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Old April 30, 2009, 08:25 AM   #1
enyaw
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Brass framed cap&baller revolvers

There are those that are NOT fans of the brass cap&ballers. There are those that are. I've noticed there are misconceptions about the brassers.
There are,or have been, soft brass framed revolvers. ASM manufactured some real soft brass revolvers back in time. The Confederates during the Civil made what I think were fairly good hard brass framed guns. There are specimans still shootable after all these years. The Henry rifle was made of brass but I've read the first ones were iron framed then bronze then brass. I imagine the brass wasn't a pure soft brass in the Henry rifles since there are specimans still working. Anyway....I guess I'm getting around to stating there are different alloys of brass. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. I believe some brass is harder than other brass. I know there is,what is called yellow brass which is the softer type and the red brass that is harder than the yellow.
I think cap&ballers were made in both types of brass. The yellow being the most prone to deform against the stresses of being made into a gun frame and being subjected to that stress repeatedly each shot fired. The red brass,or a rendition of it, made into gun frames last much longer against the rigors of gun stress.
The Piettas of today must be made of a hard brass alloy of some kind. The Piettas seem to take more strain without deforming compared to the older ASM that were made of ,what hat to be, soft yellow brass.
People I've questioned have reported firing thousands of rounds of standard loads in the Pietta brass framers without deforming the guns frame. The standard load I'm referring to is 25gr. FFFg powder under a 44 cal. ball. That isn't really a weak load by cap&baller standards. The pistol sevice load for the Army back in the day using the 1860 Colt was 28gr. fine powder,I've read. That would mean a standard max. load for a 44 cal. brass framer of 25gr. FFFg powder isn't a weak load by cap&baller standards. Reportedly the guns,Colts included, stand the strain of the load without deforming. The brass framed Remington and the design that destributes the force of the cylinder recoiling against the frame out into a wide area stands the strain better than the Colts. The Colts with the ring on the recoil shield that the cylinder recoils against take the strain with less longevity since the ring(there to keep the caps from recoiling against the frame and chain firing) can be deformed because the force of the cylinder recoil being destributed to a smaller(smaller than with a Remington) area on that ring in six places. Those six places on the ring eventually compress and deform and open the cylinder gap to a larger than nominal amount when the gun is in the "battery" ready to fire position.
Anyway, I believe the cap&ballers made by Pietta have a much better longevity to them compared to the brass framers of the past due to the manufacturer addressing the composition of the brass alloy. The brass is harder with those made by Pietta today compared to the brass used in the past by some manufacturers. Brass is work hardened. The recoil shields of the Remingtons and the Colts may actually work harden with continued firing use.
Anyway, from my little survey of reports from people that use and fire the brass framers of today I have concluded that they are made better and with harder brass than most of the cheapie brass framers of days gone by. Also I believe that the Confederate revolvers made from the "Bells" off the churches would have been made of a hardened brass alloy coming from the bells. I mean a soft brass bell wouldn't "ring" too well right? The brass of the bells must have been hardened with extra tin or zinc or copper to get a good ring to them. Some of the bells may have been a bronze alloy too.
Anyway.....using the cap&ball revolvers made of brass according to the manufacturers or the retailers directions and staying with the max. of 25gr. FFFg powder for the loads seems to "NOT" wreck the guns too soon.
Myself being a gunsmith of the cap&baller revolvers I've seen many Remingtons that don't show very deep compressions into the recoil shield from the cylinders recoil. I see more Colts types with the depressions in the "ring" the cylinder recoils into that results in a larger than nominal cylinder gap when the gun is locked into battery ready to fire. The owners usually report the guns have been fired thousands of times.
We can't fault the Colt types and the brass they are made of and put the entire blame for failure in the brass(or even the steel) they are made of.
One thing not mentioned much is the lack of mechanical inclination of a lot of the owners of the guns,brass or steel, and the resulting lessening of the guns longevity. A Colt type cap&ball revolver has to have an owner mechanically inclined enough to manipulate the assembly and maintainance of the gun properly or the gun will fail whether it's steel or brass. I may add that some fault has to be put on the softness of the steel and brass the guns are made of and that fault dictates that the maintainance of the guns need more attention than if the brass or the steel were actually a proper hardness. he originals had to be made harder than the guns of today and the rumor or myth that the steel in the guns of today is better is untrue. One look at the cylinders of the originals and the lack of deformation around the cylinder notches from the bolt tells a different story and rebukes the myth. The originals were made harder than the cap&ballers of today.
Anyway...the point I want to make is that I believe a lot of the failures of the Colts revolvers are due to improper maintainance and assembly practices. A loose wedge in a Colt and firing the gun in that condition magnifies the forces applied to cetain parts. I always say...if you shoot a Colt when it's loose it will get even more loose "fast". That is a mechanical trait of a Colt cap&baller. Shot it loose and you are begging for trouble. Trouble with loosened arbors,deformed wedges and recoil shileds ect.ect. One thing that I know.....there are many people that can't explain "how" they know the wedge in their Colt is correctly seated. They can't tell you how they figure the wedge may be too tight or too loose. That ability is learned from experience and attention to the traits of a Colt Open Top design and learned by only those people with a mechanical inclination. I'm not faulting anyone either. Being mechanically inclined doesn't make one person more intelligent than another that is inclined in a different area. The person that is mechanically inclined can understand the mechanics of the gun better though. If a person isn't mechanically inclined they should pick the Remington type revolver to shoot.
Conversely and naturally, if a Colt revolver is assembled and maintained correctly it will withstand the rigors of firing with more longevity to the parts.
I believe there are more loosened arbors and deformed recoil shields of the Colts from improper care than from soft steel or brass(which I do believe is too soft). One known fact is that a wedge can cause immense force applied to parts affected by it.
The force of a wedge in a Colt that is driven in "too" far probably loosens more arbors than the soft brass or steel and the firing of the gun. The gun owners wreck their own guns because of a lack of mechanical inclination. Admittedly the margin of error with the soft steel or brass guns is very small if not non-exsistant.
Anywhoooo......I believe the brass framers of today get a bad rap from the brassers of yesteryear and their quality or lack of it. Also that bad rap is irritated by the lack of mechanical inclination of so many gun owners especially when it comes to the venerable Colt Open Top design.
I wouldn't be afraid to purchase a Colt brass framer or a Remington brass framer today. They ain't as bad as some claim. The condemnation of the brassers is usually made by people that don't know of the better quality of todays brass framers. They condemn on the record of inferior soft brass guns of yesteryear.

