Questions on getting a S&W Model 52 working properly

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Post by mikemyers on 3/13/2019, 2:32 pm

First topic message reminder :

One of my friends from my shooting club had a Model 52 that most of the time refused to fire.  The primers looked like they were hit fine by the firing pin, but the rounds didn't get off.  After sending it to S&W twice, and getting advice from everyone at the club, he found the fastest way to resolve this - he bought another M-52 that works perfectly with any ammo he feeds it.

I asked him if he was going to sell the old gun, but he didn't want to sell it to someone who would be as frustrated as he was.  I told him I'd like to buy it, if for no other reason than to have a gun to learn how to work on, as I hate the idea of doing anything to my own M-52.  We agreed on a price, and I took it home.  I spent much of the rest of the day cleaning and examining it.  It looked like it was packed with old oil/grease, the recoil spring was backwards, and the barrel had lead in it which eventually came off with Hoppe's.  

If I can't get it to fire reliably, I'll come back here and ask for advice.  For now, I have a question about the slide.  Comparing this gun with my own, there are three holes on the top of the slide on this gun, that don't exist on mine.  Would anyone here recognize if they might be for a rail, and if so, who might sell the rail?  I will measure the hole spacing. (I sort of gave up on steel sights because of my eyes, but who knows, maybe they will work better now than years ago, since I had the cataracts repaired.)

Also, are there any books that were written on how to work on the Model 52?  I have books on 1911's, and revolvers, but this gun is very unique.  I certainly don't want to do something wrong unintentionally, that I could have avoided.


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Post by mikemyers on 3/31/2019, 3:57 pm

Final three images - I hope someone sees something wrong in one of these...

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Questions on getting a S&W Model 52 working properly - Page 4 Img_0324
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Post by vmax606 on 4/1/2019, 9:51 am

Apparently this thing looks like metal instead of plastic (is it ?).

Anyway, there seem to be quite a few bumps  on it.

How about smooth them out with a small file, put everything back together and see if the FP still binding.

Also, how clean or dirty is the area below the rear sight?  Be sure to hose it out with some pressurized brake cleaner before putting things back together.

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Post by spursnguns on 4/1/2019, 10:09 am

Hello mikemyers,

Before you file....paint the part with a Sharpie, completely reassemble, dryfire several times with the magazine inserted, disassemble and look for rub marks caused by the spring or firing pin.  That's "possibly" where the problem is.  Also, the part may not being lifted enough and the problem could be with the actuating arm.

Jim
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Post by vmax606 on 4/1/2019, 1:03 pm

spursnguns wrote:Hello mikemyers,
Also, the part may not being lifted enough and the problem could be with the actuating arm.

Jim

I do not see this could cause the problem, because this plunger does not work as a FP block, on guns that have FP blocks, there is an extra plunger that blocks the FP on the other side.

Also, the FP moves freely until the plunger is pressed in (up).

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Post by fc60 on 4/1/2019, 3:05 pm

Greetings,

It sure looks like it has been "monkeyed" with.

I would replace it with a factory part.

Ahhh, the joy of buying guns that have been "tuned" or "accurized".


Keep up the good work Mike.

Cheers,

Dave
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Post by mikemyers on 4/1/2019, 3:10 pm

vmax606 wrote:Apparently this thing looks like metal instead of plastic (is it ?).

Anyway, there seem to be quite a few bumps  on it.

How about smooth them out with a small file, put everything back together and see if the FP still binding.

Also, how clean or dirty is the area below the rear sight?  Be sure to hose it out with some pressurized brake cleaner before putting things back together.
Yes, they are metal.  I thought I read that they were plastic somewhere, but unless my magnet is displaying a new-found attraction for plastic, they're metal.

New parts arrived today.  I will post comparison photos.
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Post by mikemyers on 4/1/2019, 3:12 pm

vmax606 wrote:
spursnguns wrote:Hello mikemyers,
Also, the part may not being lifted enough and the problem could be with the actuating arm.

Jim

I do not see this could cause the problem, because this plunger does not work as a FP block, on guns that have FP blocks, there is an extra plunger that blocks the FP on the other side.  

Also, the FP moves freely until the plunger is pressed in (up).
Lots of maybe's.....
I don't think the block works the way you seem to be thinking it does, but I'm still not sure exactly how it DOES work.  Yet.
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Post by mikemyers on 4/1/2019, 3:12 pm

fc60 wrote:Greetings,

It sure looks like it has been "monkeyed" with.

I would replace it with a factory part.

Ahhh, the joy of buying guns that have been "tuned" or "accurized".


Keep up the good work Mike.

Cheers,

Dave
Thanks!  New parts arrived today.  Stand by for comparison photos....
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Post by mikemyers on 4/1/2019, 3:14 pm

Five comparison photos, old plunger vs. new....

