SAA replicas: black powder or smokeless?


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LAR-15
August 29, 2007, 12:16 PM
Are the SAA repilicas being made today being made to use black powder cartridges only or blackpowder and smokeless cartridges?

Thanks

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Jim March
August 29, 2007, 01:16 PM
Both, MOSTLY.

There's one exception: if a given gun was built to very tight specs and has too tight a gap between barrel and cylinder, the larger soot particles in black may not clear the gap, "gumming up" the gun.

Mind you, a gun with a tight gap will give you other advantages, esp. with smokeless. Your choices in that instance is to either run "black substitute" powders or have a gunsmith open the gap up.

In the "Revolver checkout" I mention preferring tight gaps down around .002", esp. for 38/357s and esp. for snubbies where you need max velocity. People running larger bore smokeless rounds may prefer .003" or .004". Those into "Holy Black" need .006" or maybe above. Generally .008" and even sometimes a bit more are considered "in spec" by the manufacturers.

The Ruger New Vaquero is "notorious" in CAS/SASS circles for being good, tight factory guns that sometimes choke on black. The fix can be as simple as careful wet-stoning of the back of the barrel to open the gap a fraction.

What else...you may see a reference to "black powder style frame" versus normal. Mostly a USFA thing. The really old Colts didn't have a spring-loaded cross-latch pin holding the base pin in place - instead they had a center-mounted screw that went straight to the bottom edge of the base pin head. This is a cosmetic difference, not functional and NOT strength so long as we're talking about a modern gun.

LAR-15
August 29, 2007, 09:38 PM
Gotcha

Father Knows Best
August 30, 2007, 10:42 AM
Jim, I;m actually going to disagree with you. I think that's a first. You said:
In the "Revolver checkout" I mention preferring tight gaps down around .002", esp. for 38/357s and esp. for snubbies where you need max velocity. People running larger bore smokeless rounds may prefer .003" or .004". Those into "Holy Black" need .006" or maybe above.
I shoot almost exclusively black powder cartridges out of my SA revolvers. I have Ubertis, Colts and Rugers. I put thousands of rounds of .44 Russian, .44 Magnum and .44-40 black powder ammo downrange. I generally load them with Goex Cowboy or Goex fffg under a 205 grain bulllet lubed with 50/50 beeswax and crisco.

My main match guns (Ubertis) both have exceedingly tight cylinder gaps: .0015" and .002". Yet, both will run all day without any binding or dragging of any kind.

I have tried other guns over the years that have much larger gaps, and yet will bind up tight after as few as 4-5 shots. My conclusion is that the size of the barrel/cylinder gap has almost nothing to do with how a revolver performs with black powder.

What I have found is that most revolvers that bind up on black powder do so because fouling gets into the area where the cylinder bears against the frame. This is the area right around the pin, of course. Colts have a bushing here that may or may not be removable, but Colts tend to work very well with black powder. Ubertis, on the other hand, don't typically have the bushing, and many Ubertis have problems with black powder. The Ubertis that work well are those that have a significant amount of barrel extending into the frame window. This results in the barrel/cylinder gap being offset (if you look at the gun from the side) from the point where the cylinder bears against the frame. In the old Smith & Wesson top-break revovlers, the protrusion from the front of the cylinder around the pin is called the "gas ring" specifically because due to this offset, gases coming out of the gap will impact the extension rather than the pin. That keeps fouling from getting on the pin, or getting between the cylinder or bushing face and the frame.

Old Fuff
August 30, 2007, 01:08 PM
Back in 1873 Colt put in that basepin bushing for a reason, and if you shoot black powder in a modern revolver that reason is still good. :scrutiny:

For the record, my Cimarron Firearms/Uberti B.P. style S.A.A. does have a cylinder bushing.

As for the screw vs. the latch. I still prefer the screw. The recoil with smokeless loads is sometimes sharper, and the basepin may jump the spring-dependent latch. This doesn't happen with the screw, and I sometimes wish Ruger would offer the screw as an option. It would also be nice if that particular screw took a hex-wrench rather the a conventional screwdriver.

Jim March
August 30, 2007, 07:41 PM
Well that's damned interesting. I was told the barrel/cyl gap mattered with smokeless. Early trouble reports on the New Vaquero with Holy Black were being linked to very tight gaps. What you're describing is a "gumming up" of the base pin.

Very interesting.

We agree re: base pin jump. I run a stronger cross-latch spring and stock base pin. A Belt Mountain base pin with it's own set screw is the best answer but note my caveat here:

http://thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=299493

Old Fuff
August 30, 2007, 08:22 PM
A Belt Mountain base pin with it's own set screw is the best answer

Yup, for several reasons. But if you have a frame with a screw the one in the Belt Mt. basepin isn't necessary.

Besides the obvious, the basepin bushing makes it easy to correct an end-shake condition. This is a reason some owners of Ruger S.A. revolvers have the cylinder bored out to take a bushing, which of coure has to be custom made.

If you look at a Colt bushing you may notice that it's grooved at the front. This is caled a "fouling groove" and provides a place for black powder fouling, as well as other stuff, to go. The hub on the front of a Ruger cylinder is straight and has no groove. It is also difficult to make corrections for end-shake. But in fairness to Bill Ruger, he didn't have black powder in mind for any of them, except the cap & ball Old Army.

Father Knows Best
August 31, 2007, 10:26 AM
For the record, my Cimarron Firearms/Uberti B.P. style S.A.A. does have a cylinder bushing.
I've seen Ubertis both with and without a cylinder bushing. Mine don't have one. With a proper gas ring, though, they can be made to work fine with black powder.

I was told the barrel/cyl gap mattered
I'm sure it does matter, but I'm not sure exactly how. Guys a lot smarter and more experienced than me, and that have spent their lives working with single action revolvers, have concluded that the best gaps are in the range of .003 to .006 depending on a host of factors. I'm sure they have the experience and data to prove it, too. All I'm saying is that a gap that is "too small" by the conventional wisdom does not automatically result in a revolver that can't be used with black powder. Small gaps like I have on my main match guns may not be ideal for various reasons, but they do work.

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