“THERE IS A SEASON, TURN, TURN, TURN” – The Story Behind Turn Rings On Revolver Cylinders

Make no mistake about it, I really, really like revolvers. For me, there are few disadvantages to a “wheel gun”, and many advantages. One of the only things I DON’T like about my revolvers, is that ugly “turn line” around the cylinders that most all brands get with any amount of use. The cause is the cylinder bolt not retracting far enough when not actually in one of the lock notches, causing it to “drag” on the surface of the cylinder when it is moved, or “turned”. Some revolver lovers tell me they consider this a mark of “honest wear”, and are not bothered by it at all. Others more knowledgeable perhaps about the nature of the problem, and more sensitive to the looks of their guns, feel the manufacturers are at fault for not properly “tuning” the guns before they leave the factory. For the purposes of this post, I am going to take a position against turn lines, and look at what can be done to prevent or remove them. I am told a good gunsmith – or a very apt do-it-yourself-er – can alter the locking bolt to prevent lines from occurring in the first place. It seems, however, that many revolvers come from the factory with such scratches, as test firing or even just turning the cylinder to function test it will likely begin the scratching process. I am told that the lock work was a bit different on the Old Model Ruger Blackhawks, and the turn lines could be prevented by never letting the hammer down from the “half cock” position. On New Model Blackhawks, however, there is no half cock notch, so this solution does not apply.

The "turn ring" on this older New Model Ruger Blackhawk is not really extreme, but does show up immediately in any examination of the revolver.

The “turn ring” on this older Ruger Blackhawk is not really extreme, but does show up immediately in any examination of the revolver.

On a blued revolver like my New Model Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt, about all that can be done after the rings have established themselves is to cover them up by regular use of a bluing pen.

One way to at least minimize turn rings is to purchase a polished stainless revolver like this Ruger New Model SBH Hunter.

One way to at least minimize turn rings is to purchase a polished stainless revolver like this Ruger New Model SBH Hunter.

Sticking to polished stainless revolvers helps keep scratches to a minimum, and when they do appear, they can be “polished” out with a Scotch Brite pad. This is especially true on a highly polished finish, as with this Super Blackhawk Bisley Hunter model.

This nearly new polished stainless cylinder for a Ruger Super Redhawk has faint scratches that will have be to be polished out.

This nearly new polished stainless cylinder for a Ruger Super Redhawk has faint scratches that will have be to be polished out.

I bought this stainless Ruger Super Redhawk cylinder for my .480 Ruger as much for the polished stainless look as anything, but even though virtually new, it still has the beginnings of faint turn lines.

This is a nickel plated Super Blackhawk .44 mag cylinder I bought originally to use in a blued revolver frame, but it only fits my stainless SBH. It only has faint turn lines, but still has them.

This is a nickel plated Super Blackhawk .44 mag cylinder I bought originally to use in a blued revolver frame, but it only fits my stainless SBH. It only has faint turn lines, but still has them.

Nickel plating is not completely resistant to scratching, either.

When I had this Super Blackhawk Cerakoted, I was hoping the ceramic based coating would be more resistant to scratches, but it still shows a little.

When I had this Super Blackhawk Cerakoted, I was hoping the ceramic based coating would be more resistant to scratches, but it still shows a little.

Cerakoting is a very scratch resistant finish, but even this ceramic-based material shows turn rings after some use.

The tough “Target Grey” coating Ruger put on early Super Redhawk .480’s does not totally resist turn scratches, either.

Even the tough "Target Grey" Finish Ruger put on some Super Redhawks is not completely immune to turn lines!

Even the tough “Target Grey” Finish Ruger put on some Super Redhawks is not completely immune to turn lines!

While cylinder scratches of this type are sometimes referred to as “Ruger Lines”, they can be found on nearly any “factory” revolver, double or single action. This early Colt double action has the deep, scratch resistant bluing Colt was known for in those days, but still shows some turn marking. Some of the very high quality guns, like maybe an all stainless steel Freedom Arms revolver, might be “ring-free”.

Even the beautifully blued finish of an older Colt like this one can show turn scratches.

Even the beautifully blued finish of an older Colt like this one can show turn scratches.

This poor Charter Arms Bulldog has seen some abuse in it’s lifetime, so turn marks are probably the least of it’s appearance worries. It is already scheduled for a re-finishing job, soon.

