Monday, March 20, 2006

S&W Quality Control Problems

It seems that the North Carolina DOC is having problems with a run of Smith and Wesson Model 64 wheelguns.
Faced with problems ranging from misfires to barrels breaking off, the state has asked gun maker Smith & Wesson to replace hundreds of sidearms carried by probation and corrections officers.
Barrels breaking off? Yeah, I'd say that is a problem.

Smith and Wesson revolvers are considered some of the finest anywhere in the world. I can see an issue with one or two revolvers out of a run, but QC should catch those.
At a meeting last month at a shooting range in Smithfield, Smith & Wesson representative got a live demonstration of the problems. During test firing of about three dozen revolvers, four misfired, meaning nothing happened when the trigger was pulled. The barrel also broke off a different model when it was fired, something that has happened 14 times in practice firings since 2003.
Evidently there is a problem that S&W needs to address. Or a couple of problems.

Barrels breaking off? I'm amazed. I think that having a barrel break off on the firing line would cause a little excitement. Having a barrel break off on duty would cause a great deal of excitement.

Smallest Majority is on this one, with pictures.

Barrels breaking off? Geeze!


Rivrdog said...

The barrels breaking sounds like a metalurgy issue. I wonder if S&W ordered a bunch of barrels from an aftermarket supplier, who cheated them on quality?

Misfiring Smiths are much more common, because of failure to maintain the firing pin channel (on the newer transfer-bar models). On the old models, which had the firing pin on the hammer, it is not as likely, but those firing pins do break after long use, and so should be replaced on a schedule before that happens.

Firing pin channel maintenance is nothing more than taking your can of spray-lube and putting the nozzle tube in and spraying backwards through the frame into the firing pin channel. Dirt will wash out. Follow the spray lube with a blast of 120psi compressed air from a non-OSHA nozzle, blasting in the same direction, backwards. All cleaning should be followed by generous oiling, and the oiling followed by generous application of compressed air to remove the excess oil.

When I packed a revolver, I blew it out daily at the vehicle barn when I put my vehicle away.

On revolver subjects, remember not to get any LPS or Break-Free on the primers of your ammo. It's been known to seep into the primer and make it a dud.

Anonymous said...

Americans CAN make quality. Look at Ruger. I have a 1974 SBH with at least 100,000 rounds through it, and it is as tight as the day I bought it some 32 years ago.

Rivrdog said...

Ran this by the crew at the Geezer Coffee this am (retired deputies, had about 15 there today), and it evoked great surprise. One turned to me and said that it could sink S&W. Others disagreed, but all agreed that S&W MUST immediately ditch it's stonewall attitude, and even offer to pay the shipping to examine any possible affected revolver.

Second point of agreement: Buy Ruger stock (and weapons).

P.S. I don't own any S&W revolvers at this time, only Rugers.

Pawpaw said...

Like Xavier, I like the older Smith and Wesson revolvers. I own three of them. Love them. Trust them. The kids can fight over them when I am gone.

I haven't bought a new revolver in the past twenty years. I have mine. Still, I am amazed that an icon like S&W is having problems like this.

Rivrdog said...

I have a feeling that this is going to turn out to be a quality control issue driven by outsourcing.

The gun biz in the Connecticut Valley has seen much downsizing. Not too amenable to automation, since hand-fitting by gunsmiths is still required, the manufacture of revolvers can only be cheapened by outsourcing the parts builds from the in-house (and expensive) US gunsmith labor to off-shore groups. I don't have any direct evidence that S&W did this, but other manufacturers did it.

Even Ruger lost some quality. In 1985, I bought a Ruger SP101, in .38 spl. Very well-made firearm.

Last year, I bought another one, this one in .357. The new one is much less finished, and out of the box was much more uneven in trigger action. It took a much longer break-in to even begin to get smooth, and by now, I have shot it about half as much as I have shot the 20-year-old one and the old one is still far smoother.

Just a friendly side-bet: those barrels, and perhaps other parts of the Model 64 revolvers, were not made in the US of A.

Anonymous said...

I am a firearms instructor for NC DOC, and participated in test firing some of the guns (mod. 64's) and our results are what instigated the demonstration shoot with the smith reps. they had blamed our ammo for over a year for all the problems we have been having. when the barrel fell off right in front of them, they were highly embarassed, to say the least (i am told, i wasn't there that day). right after the test fire, they quit trying to blame winchester and remington, and started trying to make a deal. last i heard from my master trainer is that we are converting to s&w m&P .40's in about 4 months, at smiths expense, a full package, gun, holsters, magazines, armorer school slots, etc, etc. i don't kow if it's an exchange for the malfunctioning guns, or if they are charging us a miniscule price, but smith bactracked real dog-gone fast all of a sudden. and companies don't do that without going to court unless a lawyer tell them to.....

Anonymous said...

I am my police department's firearms instructor in a rural New England town and we recently switched to the smith & wesson .40 M&P pistol for our duty weapon. Six (6) out of thirty (30) "new" guns malfunctioned during our recent qualifications. Misfires, magazines falling out, rear sights falling off, and slides slamming forward on their own, were just some of the problems. My Chief could have went with Sig Sauer but opted not to do this. Oops!

Anonymous said...

I bought a Model 63 back when they first came out (stainless .22 kit gun). The barrel was crossthreaded and the piece shot more or less sideways. Took it back to the shop and they sent it to Smith; when it came back the barrel was installed correctly.

S&W quality control has left a fair amount to be desired for several decades, but now that their guns are literaly falling apart at the range I think I'm going to get rid of all of mine. Just too much bad news for me to feel confident in the product.

Anonymous said...

I recently special ordered a new model 36 classic chief's special. I shot 10 rounds through it and the empties wouldn't release from the cylinder. On top of that, the cylinder when opened slid out on the pivot rod past the stop on the frame and up the rod toward the grip. In my lifetime, I've never heard of a revolver this defective from the factory. S&W claims a lifetime warranty. I hope my $650 boat anchor comes back the jewel I thought I was buying.

Anonymous said...

My Model 36 was returned from the factory after being repaired. They replaced the cylinder, and pivoting arm assembly to make the gun right. It shoots fine now and the empties drop of out the cylinder like they should. My boat anchor came back a jewel. I will add that I'm not sure I will buy another S&W product. Sadly I feel their asking price doesn't reflect the lower quality and finish standards they've adopted. The finish on S&W products is far from what it was in the 70's and 80's. My visit to the past with the Model 36 was enough for me. I'll be looking hard at Ruger and Springfield products in the future.