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S&W Hand Ejectors: 1896 to 1961 All 5-Screw & Vintage 4-Screw SWING-OUT Cylinder REVOLVERS, and the 35 Autos and 32 Autos


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Old 05-21-2020, 05:46 PM
taylorkh taylorkh is offline
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Default M1917 Headspacing question

Regarding the M1917 which was designed to fire .45 ACP in half moon clips...

Can someone tell me if the cartridge headspaces on the moon clip (half or otherwise) or on the case mouth? I have a Ruger Blackhawk "convertible" with a .45 ACP cylinder. It headspaces on the case mouth and, as it is single action and has a chamber by chamber ejector, does not use moon clips.

I do have a M1917 but the cylinder has been bored out for .45 Colt (that is another story) so I can not tell from examining that one.

I have a current production "Performance" Center 625 which is really the source of the question but it is at Clark Custom Guns and has been for over a year so for the moment I cannot examine that one either. That is another LONG story.

TIA,

Ken
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Old 05-21-2020, 06:02 PM
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Well I have shot my unaltered 1917 without moon clips and it shot just fine. I have also shot 45 autorim. Technically it probably uses both, or either if that makes sense. If I were designing a revolver that uses a rimless case I would make sure it could be used without moon clips if nessisary.
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Old 05-21-2020, 06:46 PM
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Actually both. Some early Colt M1917s did not headspace on the case mouth, only on moon clips, but that was later changed. The main benefit of the Moon clips is to allow faster case extraction and reloading. .45 ACP cartridges can be used without moon clips, but is slower to load the chambers and you may have to pull out each fired case individually by hand - or punch them out with a pencil, stick, or whatever else is handy.
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Old 05-21-2020, 07:06 PM
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Thanks for the replies. The 625 which prompted the question would misfire 1 - 3 rounds per cylinder when new. Very light strikes on the primers. I spoke to S&W customer "support" but as the revolver was from the Custom Shop they basically knew nothing. I asked to talk to the Custom Shop - "They don't have a phone." I ended up sending it to Clark to have a "Medium Weight Revolver" build as a big brother to my .38 Spl "Light Weight Revolver." Due to their backlog, delay in getting a barrel blank from Shilen and a minor brain malfunction which caused the thing to be bead blasted ... it is on its way back from the refinishing service to Clark. Perhaps I will see it one day. That said...

I was speaking with an employee at Clark's this afternoon. He said he had a 9mm moon clip revolver and had issues unless he used moon clips of a certain thickness. The revolversmith working on my 625 told me that he was providing a different mainspring tension screw in case I wanted to use Starline brass - something about headspacing. I know from trying different brass in different moon clips the fit can vary. I assumed this might impact headspacing until I thought back to the Ruger cylinder. If the mouth of the case is stopped by the dimensions of the chamber, the thickness of the moon clip, the shape of the groove in the back end of the cartridge etc. can have no negative impact on headspace that I can see. Things might bind but I can not figure out how it would contribute to a light primer strike which would imply too much headspace. I will see when I get it back (some day.)

Thanks again,

Ken
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Old 05-21-2020, 08:19 PM
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You are asking two different questions.

#1, Does the 1917 headspace on the cartridge mouth? That answer is yes.

#2, Does the 625 headspece on the cartridge mouth? That answer is not always. For whatever reason, the “brains” at S&W decided after decades of cut proper chambers for the 45 ACP cartridge to make them so they might fire without clips but will fire with them. Brian Pearce wrote this in at least one article. I did an internet search but was not able to find it. But, some Model 625s will headspace and others will not.

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Old 05-21-2020, 08:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taylorkh View Post
Can someone tell me if the cartridge head spaces on the moon clip (half or otherwise) or on the case mouth?

I have a Ruger Blackhawk "convertible" with a .45 ACP cylinder.

I do have a M1917 but the cylinder has been bored out for .45 Colt (that is another story) so I can not tell from examining that one.
Ken
The simple answer is, the case head spaces on both case mouth and clip, within slight variations of a couple .001" but well within tolerance. The head space is no more critical than that.

