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Author Topic: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders  (Read 153 times)

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Offline Len

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Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« on: January 11, 2019, 11:59:36 AM »
We do see lots of bolt scratches on cylinders from member's photos of their revolvers. Is this something that bothers you? Do you try to address the problem, or is it not a problem?
Just curious. I've had my share and would appreciate any and all suggestions.

Offline Pustic

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2019, 12:15:19 PM »
It doesn't bother me none, it shows the gun gets used, as it should.
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Offline Hawg

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2019, 12:36:50 PM »
It doesn't bother me if I buy a used gun with one but I wouldn't want to see it on one I bought new. It just shows sloppy handling.
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Offline G Dog

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2019, 02:06:41 PM »
Hi Len - I dislike a bolt drag line very much and do consider it a problem. 

I have a Pietta 1861 bought new in 1997 and used a lot that is showing a light faint line.  The line was an early onset thing and has not grown worse. One of my Pietta 1860's from the same year is showing that too, just a little. Other than sloppy de-cocking what causes that to happen?  (of course the bolt rides high - but why?)  My other BP pistols are line free and I’m glad of that.

I’ve polished and shaped the bolt head and reduced its height just a little.  Does backing off the bolt/trigger return spring screw help with this?  Is the height of the hammer cam related to any amount of bolt drag? 

I have so many questions.  Would the Smiths & Tuners here talk about this, I need a lesson.


« Last Edit: January 11, 2019, 02:12:19 PM by G Dog »
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Offline Hawg

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2019, 03:53:06 PM »
It could be the hammer cam or the bolt leg that rides on it. With the cylinder removed cock the hammer. As soon as the hammer starts to move the bolt should drop below the window in the frame and stay there until the cylinder advances to one full bolt width from the notch. If it's advancing correctly and you have enough meat on the bolt to fully engage the notch you can file the bolt down until it doesn't rub.
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Offline Omnivore

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2019, 04:04:48 PM »
"drag line" is the common term I've seen most, and I don't like it.  It means there's something wrong with the gun or the handler, or both.  The original cylinder in my first Remington has some of that, but it's due to me practicing all manner of speed cylinder swaps, and getting a bit too "into it".

My first reaction regarding the handler is; what could you even DO to make that happen?  How poorly must one's understanding of the gun's function be?  I'm having to try to imagine how one could even go about doing that to a properly functioning gun.  Let's see; say you've removed the cylinder and out the hammer on full cock.  Now the bolt is in the locked position, and say you try to install the cylinder with the gun in that condition,  I suppose you COULD force the cylinder in, by compressing the bolt spring, but would anyone do that?  Or, say the gun is assembled and you're working the action, what could one do to bugger up the cylinder like that?  Hmm.  put it on half cock, rotate the cylinder out of its battery position, lower the hammer thus raising the bolt, and then DRAAAG the cylinder over the bolt into lockup.  One COULD do that, but WHY?

A maladjusted action is, I would hope, the main cause.  I once looked over an Uberti Walker that the seller, a purported "gun dealer", told me had been all tuned up all special like by an "Expert Gunsmith".  On half cock, the bolt was dragging fiercely on the cylinder.  BIG mess-up in the "tuning" there, because that should never happen.  The cylinder should turn freely on half-cock so as you can load it and cap it, etc., without the bolt ever touching it.

What causes that can only be a bad bolt, a bad hammer cam, the half cock notch having been messed with, the trigger having been shortened so it drops into half-cock when the hammer is down too far, or some combination of the above.

The cause depends on the cause, and only a full and complete understanding of the action, which is a very simple action, will allow one to de-bug it properly.

Say one does a "trigger job" and in so doing, the trigger is shortened.  Now it's an "Awesome trigger", but OOPS, now the hammer is setting down farther at half-cock, and thus the bolt higher, and thus DRAAAG!

Normal wear on the hammer cam, or the corresponding bolt leg, or both, will cause the cam to engage the bolt leg later in the cocking process, and thus the bolt will sit higher toward the cylinder at all times while engaged with the hammer cam, and could drag on the cylinder at half-cock.

The bolt could be drooping up into lock-up too soon, and that will create a very distinctive type of drag line that extends forward of every cylinder notch by the same amount.  Having no leads, or "approaches" as some call them, every Remington will, or, I say, should, have some of that type of drag line because I want the bolt to hit the cylinder about one full bolt width ahead of the lockup.  As the parts wear, that type of drag line will extend farther and farther ahead of each cylinder notch.

Apart from normal bolt drop for lockup, any time the cylinder is rotating, the bolt should not touch it.  It's as simple as that, and no one should be confused as to why that is-- It's the way the gun is designed to operate, and to be operated.

Double action revolvers on the other hand, with swing-out cylinders are a very different "animal" because you aren't expected, nor should you try, to line up a cylinder notch with the bolt as you swing the cylinder into the frame,  ALL double actions of that type will develop full-circumference drag lines with normal and proper use, but they are of course subject to some of the above maladjustments also.

