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Old March 25, 2011, 02:53 PM   #1
Rachen
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Revolvers that load through a channel - weakness?

Last night while downing a nice amount of Jack Daniels (alcohol always make you take things easy and think deeply about stuff you don't pay attention to when you're sober) and reading some past editions of Guns of the Old West Magazine, I notice that all revolvers which load through a port in their right recoil shield, including Kirst conversions of 1858 and Colt revolvers have their right recoil shields cut to perilously thin levels

The Colt SAA looks like a robust gun that belongs on the holster of an oilfield drill mechanic, but when viewed from the hammer and back grip, only a thin web of metal holds the top and bottom portions of the right recoil shield together.

I wouldn't imagine that revolvers of that type, even Ruger single-actions to be safe when being constantly used with heavy-duty loads. (Even black-powder loads of the 1870s produce almost 1100 fps at the muzzle with a 200-255 grain bullet, which is pretty bad to the bone)

I was going to channel the right recoil shield of my 1858 to accept the Kirst .45LC cylinder, but I think I am going to stick with the ungated cylinder so the gun can last through years of work and attain heirloom status (even though I am going to be using .45 Schofields for target and defense loads)

Lets hear you all chime in about this.
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Old March 25, 2011, 02:59 PM   #2
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I never heard of a frame failing in the area you mentioned.
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Old March 25, 2011, 03:03 PM   #3
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Quote:
I never heard of a frame failing in the area you mentioned.
I have heard of .45 caliber Open Tops which developed cracks around the bottom of the frame and trigger screw holes because they were used with heavy loads.

Also, in the Spring 2009 edition of Guns of the Old West, (I believe), a writer states that Kirst specifically makes his .38 caliber cylinder to .38 LC specs and could not be used with .38 Specials, because open tops simply will not withstand the punishment from a regular .38 Special load. That is just a regular .38 Special, not a +P.
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Old March 25, 2011, 03:05 PM   #4
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If you switch to a better quality of whiskey, I think you find that there really is no problem, of any kind, anywhere, any time.
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Old March 25, 2011, 03:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
I have heard of .45 caliber Open Tops which developed cracks around the bottom of the frame and trigger screw holes because they were used with heavy loads.
Notice you said "heavy loads". This is because the open top design was meant for black powder pressures. Not smokeless. When you use smokeless powder in a gun designed for BP, even with the modern steel the gun is made from, the gun will not stand up to heavy loads. These guns were designed 150+ years ago. You want to shoot hot loads, ya probably otta get another gun. They would be fine with standard factory loads though.

Quote:
a writer states that Kirst specifically makes his .38 caliber cylinder to .38 LC specs and could not be used with .38 Specials, because open tops simply will not withstand the punishment from a regular .38 Special load.
This is because guns made for BP, like the gun you are converting, is made of softer steel than a gun made for use with smokeless powder. They will not take the pressure of slokeless powder. Ever wonder they say "BLACK POWDER ONLY" on the barrel? Your fears are baseless if the products are used properly.
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Old March 25, 2011, 03:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Quote:
I have heard of .45 caliber Open Tops which developed cracks around the bottom of the frame and trigger screw holes because they were used with heavy loads.

This is because the open top design was meant for black powder pressures. Not smokeless. When you use smokeless powder in a gun designed for BP, even with the modern steel the gun is made from, the gun will not stand up to heavy loads. These guns were designed 150+ years ago. You want to shoot hot loads, ya probably otta get another gun. They would be fine with standard factory loads though.


Quote:
a writer states that Kirst specifically makes his .38 caliber cylinder to .38 LC specs and could not be used with .38 Specials, because open tops simply will not withstand the punishment from a regular .38 Special load.

This is because guns made for BP, like the gun you are converting, is made of softer steel than a gun made for use with smokeless powder. They will not take the pressure of slokeless powder. Ever wonder they say "BLACK POWDER ONLY" on the barrel? Your fears are baseless if the products are used properly.
I don't plan on using smokeless at all because reloading that stuff is too complicated for a trucker like me who's always on the road.

But blackpowder .45 Long Colts at full 1870s specs, still produce around 1000 feet per second while pushing a 200-255 grain bullet. That is still a lot of punch and will wreck the open tops, like what the author in the magazine said. Not sure about SAAs and 1858s though.
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Old March 25, 2011, 03:48 PM   #7
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Impossible

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Old March 25, 2011, 06:07 PM   #8
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Old March 25, 2011, 07:46 PM   #9
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But blackpowder .45 Long Colts at full 1870s specs, still produce around 1000 feet per second while pushing a 200-255 grain bullet. That is still a lot of punch and will wreck the open tops, like what the author in the magazine said. Not sure about SAAs and 1858s though.
Look at original open top revolvers, they were not chambered for .45 colt. They were chambered for .44 rimfire and .44 colt. A .45 schofield round would be close to original rounds and would not harm the gun. You have to figure that the .45 conversions and open tops come from the 1860 army type frame. The 1860 army revolver couldn't take 40 grains of powder as is in a .45 colt round. That's why the modern Uberti factory conversions that are made to take smokeless loads have a bigger frame and thicker barrel and cylinder walls than a Uberti 1860 percussion revolver. When you convert an open top percussion revolver, it's still only as strong as a C&B pistol. I would be curious to see evidence of a single action revolver failing where you fear they could. I have a Uberti .44 magnum revolver that I have owned for 17 years and put thousands of rounds through. It is still just as strong as it was 17 years ago.
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Old March 25, 2011, 09:42 PM   #10
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J.D.

will do in a pinch, but I've grown rather fond of Trace lately.

