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Old March 31, 2011, 05:45 PM   #1
Bill Akins
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Suppose you adapted a top strap to your open top BP Colts.

I've been wondering about the question of how much stronger a previously open topped BP Colt would be if say someone welded a topstrap to the barrel and then milled so that the topstrap engaged the recoil shield and was locked in place like a topbreak's. Of course you couldn't tip the barrel down like a topbreak, so the rear of the topstrap's recess would have to be one that engaged the area of the recoil shield horizontally when the barrel slid on and then a recoil shield area stirrup pivoted over the topstrap to hold it securely. To take the barrel off, you'd just remove the wedge as normal, then pivot the spring loaded stirrup out of the way to slide the barrel off. Similar to a Webley or Iver Johnson stirrup etc....only without the barrel tipping down.

Now I know some of you may be thinking the Whitney revolver already has the topstrap like a Remy with the Colt style internals, but the difference here is that in my idea the barrel is removable where the Whitney is not.

Anyone ever heard of anyone experimenting with an idea like this? And if so, did it improve the strength of the BP revolver so that heavier loads could be more safely used without harming the previously open topped revolver?


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Last edited by Bill Akins; March 31, 2011 at 06:07 PM.
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Old March 31, 2011, 06:48 PM   #2
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The limiting factor on loads is the cylinder, not the frame, unless you're thinking about brass.
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Old March 31, 2011, 07:26 PM   #3
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Hello, Bill Akins...Good idea...and if you can find some early 1970 era Navy Arms catalogs, or gun digests, you will see that they did just that on some of their target models..The strap coming back over cylinder wasn't for strength however, as it is not fastened to frame. It's purpose was to mount an adjustable rear sight. I have never seen one "in the flesh".
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Old March 31, 2011, 08:17 PM   #4
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+1 to what Mykeal said . . . . Bill - if I'm interpreting what you are saying correctly, you're thinking this would make it stronger and you'd still be able to remove the barrel? Why? I can remove the cylinder from my Remington, it has a top strap and I can clean the barrel with no problems. I shoot Navy caliber but whether it's my '51 or '61 Colt Navy or my Remmie Navy, they all are strong enough to handle the recommend loads - which is what a person ought to be shooting. If I had a 44 Remington NMA and a '60 Colt Army, I'd say the same thing - they're designed to shoot "standard" loads - not to be pushed to the limit. Your idea is an interesting one and I'm not finding fault with it or you by any means. What I do find amazing, is when folks seem to want to "push" a revolver "to the limit" and see how "hot" a load they can shoot out of it. It makes about as much sense as shooting P++ in a revolver that was manufactured to shoot standard 38 spls. The gun wasn't designed for that. I see and hear all the time, fellows who want to "push" their C & B revolvers beyond what they were designed for. If a person wants to shoot a 44 and use "hotter loades" - then it makes sense to me to step up to a revolver which will handle more grains of powder like a Colt Walker - but again - not to push it beyond what it was designed for with alterations, etc. Just my 2 cents worth which ain't worth much.
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Old March 31, 2011, 09:38 PM   #5
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Thanks to Pohill's research on THR, Colt patented a top strap design in 1850:

http://i37.tinypic.com/119sefc.jpg

Colt actually built an experimental revolver with a hinged top strap around 1850. It's #12 in the photo below along with other experimental models having a top strap:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ctarchives/4522702535/
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Old April 1, 2011, 01:28 AM   #6
Bill Akins
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Some might think "Why?", I think "Why not?". Each to their own.

For me it was just an academic question. But as Arcticap pointed out, it seems Colt pre thought my idea by 160 years. That first link of that top strap mod 3 drawings sheet patent drawing by Colt in 1850 that you posted Arcticap, is almost exactly what I had in mind. Except in the drawing the top strap was dovetailed into the barrel instead of part of the barrel and it appeared like a bolt held the top strap at the left rear instead of being secured by a stirrup.



Very darn close though to what I was thinking about. I guess Colt thought "why not?" too, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered experimenting with that top strap mod.

