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Converting old guns to different calibers

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Brian Williams, Jul 30, 2004.

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  1. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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  2. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    1: Bring money.

    2: What kind of shape is it in? If it's north of 90%, I'd leave it intact so as to avoid being cursed by future generations. If it needs refinishing anyway, go 'head and call Bowen, but be sure to...

    3: Bring money. :D


    (It may be cheaper to find a beat-to-hell 1917 and do the conversion on it, which would only require a new cylinder and cutting the forcing cone, plus any cosmetic and action work you wanted performed...)
     
  3. C.R.Sam

    C.R.Sam Moderator Emeritus

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    What Tamara said plus...

    Wouldn't it be less expensive to just get one born as a .45 Colt ?
    Model of 1950 excepted :)

    Sam
     
  4. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    I think that the problem is that the few postwar factory .45 Colt guns are all heavy-barrel, adjustable-sight pieces, and he wants that classic tapered barrel, fixed sight look.
     
  5. farscott

    farscott Member

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    Since this is going to Bowen and money has to be no object, I would use an M520 as base gun versus the Heavy Duty. Or wait for the new M21-4 and use that as the base gun. The Heavy Duty is a piece of the past, and they literally do not build them that way anymore; as such, it deserves to stay in its present state. The other two guns are modern pieces and will greatly benefit from Bowen's unique touch.
     
  6. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    That Bowen is just the sort of thing I've been trying to find for a CCW piece.
     
  7. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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    They made 9000+ HeavyDutys and quite a few less of 520s I would think that the 520 would eventually have a greater collector value and the pricing is rising to follow.
     
  8. carpettbaggerr

    carpettbaggerr Member

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    Why ruin a nice Heavy Duty? Keep it in .38 -- Bowen can make a Ruger Redhawk look almost the same. Or convert a 27 or 28. There are lots more of those around.
     
  9. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Before I went too far I would take some measurements. If you re-bore the barrel the walls at the muzzle may be very thin. Same with the chamber walls under the cylinder stop notches. I’m not sure I’d make this conversion, but if I did the .44 Special might be a better candidate. You might also have a problem with front sight height.

    I have owned several .38-44 Heavy Duty revolvers, and without exception they were tack drivers, I would suggest you shoot your new gun a bit, and then decide if you really want to modify it. Last but not least, you may be able to find a model 25 series S&W for not much more then converting the .38 you already have.
     
  10. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Old Fuff,

    As you can see in the picture above, Mr. Bowen (the Earth-walking god of revolversmiths :D ) has done this particular conversion before. I wouldn't recommend shooting Buffalo Bore grizzly stompers out of it, but it is more than safe for shooting SAAMI-spec .45 Colt. The OD of the .38/.44 cylinder is the same as the OD of the Model 25 cylinder, so that point's moot.

    As far as why he's not asking about a Model 25, it's probably because Model 25's have heavy barrels and adjustable sights, unlike that beautiful wheelgun gracing the photo at the top of the page, with its fixed sights and tapered barrel. :cool:
     
  11. Peter M. Eick

    Peter M. Eick Member

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    I am with carpetbagger. Why ruin a perfectly good 38/44. They are not that common, very nicely made and are starting to get quite expensive to buy nice ones for us collectors.

    Keep it as a 38special and enjoy it. Lets not destroy anymore heavyduty's.
     
  12. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Listen to Peter...

    Besides, the whole project would be cheaper if you started with an M1917, anyway. :)

    (That is, assuming that it is in fact a "perfectly good" .38/.44. ;) )
     
  13. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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    While it has a few dings, one on the top strap edge and one on the triggerguard both about 1/4 in long, it has some holsterwear on the muzzle and some backstrap wear. The turn ring is not all the way around and the cylinder has a little play front to back and some rotational but none side to side. I would say it is about 95%, I was just looking at it on my desk and seeing the window reflection on it and was noting that the side of the frame is perfectly flat and evenly polished. The grips have a few flattened points on the left side and the right has a minor chip out by the medallion and at the top. My camera died so I can not take pictures.



    I need to correct this there were 11,000+ Pre-war HD's and 9,000+ post war HD's and only 3000 520's made. My HD is around the end of 49 early 50.

    Here is an outdoorsman done by Bowen
    http://www.smith-wessonforum.com/ubb/Forum10/HTML/006194.html

    orig.gif
     
  14. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    >> As you can see in the picture above, Mr. Bowen (the Earth-walking god of revolversmiths ) has done this particular conversion before. I wouldn't recommend shooting Buffalo Bore grizzly stompers out of it, but it is more than safe for shooting SAAMI-spec .45 Colt. The OD of the .38/.44 cylinder is the same as the OD of the Model 25 cylinder, so that point's moot. <<

    I didn’t mean to question the safety of this conversion, at least so far as standard .45 Colt loads are concerned. However the .38 barrels had a slightly different taper then those intended to be bored for .44 or .45 calibers. Also the front sight (which is an integral part of the barrel forging) is made to a height that would be correct for a high-velocity .38 Special, not a .45 Colt. This can be corrected, but making the correction will add to the expense. I learned a long time ago to carefully consider all aspects of such conversions before jumping.

