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Brass Backstraps?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by ZVP, Apr 28, 2011.

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  1. ZVP

    ZVP Member

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    I wonder why Colt used a Brass Backstrap?
    The Tri-Color combination you get with the 3?
    Cost savings? Brass wasn't that much cheaper.
    Maybe he felt Brass sprung back on recoil?
    I have a London Replica and I sure like the look of the all steel frame and grip! I also have a Piettia Brass Backstrap and I can live with the 3 metals...
    ZVP
     
  2. SwampMouse

    SwampMouse Member

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    Brass was way cheaper than iron and more of it around. Who told you brass wasn't cheaper?
     
  3. mr16ga

    mr16ga Member

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    Brass is easier to machine then steel which makes it cheaper like SwampMouse says. I like steel better because you don't have to polish it.

    Hint - If you don't like polishing brass polish it once and put clear fingernail polish on it. Then don't ever touch it.
     
  4. junkman_01

    junkman_01 member

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    I do not polish my brass. I let it age because it looks much more authentic that way.
     
  5. PRM

    PRM Member

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    Interesting ~ I didn't know they used imitation brass.
     
  6. junkman_01

    junkman_01 member

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  7. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Member

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    I've given up on polishing brass. Once the patina sets in it protects the surface and doesn't look like a safe queen.
     
  8. junkman_01

    junkman_01 member

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    Joe,

    That's what I was trying to say in my post above.
     
  9. PRM

    PRM Member

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    I got it ~ couldn't resist the poke.

    I've used Birchwood Casey Brass Black and got good results also. Did all the brass on my Pedersoli Brown Bess with it.
     
  10. makos_goods

    makos_goods Member

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    The Mouse is right...

    Brass was much more available in the first half of the 19th century. In the U.S. the adoption and building converters using the Bessemer process allowing better quality and larger quantities of steel pretty much coincided with the arrival of the 1860 Army model. This is one of the advances that allowed the rebated cylinder on the 1860 to be strong enough to work. Before that even the Dragoon size and Walker size cylinders had strength issues.

    Most of the "steel" was in reality iron or very low quality steel with many imperfections and very irregular grain structures.

    Another reason they used brass is that that could have brass castings made very inexpensively and then finish machine them. Iron castings were much more expensive, full of voids and inclusions and not readily available.

    An exception was when Colt's made the back strap on the Army models out of iron at the request of the Army ordnance board who had already requested a larger grip at the Cavalry's request to better work with hands in gauntlets. They actually wanted grips with the girth of the Dragoons and the clearance to the trigger guard. This was awkward because the 1860 frame is actually an 1851 frame with a single difference (the cylinder clearance cut). The offered a lengthened grip (even longer than the Dragoons) to the board and they accepted it. The engineers and mechanics at Colt's had changed the back strap to iron to address a concern that the grip might not be strong enough with the full brass grip frame. This was unfounded and they even offered full brass as a factory option. But so goes the give and take of winning a military contract.

    There is a simple reason that the "London" model Colt's had iron grip frames. They were made in England which had a steel industry more advanced than the U.S. It was to the point they could produce iron parts competitive in price with brass because the reality its that iron is more abundant than copper, but it was simply a matter of technological capability.

    A lot of people don't realize that the Iron Age came about not because that it was better than the Bronze of the day, but that Tin was the "strategic" material in Europe before the 8th century BC and remained so for the next two thousand years. To most unfamiliar with metallurgy they are surprised to hear that for over a thousand years iron was much weaker than bronze.

    It was used because it was plentiful and didn't require tin. Most people also don't realize that "Gun Metal" is not a color, it describes a type of bronze used to make firearms. The reason that Henry rifle receivers were made of Bronze is because it was stronger than the more common brittle irons and most steels. The reason that the material was switched from the original iron receivers on some of the earliest Henry rifles is that it was extremely expensive to buy the low carbon iron that could be machined and have the strength necessary to the very hollowed out receivers.

    The world radically changed in the middle of the 19th century with the advent of quality steel and the American steel industry quickly caught up and surpassed most of Europe.

    ~Mako
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011
  11. Norton Commando

    Norton Commando Member

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    Brass is easier and usually cheaper to work with than cast steel or cast iron. That's why I'm surprised that the Hawkin rifle had cast steel or cast iron hardware, rather than brass.

    So to answer the original question: I wonder why Colt used a Brass Backstrap?

    Well, I think the answer is that brass was cheaper than steel.

    Jason
     
  12. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Also on commercial models (as opposed to most if not all military orders) the brass backstraps and trigger guards were silver plated, which offered a deluxe touch when the revolvers were still new in the box. In heavy use it wore off, which is part of the reason many don't know about it today.

    If one is really bothered by having to polish brass a simple solution is to have the parts satin chrome plated so they will look much like the originals.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011
  13. ZVP

    ZVP Member

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    Thanks Mako!
    GREAT response that explains a LOT! I always wondered about the Yellowboys?
    It makes a bunch more sense now!
    ZVP
     
  14. makos_goods

    makos_goods Member

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    Glad to be of service.
     
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