I see several advantages to having a top strap on a previous open top.
1. You could incorporate a much better rear sight into the Colt top strap.
2. If a cylinder ever blew the topstrap would absorb much of the force (at least upward).
3. It would still have those famous Colt lines and look but in my opinion it couldn't help but make the frame stronger. I like my BP Remy's for their top straps, easy cylinder removal and better open sights, but I like my BP Colt's balance much better than my Remys and I sure wouldn't mind having an open top BP Colt style revolver that had been modded with a top strap just as long as it didn't change the excellent Colt balance too much.
Ya gotta admit, the BP Colt in that drawing looks pretty darn nice.

Did ya'll see the other thing in that three drawing sheet that I did? In the second and third drawings on that same drawing sheet, Colt was obviously experimenting with decreasing weight. Notice how he had cut down on the big rectangular section of the barrel over where the loading lever went? That would be a significant savings in weight. Also notice in the last drawing of those three that he was also experimenting with a different style of loading lever from the 1851 style. Very interesting. If I ever get myself a cheapo junker/beater that I don't care much if I mess up, I might just mill that extra weight out of the barrel myself and try that like the drawing shows. Sure would lighten the revolver. Might even mill myself out a top strap, make a stirrup and try my idea.

Thanks for that Colt patent drawing link Arcticap, sure was good food for thought.



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"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".

Last edited by Bill Akins; April 1, 2011 at 02:04 AM.
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Old April 1, 2011, 02:11 AM   #7
radom
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1. the advantage of the sights on the open tops is you have a longer sight radius and are better at long range so thats moot.+
2. top strap when a cylinder blows is just more shrapnel in the face with more power behind it.+
3. seems like colt did not think it was a good idea as they never made any of them
4. they seem to just do fine as they are
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Old April 1, 2011, 02:44 AM   #8
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Colt might have just patented it so that no one else could develop or use that idea. It might not be easy to align the chambers or it may not be as strong of a design as it looks. And where or how does the cylinder pin or arbor work?
I thought that Colt was known for patenting designs that weren't viable.
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Old April 1, 2011, 03:43 AM   #9
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I'm with bedbug on this one. The Colt design is just fine with the loads for which it was intended and the sights hold minute of coke can at 25 yds. No changes necessary.
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Old April 1, 2011, 04:59 AM   #10
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Note: What I write below is with regard to original/antique revolvers only!

I have seen plenty of Remingtons and Whitneys with bent/twisted frames. I have also seen plenty of Colt open frame revolvers with loose arbors (where they screw into the frame).
Repairing a loose arbor on a Colt is normally a very easy job that requires only a few handtools and two to five minutes and does not in any way compromise the integrity of the material in the gun.
Fixing a bent/twisted frame on a Remington or Whitney is a much more advanced repair, and could easily result in fractures in the metal.

So, would a topstrap be a good thing on a Colt revolver? Well, they obviously felt it was for higher energy calibers when they introduced the m1873. Is it useful on a open frame percussion revolver like for instance a m1860 Army? I don´t think so.

Think about this (and remember I am talking about original guns, not replicas which are more often than not put together with a total lack of craftsmanship): On a good condition Colt open frame percussion revolver which is 150+ years old, it is not at all uncommon that the wedge can be popped out and reinserted (fully seated) with mere thumbpressure. ALL my original Colts are like that. If a 150+ years old revolver, which has obviously been used (though not abused) and which has obviously never been repaired or messed with can be in such a sound shape as far as the loadbearing wedge and its fit is concerned, does the design really need improving upon?
I don´t think so.

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Old April 1, 2011, 05:45 AM   #11
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If you want a top strap go buy a Remington or Whitney, a pivoting top strap then buy a Starr. You can't get a longer sight radius than a open top Colt. Why change perfection.
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Old April 1, 2011, 07:01 AM   #12
Bill Akins
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Okay partners, hold that critter down and don't get your tumbleweeds all bunched up on your sensitivity/indignation on our beloved Colts.
It was just an idea of mine and one it seems ole Colonel Colt had himself way back in 1850. It's not like I'm wanting to rewrite history or anything, but I still wouldn't mind experimenting on an ole beater like I said earlier, just to see how it turned out. I love to tinker and have a lot of ideas like that.


