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New Convert to the Dark Side

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by Big Al Mass, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. Big Al Mass

    Big Al Mass Well-Known Member

    Hello everyone. I joined the forum recently and this is my first post. Yesterday, I received in the mail my first gun of any kind, a Pietta Model 1860 Army revolver. I am posting this to find out what I need to know to before I start shooting. I already have a vast knowledge of guns in general, both antique and modern, and would like to know what I should do first regarding cleaning and preparation of the gun before I load the first charge.

    All help appreciated!


    BADUNAME30 Well-Known Member

    WELCOME Annihilator I.
    Go the top o' the page in this forum and there is a Sticky there with detailed info on all you need to fully enjoy this great and addictive hobby.
  3. 72coupe

    72coupe Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the site. I am a student myself. I didn't by my first black powder pistol (an 1851 Navy clone) until 1967.

    Lots of people here willing to help.
  4. bowserb

    bowserb Well-Known Member

    Welcome...but I think the Dark Side would be if you bought a Glock!
  5. towboat_er

    towboat_er Well-Known Member

    When I get a new one, the first thing I do is fire a cap on each cylinder. Then shoot the crap out of it.

    30g fffg and 454 round ball.

    Then clean it.
  6. unknwn

    unknwn Well-Known Member

    Seeing as you have opted for an open top, there are a couple of things I'd recommend before you fire your gun.
    Take it apart and look it over real close before you light any charges off. Now, is the time to determine defects that would best be addressed by exchange.
    I just returned for exchange two out of three spare cylinders because the arbor hole wasn't bored/reamed to my satisfaction. Its best to return for a replacement now rather than complain after you have skewered the warranty by firing the gun.
    Remove the nipples and Nevr-seez the threads.
    Check the bolt and cylinder notches for fit and timing before you cycle the action. Its not hard to find problems if they exist. It is impossible to recuperate battered cylinder notches after the fact though.
    Be ready to clean the gun properly after your shoot. An owner that is accustomed to smokeless guns might leave a BP gun sit too long after use and end up dealing with rust if they are not prepared to clean the gun well enough and soon enough.
    If you like it that much (and I'm betting you will) , an open top can be well served by getting a cylinder loading stand. It will save much wear and tear on the arbor/frame jointing (yes, even steel frames) that occurs due to the stresses imposed by using the onboard loading ram.
    Get your -dead soft- cast balls (pure lead) from a reputable source, harder alloys that result from using wheel weights for example will really make using the on board ram much more deleterious to that arbor/frame jointing over time.
  7. Big Al Mass

    Big Al Mass Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys!

    unknwn - The reason I went for the Colt is my older brother bought a Remington and I found the grip of that one to be undersized for my gorilla mitts and felt that it was too front-heavy. Also, I like that both the barrel and the cylinder are removable for cleaning. The only things I have noticed after cursory inspection were:

    1. The muzzle appears to be out of square, but the barrel is straight; Could the muzzle being out of square affect accuracy? Should I get it corrected?

    2. After cycling the action, I noticed there is an area of peened metal 3/32 of an inch wide (measured with dividers and a precision ruler) on the right side of each locking notch. There is also a smaller peen on the left side of the notch; What does this mean and what do I do to fix it if it is detrimental?

    3. I also noticed during cycling that the cylinder is not fully indexed until the hammer is pulled back until it stops past the half-cock position; Does this mean I have to replace the hand with a longer one or is it something I have to get used to?

    bowserb - I would not buy a Glock even if I had a pistol permit! In my opinion, the only place plastic of any kind has in a firearm is to replace wood if it is warranted or desirable.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  8. bowserb

    bowserb Well-Known Member

    Annihilator I, just don't say "never". I've had a Glock 19, carried it concealed for several years, and except for its lack of a safety, I have no complaint. Right now I carry a Springfield Armory XDM-45 4.5". It's a striker-fired polymer frame gun, but unlike the Glock, it has a grip safety like a 1911. I have an all steel pistol, a Colt XSE. With 8+1 rounds, it weighs 2lb14oz. My XDM weighs 5oz less, with five more rounds (13+1). Polymer has a place in modern handguns, so don't fight it. I've carried the Colt concealed a lot. However it is heavy, and the long barrel makes it a hard draw with my creeping arthritis.
  9. loose noose

    loose noose Well-Known Member

    Annihilator I, Welcome aboard! Personally with the muzzle out of round? I would send it back, don't matter how straight the barrel looks.;)
  10. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure what "out of square" is, not centered? Have a smith check it out if it's a question, just have him look at it. Might send it back if he recommends it.
    Quite normal to have drag marks from the cylinder latch on the cylinder of a revolver.

