Smith model 12

Smith model 12

This is a discussion on Smith model 12 within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Have a chance to buy one for a pretty decent price, any thing I need to look at before doing so?...

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Thread: Smith model 12

  1. #1
    Member Array afojc's Avatar
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    Smith model 12

    Have a chance to buy one for a pretty decent price, any thing I need to look at before doing so?
    bmcgilvray likes this.


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    I don't think there were too many boogers with the model 12, other than the ones with both the frames AND cylinders aluminum, as they have been known to have not stood up to repeated shooting through the years but.........

    Waiting for wmhawth and bmcgilvray perhaps jojogunn, and of course, the supreme deity on S&W revolvers, Rollo!
    I would rather die with good men than hide with cowards
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    Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."

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    Bumping as maybe others with more knowledge will be able to offer some help.
    I would rather die with good men than hide with cowards
    If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
    Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."

    M&Pc .357sig, 2340Sigpro .357sig

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    Wow. I'd never heard of the Model 12. I did a quick look and found it interesting. Clearly, the earlier versions with aluminum cylinders seem like a pretty bad idea.

    I'm w/oneshot. Let's wait for the pro's to weigh in. I'll be interested in hearing this......
    Savage Heartland

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  5. #5
    VIP Member Array wmhawth's Avatar
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    I don't remember where I copied this but it's been on file in My Documents for several years. With apologies to whomever the real author is I'll post it here for the benefit of the OP as it is pretty good:
    Revolver checkout:
    How to tell if a particular specimen is any good


    So you're buying a revolver. New, used, doesn't matter, you want a good one, right?

    How do check one over without firing it, right at the dealer's counter or gun show table?

    This is how. All of this works with DA or SA wheelguns..."close the action" on most DAs means swing the cylinder in, on SA types, close the loading gate, on breakopens, close 'em. UNLOADED.

    WARNING: Most of these tests require violation of the "finger off trigger" rule. Therefore, be extremely careful about safe muzzle direction and making sure the gun is unloaded ahead of time, PERSONALLY, as you begin handling it.

    Note: Bring a small flashlight, something small and concentrated. A Photon or similar high-powered LED light is perfect. You also want feeler gauges if you're not used to eyeballing cylinder gaps; at a minimum, bring a .002", .004" and .006".

    Note2: No dry firing is required or desired at any point. It just pisses off the gun's current owner.


    Cylinder play

    1) With the gun UNLOADED (check for yourself!), close the action.

    2) Thumb the hammer back, and while pulling the trigger, gently lower the hammer all the way down while keeping the trigger back - and KEEP holding the trigger once the hammer is down. (You've now put the gun in "full lockup" - keep it there for this and most other tests.)

    3) With the trigger still back all the way, check for cylinder wiggle. Front/back is particularly undesirable; a bit of side to side is OK but it's a bad thing if you can wiggle it one way, let go, and then spin it the other way a fraction of an inch and it stays there too. At the very least, it should "want" to stop in just one place (later, we'll see if that place is any good). The ultimate is a "welded to the frame" feeling.


    Cylinder gap

    4) Still holding the trigger at full lockup, look sideways through the barrel/cylinder gap. If you can get a credit card in there, that ain't good...velocity drops rapidly as the gap increases. Too tight isn't good either, because burnt powder crud will "fill the gap" and start making the cylinder spin funky. My personal .38snubbie is set at .002, usually considered the minimum...after about 40 shots at the range, I have to give the front of the cylinder a quick wipe so it spins free again. I consider that a reasonable tradeoff for the increased velocity because in a real fight, I ain't gonna crank 40 rounds out of a 5-shot snub .

    If you're eyeballing it, you'll have to hold it up sideways against an overhead light source.

    SAFETY WARNING: This step in particular is where you MUST watch your muzzle direction. Look, part of what's happening here is that you're convincing the seller you know your poop . It helps the haggling process. If you do anything unsafe, that impression comes completely unglued.


    Timing

    5) You really, REALLY want an unloaded gun for this one. This is where the light comes in. With the gun STILL held in full lockup, trigger back after lowering the hammer by thumb, you want to shine a light right into the area at the rear of the cylinder near the firing pin. You then look down the barrel . You're looking to make sure the cylinder bore lines up with the barrel. Check every cylinder - that means putting the gun in full lockup for each cylinder before lighting it up.

    You're looking for the cylinder and barrel holes to line up perfectly, it's easy to eyeball if there's even a faint light source at the very rear of both bores. And with no rounds present, it's generally easy to get some light in past where the rims would be.


    Bore

    (We're finally done with that "full lockup" crap, so rest your trigger finger. )

    6) Swing the cylinder open, or with most SAs pull the cylinder. Use the small flashlight to scope the bore out. This part's easy - you want to avoid pitting, worn-out rifling, bulges of any sort. You want more light on the subject than just what creeps in from the rear of the cylinder on the timing check.

