Friday, March 27, 2015

The Phoenix Project: The Resurrection of a Colt Trooper MK III: part 3

This is the 3rd installment of the restoration of a Colt Trooper MkIII. See Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Now that we have all the parts, I need to figure out how to swap the barrels. I tried all my local gunsmiths and none of them had the equipment (or experience) to swap a barrel on a revolver.
I checked the online Gunsmith suppliers and no one had the action wrench inserts for a Trooper, they did have them for the Python, which may be the same, but this project doesn't have the budget to shell out $200 for all the necessary tools.

I know some of the old timers would clamp the barrel in a bench vise and use a stick of wood in the cylinder frame to apply torque.

I didn't like that approach, too risky. I wouldn't want to warp the frame.

So I guess that leaves me to figure it out. I have seen it done before and I know the process, so I decided to make my own action wrench and barrel inserts for my bench vice.

I enlisted the help of a friend who is a jack of all trades. He built me this action wrench, which is basically two steel plates with a bolt welded on (so I may add a cheater pipe).
I will make wood inserts, carved out to match the contours of the frame and barrel. See my complete write up here: Removing the Barrel from a Revolver

Here is the whole works clamped in the vise
 A little bit of muscle and we have a successful separation!
 Here are the MkIII & MkV barrels side by side
 Before I attach and tighten the MkV barrel to the frame I have some more filing and sanding to do. The top sight plane will be bead blasted, so it doesn't need to be perfect.

 I now am fitting the new side plate to the frame.

The lower part of the cylinder window was also pitted, the file cleaned it up

Now back to work on the frame
Almost done with the 100 grit sanding, time to move to 220 grit
More progress, this is a 220 grit finish
It may be hard to tell, but trust me, I have made mucho progress in getting rid of the pits.

Once the pits are 99% gone, I will step up to 400 grit paper and sand/bead blast the top of the frame, then attach the new barrel and sand the whole gun to a 2000 grit finish
We have arrived at the 600 grit finish level....there are still a couple of small pits that need some attention, but we are at 90+% now...time to install a barrel!

 I used some graphic lock lubricant on the threads and put everything back in the homemade frame wrench and started twisting. I didn't get a picture of that...but you saw what it looked like going off...same deal
I used bubble levels to make sure the barrel was on straight
After a couple of nudges we got it spot on

The marriage of the MkIII frame to the MkV barrel is complete.
Now that we had the barrel on it is time to check the fit of the replacement cylinder.
I noticed a problem right off the bat, the pins that line up the extractor were out of time with the cylinder bushing, the cylinder bushing has a key way that aligns the shaft of the ejector.
 I punched the bushing out with a hammer and punch
 I used some resized 38 Special cases to help center the extractor, I then drove it home with a nylon faced hammer
 The cases were a bit tight in some of the chambers, the extractor needed to be fitted to this cylinder, I used a small rat tail file to take just enough material so the cases would slide in and out easily
 I then assembled the crane and checked the barrel to cylinder gap, the .008 gauge was the biggest that would fit.....not the best, but well within tolerance and the forcing cone on this barrel looked like new, so the gun should be good to go

The extractor needed some additional polishing, while I was at it I polished the chambers, 1st with 220 grit, then 600 grit paper wrapped around an old golf pencil
 The extractor was still tight fitting on the pegs, so I opened up the holes slightly with a drill bit, the extractor now fits over the pegs with just a very slight amount of play
While I was at it I polished the shaft of the ejector/extractor, using 320, then 600, then a spin on the buffer
It now slides in and out of the cylinder with ease

Next I used a block and some 600 grit to polish the face of the cylinder

Now I will work on the cylinders outside finish and sand the entire gun with 1000 & 2000 grit paper, a little work on the buffer and it will be ready for bluing!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Real Stories of Warranty Wins

I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: Those of us involved in the firearms hobby enjoy some of the best customer service anywhere, period.
I started to compile a list of real warranty/customer service resolutions to show how gun companies take care of their customers. These are real stories, from real customers.

This is a salute to those companies who put the needs of the customers ahead of everything else.
 (note...not all the pictures below are from the real guns/parts)

The 1st one happened to me: 
While doing some work to my Ruger Vaquero recently (see the write up here). I found a factory defect, the plunger that puts pressure on the cylinder stop was broken. It appears as if it was forced into a hole that was too small. When I called Ruger to order a new part, they sent me the replacement plunger and spring gratis.

