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About Your Contender Trigger Job

By: Mike Bellm
     When a trigger job is done on a Contender, it will be more prone to "bumping off" when the barrel is closed abruptly. Here are the reasons and how to deal with it.

     When a trigger job is done, usually per request the pull weight is reduced and the mating surfaces between the sear notch at the top of the trigger and the tip of the striker are smoothed to a fine polished finish with Wyoming Stone.

     While a lighter pull and smoother surfaces between trigger and striker mean a better trigger pull, it also drastically reduces the friction between the striker and trigger that normally keeps these two surfaces engaged during the jarring the gun takes when a barrel is snapped shut briskly. Depending on the height relationship between the top of the locking bolts in the barrel lug and the corresponding mating surface in the frame, the "locking table," some barrels will close very easily while others require a more forceful closing to get the locking bolts to fully engage in the frame. The barrels that require a more forceful closing also often cause the striker to "bump off." And if the striker bumps off, you will not be able to cock the hammer.

     The steel trigger of the Contender is quite heavy, and the inertia it represents is sufficient to easily cause the trigger and striker to disengage if:

1) The engagement is set quite short,
2) the pull weight is very light, and/or
3) the trigger and striker contact surfaces are super smooth, as when stoned with Wyoming Stone.

     I undercut the notch in the top of the trigger, and this helps, but with pull weights below about 2 pounds, snapping the barrel shut quite hard will still disengage the trigger and striker, even if the engagement is set long. If the striker is released, it moves the sear out of position to engage the hammer, and thus, you cannot cock the hammer.

     If you encounter this problem at any pull weight, when closing the barrel simply place your trigger finger on the side of the trigger and press it forward as you close the barrel. This keeps the trigger from moving out of engagement with the striker.

     There is absolutely no danger in having your finger on the trigger at this point because the hammer is not yet cocked, or certainly should not be. If you inadvertently do move the trigger during this process, it simply results in the striker being released, and you must open and close the barrel again.

     There are no free lunches. You can have a super light, super smooth Contender trigger pull, but you may have to take steps to keep the striker from bumping off when the barrel is snapped shut a bit hard.

     About the two trigger adjustments:

     The engagement screw is the one in the top of the trigger on Easy Open frames, or the screw accessible from inside the frame that projects through the trigger housing and contacts the trigger on old style frames. This screw can usually be turned in (right) or out between 1/4 and 1/2 turn from where I set it for less or more engagement respectively. If a barrel locks up easily or you hold the trigger as described above, the engagement screw can possibly be turned in more.

     DO NOT change the over travel screw, which is the screw behind the trigger. It is set minimum and should be left in that position. Setting it any closer can result in a dangerous condition where the striker is almost released, but the trigger does not reliably move enough to release the striker and permit the Contender to fire. In this condition, it may fire unexpectedly.

     Once in awhile with the over travel set minimum, you will not be able to readily unlock and open the barrel.

     This is because the over travel screw is preventing the trigger from moving back far enough as the sear resets the striker.

     A number of things happen when you squeeze the trigger guard spur besides unlocking the barrel, one of which is resetting the striker. The striker is pushed up against the forward arm of the sear. The striker must have room enough to travel downward if the cams on the trigger housing are to move up far enough to cam the locking bolts forward. To move downward, it must push forward on the top end of the trigger, moving the lower portion of the trigger to the rear. Thus if the over travel stops the trigger from moving back before the trigger housing cams the locking bolts all the way forward, you won't be able to unlock the barrel.

     To maintain this minimum over travel adjustment, some material must be removed from the bottom of the sear. This surface varies quite a bit in tolerance and is not critical unless the over travel is set quite short. To identify where to remove material, remove the trigger group and ink the bottom of the sear in the approximate area where it contacts the striker. Reinstall the trigger group, work it several times as you would in opening the barrel. Remove the trigger group and note the "signature" on the sear where the striker contacted it. Grind some material off at this point, reassemble with the trigger group and barrel installed, then try unlocking the barrel. You may need to do this several times before you have ground enough off the sear to give the trigger group enough room to fully move upward and unlock the barrel.

     With a Dremel tool, you may be able to grind on the sear without removing it from the frame. Normally, I remove it. But if this intimidates you, at least flush out all grinding dust from inside the frame in a container of whatever solvent you have... gasoline, diesel fuel, whatever. Then lubricate when you are done with the modification.

     If you do remove the sear, simply push out the sear pivot pin, and as you remove the sear watch for the small spring and plunger between the forward end of the sear and the frame. Make sure you don't lose it.

     Why go to this trouble? Why not just back the over travel screw out? You can, but then you lose a significant amount of what you got a trigger job for in the first place.

     The modification is seldom required... rare to be more accurate, and most people should be able to do this themselves. In the event you are one who is not comfortable with disassembling your Contender frame, contact me. I find very, very few "gunsmiths" understand the Contender frame, so it may be best for me to do the modification.

- Mike Bellm

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 This article reprinted with permission of Mike Bellm and

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