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Making a repro 1858 Remington revolver shoot accurately

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george wilson

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Years ago I purchased a Remington repro made from a kit by a local person. It would not hit a 5 gallon can 25 feet away,REALLY!!

I recovered a bullet somehow,and saw that the rifling was barely engraved on it. Upon making measurements of the bore and the cylinders,the chambers were found to be actually smaller than the minor diameter of the bore!!

What the Italians were trying to do was a mystery. Perhaps they were worried about their guns blowing up? Upon examining several other repros,all made by Uberti,they were all consistent: ALL their chambers were too small. In fact,the only repros I have found that would shoot decently out of the box were the little 28 caliber ones.Of course,the Ruger Old Army shoots well,but it really isn't a repro.

I decided to make the Rem. shoot better. Upon examination,it was seen that the chambers were somewhat out of line,but not seriously so. I unscrewed the barrel,and really wished I could obtain a Street barrel,a high class barrel made with progressive rifling. But,those were no longer available. In the end,the stock barrel proved to be quite perfectly accurate. What the thread was I can't recall,but it was not metric. Making a fake barrel was straight forward.

I made a 4" long smooth bore barrel from drill rod. It had a smooth reamed 1/2" bore. I took a piece of 1/2" drill rod and made a slightly tapered end on it. The reamer was a slip fit inside the fake barrel's bore.




The taper was about 1 1/2" long. (original Remington chambers were tapered). I milled down to 1/2 diameter on 1 side. It was hardened and drawn to a straw color. This was inserted down the fake barrel and the chambers were reamed in situ. I made sure they were slightly larger than the bore of the gun by a few thousandths.This must be done carefully or the gun will be over stressed and can blow up. I made a ring that had a set screw in it,to slip over the fake barrel,and it could be set so all of the bores would be reamed to the same diameter. Fortunately,I was able to ream all around the slightly off center chambers,getting them exactly in line with the bore. Had they been much more off center,or much more higher or lower,bringing them into alignment would have been impossible. I was lucky with this pistol,poor as it was.

The sights were so small they were hard to see,even at my young age back then.Not wanting to interfere with the original looks of the gun. I made a front sight that looked like the original from the side view,only it was close to 1/8" wide. Then the rear notch was filed wider.Fortunately,the pistol shot straight up the middle as there was no way the rear sight could be offset,just being a notch in the frame. I don't like target sights on original looking guns. They mess up their looks,though being more practical.

The gun shot exceedingly accurately after that,except it got my trigger finger absolutely BLACK. I have not seen another black powder pistol that was that messy to shoot. So,I silver soldered a block of brass into the over size opening they had left for the trigger in the brass trigger guard. I left just enough room for the trigger to operate.That cleared up the black finger problem!

P.S.: I also made a special conical bullet mold from aluminum to fit my mold block handles. These bullets fit the chambers. This was done by making a formed lathe tool out of W1,1/4" square,drilling out the mold block(which was centered in the 4 jaw chuck) and drawing the formed cutter sideways until the diameter was reached. The bullet's shape,with grooves,was easily and cleanly cut in the mold.

What I did might not have been worth the effort on the commercial sense,but it did accomplish my goal. Subsequently,years later,a friend who shoots in the North-South matches took his Remington repro and altered it to shoot like mine. I'm sure he's winning matches with it,provided he can shoot well. I think he may have used my reamer,but none of the barrel threads ever can be expected to fit another Italian gun. I have no idea who made my kit.

I also made reamers and reamed the chambers of my open top Colt repros,making them shoot much better. I did not go to the trouble to make the fake barrels for them,as I had several of these pistols,all different models,and the barrels would have been a lot of trouble to make for the open top type revolvers. They shoot a lot better,though not as perfectly as the Remington.

I might mention that my first SUPPOSEDLY decent black powder pistol was a Navy Arms Remington I bought in the 60's. It would not shoot straight either. One day,I was holding the pistol vertically,and noticed that the cylinder was in CROOKED. I had no way to deal with it back then. I sold it to a reinactor friend who said he only wanted to shoot blanks anyway. That gun had cost about as much as my Smith and Wesson model 10.

