours of math to come to the conclusion that heavier main springs equal faster times……., if you live in an alternate universe. He figured that it would take in excess of 400 continuous shots to equal enough time for a match-shot-timer to register the difference. It is faster within a finite mathematical calculation, but not in the real world, period. The hammer strike just sounds louder so you think it is quicker.


    Myth. Wire sear springs weaken and wear out faster than flat springs. (Mass produced ones, yes.) Modern high performance vehicles have gone to coil springs in their suspensions for a very good reason. Baja 1000 and NASCAR vehicles use coil springs in their suspensions. This advancement in spring technology is due not only to better modern metallurgy, but mainly the inherit engineering advantages of a cylindrical spring. In the 20th and 21st century, you don’t see flat springs in the most demanding applications of use and abuse. Mechanical Engineers know flat springs cannot endure the repeated flexing that wire springs can due to their flat and thin profile. In the 1993 Bill Ruger embraced modern technology and created the Ruger Vaquero revolver. Not a flat spring in the design. The springs in these revolvers never brake or fatigue to failure. Flat springs do, fact.

Try not to be a hater of newer and better technology and designs. I understand needing to and wanting to be “Historically Correct” and there is nothing wrong with that. My 1st Generation Colt revolvers all have flat sear springs in them. It makes me feel good to preserve that authenticity and history. I have even TIG welded the heads of some of the screws and re-cut the slots to preserve that history. Most mass produced wire sear springs fatigue rather quickly. This is because they are made a blazing speeds and have too many bends in them. This fractures the crystalline structure of the metal after heat treat. Fewer, softer bends and slowly bending of them are the tricks. If wire springs make your trigger wiggle side to side a little, the trigger pivot screw is worn out from the previous heavy flat spring or someone polished the trigger pivot screw way too much.

Flat Spring Advantages: (1) Flat springs are already in your revolver so there is no cost to you. (2) Unlike wire springs that have to be hand-made individually for each model, flat springs require little or no skill to grind them down and make them weaker. (3) Profit made from saved labor and cost of materials is another advantage. Some gunsmiths charge $150 to $200 and do nothing more than grind your sear spring and mainspring down, polish up some internals and push it out the door.

Hand-Made Wire Spring Advantages: (1) Even though they take considerable skill and time to hand make and purchasing quality wire is costly, they outlast flat springs by a great margin. (2) They are considerably more “tunable” for a desired feel with the many wire thicknesses available (3) Hand-made wire springs do not soften and snap like flat springs commonly do. (4) Wire springs do not ruin your hammer cam and trigger sear as flat springs do.


    Bad Advice. Thread lock those screws. Without getting too lengthy on this one, this is how it works. Don’t ever use the red thread-lock on SAA screws. If you think you have to use thread-lock, (and by the way, you don’t) use the blue one. Clean the screws with a spray type gun cleaner solvent. Apply ½ drop to the threads using a toothpick. Let it dry for 12 hours. Then put your revolver back together. Never apply it wet to a screw and then screw it into the revolver. You won’t get it out without damaging it. 


    Bad Advice. Renaissance wax on your revolver. This has micro-crystalline abrasives in it to remove rust flashing. The Smithsonian uses it to clean up antiques that have light surface rust, oxidation and fingerprints. It leaves behind a microscopic layer of wax after it abrades the surface to clean it. Repeated use on blued and case hardened revolvers will result in thinning the finish out and eventually removing it. Renaissance wax………., bad idea.


    Bad Advice. Gun oil on grips. Don’t do it. Trust me on this one please. I have had a few customers over the years that swear by putting Ballistol and other lubricating oils on their wooden grips. What I never said to them was, “You are ruining your grips”. I guess I am now. Lubricating oils will make your grips soften up and become spongy. Petroleum based oils eventually break apart the cellular bond within the wood fibers. This is well known among high end custom cabinet makers and antique furniture restoration people. In 1939 my Grandfather worked as the lead machinist for the DuPont company in Wilmington Delaware. One day my dad, 16 years old, was talking with a chauffeur that drove one of the DuPont cars. Their cars were always so clean and new looking. He noticed they were always wiping the cars down with a special rag. He asked the driver what he was wiping the Duesenberg down with. “Three tablespoons of Kerosene on a shop rag and let it sit overnight”. It sure makes a car look nice. I know some of you are smiling right now because your fathers told you about this one. It does make the paint look like new, but in a couple of years it destroys the paint. Doesn’t matter if you are buying a new car every year. Please don’t use gun oils on your grips. Some of them really make wood grips look nice, but they are ruining them in the long run.


    Myth. “Your ivory grips cracked on the bevel at the bottom because that is what ivory does”. Ivory cracks at the bottom because the maker overheated it when grinding and polishing that angle. Very few grip makers know you cannot let ivory get hot when making grips from it. If your ivory grips cracked within the first month or two of owning them, they were made way to fast. If they started to crack in two or more years, you needed to oil them as reccomended later in the next paragraph. I learned from David Warther that ivory is very sensitive to heat. Heat from cutting, grinding, sanding and polishing. Ivory also needs time to rest between stages of working on it. I take five days to make a set of ivory grips because I let the pieces rest for 12 hours in a sealed bag between stages. You have to cut, sand and polish ivory very slowly and keep it from getting hot to the touch.

      What about shrinking and cracking years later? I personally have two revolvers in my safe that have ivory grips on them. They were made in 2003. I have two dehumidifiers in the safe with them. They haven’t cracked or shrunk yet. I wipe the grips with pure mineral oil from the drugstore twice a year. Master craftsman and world renowned ivory carver David Warther (look him up) taught me a lot about about working with ivory. A light coating of mineral oil, wait 20 minutes and wipe it off, twice a year is all it takes. Do not soak ivory in mineral oil. The worst thing you can do is to put ivory in a bag with oil and let it sit for months or years. Customers have brought me slabs of ivory to make grips that have been sitting in mineral oil for years. It is ruined. You will have stains, blotches and weird areas that discolor. One piece grips will fall apart because of all the oil in the ivory. Ivory slabs should be coated in lacquer for storage. (Not on completed grips) Either spray it on or brush it on in a rather thick coating. When receiving ivory slabs from the better ivory suppliers, you will notice they are coated in lacquer, not oil.


    Bad Advice. If your revolver is misfiring or over-rotating and a gunsmith says, “I can fix that by enlarging your cylinder notches”. Don’t let him do it! I have seen this done at SASS matches as a quick fix. This is so wrong and ruins the cylinder. The cylinder chambers don’t align with the barrel’s bore anymore and the problen returns shortly. The problem is not your cylinder notches. You need a new bolt fit.