Last edited by enyaw; April 30, 2009 at 08:36 AM.
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Old April 30, 2009, 09:02 AM   #2
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Well welcome to the forum enyaw. That was a great post, I could not agree more with you. Short arbors and hammered in wedges has destroyed more revolvers than anything else.

Any rabbits in the pot?
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Old April 30, 2009, 09:19 AM   #3
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Welcome to TFL enyaw. You've an auspicious begining here. Stick around.
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Old April 30, 2009, 09:21 AM   #4
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good write-up enyaw. I've owned 3 brass-frame Piettaq '58 Rem .44's and fired thousands of shot (collectively in all of them) useing a .357 mag caseful of 3F (about 25gr) a felt and rb with no ill effects visible.
I even loaded one I took bear hunting with some old timers that insisted on BP guns only (we didn't get a bear either time I went but came close)
with a 7.62X39 caseful (around 30gr) 3F - this was a warm load for sure.
I fired maybe 100 or so of this load and no strain apparent - wouldn't advise much of this however.
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Old April 30, 2009, 12:03 PM   #5
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Good post enyaw. Most Confederate made brass was red brass which is pretty tuff stuff.
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Old April 30, 2009, 01:45 PM   #6
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Hey folks....Ever wonder?

Hey folks,

Did you ever wonder why wedges are made of steel and not brass?

Maybe the soft brass would wear too quickly to provide a reliable weapon in wartime settings. Or perhaps the softness of the brass would make the wedge harder to remove once it was seated.

But if it worked reliably from an operational standpoint, wouldn't it be smarter to have the wedge wear out rather than the frame and arbor pull loose?

I guess the best idea is to put the wedge in the pistol properly. Certainly nothing wrong with that. On the other hand I would venture to guess (and it is really just a guess) that the level of training of the soldier in the War of Northern Aggression who was handed an 1851 or 1860 Colt was not terribly high. They likely had good familiarity with long arms but would you think they had a lot of experience with revolvers?
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Old April 30, 2009, 02:29 PM   #7
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Doc Hoy - some Confederates preferred close range fighting. Never mind that silly sabre rattling. Some produced pistols and blasted their enemies. At sabre distance, you don't need to be a top marksman.
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Old April 30, 2009, 04:02 PM   #8
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Well.....

4V,

Actually my ponderings had more to do with maintaining the pistol, specifically the manner in which they installed the wedge, than it had to do with how they used it in combat.

