Conversion Revolver Ammunition Question???


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engle's-wilder
March 5, 2011, 10:56 PM
Hey all,

I have a question for anyone with experience or knowledge of conversion revolvers. I'm specifically interested in the Richards-Mason 1860 Conversion. Anyway, When gun manufacturers like Uberti and Cimarron say on that their replica conversion revolvers can fire .38 special ammo ... do they really mean .38 special? Are they referring to using specific light loads or black powder loads in .38 special, or do they really mean standard factory ammunition?

Thanks all, I'm trying to piece together what it is exactly that I want in a single action revolver, and I absolutely love the aesthetics of the ol' conversions. I would prefer the 1860 conversion, but I'm also looking into the 1871-72 conversions and 1851's too... so could anyone answering also apply these models to my original question as well. Thanks

Additionally, if any of these conversions cannot handle standard factory .38 special ammunition, do you know of any conversions that will?

Thanks all !:D

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DPris
March 6, 2011, 02:53 AM
Yes, when they say .38 Special they mean .38 Special.
Standard (non +P) commercial factory loads & pressures, or equivalent.
They should not be hot-rodded, the frames aren't particularly strong without a topstrap.
Denis

halfmoonclip
March 6, 2011, 06:13 PM
I shoot the snot out of mine with standard pressure .38 Special HBWC loads (same thing I feed my M52), and it works very well. Actually shot it in our 'snubby' league, and other than the range officer grousing about how long it took me to reload between strings, it worked just fine.
I pierced a Federal primer from time to time; seem to recall smoothing the firing pin to solve the problem, but never got much gas back when it happened. Mine is the Uberti version.
Moon

BCRider
March 6, 2011, 10:01 PM
These days they would obviously mean standard factory ammo loaded with regular smokeless powders. Otherwise they'd leave themselves open to all manner of legal issues.

And while I'd heartily agree that it would not be long term wise to +P loads if you want some fun reload some totally stuffed full black powder loads and enjoy making sparks and smoke! The black powder burns more slowly than most smokeless loads so you get more of a thump than a BANG! And at the same time produce wonderful clouds of smoke and sparks out the front end. A real attention getter at the range but more importantly very much a huge grin maker for the shootist.

John Wayne
March 6, 2011, 11:20 PM
The black powder burns more slowly than most smokeless loads so you get more of a thump than a BANG!

No, black powder definately does not burn slower! The characteristics of the two are so different that black powder is classified as an explosive and smokeless powder is classified as an accelerant, IIRC.


Check out this video, comparing the burn rate of two types of smokeless powders with that of black powder (BP is the last one, the one that goes up in a flash):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3P5wXu6ev8

It was made by an old bearded Dutchman, but the results speak for themselves.

WardenWolf
March 7, 2011, 04:52 AM
The key thing to remember here is that modern metallurgy is much better than the original guns. They are actually significantly stronger than they originals. Because of this, they're quite safe for manufacturers to chamber for loads that are a bit more powerful than their original 19th century ones.

StrawHat
March 7, 2011, 07:30 AM
The Italian revolvers have to be proof tested before they can be offered for sale so they are safe with standard 38 Special loads.

Yes, the metallurgy is improved but the design is still 19th century and as such is not exactly strong. Strong enough is more like it. I ahve a Richards conversion cut for the 44 Colt and really like it but would avoid any of the ones I see cut for the 45 long Colt. There must be a reason Colts stopped at 44 for that revolver!

451 Detonics
March 7, 2011, 08:19 AM
No, black powder definately does not burn slower! The characteristics of the two are so different that black powder is classified as an explosive and smokeless powder is classified as an accelerant, IIRC.

It is classified as an explosive not because of it burning rate but because percussion can set it off, ie: hitting it with a hammer. In that video the poster picked Trail Boss which is sold as a very slow burning powder and another I couldn't figure out the name of but again a very slow powder. There are powders that will burn faster the BP and I would also point out the burning rate differs greatly when confined in a cartridge or barrel and in fact BP has to be compressed to build up pressure.

I do know the actual bore on a .36 caliber black powder pistol is larger than the .38 Specials .357 bullet diameter, nominally it is .375-.380. This is why the conversion kits recommend a hollow base bullet or a heeled bullet made for the conversions. On the guns made with the conversion in place I am not sure what bore diameter they use.

mainmech48
March 7, 2011, 09:40 AM
If you want or need to determine your barrel's actual groove diameter, lube your bore lightly, take an oversized pure lead ball and drive it through with a wooden dowel. Mike the slug across the widest point in a couple of spots and there ya go. Or a 'smith can do that for you for a nominal fee.

If a replica revolver from a reputable maker has been originally manufactured and marked for a particular cartridge, it's barrel is almost invariably made to the nominal standard specs for that cartridge. When in doubt, see above.

