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Old 03-08-2017, 09:58 PM
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Default Clarify the use of the Babbitt bar

I have seen numerous references about various gunsmiths somehow using a Babbitt bar to move the point of impact of a fixed sight revolver. Yet I haven't seen any detailed descriptions about exactly how that is/was done. Can anyone explain what the method was? And does it work?
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:13 PM
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I'd guess they are soft, lead alloy punches.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:01 PM
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A babbit bar is bar of rather soft bearing alloy, sort of a hard lead alloy. As for the method, basically you clamp the frame of the revolver in a vice with shaped hardwood inserts and whack the barrel so that the frame is bent slightly at the barrel mount. Naturally this approach did require that the Smith doing the work "have the touch" because otherwise he'd be bending that frame back and forth until it cracked. To be blunt not something for a kitchen table gunsmith and something that still makes me cringe at the thought of. Aren't you glad that today the Lathe is quite common and we can "re clock" a barrel using a technique that allows us to make adjustments down to the 1/10,000 inch.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:07 PM
MygunisaS&Wrevolver MygunisaS&Wrevolver is offline
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I am by all means not an expert, but have read that a babbitt bar is like a round or triangular lead alloy rod that it used by a skilled S&W gunsmith to straighten a front sight blade, extractor rod or an overtorqued frame. This gunsmith needs to know how much energy to use and where to exactly apply the striking force to accomplish this. The lead alloy of the rod is supposidly not to cause damage to the finish of the revolver. This sounds way old school and definately out of my league.
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Old 03-09-2017, 12:15 AM
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It must have been before my time, I never herd of bending frame
to adjust point of impact. I have herd of clamping barrel and using a babit punch to bend sight for windage.
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Old 03-09-2017, 12:55 AM
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I have been trained in the use of and when not to use the babbit bar. It is not used to correct the clocking of a revolver barrel. It is used in the conjunction of the correct gauges to realign a bent frame. It can be used to correct the correlation of POA and POI, usually in fixed sight revolvers. I have used it to correct a frame badly warped by the 'bubba hammer handle' method of removing a barrel from said frame. I have used it to correct a top strap bent down to touching the cylinder. I have used it to bring the POI closer to POA. There are other more minor uses around the pistolsmith work bench. It does take some muscle memory for gauging the amount of force to be used in any given instance.

FYI, merely wacking a frame back into alignment is not the final solution. Bend steel and then bend it back and one dimension or another will 'grow'. That is going to have to be taken into account with head space, barrel/cylinder gap and timing. Pre model numbered frames will be of slightly 'softer' steel and will bend easier. Care must be taken when moving from a later frame and getting use to the harder blows necessary to achieve desired results to an older softer frame requiring the same corrections. It takes a much softer blow to move an older frame the equivalent distance as compared to a newer frame.

Many years ago, custom quality shotgun makers 'regulated' the barrels of a side by side or an overunder by wacking the barrel in the appropriate spot with a lead babbit hammer. There were specialists in those custom houses that did only that job.
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Old 03-09-2017, 05:09 AM
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I once walked into a Babit Bar. The patrons quickly noticed I was a proto human and began throwing celery sticks at me. I rekon they were drinking bloody marys. I high tailed it out of there, slipped on a carrot stick and busted my watch. I never returned. I later learned Jessica Babit was performing there. Some years on I found out the proprietor Roger Babit was busted for smuggling cocaine. He was eventually acquitted. The bar fell on hard times and closed down. Some months later 3M bought out the bar and it is now the largest Scotch Tape store in America.
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Old 03-09-2017, 08:04 AM
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I have an older reblued I frame 32 that shoots a bit off. Guns not worth a lot. I have been sent clear instructions on where to strike it and appox size of Babbitt bar etc. Understand the process and what is happening. But, just can't get myself to commit to smacking the gun.
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Old 03-09-2017, 08:52 AM
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Before we go too too far down this road of beating up revolvers with babbitt bars, know that that's not what they were designed for. Babbitt is designed as a bearing material. About 100 years ago it was common for machine tools to be made with plain bearings made of babbitt. The bar part was just a convenient way to transport the babbitt to the tool. Where upon, the babbitt was melted into a built in mould surrounding the ferrous journal that needed support. It's a nearly dead skill set and I've hardly given it justice.
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Old 03-09-2017, 09:08 AM
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I purchased my Model 65-3" RB while at the S&W armorers' school back in the 80s. After fixing a minor internal flaw. I discovered that the gun didn't quite shoot to the sights. One of the S&W armorers took the gun and "babbitized" it, to use his lingo. Afterward, the gun always shot to the sights.

