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Inconsistent primer strikes


Johnny Knight
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Hi all, looking for suggestions on an issue with primers.  I'm newer to shooting with SASS, but have reloaded for years.  In the course of tuning up the pistols (NM Vaqueros), I've been trying out different main springs in order to lighten up the hammers.  I'm not interested in going as light as possible, trying to go as light as is reliable.  I know by reputation that Federal is considered a lighter striking primer, while CCI is considered harder.  I've been going lighter with the springs (currently a 13# Wolff in one pistol and a 15# Wolff in the other)  With the 13# spring using a CCI primer I'm getting about a 20% failure to fire rate.  The obvious answer is to go back up to the stronger spring, but one thing I was curious about was that the strikes seem to be inconsistent.  Some strikes are quite shallow, while others look like a solid strike, yet didn't ignite the primer. I'm aware that it does require a sharper strike to ensure ignition, so depth alone isn't the only criteria.  The plan is to load up some Federal primers and compare the results.  Ultimately, I'll continue adjusting things so that I have 100% reliability regardless of primer brand, but I was interested in finding out if others have had similar experiences.  Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Regards,

Johnny

primer strikes.jpg

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Are you also polishing internals? Transfer bar, hammer, hammer channel, etc. all need to be burr free and smooooth. Firing pin return spring is also pretty important in Vaqueros...

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If testing, I would use all the same head stamp, presuming uniformity in primer pocket. I would use the latest transformation of each brand (of primer), so that conclusions apply going forward. I read that all the primer cups are now pretty much the same, i.e. newer Winchesters and CCI might run in a CAS gun with light springs, formerly only reliable with Federal primers.

Edited by Roscoe Regulator
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Yes, I've polished internals.  Also, replaced the pawl spring and the cylinder latch spring.  Currently running a 30 oz trigger spring.  I haven't yet replaced the firing pin return spring, which I understand is a bit more of a chore.  Roscoe, regarding using the consistent brass, I know that would give me a better baseline if I wanted to dial everything in exactly, but I'm looking to set it up so that I can used any old reload and have day to day reliability.  Then, to help that further, load up some rounds in consistent newer brass with the Federal primers and set that aside for match days.  OLG, I've been using a primer pocket cleaner on the brass after it gets out of the tumbler to try to ensure more consistency.  Because I'm using mixed brass, the force required to seat does vary a bit.

Johnny

 

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Run a 17 lb spring and then you don't have to worry. I doubt that running a 13 lb spring will make you any faster than using a 17 lb spring.

J.M

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9 minutes ago, Johnny Meadows,SASS#28485L said:

Run a 17 lb spring and then you don't have to worry. I doubt that running a 13 lb spring will make you any faster than using a 17 lb spring.

J.M

 

JK,

And this ^ is probably the answer to your problem.    Trust me (and Doc Shapiro can verify this in his research), that there is a 

point where these hammer springs can be too light that its counter productive to speed.    Light hammer springs might feel

like your can cock them faster, but hammer fall speed can counter effect any advantage you think you might have with 

hammer cocking speed.  

 

And of course, its not only counter productive to shooting speed, but as you are experiencing, light hammer springs can

cause other issues in firing your pistols.

 

Good luck.

 

..........Widder

 

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Good advice already. 

 

I'll add this just in case. Your reloads should fall all the way in the chambers just by gravity alone. Then fall back out.  If they take a push to get them in, then investigate why and fix. A cartridge that is not all the way against the cylinder face will dampen the strike on the primer.  Even if you pushed it all the way on loading,  recoil will drive it back out. 

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Thanks all for the input.  Widder, In the course of trying to do my homework, I've read the argument of cocking advantage at the cost of hammer fall speed.  Part of what is throwing me is that I've seen the multiple references to the 17lb factory spring, but I swapped in an 18lb wolf spring at one point and it felt lighter than the factory spring.  I don't have a way to measure, just going off of feel.  Do different brand springs have different 'feels'? 

I shoot duelist, so already swapped in the blackhawk hammer for the easier reach.  I guess it is the engineer in me that wants to experiment a bit.  Plus, it's just an excuse to throw more lead.....  Warden, I'm using the Lee dies with the factory crimp die to finish, so the cartridges glide in and out of the cylinders freely.

Johnny

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I have longhunter 17lb spring and they feel lighter than the OEM spring by far with all the rest being the same - action job, trigger spring... I had FTEs with CCI primers with 15 lbs spring on one gun but not on another - so it was borderline..

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Quote

looking to set it up so that I can used any old reload

Quote

the engineer in me that wants to experiment a bit. 

 

Two pretty contradictory goals.  I find the first is more important.   At least to reliably fire any reload that YOU assemble.  For that, lean on the heavier spring set until you get to know your guns and your loading process real well.    And quit using CCI primers (hardest to set off of the US primers), just stick with Federals or if you have to, Winchesters.

