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Old September 21, 2002, 06:04 AM   #1
RHarris
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Several Questions about Cap and Ball revolvers

Curiosity and low prices have sparked some interest in Cap and Ball revolvers recently.

There are serveral questions I have for those who might know.

I've seen new brass framed 1851 Navy's as low as $75. Other models aren't too much more. I was wondering what the difference in durability among the different types is. It seems the brass framed 1851 Navy's would be the weakest and the steel framed 1858 Army's would be the toughest. Is this necessarily true? Does it matter for moderate use? Is there any difference between the brass and steel 1858 Army's? What problems occur if there is a weakness issue?

Other than possibly durability, are there any advantages of one type over another?

.36 or .44?

Could Cast .357 bullets (made for cartridges) be used in place of round balls in the .36 models?

Can pyrodex pellets be used with them?

ARE THEY A LOT OF FUN?
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Old September 21, 2002, 07:16 AM   #2
Hal
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It seems the brass framed 1851 Navy's would be the weakest and the steel framed 1858 Army's would be the toughest. Is this necessarily true? Does it matter for moderate use?

True. Only to a certain point. With a .36 cal, it's a chore to fit enough powder into the chambers to stress it. .44s can handle more powder, so there are some that can be affected. I prefer Brass because of it's looks. Honestly, there isn't any real purpose to push a BP revolver with heavy loads unless you plan on hunting with it. For hunting, a Ruger Old Army is the only way to go IMNSHO, and that's a steel frame.


Is there any difference between the brass and steel 1858 Army's? What problems occur if there is a weakness issue?

Shouldn't be any difference. My 1851 Navy's frame is 100% fine. The guts of it are toast. Hands, prawls, barrel keys and springs have given out on me ages before anything else. The brass frame isn't some little fraglile thing to begin with. It's a fairly hefty chunk of brass with a good sized steel rod threaded into it for the cylinder to ride on.

Other than possibly durability, are there any advantages of one type over another?

Yes. BP is extremely prone to causing rust to form on steel. Brass frames are more foregiving in that respect. Then there's appearance. I like the looks of brass more than anything except a deep blue finish. Combine a brass fram with a deep blue finish elsewhere, and hatchi mama that's one good looker! Call me strange for it but i like to take the Navy up to a bright polish, and watch it turn mello over a few weeks. I really can't decide if I like it "all dressed up" or "looking like it just rolled out of bed".

.36 or .44?
Your choice. I like .36 for no particular reason. Next one I buy though is going to be .44. @the low prices, and lack of crap to go through buying one there isn't much to prevent getting and ejoying both. Might as well ask about fluted or unfluted cylinders

Could Cast .357 bullets (made for cartridges) be used in place of round balls in the .36 models?
No. The results are pretty bad. For BP, with it's slow lazy twist rate geared towards a round ball of relativly low weight, it doesn't work out all that great. Finding cast lead bullets soft enough to use in a BP can be as expensive and difficult as finding the right thing. Trust me here, you aren't going to shoot the volume to notice a difference. Shooting a ML revolver is a time consuming process. I doubt if most people could fire 10% of the volume of cartridge ammo in an afternoon.

Can pyrodex pellets be used with them?
Sure can. I like the "devil's breath" of real BP myself over pyrodex. BP is supposed to be a lot of smoke and nasty stench. YMMV.


ARE THEY A LOT OF FUN?
YES!!!!

(added for safety even though it wasn't asked, and I'm not implying anything,,,just me being anal)

Black powder arms aren't toys. They are quite lethal. Many of the old timers preferred a C&B revolver to a cartridge arm well into the beginning of the 20th century because they just plain "hit harder" than anything else. Don't get lulled into feeling that just because it's an ancient design it won't drop some as quick as a bad habit. Black Powder comes with it's own drawbacks also. I read the following sentance in a gun rag somewhere "The burning rate of BP is the same, whether it's confined or open, unlike smokless propellant. If you don't know why that makes a difference, find out!" I didn't know, so I did find out,,, I feel that that simple statement is the most consice way to put it and is strong enough to convey the message. Muzzle loading revolvers can also "chain fire" under the right circumstances. A chain fire is when all the chambers go off at once. It happened to a friend of mine when he was using my Colt Pocket Police .36. Scared him witless. Grease the fronts of the chambers with Crisco of T/C bullet lube to help prevent it. Some believe a chain fire can be caused by other means,,I'll leave it to them to explaine it. Just cause i never had one with greased cylinders isn't proof positive my viewpoint is the one and only.
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Old September 21, 2002, 10:10 AM   #3
rick_reno
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Cap and ball...