I had bought this Hi-Point 995 9mm carbine used at a local gun store. A year or so later, the firing pin broke. I called the manufacture to order a new one and they sent me a newly designed one (less prone to breaking), free of charge.

Several of my fellow forum members have had great experience with Lee Precision. I recently broke my universal decapping die. I went to Lee's website and filled out the form and sent the picture below to them. They sent a new pin out the next day.

One member of our local gun forum had some problems with his Henry .22 rifle. He called their customer service line, they immediately sent him a pre-paid shipping label to send it back to them. They had the rifle fixed the day they received it and shipped back to him the following day at their expense.

Another SGN member had a couple of problems with his Kel-Tec P3AT. The hammer spring and mag release button both gave up the farm. Both issues were resolved by Kel-Tec with new parts shipped at no cost to the owner.
The same member lost a cap to the turret on his Leupold scope. Leupold sent him two of the covers at no charge.
These Ruger stories never get member had a very used 10-22 receiver that the scope mounting holes were stripped. He called Ruger and they send a new receiver, no cost.

 One of our members got a used Smith & Wesson 340PD in trade, upon shooting the gun he noticed the frame was cracked. He called S&W Customer Service and they had him ship them the gun. Four weeks later it was returned to him with a brand new frame.

My Father purchased this Ruger SR1911 Commander from a dealer at a gun show, the gun only came with one magazine, which seemed odd as my SR1911 came with two. He called Ruger and the promptly sent him another one free of charge. Another member sent his SR1911 in to have it looked at regarding some rust appearing on the surface. Ruger cleaned the gun, polished it and installed a new front sight. The gun was returned 7 days after the owner shipped it.
One member had the frame insert on his Sig P229 Elite, develop a crack (the part that houses the take down lever). Sig had him ship the gun to them and 2 weeks later it was returned, fixed, with no cost to the owner (other than the cost of shipping to Sig's repair facility.)
One person purchased this Daniel Defense fixed rear AR sight from an online retailer. When it arrived the screw was missing. One call to Daniel Defense netted the owner two screws, a catalog and a sticker, all sent 2nd day air at no cost.
Here is another member's experience with Smith & Wesson:

I bought a 'parts gun' from a local range. It was a S&W 66, and the range estimated it had somewhere between 80-100k rounds on it.
They took it out of service after the forcing cone had peeled through to the frame. After that, it sat in the back room for a few years, and over time, had been scavenged for parts for other guns. It was missing a ton of small parts, including the hammer, rear sight and the stocks.

 I called S&W and asked if they could rebuild it, and they only told me that if I sent it in, they could give me a price quote, if the frame wasn't destroyed and still useable.

I mailed it off to them. It came back like a brand new gun. All new small parts, a decent action, well timed, a new barrel, and new stocks. They invoice was marked no charge, not even the return shipping.  

This member had a good experience with Springfield Armory.  His Socom rifle developed a crack in the synthetic stock. He shipped it to Springfield Armory and it was returned 3 weeks later with a new stock, they also cleaned the gun and test fired it to make sure it was 100%.

One fellow bought a well used .357 die set. Parts were missing from resize die and flare die. One call to RCBS customer service and they sent a stem for the size die and a whole new flare die, no charge

One Taurus owner had ejection issues with his Taurus 24/7 Pro pistol. He took advantage of Taurus' lifetime warranty. The gun was sent in for repair and returned just 7 days later
The same shooter that had issues with his Taurus also had trouble with the empty shotgun hulls getting stuck in the chamber of his 870 Remington. One call to Remington and a new barrel was on its way, no questions asked, no money paid.

Another Kel-Tec win, this owner had shaved the magazine release button on his P-32 (to prevent it from dropping the magazine while in his pocket). When he went to sell the gun, he called to order a new one, the customer service representative refused to take his money (even though he explained it was not a warranty issue) and sent him a new at no cost.
This is another one that happened to me: I bought an RCBS priming tool, the plastic insert that holds the shell holder (the black plastic part in the picture below) and aligns the priming plunger would not fit, while trying to force it, I broke the insert. I called RCBS to order another one and they shipped two of them to me ASAP. This really was caused by poor manufacturing (the slot was not big enough, so I opened it up with a file). RCBS took care of the problem and the priming tool has now primed thousands of cases

Another Ruger owner shipped his original old model Bearcat (aluminum frame) in to have it refinished. He sent a check to cover the cost of the refinishing. Ruger returned the gun, completely rebuilt and refinished, along with the customer's check.

