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Old June 1, 2010, 09:39 PM   #26
MJN77
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Ok, first off as far as drag marks and scratches in the cylinder the working cowboy usually didn't worry about such things as we do today. I have read about them using revolver butts as hammers for fence staples and twisting barbed wire around the barrels. They were tools, nothing more. As long as they were clean and went bang, that's all that mattered. Not that all the old timers felt that way but some did. Second, people back then that expected trouble probably thought the extra round was worth the risk.

Now to the OP. The first reference I have read was from a man named John Poe. He was one of Pat Garret's deputies when Garret shot Billy the kid. Poe stated that after hearing Pat's 2 shots at the kid, Poe swore he heard a third shot. After examining the kid's revolver they found only five live cartridges, but the spent caseing did not seem to have been fired recently AND that keeping only five cartridges in revolvers was common practice. Poe's first telling of this was in 1882, 1 year after the Kid's death. My .02
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Old June 1, 2010, 11:00 PM   #27
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Quote:
After examining the kid's revolver they found only five live cartridges, but the spent caseing did not seem to have been fired recently AND that keeping only five cartridges in revolvers was common practice.
O.K. Now I'm confused.

Were there "five live cartridges" plus one "spent caseing" (sing.) in the cylinder, making six altogether, but this Poe also felt it necessary to explain that six in the gun was an unusual condition?

Or, do you mean (or did he say) there were four live rounds and one spent one?

BTW, I never said that hammers lowered between the rims wasn't done back in the day, I just wanted to point out to the unwary but caring that it can (read "will") mar the cylinder. Attitudes regarding care of firearms has changed considerably in the past few years
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Old June 1, 2010, 11:24 PM   #28
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Five live cartridges pretty much means five live with mention also of a spent round. 5+1=6. Maybe I could've been more clear? As far as commonality he said that it was a common practice. Don't really know how else to say it. I was not disputing your facts about cylinder marring, just saying it wasn't as much of a concern back then as now. I'm not trying to be a D i c k if I came off that way.
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Old June 2, 2010, 02:25 AM   #29
Model-P
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You were clear as a bell, and that's the way I understood the terms, but wasn't sure why Poe would bother to mention that five rounds in the cylinder was standard if that was already common knowledge at the time. That's why I was confused and thought maybe you were using the Billy the Kid account to show that the gun he used had five rounds in it, and thought maybe you weren't recounting the terms correctly. Not everyone uses terms like "live cartridges" correctly, so it doesn't hurt to make sure.
Interesting contribution. It would sure be nice to see Poe's exact words.
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Old June 2, 2010, 04:52 AM   #30
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Why bother with a fired cartridge?
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Old June 2, 2010, 06:53 AM   #31
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Garrett's own account also mentions the five live rounds. This is a quote from his book about the kid ( The authentic life of Billy the kid) it was published in 1882. "We examined his pistol-a self cocker( double action, colt thunderer), calibre .41. It had five cartridges and one shell in the chambers, the hammer resting on the shell, but this proves nothing, as many carry their revolvers in this way for safety; besides this shell looked as though it had been shot some time before" As far as the explaination, this book was marketed towards easterners that would not know about these things. Think about it, how many "gunfighters" or cowboys would read a book about Billy's death? Turns out not many as Garrett's book was a failure.
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Old June 2, 2010, 11:22 AM   #32
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Excellent! There you go, Malamute. 1882!

It is odd, though, that the gun would be carried hammer down on an empty shell for 'safety'. Like Hawk Hawgen said, "Why bother with a fired cartridge"? Seems it would be too easy to accidentally lower the hammer on a live one instead.

Thanks, MJN77.
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Old June 2, 2010, 01:27 PM   #33
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Make sure to actually have it over an empty cylinder.
I was explaining to someone how to load an SAA:
Load, skip, load, load, load, load, pull the hammer back and drop the cylinder. I did the aforementioned while explaining that when I pull the trigger that nothing should happen. I took aim at the target and pulled the trigger. I figured why waste a good dry fire. Bang! Had I but looked I would have noticed that I messed things up, and adding an empty would make that more difficult to tell.
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Old June 5, 2010, 02:47 AM   #34
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I would think that the definitive source would be the Cavalry Manual of Arms for the 1873. There must be a copy somewhere on the net. Personally, I'm too lazy to look.
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Old June 7, 2010, 03:00 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Model-P
But, a typical firing pin runs around .075-.080" and cannot seat between .45 Colt rims, and is easily able to override the rim to the primer without your noticing it:
Your picture and explanation are flawed in that you show the firing pin at the point where the cartridge rims are the closest (red dot), rather than at a point along a circle defined by the centers of the cartridges where it would actually rest (yellow dot).

