Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Rehabilitating a Smith & Wesson 64-3

Wait...that isn't a revolver.

On a recent visit to my significant other's hometown, her grandmother, affectionately known as Nana, requested to clean up an old revolver. This old Smith & Wesson was the only surviving firearm following a house fire. Nana is a Southern Belle who visits the range frequently to practice with her current carry gun, a Sig P238 (pictured above). In my opinion, this woman is a saint for all she has done for BK so I was happy to work on this weathered old piece.


The wheel gun in question is a Smith & Wesson Model 64-3. Based on the serial number, it seems to have been produced in 1981. At first glance, there are few signs it endured a fire at all. Removing the side plate revealed some significant scorch marks that I would assume is burnt oil. Beneath the ejector star was more oil residue and the barrel was pretty dirty. All things considered it was in good shape. Here are some close ups of the scorched internals:

A bit rough on the inside, but it could be worse.

After sending some pictures to a qualified gunsmith to review, he said there was no indication of damage to the gun that would make it unsafe, so I began the clean up process. I soaked the gun in Ballistol and let it sit for 24 hours before attacking it with a toothbrush. It took several applications of this CLP treatment to make any headway. Despite ruining the bristles of the old toothbrush, there are still visible marks. I think it looks a bit more presentable. Here are pictures of the internals after scrubbing:


I think it is important to note that the fire was nearly two decades ago, so all the springs needed to be changed. I wanted a lighter trigger pull while maintaining ignition on several factory primers in case Nana ever wanted to shoot it. I installed a new factory mainspring and a Wolff 14 pound trigger rebound spring. Turning the mainspring strain screw all the way in still resulted in a heavy pull, so I backed it out a bit before applying a bit of thread locker to ensure the screw stays put. 

The original stocks were scorched in the fire and should not be reinstalled. I happened to have a Hogue Monogrip for a square butt K/L frame...that Nana absolutely hates. She chose to order a set of new production Smith & Wesson stocks, that way the 64 is a close to original as it can be. She is a little sentimental. Here is the revolver after it has been cleaned and reassembled with the new springs and temporary grips:

Shooting Impressions

I did not fire Nana's Model 64. I honestly expect it to go back in a drawer, never to see a range, and I'm totally ok with that. If she wants a wheel gun, a modern Smith & Wesson with more visible sights will be a better choice for her to learn revolver shooting. While I may not have tested that particular gun, I have shot both a S&W Model 64 and a S&W Model 10 at an indoor range. A four inch steel K frame is about as balanced a revolver as you can find. Recoil with .38 Specials is comfortable and +P rounds are manageable. 

The negative aspect of this design are the minimal sights. A slender ramp front sight paired with trench style rear sights are difficult to see. A bit of brightly colored paint on the front ramp helps, but not all rounds that hit point of aim/point of impact with this configuration. I'll take a S&W with an adjustable rear sight any day, but you could do worse than a fixed sight model.


I really enjoyed cleaning up this old revolver for Nana. These workhorses shoot fine even if the sights leave something to be desired. For the average shooter, this revolver is more than enough for target practice, competition, and/or personal defense. The Smith & Wesson Model 64 was produced in large quantities and many law enforcement agencies issued these in droves. Why does that matter? Well, every so often a department will liquidate old inventory and these used revolvers regularly appear in online stores, often at a discount. If you see one in decent shape for a bargain price, definitely add it to your collection.

As always, if you have any suggestions for future posts or would like to share your experience on the current topic please post below!

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