Many of the pictures above were found freely on the world wide web and are used under the guidelines of Fair Use, per Title 17 of the U.S. Code.
If you own the copyright to any of these images and wish them to be credited or removed, please contact me immediately.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Smoothing a Walther PPK/S grip frame

The Walther PPK is the smaller brother of the Walther PP. The PP is short for the German Polizeipistole or Police Pistol in English. 
The PP was designed in 1929 and some of its features found their way onto the Walther P38 Service pistol, which replaced the P08 Luger as the German Army sidearm in 1938.

The K in PPK is German for Kurtz or Kriminalmodell (depending on who you ask), Kurtz meaning short and Kriminalmodell meaning "Investigator or Detective". The Kurtz moniker makes sense as it is basically a shorter, smaller version of the PP. Kriminalmodell perhaps indicates that the PPK was designed as the "undercover" gun. 

The PPK/s is a hybrid, using the longer grip frame of the PP and the barrel/slide of the PPK. The PPK/s was created to get around import restrictions that resulted from the unconstitutional 1968 Gun Control Act.

The gun has quite a history tied to it. Beyond the allure of being the "official" sidearm of MI6 Agent 007 James Bond

The gun (actually a PP) was also used by Adolph Hitler to commit suicide, on April 30th 1945, when he saw that his dreams of his master race ruling the world were lost. 

The Walther PP, PPK & PPK/S models are perhaps the most copied small pistol(s) of all time (see my blog post  here). I am guessing this is because the gun is easy to produce. The design is a blow back operation with a fixed barrel. It only has a few moving parts and a few springs.

The little Walther does have its detractors though. 
Author Stephen Hunter has some pretty strong feelings regarding the gun. He has given it plenty of colorful nicknames like "a hand full of Hell", "Nietzschean poetry in steel" and "a fist full of barbed wire".

 The following popular quote from him suggests he spent some time with the gun and suffered from it: “Its tragic flaw is that when it was designed, streamline was the hot lick, but nobody had heard of ergonomics; men adjusted to machines, not the other way around. And though it looks sleek, its edges are all razor sharp, while the trigger pull is like dragging a 75-pound rake across gravel. When you finally get the 10-pound lever far enough back to fire, the pipsqueak jumps like a snapping mousetrap as it recoils, the slide shooting back in supertime, then forward again as all those edges cut into your flesh"
Strong words indeed.......

I bought a PPK/S a few years back as a birthday present to myself. After handling it and shooting it I found what Stephen Hunter was referring to.

The gun has a lot of sharp edges. Perhaps these edges help with its sexy, racy lines, but it is a bastard to shoot. I wanted to do something about the back strap where it cut into the webbing of my hand, but I did not want to change the look by doing a full on "melt job".
My particular PPK/S was built under license in the U.S.A. by Smith & Wesson. 

The gun's frame is crafted from investment cast stainless steel (which I believe are made by Ruger's Pine Tree Casting division). Smith & Wesson changed the frame design to include a beavertail at the rear of the grip to help eliminate the infamous slide bite.
This picture shows the new S&W made PPK above an older PPK/S, you can see the added beavertail as well as the difference in grip frame lengths. One easy way to tell the PPK & PPK/S apart is the grip. On the smaller PPK the back strap is covered by the grip, on the PPK/S the back strap is exposed.

Perhaps it was part of the original design or a lack of finish work that left the sharp edges to cut into the shooter's hand.
S&W did add a larger "beaver tail" to help prevent slide bite, maybe this made things worse? 
Either way I wanted to make it more pleasurable to shoot, so I decided to try and round the edges. I did not take pictures of the process, but I am guessing you can imagine what sanding a rough edge looks like. Here are the finished results. From a distance you cannot tell the gun has been messed with. I removed just enough material to make it comfortable to shoot.

 I looked into installing a reduced power hammer spring. I have read that some people have had trouble with light strikes as a result. It is really only an issue on the double action (1st trigger pull). 
Remember, no gun is perfect and every part of the design is a result of a compromise. The PPK/S is far from perfect, but I like it anyway. 

Many of these pictures were found freely on the world wide web and are used under the guidelines of Fair Use, per Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Where possible the source has been credited.
If you own the copyright to any of these images and wish them to be credited or removed, please contact me immediately.

Washington Post