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adding single action colts to my collection

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by jason41987, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    im adding some single action colt revolvers to my collection list right now... im going to work on getting a few cap and ball models and save up for an SAA or two as well... might get one of the new SAAs that colts manufacturing now...

    but on my more immediate list since i do like playing with black powder id like to get an 1851 navy clone, 1860 army clone, probably go for uberti for an 1872 open top or 1851/1860 conversion (would be really cool if i could put an SAA backstrap on the 1860 conversion model) and as well it would be nice to get a walker, '49 pocket model

    i have some questions or though that older posts ive found dont really answer anymore... ive noticed uberti and pietta have been putting forth better efforts to be more historically accurate, and im only looking to buy models that are historically accurate, of course, without the cost of buying real ones.... i notice uberti doesnt sell anything that wasnt historically made, so no more 44 caliber 1851s, etc

    i know ubertis are very accurate, even noticed original SAA/1851 grips fit their frames quite well, however, when seeing an SAA grip panel placed against a pietta 1851 frame i noticed it didnt fit... it tend to have a bit slimmer profile... the back of the curve of the grip didnt bulge out as far and it change the pointability a bit.... with new efforts to make better products, has pietta corrected this yet or am i better off buying the majority of my replicas from uberti?...

    another question i have is about the 1860 conversion and '72 open top models... i notice these seem to come in 38 special, 45 scofield, 45 colt, 44 special and 44 colt... i know .38 and 44 specials are definitely not historically accurate... schofield probably not either so for these models it boils down to 44 colt, or 45 colt... i believe most of these were made in 44 colt, but i know .45LC came out in '72, so how many of these open top and conversion revolvers were made in .45LC if any?

    as it stands i think ill kick off the beginning of this collection with an uberti 1851 navy, case hardened frame, brass backstrap and trigger guard with a 7.5 inch barrel, an 1860 .44 with 7.5" barrel after that, then probably an uberti open top or 1860/51 open top next...

    so yeah, any added information will be fine and with uberti and pietta making a lot of manufacturing changes since a lot of related posts were made, i decided to create a new post for more updated info reguarding the grip shapes and historical accuracies
  2. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member


    None of them were made chambered for 45 Colt. It would not fit, it was too big.

    The cartridge conversion models were Colt's attempt to get around Smith and Wesson's monopoly of the Rollin White patent. The idea of chambers bored straight through the cylinder so that cartridges could be loaded had been controlled by S&W since the inception of the company in 1857. Except for a few exceptions, no American company was allowed to build a revolver with bored through chambers for cartridges without incurring the wrath of S&W's lawyers. They were very effective.

    The first of Colt's conversion models was the Thuer Conversion model. It attempted to get around the White patent by using a cartridge that had a reversed conical section to it, so it could be argued that the chambers were not 'bored through', they instead had a taper to them.

    Here is a link to a web page with photos of some Thuer cartridges as well as a pretty good description of why the Thuer Conversion was a commercial failuer.


    The 44 Colt cartridge was developed specifically for the Richards Conversion Model. It employed a heeled bullet, meaning the bullet was the same diameter as the cartridge case. This meant the cartridge could be loaded in the 44 caliber chambers of the 1860 Colt Army cylinder once they had been bored through. The 45 Colt cartridge is too large in diameter, with a .454 or .452 bullet slid inside the case. Unlike a cartridge loaded with a heeled bullet, the 45 Colt case is actually larger in diameter than the bullet.

    Here is a photo so you can compare the size of these cartridges. The two cartridges in the center are both 44 Colt cartridges, the cartridge on the right is a 45 Colt. The smaller cartridge on the left is a 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge.


    The various conversion models built on the 1851 Navy frame used several obsolete 38 caliber cartridges.

    It was not until 1873, when Colt brought out the Single Action Army, that they had a gun with a big enough frame and cylinder to accommodate six 45 caliber rounds.