    >> As far as why he's not asking about a Model 25, it's probably because Model 25's have heavy barrels and adjustable sights, unlike that beautiful wheelgun gracing the photo at the top of the page, with its fixed sights and tapered barrel. <<

    I agree that the pictured revolver is “beautiful,†but it would be equally so in its original chambering. A conversion on a model 27 or 28 would provide a easy way to solve the sight height issue. The revolver I had was one of the first model 1950 Target’s with the barrel shortened to 4 inches at the factory. These of course had the narrow rib and smaller taper used on the .357 Magnum (pre-model 27/28) and later. While it hasn’t been mentioned yet, a model 58, .41 Magnum might also be a candidate for conversion to .45 Colt.

    I also suspect that for the money involved (gun plus total cost of conversion) one might be able to purchase a .44 Hand Ejector with a 4 inch barrel. I would at least look into the possibility of doing this.
     
  15. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Old Fuff,

    Yeah, but then we're back to adjustable sights and ribbed barrels.

    When Bowen's name comes up, I usually assume that cost is no object. :uhoh: I happen to agree with Clint Smith (owner of the Bowen piece pictured at top) that a fixed-sight .45 Colt N-frame M&P is the best revolver S&W never made. ;)

    I just wish I had the buckage to even consider having such a conversion performed. :(
     
  16. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    While they aren't dirt cheap, I'd still opt for a 1926 Hand Ejector in .44 Special ...

    Or a re-cylindered 1917 ...

    I have carried both a .44 Hand Ejector,2nd issue with fixed sights and the converted 1950 Target Model mentioned in my previous post. The barrel rib and adjustable rear sight on the latter posed no problems, and offered a better sight picture.

    Be that as it may, when something I want costs too much (happens all of the time) I find another solution. This has been, and still is, an interesting discussion.
     
  17. Paul "Fitz" Jones

    Paul "Fitz" Jones Moderator - Emeritus

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    Converting Collectables

    I have been advised by a gunsmith a number of times that I will be losing collector value if he proceeded with my desires and I had him go ahead as that is what I wanted for myself and adult kids.

    However I think a .38/44 is rather neat and have a case so marked in my collection from firing one as a kid. It reminds me of a pleasant outing and experience so what is the most important to the individual?

    This is a great place to get differing points of view and suggestions for other options to solve desires.

    Great Web Site it Tis!

    Fitz
     
  18. Peter M. Eick

    Peter M. Eick Member

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    I only ask that before you do the 38/44 in, consider letting some of us try to buy it off you. Please post a picture and your thoughts on its value. Nice 95% 38/44's are kind of hard to come by. Especially with matching grips etc.

    Pretty please????
     
  19. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

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    Old Fuff,

    All my N-frames have adjustable rear sights, and all but one have ribbed barrels. Yes, they're all plenty practical for carry.

    I'm not sure this is about practicality, though; I think it's about wanting what one wants... ;) (Can't be sure unless Brian chimes back in, though.)

    (If it was about practicality, we'd all be carryin' Glocks, anyway. ;) :uhoh: )
     
  20. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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    I have both fixed and adjustable sights on my carry guns but I prefer fixed sights on most of my guns. I have a S&W 13 and 940 both fixed sight guns and a 586 and a 60-4 3" with adjustable sights. I also have a 8 3/8s barreled 27-2 and a K36 both with adjustable sights. My 1911 and Glock 19 have fixed sights. Yep heavy barrels and ribs and adjustable sights are fine for carry but I like fixed sights, tapered barrels and round butts.

    Maybe keeping my HD, as is, will be the way I will go.... at least for now till my gun fund increases.

    But then there is a Hi wall in 45/70 calling my name, along with an AR or 2 with a BHP in there some where and my 586 needs refinishing????? I need another 22lr, then if I found a 65-2 3" in I would put the 4" tapered barrel I have on it for my idea of a Mt Gun. and I need another pre-war 1905 4th change w 5" barrel... With all this on my list this HD might never be changed other then get well used.


    What I would like is an N frame with fixed sights, in 45 with a cylinder for both Colt and ACP, 4 inch tapered barrel and a half moon front sight preferably with a round butt possibly with a lanyard ring. If this HD shoots 38-44 loads very well it might just stay as is and become my hunting / next to the bed sidearm but who knows.....
     
  21. Gordon
    • Contributing Member

    Gordon Contributing Member

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    I have a 4" Model 1926 Hand ejector .44spl and a Civilian 1917 .45acp. both in the shape yours is or slightly better. I was at the range with both a few weeks ago and my take is this: New style sights are far superior for actual defensive usage(but I lLOVE TO SHOOT THESE VINTAGE GUNS!!!). In other words my later model S&W can clean the earlier guns clocks practical accuracy wise.! The 629 Mountain gun I have of 1989 vintage is far superior as is my friends M25-2 I recently sold him. I don't like .45LC in N frames as the cylinder is getting too thin for me! My New Service (original and combat full house custom) is the better format for .45LC IMHO. SSA's are also great. Leave that Heavy Duty alone!;)
     
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