Rossi 971 Primer Setback?
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  1. #1
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    Rossi 971 Primer Setback?

    I was talking to a friend at work, and he mentioned that his fiancee had expressed interest in purchasing a handgun for defense. They had visited some local gun shops, and a Rossi 97104 caught her eye. She was particularly impressed by the beautiful blued finish and the way it felt in her hand. She wanted to try one out, but the local indoor range did not offer one for rental.

    I told him that I owned that exact pistol and offered to loan it to him for her to try. They also borrowed a Bersa .380 from another co-worker, and he already owned a Glock 19 and a S&W "1911 Shaped Object" that she was going to try.

    Returning my Rossi after their range trip, he described a problem that they encountered. He said that after a couple of cylinder-fulls of .38 Special and .357 Magnums, he said that, after firing four or five cartridges, the action became much harder to manipulate. He said the double action pull became much harder, as well as the force needed to cock the hammer in single action. He reported that it was not like the gun locked up or anything, but just that the effort to operate it became more difficult. He said that he wasn't 100% sure, but he thought it was with the .357 Magnums. I asked him what brand they were shooting, and he said it was store-brand ammo that he bought at the range (obviously reloads).

    After getting the revolver back last week I dry-fired it a bunch with snap caps (I actually loaned it to him with the snap-caps in the cylinder, and instructed him to use them during any dry-fire practice), and I could detect no issues.

    Today I looked at the revolver closer, and I noticed this:



    Notice the obvious drag marks on the breech face leading up to the firing pin hole.

    It looks to me like he was experiencing primer setback. I compared the width of the mark to the primers on a couple of different brands of cartridges, and the marks look to be just about the width of a primer.

    What do you all think?
    Last edited by tpelle; 07-04-2016 at 01:10 PM.

  2. #2
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    It reminds me of an issue I've had on my Smith and Wesson model 681 .357, which is from the 1980's. I should start by saying that S&W issued a recall on this and other similar L framed revolvers about 30 years ago. The problem was that people were having the primers deform from the way the firing pin struck the primers, and this would bind up the action a bit. Since my gun had spent most of it's life as a police issue gun from Australia, it was never sent back for the recall (due to the long distance, I presume.) And since I never experienced any problems with .38 or standard load .357's, I never bothered sending it back, either.

    But when I shot some hotter "heavy" .357 loads from Buffalo Bore last year, I experienced the same symptoms your friend describes, which also happens to be what Smith and Wesson describes as the classic primer deformation symptom of their L frame revolvers from the '80's. So I sent it back for the recall. They sent it back to me, but I'm not exactly sure what they did to the gun...something with the firing pin and recoil shield around the area of the firing pin, it seems. Problem is, even after sending it in, I still get some of the same issues with Buffalo Bore heavy loads. I'm going to try Grizzly heavy ammo, and see what happens. If it doesn't have a problem with the Griz brand, I'll forget about it and use Griz. But the gun's main purpose is as large predator defense when we're in the Rockies, so if the gun doesn't work with ANY heavy loads, it'll have to go back again. ANYWAY....

    ...BACK TO YOUR GUN. Hopefully your friend saved the spent brass from his shooting session...but I'm not counting on it. Looking at the primers would be the big clue. With my 681, you can really tell...the spent Buffalo Bore casings have primers that are bulged out enough so that they don't sit flush on the table when you stand them on end. Some say the Smith and Wesson recall problem was only an issue with certain brands of ammo or primers. This might be the case, as many other brands have worked fine, which sounds like the case with your Rossi. It's hard to say if the problem is only a primer issue or a heavy load issue until you try an assortment of ammo. Reloads could be heavy loads and/or use the wrong kind of (too soft) primer.

    If the problem is specific only to a small assortment of ammo brands, I'd say don't try and "fix" the gun, but just use the best working brand of ammo. I will say this: eastern European ammo brands have generally harder primers - Herters, S&B and many others - so I'm guessing there generally won't be issues with that stuff, if you can find it. The harder primers on this ammo has definitely eliminated issues I've had on other guns that have assorted issues related to soft primers.

  3. #3
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    I would run some ammo that you know first hand was a good practice round you would normally use, if the problem doesn't happen with that it completely rules out the gun. I'm pretty sure it's just the primers not being seated correctly and backing out just from the recoil, there's nothing you could do to the gun to make bad ammo work better.

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  5. #4
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    Thanks for the replies - seems like I'm on the right track. The guy didn't bother to keep any empty brass - he doesn't reload, so it never occured to him. I would have liked to have seen it as well.

    I plan on taking the Rossi and my CZ 75 B to the range today (if the monsoon lets up), and I'll report back.

  6. #5
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    Well, I just got back from the range. I shot 4 cylinder-fulls of HOT .357 Magnum and had no evidence whatsoever of any increased trigger pull. I think the issue was just what I thought - primers backing out on iffy reloaded cartridges.

    I also shot about 50 rounds through my 9mm CZ 75 B, testing functionality with hollowpoints, and I continue to be amazed with the accuracy of that pistol. I can shoot a group easily 1/2 the size at 15 yards as I can with the Rossi at 7 yards.

 

 

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