Range Report and Project Updates, 29 August 2018

It was .45 day at the range yesterday, with three different calibers represented; .45 Colt, .450 Adams and .44 Colt (I know, I know, but it shoots a .45-caliber bullet so it counts!)  The guns were almost all single-actions- the JP Sauer& Sons Sherrif, the ASM SAA, The Dandy, The British Lion Bulldog revolver and the Remington .44 Colt conversion I’ve been fussing with for months.

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The three cartridges:

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From left to right: .450 Adams, .44 Colt (which uses an externally-lubed .452 bullet) and .45 Colt

First, the long-barreled Remington .44 Colt. I thought that I had the timing fixed, but the drag of a loaded cylinder was sufficient to throw the timing off. It was accurate, and the load seemed to work well- this uses a 200gr. Heel-base bullet over 6.5gr. of Trail Boss with a CCI300 Large Pistol Primer.
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The problem with the timing turned out to be very, very simple- the sprocket is just a tiny bit too small, and the hand slips off it too soon. If it were even .5mm larger it would work. I’ll make a new cylinder for it with a larger sprocket.

Next up was the Dandy and it’s new five-shot cylinder chambered for .450 Adams. This was not so much to test the gun as a new load. My original test load was 2.0gr. of Trail Boss under a 200gr. LRN bullet with my usual CC300 primer. This is a very low-powered load- it will get the bullet out the barrel and downrange, but it’s probably moving about 350fps. This was fine for testing, and it’s hard to imagine it would blow up a gun that was not already severely compromised.  After developing some experience with the round I tried a load with the same bullet over 4gr. of unique. This was more like it; it actually sounds like a gunshot when you touch one off. A wimpy gunshot. The maximum capacity of this case/bullet combination is about 3.3gr. A little more work with Trail Boss and I’ve worked up to a load of 3gr. of Trail Boss, and there I will stay. The Dandy’s cylinder would handle .45 Colt, so I had no qualms about testing this load in it.

This load works great. It’s accurate and has a good snap to it. I think that this load replicates the power of the original loading quite well, and Trail Boss is specifically made for loading in black-powder cartridges.

IMG_0873Having tried it in The Dandy I decided to try it in the British Lion bulldog revolver; it’s pretty stout and I was confident it would handle it fine. It did, but the recoil was quite noticeable. Again, accuracy was good. I like this load a lot, but I think I won’t be using it regularly in the antique guns. I’ll either stick with the 4.0gr. Unique load, or perhaps develop an ‘in-between’ load using Trail Boss.

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This was shot at five yards. The gun shoots quite high even at this close of range. The aim point of this target was the bottom of the second ring out from the bullseye.

The J.P.Saeur & Sohn custom Sheriff is shooting very high and somewhat to the right; I need to fabricate a new, taller front sight and install it, with a bit of adjustment for the drift to the right.

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The top group was from a center-hold, the bottom group was from a 6-o’clock hold. distance was 7 yards.

The load used was 8.0gr. of Unique with a 200gr. LSWC. This is a good mid-range load, but I made a bit of as boo-boo… I checked the OAL of the round against the JP Sauer– forgetting that it is built on an oversize cylinder and frame (the same as this company’s .44 Magnum.)  When I tried them in the ASM Single Action Army they protrude slightly from the front of the cylinder. Um… oops.

Fortunately I had some other .45 Colt with me; my ‘open-top’ load using a 200gr. LRNFP over 7.2gr. of Unique. I could also fire .450 Adams through it, and did. Despite shortening the front sight it is still shooting a little low, so I’ll need to have another go at it.

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This is a really nice gun; I really enjoy shooting it. The trigger is about 4.5 lbs. and it breaks crisp and clean. Once it’s shooting to POA I expect I will be shooting it quite a lot.

I also got to shoot a very nice custom Glock19 that the shooter next to me brought. I’d let him shoot the British Lion and he offered to let me shoot his Glock. It had a custom slide and barrel and an after-market trigger. Unfortunately the range was not an ideal environment  to get exact details, so I cannot tell you exactly what barrel, slide and trigger were. It was a nice shooter, and his buddy had a .45 Glock that he let me fire. Good guns.  I let them shoot my Detonics Mk.1 .45, and they were much impressed, both with the light felt recoil and accuracy.

