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Discussion Starter #1
I'm in the market for a mint/near-mint Colt Detective Special, Third Issue (with the under-barrel lug), and while I'm seeing a lot of pieces with good finishes, most/almost-all have the left side plate screw buggered up.

My thinking has always been to avoid anything that Bubba might have mucked with, and the surest way to do that, I thought, is to avoid revolvers that have been taken down with the wrong screwdriver. Still, one guy, who seems knowledgeable, says he always removes the sideplate to clean them, and they're simple to put back together. (I don't know what his sideplate screws look like.)

So, here's the question: Am I using the right test for Bubba? Can just the taking down and putting it back together cause Colt lockwork problems, or do they actually have to try to modify internals to "make it work better?"
 

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Just taking the gun apart and putting it back together will not cause problems with the lockwork. If the action is smooth and the timing is correct then the lockwork is good; it's as simple as that. As for the screw, that's easily dealt with; replace it or clean it up yourself and re-blue with some cold blue.

Contrary to popular opinion, Colt DA revolver lockwork is NOT fragile at all. The "test" that people do for timing will tell you if timing is "book perfect". News flash, most Colt's DA revolvers came out of the factory, not in "book perfect" time. That doesn't mean there's a problem, just means it's not as perfect as it could have been. The design is such that even when timing isn't perfect, it will still be in time and work correctly The first notch on the pawl is where you get your "book perfect" timing, but the second notch on the pawl is the backup to ensure that when the gun goes off, the cylinder is aligned with the throat even if the first pawl doesn't do it's job absolutely perfectly.

A S&W is much less sophisticated, it's either in time or it's not; there's no in between. The Colt's can have varying degrees of timing and still work perfectly. The problem is, there aren't a whole lot of people who understand the Colt's DA revolver very well. Even the "experts" will tell you if it doesn't pass the "book perfect" timing test, then it's out of time. But most of those "experts" also sell services to put your revolver into perfect timing...you do the math.

This two cam pawl design makes the Colt's DA revolver a bit more reliable in nasty conditions than the S&W. When the US military did tests between the Colt's and S&W, both before the turn of the century and for the acceptance of the 1917 revolvers, the Colt's was always the more reliable revolver. The difference isn't night and day, both S&W and Colt's DA revolvers were considered acceptable in the reliability department, just that the Colt's had a slight edge when things got nasty. Neither are as reliable as a Webley in nasty conditions.

With a S&W if the timing is bad, you can end up shaving lead or even have a situation where the revolver is unsafe. I hear talk all the time of Colt's DA revolver that are "out of time" yet you almost never see one that's shaving lead or unsafe. It's just that the timing isn't "book perfect". Most are ignorant to the fact that the gun is still operating within normal parameters.

And that goes for all of the older Colt's DA revolvers. It's rare that I've even seen a Python that has "book perfect" timing, yet Colt's sends them out. Why? Because while not "book perfect" the timing is still right.

When is timing off so far the gun is unsafe? When you pull the trigger all the way to the rear and the cylinder is not locked into the locking bolt. At that point you have a real problem.

My Colt's Cobra is only "book perfect" on two chambers, yet it shoots perfectly, safely, and quite accurately. There are no signs of shaving lead or anything out of the ordinary whatsoever.

I hope you find that helpful sir.

Kevin
 

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Jaywalker,

ImVho, as is usual, Kevin is 100% on guns/gunsmithing.

The overall superiority of Colt's firearms over other makes is why I carried a Python for decades "in the job", before we went to nothing but government issued SA pistols. = That old 4" still shoots FINE in all conditions, after thousands of .357 duty loads down the tube.

Note: I'm a bit "flummoxed" that you're finding "Budda-ed", examples of the DS/Cobra/Agent, as most of them that I find are SELDOM FIRED & are MINT.
(Otoh, used S&W snubbies seem to be of 2 sorts: Like new & TRASHED.)

just my OPINION, sw
 

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Discussion Starter #5
The "bubba" aspect has only to do with the left sideplate screws, which are frequently distorted by having been worked with a non-hollowground screwdriver. That seems to be very common on Detective Specials on Gunbroker, even the ones which are up for $800-plus.

I read once that much of a gunsmith's time goes to grinding screwdrivers down to the correct size so as to avoid buggering up screws.

I wonder what benefit folks gain from opening up a revolver, if they damage it even slightly when they button it back up.
 