This older Charter Arms Bulldog shows turn lines, in addition to other finish problems related to age and neglect.

This older Charter Arms Bulldog shows turn lines, in addition to other finish problems related to age and neglect.

As mentioned in my post on the Ruger .44 Special Flat Top model I recently acquired, the previous owner had stripped all bluing off the cylinder, and says he does this with all his blued revolvers, so it is easy to remove turn lines with a Scotch Brite pad. He reports that if the metal is polished and kept oiled, rusting is not a problem. That makes sense, as the trigger and hammers are normally left “in-the-white” on blued guns, and are not known for corrosion problems. As a sort of scary aside, he says the original blued finish is very easy to remove – he uses a gel-type rust remover and just rubs it gently, then polishes with a Scotch Brite pad to emulate the “brushed stainless’ look of a factory stainless finish. Maybe this is why they scratch so easily, if it is that easy to completely remove the finish?

The previous owner of this Ruger stripped the bluing from the cylinder, leaving it "in the white", so turn rings can be easily polished out.

The previous owner of this Ruger stripped the bluing from the cylinder, leaving it “in the white”, so turn rings can be easily polished out.

Because the finish was already off this cylinder (which probably dropped it’s value for some buyers), I decided to try an idea I had presented to the CEO of Ruger in an email. With a small triangular file, I “cut” a track for the locking bolt to travel in without touching the cylinder itself. I used the original turn lines as a pattern – which had returned, pun intended – shortly after I got the gun and began shooting it. While I don’t claim to be even an amateur gunsmith, I don’t think my new giant turn ring really detracts from the appearance of the revolver – especially since it is obviously intentional, rather than a mark of a poorly executed design. I will probably leave it as is, at least for now, but have considered using a bluing pen to darken this ring for a further accent effect. A “pro” could put the cylinder in a lathe and get a wider, more uniform ring that would undoubtedly look better. By the way, I have shot this gun since my “modification”, and the cylinder did not separate at the ring, nor was cylinder lock-up and operation affected in any way.

I have recently been told that the Mag-Na-Port company will put a chromed band on a cylinder to resist turn lines, and I am waiting for a return call from company President Ken Kelly about this procedure.

UPDATE (&/6/2015) – Spent quite some time on the phone today with Ken Kelly of Mag-Na-Port, discussing turn rings and other things. First, he says his company has never offered polished chromed cylinder rings, mostly because he does not think this idea would work, rather that the chromed ring would just scratch faster and maybe deeper. He also does not know of any way to effectively “tune” or adjust a revolver to prevent the problem from occurring. It was an interesting conversation, though, and I confirmed that my .480 Ruger IS Mag-Na-Ported. I was concerned because it was not marked as such, but he assured me the trapezoidal shape of the ports his company uses are patented themselves, and are all the “trademark” he considers necessary! I will obviously now need to do a supplemental post just on the subject of Porting, to include some of the information he gave me in this very long and very productive conversation.

This .44 Special cylinder represents one possible solution to turn lines that is a fairly easy "fix"

This .44 Special cylinder represents one possible solution to turn lines that is a fairly easy “fix”

I took some grief from certain quarters about the unfinished cylinder, but then a prominent Ruger enthusiast admitted to having a Blackhawk with a blued cylinder, but on which the finish had been stripped from the entire frame. He confirmed that polishing and regular oiling would prevent rusting, and is of the opinion that very few casual observers will know they aren’t looking at a stainless steel frame. I have seen a picture of his gun, and it is really beautiful.

Perhaps if enough revolver owners began taking their guns to custom shops for solutions to turn rings – and spending the money to have these procedures performed – manufacturers might recognize the demand and decide to keep that money themselves by producing and selling a revolver that was free of turn rings and the possibility of getting them – from the factory!

About MikeH

Texas hunter and fisherman for 50 years, published outdoor writer since 1979, licensed charter boat operator from 1982 to 2013. Past Member, Board of Directors, National Association of Charterboat Operators, current member Environmental Advisory Committee to the DOE and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Married to Dorothy since 2000, one son, Michael who is recently married and living in Nederland, Texas. My wife and I live in Oyster Creek, Texas, near Freeport, and have a hunting property outside of Brazoria, Texas.
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