    (ps: the proper name for the cartridge is 45 Colt. Not 45 Long Colt, which is what 45LC stands for. Just plain 45 Colt.)
  3. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    For whatever reason, Pietta puts a weird flared out tail at the heel of their Navy grip frames. Except for the 1851 London and the all steel 1861 Navy models, which are correctly shaped. Both of which, to me, are better looking sixguns anyway. The London model is on my short list.

    The original 1860's were converted to .44Colt, centerfire or rimfire. Which was the largest cartridge that could possibly fit in the platform. They had no choice but to use a heeled bullet in the .44 case because nothing bigger would've fit. The new guns are a tad larger and thus they are able to accommodate the .44Spl, .45Schofield and .45Colt. The .45Colt debuted in the 1873 Single Action Army. The 1871-1872 Open Top model was actually Colt's first dedicated cartridge model and was chambered in .44 rimfire only. While it was based on the 1860, it had a new "S-lug" barrel (which found its way onto Richards-Mason conversions) and a new dedicated cartridge frame.

    I love this stuff and would highly recommend these two books. Dennis Adler's "Metallic Cartridge Conversions" and Bruce McDowell's "A Study of Colt Conversions". Adler's book is out of print but very affordable. McDowell's book is really the definitive book on the subject but is long out of print and can be very expensive. I watched it on Amazon for a year before I found a copy for $69. I've reviewed both books at Amazon.


  4. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    hmm... so then an 1872 in anything but .44 rimfire (which i believe was used on the henry rifles) wouldnt be historically accurate, so an 1860 conversion revolver would be good for 44 colt.. but i have to say i dont see either of these rounds sold anywhere anymore, and im guessing reloading supplies are far and few between?

    EDIT: just noticed 44 colt and 44 special have the same base diameter, 44 colt with a slightly larger rim... im guessing a 44 special case could be trimmed and resized to load for .44 colt
  5. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    i think for the conversion/open top pistol, im going to get the 1860 richard-mason conversion revolver from cimarron, they offer it in .44 colt, and ill just trim and reshape .44 special brass and load ammunition for it.. but i think this pistol will end up being something i wont shoot as often as the cap and balls or an 1873 revolver
  6. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Yes, but the .44 Colt used a heel type bullet of about .443 caliber, while the .44 Special uses an inside lubricated bullet of .43 (.429 nominal) caliber, so there could be accuracy problems. The rim of the .44 Colt is smaller also to get it into the diameter of the percussion cylinder.

    (It was Colt's desire to use as much of the old tooling as possible that resulted in a small cylinder for the SAA, and in turn that resulted in a small cartridge rim that gave extraction problems when used in rifles. The result was that almost no rifles in the old days were chambered for .45 Colt and the ones made today sometimes have extraction problems.)

  7. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    jim, i remember telling someone before that wanted a rifle and revolver in the same cartridge that a 45 colt probably wouldnt be the most historically accurate for the short rim issue you states, and suggested they looked into .44-40 instead...

    i think i need to contact cimarron, find out the bore diameter of their .44 colt models to see if they expect us to simply used a shortened .44 special cartridge, having the handloader in mind, or if the bore would require a larger bullet in which case id have to find a bullet mould for it
  8. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    were the colt 1851 navy londons ever made in the US factory? or was that london only?... just curious, i do like the looks of the london more and with some artificial aging i think the revolver would be quite gorgeous... though shopping the uberti london is only about $10-$15 more than piettas, so ill go uberti
  9. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member

    Howdy Again

    If you call Cimarron I believe you will find they are using barrels for their revolvers chambered for 44 Colt that will accept the same .429 bullets that are used in 44 Russian, 44 Special, and 44 Magnum.

    Although historically 44 Colt used a heeled bullet, of larger diameter, more recently some compromises have been made. Cartridges using heeled bullets cannot be crimped using conventional reloading dies. One workaround in the past was to use a conventional bullet with a hollow base, much like a minie ball. When loaded in a modern case, the hollow base would expand on firing to engage the rifling. However I am reasonably sure that today revolver manufacturers are using a barrel which will accept a .429 bullet. The fact that Cimarron is offering a Conversion chambered for both 44 Russian and 44 Colt would seem to confirm this. 44 Russian has always used a 'modern' type bullet, with lube grooves on the bullet that are covered when the bullet is inserted into the case. That was a stipulation the Russians made when they ordered revolvers from Smith and Wesson.