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Jaywalker,

According to most experts, over 80% Colt's D-frame revolvers are SELDOM if ever fired & the ones that I find in pawn shops, gun stores & even flea markets fit that description to a Tee. = Many D-frames spend their entire "life" in a desk drawer/glove compartment.

For example: When my lady & I "cleaned-out"/sold her mother's home in AR, we discovered a Colt's DS that she bought in 1952, a Colt's Cobra from 1960 & a Police Positive from 1950. - None, except the Police, Positive appeared to EVER have been fired, though the DS had been loaded & carried in Miss Mildryd's purse every day for 3 decades (She made all the cash night deposits for her company for her entire career.), until she passed away in 2009.
(We still don't know who bought the Cobra or PP -maybe Mildryd's older sister???)

Truthfully, I do NOT shop on gunbroker, as most of those revolvers are NOT "nice pieces" & (imo) GROSSLY OVER-PRICED. - Fwiw, within the last 30 days, I've seen at least a DOZEN D-frames in SA stores, that appear unfired/mint/seldom used at 500-600.oo.
(I nearly bought a NEW/UNFIRED/in the box 1st issue Cobra for 600.00 out the door.)

just my OPINION, sw
 

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Discussion Starter #7
No arguments about prices, except the one I bought at Nagels a year or so ago had the buggered screw - that was before my taste crystalized to requiring no-buggered screws.

Just because D-frames mostly aren't shot, and I agree that's likely, doesn't mean someone can't bugger the screw anyway.

I am in the market for one, so if you'd care to PM me with the location of some you've seen recently, I'd appreciate it.
 

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.............

I read once that much of a gunsmith's time goes to grinding screwdrivers down to the correct size so as to avoid buggering up screws.

I wonder what benefit folks gain from opening up a revolver, if they damage it even slightly when they button it back up.
The screwdriver comment may have been true once upon a time. Today, there are several sources for hollow ground screwdrivers and even specialty screwdrivers for specific manufacturers products. These days, you're probably only grinding if you run across some antique or wierd item.

Removing sideplates for thorough cleaning isn't rocket science. Depending upon operating conditions, it may be highly advisable. Screws are cheap and easily replaced. You're looking at it from a collectors viewpoint. For a great many or most owners, it's a tool.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The screwdriver comment may have been true once upon a time. Today, there are several sources for hollow ground screwdrivers and even specialty screwdrivers for specific manufacturers products. These days, you're probably only grinding if you run across some antique or wierd item.

Removing sideplates for thorough cleaning isn't rocket science. Depending upon operating conditions, it may be highly advisable. Screws are cheap and easily replaced. You're looking at it from a collectors viewpoint. For a great many or most owners, it's a tool.
Good info on the screwdrivers, but no, I'm not looking at it as a collector piece - we will shoot it and carry it. As I mentioned earlier, I'm using the clean screw slot as an indication that Bubba hasn't been inside "improving" the action.
 

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The "bubba" aspect has only to do with the left sideplate screws, which are frequently distorted by having been worked with a non-hollowground screwdriver. That seems to be very common on Detective Specials on Gunbroker, even the ones which are up for $800-plus.

I read once that much of a gunsmith's time goes to grinding screwdrivers down to the correct size so as to avoid buggering up screws.

I wonder what benefit folks gain from opening up a revolver, if they damage it even slightly when they button it back up.
Most times it the technique rather than the screwdriver. Often times you can get away with using the wrong screwdriver if you use it correctly. And conversely if you use the right screwdriver in the wrong way, you get the same results.

I have a large collection of magnetic tip drivers and a good number of fixed screwdrivers. When I need something special, I file the screwdriver or mag driver tip to the size I need. I file them rather than grind them because when you grind them so you don't heat up the tip up and loose the temper and have to re-harden (there's a little tip for you).

I have a drawer full of extra fixed blade screwdrivers just on the off chance I may need to file something special. Harbor Freight from time to time will have a coupon for a free 6 piece set of screwdrivers, so I always go pick them up and put them in the drawer. They're downright decent screwdrivers and I'm not worried about messing them up or turning them into a single use driver. And of course, I have a set of the Grace Hollow Ground screwdrivers which IMO are excellent screwdrivers.

When a screw is tight you hold the screwdriver in your hand in what I call the "stabbing" position where the index finger is toward the top of the handle. Hold the work with your other hand, lean in to where your body is directly over the screwdriver and then put your chin on the end of the screwdriver, then press and turn. If that doesn't work, you're going to have big problems.
 