    You also want to check each cylinder bore, in this case with the light coming in from the FRONT of each hole, you looking in from the back where the primers would be. You're looking for wear at the "restrictions" at the front of each cylinder bore. That's the "forcing cone" area and it can wear rapidly with some Magnum loads. (Special thanks to Salvo below for this bit!)


    Trigger

    7) To test a trigger without dry-firing it, use a plastic pen in front of the hammer to "catch" it with the off hand, especially if it's a "firing pin on the hammer" type. Or see if the seller has any snap-caps, that's the best solution. Flat-faced hammers as found in transfer-bar guns (Ruger, etc) can be caught with the off-hand without too much pain .

    SA triggers (or of course a DA with the hammer cocked) should feel "like a glass rod breaking". A tiny amount of take-up slack is tolerable, and is common on anything with a transfer bar or hammerblock safety.

    DA triggers are subjective. Some people like a dead-smooth feel from beginning of stroke to the end, with no "warning" that it's about to fire. Others (myself included) actually prefer a slight "hitch" right at the end, so we know when it's about to go. With that sort of trigger, you can actually "hold it" right at the "about to fire" point and do a short light stroke from there that rivals an SA shot for accuracy. Takes a lot of practice though. Either way, you don't want "grinding" through the length of the stroke, and the final stack-up at the end (if any) shouldn't be overly pronounced.


    Detecting Bad Gunsmithing:

    8) OK, so it's got a rock-solid cylinder, a .002" or .003" gap, and the trigger feels great. Odds are vastly in favor of it being tuned after leaving the factory.

    So was the gunsmith any good?

    First, cock it, then grab the hammer and "wiggle it around" a bit. Not too hard, don't bang on it, but give it a bit of up/down, left/right and circular action with finger off trigger and WATCH your muzzle direction.

    You don't want that hammer slipping off an overly polished sear. You REALLY don't want that . It can be fixed by installing factory parts but that'll take modest money (more for installation than hardware costs) and it'll be "bigtime" unsafe until you do.

    The other thing that commonly goes wrong is somebody will trim the spring, especially coil springs. You can spot that if you pull the grip panels, see if the spring was trimmed with wire cutters. If they get too wild with it, you'll get ignition failures on harder primers. But the good news is, replacement factory or Wolf springs are cheap both to buy and have installed.

    There's also the legal problems Ayoob frequently describes regarding light triggers. If that's a concern, you can either swap back to stock springs, or since you bought it used there's no way to prove you knew it was modified at all .


    In perspective:

    Timing (test #5) is very critical...if that's off, the gun may not even be safe to test-fire. And naturally, a crappy barrel means a relatively pricey fix.

    Cylinder gap is particularly critical on short-barreled and/or marginal caliber guns. If you need every possible ounce of energy, a tight gap helps. Some factory gaps will run as high as .006"; Taurus considers .007" "still in spec" (sigh). You'll be hard-pressed to find any new pieces under .004" - probably because the makers realize some people don't clean 'em often (or very well) and might complain about the cylinder binding up if they sell 'em at .002".

    The guns in a dealer's "used pile" are often of unknown origin, from estate sales or whatever. Dealers don't have time to check every piece, and often don't know their history. These tests, especially cylinder gap and play, can spot a gun that's been sent off for professional tuning...like my snubbie, the best $180 I ever spent .

    As long as the gun is otherwise sound (no cracks, etc) a gunsmith can fix any of this. So these tests can help you pick a particularly good new specimen, or find a good used gun, or help haggle the price down on something that'll need a bit of work.
    bmcgilvray likes this.

  6. #6
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    Never owned a Smith & Wesson Model 12 but would like to do so. It's pretty amazing to pick up one of these medium-sized revolvers and find out how light it is, especially the ones with 2-inch barrels. Model 12's could also be had with 4-inch barrels. The Model 12 came out in about 1953 as a civilian version of an Air Force contract K-Frame Model which was fabricated from aluminum alloy except for the traditional steel barrel. This even included the cylinder initially. The Air Force contract revolver was termed the M13 which is not the same as the Smith & Wesson Model 13 which a fixed sight .357 Magnum chambered K-Frame. The Model 12 outwardly resembles the Model 10 with the same six-shot capacity and fixed sights. Model 12s were produced by Smith & Wesson up until the mid-1980s.

    After the initial run of revolvers in which aluminum-alloy cylinders were used it was determined that they weren't entirely satisfactory so both Air Force contract guns and commercial guns began being fitted with more traditional steel cylinders. They are still quite lightweight. Incidentally, if one ran onto an original early 1950s Airweight, still featuring its aluminum cylinder, he'd have a valuable collectors item. Few were made and fewer survived, both military contract and commercial revolvers. It is said that the ones with aluminum-alloy cylinders were not safe to fire as the cylinder rapidly suffered metal fatigue if used much at all. Probably a case of becoming overly enthused with the use of the new aluminum alloys developed during and after World War II; both Smith & Wesson and Colt had a bit of egg on their faces since both attempted production of aluminum-alloy cylinder revolver models. One will notice that, to this day, major producers of revolvers have not revisited lightweight aluminum cylinders even though consumers seek ever-lighter revolvers for concealed carry. The aluminum-alloy cylinder was both ahead of its time and "too much of a good thing." Despite this, if I personally stumbled onto one of the early revolvers with an aluminum cylinder I'd just have to fire it a few times, perhaps with low-powdered target wadcutter handloads. Don't do this at home kiddies!