Has anyone used one of those centerfire cylinders that are available for some of these cap and ball guns? I've seen the one for the Ruger Old Army for sale. I don't understand how these things are for sale without any paperwork - given you can buy a cap and ball gun without filling out a 4473, and then buying the replacement cylinder (again, no 4473) turns in into a center fire revolver - all done with no paperwork.
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Old September 21, 2002, 11:12 AM   #4
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Nice summary RAE - not much to add to that!

And yep - there are a lot of things you can do that aren't neccessarily legal. At the introduction of the brass cartridge a lot of gunsmiths reconfigured or manufactured BP revolver cylinders to take the new invention. Today I think that action would run afoul of the laws governing the manufacture of a new firearm - just cause you can do it, doesn't make it legal...

Maybe the Cylinder should have been the registered, serial numbered part on a revolver instead of the frame? (Bite my tongue!)
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Old September 21, 2002, 01:48 PM   #5
rick_reno
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ball and cap

My understanding of the deal on these convertible cylinders is that if you purchase one and use it - you're not doing anything illegal. I was told the BATF has looked at these and approved them for sale with no 4473.
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Old September 21, 2002, 03:11 PM   #6
Hal
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rick,
Correct. ATF has "graciously"[note the sarcasm} granted us the right to convert a C&B without additional paperwork. The catch is that the Richardson-Mason conversion isn't a kitchen table project. There's a fair amount of work to do to convert a C&B to a centerfire. The drop in conversion for the Ruger old Army is pretty much a loophole in the law. I'm guessing the low numbers of people that take advantage of it, plus the limited appeal of a cumbersome 100 plus year old cartridge platform have a lot to do with it.

A factory, Richards-Mason coversion is a differnt matter. All ATF regs apply there. Do it yourself, no prob. Have it done as a finished product, and it's a centerfire handgun.

yorec,
Thanks.
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Old September 21, 2002, 08:29 PM   #7
rick_reno
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conversions...

The only one I've seen was a R&D Gun Shop conversion for a Ruger Old Army - Brownells sells them for about $206. It looked like a "drop in".
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Old September 21, 2002, 11:37 PM   #8
Hal
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Cimarron carrys some factory conversions.

www.cimarron-firearms.com/conversions.htm

One of the gun rags had an article a year or 2 ago about conversions, their legality and where to buy them. I don't recall offhand which magazine it was. NRA American Rifleman comes to mind, but I'm not sure. I've looked real hard at that R&D setup and an Old Army...looks nice but pricey.
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Old September 22, 2002, 02:30 PM   #9
Jimmy Mac
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If you load the proper size ball and cover it with grease there is no chance of a chain fire from the front.

A proper size ball will leave a ring of lead when you seat it in the chamber.

loose caps can cause a chain fire from the rear of the gun.

Use tight fitting caps.
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Old September 23, 2002, 08:35 PM   #10
Lucky Deuce 1951
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Cartridge Conversions