Several posters in various discussions I can recall, have talked about pushing the wedge in too hard (driving it in) causing damage to the pistol. I would not be surprised to learn that this has been done by present day folks who are fairly frequent shooters....a thousand rounds a year or more. I doubt that a Civil War era soldier had the luxury of shooting a pistol that often. Of course, as I said I am guessing and not reciting history. Although I have read that many units never officially got anything more than a single shot pistol at any time during the entire war. So in order for soldiers in the unit to have a revolver, they had to buy it, steal it, or take it from a compadre who had no further use for it.

My thought is that the civil war soldier would be even less acquainted with the danger of overdriving the wedge than the shooters of today and therefore would have more reason to embrace a brass wedge which could act sacrificially in the interest of saving the rest of the pistol.

All of this is pure conjecture.
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Old April 30, 2009, 05:25 PM   #9
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brass frame guns are weaker than steel frames- brass frames look nice. I have cobbled up a mod that will make a brass frame gun a lot stronger, so that it will "live" indefinitely with max/full loads of powder- but the machining/time/material costs can buy 2 steel frame guns- so in the end it's just a lot cheaper/easier to buy a steel framed gun for heavy shooting w/full cylinders of black or pyro- and be shooting in no time flat- rather than spend 2 days at the machine shop modding the brass gun so it lives at 2X the cost.

one thing about brass frame guns- their resale value is low- word has gotten around, they are weak and pull arbors easily- I broke 2 of them myself, both 1851's

here's one for only $110 on gunbroker- for those of you who like brass framed guns, here ya go, buy it up if you like them

http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/Vie...Item=128114143
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Old April 30, 2009, 06:26 PM   #10
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I have a Colt 1851 .36 made in 1862. One thing different from repros on this original gun is the wedge screw - it has an oversized head that contacts the wedge and acts as a depth set, or check, as Colt intended it to do, so the wedge (key) cannot be pushed in too far. I have not seen an oversized wedge screw on any modern BP revolver (though I added one on my Pietta 1860 .44 Army).
The barrel/frame connection is very tight on the 1851.
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Old April 30, 2009, 10:09 PM   #11
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Quote:
But if it worked reliably from an operational standpoint, wouldn't it be smarter to have the wedge wear out rather than the frame and arbor pull loose?
If the arbor length is correct for the barrel lug the wedge should not put that kind of pulling stress on the frame.
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Old April 30, 2009, 10:29 PM   #12
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We have Bedlam, here. People who inSIST that THEY, and THEY alone know how a BP revolver is to be treated.

ALL of them pistols, whether made of steel or brass Are pieces of ****, you should immediately send them, postage paid, to people like Captain whoever or someone else who tells you to NOT shoot them, because you will blow your head off!!!

I think I have to join them. Send me all of them BP pistols, postage paid. They CAN'T be safe to shoot, can they? So many EXPERTS tell you so.

It never ceases to amaze me that these firearms would shoot a ball and NOT blow up 200 years ago but such as our god the Cap'n says that they are BOMBS.

We fought 3 wars, Independence, 1812, Civil, with those weapons.

They are one hellof a lot better than a shill like you tries to tell us.
Cheers,

George

Last edited by 4V50 Gary; May 1, 2009 at 12:26 AM. Reason: Noise deleted
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Old May 1, 2009, 09:49 AM   #13
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The Cap'n has nearly convinced me ; so which (readily available) brassers are "kinda" historically accurate?
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Old May 1, 2009, 10:06 AM   #14
madcratebuilder
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The Cap'n has nearly convinced me ; so which (readily available) brassers are "kinda" historically accurate?
Spiller & Burr, top strap brass frame .36

Schneider&Glassick, a 51 Navy clone with brass frame.
Griswold&Gunnison, a 51 Navy clone, brass frame and round barrel.
Both are .36