Questions on getting a S&W Model 52 working properly - Page 4 Img_0326
Questions on getting a S&W Model 52 working properly - Page 4 Img_0328
Questions on getting a S&W Model 52 working properly - Page 4 Img_0327


Last edited by mikemyers on 4/1/2019, 3:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by mikemyers on 4/1/2019, 3:17 pm

I guess I can only do 3 at a time.  Here's what was missing:

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Post by vmax606 on 4/1/2019, 3:35 pm

mikemyers wrote:I don't think the block works the way you seem to be thinking it does, but I'm still not sure exactly how it DOES work.  Yet.

The sole purpose of that thing is to push down the ejector (the ejector then pushes the trigger bow down below the sear) and disconnect the trigger when the mag is removed, nothing else.

But in your case, somehow it comes in contact with the FP when it's pressed inward (upward), either physically which it should not or too much dirt in there, or the hole was drilled crooked. Find out why, then you find the answer to your problem.

On guns with BOTH trigger disconect, and FP block, the FP block plunger is metal and round, magazine (trigger) disconnect plunger is plastic and look like what you have, yours was made out of metal maybe because it's a high price gun.

Anyway, your gun does not have a FP block, just magazine disconnect only.

Post a few pic. of the area under the rear sight where that plunger goes in.

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Post by mikemyers on 4/4/2019, 2:31 pm

I received a fascinating (to me) email from Richard Humphreys, regarding a similar discussion I started in the S&W Forum.  I asked if I could post it here, and he said go ahead.  Lots of good information below.....


Hi Mike:  Just a couple of quick things to mention that I couldn’t get in my PM to you.  I think you are on the right track by not fooling too much with the replacement plunger.  You can certainly polish it up a bit and gently break the bottom edges, but that would be all I would do.  The old plunger looks like someone went nuts on it for no good reason as they really put a severe bevel on it.  In many instances that bevel interferes with how the mechanism will operate and isn’t productive at all.  Polish and oil it and install it and see what happens at that point.  Remember, you can take metal off, but you can’t put it back!
 
The sight should be no big deal for you.  I use a small nylon hammer and nylon punch to get the sight going in the dovetail IF needed.  Most often you can get it started without much resistance.  I also have an assortment of sight pushers that can help out when needed, but think before you start wacking on a sight to move it.  These old time S&W sights were relatively fragile so be careful.  Many times as you start to slide the sight in place you may “catch” the spring and bend it.  Be careful when you get to that point and assist the spring in getting under the sight as it comes in with a small screwdriver.  If you do bend the spring many times you can just back the sight out a bit, pull the spring out and if it isn’t badly damaged just straighten it out as best you can and reinstall it.  Try not to force anything if possible, sights will usually follow their own path in place if you let them.  One last thing in this area, I use a “wide” punch to move sights.  The wider the better to keep things lined up.  A wide punch or pusher distributes force better than a narrow one and the sight isn’t as prone to cant in the dovetail.
 
Okay, regarding your failure to feed issue.  I assume that you know how important it is to only use correctly loaded wadcutter ammunition in your M52.  The bullets MUST be seated at or slightly below the rim of the case.  Anytime a bullet extends past the rim you are asking for trouble.  Case length must be checked on your empties and trimmed to spec.  If a bullet extends past the case rim it can catch and drag on the interior magazine wall causing jamming problems.  It can also slow the round down as it tries to feed into the chamber of the barrel.  By design the M52 recoil spring isn’t very strong, it doesn’t need to be with a relatively low power .38 wadcutter.  What is important is to have a very clean gun at all times for proper performance.  You sound like you have already experimented with polishing your feed ramp and that’s a good start, but once again don’t get crazy.  All you want to do is polish the ramp, not take metal off.  If you change the angle of the ramp at all you will end up with a trashed barrel.  Remember, the .38 Special wadcutter is an odd cartridge being used in a semi-automatic pistol.  The angle of the ramp is what makes this cartridge work in this gun.  Can I also assume you are using a Dremel type tool for your polishing work?  If so, you can find a entire assortment of polishing bits for a Dremel tool at most better hardware stores.  Many of these are the ideal size for working on the M52 barrel and ramp.  Make sure to polish the top portion of your chamber area in the barrel.  That area is critical because the cartridge contacts it as it feeds into the chamber which causes the cartridge to rotate parallel to the axis of the bore and seat in the chamber proper.  In most cases there are few problems with the chamber being well machined, but this isn’t always the case.  I ALWAYS polish the top of the chamber on any semi-auto because it helps the cartridge flow into the barrel.  In fact, I always polish the entire chamber because a well-polished chamber also helps with case extraction, but the top of the chamber is critical.  I must reiterate though, you are only polishing these areas, not removing material!  Once it looks smooth and shiny stop there….  The Dremel tool polishing bits are great for this work and the only polishing compound I use is something called Semi-Chrome.  It comes in a tube and is sold at most better auto and motorcycle stores.  If you haven’t ever used Semi-Chrome give it a try, I think you will really like it.  Remember, you can actually take material off if you over polish something, so don’t go nuts with this stuff.
 