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It was very satisfying to have The Dandy work so well, and I had a great time with some of the other shooters. Good day indeed.

Michael Tinker Pearce  30 August 2018

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EMF/Armi San Marcos New Dakota Model .45

I wanted to start this article with a brief history of Armi San Marcos, but there is surprisingly little information available online. I’ll tell you what I do know. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.  They were one of the first Italian companies to produce reproductions of classic western revolvers by Colt and Remington, both percussion and cartridge-firing varieties. In 1962 they made the first reproduction of the 1847 Colt Walker revolver, and the prototype was such a precise reproduction that experts could not tell it from an authentic Colt- and that small changes were made to the production guns so they could not be passed off as originals. Their guns were generally considered the most ‘true to Colt’ in their details and dimensions, if not always their quality.

ASM revolvers were imported by a variety of folks over the years, and they produced many of the Navy Arms percussion revolver replicas. Back when I collected reproduction percussion revolvers I owned several, including a Navy Arms 1860 Army that was exceptionally well finished.  In later years they developed a reputation for spotty quality control, and they were out of business by the early 2000s. That’s pretty much it.

In recent times I have bought a number of used percussion guns made by them, and these have supported the idea that their quality control was not as good as it should have been. Some of have been very well made, others, well, less well-made. Enough were good that when this EMF New Dakota Model showed up in Pinto’s case at a very good price I thought it worth a look.

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This is definitely one of the good ones, and I snapped it up pretty quickly. I’ve owned a lot of SAA reproductions from various companies, ranging from Cimarron to USFA, and I have to tell you- this gun is closer to the USFA end of the spectrum than the Cimarron end.  Honestly I bought this one with the idea of converting it to a Sherrif’s Model, but it’s my favorite barrel-length and it was just too nice.

The first thing to understand is that this is not one of ASM’s premium guns like the Hartford series. For all of that it is a surprisingly well made gun. The fit and finish it the best I’ve seen on an Italian revolver, especially the fit of the wooden grips. The bluing of the barrel, cylinder and other components is very good, easily comparable to a Ruger and other workaday single-actions. The color case-hardening isn’t all that colorful on the frame, but it’s a bit better on the hammer. The grip-frame and trigger guard are black-chromed brass, and extremely well polished under the chrome. The proper patent dates are stamped on the side of the frame, and there is a discreet .45 Colt stamp on the left side of the barrel just ahead of where it meets the frame.

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The cylinder has a proper bushing for the center-pin, which has the ‘Swiss-safe’ double groove, allowing the cylinder pin to be locked backwards far enough to prevent the firing pin from striking a primer. When the button on the side of the frame is depressed the cylinder pin slides in and out easily, not binding the way many reproductions do.  The rifling is crisp and clean, and the chambers are cut precisely and cleanly as well. Despite having been handled and fired many times there are no drag marks from the cylinder lock- this is evidence of better fit and timing than Colt often managed. The cylinder gap is .003″!

Even the internal parts are nicely finished, and the lock-up of the cylinder is as good as any I’ve seen on a gun of this type. The hammer cocks with four precise, almost musical clicks, and the trigger breaks, crisp and clean, at around four pounds.

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The machining, even in places you don’t see, is precise and clean.  This is not the case with every ASM revolver I’ve owned, mind you. This gun looks, feels and operates exactly as it should, and is a delight to shoot- though like almost all SAA replicas it shoots high at closer ranges. This is the point at which I would normally show you photos of targets, but strangely I can’t find any; I seem to have misplaced them. Suffice it to say it’s handled everything from cowboy loads to peppy defensive ammo with aplomb.

 

Is this gun the equal of the likes of a USFA or Standard MFG.? Of course not. It’s not even the equal of a modern Colt SAA. That being said it is very good, and for what they cost these days, $275-$375, it’s a bargain.  But buyer beware- not all ASMs are created equal. However if know what to look for and what you are looking at you can find a genuinely worthy gun for a fraction of the cost of currently-produced Italian guns.

I’d sort of forgotten about this gun, but now that it has come to my attention again I expect you’ll be seeing a lot of it in future range reports.