Without using the clip, yes, ACP head spaces on the case mouth. In other words the design is for the head space to be the same/similar whether using the clips or not.

If your 1917 that's converted to 45 Colt uses the original the 45 ACP cyl, i.e., still has a serial # matching the frame on the rear cyl face, the Colt rim will set back off of the cyl face .030" because the shoulders in the chambers were reamed .030" short therefore the head space for the ACP has not been changed. (The best way to convert to 45 Colt).

To convert it to also safely shoot ACP (only with clips) and 45 AR, as well as the 45 Colt, face off the rear cyl face .030". First, to make sure the colt chamber shoulders are not reamed too deeply, grind the rim off of a 45 Colt case to make it rimless, than use it to verify your chamber shoulders are not reamed extra deep.

If your 625 occasionally misfires, it more likely has to do with hammer spring tension, hammer nose (firing pin) or something associated. Of course it could be incorrect head space from the factory, but unlikely. The PC will sort that out.

Note: Ruger SA convertible ACP cyls have been converted to use clips by shaving the rear face of the cyl about .015". This doubles the speed of reloads by swapping out the empty cyl with a pre-loaded cyl and ACP cartridges in the clip.

Hope that helps,
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:11 PM
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Thanks StrawHat,

Yes I did ask 2 questions. The 1917 was more to learn the historical basis of the whole thing. As to S&W's newer "improvement" - I could think of some things to say but not in mixed company. I will have to try some rounds without clips when I get the 625 back.

Thanks Hondo44,

I did notice that the left side of the hammer seemed to be rubbing lightly on the frame. The rep I spoke to at S&W did not inspire confidence thus I decided to have Clark's build the upgrade. In hindsight I should have put the thing on gunbroker and let someone else deal with it.

As to the 1917... A machinist friend of my father did the "conversion" by simply boring out the chambers I believe. The .45 Colt rim is bit too thin and will not fire reliably. .45 AR or .45 ACP with clips works except that the bored out region of the chamber allows the bullet to wobble and bobble before it gets to the end of the cylinder. Accuracy is occasional. My solution was to acquire some .45 Win Mag brass and hand load to a light .45 ACP level. These cases are longer and thus place the bullet closer to the end of the cylinder. They fit in the .45 ACP moon clip and work great. Considering that this revolver is a) a family heirloom and b) over 100 years old... I last shot it in 2018 for its 100th birthday.

I also have two big Webleys which were converted to .45 ACP when .455 Webley ammo was not commonly available. The Mk V is from 1915 and the Mk VI from 1916. They were last shot on their centennials. I purchased the 625 so I would have something to use my moon clips in which was less than a century old

My empirical evidence leads me to believe that a frame mounted firing pin is more sensitive to headspace than a hammer mounted firing pin. The 3 old timers have the latter and work fine.

Ken
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Old 05-21-2020, 09:41 PM
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"I also have two big Webleys which were converted to .45 ACP when .455 Webley ammo was not commonly available. The Mk V is from 1915 and the Mk VI from 1916. They were last shot on their centennials."

.45 ACP ammo is about a proof load in the .455 Webleys. If you do decide to shoot them again, either load some light ACP ammo or use .45 Auto Rim.

I also have a converted MK V that has a 1915 stamp on the backstrap. I plan on shooting mine soon.
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Old 05-21-2020, 10:50 PM
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I also have two big Webleys which were converted to .45 ACP when .455 Webley ammo was not commonly available. The Mk V is from 1915 and the Mk VI from 1916. They were last shot on their centennials.
Here's what you need to get those Webleys shooting .455 again......
These are prototypes that I worked on several years ago that work as "spacers" to replace what was milled off of the cylinder and allow the use of standard .455 ammo.