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"This is my Remy and this is my Colt. Remy loads easy and topstrap strong, Colt balances better and never feels wrong. A repro black powder revolver gun, they smoke and shoot lead and give me much fun. I can't figure out which one I like better, they're both fine revolvers that fit in my leather".
"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".
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Old April 1, 2011, 07:12 AM   #13
Swede68
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You know what, based on the pic of the experimental model, or the patent drawing you posted, I would think it pretty interesting and fun to give it a go, on a repro. I am in no way opposed to the idea, and it would most certainly be an interesting conversational piece if kept true to the patent drawing.

But in reality, I do not think you would gain any true practical benefits from it.

Anders Olsson
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Old April 1, 2011, 01:03 PM   #14
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The only drawback I can think of other than utterly destroying the visual beauty of the gun, would be getting the cylinder out. How would you remove the cylinder with such an adaption?
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Old April 1, 2011, 01:35 PM   #15
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Bill Akins- already been done, and......by none other than Old Sam Colt himself. Some of the first colt firearms were actually rifles/carbines and they had top straps. The top strap was deemed "over engineering" since with the "topless" Colts you could cramp all the black powder the chamber could hold and shoot 25,000 rounds out of say a Navy 1851, and it would still work.
On the sights- you can dovetail a sight on the muzzle and square the V notch on the hammer and end up with a very good sighting system. Is is historically correct? Not sure. There were some Navies with dovetailed, blade type sights but the square notch- that's my thing- I don't know if that was ever done.
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Old April 1, 2011, 02:23 PM   #16
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I can't imagine that anybody dovetailed a sight onto the open top Colts (although that just may point out my limited imagination). As a martial pistol, the notch on the hammer was certainly good enough for "minute of man" shooting at pistol range, which was plenty good for its intended use.

Of course, one could always wish for better...
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Old April 1, 2011, 04:00 PM   #17
Swede68
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Hardcase, you meen nothing like this ever happened?

Anders Olsson
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Colt m1860 81662 1.jpg (220.8 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg Colt m1860 81662 4.jpg (220.4 KB, 30 views)
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Old April 1, 2011, 04:30 PM   #18
Bill Akins
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Quote:
Shafter wrote:
The only drawback I can think of other than utterly destroying the visual beauty of the gun, would be getting the cylinder out. How would you remove the cylinder with such an adaption?
Each to their own and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If Col Colt had made his 1851's with less metal (less weight) of the barrel over the rear of the loading lever (as shown in the 2nd & 3rd drawings of Colt's 1850 patent drawing sheet) and if I then suggested we leave the weight there and NOT mill it out , no doubt some would claim I was destroying the visual beauty of the gun because they were used to looking at it milled out like that all their lives and deemed any deviation from that look to be destroying the beauty of the gun. We humans get used to something looking a certain way and viscerally resist it if it changes. I'll bet the same visual and visceral resistance existed for a while for some people when Colt left the open tops behind when the 1873 Colt peacemaker came out, only not as much because not so much time had gone by between the first Colt and the '73 peacemaker to set humans minds that the '73 peacemaker didn't look "historically normal" in their minds. From the first open topped Colt Paterson of 1836 to the top strapped 1873 peacemaker people hadn't had three generations of watching t.v. and movies to set their minds as to what looked "historically correct" to them. Lol.

Regarding how to remove the cylinder in my idea, I covered that in my first post which differs a bit from Col Colt's patent drawing....

Quote:
Bill Akins wrote:
....say someone welded a topstrap to the barrel and then milled so that the topstrap engaged the recoil shield and was locked in place like a topbreak's. Of course you couldn't tip the barrel down like a topbreak, so the rear of the topstrap's recess would have to be one that engaged the area of the recoil shield horizontally when the barrel slid on and then a recoil shield area stirrup pivoted over the topstrap to hold it securely. To take the barrel off, you'd just remove the wedge as normal, then pivot the spring loaded stirrup out of the way to slide the barrel off. Similar to a Webley or Iver Johnson stirrup etc....only without the barrel tipping down.
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"This is my Remy and this is my Colt. Remy loads easy and topstrap strong, Colt balances better and never feels wrong. A repro black powder revolver gun, they smoke and shoot lead and give me much fun. I can't figure out which one I like better, they're both fine revolvers that fit in my leather".
"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".

