PDA

View Full Version : Forensic photos: 41 magnum Python by Jack Huntington


D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:40 AM
I've never seen any dissection of a 41 magnum python, nor really of a professional action job, so let's fix that!

I recently picked up a 41 magnum python conversion done by Jack Huntington:
http://www.jrhgunmaker.com/
He was nice enough to chat on the phone. In his view it can handle a steady diet of 1,000 fps 41 mag loads. He also stated he worked at colt for a couple of years and has done around 2000 pythons. He did his version of an action job, including bending the trigger sear.

So, it'll be interesting to see what he did.

Last night I finally got to open stuff up. There were some interesting results, both in terms of what he did and what he didn't do.

Here's the gun (wrong stocks, I know):

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01957.jpg

They did a crude stamp of "41" after grinding off "357":

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01960.jpg


It's an early gun, but reblued (duh) so the INS ("inspected") on the handle has been partially obliterated:

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01959.jpg

Backplate. Looks like the owner didn't fire many rounds. He claimed 12; I can believe it:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02109.jpg


Despite not using the gun much and spending a bunch of money customizing it, the owner was pretty feckless with its care. Many scratches and the dirtiest bore on a purportedly not broken gun I've ever seen:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01964.jpg

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:42 AM
OK, let's get to what 41 magnum really looks like!

Comparing the barrel crown of a 357 (left) and our 41 mag (right):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01968.jpg

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01971.jpg

The forcing cone hasn't been re-enforced but, currently, isn't cracked; we'll see after it gets fed a bunch of 41magnum:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02108.jpg

My calipers can't fit in there so unfortunately can't measure just how thin the forcing cone is. It doesn't look horrendously bad.

Something has to feed the barrel, so here's the 41 mag cylinder (left) and a normal 357 cylinder (right):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01965.jpg

Close up. As you can see, not a lot of metal left between chambers; there ain't going to be a 44 mag python, ever:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01967.jpg

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:42 AM
It's at the ratchet end of the cylinder where the fun starts. I'm betting that getting the ratchet right was the single largest pain in the *** thing of the whole process. It's certainly one of the main places they messed up. Normal 357 on left, 41 magnum on right, notice the red rectangle!
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01972.jpg

As you can see there is a missing ratchet pin hole:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01973.jpg

Now why would that be? If you look from the side, you can see that the ratchet broke on the hole (that will be the absolutely thinnest place):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02106.jpg
After welding it back they probably decided redrilling the hole through it was a bad idea.

Ouch. That must have been annoying. I'm curious if it was the last hole of the 6? I'm assuming they bored these holes using a 4 jaw chuck on a lathe, but I'm curious if they had any tricks.

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:43 AM
OK. So taking the internals out, what does it look like?

The first obvious thing: the trigger. Here's three triggers: a stock python (upper), a Frank Glenn bent sear trigger that I've done a bunch of posts on (left) and the Huntington bent sear trigger (right):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01984.jpg

The big news: Huntington's is bent, but (1) it's less round than Glenn's and (2) it's beveled at each end. The less bend means there is more stacking at the end, at least for my senses (measurement, sort of, to follow). The beveling I'm not sure about. I would guess he was trying to improve DA feel, but may in fact be making it worse: the trigger reset is scratchy and sticky compared to the Glenn action, I'm guessing perhaps b/c of the bevel. (A future experiment to do: I have a thinned strut, need to measure how it affects trigger pull weight.)

Here's the bevel: Huntington (left) and no bevel Glenn (right):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01985.jpg

And another view comparing to stock (left), Glenn (middle), Huntington (right):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01986.jpg

As you can see, the bevel seems slightly thinner than the hammer strut, which is what it travels up (in the back on DA) and down (in the front, on return):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01989.jpg

Another view in comparision to the hammer strut, this time in situ:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01992.jpg

The difference in curve between Huntington and Glenn is a bit hard to tell by eye, so we put both triggers in the same gun and use where the hammer strut resets to to check curvature. First, here's the Glenn trigger used with the Huntington hammer, note the strut can't reset very far since the curve is pronounced:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02014.jpg

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:44 AM
And here's the Huntington trigger: the hammer strut can go much farther up the curve b/c it's shallower:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02015.jpg

However, note that though that without the rebound lever in place (which cants the hammer back slightly) the strut cannot reset; this is different from how I learned. The gap it leaves between the sear and the hammer strut seems to be smaller than that recommended by the shop manual.

