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Making a Free Spin Pawl for a Ruger® Single-Action Revolver
by Roy Seifert

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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.

Converting Existing Pawl to a Free-Spin Pawl
The pawl is the arm that extends from inside the frame of the revolver to engage the ratchet teeth on the rear of the cylinder as you cock the hammer to index the cylinder to the next chamber.  With the loading gate open the top of the pawl is in constant contact with those teeth allowing the cylinder to rotate in only one direction.  A free-spin pawl does not engage the cylinder with the loading gate open thereby allowing the cylinder to rotate freely in any direction during loading.  When the loading gate is closed the free-spin pawl works as normal to engage the cylinder when the hammer is pulled back.  Over the years I have tried using the after-market free-spin pawls but they seem to alter the trigger pull.  This was caused by the press-fit pin backing out causing the pawl to drag against the frame.

I found an article on the Internet on how to convert the existing factory pawl into a free-spin pawl.  First I completely disassembled the gun and clamped the pawl in my padded vise.

Then I took a #6 safe-edge Swiss pillar file and carefully filed the inside of the top at an angle as shown in the photos above.  I filed until the ratchet on the rear of the cylinder no longer made contact with the top tooth leaving about 1/16” on the top.  I filed the angle so that I did not remove any metal from the bottom, only from the top.  I used the safe-edge file because I didn’t want to touch the lower tooth.  This tooth is fit at the factory and ensures the cylinder rotates far enough to lock up properly.  After filing I final polished with a 400 grit stone, again being careful not to touch the lower tooth.  I cleaned the pawl with a shot of brake parts cleaner, then oiled and re-assembled the gun.

The photo above shows the modified pawl installed in the frame with the hammer in the full-cock position.  With the hammer down and the loading gate open the top of the pawl no longer contacts the cylinder ratchet so the cylinder now spins freely.

I had a little trouble understanding what was happening until I took out my calipers and did some measuring. Here is what the modification does:

With the hammer down the cylinder is locked in place with the bolt.  The pawl is down about 0.16-inches below the center line of the cylinder.  Notice in the above figure that if the loading gate was open allowing the cylinder to spin the top tooth of the factory unmodified pawl is contacting the ratchet causing the clicking sound.  The pawl being down so far is the reason that rotating the cylinder backwards until it stops causes the chambers to be out of alignment with the loading gate.

The modification removes just enough metal so the ratchet is not contacting the pawl allowing the cylinder to free spin.

As the hammer is pulled back the bolt drops out of place to unlock the cylinder and the pawl rises up to engage the tooth on the ratchet.  As the hammer continues to move back into the fully cocked position the rising pawl causes the cylinder to rotate which moves the next chamber into the firing position and the bolt snaps back into position against the cylinder in preparation to lock it in place.

A reader of the Kitchen Table Gunsmith reported that after modifying the pawl in the above manner the cylinder in his Bisley wouldn’t lock up.  It turned out that he had removed just a few thousandths too much so the pawl wouldn’t engage the cylinder ratchet when cocking the gun.  In fact, after the first two or three rounds were fired the remaining rounds that still had bullets in them would cause the cylinder to rotate backwards because of the imbalance.  He wound up having to replace the pawl.  By the way, the pawl is individually fitted to each gun at the factory so he would have had to fit the new pawl to his particular gun.

Whenever I modify a part by removing metal, I always go slowly and frequently  try the modified part for fit and function.  Sure it is time-consuming to constantly reassemble and disassemble the gun, but this prevents me from going too far and having to replace the part.  I can always remove a little more metal, but adding metal is very difficult.


   © Copyright 2008-2012 Roy Seifert.