Last edited by Bill Akins; April 1, 2011 at 04:51 PM.
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Old April 1, 2011, 05:21 PM   #19
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If it was a feasible improvement why didn't Colt follow up on it?
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Old April 1, 2011, 07:51 PM   #20
Bill Akins
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Quote:
Hawg Hagen wrote:
If it was a feasible improvement why didn't Colt follow up on it?
Probably because he had considerable investment in already being tooled up for the open tops and they were selling and making him lots of money just like they were. Plus Samuel Colt was constantly embroiled in prosecuting patent infringement litigation cases that took a lot of his time and money (more than most firearms enthusiasts know). Then even if he did want to install changes the civil war came along and precluded any changes because the North just needed as many revolvers cranked out as they could get without any changes. But as we all know after Samuel died, Colt firearms eventually did follow up on it as evidenced by the '73 peacemaker having a top strap.
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"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".
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Old April 2, 2011, 08:15 AM   #21
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If Sam Colt would have liked the idea, he would have designed them that way. Why screw around with success? You might disqualify yourself from original gun competitions. And, you run the risk of ruining the whold gun by appling so much heat in the welding or brazing process. If you don't like the Colt, sell and buy a Remington.
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Old April 2, 2011, 09:17 AM   #22
Hawg
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Quote:
Colt firearms eventually did follow up on it as evidenced by the '73 peacemaker having a top strap.
Unless I'm badly mistaken that was at the request of the military for guns submitted for contract consideration.
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Old April 2, 2011, 03:42 PM   #23
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The truth of it is . . . the only one who knows what Sam Colt was thinking, was Sam Colt. To try and state what he was thinking, some 160 years later is being an armchair historian and about as accurate as pinning the tail on the donkey. At the time of the industrial revolution, there were many, many manufacturers who dabbled in patents in order to keep the competition of getting the "edge" - that's the way business is played. I had a g-g-uncle who held one of the first patents on woven wire fencing and he also was often tied up in litigation over patent infringements not only in the U.S. but in Canada as well. Let's face it - Colt had open top models which worked - he was tooled up for them and he produced thousands of them. Like any manufacturer - you produce them as cheaply as you can with the least amount of production steps - make a quality product and sell them for as much as the market will bear in order to make profits. At the beginning of the Civil War, Colt was selling the Armies to the government at $25 - along comes the Remingtons and their price to the government was half of what Colt's was. As has been stated, it is also my understanding that the military requested top strap revolvers for their trials which made it necessary for Colt to design a model for the trials or else not be a part of them. At some point, it was inevitible that top straps would become the "norm" as improvements were being made in ammunition. In this day and age, the "old west" tends to be "glorified" as do the fast draws and gun fights. It must be remembered that those sort of things were a very minute part of the history of the revolvers. They were a utility item used for bagging food, self protection ans such. They served their purpose well and their design was very adequate for the standard loads they were designed for - whether they were loaded with commercially made combustible cartridges for from a flask with a spout designed for the charge for the individual pistol. If Colt had of seriously considered the addition of a top strap to say the Navy or the Army, production costs would have gone up. As a businessman, his cost to the Army would have gone up as well. Now lets see . . . do I buy the Colts for the troops at $25 apiece - $27.50 with their new top strap design . . . or do I buy the Remingtons which already have a top strap at $12.50 each? I've got to arm the troops - they sort of have me over the barrel as I can't get enough Remingtons . . . . . I guess I'll have to fill in with an order to Colt as their revolvers are popular and a good product. And we won't even venture into the subject of "kick backs" which was a common business practice of the day.
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Old April 2, 2011, 04:15 PM   #24
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Quote:
Hardcase, you meen nothing like this ever happened?
Proof of my limited imagination! You saw it here first!
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Old April 3, 2011, 09:01 PM   #25
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it can be done farely well however you will have to do the hinged version, where the short section is dovetailed into the barrel and the tail goes down over the recoil shield. you cant really do the screw or the locking nut systems on the bottom of the frame as youd need to either build a frame yourself(atf issue i think) or get a rough blank from the italians, which they dont do.

extra machining and fitting, that means new tooling, new training for the workers, and new workers. that means more cost to make. that means less profit per weapon sold. thats not good business.

yes colt jacked the priece to 27 some dollar a gun during the war, but that was greed. its COMMON to find poorly machined war colts then peacetime.
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