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Old March 25, 2011, 10:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Look at original open top revolvers, they were not chambered for .45 colt. They were chambered for .44 rimfire and .44 colt. A .45 schofield round would be close to original rounds and would not harm the gun. You have to figure that the .45 conversions and open tops come from the 1860 army type frame. The 1860 army revolver couldn't take 40 grains of powder as is in a .45 colt round.
Exactly! Why would anyone want to fire modern high power rounds out of a pistol designed 150 years ago? I have a Kirst converter and shoot .45 Schofield rounds with no problems.
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Old March 26, 2011, 08:46 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rachen
Also, in the Spring 2009 edition of Guns of the Old West, (I believe), a writer states that Kirst specifically makes his .38 caliber cylinder to .38 LC specs and could not be used with .38 Specials, because open tops simply will not withstand the punishment from a regular .38 Special load. That is just a regular .38 Special, not a +P.
Since .38 Long Colt hasn't been commonly available for many, many decades, I don't buy this. Add to that that the difference in length between a .38 spl case and a .38 Long Colt case is only ~.0125"... roughly the thickness of three pieces of copier paper, and the statement just doesn't make sense. (That's 12 1/2 thousandths, not 125 thousandths)
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Old March 26, 2011, 09:02 AM   #13
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Actually, several manufacturers of "cowboy" ammo offer .38 colt ammo. Goex even offers it in a BP load.
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Old March 26, 2011, 09:11 AM   #14
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Actually, several manufacturers of "cowboy" ammo offer .38 colt ammo. Goex even offers it in a BP load.
I believe the key words in his post are "commonly available". He didn't say unavailable.
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Old March 26, 2011, 01:31 PM   #15
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Depends on your definition of common. All the internet/mail order places sell them. Cabelas, Midway USA, Cheaper than dirt, Buffalo arms, Cimarron, they all sell .38 colt ammo. A lot of gun shops don't carry it, but I've been in several that don't carry .44 special either. It's not hard to find. Neither are the reloading dies, brass, or lead. Just depends on where you look.
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Old March 26, 2011, 04:05 PM   #16
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My definition of common is going to the local proprietor, maybe a couple of them. I for one have never bought ammo online. Heck you can get 38-55 at Wally World now. 40.00 bucks per box and 30-30 is 13.00 but you can get it.
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Old March 26, 2011, 04:53 PM   #17
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Shoot, my local Wally doesn't hardly carry anything. Just the basic stuff. Not even .45 colt. I actually find better deals on ammo online, including shipping. My definition of common is how hard it is to get.
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Old March 26, 2011, 05:13 PM   #18
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I mostly roll my own but I do have a few calibers I never got around to reloading for. I almost bought a 38-55 a few months ago but I said I'd never find ammo for it and while I had the funding for the rifle I didn't have it for the brass and dies, etc. at the time and I do not like to let a new(to me)gun sit unfired more than 20 minutes after I get it home.
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Old March 26, 2011, 05:28 PM   #19
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I do not like to let a new(to me)gun sit unfired more than 20 minutes after I get it home.
Amen.
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Old March 27, 2011, 07:18 AM   #20
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Just another illustration of why guns and whiskey don't mix.
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Old March 28, 2011, 09:53 AM   #21
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OK guys you all have some interesting stuff, but I would like to know if there has been any frame failures in side-loading SAA type guns due to the recoil shield channel and if this feature weakens the frame in any way.

Interesting fat about the .38 Long Colt. Really interesting. I never played around with .36/.38s so I had no idea that these two were literally twins.
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Old March 28, 2011, 10:15 AM   #22
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Rachen, I think that the general consensus is "no".

If you look at the direction and location of the force from the recoil, you'll see that it is back against the center part of the recoil shield. Now, the outer part of the recoil shield certainly adds some beef to the frame, but almost all of the force is exerted against the middle of the frame. I don't have any insight into the minds of Samuel Colt, et al, but it seems to me that the primary purpose of the "wings" of the recoil shield is to keep the loaded rounds from exiting the rear of the cylinder.
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Old March 28, 2011, 10:16 AM   #23
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The only frame failures in a SAA that I have ever read/heard about were from over/under loaded hand loads. I saw pics, years ago of a 1st gen Colt SAA that was fired with an underloaded .45 round. Blew the cylinder apart, and the frame let go at the rear of the top strap at the top of the recoil sheild, not the loading channel. These failures were caused by bad ammo, not a weakness in the gun. I believe your fears are unfounded.
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Old March 28, 2011, 11:16 AM   #24
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Quote:
The only frame failures in a SAA that I have ever read/heard about were from over/under loaded hand loads. I saw pics, years ago of a 1st gen Colt SAA that was fired with an underloaded .45 round. Blew the cylinder apart, and the frame let go at the rear of the top strap at the top of the recoil sheild, not the loading channel. These failures were caused by bad ammo, not a weakness in the gun. I believe your fears are unfounded.
Underloaded? Was it an airspace in the case? How could an underloaded case cause such a catastrophic failure?
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Old March 28, 2011, 12:03 PM   #25
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Regarding the 38 Colt v 38Spc. The 38 Colt uses a heeled bullet and the driving band is .375 which is correct for the barrel of the reproduction guns. The 38Spc bullet is .357 diameter and won't give any accuracy out of a .375 barrel unless you use hollow base wadcutters that will expand into the rifling or line the barrel to .357.
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