Most often ammunition that doesn’t feed on entry can be attributed to the above listed items, but it can also be the fault of a magazine.  I think you stated you have at least one new magazine.  If so, compare that magazine with your other ones in regards to the “lips” on top.  The lips can be bent out of shape slightly and will give you problems with early or late cartridge release from the magazine.  These darn M52 magazines aren’t cheap by any stretch anymore and you can’t just throw them out a buy a new one, so we are stuck with trying to adjust them if they go out of spec.  You can take them apart, which I do and give them a good cleaning.  Put it aback together and load some rounds into it and compare it with your new magazine when it is loaded.  Check how the lips of each magazine contact the cartridges and hold them in position.  Push the rounds out of each magazine and see if they feel the same and seem to release the same.  Lastly, I like to disassemble my M52 magazines and let the follower springs relax for a few days or weeks if I am not using them.  Older springs are not made with the same material that new ones are today and I think it’s important to give them a break so to speak.  Some will argue this with me and that’s okay.  I do it because magazine springs are hard to come by for this gun.
 
I am not sure, because we haven’t talked before, but if you are serious about these great old pistols it would benefit you in trying to round up a parts assortment for yours.  Over the years I have purchased multiple items such as screws and springs for them and even a few barrels.  I had given thought to getting a slide and frame, but I have never heard of anyone needing one.  The barrel bushing is a tough one to find, but I find them occasionally on the auction sites.  It’s the little things that you will most likely need in the future.  If you take care of a M52 it is highly unlikely you will ever wear it out, due in large part to the caliber.  Just keep the chamber area really clean especially around the “lead” where the chamber transitions from chamber to rifling.  Lead collects in that area and is super hard to see.  Once it takes a set in that area, pitting will almost always take place under the lead buildup because moisture occurs under the lead from heat.  You really need to examine that area and get any lead buildup out.  My favorite way of cleaning the barrel is using Kroil on a somewhat worn brush wrapped with a few strands of copper cleaning material.  I get the copper strands from Chore Boy pads that are sold in grocery and hardware stores.  Make for certain it is copper and not steel that is copper washed!!  You will find out pretty fast if you wrap too many copper strands around your cleaning brush because you won’t be able to get it in the chamber.  Never use an electric drill for this.  I never use a steel brush on barrels.  Once I get the lead and carbon out I switch to an Iosso nylon brush to finish the cleaning job and avoid unnecessary wear to the barrel.
 
Well Mike, that’s about all I have to say for now.  I am not an expert by any stretch on these or any other firearms, but with my past experience I like to think I have seen a lot of what can go wrong and how to fix them.   Being an armorer gave me a ton of real world experience with a vast majority of police and civilian firearms.  If I have told you something you don’t agree with that’s fine, don’t feel bad.  I know from 50 some years of working on all types of guns there is nothing worse than having one that doesn’t work properly.  It can be super frustrating.  A firearm can sometimes be like a big puzzle, or crime scene.  You just have to step back and look at each part of the puzzle and figure out what’s going on with it.  You can’t get mad or frustrated because problems are caused by something that isn’t right or in spec.  You just have to figure out what that is.  Many times it’s because someone did something to a problem firearm that caused the issue and you have to “unfix” Bubba’s work.  Hope I have given you some useful info.  Let me know how it all turns out.  Hope your trip goes well for you, but can’t say I would want to go to India!
 
Rick Humphreys
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Post by mikemyers on 4/5/2019, 11:40 am

Once you expect the worst, so many things turn out to be so much easier to do than expected.

One hammer hit at a time on the punch to move my rear sight (after loosening the locking screw) moved the sight to the right, or so I thought.  I used oily hands to wipe off the plunger, and found it wouldn't drop into the hole - strange, as the old one fell out.  As I was fiddling with things, I found that at that point, I could move the rear sight right/left with nothing more than finger pressure.

Installing the new plunger spring was equally easy - just drop in the spring, push it down with a punch the right size, and slide the rear sight over it by hand - and I could push the rear sight right to where I wanted it, again with nothing more than finger pressure.   For me to remember, in the future, do NOT use the punch to move the sight unless I have to, as that risks damaging it.


Plunger and spring are now back in place, and pushing on the magazine disconnect from the bottom side of the slide moves just as it should.  Poifect!  

Gun is now getting more of a cleaning, after which it goes back together completely.  I'll test it when I return from India.  Sorry for not posting what I hope is the final chapter until then.
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