There's a few possible advantages to Huntington's approach (perhaps the motivation?). One is that similar to Behlert's motivation is that he *may* have to do less fussing about with the hand, which often needs to be cut down with a large curve. Another is that he *may* have to fuss less with the hammer notch to eliminate creep: it was hard for me to tell if he cut less.


One definite change from using a smaller curve is that he had to cut less material out of the hammer toe in order to get reset. There's a Glenn style hammer on the left and Huntington's on the right:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02017.jpg

And, for comparison, a stock hammer (left) vs Huntington's (right):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02022.jpg

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:44 AM
OK. This is all well and good, but what's the effect of the different curves?
We do a simple experiment:

Measure the DA pull of each in the 41 mag frame. Put the Huntington hammer/trigger in the 41 mag frame and and measure DA. Put the Glenn hammer/trigger in the 41 mag frame, measure DA.

Measure the DA pull of each in the 357mag frame. Put the Huntington hammer/trigger in the 357 mag frame and and measure DA. Put the Glenn hammer/trigger in the 357 mag frame, measure DA.

To reduce variance we remove the cylinder from each frame, and use the mainspring that is already in each frame. I also added a bit of brownells lube to the Huntington hammer strut and trigger sear since they were pretty dry.

To measure pull we put the gun in a vise, try to keep it level and then use a lymans digital pull scale to measure DA:

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02042.jpg

I tried to to pull level on the trigger, but in retrospect I should have had it point straight up. You should keep these numbers as crude estimates. They are more suggestive than definitive. For each I tried to find the angle that gave the smallest reading without much variance and used that as the number.

For this experiment at least the Glenn trigger is consistently lighter: by about 12+oz in the 41 mag frame and 8+oz in the 357 frame:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02050.jpg

With that said, it's not entirely clear what the effect of this difference is. The problem is that while the Glenn trigger is lighter and feels like it stacks less, the Huntington trigger pulls the hammer back slightly farther, which will likely generate more force when the hammer falls. What we really want to measure is: for the same amount of force driving the firing pin forward, how much DA pull (and stacking) was needed? I don't have a way to measure this, currently, so here's a couple pictures of how far back each pushes the hammer. Glenn first:

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02047.jpg

Then Huntington, slightly farther:

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02045.jpg

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:45 AM
Ok, what else is different? One obvious thing is that the bolt spring is non standard. This swap was done to lighten bolt drop: factory springs lead to a tactile "click" and (often) a noticeable drag as the cylinder rotates on a tuned gun. The old school way the colt shop would lighten was to file the outside of the trigger (perhaps removing about half) and/or to cut its length. He just used another spring entirely, as do other people I know, who actually use the same spring as well :)

Here's a stock colt spring (top) vs what was in Huntington (bottom):
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01995.jpg

Notice that he trimmed his down to about the same length. Unlike how I was taught, however, he jammed the cut end into the bolt rather than into the frame: this way seems to allow the spring to bend better.

Interestingly, and slightly inexplicably, he also swapped what seems to be the *same* spring in for the hammer strut spring. I'm not sure why. One thing I noticed is that his setup seems to have issues with making the trigger return pretty sticky. This spring swap might be a hack to try to weaken the pressure from the strut so the hammer can return. Here's a comparison: stock hammer strut spring (left), the spring he replaced it with (middle) and the spring he used in the bolt (right). The cut part is highlighted with the rectangle:

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02096.jpg

The last spring is the mainspring. Here's the one from the 41 mag on the left and a "stock" one on the right:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02012.jpg

The mainspring in the 41 mag gun has a narrower "V", which may be a coincidence, but likely means it got modified. If so, since there is not a "kink" in the top leg it seems that he does not use the old school shop manual method of putting a pin and cocking several times but instead uses pliers to bend the leg he wants (as I was taught).