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Old 05-22-2020, 07:33 AM
StrawHat StrawHat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taylorkh View Post

Thanks StrawHat,

Yes I did ask 2 questions. The 1917 was more to learn the historical basis of the whole thing. As to S&W's newer "improvement" - I could think of some things to say but not in mixed company. I will have to try some rounds without clips when I get the 625 back...
At least as far back as 1915 S&W was working on ways to adapt the Hand Ejector to fire and extract the 45 ACP. Firing was easy, cut a proper chamber, insert a cartridge and squeeze the trigger. Extraction was the harder part. This was solved with the half moon clip which essentially added a rim to the rimless case. S&W also designed and patented a full moon clip at the same time which proved a little too complicated for military application.

S&W did open the half moon to the trade so the Coltís revolver could use them.

I often wonder what the military would have thought of the modern full moon clip?

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Originally Posted by taylorkh View Post
...As to the 1917... A machinist friend of my father did the "conversion" by simply boring out the chambers I believe. The .45 Colt rim is bit too thin and will not fire reliably. .45 AR or .45 ACP with clips works except that the bored out region of the chamber allows the bullet to wobble and bobble before it gets to the end of the cylinder. Accuracy is occasional. My solution was to acquire some .45 Win Mag brass and hand load to a light .45 ACP level. These cases are longer and thus place the bullet closer to the end of the cylinder. They fit in the .45 ACP moon clip and work great. Considering that this revolver is a) a family heirloom and b) over 100 years old... I last shot it in 2018 for its 100th birthday...
That is a good work around solution for the deep chambers. You can also shorten 308, 30-06 or any cartridge based on them to work in the deepend chamber.


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Originally Posted by taylorkh View Post
...My empirical evidence leads me to believe that a frame mounted firing pin is more sensitive to headspace than a hammer mounted firing pin. The 3 old timers have the latter and work fine.

Ken...
Firing pin length has a bit to do with it. At least one aftermarket company sells or sold a longer firing pin.

The energy transfer from the frame mounted pin also seems less than the hammer mounted style. Which is odd as S&W has made frame mounted models for rimfire for decades and centerfire since the Model 53 about 1960.

I like ACP revolvers and mine span nearly a century.

Kevin
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:22 AM
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Thanks Muley Gil.

I have used a light .45 AR load with cast bullets in the .455 Webleys. Considering their age they are sort of retired. If I want to shoot a Webley I have several in .38/200 aka .38 S&W. Also an Enfield No. 2 from 1935 which I shot recently for its 85th birthday. I also have a Remington Rand 1911A1 which turns 75 this year and a Colt SP1 carbine - a youngster at 40.

Thanks deadin,

The big Webleys are pretty much retired as I described above.

Thanks again StrawHat,

From what I have read the .45 ACP revolvers were simply to fill in for the shortage of 1911 production. Unless they had a couple of battalions of Jerry Miculeks I do not think the full moon clips would have added anything over the half moon clips

The revolversmith at Clark's told me he did install a longer firing pin. I have seen them on the TK Custom web site. TK cut a couple of J frame cylinders for me. I have a whole battery of .38 Spl moon clip revolvers. However, as they still headspace on the cartridge rim I have not had any problems.

Ken
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:14 AM
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Interesting this subject came up. I have been working with my 625-6 that I bought in 1999. It has been waiting patiently in the safe for the last 20 years. I had heard that S&W recommended moon clips all the time, so I tried them without. Most fired, a few did not. I took some measurements and discovered that the chambers are all cut to space on the case mouths, but a few thousands deeper than my 1950. Chamber depth was cut at a very consistent depth, varying by only a couple of thousands. I also had misfires when using moon clips and yesterday, using .45 AR loads, had 6 misfires out of 50 rounds.
I also measured the case lengths of a number of different and varied makes of .45 ACP brass. I was shocked to find a very large variance in case length, from .872 to .898! No wonder some will fire and some will not!
Now to the 625-6, the light strikes on .45 AR loads indicate that the mainspring is weak or the firing pin is the culprit. I measured the firing pin at .495 which should be long enough, but the protrusion past the frame looks shorter than the 1950. I have an Apex firing pin and it measures the same, but has a point, rather than being rounded. I ordered a Cylinder and Slide firing pin from Brownells, which is said to be longer. (I had one in my 627-2 for many years)
Sorry, I digress!
My limited investigation leads me to believe the Smith is cut to headspace on the case mouths, but the length of the actual case is the critical issue, given the firing pin has enough strength to ignite the primer.
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taylorkh View Post
Thanks again StrawHat,