    You can buy 44 Colt brass from Starline and save yourself the trouble of cutting brass down.

    Regarding rifles and 45 Colt, there were never any rifles chambered for 45 Colt in the 19th Century. None. Chambering rifles for 45 Colt is a completely modern phenomenon, probably first done in the 1980s in response to the new found popularity of the cartridge brought on by Cowboy Action Shooting.

    Back then if you wanted a revolver and a rifle chambered for the same cartridge you would be limited to 44 Rimfire Henry, 44-40, 38-40, and 32-20.
  10. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    .44Colt was really the closest thing possible for the Open Top model. As .44 rimfire is long gone and would be terribly expensive to produce. Both my Open Top and 1860 Type II are .44Colt.

    Modern .44Colt uses accurately reproduced brass but with inside lubed .44Spl/.44Mag bullets. Brass is readily available from Starline, as is ammo. I don't know why you're having trouble finding it. The new guns are built to utilize these modern components and the only difference between the .44Colt guns and .44Spl guns is the depth of the chambers.....usually. My 1860 accepts .44Spl's but my Open Top does not.




  11. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    that does bring me to another topic, that id like to start collecting some old lever actions later on... the 1860, 1866, and 1873 rifles specifically and it would be nice if the 1873 revolver, winchester 1873 lever action, id want to toss an 1875 remington and id love to have a replica of a smith and wesson top break...

    were all of these available in .44-40?... i know the henrys were not, but if reproductions are available in .44-40 i could possibly go with this cartridge in all of these listed so i can develop one all-purpose load to suit all of these... a practice they did back then to save money, that should save one money today too

    one might assume i watch a lot of westerns, or am enamored with old western society or modern subcultures based on it, im not, i grew up mostly with military style rifles and double stack semi automatic handguns but then i had an opportunity to handle and shoot someone elses colt SAA and the balance, pointability, and feel was unlike anything i had ever shot before, not feeling like a 2 1/2lb handgun at all, but as an extension of my arm...

    id gladly trade in high capacity magazine fed automatics for six rounds of the best feeling handgun ive ever handled so i was turned onto these revolvers purely from feel and handling standpoint, completely unbiased in my opinion on them prior to that... lever actions sort of followed as i found myself attracted to their suprising accuracy and incredible reliability... since then i havent been purchasing much of anything that didnt have some sort of a rimmed cartridge
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  12. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    also, about the .45 colt being too large in diameter does make sense now as to why the conversions to 45 colt i see are almost all 5-shot with a spot for lowering the hammer
  13. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member

    The Henry was only chambered for the 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge, you can see an example in the photo I posted. The Winchester 1866 was also only chambered for the 44 Henry cartridge, although a very few were chambered for export for a similar centerfire cartridge.

    Yes, the Remington Model 1875 was chambered for 44-40.

    The 44-40 cartridge was developed specifically for the Model 1873 Winchester. The stronger iron frame of the Model 1873 was able to take the increased pressure of the larger powder charge of the 44-40 cartridge. Later this gun was also chambered for 38-40, 32-20, and 22 Rimfire.

    The large frame, 44 caliber S&W Top Break revolvers came in five distinctly different models; the American, the Russian, the Schofield, the New Model Number Three, and the Double Action 44. Of these, only the New Model Number Three and the Double Acton 44 were chambered for 44-40, although the most common chambering for these guns was 44 Russian.

    Here is a web page that describes the differences between the various large frame Smiths.


    Here is a photo that shows many of these cartridges. Left to right they are 44-40, 44 Special, 44 Russian, 44 American, 44 Henry Rimfire, 45 Schofield, and 45 Colt.