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:46 AM
Now, what else?

In terms of smoothing, it's interesting that he didn't smooth out anything in the frame itself, despite it having some high points which was adding drag (discussed in a subsequent post).

Another curious thing is what did not get fixed. I'm not sure what the original work order was, but from the fact that a curved trigger got put in it seems like it was for an action tune. In that case there are some things messed up in the current gun that I thought would have been fixed.

[NOTE: I am assuming that the gun did not get shot much so that things are still in about the same condition as when it left the shop.]


The main one wrong thing in the current gun is that the rebound cam is miscut. Here's a closeup shot of the rebound: the cam coming out of the side of the rebound should be at a 90 degree angle. Instead it's sloped down:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02068.jpg

[Did you know? The rebound cam is what the bolt rides over and returns around. As you pull the trigger the bolt retracts as tits tail rides up the triangle, when the tail falls off the front the bolt pops back up. The bolt recovers by traveling around the side of the triangle, which is beveled and polished. :)]


The most common symptom with a sloping rebound cam is that the bolt falls off the side of the cam rather than traveling down the front. The cam isn't designed to work this way, so you get early wear, early bolt drop, weird timing. It's what happens on our gun. If you look closely you can see the tail of the bolt far away from the side of the rebound lever about to fall off the side of the triangle (keep your eye on the red rectangle!)
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01979.jpg


Another problem (assuming the timing works at all) is that that you get a hard, rough feel to the action when the bolt falls (as we do for this gun). It's not entirely clear to me what the exact cause of this affect is, but I think it's b/c the bolt falls directly off the cam rather getting lowered slowly down by riding the front. In any case, one of the first things you look for when you feel that hard crunch is a miscut cam.

Another issue is that the the hand is aggressively over bent. You can't tell, but if the side plate is tightened firmly you can feel some drag from that (and when we mark things with a sharpie later it really stands out). Here it is laying down for comparison:

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/hand.jpg

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 2:46 AM
At this point we break to smooth and fix things for a few hours.

Finally, we swap the wrong grips for more useful eagle over-sized ebony grips to handle 41 mag recoil and a modern elliason based rear sight so we can aim more accurately.


To summarize:

Interestingly, the forcing cone was not reinforced: he believes the gun will shoot 1,000 fps rounds w/o issue, indefinitely.
Not much material is left between chambers in the cylinder (going to be hard to do a .42 mag!): So little that cutting the ratchet was actually likely the most delicate part, as you can see from the broken star.
Huntington's trigger sear is bent less than a Glenn sear and beveled.
Less curve means he has to cut the hammer toe less. He also leaves the cut shallow enough that the strut will not reset w/o the rebound in place.
It seems to have 8+oz of more DA pull for the same mainspring with a perception of slight stacking,, but does pull the hammer slightly farther back.
He swapped bolt springs for spring X.
He also put what seems to be spring X for the hammer strut.
As I received it (but perhaps not how Huntington left it), the gun has a miscut rebound and an overly bent hand that drags. Also the frame has rough spots.


And there you have it!

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC02111.jpg

Joe
06-25-2009, 2:53 AM
wow... awesome job with all the pics and observations.

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 4:07 AM
wow... awesome job with all the pics and observations.

Thanks! Guns is funs. :)

If anyone has a python with action work by a notable smith that they want similarly dissected, let me know! I've been buying them for such purposes, but that has gotten too expensive...

B Strong
06-25-2009, 6:31 AM
I'm a Smith man, but I have to admit that that's one of the coolest custom wheelguns ever - thanks much for the post & pics.