 

And even the engineer knows that if you push a complex system right to the edge of 100% reliability, and then one component in the system changes (even if you have no control over it), you may fall off the edge of perfect function.   A dud round costs a lot more in total score than a few hundredths of seconds on each pistol cock and fire cycle.

 

In the end, it's practice that will make the big difference in how you shoot, not the equipment tuned to perfection.

 

good luck, GJ

 

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Thanks Last Call and GJ.  Glad to hear someone else felt a difference between two springs listed as the same spring rate.   Garrison, I'm only referring to my reloads, not every load out there.  I would love to quit having to run CCI primers, but out in our neck of the woods (Houston area), we are still having to take any primers we can find.  I've got about 1500 federal large pistol magnum primers that I was going to save for match ammo (shooting 45 Colt).  Working on getting in the practice you mentioned.  My thinking is that if my guns run the CCI's reliably, they should run everything else even better. 

 

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Going through a similar process, only with a rifle and 38 special. I have noted that different head stamped brass have different rim thickness. This makes a big difference in firing or not when light hammer strikes is an issue. Thicker rimmed brass is more reliable than thinner for obvious reasons. This relates to head space, the few thousands of an inch tolerance for head space added to the few thousands tolerance of brass rim thickness equals a few thousands too many to fire. Find the thinnest rimmed cases in your collection, load with the hardest primers and when you get 100% reliability, you have the minimum hammer strength required to fire anything.

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3 hours ago, Roscoe Regulator said:

If testing, I would use all the same head stamp, presuming uniformity in primer pocket. I would use the latest transformation of each brand (of primer), so that conclusions apply going forward. I read that all the primer cups are now pretty much the same, i.e. newer Winchesters and CCI might run in a CAS gun with light springs, formerly only reliable with Federal primers.

I would also not mix guns in any single test scenario.  You did not say if both guns have the problem.  That is key to tracking it down.  

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JK,

From my experience, most of our more popular spring makers do a great job in consistency.

BUT, there are always exceptions.

 

Spring length, coil diameter, coils per inch, etc..... can slightly differ among 'same' springs, which can cause

the 'FEEL' to be different.    BUT..... mostly, the springs we use (or at least those I have used) are of high quality

and fairly consistent.    Actually, the springs might be more consistent than the inner workings of the pistols

you use them in.

 

..........Widder

 

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3 hours ago, Warden Callaway said:

Good advice already. 

 

I'll add this just in case. Your reloads should fall all the way in the chambers just by gravity alone. Then fall back out.  If they take a push to get them in, then investigate why and fix. A cartridge that is not all the way against the cylinder face will dampen the strike on the primer.  Even if you pushed it all the way on loading,  recoil will drive it back out. 

 

The answer for the difference in strikes is here ^^^^

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Just my 2 bits.

Let's see, the 1 second saved for 5 rounds by using lighter springs will offset the 5 second penalty for a miss due to a FTF?  :blink:

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I shoot double duelist, and for 38/357 I use a pair of SASS and a NMV as a spare. IMHO lock time is an important issue, you don't want slow lock time affecting your accuracy, and slowing you down. 

 

I swapped a SASS hammer into my NMV, just to keep the feel the same if I had to use the spare. But for my Blackhawk, I modded a NMV hammer to give me better thumb action. For me, the NMV hammer is just about perfect for duelist. The thumb action for duelist is very different from "Squaw grip". 

 

There may be another possibility. The NMV has a few quirks, they have been discussed on and off on this forum and others, so i'll cover them as briefly as I know how. 

 

The NMV has a ejector alignment pawl, which lets the NMV mimic the Colt SAA in half cock for ejecting the empties. On it's own, a pretty benign little addition. 

 

But, it does not entirely operate on it's own. It can be removed so that the cylinder can spin freely, CW and CCW. Again, this does not happen on its own, other parts and the interaction of pieces make this possible. The NMV has been designed so that the pawl retracts when the hammer falls. The "how" is done rather crudely, IMHO. As the hammer falls and just as it strikes the primer, the pawl contacts the grip frame. The grip frame has a small milled slot that directs the pawl away from the cylinder. Depending on the pawl and the slot, the hammer blow can be softened by this. After all, the pawl hits the grip frame and slides a bit. Ruger had issues with this, again, my opinion, because they also made the transfer bar a bit thicker to increase the hammer blow, and make it happen a bit sooner. 

 

I've probably lost most of you, but I relate my experience. I had a pawl spring that was a bit damaged, got bent on reassembly. It added a bit of friction to the operation of the pawl, so it would not retract. I did not notice this, as I have not removed the ejector pawl. My primer strikes were not crisp, even with the stock hammer spring. I could tell that the hammer was not falling completely. In error, I added a bit of clearance, made the small notch in the grip frame large enough so that the pawl would not contact the grip frame. The hammer fell completely and primer strikes were good. I later corrected the pawl spring issue, but with the added clearance, my NMV will never free spin. 