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In Re: Bubba

Back when I was smithing, I discovered that Bubba (or one of his cousins) occasionally worked in arms factories and in the shops of gunsmiths of noted repute.

The condition of sideplate screws is no warranty as to condition beneath.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
When I bought my Cobra I was specifically looking for one that wasn't pretty because I knew if it was pretty, I wouldn't carry it.
True, and that's why I sold the Detective Special about 10 months ago. Unfortunately, very soon after that I heard from my wife, "Whatever happened to that revolver I liked?" Hmm. I was thus back in the market for a mint-ish DS, which I bought on GunBroker early this AM. I'm still in the market for an Agent/Cobra, and am researching them now.
 

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Truthfully, I do NOT shop on gunbroker, as most of those revolvers are NOT "nice pieces" & (imo) GROSSLY OVER-PRICED. - Fwiw, within the last 30 days, I've seen at least a DOZEN D-frames in SA stores, that appear unfired/mint/seldom used at 500-600.oo.
(I nearly bought a NEW/UNFIRED/in the box 1st issue Cobra for 600.00 out the door.)
just my OPINION, sw
SW, I really need to visit ol' San Antonio again. :p Colt double action revolvers are scarce as hen's teeth in my neck of the woods, and priced accordingly.

I did score a nice DS a couple of years ago, but my youngest daughter took a shine to it, sooo...

My oldest daughter got my nickle plated Airweight Bodyguard. I'm just an old softie, I guess.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
SW, I really need to visit ol' San Antonio again. :p Colt double action revolvers are scarce as hen's teeth in my neck of the woods, and priced accordingly.
well, I wish he'd tell me where they are and I live here... That said, I don't go to gun stores all that often - just the one big one I've been using since the 1970s. I bought an on-consignment SIG P210 there in 1975 for $500, but that was then and this is now.
 

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Is Mike Falcone still the gunsmith at Nagel's? I remember him back from the days that he worked in Greg Ferris' old shop on Hildebrand.
 

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IrishCop; Jaywalker,

As I said, you have to shop CAREFULLY & look off the "main streets" to find something near to a decent price.
(Irish, climb on your pony & head West to The Alamo City. - You NEED to see THE SHRINE anyway.)

For example, there is a SMALL gun store in Balcones Heights that FREQUENTLY gets REALLY NICE Colt's D-frames. = That's where the "as new"/UNFIRED/1st issue Cobra with box was.
(The nice lady behind the counter told me that day that, "Nobody wants to pay 600 bucks & the price is firm.")

Also a WANT TO BUY ad in THE SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS may bring several good choices. - YEP, the Express-News accepts gun ads.

Note to Jaywalker: I wouldn't have one of the Colt D-frames with under-lug, as I see the Cobra/DS/Agent as 6-shot, CLOSE-DEFENSE revolvers & the smaller/lighter the better. ====> "That's what makes horse races."
(For decades, I carried a Colt's Agent w/shroud, in my pocket (lined with suede) as "Onion Field Insurance". - The only time that I ever fired it "in anger" was to kill a BIG nasty-tempered Cottonmouth one Summer afternoon on Caddo Lake, that insisted on boarding my bass-boat.)

yours, sw
 

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Kevin, let me see if I'm understanding you.

I've got three Colt DA revolvers where, if you cock them SA slowly, the bolt doesn't drop into the notch on one or two chambers. Cock them with normal vigor, or pull the trigger DA at a normal speed and they seem to lock up just fine. If I'm understanding you, that's perfectly normal and "in time" and nothing to worry about?
 

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Kevin, let me see if I'm understanding you.

I've got three Colt DA revolvers where, if you cock them SA slowly, the bolt doesn't drop into the notch on one or two chambers. Cock them with normal vigor, or pull the trigger DA at a normal speed and they seem to lock up just fine. If I'm understanding you, that's perfectly normal and "in time" and nothing to worry about?
Yes you have that correct, that's what I'd call "Within Normal Limits".

You'll notice that when you actually shoot those guns, everything works just fine. Even if you cock the revolver in single action and the cylinder bolt doesn't drop in, the second you pull the trigger the cylinder bolt will drop in. That's because the second cam on the pawl will push the cylinder the rest of the way and hold it there.

The REAL test is a double action slow pull. If the cylinder bolt never locks in, then the gun is completely out of time and potentially unsafe.
 
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