    It should lock in toward the end of the hammer's travel. If it's not locking in at all, there's a problem with timing. So long as it locks before the hammer reaches the rear, you're good. It should lock in about the time of the last click, when the sear notch is reached. It should happen WELL after half-cock.

    What amazes me is the price of these little jewels. I bought my Navy brasser for 120 bucks on sale, 5" barrel. My 5.5" all steel Remmy was only $179 on sale and, heck, the regular prices ain't that bad! But, Pietta quality is astonishing considering the prices. I've not gotten one with bad timing or alignment, yet, knock on wood. But if I ever do, they say Cabelas (where I have bought my last two) will make it good. I'm sure it happens, but I'm of the opinion I'd get a Smith and Wesson out of time out of the box quicker than I would a Pietta.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  11. Big Al Mass

    Big Al Mass Well-Known Member

    By "out of square", I mean the face of the muzzle is not uniformly perpendicular to the side of the barrel, i.e. when I hold the gun muzzle up dead plumb, I see the edge of the muzzle sticking up beyond. It is probably only a few hundredths or thousandths of an inch and would not be noticeable to most people, but I noticed it by eyeball alone and verified it with a square just to be sure.

    Regarding the peening, after closer study, I came up with what I believe is happening. The peening is occurring on the half-oval-shaped "trough" next to the locking notch. I think what is happening is the bolt is being released before it is aligned with the notch and striking the cylinder in that area. What can be done about that?

    Concerning the cylinder's timing, let me take you through the sequence: as I draw back the hammer, the nose is dead-center on the space between the nipples when it reaches the half-cock position. Continuing past half-cock, when the nipple almost comes into line the bolt is released, but the sear has not engaged. When the sear is engaged, the cylinder is out of alignment by about a 1/16 of an inch and is fully rotated to proper alignment by pulling the hammer back past full-cock until it stops.

    A fourth thing I just noticed now is that there is a gap 1/32 of an inch between the front face of the cylinder and the edge of the forcing cone and the cylinder can move forward and backward in that distance. Additionally, the wedge is sticking out 11/32 of an inch on the left side of the gun and will not go in anymore with moderate strikes with a 3 pound hammer and a wood block. Are these normal and acceptable tolerances for these guns to have?
  12. arcticap

    arcticap Well-Known Member

    The muzzle not being square could affect accuracy but not necessarily. It could cause it to shoot more to one side than the other. But at handgun ranges it might not be noticeable, or the sights may be able to compensate for it. But untested, it's a slight defect which virtually all guns will have at least one of in some form or other.

    Your notch peening may be common but some are worse than others. It sounds like it's bad enough for you to consider fixing it or sending it back. Pietta Colts do often require more home gunsmithing than their Remingtons.
    Be sure to read the Pettifogger articles about tuning the Pietta Colt to see if you feel comfortable doing it yourself. If it's more work than you bargained for than consider sending it back. Sometimes tuning up a gun can require needing to buy replacement parts prematurely and/or tools.

    1. http://www.theopenrange.net/articles/Tuning_the_Pietta_Part_One.pdf

    2. http://www.theopenrange.net/articles/Tuning_the_Pietta_Part_Two.pdf

    3. http://www.theopenrange.net/articles/Tuning_the_Uberti_Open_Top_Revolvers_Part_3.pdf

    4. http://www.theopenrange.net/articles/Tuning_the_Uberti_Open_Top_Revolvers_Part_4.pdf

    All I know is that the hammer is suppose to lock up at the end of it's travel so that the rear hammer sighting notch is in alignment with the front sight. But if reaching full cock takes too much effort even after the gun is broken in, then see what the Pettifogger articles or others recommend.
    It's as easy to ruin parts by home gunsmithing as it is to fix them.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  13. Big Al Mass

    Big Al Mass Well-Known Member

    Thinking about it now, I believe that replacing the hand with a longer one that will index the cylinder into alignment before the bolt is released will kill both birds (the peening and the misalignment) with one stone. I don't have any problem tackling that job myself. I am very precise and good with tools. I disassembled and reassembled the entire gun this evening without needing to look at the diagram in the manual. After that, there is only the issue of the cylinder being able to move back and forth 1/32 of an inch.
  14. arcticap

    arcticap Well-Known Member

    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  15. Big Al Mass

    Big Al Mass Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I did not think about the bolt because I did not have a clear grasp of its interaction with the hammer. I think that is the solution then. I will begin filing ever so carefully tomorrow. What about the front to back play in the cylinder?
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  16. unknwn

    unknwn Well-Known Member

    "...front to back play in the cylinder..."

    I'd call that normal. Most all of mine have enough cylinder end play as to be audible when shaking the gun too & fro. It tightens up when the hand comes into play though.
  17. J-Bar

    J-Bar Well-Known Member

    The "bolt to notch" fitting problem is common with Piettas. I have followed Pettifogger's instructions on both Pietta and Uberti revolvers and I think he is a genius.

