S&W M-1917 moon clips REALLY needed?

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I was recently given a S&W M-1917 revolver in .45 ACP. I believe this was my late father-in-law's police service revolver. It came with two full-moon clips but the cartridged appear to headspace properly without them. Other than for case ejection, do I really need these awkward darn things to shoot it? My understanding is that the .45 Auto Rim cartidge is no longer available.
 
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Without the half moon clips .45 ACP ammo may not fire, or worse they'll misfire. You'll need the clips for .45 ACP ammo.
 
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It depends on the vintage of the gun. Up until about 10-15 years ago, the Smith & Wesson had a step built into each chamber for positive head spacing with 45 ACP cartridges. I have a Model 25-2 Smith which is a target version of the Model 17 that has the chambers cut for positive head spacing. It will function (ie: shoot) perfectly well without the half moon or full moon clips. The only purpose of such clips to aid in extraction of the empty cartridges. To cut costs on newer guns, Smith eliminated the stepped chambers so you need either the moon clips or use the 45 Auto Rim for positive head spacing. Brian Pearce wrote an article in Handloader magazine about 6 months back discussing the same subject matter. It is my understanding that Colt did not originally have steps in the chambers of the New Service revolver, which was Colt's counterpart to the Smith 1917.
 

river_rat

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 Originally Posted By: Oil_Can_Harry
It depends on the vintage of the gun. Up until about 10-15 years ago, the Smith & Wesson had a step built into each chamber for positive head spacing with 45 ACP cartridges.
This is an old five-screw wartime model with the threaded hole for a lanyard. It does seem to had a sharp step in the cylinder, and the un-mooned cartridges feel solid in place, but I havent tried to shoot the gun yet. I did order some more full-moon clips and a "de-mooner" unloading tool yesterday.
 
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You should be able to shoot 45 ACP ammunition without the clips and not experience any failures to fire. You will need a pencil or dowel to remove the empties if you don't use the moon clips. The 45 ACP Smith & Wesson revolver is a delight to shoot and seems to have less recoil than 1911 semi autos.
 

river_rat

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Thanks. I'll try it and post...Trying to get out to the range this week or weekend...
 

river_rat

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Well, I had an idear. I pulled the bulltets from some rounds and tried firing just the primered cases without the moon clips ('cause I can do that in the basement) The cylinder kept jamming up. Maybe this particular piece has too much rim space. Oh well, I ordered ten new full moon clips and have a one on hand already.
 
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Sounds strange. I would check first to make sure one of the cases did not have a high primer (not seated fully). A high primer could cause the cylinder to bind up. I don't think it involves the steps in the chamber. If one of the steps were too high causing a case to stick out too much, the moon clips will not help. The moon clips only prevent the case from going too deep into the chamber (and thus being too far away from the firing pin for a strike). Can you rotate the empty cylinder by just cocking the hammer and releasing it gently by holding the hammer and pressing the trigger or by dry firing the gun double action? If the gun has not been used in years you could have an accumulation of dried up oil inside. You can try spraying the inside with Outers Crud Cutter or Birch Wood Casey Gun Scrubber and then going over and re-oiling the gun with fresh oil. You would be surprised what kind of junk crud Cutter or Gun Scrubber can remove. Old dried out oil is sticky like varnish. Another problem with older Smiths involves the ejector rod having a habit of unscrewing itself making it very difficult to release the cylinder. I don't think that is your problem, but I just mention it in the event you ever have problems opening the cylinder. Maybe somebody else can chime in with what may be casuing your problem.
 

river_rat

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The primers and cases (before firing) are fine, I checked all 12. When I rotate the the cylinder, it turns fine until I pop a couple primers off. Then it hangs. The hammer is making a healthy dent in the primers. Maybe without the gas pressure in the cases from actual loaded ammo is making them crown out from the firing pin impact rather than flatten? I will try on the range with live ammo and no moons to see if it makes a difference. I really appreciate your help on this, by the way. I have fallen in love with this relic and would like to make it my primary "night stand" gun. PS The gun is very clean and freshly oiled inside and out. My father-in law was really good about that. (ex-Marine) and I re-oiled and inspected it myself as well.
 

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Well I finally got out to the range today and popped off about 60 rounds with old "Sgt. York." The only slight cylinder hang up occured with the one full moon clip I have. It might be a little bent. the vast majority of rounds fired were with no clip at all--and no problems. Even the factory new Hydrashock spent cases either fell out or were easily flicked out with a fingernail. I also shot a bunch of full power lead SWC and Ball reloads with just as good of results. I am pleased.
 
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