Chief’s Special, Now With More Special!

I needed a round-butt J-frame to use as a model/fitting gun for making grips, but was not eager to spring for a new or even good used gun. I mean, it didn’t need to be good for my purposes. I trundled over to Pinto’s Guns in Renton to see what I could find, because you never know with them.

I explained what I needed to Chris, and he disappeared into the back, returning a moment later with a cardboard box. Inside was a fully stripped Chief’s Special that had received some sort of coating like Ceracote. “I think it’s all here,” he said. We quickly agreed on a (very nice) price and it was all over but the paperwork. The ‘box-o-bits’ was mine.

Gun, Interrupted..

Naturally on arriving home the first thing was to assemble it. Not necessary for Grip-making purposes, but definitely needed for Tinker purposes. All the important bits were there, but some of the springs were missing. I got online and in minutes they were on order from Numerich Arms. Shipping cost more than the springs.

The gun also came with a set of ‘oops-I-bought-the-wrong-gun’ shrouded grips, sans grip-screw, of course. They have been re-homed, and I hope their new owner enjoys them.

Naturally I didn’t need the gun to work for grip-making, so I started right in. Made a few different patterns, and in the fullness of time the springs arrived. I installed them and now I had a functional J-frame on the cheap. Consulting folks on the S&W forums it appears my gun was made in 1954 or 55; no model numbers or serial number behind the crane and it has a flat latch.

It had its issues; the edges of the trigger were too sharp and the tip too square, so it could be uncomfortable if I didn’t pull the trigger juuuust right. There was a bit of this and that that wasn’t to my satisfaction too. I’d been hitting it pretty hard in the shop the last couple of weeks, and with a medical appointment this afternoon I decided to play a bit in the morning.

Polished and smooth as, uh, a really smooth thing.

First issue was the sharp trigger. I detail-stripped the gun and took a 600-grit sanding drum to it to round the end and smooth off the sharp edges. Then it was over to the buffing wheel to make it shiny. Mission accomplished.

Next was the hammer spur. I don’t shoot snubbies single–action, and if it isn’t hammerless or shrouded the hammer spur goes. I gotta’ say, the case-hardening on these S&W hammers is hard. I smoother the truncated hammer with the belt-sander, followed by the 600-grit sanding drum and finally polished on the buffer. An artful application of Birchwood Casey Perma-Blue and Brownell’s Ox-Pho and it actually matches the case-hardening pretty well.

Achievement Unlocked: Hello Bob! Also painted the front sight with bright orange enamel.

Back to a sanding drum to re-shape the front of the trigger-guard. This allows faster access to the trigger when my strong-hand trigger-finger is in the ‘safe’ position on the frame.

I refinished the trigger-guard with ox-pho blue, and it was time to address the grips. I’d found some very pretty Goncalo Alves wood the other week, and I’d made a nice set that fits my hand to a T. Easy to grip, and the gun indexes very naturally as it’s brought on target.

Since I actually carry and use revolvers I make sure my hand-made grips will accommodate a speed-loader, in this case the classic HKS 36.

With the modifications complete I cleaned, lubed and re-assembled the gun. It fired a cylinder full of CCI small-pistol primers without a problem, so next it’s off to the range and see what I can do with her there.

This gun was rode hard in it’s previous life; there is some pitting here and there visible through the coating and a lot of wear on the inscriptions. Nothing against that; this gun was made to be used. The trigger I would classify as ‘nice’ rather than great; on the heavy side but very smooth with little stacking. We’ll see what’s what at the range, and if it proves out there this might well become a carry gun.

Hmmm… need to put together a holster or two…

Stay safe and take care.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 July 2021.

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