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Old June 8, 2010, 03:39 AM   #36
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Quote:
Your picture and explanation are flawed in that you show the firing pin at the point where the cartridge rims are the closest (red dot), rather than at a point along a circle defined by the centers of the cartridges where it would actually rest (yellow dot).
Well, I have to admit you are correct in what you are saying (even though your yellow dot is a bit further out than it should be). Thanks for pointing that out.

However, the quote you used from my post is still true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Model-P
But, a typical firing pin runs around .075-.080" and cannot seat between .45 Colt rims, and is easily able to override the rim to the primer without your noticing it:
Feel free to scratch up your cylinder checking this out for yourself
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Old June 13, 2010, 08:04 PM   #37
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Quote:
Pete (darkgael) asked:
I'm not a metallurgist and so....this question -

Quote:
hardened (and thus brittle)

Is that always true? Any metal that has been hardened is brittle?

Hawg Haggen responded:
Any metal that is hardened will break before it bends and a sear is very thin, so yes brittle fits.

This puts a new meaning to the old phrase: A trigger that breaks like glass.
Not all hardened parts are brittle. It depends on how it was hardened. Most are intended to be tough, not brittle. Thin parts are possible to chip, crack or break tho. Case hardening can be done to give a hard surface for wear resistance, and not hardened in the middle to give shock resistance, Drilling and tapping some bolt action receivers reveals this. After grinding through the hardened skin, it become easier to complete the drilling and tapping.

Been some interesting posts. Thanks for offering comments guys.

As to the firing pin between the rims, after I had several instances of the cylinder turning with the firing pin down between the rims, I messed with it some, there just wasn't much resistance to turning when carried that way in my guns. The make of cases, and degree of rim bevel may have some bearing on it, and why some haven't had troubles, I just don't know. Each can make their own decisions on the matter. I won't carry that way any longer tho.
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Old June 13, 2010, 08:26 PM   #38
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Colt literature of the 1880s recommends use of the quarter cock safety notch.

They made a few 1860s with 12 bolt notches in the cylinder. That way you could lower the hammer on the safety pin between chambers and have the cylinder locked in that position by the bolt. I wonder if a good gunsmith could not cut at least one extra notch in a SAA for the purpose.
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Old June 14, 2010, 07:01 PM   #39
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Interesting story about Wyatt Earp -

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Wyatt Earp Incident
Case Two: No less a legendary lawman than Wyatt Earp experienced a dropped-gun accidental discharge. In what is probably the most detailed biography of Earp, Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend, veteran historian and acknowledged gun expert Lee Silva researched a news clipping from the time, that he quoted in Volume 1: The Cowtown Years.

Silva found it in the January 12, 1876 edition of the Wichita Beacon. It read, “Last Sunday night, while policeman Earp was sitting with two or three others in the back room of the Custom House Saloon, his revolver slipped from its holster, and falling to the floor, the hammer which was resting on the cap, is supposed to have struck the chair, causing a discharge of one of the barrels (sic). The ball passed through his coat, struck the north wall then glanced off and passed out through the ceiling. It was a narrow escape and the occurrence got up a lively stampede from the room. One of the demoralized was under the impression that someone had fired through the window from the outside.”

Silva also gained access to some of Earp’s correspondence with his compliant biographer, Stuart Lake, in the late 1920s. He had apparently admitted that it happened when Lake asked him about it, and in a note asked Lake to leave out “the little affray with the chair.” Lake complied.

And, when Lake’s Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal did come out a few years later, Earp was emphatically quoted in it as saying professionals would never carry a live round under the hammer of a single-action revolver
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Old June 22, 2010, 09:11 PM   #40
Malamute
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I found a reference in a book titled "Firearms of the American West, 1866-1894" by Garavaglia and Worman, p 346. "....John K Rollinson, who joined the M-Bar Ranch in Wyoming in the 1890's, wrote later that: 'We all carried guns. I remember that each of the six men had guns almost exactly alike. We all preferred the Colt single-action six shooter. Some liked the Bisley model, others the Frontier model. Some were of different caliber, but all were bulit on a .45-caliber frame. I noticed that these men carried their guns with one empty shell in the cylinder, and five loaded cartridges. This was for safety's sake. The gun was carried with the hammer on the empty shell'"

I too see no particular reason to have the empty shell in a chamber, but the fact remains, it was considered a safety issue in the 1890's to carry the Colt single action pistols with 5 live rounds, and is not an advertising gimmick dreamed up in the 1960's or later. If one chooses to carry their Colt single acion with six rounds, they certainly are free to do so, but should understand that it is not universally accepted as safe, nor is it a modern gimmick or concept to only carry five rounds.
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