Italian and most other European proof laws for newly manufactured firearms use the same standards for any given cartridge regardless of the gun's design. Whatever replica you finally decide to purchase should be safe to use with virtually any standard pressure .38 Spl. load. IMO, you'd be wise to stick to lead bullet (non-jacketed) loads for best results and longest service life.

451 Detonics
March 7, 2011, 09:55 AM
If a replica revolver from a reputable maker has been originally manufactured and marked for a particular cartridge, it's barrel is almost invariably made to the nominal standard specs for that cartridge. When in doubt, see above.

True enough but if you buy it as a BP pistol then add the cartridge conversion the bore will be for the muzzle loading ball, not the smaller diameter cartridge bullet.

mainmech48
March 7, 2011, 10:17 AM
Also true, but as I understood it the OP seemed to be looking at purpose-made replicas of the so-called "Cartridge Conversion" models of open-top Colts rather than buying a conversion cylinder unit and installing it on a C&B. Personally, if I were buying one I'd slug the bore anyway just because I like to know exactly what I'm working with. YMMV.

DPris
March 7, 2011, 11:39 AM
BP is an explosive, smokeless is a propellent.
BP isn't classified as such because hitting it with a hammer can set it off. It's the burn rate.
In my childhood days I hammered powder taken from a smokeless military cartridge on the concrete front porch.
Several times.
It popped each time, which is why I kept doing it till I ran out of powder. :)
Denis

CraigC
March 7, 2011, 02:20 PM
Yes, the modern factory built cartridge conversions (and the 1871-72 Open Top) are safe to fire any SAAMI-spec factory load for that chambering. They are also spec'd for that ammo. So .38's utilize standard .358" cast bullets and .44's utilize standard .430" cast bullets. No need to confuse the matter with percussion bore sizes.


There must be a reason Colts stopped at 44 for that revolver!
They stopped because the heeled .44Colt was the largest cartridge they could fit into existing 1860-sized cylinders without interference. The .45 would've required a larger cylinder, which would've required a larger frame, which would've basically required a completely new gun. They offered the Open Top to the Army, who rejected it in favor of a solid frame and .45 caliber. William Mason designed the Single Action Army and the rest is history.

ljnowell
March 7, 2011, 02:29 PM
It is classified as an explosive not because of it burning rate but because percussion can set it off, ie: hitting it with a hammer. In that video the poster picked Trail Boss which is sold as a very slow burning powder and another I couldn't figure out the name of but again a very slow powder. There are powders that will burn faster the BP and I would also point out the burning rate differs greatly when confined in a cartridge or barrel and in fact BP has to be compressed to build up pressure.



Trail boss isnt a slow burning powder. Its actually quite a fast burning powder, faster than 231, AA#2, and unique. You cant judge burn rate by doing an open burn on brick.

btz
March 7, 2011, 02:40 PM
you would have a real challenge for yourself trying to set off real black powder (75% potassium nitrate, 15% charcoal, 10% sulfur) with a hammer.
try it, you'll see what I mean.
On the other hand, I don't know if smokeless is percussion sensitive.

DPris
March 7, 2011, 02:42 PM
Burn rates under compression and/or in confinement can differ greatly from burn rates on a brick in the back yard.
Denis

Jim K
March 7, 2011, 07:17 PM
Black powder has a faster burn rate than smokeless, which is one reason old Damascus barrel shotguns blow with smokeless powder. With black powder, the rapid burn rate keeps the pressure curve well back so the pressure drops while the load is still in the thick part of the barrel. But smokeless powder is progressive burning and in addition is treated with retardants. The result is that the pressure curve is longer, and high pressure remains until the shot charge is well into the thin part of the barrel. Since that is where the shooter normally has his off hand, a blown out barrel often takes some fingers along for the ride.

Jim

engle's-wilder
March 7, 2011, 07:45 PM
hey, thanks everyone! I really appreciate the responses. You've all really cleared things up for me, and now I'm sold on the conversion revolver!:D

StrawHat
March 8, 2011, 06:41 AM
engle's-wilder,

Just so you have something to look at while you are trying to decide, here is a photo of my 1860 Richards Conversion with a trapdoor I put together.

The revolver is 44 Colt, the rifle 50-70.

http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc194/StrawHat/Conversions004.jpg

engle's-wilder
March 8, 2011, 10:36 AM
Strawhat, wow! She's a real beat' (both are, but that open top is gorgeous!).

Quick question for you or anyone with a similar revolver. Do you find the 8" (or maybe it's a 7 3/8") barrel is unwieldy? Does it feel too long, or is it weight well enough distributed to balance it and seem more manageable? I realize an 8" barrel won't ever be a quick draw champ, but I just want to know if it feels too big or like it's well balanced it doesn't matter.

I'd love to shoot cowboy action and hunt with the revolver as well. I think the barrel length would be an advantage in these scenarios, but I just want your opionion on it's feel overall.

