Sunday, March 16, 2014

Trigger Quality

In past posts I have talked about "trigger jobs" on various firearms.  There is certainly an element of satisfaction that comes from a job-well-done, be it by your own hands or another's.  There is an element of owning something that no one else has.  If it's custom work, there is literally no other like it, even on identical firearms done by the same person.  However, these are fringe benefits.  The real beauty is in a better shooting gun, or a gun able to be shot better.

Accurate shooting isn't something that comes naturally to most people.  It's a learned skill.  It's more than a lucky shot, it's repeatable and consistent.  The skill lies with the shooter, but those who are truly serious about firearms understand that their equipment does play a factor in the success or failure of themselves, in whatever form they choose to measure it.  A smooth trigger pull by the shooter is greatly aided by a smoother trigger pull on the firearm.  For me to shoot a handgun accurately my visual focus remains steady on the front sight and my mental focus is on pulling the trigger smoothly and evenly.

A traditional double action/single action Sig Sauer pistol has a notoriously long first shot trigger pull.  While this example wasn't bad from the factory, there were some rough spots, or "grit", along the way and stacking towards the end.  In other words it was perfectly serviceable, but left something to be desired.  So with about 400 rounds through it and untold dry fires I stripped it down and looked for areas that could use work.

I left the slide alone and focused on the frame as that's where the bulk of things affecting trigger pull reside.  Sig's have a nice slick black coating that really tells tales when parts rub against each other.  The wear spots become bright steel and are obvious to see.  On each of those I carefully stoned and for this project I got brave enough to use the Dremel in a polish-only role.

A felt pad attachment and the Flitz I use to polish brass really made the parts have a glass like surface quality.  I only did specific wear spots, not whole pieces.  I was at the range all week and put another 200 or so rounds through it during lunch breaks.  It's remarkable what a difference it made.  The key being that the pistol functioned 100%, not even a hint of issue.  Any time work like this is done there is a chance that critical tolerances get out of line.

The reality for me is that if I am running a firearm at the peak of my capabilities I can't consciously detect imperfections in the quality of a trigger.  If I am shooting slow precise shots a smooth trigger makes all the difference in the world.  The only reasons I can think of to not have a quality trigger are cost of having someone else perform the work, or not wanting to put in the time to do it yourself.  And I get those completely.  For me, I don't have the funds to pay someone else, so I learned out of necessity.  I'm not saying for an instant that poor quality triggers can't be shot well, only advocating that nice ones can be shot well, easier.    

Saturday, January 18, 2014

S&W Trigger Job

At least a year or more ago I bought the Jerry Miculek Trigger Job video from Brownells.  I don't care how big of a nerd my wife thinks I am, this DVD is worth every penny for anyone who cares about how their Smith &Wesson trigger feels.

I have watched it numerous times, but for one reason or another I just never got around to trying the things Jerry teaches in here.  That all changed this afternoon.  I also bought a Norton India Stone, which is the crucial tool for this.

This one is 6" x 1/2" x 1/2".  It's good when holding it in your hand, but a wider one would be nice if keeping it on the bench and bringing the part to it.  Jerry does it both ways and therefor I did it both ways, but this worked fine for a first timer.  He explains that the goal is to smooth things out, not remove tons of material.  Only a few thousandths of an inch.  The first step is obviously disassembling the revolver.

The above picture shows the actual parts and spot I worked on.  The video goes into far more detail with things you could do, but honestly the trigger pull on this gun was already better than average and some of the other stuff can ruin a gun if you mess it up so I didn't want to get carried away on my first try.  Being that this is stainless steel it's a little more difficult to see the progress of your work than a forged part which really shows up well.  Because of that I started with the cylinder stop since it's not stainless.

The two pictures above are of the same cylinder release, before and after, with the doctored part circled in red.  The finish came off of the high spots rather nicely.  The straight line where it changes from black to silver is a machine mark high spot that I couldn't get to come off.  I may give it another go, but I was afraid to get too aggressive with it.  It's important to do the sides as well where it rides against the frame.

Next up was the trigger, where mates with the cylinder stop, hammer, and sides.

It's cool to see the shiny spots appear as it means the part is evening out increasing efficiency as it works in the totality of the action.  The hammer was next.  It's double action only which means only one engagement surface to stone.  Jerry advises to steer clear of the single action notch on applicable hammers because it's such a small and easy to destroy surface.  Single action is for Hollywood anyhow.

This is a before pic, I forgot to take the after shot.  It cleaned up nicely.  Last but not least for my project was the rebound slide.  The surfaces don't get stressed like the others so you can get kind of aggressive with it.

Once I put it to the stone you could really see the machine marks.  The good news is those are below the surface.  They look ugly as sin, but won't affect the action, and in theory keep lubrication in them.  So the only thing left to do is reassemble.

