Field-stripping the S&W Model 59 (the one shown here is the stainless 659) can be problematical, both in the disassembly and in the assembly.
The disassembly is difficult because the decocker interlock can cause the slide to hang up, even after the slide-lock is removed, if the hammer is not at full cock. I suspect this is a 'safety feature', because it insures that the slide has been pulled fully back before disassembly, insuring you a good look at the chamber to confirm that the gun is empty.
Or it may just be that S&W designers were in a grouchy mood, or ... well, certainly it couldn't be a design error.
Here's a look at the kind of difficulties you may experience if you fail to fully cock the hammer before attempting to remove the slide.
Figure 1: Disassembly The Wrong Way
Insuring that the hammer is fully cocked (locked back), however, allows you to:
- remove the slide-stop (make sure the magazine is removed from the gun and no rounds are in the chamber, then move the slide back until the notch in the slide aligns with the slide-stop flange; then holding the slide in place, push the slide-stop pin from the right side of the frame, and use thumb and forefinger on the slide-stop on the left side of the frame to pull it out)
- remove the slide from the frame
- remove the guide rod from the slide assembly
- remove the recoil spring from the guide rod (hint: compressing the spring while holding the muzzle-end of the guide rod against a solid surface, such as the top of the work bench, makes this much easier)
- remove the barrel bushing
- remove the barrel
Figure 2: Disassembly The Right Way
Note that the fieldstrip disassembly does not include removing the extractor, as this is a much more complicated operation than can be easily performed in the field.
For a more detailed cleaning, you may wish to remove the grip-screws and pull the grips.
A fully detailed cleaning would perhaps involve steps which are not covered here. Personally, since the 659 is stainless, I just put the frame and the slide in the dishwasher and run a full cycle ... with detergent and including the drying cycle. After the dishwasher performs its first-world magic, zap it with a degreaser/high-volitility spray such as brake-cleaner, lubricate THOROUGHLY with light oil, and reassemble, (The small parts you removed, especially including the barrel, would be cleaned by more conventional methods. If nothing else, this insures that nothing gets lost in the dishwasher.)
The steps required to put the Model 59 back together are essentially the reverse sequence of disassembly:
- insert the barrel into the slide
- insert the barrel bushing, being sure to rotate it to full counter-clockwise lock
- reassemble the guiderod/recoil spring (Make sure that the crimped end of the spring leads; you can check this by tugging on it. As is the case with the 1911 firing-pin spring, if the spring slides easily along the shaft of the guiderod, remove the recoil spring and lead with the OTHER end of the spring.)
- Insert the guiderod assembly into the slide. The tricky part is here, as the base of the guide rod must be lodged firmly into a shallow cut on the barrel lug. This is often difficult to accomplish under the tension of the recoil spring.
- Return the slide to the frame
- Align the barrel link with the slide-stop hole in the frame and insert the slide stop.
Figure 3: Re-Assembly
Note that the OTHER difficult part of reassembly is that the two levers at the rear of the frame rails must be manually depressed before they will fit into the grooves in the slide. Hold the frame in your strong hand, move the slide back along the rails with the weak hand, and as the back of the slide is about to touch one of the two frame levers just push it down with your strong hand thumb. The levers (safety interlocks) are spring-loaded, and the springs are very weak.
Perhaps next week we should go through the whole process again, but this time using still photographs to illustrate each step in better detail. If you're interested in step-by-step photos (especially of assembly of the guiderod assembly into the slide assembly), I hope you'll let me know by writing to me at the email address cited at the very bottom of this page.
I should mention that the person performing the disassembly/reassembly is my son, Ben. Ben hadn't even held this pistol in his hand since 1997 (when he used it to beat me in the first stage of his first and only IPSC match). It took him several tries, and several minutes, to disassemble and reassemble the 659 when he first tried it again last month. After a few run-throughs, he was able to disassemble it in 30 seconds and reassemble it in about a minute. Eventually, he was able to reassemble it as quickly as he disassembled it.
Who, me? No, I couldn't do it that quickly. Fortunately, Ben is smarter than his father.
UPDATE: January 9, 2007
Thanks to reader MARK, I've finally been encouraged to post the still photos which show the steps on both disassembly and assembly of the Model 59 S&W. You can see them here, and I've also included detailed information about the process.
Here's what Mark had to say:
Jerry loved the page on the SW659 my neighbors husband died and she gave me his model 59 with no manuals or anything and as you may know this model hasn't been around since the 80's I searched the web and found your videos so I could get this thing apart to clean out the decades of dust and dirt. You mention you have photos of the dis/reassembly if you still have that it would be great to have for reference. I must admit as my first S&W it sure takes some agility and finese versus my glock but I love the look of this gun. I may never own one of the fancy 1911 race guns but this one still has the look. Thanks again and if you get a chance I would love to email you about competition shooting sometime too I'm thinking about getting into that to justify shooting next spring.
Good neighbors are hard to find.