View Full Version : Bronze firing pin?

May 19, 2010, 07:23 PM
I have two 1903 .38 Rimless auto hammer piustols, chambered for the nearly extinct .38 Auto. I got them very cheap and they are not in real good condition.

I noticed that the firing pins on both of them had radial cracks showing, so I bought new ones from Numrich. I got the new pins and they looked yellowish, I thought "Must be corrosion treatment coloring them", well, when I pulled the old pins out of the Colts they sure looked like brass or bronze, so I opened the new ones out of the plastic bags and yep, they be yellow bronze or brass!
I am totally mystified, one of the greatest firearms designers in history, perhaps the greatest one, designed these with yellow metal? Now, maybe aluminum bronze I could see, it's very hard and tough, and they would look the same, but I don't think it existed in 1903. Beryllium bronze maybe?
Anyone know about this? It doesn't make sense to me. Thanks,

Jim Watson
May 19, 2010, 07:30 PM
Well, it made sense to Colt at the time, although I do not know their logic.
Maybe they were worried about corrosion with smokeless powder and chlorate primers.

May 19, 2010, 07:40 PM
My 1903 Winchester designed by John Moses Browning came with a bronze firing pin. It broke bout 20 years back and I made a new one from steel.

May 19, 2010, 08:27 PM
I made a new one from steel

Well, that's an option, it's a simple pin with a milled cutout for the retaining pin. But I'm stuck on the why's of this, maybe there's something I don't know.

May 19, 2010, 10:27 PM
I have to agree with Jim Watson, but am guessing. The use of non-ferrous metals that moved and contacted ferrous metals (not sure of the spelling on that) was a marketing pitch. When I was a kid, some companies still pushed it with traps they sold and other outdoor products. They claimed the triggers on the traps would not hang up due to corrosion or freezing because the triggers, being brass or bronze, would not freeze to steel. I don't remember if they were brass or bronze, as I was a kid and would not have known the difference anyway.

May 19, 2010, 10:44 PM
Very interesting stuff. I'm going to load up some .38 Super shells, or I should say, load down, to about 900 FPS with 150 grain bullets, I'm reasonably sure that would be a light load in these guns. When I was in Yuma the sporting goods store guys told me they carried .38 Auto, but I didn't own the guns then.

Since I have the dies it's cheaper and easier to load up some .38 Super than to find .38 Auto, and since I have no .38 Super guns but do have brass it won't be dangerous (accidentally mixing up .38 Super loads in these guns would probably be dangerous.) and I'd like to see how (if) they work. :)
One is blued and the other is nickle plated.

If anyone else has one of these please look and see if the FP is bronze. Thanks!

May 19, 2010, 10:48 PM
Instead of brass or bronze, could the firing pins be beryllium copper?


May 19, 2010, 11:24 PM
They could be, I've been doing some study, the old trapdoor Springfields had bronze firing pins, I believe I found a reference to aluminum bronze for firing pins from 1912, They were cast, then hot forged. Many things I thought were kinda new have been around quite a while. Brass would most likely be too soft, though I'm finding out how ignorant I am in this study. :)

May 19, 2010, 11:25 PM
That's what I was thinking as well. I remember Elmer Keith writing in one of his books about some sixguns that had beryllium copper parts.

May 20, 2010, 01:26 AM
Apparently beryllium copper was developed about 1900.I remember that there was a Cu/Be firing pin about 1970 but don't remember the firearm.

May 20, 2010, 07:14 PM
Charter Arms revolvers had beryllium copper firing pins at one time.

B. Lahey
May 20, 2010, 07:30 PM
Rather than trying to finangle some downloaded super recipe, you may just want to pick up a few boxes of .38acp ammo from Graf's:


Cheaper than .45acp ball, don't ask me how those economics work, but I'm glad for it. They shoot nicely in my 03 Pocket Hammer.:)

My Colt WWI reproduction has a copper-colored firing pin. I don't know if it's actual Cu/Be or just a coating so that it looks like it is, but either way it works and looks neat.

May 20, 2010, 08:32 PM
Is there a hazmat fee for loaded ammo?

May 20, 2010, 09:23 PM
No HAZMAT for loaded ammo.

James K
May 20, 2010, 10:14 PM
Those double link Colts, and some others (e.g., the Webley 1913) in that general period, did have bronze firing pins, and the ones you got from Numrich are Colt originals, not repros. I am not sure why brass/bronze was used, but it may have been out of concern for a firing pin rusting in place with the corrosive primers and the powder fouling of the time.

FWIW, I didn't think beryllium copper existed in 1903, but some single actions of the 1960 era had parts like the cylinder stop made from that material. It was touted as a miracle metal, but proved too soft for any part that would take an impact.

On that repro pistol, I suspect the firing pin is of some light weight material used to avoid installing a firing pin block. If a 1911 type with the chamber loaded is dropped on the muzzle, the standard firing pin can creep forward and fire the round. This condition was unknown prior to the use of full length guide rods, since in the original pistol the barrel and slide would move back, absorbing the shock. But with a FLGR, there is nothing to absorb the blow and the gun can fire. California rules say an auto has to be made not to fire under that condition, so Colt and other makers worked up firing pin blocks to prevent a problem caused by the FLGR. So a phoney solution to a non-existent problem caused a real problem and ended up costing every gun buyer money.


May 20, 2010, 11:33 PM
B. Lahey, thanks for the source info, I ordered some. :)