I have a pair of Remington .44's. I bought two of the conversion cylinders and they work great. I can shoot .45 Long Colt in them with no problem. And as for the thing about them being illegal or should be registerd... It is my understanding that a cartridge gun's frame would be registered but not the rest of the parts ...including the cylinder. The cylinder is a gun PART...I wouldn't complain... Heck I am glad the Gun Gestapo hasn't got thier paws on regulating the conversions and any self respecting person who agrees with the second amendment should be glad also.
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Old September 24, 2002, 01:26 PM   #11
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I agree pretty much with all said before. I think brass looks nice, but it won't stand up over time, as previously stated, with heavy loads. I have a .44 cal 1858 Remington replica that I bought when I was 14, that is still in time and very functional 33 years later. I am quite anal about care of a firearm, but we should all be that way. You've got to clean black powder guns asap after shooting. When I was 14 ( and perhaps a little older) I stuffed as much powder in the cylinders as it would hold and shot through refrigerator doors. I bought some of the old brass molds that used to be abundant that had one cavity as a round ball and one a conical. The round balls are easier to seat correctly. The conicals are hard to get seated perfectly without deforming the bullet. I used to use plain old wheel bearing grease over the balls. Use tight fitting caps, usually #10's if you can find them. I think RWS sells a 10.5 . If you want to shoot light loads and don't plan on shooting the gun for 30 years, then brass will do fine. I have at least one brass Colt replica myself. The Ruger Old Army is basically a modern gun that shoots black powder. I know of nothing stronger in a black powder revolver. Most of the black powder replica revolvers out there will shoot fine and certainly are low cost.
I think one of the reasons the cartridge conversion kits haven't caught on is they cost too much. If you could get one for $100 I would buy one.... My two cents...
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Old September 25, 2002, 08:51 AM   #12
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RAE,
Quote:
I really can't decide if I like it "all dressed up" or "looking like it just rolled out of bed"
Your private life is of course none of my business.
But if you think about your guns in those terms, maybe it's time to think about dating?
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Old September 26, 2002, 06:45 PM   #13
Hal
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Dating?!? LOL!
My wife, AKA: Grandma Winchester might not like that idea
she knows where I sleep and where the knives are
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Old October 4, 2002, 08:42 PM   #14
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My research

I am in the same boat. After years of shooting modern firearms, I got the bug to try something new and cap-n-ball seems the cheapest. My entry was extremely cheap! A friend gave me his hand-me-down 1858 Remington replicas that were originally his Uncle's. They are brass framed and well used. I am finally ready to head out to the range for the first time. These pistols are 20+ years old and heavily used. Other than pitting on the brass frame and no blueing left on the remainder of the metal parts, these guns are tight.

If all goes well, I will probably look into purchasing an 1860 Amry and 1851 Navy from Cabelas. Brass framed. When aged, that brass looks nice against the worn (bare) barrel and cylinder.
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Old October 9, 2002, 09:13 AM   #15
Bill Mitchell
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Quote:
Can pyrodex pellets be used with them?
Sure can. I like the "devil's breath" of real BP myself over pyrodex. BP is supposed to be a lot of smoke and nasty stench. YMMV.
IIRC, Hodgdon's is no longer making Pyrodex. "777" is the newest BP substitute from Hodgdon's. I assume that they will pelletize it for the .50 cal muzzleloaders, but I don't think that the .44 cal pellets wil be manufactured.
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Old October 9, 2002, 09:22 AM   #16
4V50 Gary
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If you want heavy, heavy loads, stick with the Ruger Old Army. It will take as much powder as you can stuff down the cylinder (so they told us at the factory and as I, in my ignorant youthful days have proven) and still work.

Historical guns should be kept to historical loads. For re-enacting competition (N-SSA) you must go w/historical loads or less (best accuracy is probably below 20 grains).
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Old October 10, 2002, 12:55 AM   #17
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And it was also fun once, playing with a Colt Walker replica. I found that the first cylinder full of shot would usually go into 2-3" at 25 yards. Let's just say I was stuffing A LOT of black powder into it.

The gun leaded badly enough at those velocities that accuracy was dramatically impaired on the 2nd cylinder full of shots Pity I didn't have a chrono in those days

Impractical in its size, it would still just pretty much hang out there, easy to shoot well. I foolishly gave to to my brother one year - he was so mortified by the thought of a chain fire that he sold it.
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Old October 11, 2002, 09:31 PM   #18
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One of the best rat killing rounds for me has been 5 gr of FFg, a wad, then as much #8 shot I can fit in the cylinder and then a card. It flat kills rats in the out-buildings without penetrating tin walls. I don't experience any leading problems with this load. Now that I think of it, it is about the time of year the rats start infiltrating my out-buildings... I need to get the old 1858 out and have some fun.....
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