A Bit of Fun With Obsolete Guns

Been a good while since I have posted; my apologies, but this is a hobby, and essentials of life occasionally take priority.

Today was my first range-trip in weeks, and I had a number of things to test. Based on past experience I also took several guns that I know work and that I enjoy shooting. It’s annoying to make a range trip and discover that none of the guns are working as they should… Ask me how I know. Go one then, ask!

First up was the Webley RIC. This wasn’t so much a test of the gun as the ammo. Yep, working a treat! Shooting low, but I am reluctant to cut the sight down to bring the POI up; it is a collectible antique, after all. I think I can live with it.

Five shots at seven yards. of course there just had to be a flier…

Next up was Thumper- again, more a test of the ammo than the gun. This gun uses a bespoke cartridge- .44-55 Walker. Essentially a ‘stretched’ .44 Colt, my typical load for this has been a 200gr heel-base bullet over 10 Gr. of Trail Boss. I haven’t fired Thumper a lot because the brass was formed from .303 British- doing this was a major PITA, and only 15 of the original 20 shells survived the process. “Hey Tinker, you know that’s a lot easier if you anneal the brass, right?” Sure, now I know that! Anyway, I’ve also learned that it’s much easier to form the brass from .460 S&W, and wanted to try some of the new shells.

Hey, Champion Arms actually does allow Black Powder on their range- the air-evac/cleaning system whisks the smoke away quite adequately. I decided it was time to try my latest heel-base SWC bullets ( a 200gr. .451/.430 heel-base) over 55gr. of FFFg black Powder. In the picture below the taped-over shots were from an older bullet design, and the dispersion should make it clear why I abandoned that design! The new bullets worked much better.

Shooting a bit low at 7 yards…

I gotta’ tell ya… this thing is a hoot to shoot with black-powder loads! First off the are notably more powerful than the Trail Boss loads I developed for this cartridge. They actually produce enough recoil, even in this 3-1/2lb gun, to rap my middle-finger sharply with the trigger-guard if I am not careful with my grip. The BOOM was impressive enough to make the Range Officer look to see what the hell I was shooting! Very satisfying.

What was not satisfying was that with the BP loads the firing pin is piercing the primers. Have to look into that. I think that in the future I am going to be mostly loading this cartridge with BP.

Another satisfactory test was my third scratch-built cylinder. This is a five-shot .450 Adams cylinder for my second 1858 snubby, made to replace it’s .44 Colt cylinder.

I turned the cylinder from half-hard 4340 round bar, cut the cylinder-notches, line-bored the chambers and then cut the sprocket. It needs a bit of refinement and to be properly finished, but it works. I need to finish it to 320 grit, hone the chambers and tweak the breechplate a little, then rust-blue the lot before I can call it finished. Oh, and remove the .44 Colt marking on the side of the barrel.

No more .44 Colt for this gun- from now on it’s .450 Adams!
The cylinder is relieved between chambers, so that the firing pin can rest securely between the cartridge-case heads with the hammer down.

Next was a new gun. This one is likely to get it’s own blog post- suffice to say for now It has both a .44 Colt converter and a percussion cylinder, both of which need to have the cylinder dismounted for loading/unloading.

The 1858 ‘brasser’ in it’s fitted case with accessories.

The first test was with the .44 Colt cylinder, and it was both satisfactory and rather not. The gun functioned very well, but the ammunition was dramatically underpowered. For all of that it was accurate enough at seven yards-

I think I am done trying to use Unique in this caliber; I’m just not getting consistently good results. Time for another powder or even FFFg black powder. I thought about it and decided, ‘what the hell’ and loaded five rounds into the percussion cylinder. Much more satisfying to shoot- plenty of boom and velocity was much, much better. Accuracy, however, left something to be desired.

cap-and-ball shots- not particularly accurate at 7 yards. I’ll fiddle with it and see if I can’t improve on this.

The gun appears to be shooting consistently low, but I’m not going to mess with the sight until I have a decent .44 Colt load working.

Last but not least I made my third cylinder from scratch for an 1858 Pug. This gun was originally fitted with a .44 Colt conversion cylinder, but I wanted to convert it to .450 Adams- what the heck, I already load that for some of my other guns, so why not? I turned down a piece of half-hard 4340 rod, cut the lock-notches then line-bored the cylinder. After that I reamed the chambers and cut the ratchet. I made a base-plate with a firing-pin mounted and tried it our in the gun.

The new cylinder. It’s relieved between the cylinders so that the firing pin can rest securely between the case-rims with the hammer down, so that all five chambers may be loaded safely.
Mounted in the gun- now that it’s tested I need to hone the chambers and sand everything to 320-grit and rust-blue it to finish it up.

I’ll need to remove the .44 Colt marking from the barrel, naturally.

The business of testing finished it was on to the fun stuff. A facebook group I’m part of is running a Postal Match, and I was about out of time to get my entries in. It’s a very simple course of fire- five rounds at five yards and five rounds at ten. For my centerfire target I chose my S&W 6-1/2″ Half-Target Hand Ejector in .38 Special, loaded with some stout 158gr. RNFP loads. The results weren’t embarrassing- 97/100-3x-

…of course there’s a flyer. Yes, the grips are temporary- theyw ere a Christmas present and are destined to fo on a different gun when it’s finished.

For my rimfire entry I went a rather different direction- my S&W 6. This little gun is hilariously accurate for a pocket-pistol, and the results reflected that- 96/100-1x

This weird little Smith is an excellent little shooter. I’m not sure I’d have done much better than this with a full-sized gun.

I finished out the session by putting practice rounds down-range from my custom Taurus M85 sub-compact. Satisfying but not noteworthy. It’s amazing how well this little gun handles heavy loads.

Overall a great morning at the range- hopefully I’ll be going back soon, but life has been interesting the last couple of months…

Michael Tinker Pearce, 31 March 2019

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