GM4spd
06-25-2009, 6:41 AM
If you look carefully at the rear backplate---the peening around the
firing pin hole is indicative of a lot of dry firing. Also after the
cylinder rework---the walls look extremely THIN. There is a good reason
Colt didn't manufacture this in 41Mag. Personally,I wouldn't fire it with
any kind of 41 load in it. Pete

Bravoav
06-25-2009, 11:01 AM
D R E, Thanks for the very informative photos of the 41. I have learned quite a lot from your posts and blog. You do some really nice work and I like how nice you polish out the sears. Looks like you chromed them. Someday, when you have time I would like to feel how smooth the action is on one of your Pythons. Maybe have you do my 6" for me. All the best, BQ:cool:

AndrewMendez
06-25-2009, 11:20 AM
Thats seems like a whole lot of work!

maxicon
06-25-2009, 11:21 AM
Thanks - another great post! If it were mine, I'd consider a diet of .41 special...

Why did the hand need to be modified for this conversion? It seems like the spacing and timing would be the same between .357 magnum and .41 magnum.

ivanimal
06-25-2009, 11:30 AM
Pretty cool. I had a chance to get one a few years back but it was way too rough. The action was real sloppy and the frame seemed to have been changed and reblued. So I passed. The 41 magnum was pretty crude on the barrel as well, it makes me think it was the same conversion.

Pistolwhipped
06-25-2009, 11:37 AM
Great pics!:lurk5:

madmike
06-25-2009, 11:54 AM
Excellent as usual! You have definitely taught me that I don't have the patience to work on Colt revolvers...

-madmike.

dfletcher
06-25-2009, 12:26 PM
I presume the fascination with a 41 Magnum Python is - it's a Python. The New Service came in various calibers including 357 Magnum and was a larger framed gun, so I would think from a logical point of view the New Service would be a better platform for a 41 Magnum Colt.

I know - logic, gun owners ...no relation, including me.

WyoDuner
06-25-2009, 1:11 PM
I gotta tell you, you did a great job with all the macro pictures - clear and well lit. Well done!!!

mauritz45
06-25-2009, 1:26 PM
great write up....i cant believe it went out with the amaturish grind and restamp...on a python!!
i wonder how the gun would function with one of that florida gents roller trigger jobs?--cam

ejor
06-25-2009, 1:56 PM
nice info,

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 3:05 PM
Thanks - another great post! If it were mine, I'd consider a diet of .41 special...

Why did the hand need to be modified for this conversion? It seems like the spacing and timing would be the same between .357 magnum and .41 magnum.

You're right: it has nothing to do w/ the caliber conversion. It's b/c of the curved sear.

You usually don't "modify" dramatically, just shorten the top and bottom surfaces. The reason is that often when you curve the trigger sear, the hand will sit slightly higher in the gun. If the gun was correctly setup before (i.e.., rotation of cylinder wasn't short) this will make both surfaces too long: the cylinder will turn before the bolt retracts (top hand too long) and keep trying to turn the cylinder even after bolt is locked in the notch (bottom hand is too long).


One nice sideeffect is that you can often repurpose hands that have become too short for a normal gun. Given their short supply, this is a good thing :)

In this case the hand was dramatically bent, for reasons I don't understand. But that had nothing to do w/ conversion of caliber or sear...

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 3:07 PM
great write up....i cant believe it went out with the amaturish grind and restamp...on a python!!
i wonder how the gun would function with one of that florida gents roller trigger jobs?--cam

I'm curious too. I have one a gun that is purportedly a Sherman roller action so will take that apart tonight, given the time.

I'll likely put a Glenn trigger in this one in any case. Feels better, at least to me.

I'm with you on the stamping. In any case this was just going to be a shooter so I guess it's ok.

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 3:09 PM
I gotta tell you, you did a great job with all the macro pictures - clear and well lit. Well done!!!