All that being said, I have factory-new, modern single actions that develop "drag lines" (theoretically).  Ruger for example likes to drop the bolt as soon as the cylinder comes out of battery, so you're draaaging the cylinder over the bolt through most of the cocking process.  Same goes for NAA.  Both of those companies use FAR less bolt spring tension though, and since those guns both happen to be stainless I don't much care; the bolt pressure on the cylinder is very little, the cylinder steel is much harder, and anyway there's no blueing to rub off.  The Ruger of course has the modern bolt un-locking mechanism actuated by the loading gate, and that does it's job of keeping the bolt away from the cylinder during re-loads.

On a percussion revolver?  No; there's no excuse for making a full, circumferential drag line.  I see it as a sign of a weak mind.  One should either fix the gun, get it fixed, or figure out how to run it.  If you bought it that way and got a good deal on it, cool.  Now fix the problem so it doesn't get any worse.

One's property is one's own of course, and one may treat it as one pleases, without having to answer to others, but it's like seeing a car with tires that are grossly, un-evenly worn due to chronic misalignment combined with a failure to rotate the tires.  Unlike a few dents or scratches in the finish, which are circumstantial and sometimes unavoidable, a full drag line on one of these percussion guns happens only from chronic neglect or chronic abuse.
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Offline Hawg

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2019, 05:44:56 PM »
Omni, I have seen people let the hammer down from half cock and deliberately turn the cylinder til it locks. It's not that big of a deal on a Remington because the hammer should come down in the safety notch to start with but on a Colt design it will score a cylinder every time. 
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Offline 45 Dragoon

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2019, 08:07:09 PM »
More than likely, on an older Italian copy that has always kept the very heavy combination spring, it's probably a worn cam. As the cam gets worn, it doesn't pick up the bolt arm as high which leaves the bolt head high. And of course, it'll only get worse. As Omni pointed out, it could be the bolt arm as well or a combination of both.  With heavy springs, you don't necessarily feel or hear the changes that are happening over time. That's when an easy action and all the "clicks" clicking at the right time can help tell you when your S.A. may need attention.   ;)

 A couple of things here : a worn bolt arm and or cam that is degrading and allowing the arm to slide off to the side, will show itself as progressively earlier bolt drop.  If it's just the cam  failing in diameter, the timing may not change very much but the dreaded "beauty ring" starts appearing and it too will get worse,

 The ROA and all the other "3 screw" Rugers should have the bolt (cyl. latch ) drop at the beginning of the approach. The 2 pin ones. .  .  .  .  .  . I don't know. Omni is probably correct, most have a "good" ring!!

I  don't like "beauty rings" either and was taught how NOT to have them show up on your cylinder.

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Offline Omnivore

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2019, 09:32:26 PM »
Just to be clear; the Ruger I referred to is a recent production Single Six.  I've seen other new Rugers at the LGS with the same timing, and I don't necessarily consider it to be a problem on a stainless gun with modern, harder cylinder steel than is found in percussion guns.

I haven't played with Old Armys enough to know how they did it from the factory.  Their action parts are rather different, but the function of those parts, i.e. timing, isn't necessarily altered.

On another note; someone once commented in another thread that the percussion revolver is a special case, and that's why they need super hefty bolt springs.  I must disagree.  Other than the fact that the cylinder is loaded from the front and has a nipple at the back it's no different.   The cylinder/bolt relationship and function is no different than a modern single action cartridge gun, OTHER THAN the way the bolt is held away from the cylinder for reloading.  Modern SA designs, for lawyer reasons, use the loading gate to unlock the cylinder, rather than having a half-cock position, plus they use a transfer bar or hammer block safety and rebounding firing pin (thus the hammer stays down during the reloading process, and thus the operator isn't pulling the hammer back and lowering it, to re-holster after reloading), but otherwise the concepts of operation, the bolt timing and lockup concepts, are the same.  Nor does the burning of black powder verses smokeless change a thing.  Powder fouling on the outside of the cylinder, while more visible, is not significant, even after very high round counts.

I learned in working on, and dealing in, musical instruments that a cheap instrument usually has heftier spring tension on the keys.  That's because the fitting of the actions is not great, and thus the extra tension is there to overcome the typical mechanical imperfections.  I perceive, nay, I know, that the Italian revolver makers are using the same strategy, which allows them to sell a gun for 250 or 300 dollars that would cost at least a couple hundred more if they cleaned up and tuned the action significantly and consistently better.  This is not to insult them.  They're making a decision to fill a price point, and they're doing a generally excellent job of it.  If they charged a thousand dollars for a really sweet percussion gun, and if that were all they sold in the category, it may be that so few people would buy them, they'd lose money and cancel production.  So they do exactly what the musical instrument makers do; they make a very large number of cheaper ones, and a very small number of really super nice ones that cost far more.  Most, if not all, of their profits come from selling large numbers of the cheapest units, and most of the company prestige comes from the (relatively) very few top quality units they sell.  Better manufacturing technology of the last 30 years or so, has made the bottom end guns, and musical instruments, pretty darned good in many cases, and it often amazes me what can be done for such a teeny price (Chinese slave labor aside).
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Offline Hawg

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Re: Bolt scratching lines on cylinders
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2019, 01:06:36 AM »
Rugers are designed to let the bolt ride the cylinder all the way around.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for thou art crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.