I like to run revolvers pretty wet, so I judiciously applied oil anywhere metal to metal contact happens.  Like I said, it was pretty slick to begin with, but you can definitely tell a difference.  There is still a small hitch where the trigger engages the cylinder release at the beginning of the pull, so I may give that another once over tomorrow.  I also still have the Apex springs and firing pin installed.  They are significantly lighter so I'm going back to the originals and that should be more telling about my work.  At any rate I'm not planning to give up my day job to be a revolver 'smith, but it's nice to be able to work on my own stuff.

This type of work translates to any other firearm, not just S&W wheelies.  Some tools to help/do this project are: Trigger Job DVD, proper size screwdriver for the side-plate screws, rubber mallet to bump off the side plate, rebound slide tool, India Stone, gun oil, and small file....and plenty of patience! 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Revolver Versatility

A few days ago I posted about a new Smith & Wesson revolver, the 929.  I want one.  Badly.  The internet is abuzz over its release and I think it will be a huge success for them.  The problem is that I want a 627 also.  So I have been having an internal debate about which gun would be better as an all around shooter.

Photo by Smith & Wesson

I love everything about the 929.  Ti cylinder, 6.5" v-comp barrel, patridge sight, etc.  S&W has a suggested retail price of $1,189, so realistically it would sell for $1,000-1,100.  But I can't help to think that it won't be more than that.  The 627 V-Comp has very similar features but the MSRP is $1,509!

Photo by Smith & Wesson

I honestly can't understand the $320 difference between the two, and that's why I think the 929 will sell for more.  However there are three current 627 offerings.  The V-Comp above, a 5" Performance Center, and the standard 627 pictured below.

Photo by Smith & Wesson

This model is priced at $969, but can be bought all day long for $850.  It doesn't have any of the custom features that the 627 V-Comp or 929 have.  The beauty of it though is that it has the quick change front sight base and would be compatible with my 4" N-frame holster I currently run.  With the use of .38 Short Colt brass you are basically loading a rimmed 9mm.  If shooting true 9x19 is your pleasure a spare cylinder can be had for very little and reamed to whatever you want (9x23 is incredibly versatile).

I'm in far better shape for .38 than 9mm.  I wouldn't need to buy any new gear for the 627 other than clips.  I'm not setup to reload either caliber so that's a wash.  Part of me really wants to turn the 929 into an open class gun, which I can use at any of my local matches.  I'm not keen on the barrel profile of the 627 and aesthetics matter.  Having it re-barreled isn't too big of a deal and I would love to have this sexy beast.

That is one of Jerry Miculek's revolvers.  Beautiful.  Bottom line is that I have no idea which gun to get.  Ideally both, but it will be tough enough to acquire just one.  I guess we shall see.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New S&W 929 Revolver

I was reading through the Smith & Wesson Forum's topics and came across a gem that caught my eye. Apparently Jerry Miculek has put his signature on a new model, the 929, as a Performance Center offering to be introduced in 2014.

Photo taken as a screen shot from the YouTube video

It's a 9mm, stainless steel, N-frame, with a 6.5" barrel, titanium cylinder, and interchangeable muzzle port/muzzle cap.  As a Performance Center gun it will have an action job from the factory.  I haven't confirmed this, but I'm told USPSA is going to allow 8-shot revolvers to compete at minor power factor. And this gun should fit in quite nicely there and at several other shooting sports.

S&W's 627 is the normal gun that you might think of for this role, but a few things stand out to me.  The standard 627 is chambered in .38/.357, and for the purposes of this post we'll assume all guns discussed will be run using moonclips.  .38 Special rounds are longer by comparison to cartridges like the .45 ACP and can sometimes be difficult to get them all lined up with the chambers while moving quickly, which is where the model 625 really shines.  S&W produced the 627-4 in .38 Super, which helps with this a little bit, but .38 Super is not what I consider a mainstream caliber despite it being an excellent round, and that model wasn't produced for long.

Some savvy shooters use .38 Short Colt brass for the ease of reloading in competition, but it's against the rules in many shooting sports because that's not the factory chambering, though it's perfectly safe to do so (cough, IDPA, cough).  The 929 being chambered in 9mm will utilize one of, if not the, most popular rounds in the world.  S&W has made a small number of 9mm revolvers over the years without much success, so hopefully they get this right!  I'm also not sure about the new designation of 929 rather than 927 or 627-whatever?

I see this gun as a purely competition oriented offering, holding little interest to non-competitors, other than collectors.  It will also be interesting to see if they offer different variations of barrel length, finish, etc.  I hate being the first to buy something without it being thoroughly tested, but I'll do whatever it takes to own one of these.  Now I just need to wait and see if it's actually produced and which organs I'm willing to sell to fund it. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sig P226R

It occurred to me that I love revolvers for their trigger characteristics.  But auto-loading pistols have far more going for them in terms of a fighting role.  In an effort to get some of the best aspects from both designs I have longed to try a Sig Sauer.  For right or wrong I consider them to be the top brand of traditional double action/single action (DA/SA) pistols; they have a storied reputation for a reason.  And now I have my chance to give one a try.