451 Detonics
March 8, 2011, 01:03 PM
Black powder has a faster burn rate than smokeless, which is one reason old Damascus barrel shotguns blow with smokeless powder.

Old damascus because of pressure and often internal damage to the steel itself. Many damascus barrels are nitro proofed meaning they are meant to be used with smokeless powder. BP is not necessarily faster burning than smokeless...it is faster than some, slower than others.

This Parker has mirror bores and is shot with my smokeless reloads on a regular basis. No, they are not magnum loads but they are my standard skeet loads.

http://i188.photobucket.com/albums/z271/reloader1959/shotguns/parkerp.jpg

CraigC
March 8, 2011, 01:46 PM
Roger that, you can't really make a blanket statement that all damascus barrels are unsafe with smokeless. It depends on the individual gun. As 451 stated, many were nitro proofed. The Double Gun Journal took two identical Parkers (or was it L.C. Smith???). One with "fluid steel" barrels, the other damascus. They tested them with to destruction with increasingly heavier loads and the fluid steel barrels blew first. The damascus proving stronger in their destructive tests.


Do you find the 8" (or maybe it's a 7 3/8") barrel is unwieldy?
The 1860 and Open Top for that matter are very well-suited to the longer barrels (7" for the Open Top and Richards-Mason conversions; 8" for the 1860 and Richards conversions). The longer Army grip yields a little more weight at the butt and balances superbly with the longer barrel. This coming from someone who usually prefers short barrels of 4 5/8" (Rugers) and 4" (Colt's and replicas). Which is not to say that I don't lust mightily after a Cimarron 1860 Richards Transition model .44Colt with 5" barrel. ;)

halfmoonclip
March 8, 2011, 02:04 PM
My conversion revo is 5" and I like the balance very much; prefer it to the feel of, say, a Colt Navy with standard long barrel.
Moon

engle's-wilder
March 8, 2011, 02:45 PM
Also, (I just noticed this when I saw a good close up) how are the sights on the 1851, I see that it has something similar to a shotgun bead on the end of the barrel, how's that work for accuracy compared to a blade sight? Especially with the v-notch .... Does that V-notch do much for accuracy either. I'd think it less accurate if it weren't for a longer distance between the front and rear sight, but the v-notch sure looks odd. Easy to pick up the sight picture?

CraigC
March 8, 2011, 03:03 PM
The sights on all of them are rather minimal. It's a challenge to shoot them well. You won't win any bullseye matches with them but accuracy is certainly usable within certain limits. It bears mentioning that most of them have the percussion style rear sight notch in the hammer nose. Strawhat's 1860 pictured above is a earlier Richards style conversion with the rear sight on the conversion ring. While the Open Top has its rear sight on the rear of the barrel. A better setup but you do lose some sight radius.

StrawHat
March 9, 2011, 08:00 AM
The front sight is easy enough to change on any revolver, just remove the one you don't like and dovetail a suitable replacement in place. On the Colt style open frame revolvers, the rear sight is tradionally on the hammer for the C&B types and either on the cylinder ring (Richards) or the breech end of the barrel (Open Tops and Richards and Mason types) Either of the conversion style rear sights are more rigididly fixed than the hammer mounted rear sight but good accuracy can be obtained with all of them. I happened upon the Richards conversion and like the rear sight position. The ring is fixed in place so the sight does not move. The sights on the later style conversion, being on the barrel, also do not move about so not much difference there. As for sight radius, it is hard to find a Richards conversion so you have the shorter RM of Open Top to choose from. Both are very good choices. Avoid the 45 caliber chamberings as they have a history of cracking the forcing cones.

CraigC
March 9, 2011, 10:59 AM
Actually the 1860 Richards-Mason has the rear sight on the hammer, as does the Richards Type II or "Transition Model" and the 1851 Richards-Mason. Only the 1871-72 Open Top model has the rear sight on the barrel. Personally, I prefer the Richards Type I, like yours Strawhat, with the rear sight on the conversion ring. Bummer is that these are no longer produced and have yet to be produced by Uberti at all. `Course these also have a floating firing pin. I would buy one of the ASM guns if I could handle and inspect it beforehand. You just don't see too many of them and I've been tempted to grab one off Gunbroker a couple times.

If you're into this sort of thing, I highly recommend Dennis Adler's book on the subject, "Metallic Cartridge Conversions".

StrawHat
March 9, 2011, 02:13 PM
CraigC

Actually the 1860 Richards-Mason has the rear sight on the hammer, as does the Richards Type II or "Transition Model" and the 1851 Richards-Mason. Only the 1871-72 Open Top model has the rear sight on the barrel.

Thank you for clearing that up. I was going from a clearly faulty memory of what I thought I had read.

Mine is an ASM and after a little rebuilding it is now good to go. I have said it before, I consider all firearms to be kits, some moreso than others!

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