From what I have read the .45 ACP revolvers were simply to fill in for the shortage of 1911 production. Unless they had a couple of battalions of Jerry Miculeks I do not think the full moon clips would have added anything over the half moon clips
Ken
S&W moon clip design dates back to their top break revolvers, but they were not manufactured until the 1917 45 ACP issue came about for WWI. The military liked them but quickly wanted them changed to 1/2 moon clips. The reason: 1/2 clips pre-loaded with ammo was much more efficient to package.

So once again the full moon clip languished in obscurity for another half century.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:19 AM
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Head space on Smith 45ACP revolvers is .093" to .095".
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Old 05-23-2020, 08:18 PM
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Thanks Nightowl,

That is an interesting observation about case length. I am always careful about that for bottle neck rifle cases. I will have to look into that. I may need a specific batch for the 625. Or I could use .45 AR brass. I have a bunch from Starline which is in my reserve stockpile. That sort of defeats the purpose of the moon clips and speed loading etc. I wonder how fast Jerry Miculek could send 12 rounds down range using individual AR cartridges instead of .45 Auto in moon clips?

When I ordered my .38 Spl LWR conversion from Clark's some years ago there was an option on action jobs. The "match" option required the use of only hand seated Federal match primers. DA pull would be about 7#. As I did not have any Federal Match primers but a WHOLE lot of Winchester primers and a progressive loader I opted for the "factory ammo" job. This was supposed to be about 10# DA. When it arrived I found the DA to be a little over 7# and I did have some failure to fires. When I called Clark's they blamed it on my Dillon loader not seating the primers completely. When I called Dillon they told me that Clark's was full of ...

I procured a stainless grub screw of the appropriate thread to replace mainspring tension screw. I ran this in little by little until it fired reliably. I then secured it with some wicking Loctite. The DA pull is about 8# and totally reliable.

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Old 05-23-2020, 09:05 PM
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That is kind of like how I do my main springs.
I leave in the factory main spring (I do go with a lighter trigger return spring). Then I turn out the main spring screw until I get misfires. Then go back in until I get no misfires. Then, I turn the screw in counting the 1/2 turns until it is tight. Each 1/2 turn is .0157 on a 32 to the inch screw. Measure the length of the screw and remove the amount of the 1/2 turns x .0157. Say it 5 half turns. 5x.0157=.0875 so remove a bit less .087
Install tight and test.

I think a 45acp cylinder bored to fire 45 colts is a bad approach. Ido like the spacer ring idea some. I do have several guns with dual 45 cylinders, but they are 45 colt cylinders cut for full moon clips. With this method the acp head spaces with the clip and the outside edge of 45 colt rim head spaces on the "rim" of the cylinder. I also sometimes use 45 win mag brass and warmed up 45 colt loads. But. I am going to cut down to 2 dual guns. Leave a 4" stainless gun that way. Take the dual cylinder out of a model 1955 I have, put it in a 325, and install a recessed 45 colt cylinder into the model 1955. How do you get a recessed 45 colt cylinder? Ream an older 44 mag recessed cylinder to 45 colt. I will have to trim the 325 barrel extension to get the longer 45 colt cylinder in it. A light weight 45acp/colt
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Old 05-24-2020, 05:10 AM
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Default Light strikes & firing w/o moonclips

Quote:
Originally Posted by taylorkh
Can someone tell me if the cartridge headspaces on the moon clip (half or otherwise) or on the case mouth?
I have a current production "Performance" Center 625 which is really the source of the question..
would misfire 1 - 3 rounds per cylinder when new. Very light strikes on the primers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by taylorkh
My empirical evidence leads me to believe that a frame mounted firing pin is more sensitive to headspace than a hammer mounted firing pin. The 3 old timers have the latter and work fine.
My PC 625 had light strikes right out of the box. The firing pin measured .490" long, on the marginal short side. I installed a C&S firing pin which is .510" long. No problems since.

