The hammer spur has outlived its usefulness. For too many snubs riding in too many pant and coat pockets the spur exists solely to either foul the draw stroke or tempt the shooter to hammer cock the weapon. For a moment let’s just consider the risk created by retaining the hammer spur.
The greater the need for a clean draw stroke the greater the danger if the spur catches on a piece of the concealment or cover material. Some shooting instructors offer up a modified draw when drawing a snub with a hammer spur from out of a pocket. They suggest that the thumb ride the tip of the hammer spur in order to minimize the danger of catching any portion of the pocket. Even if this optioned worked one hundred percent of the time (and I don’t believe it will) not every situation is going to permit the shooter the time to cover the hammer with his thumb. There is little enough room for both the shooter’s snub and fist in the pocket without adding to the trouble by trying to reach in, search, find and then shield the hammer spur. It is far faster and safer for the snub owner to remove the danger entirely by either removing the spur or shrouding the hammer entirely.
Some shooters argue that removing the hammer spur will reduce the overall mass of the hammer and can affect primer ignition reliability. Is this true? I honest don’t know. There are skilled (and some semi-skilled) gunsmiths I know who claim it is not true when the job is done right. There are an equal number of skilled (and some semi-skilled) gunsmiths I know who claim it is true regardless of how well the job is right. Each camp likes to throw around the history of their gunsmithing pedigree and the quality of their formal training. Judging solely on my (personal) experience, bobbing the hammer spur – on some guns – done by some gunsmiths will reduce reliable ignition. This tends to be a little more common with Colt hammers because the availability of very skilled Colt gunsmith is more limited than gunsmiths skilled with other brands of snub revolvers. Am I personally concerned with ignition issues with my self-defense snubs? Frankly, no. But I know and trust the skill level of the gunsmiths I turn to for such work and I test all my modified snubs with the hardest primers I can locate. If the shooter feels he needs a spurless hammer and is concerned about ignition he should locate a skilled and trusted gunsmith who can easily remove the spur and add a heavier spring to increase the striking force of the hammer.
Another alternatively it is to remove the hammer spur risk by enclosing the whole of the hammer in a hammer shroud. W. Waller and Son continue to produce hammer shrouds for both the Colt and Smith and Wesson J-frame sized snubs. They also sell other models that fit some models of the Taurus, Rossi and Ruger revolvers.
There is a vocal group of hammer shroud detractors and while many of them are not as polite in voicing their opinion as would be hoped, they are speaking from personal experience and that experience should be valued. A longer review of the pros and cons of the hammer shroud will be given later. For the moment what options are their beyond bobbing the hammer spur or adding an after market shroud?
Many manufactures offer several factory produced spur shielded snub revolvers. Smith and Wesson produces their excellent “frame as hammer-shroud” Bodyguard and their completely hammer enclosed Centennial to name only two. These styles of snub revolver has become so popular that a number of major brand holster makers offer several holsters models that do not require the traditional hammer spur in order to secure and retain the weapon.
In the next two blog postings I will offer up a few thoughts on both the shrouded hammer and the enclosed hammer.