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Old May 1, 2009, 10:16 AM   #15
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Thanks madcrate! Now, about the readily available part?
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Old May 1, 2009, 10:25 AM   #16
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Now, about the readily available part?
You can get a Griswold and Gunnison look alike from pietta I think, round barrel brass frame.
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Old May 1, 2009, 10:44 AM   #17
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You can get a Griswold and Gunnison look alike from pietta I think, round barrel brass frame.
Would this be a fair representation?
1851 Navy Round Barrel .44 Caliber Revolver
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Old May 1, 2009, 11:10 AM   #18
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Dixie sells the Pietta Spiller & Burr. The grip and hammer are a bit different from the originals, but they're decent guns.
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Old May 1, 2009, 11:42 AM   #19
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(r)enyaw, Xlint reply...I think there was a simular point of view several years ago on these brassers when we first met. They still an't a dang thing wrong with brass frame Revolvers ... they last as well as anything else if you use common sence and particular judgement when loading and shooting them.
Hell if one feels the need to shoot 30gr of BP evertime then don't buy a Brass framed .44 anything. Shoot one as it should be used and it will last as long as any other.
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Old May 1, 2009, 02:16 PM   #20
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CaptainCrossman, You aren't completely wrong about your opinion about brass framers and Italian soft steel and all. Any opinion from a fellow cap&baller I respect and appreciate. It's good to speak yer mind even ifin people have different opinions they are all worth hearing. We all wed the wheat from the chaff.
Your machine job you thinked up is probably very well thinked out and I can see where you're coming from. The ring that is the achilles heel of the brass framer can be protected cheaply and easily and I've done it to more than a few brass framers and none of them have ever come back to me to fix. It doesn't take overkill and a whole day to machine. Just a little filing and soldering. Example....I could show a pic ifin The Illustrious Smoking Gun would post it fer me if I e-mailed it to him. It's a narrow rimmed bushing from the tractor store or hardware store that's needed. It's filed and fit to surround the recoils ring that the cylinder bears back against to act as a little steel back plate that spreads the force of the cylinders recoil out like on a Remington so the Colt will last indefinitely with a good cylinder gap. If the cylinder gap is normal(.006-.010) it can't get a running start to build extra force to hit the recoil shield harder than normal and the gun last indefinitely and the arbor doesn't pull loose.)if the operater doesn't drive the wedge in too far.)
Anyway....the part needed to make the little steel backplate and solder it to the frame of the brass framer is a narrow rimmed bushing size 7/8X1-3/8ths and 14 gauge thick. It just about fits right around the frames ring on the recoil shield so a little filing is needed. It's cut off over where the cap loading recess is in the frame. It takes maybe an hour or so depending how handy a Pard is with a file and soldering propane torch. Just file and solder it on the frame. Caution...once the steel backplate is solderd on the frame the safety pegs on the cylinder gotta go ,because they hit the steel backplate ,so you load only five ifin yer a safety freak. ALSO... the nipples have to be cut down the amount of the thickness(14 gauge) of the ring and new steel surrounding plate so the nips ain't too long and hit the frame and chainfire. ha ha ha Just simple mechanics involved with a drill and a stone to take the cones of the nips down some.
I know there's some real soft brass framers out there made years ago when the warning was in Dixie Gun Works cataloge about brass framers. It said,"brass frame guns shoot loose from full loads and the guns are not warranted in this respect".
It is not the arbor that they are mainly speaking of shooting loose. It's the ring on the recoil shield that the six areas of the cylinder hit on and deform the ring. The ring that keeps the caps off the recoil shield so they don't chainfire. That ring is skinny and gets beat and it makes the cylinder gap get real large......in the guns made by unscrupulous manufacturers that used soft yellow brass for frames. They are responsible for the bad rap and reputation the brass framers got. The newer Piettas aren't like that. They are much better. Time to set the record straight. CaptainCrossman go out and buy a brass framer Pietta from Cabelas and shoot it with 25-27 gr. FFFg powder till it loosens up.....if it ever does. ha ha ha ha
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Old May 1, 2009, 09:54 PM   #21
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Enyaw's Pic of brass frame repair/armament package.

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Old May 1, 2009, 11:40 PM   #22
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i have a few BRASSERS shot probably around 5-700 out of both of them and they still fire good. just have to know how to treat them.
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Old May 2, 2009, 03:03 AM   #23
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Thanks for posting that pic for me Smoking Gun. I guess the steel backplate aroung the recoil shields ring can be seen. It's the silver grey part soldered on the frame. That frame(gun) is about 17 years old I thunk. Still tight and still shoots well. I shoot 20-22 gr. FFFg in it out of chambers reamed to a coupla .001's in. over the barrels groove diameter. Reaming the chambers to be slightly larger in diameter than the barrels groove diameter makes the pressure rise too. I've fired 27gr. FFFg and 27gr. 777 in the gun some too. The 777 in that charge is TOO HOT. The gun is a soft brass ASM frame too but still ticking after taking a licking because of the steel backplate protecting the recoil shields raised ring the cylinder hits back against. Believe it or not....I shot a six shot group across my pond(40 yards at least) that was only a little over 2 inches with that brass framer and 27 gr. 777 . Off hand too. Lucky I guess. Lucky I only did it once cuz that 777 is too HOT.
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Old May 2, 2009, 09:58 AM   #24
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SG whos gun is that. just wondering if its yours who did the repair work
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Old May 2, 2009, 12:39 PM   #25
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Scrat that's Wayne's Brasser he done that some 5 years ago i think ... it's a good addition to a brass frame Rev...
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