Christmas is a wonderful time, especially if you’ve saved enough to buy yourself a new gun. For me, it was a Cimarron M1860 Type II Mason cartridge conversion in .44 Special. The revolver is well fitted and the cylinder throats and barrel dimensions matched. In casual shooting at the local Washoe County range, the revolver gave me 1-handed, softball-sized groups right over the front sight at 15 yards. The action was a little rough, even though the trigger was crisp.
I sometimes allow shooting to smooth up an action, but even after 200 rounds, the action was still rough. Eddie Janis of Peacemaker Specialists, in conjunction with Brownells, put together a set of three stones shaped and sized for the interior recesses of the average Colt SAA, its clones and copies. Janis wrote the instructions, which are clear and easy to follow. Upon disassembly, it was easy to feel the burrs on the inside of the action and the hand (which revolves the cylinder) showed gouging from a sharp burr in the frame slot in which it rides to rotate the cylinder.
The first stone wears quickly because it is coarse and very soft. It also quickly removed the burrs from the action mortise. The second stone is also soft and coarse and is wedge shaped to fit the hand slot. The instructions implore you not to use force with this stone because it is very fragile, especially since it has no support riding high into the recesses of the frame. Gentle pressure and frequent oiling combined with repetition smooths out the hand slot. The third stone is an extremely hard Arkansas stone and it is used to polish the surfaces very smooth. This third stone may or not fit the hand slot, and in this case it didn’t, so I used it just inside the frame.
I did use the third stone to carefully smooth the hand, which had been gouged by the burr inside the frame. The instructions warn you not to remove too much material on critical parts—such as the hand and bolt—and to use the hard stone to just polish these surfaces. The same goes with the hammer, bolt cam and trigger. While you need a jig to work on the hammer/trigger engagement surface, the working surfaces of the hammer and trigger can be smoothed to ease their passage across each other as the hammer falls. Janis suggests a Dremel to polish the curved inside surface of the trigger where it rides over the hammer, but I just used the hard stone.
One important note to remember: There are deep machining marks inside the frame. You need to smooth them—not remove them. Once they are smoothed over the revolver will run smoothly, and what’s left of the tool marks will hold oil.
In two hours I was finished. You must get all the stone grit out. I washed the parts in hot soapy water, blew them dry with a hair dryer and oiled them with FP-10. Two additions: I added a Heinie Music Wire Bolt & Hand Spring (Brownells has ’em) and I put a small lock washer between the frame and the mainspring. Doing so lightens the hammer cocking effort without sacrificing power or modifying the spring itself.
The Heinie spring works much smoother than the stamped sheet metal Uberti spring, and the washer reduces hammer-cocking effort without thinning of the mainspring or sacrificing reliable ignition.
The Brownells Colt SAA Hand Slot Stone Kit sells for $52.99, and the Heinie SAA Trigger/Bolt spring was $7.50. I’ve since slicked up a Cimarron 1872 Open Top and an 1849 Wells Fargo model with equal success. The stones can be purchased separately, and mine will be good for several more guns. If you can follow instructions you can achieve excellent results on the first try. I’m glad I tried it. The only other thing you need is a good screwdriver set. Of course, Brownells has ’em, too—including gun-specific sets with one just for the SAA with the bits stored in the handle.
By Jeff John
200 South Front Street
Montezuma, IA 50171
P.O. Box 906
Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Old West Reproductions
446 Florence South Loop
Florence, MT 59833