    44 Henry Rimfire cartridges are no longer manufactured. The replica Henry and 1866 rifles made by Uberti in Italy have a slightly longer frame than the originals to accommodate 45 Colt and 44-40 cartridges. I have a replica of the 1860 Henry chambered for 44-40. I only shoot Black Powder through it.

    By the way, in case you are thinking of it, the American company called Henry Repeating Arms Company has nothing to do with the original Henry rifle. The rifles they make are not faithful replicas of the original Henry design. The only company making a replica of the real Henry is Uberti of Italy.
  14. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    so then, i could pretty much get all the later cartridge conversions in .44-40 and be historically accurate, since .44 henry isnt made anymore, .44-40 in all the lever actions would be pretty close as well.... then i could go for .44 colt for the conversion revolver and that should all be as close to historically accurate as possible... and require me to only load up two cartridges... also, i was referring to uberti replicas.. it seems im probably going to end up buying everything through uberti
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  15. critter

    critter Well-Known Member

    I COULD get interested in old Colt's, but I'm SCARED to! It might just cost me a BUNDLE! Only one I have is a Colt Bisley model made in 1907. All original (and with a Colt letter). Caliber is 32-20. Just wish it could talk!

    It was originally shipped to a hardware store in St. Lewis MO.
  16. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member

    You do realize that all of this is going to cost a few dollars don't you? Even if you stick with Uberti replicas and don't go after the original stuff?

    You will have to look at the modern replica manufacturers catalogs to see just what caliber each model is offered in. I do not believe 44-40 is an option with any of the modern conversion cylinder manufacturers.

    One thing about 44-40. I am assuming here you are not an experienced reloader. 44-40 is not the easiest cartridge to reload, and I do not recommend the beginner start in reloading it. Better to start with something a little bit more forgiving like 38 Special or 45 Colt. Or 44 Russian or 44 Special or 45 Schofield. The thing about 44-40 (and 38-40 too) is the brass is very thin at the case mouth. Much thinner than 45 Colt for instance. This thinness at the case mouth can cause the neck to crumple below the bullet unless one has one's dies set up just so. When I started with Cowboy Action Shooting, I learned to reload on 45 Colt. It is much more forgiving than 44-40 when just starting out. Then, once I had a fair amount of experience loading 45 Colt I bought some 44-40 dies and started reloading it.

    Also, 44-40 can be very problematic in modern revolvers. Some of the manufacturers have not gotten their act together and it can be difficult selecting the correct diameter bullet because chamber throat diameters can vary significantly from rifling groove diameter. In fact, even though I have 5 rifles chambered for 44-40 I have never bought a single revolver chambered for the round, preferring to stick with 45 Colt, 45 Schofield, and 44 Russian for my revolvers.

    However, if you have any desire to shoot Black Powder in a lever gun, 44-40 is the cat's meow. That same thin neck that causes difficulty reloading seals the chamber of a rifle very effectively, keeping fouling where it belongs in the barrel and preventing it from migrating into the action. Shooters who opt for 45 Colt in their rifles usually wind up cleaning more often with BP than 44-40 riflemen. The thicker neck of the 45 Colt does not seal the chamber as well and allows more fouling to blow by the case an into the action.

    Revolvers are not a closed system like a rifle is, fouling blasts out of the barrel/cylinder gap and gets everywhere no matter what you do, so 44-40 offers less appeal to the BP revolver shooter than 45 Colt does.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  17. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    i do reload for most of what i shoot and have been planning to start loading .44-40 for a while now since its a cartridge ive been quite interested in getting into
  18. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    so, where do y'all think would be the best start?.. uberti 1851 london navy, or uberti 1860 army?
  19. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    You can get the 1866 from Cimarron in .44Spl and that's as close to the original .44 rimfire as you can get in a new replica. Which is not a bad compromise.
  20. jason41987

    jason41987 member

    i wonder how well a .44 special would handle .44-40 load data?... seems to be rated at a higher pressure than .44-40, and since it has a smaller base diameter the cylinder walls would be thicker too, so i could probably get .44-40 or better performance out of a special

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