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Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

Lots of people buy a handgun, some ammo, maybe a holster or two, and call it good. I'm not one of those people. Nearly every handgun I've ever bought has been modified, cleaned up, or improved in one way or another, some of them with several changes. I guess it's my way of making the gun more personal, more "mine".

I recently came across what I consider one of those guns everyone should have, a S&W Model 625, third change, in 45ACP/45 Auto Rim. It had the five-inch barrel I like, stainless steel construction (which I prefer because I'm lazy, and like shiny things) and adjustable sights. The grip frame is round-butted, making it more user-friendly to those of us with smallish hands, and it can use moon clips if Auto-Rim ammo isn't available. In my mind, it was about perfect, and needed no modification..............................right? Well, not quite.

For one thing, I wasn't happy with the factory sights. Black-on-black is fine when your eyes are young and you're shooting at something white, but on a black bullseye or dark target they just turn into a blur, and it gets worse as your eyeballs get older. I needed something with more contrast.




I called S&W and ordered a white-outline rear sight blade and a fiber-optic red front sight, which for whatever reason were shipped from two separate locations. They arrived and were installed in due course, with only a few hitches. I'm not a gunsmith, but I managed to get them in place with very little blood shed and no left over parts, so considered it a victory.

One of the issues was that S&W has changed the way they put the white outline on the rear sight blade, and I was pretty disappointed in the way this one looked when it arrived. Instead of a bold, thick white "U" around the sight notch, this one barely had enough paint on it to qualify. I really wanted to shoot this gun, so instead of sending it back, I got out the masking tape and some white fingernail polish, and "enhanced" the white part a little. It won't win any awards for precision or neatness, but it's better than it was.





Changing out the front sight was pretty straightforward, once I found something small enough to drive out the .055" diameter pin that held the old one in the base. The new sight quickly replaced the black blade, and I now had a sight picture that a blind man could use.



So now the gun was perfect, right?

Well, not quite yet. The grip that came on it was a Pachmayr finger-grooved model, too thin in cross-section and too long from front to back, since the grip covered the backstrap. Since the grip is the only thing between my hands and the gun, it has to be a perfect interface, and this one wasn't. I decided a rounder profile would fit me better, and hoped Pachmayr made something for the N-frame like the Compac Grip I have on several of my K and L-framed guns. They do! So it went from this to that in about a minute.





NOW it was finally perfect, and ready for the range. While I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I bought and loaded 200 pieces of Starline Auto-Rim brass, and had several ammo cans full of 45ACP loads, just waiting around to be shot up.

After three MONTHS without burning any powder, I was afraid my perishable gunhandling skills had evaporated, but I still had a few left when I got to the range this week. The new rear sight blade was only casually centered, but it was dead-on for windage at 50 yards, and a few clicks of the elevation screw had me busting clay pigeons within a few shots. The single and double-action trigger pulls were pretty good when I bought the gun, but half an hour of polishing the innards had smoothed it out even more, and as I passed the gun around to my shooting buddies, they all commented on how good the trigger stroke was. We shot up nearly an entire case of clays before I even thought to shoot a few targets for score, and I chose a load at random, which turned out to be four grains of WST under a Rainier plated 200-grain flatpoint. The gun seemed to like it, despite the fact that I consistently managed to pull a shot low out of every cylinder-full. It's not the gun's fault, that's for sure. Any gun that will do this for me at 25 yards, with my eyeballs and lousy bench-shootings skills, is destined to be a favorite!





Satisfied that it was dialed in close enough for my purposes, I went back to shooting clays at 50 yards, and as the gun and I settled down and got used to the ammo, clays started disappearing faster. My shooting buddy took a break to eat lunch and watch me shoot, and he declared after several strings that I'd hit 20 clays in a row. I wasn't counting but I could tell I was getting pretty dialed in, and while I like shooting a lot, I like hitting even better.

By the time I got home after five hours of shooting, I was wearing a goofy grin and chuckling to myself for no apparent reason. The gun was filthy, I had buckets and bags full of empty brass to reload, but I was at peace with the world. The longest winter in history was finally coming to a close, I had a new bullet launcher that shot like it was laser-guided, and thousands of rounds for it already loaded and waiting to be shot.

Life is good. I think I need to go shooting tomorrow, too. Hey T-Bone!



See? It even LOOKS perfect! :D :) ;)
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

I like the 5-incher! Much more handy than a 6", but with better sight radius than the 4".

I bought a white outline blade for my model 60-3 some years ago, and it is a very nice white outline, I'd be hopping mad if I had gotten that in the mail! (Someday I may even get it put on the pistol!)

Are you sure those were flyers? ...or do you have a rebel chamber in there amongst them?

Mighty fine looking pistol, there, PJ! ;D
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

Had one of those since 1988. It knows the peace of a permanent home; you are going to like that one. ;D
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

PapaJohn, I like it!
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

The 625 is one of those "fun guns" that you never get tired of shooting. I've had mine for a while and it's still a regular on range trips. Combining the balance of a 5" underlugged N-frame with the .45 ACP and moon clips can't help but put a smile on your face. Like most of my revolvers, the 625 got an action job as soon as it came home. I kept the black-on-black sights, but thinned the front post and added a gold bead. This one is outfitted with an early set of the Jerry Miculek grips...



As to personalizing a handgun, I'll admit to a fair number of vintage Smiths that I keep factory stock, with the exception of action work, and shoot them as S&W built them...but the firearms that I use for hunting or competition, those that are frequent shooters, or that I rely on for self defense, all get some form of "perfecting".