 

I can't blame Ruger, I have to own my "fix" (screw up). But, as convoluted as it sounds, I'd check to see that the hammer falls completely and solidly against the transfer bar. If you are not using the free spin, you could trim a bit off the tip of the pawl, until it does not contact the grip frame. Going back would be cheap, buy a new pawl. My "fix" was more permanent. 

 

I did experience issues with one transfer bar on a Vaquero (original). it was a bit thin and the firing pin was not being pushed far enough. 

 

One last note: I've done some rudimentary brisance testing and the Federal primers have a soft cup, but they have a higher brisance than the CCI. For large pistol primers the CCI are the mildest. they have a gentle but very consistent ignition. The Federal has a soft cup but it's brisance is approaching that of a Rem 2 1/2. And in todays world, you have to consider that with shortages, you may need to use other primers. 

 

BB 

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Maybe it's time to look beyond the gun and ammo. In my experience, the SBH hammers make it a lot easier for your thumbs (especially if they are fat like mine) to impede the hammer fall. I ended up using cut and welded lowered Vaquero hammers in my guns for that reason. You could also grind the SBH hammers thinner.

 

Try 50 rounds slow fire, making sure your thumb is well clear of the hammer, and see if you still have the 20% light strike rate.

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Jonny, back when people started making a run on the gun stores to get a gun, starting the ammo shortage, I grabbed 2k CCI primers left on the shelf as I couldn't get Federal anymore. I had 1-4 misfires per match through all 2k. I ran them through five different guns (SASS and Not SASS) which made no differance. Light primer hits will go off most of the time if you put them in another gun. Not these. It got so bad I shot stages as if the duds went off, and took a "P". It was too nerve racking to worry if they went off or not.

 

I have very old primers that were kicking around for years out in the barn. Now short on primers for practice/monthly matches, I'm shooting these primers. I went through 7k 47-year-old CCI with no issues, as well as Winchester and Remington.

 

Check the primer issue before you start hacking on your guns.

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Thanks again for all the input everyone, trying to learn as much as I can about the vaqueros.  I'm more than happy to lean on all the accumulated experience here.

Dusty, I've been trying both guns to make sure that each works fine with each iteration.  On the last go round of only about 50 rounds, one gun had no issues, the second gun had the 20% FTF issue.  So, the plan is to step up the spring in that one till I don't have any FTF after putting at least 50 rounds through it.

Blast, I have been suspecting this particular batch of CCI primers might also be part of the problem, since I wasn't having nearly as much of an issue with the last batch of ammo that was loaded with Federal primers.  As an additional data point, I took the rounds that didn't fire in the vaqueros and put them into an old model blackhawk with the factory springs.  Most of the rounds went off, but a couple of them didn't.  That still left a question, since the primers had already been struck once in the vaqueros, but having a couple still not fire raised a question about the primers themselves.

Boston, I gave the guns an initial polishing and deburring, trying not to change any dimensions on the parts, I figured I would go back through and do a bit more fine tuning, so I'll pay particular attention to the pawl interaction.

Rattlesnake, in general I have smaller hands, but I'll pay attention next time to ensure there isn't any operator induced drag.

Regards,

Johnny

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IMO, even a 15 pound spring is too light.  I'd suggest 17 at a minimum, and for me, 19 is better.

 

Make sure you're not in contact with the hammer as it fires.  I see a lot of folks "riding" the hammer back down with their thumb, causing light strikes.

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1 hour ago, Doc Shapiro said:

IMO, even a 15 pound spring is too light.  I'd suggest 17 at a minimum, and for me, 19 is better.

 

Make sure you're not in contact with the hammer as it fires.  I see a lot of folks "riding" the hammer back down with their thumb, causing light strikes.

NMV's come with 17lb hammer spring and 30oz trigger return spring. 

The OMV came with 23lb hammer spring and a 40oz trigger return spring. 

OP, just because the gun fires now. Will it in 6 months or a year from now after the spring takes a set?

Or when the gun is gunked up from flying dirt etc.

OLG 

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3 hours ago, Doc Shapiro said:

IMO, even a 15 pound spring is too light.  I'd suggest 17 at a minimum, and for me, 19 is better.

 

Make sure you're not in contact with the hammer as it fires.  I see a lot of folks "riding" the hammer back down with their thumb, causing light strikes.

 

^^^^THIS^^^^  X100000000000000000000000

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6 hours ago, Johnny Knight said:

Thanks Doc, sounds like I've got some more experimenting to do....