My feeling is that taking a babbit to a revolver requires experience and skill. The amount of babbitizing needed is always too small to see with the naked eye so I would be inclined not to try it myself.

Incidentally, the 7-day revolver armorers' school I attended did not teach the use of the babbit.
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Old 03-09-2017, 09:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DWalt View Post
I have seen numerous references about various gunsmiths somehow using a Babbitt bar to move the point of impact of a fixed sight revolver. Yet I haven't seen any detailed descriptions about exactly how that is/was done. Can anyone explain what the method was? And does it work?
Gun goes in vice, babbit bar used to whack barrel towards appropriate direction . . .
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Old 03-09-2017, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by federali View Post
I purchased my Model 65-3" RB while at the S&W armorers' school back in the 80s. After fixing a minor internal flaw. I discovered that the gun didn't quite shoot to the sights. One of the S&W armorers took the gun and "babbitized" it, to use his lingo. Afterward, the gun always shot to the sights.

My feeling is that taking a babbit to a revolver requires experience and skill. The amount of babbitizing needed is always too small to see with the naked eye so I would be inclined not to try it myself.

Incidentally, the 7-day revolver armorers' school I attended did not teach the use of the babbit.
My Babbitt bar was also included in the gunsmith kit I received at the S&W armorers school in the early 80's. Fun times as we were introduced into making adjustments on various parts of model 64's which were for an unknown PD order. I will say that I turned out a few mighty fine revolvers in that two week period.
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Old 03-09-2017, 12:05 PM
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Actually, the Babbit tool approved for S&W 'wacking' is a bar unto itself. It is just a round bar of lead alloy about 3/4" to 7/8" in dia. and about 4" to 5" long.

Being a lead bullet caster since about the age of 18 (a looong time ago) I started seeing other possibilities for the use of lead blocks on my gunsmithing workbench. I now have two Lyman type cast ingots of lead laying on my bench at all times. The tops have various sized "V" grooves or square grooves to aid in holding a part or a gun while doing something else to that part or gun. I also have a casting of lead out of the bottom of a round bottomed melting pot laying there that I use as much as the ingots. It looks like a little low igloo of lead. It is perfect to aid in backing up a small part that is handheld while being polished, sanded, filed, etc. ..... When my lead 'helpers' get too beat up and tending to be less usable than usual, I just recast them and start over. ....
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Old 03-09-2017, 01:37 PM
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Fascinating. I had assumed they would be used for adjusting sights and not much else. Thanks guys.
Some old automotive engines were called babbitt beaters for their penchant of hammering the babbit bearings. There are tales of roadside repairs using a bit of leather from a strap or belt to replace a ruined bearing.
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Old 03-09-2017, 03:26 PM
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I was instructed on the use of a Babbitt bar at schooling provided by Both Colt and Smith & Wesson.
This was back in the early 1950's.
The learning curve was SLOW, and somewhat tedious...but it proved to be quite good in solving problems with Point of aim/point of impact of 4" barreled Police Service revolvers. as well as the sprung frame syndrome.
The procedure was utilized many times during my career as a Gunsmith.
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Old 03-09-2017, 03:34 PM
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Here are my "Babbits", which I received in 1977 at the factory Armorer's school. Along with some other tools that some of you will recognize:



Best Regards, Les
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Old 03-09-2017, 05:54 PM
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Where's the thin-wall cutter modified to stretch the yoke?
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Old 03-09-2017, 07:20 PM
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Where's the thin-wall cutter modified to stretch the yoke?
When I was at the S&W school the same year as Les I never saw a yoke cutter. We were taught to use the yoke alignment tool and a small ball peen hammer to stretch the yoke to eliminate endshake cylinder. One of the main advantages of the babbit bars is that they produce a dead blow and also will not mark the gun or its finish. Also babbit bars are used for several other purposes besides adjusting POI on fixed sight revolvers.
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Old 03-09-2017, 07:31 PM
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That sounds more familiar to me, Bert, although it's been what, 40 years ago? I don't remember anything about a yoke cutter.... Hey, we could have been in the same class. I still have some notes and a class roster somewhere in my files. I'll check and send you a PM if I can find the dates when I was there. Of course they had quite a few classes each year. That was one of the best schools that I ever attended.

Best Regards, Les
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Old 03-09-2017, 07:52 PM
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That sounds more familiar to me, Bert, although it's been what, 40 years ago? I don't remember anything about a yoke cutter.... Hey, we could have been in the same class. I still have some notes and a class roster somewhere in my files. I'll check and send you a PM if I can find the dates when I was there. Of course they had quite a few classes each year. That was one of the best schools that I ever attended.