Thanks! But it's the camera + OTT light, not me unfortunately. Point and push button... :)

Redhawker
06-25-2009, 6:39 PM
Close up. As you can see, not a lot of metal left between chambers; there ain't going to be a 44 mag python, ever:
http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/huntington/DSC01967.jpg

No, they call it an Anaconda...
http://www.schuetzenverein-burgstaedt.de/stadtmeisterschaft/Colt_Anaconda_44mag.jpg

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 7:27 PM
No, they call it an Anaconda...
http://www.schuetzenverein-burgstaedt.de/stadtmeisterschaft/Colt_Anaconda_44mag.jpg

Nice try but anaconda = Totally different action :)

Though there was one "MKIII" python at the colt museum auction.

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 7:57 PM
Pretty cool. I had a chance to get one a few years back but it was way too rough. The action was real sloppy and the frame seemed to have been changed and reblued. So I passed. The 41 magnum was pretty crude on the barrel as well, it makes me think it was the same conversion.

Could well be. I smoothed the action, so it's reasonable now: much better than a stock python, for sure :) I'll still probably put in a Glenn style trigger, since I like the feel of that better.

I thought Huntington hadn't done any other conversions, so it may well have been this gun! Did the owner live up in Grass Valley?

Frame seems ok from what I can tell, but I wasn't super careful looking it over. E.g., missed the peened firing pin hole that was just pointed out.

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 8:01 PM
I presume the fascination with a 41 Magnum Python is - it's a Python. The New Service came in various calibers including 357 Magnum and was a larger framed gun, so I would think from a logical point of view the New Service would be a better platform for a 41 Magnum Colt.

I know - logic, gun owners ...no relation, including me.

My fascination was partly b/c I like to pick up examples of reputable gunsmiths action work so I can see what they did. The other part was to see how much truth there was to the standard story that colt decided not to go w/ 41 mag b/c the gun was too weak. I figure I can try it out and if it breaks, just drive up and throw it at Huntington's shop :)

He does have a lot of experience with big bore revolvers (e.g., the FA rechamberings in 500 JRH) so I'm hoping that his view that the gun can eat 1,000 fps loads is right.

In terms of better platforms, if it doesn't have the I frame action, then I'm just not interested. Talk about no logic :)

QuarterBoreGunner
06-25-2009, 9:08 PM
D.R.E.... could you adopt me? I have sooooo much to learn and I figure that's the best way...

D.R.E.
06-25-2009, 10:04 PM
D.R.E.... could you adopt me? I have sooooo much to learn and I figure that's the best way...

HA! I think you'd have a sad childhood, unfortunately: I get to cheat by only showing the photos that worked, and only on the guns I understand.

Frank Glenn or Grant Cunningham is where you want to wind up :)

QuarterBoreGunner
06-25-2009, 10:10 PM
And I thought I was all cool for buying and reading the Kuhnhausen books all those years ago.

I know, deep down, that I'll never be a gunsmith; but knowing how what does what is still a very nice feeling. Thank you for that D.R.E.

And for those of you that haven't read his full blog posts, you really should - a wealth of knowledge to be had.

D.R.E.
06-26-2009, 3:42 AM
Yeah, Kuhnhausen is great! In addition to reading it, I'd try dropping it in grease : that should sort anything out :)

http://i40.photobucket.com/albums/e226/ddd_rrr_eee/DSC01606.jpg

D.R.E.
06-26-2009, 4:08 AM
Anytime. For people like you I don't worry about liability issues.

Hope you're getting to shoot the 8" alot!

I tend to over polish (over lube too). But the sear is one place where it's worth it. Plus, after you bend it with a torch the sear looks pretty jacked up so you have to polish pretty well.


D R E, Thanks for the very informative photos of the 41. I have learned quite a lot from your posts and blog. You do some really nice work and I like how nice you polish out the sears. Looks like you chromed them. Someday, when you have time I would like to feel how smooth the action is on one of your Pythons. Maybe have you do my 6" for me. All the best, BQ:cool: