View Full Version : 1851 Colt - Quick Change Cylinders?

October 3, 2010, 12:20 PM
I never considered the '51 Colt as particularly suitable to rapid change of cylinders for quicker reloads.

Watching an old TV show (well... 1980's) called "The Young Riders" that has Bill Hickock as one of the characters, packing a pair of '51 Colts. Several times, I've seen him yank the wedge by hand very easily, pull the barrel, put a new capped and loaded cylinder on the arbor, attach the barrel, set the wedge and start shooting again.

Looking at the '51 Pietta clone I have, I just don't see how that's possible. The wedge is too tight to pull by hand. I have to tap it with a rubber mallet or a piece of wood from the ground. And re-inserting it, I have to work the cylinder a bit to find the "sweet spot" where the gap is small as can be but the action won't bind up from the wedge being too tight. And to get it there, I have to tap it in (it binds too much inserting by hand), then tap it back out a skosh.

Anyone know a means to get a '51 Colt set up for fast-change cylinders?

Or is this Hollyweird bull-pucky?

Just seems to me that the '58 Remington is suited to the practice, but not the '51 Colt.

October 3, 2010, 12:41 PM
Like your Pietta, my replica's wedge isn't finger pressure friendly, either. Owners of the original Colts report their wedges are much smoother than the replicas, and can be removed without tools.

October 3, 2010, 01:12 PM

Is this then because of galling, and using the same type of steel for the arbor, wedge and barrel? Is there a quality aftermarket wedge that is available to make this easier?

October 3, 2010, 01:31 PM
Give it time it will get easier with use.

October 3, 2010, 01:53 PM

IIRC, the owners of the originals didn't reference the metallurgy, but suggested it was a result of the originals' superior fit and finish. Hawg may wanna add, the originals have had a lot longer to wear-in, too.

October 3, 2010, 02:00 PM
Yeah they have. It didn't take my Pietta 1860 long to wear in to where it could be removed and installed with thumb pressure. Thing with a colt is you have to juggle three separate pieces to swap cylinders. Four if you count the spare cylinder.

October 3, 2010, 02:10 PM
Hawg: My '51 is bought second-hand from a fellow on this forum from back east, whose (father? grandfather? It's been awhile and I can't remember now...) used it for years in Civil War re-enactments. It's plenty broke in, and looks like it (no disrespect intended to the seller... he advertised it accurately). It's possible the wedge is over-broke in, it is visibly peened.

Perhaps a new wedge and arbor would make it smoother to remove.

October 3, 2010, 02:37 PM
We'll find out... ordered a new wedge/spring, new wedge screw, and new cylinder pin from Dixie Gunworks.

October 4, 2010, 06:47 AM
Or is this Hollyweird bull-pucky?

Pure bovine pucky.

The sales records from Colt show very few extra cylinders being sold. Those that were went in cased sets.

October 4, 2010, 07:10 AM
Years ago I smoothed down the top and sides of the wedge on my 1860 Army so that I could remove it by hand. It works good but at the time I did not realize that when you do this you mess up the alignment of the barrel/cylinder gap since that is what is used to keep the barrel part in the correct position. I am now ordering a new wedge for the gun to make it stiffer since you can notice the vertical play in the barrel when applying pressure to it and the grip. The barrel moves into contact with the cylinder.

October 4, 2010, 09:18 AM
My guns are all worn in to the point that I can remove the wedge by finger pressure. That said, I think the phrase "quick change cylinders" while refering to 1851s is laughable. The wedge must be pulled, the barrel removed, the cylinder removed, a new cylinder replaced, the barrel replaced and the wedge re-seated. A wedge that is loose enough to be removed by hand has a huge likelyhood of winding up on the ground. The gun cannot be fired without it. Some time in the midst of this you are juggling at least 3 and probably 4 pieces of metal. I would think that you would need a place to hide while changing the cylinders.

October 4, 2010, 05:07 PM

It seems the consensus is:
Your "Young Rider" isn't a "Pale Rider" :rolleyes:

Fingers McGee
October 4, 2010, 06:49 PM
Or is this Hollyweird bull-pucky?

That's got my vote. Non-existent evidence that spare cylinders were ever used. Much negative evidence leading to the fact that they weren't.

October 4, 2010, 08:13 PM
A wedge that is loose enough to be removed by hand has a huge likelyhood of winding up on the ground.

Mine never moved.

October 5, 2010, 12:56 AM
I don't think cylinder changes were that common an occurrence. I have read one account of a Confederate soldier picking up a cylinder he found from a damaged Colt Navy but that's it. One shouldn't infer that he was going to keep it loaded for a rapid cylinder change, maybe he just wanted it for an extra part. I can do a cylinder change on a Colt Navy is about 20 seconds but one has to remember that combustible ammunition was also available and that may have worked out better from a tactical standpoint- you could load a round while you still had capped and loaded chambers. In any event I personally haven't run across any accounts of some shootist or soldier's life's belongings including a bunch of spare cylinders. Nor have I read any accounts of a shoot out involving a cylinder change. I think the practice of carrying extra revolvers was more common and one sees photos of Confederate cavalry men with four or six revolvers.
So....if you're just dying to have a lot of fire power- buy a few more revolvers-:D:D:D. Nothing wrong with that :cool: