Thursday, April 2, 2009

S&W gun plumbing

I've grown tired of plucking half-ejected empties from the cylinder of my S&W Model 10-5 .38 Special revolver equipped with a 2" barrel and short extractor rod. So yesterday I removed the stubby barrel and replaced it with a pristine, 4" tapered S&W barrel with a 1/8" wide ramp front sight. It was a cloudy, gray April Fool's Day, which freed my eyes from glare.

I ordered the barrel and a longer center pin from Numrich Gun Parts Corporation. The listing said the barrel was used and in excellent condition. Judging by the barrel threads, crown, rifling and forcing cone, it had never been installed. I turned the barrel in with the aid of a vise, hardwood blocks cut to accommodate the barrel profile, and a revolver action wrench.

I reinstalled the cylinder and checked the barrel-cylinder gap. Then I fired some sighting rounds using a piece of copy paper fastened to the end of a 12-deep row of large hay bales as a target. Twice I had to return to the vise to slightly clock the barrel to adjust windage. The elevation was perfect.

I had to install a cylinder locking pin on the new barrel. I used one salvaged from a Model 10-7 that had been abused by a member of the Colombian national police force. It now engages the longer center pin and a new extractor rod obtained from Brownells.

Don't try this at home unless you've invested in learning though courses or manuals and have proper tools such as cup tip punches, gauges to measure barrel-cylinder gap and head space, and an action wrench. Professional pistolsmiths hate to work for people who attempted to bypass them at first. They deserve to make as much money as they can working for April Fools. Then there are ways to break stuff so it can never be repaired such as that Colombian revolver with the bulged barrel, bent side plate and yoke, stripped threads and misaligned extractor.

That K-frame snubbie spent a lot of time on a shelf. It was too large for pocket carry and it's butt heaviness made it flop and print too much in a belt holster. Out of the box, it shot low so the already-difficult-to-see front sight had to be lowered. With the new barrel, the old Smith and Wesson M&P is alive!

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