I finished this gun last night, a Pietta 1858 Remington ‘Pug-nose’ revolver. Sort of a western ‘Belly-gun’ or ‘Shopkeeper’s Special.’ I posted pictures on some of the gun forums, as I often do. Commentary was positive, though after tendering his complements one fellow commented, “I just can’t see how you’ve improved over the original here. After a lot of work it seems you’ve created something less accurate and less comfortable to shoot?”
It’s a fair question, I suppose. The tempting response is, ‘If you don’t get it I can’t explain it.’ That’s a bit of a cop-out though, isn’t it?
Whether I’ve improved the gun is very subjective; if one wished to carry the gun concealed it’s certainly better for the purpose than if it still had the original 8″ barrel and grip-shape. That leaves aside the fact that you’d have to be a bit daft to do so; there are certainly better options in this day and age.
This is obviously not intended to be any sort of modern, practical gun. First of all it’s a cap-and-ball gun, which has been obsolete for over 130 years. Even if fitted with a conversion cylinder to fire modern metallic cartridges it’s still quite a bit less efficient than a Ruger Blackhawk or Vaquero. What we have here is an historical ‘what if?’ What if someone living in the 19th C. wanted a full-frame .44 as a concealed carry weapon? Shat would they base it on, what would it look like and be like to shoot? I understand the appeal, obviously; I like ‘cowboy’ guns and I like snub-nosed revolvers. If you are not a fan of either or both you will probably not ‘get’ this gun.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; I only dimly understand the idea of taking a utilitarian service pistol and turning it into and ultra-high tech tactical race-gun. The thing is we’re all in this hobby, this common obsession together. I don’t need to understand something to appreciate the passion and creativity of it’s construction.
Of course there is often more to it than simply the gun itself; there’s always a story that goes with it, a learning experience that I just don’t get from a standard, stock pistol.
The story here is that some years back a gun-writer did a similar gun and posted it to YouTube. A friend of mine liked the idea and asked if I would convert one of his guns in a similar fashion. He had a pair of 1858s and offered me one in exchange for the work. It was a fun project. To make a long story short I practiced on ‘my’ gun to work out the details, then made his. For me the work was the point of this project; I got to practice my hobby-twice- with virtually no expense to myself and got a free gun into the bargain. Even after I spend $350 on a cartridge conversion I’ll come out ahead on the deal… I also get the added fun of making a custom holster or two for the gun.
While there are more practical options I’m a lot more likely to strap this gun on for woods-walks or as a hunting companion than I would be the full 8″ barreled gun, and while harder to shoot accurately it will probably be more than adequate for my purposes.
As for being unpleasant to shoot I have a pretty good suspicion that this gun in it’s current form is as heavy as a 4-5/8″ Single Action Army, and with standard loads .45 Colt is pretty much a pussycat. I had a 3-1/4″ Cimarron Thunderer that wasn’t at all unpleasant to shoot; even my recoil-averse wife was OK with it.
I really enjoy working on guns, seeing a concept come to life and overcoming the challenges (like the shortened loading-lever.) Turning a vision into a reality, as it were. It doesn’t hurt that I wind up with a unique, interesting firearm that is the work of my own hands.
Did I improve the gun? From my perspective and uses I most certainly did; I took a common, inexpensive reproduction gun and turned it into something unique, fun and that I can justifiably take pride in. You may not, and don’t need to, understand that. The important thing is that I do, and since it’s my gun that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?