 

There's one other consideration that a lot of folks dismiss.  Lock time.  The hammer on these guns is pretty dang heavy.  It takes a long time to fall.  I've seen misses by shooters that move faster than their hammer falls.  A heavier spring will help with this (as will some follow through).

6 hours ago, The Original Lumpy Gritz said:

NMV's come with 17lb hammer spring and 30oz trigger return spring. 

The OMV came with 23lb hammer spring and a 40oz trigger return spring. 

OP, just because the gun fires now. Will it in 6 months or a year from now after the spring takes a set?

Or when the gun is gunked up from flying dirt etc.

OLG 

 

Been a long time since I bought a Ruger.  Mine all came with 23's.  A 17 would get swapped out for a heavier spring.

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9 minutes ago, Doc Shapiro said:

Been a long time since I bought a Ruger.  Mine all came with 23's.  A 17 would get swapped out for a heavier spring.

That is exactly what I did.  I tried lighter 13# springs for about a year, and lock time slowed down to where I was literally waiting for it.  The 23s went back in for a year, to adjust to slip hammering with them, then I backed down to 20s.  I've been pleased with the latter change in every respect.  And I haven't had a single FTF pistol primer since I removed the 13s.   That is with Federal 100 primers and with well polished transfer bars in place.  

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9 hours ago, Doc Shapiro said:

 

There's one other consideration that a lot of folks dismiss.  Lock time.  The hammer on these guns is pretty dang heavy.  It takes a long time to fall.  I've seen misses by shooters that move faster than their hammer falls.  A heavier spring will help with this (as will some follow through).

 

Been a long time since I bought a Ruger.  Mine all came with 23's.  A 17 would get swapped out for a heavier spring.

The original OMV came with 23's

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Just going to say thanks again for the input.  I'm a long ways away from worrying about lock time (lucky to shoot a 36 second stage atm), but I'm enjoying tinkering with the guns to see how spring changes are affecting the feel of the guns.  Swapped out the remaining 13# spring for a second 15# spring (since that was the gun I was still having the failures to fire on).  The plan is to put some more rounds through the guns today to see how they shoot.  One gun is feeling very smooth, the other still has just a slight hitch on it that I haven't been able to identify yet.  Also, in checking the action, I noticed that when the trigger is pulled, if it is held all the way back that seems to limit the amount the hammer can fall forward just a tid bit.  Upon pulling the trigger, the hammer falls striking the transfer bar, then as the trigger is released forward, it seems the hammer is able to go forward a bit more.  That would seem to explain why some of the primer strikes were noticeably lighter than others (if I was continuing to hold the trigger all the way back).  I would think that the hammer should have full forward travel whether the trigger is held all the way back or not.  Is this something specific to Rugers, or just my individual gun?  If so, it would suggest I need to train myself to a crisper trigger pull and get off the trigger so that I'm not limiting that extra forward travel.

To Doc and the others, the plan is to shoot with the  15's a bit just to see if I can get them to reliably ignite the CCI primers, then swap out to a bit heavier spring to find the sweet spot that works for me.  It does seem that the 17# wolff spring does have a softer feel than the original ruger spring that is also supposed to be a 17# spring.  Maybe its all in my head though...

Johnny

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The hammer traveling forward after you release the trigger is the transfer bar sliding down. Without pressure on the trigger the transfer bar does not stay up between the hammer and firing pin. When you release the trigger it falls below the hammer and prevents it from hitting the firing pin.

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I recently traded for a pair of NM Vaqueros with "competition spring kits" installed. The other party assured me he'd tried them with all brands of primers and they fired every time "even with CCI's". I THINK  these kits come with 15# main springs. I stepped outside, and put six in each gun. One went bang three times, and the other went *click* six times. Fortunately, he had included the stock springs in the boxes. I don't think I've ever had 100% reliability with all makes of primers with anything less than 18 or 19# springs in a Ruger.

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16 minutes ago, Three Foot Johnson said:

I recently traded for a pair of NM Vaqueros with "competition spring kits" installed. The other party assured me he'd tried them with all brands of primers and they fired every time "even with CCI's". I THINK  these kits come with 15# main springs. I stepped outside, and put six in each gun. One went bang three times, and the other went *click* six times. Fortunately, he had included the stock springs in the boxes. I don't think I've ever had 100% reliability with all makes of primers with anything less than 18 or 19# springs in a Ruger.

NMV come from the factory with 17lb springs

The seller went well below that.

OLG 

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@The Original Lumpy Gritz or anybody else -

How is spring weight measured? Building a bench jig with a stress gauge, guide rod, bolt, nuts, washers, etc., would be a rather simple thing, but how is the weight calculated? Completely relaxed spring to full compression? Relaxed and compressed 1" or whatever? Installed spring at rest to full cock?

Edited by Three Foot Johnson
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