Since changing to the frame mounted F/Ps they've been more paranoid about preventing accidental discharges & thus keeping the F/Ps on the short side.

The strict(er) state laws didn't existing back in the hammer mounted F/P days.

.

A lot of different factors can come into play, no matter which model revision, regarding being able to fire rimless cartridges without moonclips consistently:

- depth the chamber shoulder is cut to

- brass length

- firing pin length

- gross headspace

- cylinder endshake

- proper full length sizing of case

- proper crimp applied to bullet

- primer fully seated in primer pocket

- depth of the primer pocket

- &, primer hardness in conjunction with hammer/mainspring strength.

All the above, either singularly or in addition to other ones, can increase the likelihood your revolver will not fire them consistently without moonclips.

My oldest related revolver was made in 2008 but all (4) of mine shoot separate ammo, without moonclips, just fine.

In a 2008 article on the 45 Auto Rim (Handloader #254) Brian Pearce had a sidebar article (see below attachment) about reported troubles with some S&W .45ACP revolvers, a decade before, not being cut with chamber shoulders. (Cost saving step or manufacturing error?)

He goes on to mention a few years later a 625-8 exhibited misfires without moonclips. He states it had greater (than usual?) gross headspace but doesn't mention any lack of chamber shoulders.

.



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Old 05-24-2020, 08:46 AM
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Thanks steelslaver,

After the Clark LWR I decided to see what I could do myself. I purchased a Wolff Spring reduced power main spring and installed it in a Model 15 along with a reduced power rebound spring. The results were FANTASTIC. Not quite as good as the LWR but for $20 instead of $800... I had the cylinder on the 15 cut for moonclips so that added another $100 to the project.

For my next trick I decided to work on a WWII British contract M&P which I rescued from the junk heap for $100. It had less than 5% finish. Very little rust but even less finish. Two of the .38 S&W chambers had been bored out to fit .38 Spl cartridges. This of course does not work as the S&W case is of a larger diameter than the Spl. It would fire bang, bang, pop, bang, ban, poofff. I found a cylinder and crane at a gun show and traded some Sile stocks which I had, could not use and did not want - so that was free. I purchased a lanyard swivel for $15, took the whole thing apart, gave the parts a light bead blasting and a zink phosphate parkerizing.

I then had to purchase Jerry Kuhnhausen's book to figure out how to put the thing together again It looked great and when I test fired it... after almost every shot the cylinder would jump out of battery and lockup. I tore it down, checked, reassembled, tested and repeated several times. Finally I threw in the towel and took it to a local gunsmith. About 10 minutes after I got home he called and said it was "fixed." I picked it up and asked him what he did. He said he pulled the side plate, checked it and replaced the plate. Either he did not know what he fixed or he would not tell me. I paid him $20.

Some years later I decided to tune it up from the rather horrible factory DA pull. A Wolff mainspring and rebound spring, a little polishing and it is now about 7 1/2 # DA and a pleasure to shoot.

I have a second revolver of the same vintage which was in even worse condition. Remnants of some sort of finish, a layer of dirt, a coat of black paint, some more dirt and another coat of paint. I disassembled it, stripped the paint and parkerized the frame, barrel and side plate. It then sat in a box for about 10 years. Last year I finally decided to finish it. By now I was able to reassemble it with out reference to the book. This one really needs the barrel set back as the cylinder to barrel gap is about .012". And, the front screw on the side plate, the one which holds the crane in place, is almost stripped out. I know how I would fix that if I had a lathe, milling machine and TIG welder. Unfortunately I only have the TIG welder.

As for the .45 Colt "conversion" I don't know if I was even around when that was done and I had no say in the matter The machinist who did the work was a real character. I remember being told that he delivered all 3 of his children. Who needs a hospital? And for the last one he decided to film himself as the mid-husband/DIY obstetrician. The movie idea apparently did not work out but the child was OK.

Thanks BLUEDOT37,

That is some great info. I will revisit your post for sure once I get the revolver back from Clark's.

Ken
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