For those of you that have to been following this project you might want to read up on how we got here:
Since Part 2 I have further shortened the barrel to 2-5/8″, fabricated and added a front sight and made a ‘pinky-groove’ at the bottom-front of the handle. This last modification really improves the comfort of the grip, BTW.
OK, now that you are all caught up the final part of this gun has arrived- that being a Kirst gated cartridge conversion in .45 Colt. This arrived last week from Kirst. Price was $325; not inexpensive but well worth it for what you get.
So what do you get? A 5-shot cylinder with a ‘dead position’ to drop the firing pin and a breech-ring with a firing-pin and loading gate. The dead position for the firing-pin borders on brilliant; there really isn’t room for six .45 Colt cartridges in the cylinder, and since the only safe way to carry a gun of this design is with the hammer down on an empty cylinder having five equally spaced chambers would basically give you a four-shooter. The original cylinder gets around this by having places to drop the hammer between cylinders, and while Kirst could have done the same thing they instead gave you a single position for the hammer. Less machining and a quite positive safety.
To install the converter you simply withdraw the cylinder pin, remove the percussion cylinder and replace it with the new cylinder with the breech-ring mounted. Then just slide the cylinder pin in and… it doesn’t go all the way. OK, they say there might be some fitting required. I looked and the ‘feet’ that brace against the frame were a skosh too long. The directions say to carefully file them until it fits. OK, I can do that. A dozen passes with the file and it was almost there- a few more and it was good to go.
Next I needed to relieve the blast-shield so that cartridges could actually be inserted through the gate. The website said that a template for doing this is included with every conversion. It wasn’t, but there were instructions. Basically mount the converter, mark where the gate is and then use a Sharpy-marker to mark where the gate is. Remove the converter and all internal parts of the gun. Use a 5/8″ sanding drum on a Dremel-tool to remove material until it is possible to insert an empty cartridge into the cylinder. Then use finer grit to finish, polish and then re-blue with cold blue. Estimate time: 2-3 Hours. Helpfully there are no pictures of what this will look like when you are finished.
5/8″ sanding drum on a Dremel-tool? PAH! We don’ need no stinking Dremel! I have a 5/8″ contact wheel for my Bader B-III Belt grinder. 2-3 hours? Try 2-3 minutes.
It took a couple tries mounting the converter and checking, but it was done very quickly, and applying Van’s Instant Blue directly to the hot steel produced very satisfactory results. Now it was possible to load the cartridges.
Anyone familiar with old-school single actions know the drill- half-cock, open the gate, load one, skip one, load four. Then when you bring the hammer to full cock and lower it the hammer rests on an empty cylinder. Starting with the hammer indexed to the rest position on the cylinder (which is marked by a cut-out on the rim) load the first chamber and follow this procedure. The result is the same, except instead of coming down on an empty chamber it will come down into the safety position. At first the cylinder was reluctant to turn freely at half-cock, but after a bit of manipulation that cleared up and it worked just as it should.
I’m impressed with the Kirst converter. It required minimal fitting, lockup and timing is good and needed no adjustment. The cylinder gap looks to be .0015-.002″- very tight. Maybe a little too tight for black-powder, but better too tight than to too loose. I expect I will shoot some black-powder shells at some point and we’ll find out.
A particularly nice feature with the Kirst converter is the ability to drop the percussion cylinder back in the gun and use it. Not that I intend to, but this is still important to me. When you take a percussion revolver ( a non-firearm according to ATF) and put a modern cartridge cylinder in it you are, in effect, manufacturing a firearm. This is no problem in states that allow it, but it makes selling the gun problematic unless you are a licensed firearms manufacturer. The ability to drop the percussion cylinder back in with no hassle makes it possible to sell the gun or transfer it easily to an heir. Not that intend to either sell it or die any time soon…
Went to the range this afternoon with a box of HSM 200gr. RNFP Cowboy Loads. So, how does it shoot? See for yourself-
And the target I was shooting at ten yards in the video:
With the mild cowboy loads this gun is a pussycat. I am going to have to reduce the height of the front sight as it’s shooting low, but that’s easy enough. I’m really very happy with this gun’s performance. In the future I’ll try some (modestly) heavier loads, but I am confident it will handle them with aplomb.
I’m pretty delighted with this gun- the looks, the handling and now the shooting. It’s a peach if I do say so myself.
Tinker Pearce, 22 April 2017