I had a chance to trade a little used rifle taking up room in my safe for this new in the box Sig P226R.  I had a choice of 9mm or .40, and though I'm generally a fan of using a gun in its designed caliber (in this case 9mm), I opted for the .40 S&W simply because of the stock pile of reloading supplies I have for it.  It's the standard model, standard trigger, but with the E2 grips which I'm growing fond of.  The sights are plain 3-dot white affairs, but I have already colored the rears black and the front bright orange, which is an easy and effective sight picture.

There are plenty of places to view the specs of the 226, so I'll leave that one up to you.  I'm more than a little excited to get this one to the range and formulate my own thoughts on it.  If my enjoyment while dry-firing is any indicator, the only thing I'll be upset about is waiting so long to own one.   

Sunday, November 3, 2013

S&W Internal Lock

At some point during the Clinton administration Smith & Wesson started drinking the kool-aid and bent to the pressure of Washington.  This was at the height of the assault weapons ban.  So starting around 2001ish S&W began installing an internal lock on every single new production revolver.


There are several reasons why this is a problem for me.  For most people, revolvers are not purchased to simply be a work horse.  That's what Glocks are for.  A S&W wheel gun is a thing of beauty and wonderful engineering.  This lock is a scar.  It's ugly and spoils the classic charm.  It has also made the older "no-lock" revolvers unnecessarily expensive purely from a collectors stand point.  It bothers me that such a major firearm manufacturer could do this when it is so clearly hated by consumers.  The company was under different ownership during that time and has since changed, yet the locks remain.

Probably the biggest issue for me is using these lock equipped guns for self defense.  There are dozens and dozens of cases where folks claim the lock has inadvertently engaged while firing.  The cases are most typically found where the shooter is using high power ammo and a light weight gun...exactly what most people carry concealed.  If the lock engages during a gun fight you are screwed.  It takes a special key to unlock and would require very fine motor skills.  Even if the odds are one in a million it's just not worth it.

It's a good sign that S&W is producing 3 or 4 j-frames without the lock.  I can only hope that one day they will all be lock free.  I'm sure some folks use the feature for its intended purpose, but I've never met them, and can think of several equal or better alternatives to it.  There is also an aftermarket "plug" that can be installed in place of the lock, but the scar is still there, even if the danger isn't.

If I have the choice when purchasing, 10 out of 10 times I will choose the no-lock model.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

S&W Pocket Rocket

In a recent trade I acquired a very gently used S&W 640-1.  What I lost in the trade was my S&W 642-1.  No love lost there.  The only thing going for a 642/442 is the weight, which make my hands ache just thinking about it.  The 640 is about 10oz heavier, totaling 25oz.  It's more than I would "pocket carry", but I'm sure there are plenty that do.  It's chambered in .38/.357 and should be much more enjoyable to shoot due to the weight.

Whoever the previous owner was took immaculate care of this revolver.  There was no residue buildup on the face of the cylinder, throat of the barrel, or anywhere on the frame for that matter.  I suspect it was not shot very much as the internals were also squeaky clean.  It's also possible they were familiar with S&W internal lock-work and cleaned it before selling.  The side plate screws showed no signs of marring.  I had a choice between this one and one other 640-1 that looked nearly identical.  It was filthy all over (isn't a deal breaker), had a very gritty trigger (more work, but still not a real problem), and it had a MIM trigger (and likely the rest of the internals, this made it an easy choice to pass over).  

Even though the trigger was a forged part, I prefer stainless triggers on stainless guns and had one lying around.  A quick switch of the "hand" between the two and it was a drop in fit.  While I had the side plate off I installed an APEX j-frame kit which replaces the main, rebound, and firing pin springs, as well as an extra length firing pin.  It's an easy process to change those out and APEX has great videos of how to do that.  I'll be at the range next week and will see how it works before carrying it like that.  And I need to get a good holster.

This is a "no-lock" revolver, which have become very collectible, and has a replaceable front sight.  As with most j-frames the sight picture is minuscule and I'm not sue it would benefit from a different front sight without modifying the rear notch, which is gunsmith level work.  I also put on the Pachmayr stocks (grips, for the non-politically correct).  They cover the back-strap and should be easier to shoot but I admit they look terrible on this fine piece of craftsmanship.  

My immediate problem is that this gun does not fit any of my existing holsters.  A Safariland ALS was my go-to range holster, but the fit is way too tight.  Either the barrel profile or a beefier cylinder are what I'm chalking this up to, but it can't be adjusted so far as I know.  My Dark Star Gear appendix holster also no longer fits as it was made specifically for a 642/442.  As a side note I have been meaning to review their product, which is excellent, but will have to wait some more I suppose.  I think for this revolver I want a traditional OWB 4 o'clock leather holster.  Nothing says classy like a wheel-gun fitted to nice leather.

Anyhow, I'll pick this up again after my range trip.  Which I expect to be much more enjoyable and friendly towards my metacarpi.