    The revolver was originally termed the Military & Police Airweight by Smith & Wesson, only gaining the Model 12 designation in 1957 when the revolver line was given numeric model designations and so marked on the inside of the front of the frame. No revolver marked "Model 12" will have an aluminum-alloy cylinder. The 4-inch Model 12 was envisioned as an answer for the lawman who needed a lightweight duty revolver and was marketed in that direction. The 2-inch Model 12 was marketed for those who valued the medium-sized, six-shot revolver but with a more concealable snub barrel. Any K-Frame snub is more concealable than most folks give them credit for being and a lightweight one would still offer the six round capacity.

    Model 12s could be had in both round-butt and square-butt configurations and either style could occur with both barrel lengths. They were available in blue and nickel finishes. The blue finish was actually some sort of "japanned" or proprietary "black oxide" finish on the aluminum-alloy parts of the revolver, the steel parts being traditional Smith & Wesson blue. Examination of a blued Model 12 will find the aluminum-alloy components to be more black in hue than the steel components. This aluminum-alloy finish is not as durable as blued steel and can wear and scratch rather easily, getting pretty shabby-looking if used heavily. The shabby external appearance won't rust and won't affect utility but may become an offense to the eye for someone who places importance in external appearance.

    Original stocks configuration must be mentioned. The Model 12, for much of its production life and through several revisions, was made with a slightly narrower grip frame than the steel K-Frame models. This necessitated unique stocks, made thicker in order to give the same grip width as the other K-Frame models. These stocks were not used on any other Smith & Wesson Model. If it is important to a prospective Model 12 owner that he have an all-correct example then the matter of proper stocks should be ascertained. If a late vintage Model 12 is acquired or the Model 12 acquired has had aftermarket stocks installed then the special factory stocks won't be an issue.

    I've read of a very few Model 12 frames cracking, mostly where the barrel screws into the frame and easily inspected, but this has been more of a problem in the past with the J-Frame Models 37 and 42, occasionally with the newer Models 442 and 642. The service life of a Model 12 would be somewhat less than it's sturdy steel near kin the Model 10, but would last a person a lifetime, even with a modicum of practice/range use.

    I'd be tickled to have a Model 12. If I got a grubby looking one I'd put it right to work as a concealed carry alternative. I'd even carry it with the +P "FBI Load" after a verification of the revolver's sights with a dab of the ammo. Many Model 12 owners have made limited use of +P. If I found a pristine example of a Model 12 I'd be pleased to add it to the collection, only taking it out for "Sunday drives."

    I love many classic 20th century firearms models and still see much useful value in many of them. I have "the reference books" on the shelf but have stuck this up here from memory. If I note any needed correction I'll post it. If someone sees an error then please post a correction. If someone has an additional question or wants to narrow down a date of production then I'll be happy to look it up.
    Charter Member of the DC .41 LC Society "Get heeled! No really"

    “No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.”

    Theodore Roosevelt, The Wilderness Hunter, 1893

  7. #7
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    Excellent write up. Thank you. I knew you'd come through for us on this one. I don't have the depth of knowledge that you have on S&W wheel guns and the mention of a Model 12 stopped me in my tracks. I didn't know that such an animal existed. Now I've got one more thing to add to my list of nice to haves.

    What would be a reasonable range in price in your opinion? That's tough I know but assuming "reasonable" condition? Thanks.
    Savage Heartland

    What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it's all about?

  8. #8
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    Mornin' svgheartland, and thanks!

    $300 for a shabby-looking one with fine bore and mechanical function. $500-$600 for a 98%, near-new shooting example without box and original factory accessories. $750 for stinkin' new-in-the-box with all the factory accessories/pamphlets.

    The Model 12 isn't one of the most common Smith & Wesson models out there but never has had a tremendous following except from a few who know a good thing when they see it. Prices aren't reflective of its relative scarceness.
    afojc likes this.
    Charter Member of the DC .41 LC Society "Get heeled! No really"

    “No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.”

    Theodore Roosevelt, The Wilderness Hunter, 1893

  9. #9
    Member Array afojc's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the input, I'll be sure and let you know how everything turns out

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    Thanks to all. This could be fun to keep on the watch.
    Savage Heartland

    What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it's all about?

  11. #11
    VIP Member Array Snub44's Avatar
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    ...owned one in the 70s...for about 2 weeks...put 18 rds through it and dumped it for a steel frame...most unpleasant gun I've ever fired...
    ...they were designed for pilots to carry as survival weapons...they made 'em way too light...the problems I've read about through the years show that...now if you can find a M10 or M64 snub round or square butt...(square butt was M10 only, if I remember correctly)grab it!!!

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