Best Regards, Les
Like you I would have to hunt up my certificate to see the exact dates but it Was definitely 2 weeks in September. Yep, 40 years ago. Where did our youth go? Probably wherever my memory went.

That memory strikes again, was actually there sometime in August not September
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Old 03-09-2017, 08:03 PM
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I pour my own lead hammers, bars & punches. Not to choosy that I have
to use babbit. I have a lot of mystery lead that is hard stuff. Very useful
to tighten up old doubles and single barrel shotguns. The mistake most
made with these tools is " pecking ", you need to figure what needs done,
support it well and give it a solid wack. Check your work and proceed from
there. I have never bent a frame to line POA, but have bumped sights on
service type revolvers. To straighten shotgun barrels ( not doubles) I built
a rig with sliding stirrups and a pressure yoke powered by a 3/4 ratchet.
All this stuff requires the feel.
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Old 03-09-2017, 10:14 PM
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I've got a babbit bar among my "possibles". Don't use it a lot, and have never used it for the purpose described here. But sometimes you need to give something a whack that doesn't leave a mark, so I hunt it up and use it instead of a ball peen hammer. It has come in handy for me more than once!!
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Old 03-09-2017, 10:29 PM
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How many were coached by Johnny Contro? He coached me in about 69.
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Old 03-09-2017, 10:51 PM
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You boys be careful around the Bobbitt tool. This is the one Lorena used.



Oh. Babbitt bar, not Bobbitt tool. Never mind. Well, on second thought I'd be pretty careful whacking on anything with either one. Whacking on a S&W with a hard metal object sends chills up my spine but whacking with the Bobbitt tool .........

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Old 03-09-2017, 11:00 PM
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How many were coached by Johnny Contro? He coached me in about 69.
Yes, John Contro was our senior instructor along with another guy with the first name Don.
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Old 03-09-2017, 11:10 PM
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How many were coached by Johnny Contro? He coached me in about 69.
Yep! He was still there in 1977, along with as Bert points out, Don, whose last name I can't remember right now. At a field school I attended in the nineties, Don was still instructing, but John was long retired. They were wonderful folks.

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Old 03-10-2017, 01:21 AM
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Thanks for letting me know, John was a good hand, I would love the opportunity to hand him the last S&W I worked over and let him examine it, then maybe go shoot.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:24 AM
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Don and John were still teaching in 1980. Don's last name is Vivenzio.
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Old 03-10-2017, 10:37 AM
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Don and John were still teaching in 1980. Don's last name is Vivenzio.
Thanks!! My memory just isn't what it used to be!! That's it. They were great guys, and I only wish that I retained all of the wonderful knowlege that they imparted to us. A lot of the things that we were taught were seldom used (mostly because Smiths are really reliable guns) and I'm afraid that I have lost many of the skills that they trained us in. Well, and then we went to semi-autos, and I went back to school for the semis. Smith put on a class for the WV State Police in the mid nineties, and I attended it. Don was the instructor, and it was held at the WV State Police Academy. That is the last time that I saw him....

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Old 03-10-2017, 01:04 PM
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I went through fall 1979 Don showed us how to adjust point of impact on a model 10. He didn't tell us ahead of time what he was going to do and all the students made a sucking wind sound as the struck the barrel on the babbitt bar.
Don told us best not to do in front of owner !!
As for Don Vivenzio I called S&W to order some parts and asked if the person I was speaking with knew him and shortly he picked up he was working in customer service last I knew.
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Old 03-10-2017, 11:08 PM
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How many were coached by Johnny Contro? He coached me in about 69.
I was taught by a nice fella named Gary Settembre . . .
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Old 03-11-2017, 03:50 PM
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Well, for any of you old timers like me, who might have went to school back then, I found my original letter from Smith and Wesson!! (I keep just about everything, which is why they have TV shows about "hoarders").

I was in the class that met from April 25th, 1977 through May 6th, 1977. I also have the roster of participants, 18 in all. Only one of them was non LEO, and that was a fellow named Fred Sadowski, of "300 Gunsmith Service, of Denver Colorado. I think I heard of him later, as he was fairly well known at one time. I believe that he has since passed on.

By the way, at the bottom of the letter there are a number of names of employees for distribution. One of them is a fellow named "R Jinks".

After the two week Armorer's School, I see that I stayed an extra week for the "Advanced Firearms School".

Good times......

Best Regards, Les
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Last edited by les.b; 03-11-2017 at 03:52 PM.
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