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Conversion Cylinder in Brass Frame?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by John Wayne, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. John Wayne

    John Wayne Well-Known Member

    Everything I've heard about .45 Long Colt conversion cylinders has cautioned against using them in brass-framed revolvers. It makes sense, as brass is obviously weaker than steel but:

    -If the .45LC Cowboy loads are designed not to exceed the recommended pressures for the respective revolvers they were designed for


    -Both the steel frame and brass frame revolvers are rated for the same Black Powder charge

    Then why does it matter? I have a Pietta 1858 Remington, FWIW, and have been looking at a conversion cylinder for it but I would like to keep my fingers intact.
  2. mykeal

    mykeal Well-Known Member

    It matters because if you shoot a brass framed revolver at it's max rated charge it will eventually peen the recoil shield and stretch the frame. The same may be true for some steel framed guns, but it takes a lot longer, and I haven't seen it happen in 30 years.

    Max load ratings are safety ratings. Just because a gun is rated to withstand a certain load does not mean that's the best load or that it will not cause damage over the long term. This is especially true for brass framed revolvers.

    Having said that, I would like to observe that manufacturer's ratings are often significantly lower than the gun is actually designed and tested to withstand. Something about lawyers....
  3. Omnivore

    Omnivore Well-Known Member

    JW; Yeah, I'm sure you could get away with it-- for a while at least, but if you're contemplating a conversion gun, it makes sense to get a steel frame and have something more rugged. Brass is really, really soft compared to even poor steel, and it doesn't work-harden as much.

    I have a stainless .38 Spec. that is rated for +p loads, but even shooting almost nothing but standard pressure loads for fifteen years, it's loosened up quite a bit.
  4. scrat

    scrat Well-Known Member

    Not worth it. 45 colt is about 35 grains of black. When was the last time you put 35 grains of black in your brass revolver. i have a couple of them. The most i have put in a .44 is 24 grains. i just dont load it that heavy. average is 15 grains. its like the conversations we have had before in the past. The guns we shoot have been operating fine on the loads they are supposed to for the past 140 years or so. So it just doesnt make sense in this day in age to try to max out our guns and shoot the highest you can. Kinda like shooting 150 grains in a rifle. When 90 was once considered a high load. I am happy shooting 15 grains in mine. i know shooting low loads will keep my revolver operating much longer without any problems. Same time i guess if im shooting at 10-15 yards it really dosent matter if the bullet flys through the paper any fast than it is.
  5. John Wayne

    John Wayne Well-Known Member

    The Pietta manual reccomends 30 gr. FFFg as a max charge in this particular pistol. I have alternated between this and the 25 gr. load with .454 round lead balls, and the only difference I have been able to tell is an increase in accuracy and fouling with the hotter load. The frame also doesn't seem to have "stretched" any, as the barrel/cylinder gap is as tight as I've seen anywhere, maybe too tight (there is no daylight visible and it's starting to cut into the top strap).

    A gentleman at the BP shop where I bought my holster for the 1858 said that brass-framed pistols had an undeserved reputation for wearing out quickly. Basically what he was saying was that during the Civil War, the Confederacy made brass-framed pistols out of necessity. They melted down doorknobs, etc. into pistol frames, and these were of very poor quality and strength. The replica pistols, while still brass, were made of a much stronger alloy and would last just as long as a steel-framed pistol with normal use.
  6. Voodoochile

    Voodoochile Well-Known Member

    I'll address both of these sentences.

    (1) a 25gr. FFFG black powder charge is a good load for a brass framed revolver, & yes the heavier the charge the more fouling you will encounter but accurcy will be less as you go up in charge, & if you keep the loads in the 25gr. range it'll last for years with very little effect.

    (2) Even todays alloyed brass, it can not stand up to constant use of heavy loads like say 35gr. FFFG charge like a steel framed revolver can that is why most all of us say to keep a relatively light load in a Brass Framed revolver even if it does have a top strap like your Remington copy, yes the Confederacy had a short supply of Iron so they had to use Brass as an alternative for revolver frames but you also need to realize that many times they were loaded, holstered, & then used & many time they moved on to another weapon during battle but they were not intended as a long term item.
  7. sundance44s

    sundance44s Well-Known Member

    Take a look on a brass frame Remington where the rear of the cylinder meets the frame ...In a short time there will be an imprint of the back of the cylinder in it .
    My first cap and ball revolver was a brass frame 1858 Remington ..I enjoyed it for many years ...but was glad to let it go in a trade .
  8. Burt Blade

    Burt Blade Well-Known Member

    The brass frame guns are more "look" than "shoot". They work, but the metal used is far less durable than steel. Less ductile too. Steel is actually rather elastic, which is why it is used for knives, guns, etc. Brass can be shaped into a gun or knife, but the best brass or bronze will be vastly inferior to a decent steel. Guns made of brass will have a fraction of the lifespan of a steel gun.

    Keeping firmly in mind that the manufacturers of both the gun and converter will say "We really do not recommend that you do this", it is still a free country. No one will ticket you for putting these components together. The gun might survive, but it will have a very short lifespan. The end of that lifespan could be a quiet descent into inoperability, or a noisy abrupt one. Most cars do not blow up at redline or just over it, but it is unwise to ignore that clearly marked "do not exceed" line. I would buy a steel gun if I wanted to use a converter. I tend to shoot my guns quite a bit. My two Remingtons have over 3000 rounds through them, and are still in good shape. But I do not hot-rod them, either. If I want a "heavy load" BP revolver, I use a Ruger Old Army. It is built like a tank.

    If I wanted to make a light BP cartridge load for my Ruger Vaqueros, (modern single action cartridge gun based on a Blackhawk) I would acquire some of the ".45 Cowboy Special" brass. It is essentially a .45 ACP case with a .45 Colt rim on it. Internal volume is the same as .45 ACP, so one can load modern powder in a modern .45 Colt gun, yet not experience the difficulties that arise from having a huge unfilled volume in a .45 Colt cartridge. One can load ones "cowboy" competition ammo using .45 ACP charges. These will use somewhat less powder that the equivalent Colt loads, and be more consistent to boot.

    If you want to shoot reduced charge Blackpowder cartridges in Cowboy matches, the Cowboy Special brass is the way to go. The reduced volume allows a very light BP load, with no need for fillers, wads, etc. The resultant load contains a little over 1 cc of BP, to meet SASS rules for BP cartridges. My Lee powder measure kit has a chart of grain-equivalents to the volumetric Lee scoops. According to the Lee chart, 1 CC of FFg BP is equivalent to 14.7 grains. (BP varies in weight, so you have to measure by volume.) 15 grains is a very light charge. None of my cap and ball revolvers can use a charge that light without a wad or filler. The ram won't seat a bullet that deep.

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