    As to timing, that beveled lead-in on the side of each notch is there for a purpose. It funnels the bolt into the notch when the hammer is being cocked hard and fast. The peening you see is caused by the bolt being too wide for the notch and not settling all the way down into the notch. If you try to time the bolt to drop into the notch just as they line up perfectly, the cylinder will rotate past the bolt when cocking at speed.

    If you go to a longer hand, you run the risk of getting the cylinder locked before the hammer reaches the cocking notch. I don't think you should be messing around with the hand or bolt cam on the hammer, for that matter.

    These are not expensive guns so you are not risking a whole lot of money when you tinker with them. But you might wind up with some unexpected spare parts if you go too fast and have to buy a new one!

    Especially since it is, in your own words, "the first gun of any kind" you have owned.

    You may have received a Friday afternoon gun. If you are seeing that many signifigant defects, I would swap it out.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  18. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member


    I have an old brass framed Uberti Navy that I bought back in 1968. The muzzle on it was also cut our of square. I would not worry about it.

    I have a pair of Pietta 1860s. I bought them a few years ago when they were on special at Cabellas. Frankly, and you are not going to want to hear this, I wish I had spent a few bucks more and bought Ubertis. In my opinion, Uberti does a better job fitting and finishing their BP revolvers than Pietta does. Your out of square muzzle is testimony to that. I was also less than pleased with the amount of burrs that Pietta left on the frames prior to case hardening. Once hardened, the burrs cannot be removed without leaving behind a mark.

    As far as what to do to prepare it, the very first thing I do with any gun that I intend to shoot with nothing but Black Powder is to completely strip it down and remove all traces of factory oils and grease. I usually use lacquer thinner or paint solvent. No, it will not hurt the blue or the 'case colors'. I strip all the parts to bare metal, then I relubricate everything with a light coating of Ballistol. Ballistol is completely compatible with Black Powder fouling, not all petroleum based oils are. Then I put it back together again.

    OK, I have one of my Pietta 1860s in hand. The condition you mention about the cylinder not going to battery until the hammer has been pulled back past full cock is very typical of many revolvers. No, it is not ideal. Ideally, the bolt should pop into its locking notch at exactly the same time as the hammer goes to full cock. The alternative is that if the bolt pops in place before the hammer goes to full cock, the hammer will never get to full cock. The hand will wedge the hammer from going all the way back. No, you should not install a longer hand. Just remember to give the hammer a good yank every time you pull it, so the cylinder always locks up. Alternatively, you could lengthen the hand slightly by peening the end with a center punch, but the hand may be slightly hardened and this may be difficult.

    The problem of the bolt popping up too late has nothing to do with your hand, it is a timing problem with the bolt and the cam on the hammer. Ideally, the bolt should pop up about halfway into the lead in to the locking notch. That way, its impact will be absorbed by the full length of the lead in, rather than striking the edge of the notch.

    Guess what? both of my Piettas do the same thing. I have run into plenty of Ubertis that do the same thing to. This is something that is probably beyond your expertise. With all due respect, the bolt is not too wide, it is popping up late. If it was too wide it would not fit into the locking notch and the cylinder would not lock up at all. Basically, the bolt leg is falling off the hammer cam just a little bit late. Adjusting this means either adjusting the hook on the bolt leg, or adjusting the top corner of the hammer cam.

    Before you start filing, you really need to understand the relationship of the hammer and the bolt. It is complicated.

    Frankly, with my Piettas I have not bothered, I just let the bolt rise late.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  19. J-Bar

    J-Bar Well-Known Member

    With much respect, the last 4 Piettas I bought had bolts that were too wide for a couple of cylinder notches on each gun. It's one of the things Pettifogger recommends checking and correcting. Whether or not it is a problem for this gun is something for the owner to check, but whenever the sides of a notch or lead-in is getting buggered, the micrometer can give some good information.
  20. Big Al Mass

    Big Al Mass Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all your suggestions and bits of wisdom.

    After further consideration, I think I will forgo filing the internal components. I may file the bolt a bit narrower because there is a small peen on the side of the notch opposite the lead-in groove.

    As far as the barrel being out of square, as long as it does not affect accuracy, I'll just leave it alone. It is only cosmetic and I only care about function.

    Back to other issues, how much of a gap should there be between the cylinder face and the forcing cone? Right now it is 1/32 of an inch. The wedge is sticking out 3/8 of an inch to the left and will not go in any further driving it with a wood block and moderate strikes with a 3 pound hammer. Also, the part of the barrel below the loading cutout is not contacting the frame, i.e. I can see daylight between the two. Should these parts be in contact?

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