With revolvers, that could be something as simple as a grip or sight change, nearly always includes action work, may include recutting forcing cones or uniforming cylinder throats, maybe adding a ball detent to the yoke or installing a scope base and scope.



With a 1911...well, you can have a field day with them. A whole cottage industry has evolved to supply shooters with replacement and custom parts for every conceivable purpose and imagination. As a born tinkerer, it's hard not to get carried away with the 1911 and I've gone overboard a few times in the past. Now, I'm far more conservative and long ago realized that all the bells and whistles do not a good shooter make.

But I still like to personalize any 1911 I get...at least a little bit. The .22 rimfire 1911 I picked up this past weekend had new grips, a new trigger, sear and hammer, and a flat mainspring housing installed only a hour or so after I got it home. Old habits are hard to break...



I suppose that's one of the reasons I like revolvers and 1911's so much.

By the way, PJ...you're much more accepting than I am. I would have been on the horn to S&W in a New York minute about that sight blade. That just ain't right.

Roe
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

PJ and Roe,

Very, very nice guns and pretty pictures.

Thank you.

Catherine
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

PJ

Great shooting. Your work on the gun certainly contributed to it- but no matter how much "perfecting" went into the work- it still comes down to shooting the thing.

And nice work on the rear sight- I think that came out well.

Good camera work too- thanks for sharing it all.

M
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

Although I am a pretty handy fellow, small 'fine' work is not my strong point... so about all I do is change the grips and go shooting. I am very lucky that most of my pistols have decent triggers right out of the box... my 1st gen Smith 57 is absolute butter in DA, as is my 686 (which I believe has had work done on the trigger by the previous owner.) My Kimber Pro Eclipse II is box stock... it already came with everything I wanted to do on a 1911; I didn't even change the grips. I will leave my nice 1960's era Smith model 10-2 alone, even preferring the factory Magnas to any Goodyear retread grips. If I have a pistol that needs some attention, it's my Ruger Bisley in .41Mag that I posted about recently. I really want to make that into something special, at least to me. An express front sight, a trigger job.... but all that after I figure out if it is worthy accuracy-wise :mad: .

My rifles are another barrel of monkeys altogether... but this is a handgun thread... ;D
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

Charlie98 said:
my 1st gen Smith 57 is absolute butter in DA............
Maybe it's a subjective thing, but I'm beginning to believe that the S&W N-frames are capable of being slicked up in DA mode more than any other revolver I can think of. One of the first trigger jobs I ever did was on my beloved 3-inch 657, and when I went to sell it (like a complete IDIOT) the guy balked at what I was asking for it, which was way less than what I felt it was worth. But he cut the plastic tie off it, and pulled the trigger through what was probably a 7-8 pound DA stroke, smooth as oiled glass. His eyebrows rose to his hairline as he tested it several times, then turned to me and said, "Who did the action job?" "I did", I replied, and he shook his head in astonishment. "Son," he drawled, "You may have missed your calling. That's the best double-action trigger I've ever pulled, on a Smith or any other gun." With that he carefully put the gun in a rug, pulled out a wad of money, and paid me what I was asking without another word.

As I said earlier, the trigger was already pretty good on the 625 when I bought it used, but I tore into it and polished the guts as soon as I decided it could stand some improvement. I didn't go whole hog, just did a rudimentary fluff-and buff, but the result was an even better pull than before, slick and consistent. Either I know what I'm doing, or the N-frame guns just lend themselves to home-brewed gunsmithing better than most.

And yet, every time I open up a S&W sideplate and reach for the Dremel, an eerie chill creeps up my spine. A boatload of guns have been absolutely RUINED that way. It is then that I recall the timeless words of Hippocrates................."First, do no harm". 8)
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

I do something to personalize most of my guns. This it A worst case.
The only origional piece left is the slide. I bought it new around 25 years ago and it has lived (more or less) through several of my mood changes.




oh yea the mag release is origional. ;D
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

Very good write up. Now all I need is a step by step on your slicking up the action. I bouight one of these a few years ago and can attest to their superior accuracy. Its a rare day in the Winter when I go out in the field without some 45 attacked to my side. (Usually a Ruger REdhawk or Blackhawk) and sometimes a Smith 22, which is my favorite. I supppose that is about as much personalization as I give it. Mine has quite a few round through it, but has not been slicked up. I need to take the plunge and work on it a bit I would guess. I did try a different spring, but it surely weaked the strikes on the cartridge and therefore had some misfires. PLaced the old spring back where it was. I have better luck working on Rugers. These do scare me a bit.
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

Here ya go, Doc. Any questions, feel free to PM me or Der Meister Tinkerer, Herr Barenjager. He gets deeper into it than I do, and can probably tell you a few tricks and tips I never even thought of. He is nothing if not thorough. 8)

http://www.marlinowners.com/forums/index.php/topic,52438.0.html
 

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Re: Personalizing and "Perfecting" a Handgun

Definitely, Dr. A, with PJ and Roe's help I was able to slick up a J-frame very, very nicely, and I had never even had a revolver apart before. Definitely doable. I still need to take my 442 apart at some point and clean it up a little if needed...the thing already does have a very nice trigger pull, though. And I have other things to do on the list before that...like finishing out my 1911 "perfecting" (VZ gatorback grips, Wilson Combat Bulletproof ambi safety, lighter/standard weight recoil spring [the factory was geared towards +P ammo, which I do not shoot in .45], new barrel bushing).
 
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