ADDENDA:

Had this gun out to the range today, and I mis-remembered- the gun actually shoots low. I used a little tape to adjust my point-of-aim and it worked a treat. I’ll shorten the sight to the top of the tape and try it again.

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Ten rounds at 7 yards, .45 Colt. Load is a 200gr. LRNFP over 7.2gr. of Unique with a CCI primer.
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25 rounds of .450 Adams at 7 yards. A variety of different loads were used- I was getting rid of old and experimental loads- a lot more fun than using a bullet-puller!

 

Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 August 2018

 

 

Range Report 13 August: a Litany of Failure- and Success!

I had several guns that needed testing this time out.  The Cherub had a new firing pin, The Dandy had a new cylinder, as did an 1860-based Avenging Angel sleeved for .38 S&W. There was also the new-to-me Dan Wesson Model 15 VH .357 Magnum, and of course I pretty much always want to shoot the Detonics.

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The Cherub- an 1849 Pocket sleeved and re-chambered in .22LR.

I started things out with the Cherub. It had had a problem with its firing-pin, and I had replaced it and was hoping it would fix the problem. It did… but a new problem manifested. The fired cases were jamming against the breech-face after a shot or two. Annoying, but it shouldn’t be too hard to fix; I already have some ideas.

Next up was the .38 Conversion.

 

As you can see in the photo this is a ‘long cylinder’ conversion; the cylinder is purpose-built rather than a converted cap-and-ball cylinder. I made the cylinder out of half-hard 4340, and made a thin breech-plate of the same material, pierced for the hammer-mounted firing-pin.

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This gun was more success than failure- it worked quite well actually. Every shot went off, and things didn’t jam up at any point. Two problems; accuracy was not good at all, and the firing pin was piercing the primers. I may re-line the barrel, and I’ll need to shorten the firing-pin. Call it a qualified success; the important thing was that the cylinder functioned just fine.

Moving on to The Dandy-

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This gun originally had a cylinder remade from a cap-and-ball cylinder and chambered for .44 Colt, but I made a new cylinder from 4340. The new cylinder is a five-shooter, chambered in .450 Adams. Once again the cylinder functioned fine and the gun worked well… until the sight-rib came off. I’ll need to solder it back on, and do a better job this time. Accuracy was quite reasonable- though the point of impact changed after the sight fell off…

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7 yards with a six-o’clock aiming point

I also shot The Outlaw- I did some repair work on it and wanted to see how it worked out. It seemed to- but I could only fire one shot at a time. It developed a bizarre new tendency illustrated below-

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I ‘d fire one shot and the gun  would jam up solid.  I broke the gun down and the empty under the hammer was stuck to the firing pin. This happened with both .45 Colt and .450 Adams. It’s never done this before, so I’m baffled. It wasn’t the loads, either; .450 Adams is very light, and the .45 Colt loads were very mild for that caliber.  The fourth time this happened it ejected the firing pin. I’m going to consult with the maker, Kirst, and see what they have to say.

Next up was the Dan Wesson Model 15 VH .357 Magnum. This gun has the 6″ barrel mounted; I’ll be looking for a short barrel and probably be making a set of custom grips for it. I’ve already ordered the barrel-wrench and tool kit.

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I had a 4″ Model 15 in the 1980s that I used as a carry gun, and I’ve wanted another since approximately two minutes after I sold it. When I saw this one on the shelf at Pinto’s at a ridiculous price I snatched it up.

It did not disappoint; while the sights may need a bit of adjustment the gun works a treat. Of course this wasn’t immediately obvious… Using a box of old hand-loads about 40% of the shells failed to ignite even when struck multiple times. The primer-strikes didn’t look light, but I was concerned. I bought a box of Fiocchi ammo at the counter, and they worked 100%. Not the gun- good to know!

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My initial 7-yard target. This was basically rapid-fire as I was having ammunition problems.
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My final target. I may need to adjust the sights slightly.

The gun is shooting consistently low and right, even with single-action slow-fire. I may adjust the sights if this persists in continued practice.

Last but not least I shot the Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master. As usual it functioned flawlessly and was a delight to shoot.

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Rapid-fire at 7-yards.

So- a day of ups and downs. There are some issues to deal with, but overall the important bits all worked out.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 13 August 2018