Saturday, January 14, 2012

New hammer for the new Ruger Flat-tops

I have a couple/three of the Ruger Flat-tops on the 50th Anniversary Flat-Top frame which is the size of the original Ruger Blackhawk but with the new lockwork.  Two are .44 Specials and one is a .45 Colt/.45 ACP.  All came to being courtesy of Lipsey's.  I get along well with all these guns.  However, I have been thinking that a lower hammer would be the ticket.  To that end I've been reading what I can and looking at comparisons of the various hammers Ruger installs on their single action revolvers.  Two of these interest most people wanting to make a similar modification.  These are the Bisley and Super Blackhawk hammers. Below, courtesy of Matt Olivier, we have, left to right: Old Army, Super Blackhawk, large frame Blackhawk, 357 Blackhawk, Single Six, Super Single Six, and Bearcat.

This gives a good idea of the relative heights of the spurs and sizes of the parts.  However, this photo lacks a direct comparison of the Super Blackhawk and Bisley hammers.  This next photo, from Whopist on Cast Boolits, does show the relative heights of the three hammers shown.

So it might be necessary to get a Bisley hammer and remove the excess metal that it has to blend with the ears on the Bisley grip frame.  This next photo from Whopist shows that.  If you look at the Bisley hammer you can see that the original hammer form has been drawn with a black marker.

I read in the same topic that:
On the thick transfer bar gun, ease the hammer down while holding the trigger and look at firing pin protrusion, see if your thin transfer bar revolver looks to have the same protrusion. If not, you may need to remove some metal from the top of the hammer to get a full strike from your pin.

Also, on the thick transfer bar revolver, with the hammer lowered on the transfer bar and the firing pin extended, see if the hammer drops a fraction to fully come to rest when you release the trigger. If it does, you have transfer bar pinch which will/could lead to a broken transfer bar. In this case you need to file some off the second step until you alleviate the pinch.

Then to further confuse things, on a midframe like the 44 special, Anv 357, New Vaquero, you have to look at how deep the hammer "sits" at rest. If you do a straight swap on a midframe, the hammer might not rest deep enough to fully retract the pawl. Then you get clicks from the pawl on the ratchet plus the reverse indexing pawl, 12 clicks per rotation. To fix this, you have to establish resting depth, then file the second step to alleviate the pinch.
Whether the differences between the thick and thin transfer bars will really be a problem or not has yet to be seen.  A Montado hammer would be close to ideal, if there was a blued version.

Another comparison of the various Ruger SA hammers...

I got two Super Blackhawk hammers but have yet to install either of them. I am one of those people who finds it hard to fix something that works.

How to do this?  It was supposed to be this simple and you might have seen these instructions elsewhere...
1) Remove the grips
2) Remove the five grip frame screws. Remember where the long one goes.
3) Separate the grip frame from the cylinder frame carefully. Don't lose the two small plungers. One is in the grip frame just forward of the trigger slot. The other is on the rear face just below and to the side of the hammer.
4) Depress the gate detent spring so the trigger pin can be removed (a gate detent spring tool ($20) is a BIG asset).
5) The hammer and trigger can now slide out.
Change the hammers and reverse directions for reassembly. 15 minutes and your done.

It was NOT that simple.  The instructions are in the manual and you should follow them.  The first time it took MUCH longer than 15 minutes, more on the order of 2 hours to both disassemble and reassemble.  The gate detent spring tool IS a big asset.

You must remove the main spring and you will eventually have to remove the trigger spring so you might as well do that also before removing the frame.  It is a bit of a juggle to put it back together and correctly install the mainspring strut and trigger spring.  On the New Vaquero and other guns with the lock, one captures the mainspring on the strut and then removes the grip frame to remove the mainspring (and trigger spring).  It just doesn't work any other way.

In reassembly, one needs to depress the detent spring just so as to slide the trigger pivot pin back into place.  It helps if the cylinder catch/bolt is flat against the detent spring as that means the pivot pin hole will not bind on the trigger pin.  Also, you need to be certain that the gate is closed and the detent spring leg is correctly positioned against the gate.  It might have a tendency to slide forward of the gate.

Was it worth the effort?  First, a Montado hammer will more correctly match the radius on the grip frame.  That might be more important to you than the fact that it is a stainless part (if you can get one).  The Bisley hammer is a bit lower yet and you can cut/file the radius to match the grip frame.  However, the lower hammer is a benefit as one can cock/uncock the gun without shifting ones's grip much at all.  For those with physical issues limiting dexterity, this might be very important.  Aside from learning HOW to do this, the parts are pretty much drop in.  That speaks volumes on the quality/concistency of Ruger's fabrication.

All this would be pretty pointless without photos, right?  Here's two.  The first is a side view of the Bisley hammer in my New Vaquero.  I have about $350 in the gun.  Yes, a bit ugly but the thing works.  Think of it as the Glock of Single Actions.

Ruger NV-44 .45 Colt New Vaquero, 2005 vintage with Super Blackhawk hammer installed
Ears and hammer radius don't match up...
The second photo is of the rear of the gun.  I'm trying to show the difference in the radius of the hammer and the grip frame at the "ears".  It kinda irritates me a bit so I don't know if I'll leave the Super Blackhawk hammer in the gun.  Because the Super Blackhawk is such a big gun, compared to this one, I am a bit surprised that the hammer for it is missing metal in this area.  However, dimensions elsewhere are correct and the hammer works just fine in the gun.  As I said before, a Montado hammer would do the same thing and match the grip frame but all the Montados I know about are stainless steel.  Also, at this time I don't know where to get a Montado hammer.

After a bit of shooting and dry fire I've really grown to like this modification.  The original hammer seems to have a spur more akin to the headgear on a longhorn bull than a Colt SA hammer and while there isn't much difference, the 1/8"-3/16" lower plane of the top of the Bisley hammer is a big help in smoothly and quickly cocking the gun.  I like it so much that I've ordered a Bisley hammer to modify for my .45 Colt Flattop.  It will rest a bit lower and have a bit more "style" than the Super Blackhawk hammer AND I'll be able to grind/file/shape the radius to match the frame "ears".

I've also discovered that the Montado hammers have become unobtainable.  Ruger apparently has made a corporate decision to not make them available as parts while still providing Bisley and Super Blackhawk hammers to the trade.  How and why they have made this decision is unfathomable to this simple-minded former infantryman.  To my mind, if it sells, make it and sell it.  If they made a blued version, I think it would sell very well for installation on the .44 Special and .45 Colt Flattops they've recently put on the market.  The lower hammer is a big plus to the older shooters, some with the beginnings of arthritis, who make up a big share of the market for these guns.

Originally published 20:00 2011-09-07.

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