You can never be too careful when buying Italian repros. Look at them from all angles,and down the bore. All sorts of things can be wrong with them. They aren't that cheap either. You'd think quality would be better.

Years ago,Jon,my gunsmith friend and co worker in the toolmaker's shop,and I,ordered a pair of Cimarron Schofield revolvers. Jon took his and tried to shoot it,but it would not fire. The chambers were so far off center,the firing pin was missing the primers!!! I took mine,and looked down the bore. Mine were off as much as 1/16" off center. One chamber seemed on center. SO MUCH FOR COMPUTER CONTROLLED MANUFACTURE!!! Garbage in,garbage out. We called the dealer,who lied through his teeth how he had put a range rod down each bore. He did refund,however. I'll never buy another gun of that brand. Later,at a gun show,I found a Pedersoli and a Uberti in the same show case. Both were $750.00 each. Both were accurate in chamber alignment. I bought the Uberti. It shoots as straight as my genuine Colt Peacemakers with 7 1/2" barrels. The Pedersoli looked accurate too. But,I'm not a fan of that brand. Later I did find that the Pedersoli had a more authentic size groove down the top of the barrel(the groove was smaller). But I like mine and made ivory grips for it (for which some thought it a waste,but,it is a good gun). A few years later,Jon found an original Schofield which shoots fine,BUT,ONLY if loaded with a certain amount of powder. Jon has to make his own hand loads for it. It is very finicky about the loading of powder to shoot straight. And,of course,it is in the shorter .45 Schofield cartridge. Had they made it originally in .45 long Colt,the Army might have adopted it. They already had a big supply of their standard issue .45 long Colt. Never a good idea to try changing the Army's standard caliber. You can load it faster on a galloping horse. But,I don't think it is as resistant to a horse stepping on it as the 1873 Colt. The barrel is thinner,and it is generally a more delicate gun. If I wanted a gun I could get into action faster,I'd choose the Colt. The hammer is easier to quickly get your thumb on.

Years later,at the Baltimore gun show,I saw the Schofield that was the original model for the Uberti repro. It had been refinished and buffed over quite a bit. It would have been better had they found a less messed with gun to use as their model.
 
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george wilson

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#2
I would like to tell you about an incident with an Italian repro.

A friend was a gun dealer. He sold a Uberti open top Colt repro to a guy who had never even fired a gun. So,the guy loaded the pistol and fired it. The cylinder pin sheared off flush with the recoil shield,sending the cylinder and barrel down range about 50 feet!! The shooter was left holding half the gun. He was not hurt. Black powder WAS used.

The dealer brought the gun to me for examination. The cylinder pin looked worse than fractured cast iron. I had never seen anything like it. The grain was incredibly coarse,with angular chunks of steel that were a little less than 1/32" square in it. They looked like a miniature pile of coal. I still do not know what they had done to that cylinder pin. It makes me wonder if one of my guns will blow apart. They haven't yet. The open top is a rather curious,weak design. I wonder why Colt went with it. Easier to make,probably. The Root revolver had already been invented long before,with a solid frame.(But,an excessively weak mechanism). I love their looks,but their method of indexing the cylinders in alignment is not as good as the usual method. They use a small diameter ring with notches in it. The larger diameter notches on the cylinders are better. If done properly,their inherent design accuracy is better.

Years earlier, A Numrich barrel burst open on a friend's flintlock repro. It looked like a sort of beehive structure inside the steel. Hard to describe.
 
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swampdoctor

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#3
Believe it or not I had a Ruger Blackhawk with a too short firing pin and the roughest bore that I had ever seen. A cotton ball pushed through that barrel left half of it behind. But after 140 back and forth strokes with a shotgun mop and Colgate Tooth Powder, turning the firing pin, and putting a 1/16" shim under the mainspring. That 45 Colt shot a 1 1/4 inch six shot group at fifty yards way back in 1977 and it still shoots that well. So every cap and ball revolver gets the verysame treatment that the Ruger got and I have not yet owned one that could not be made to shoot exceptionally well. But I polish the internal parts with Crocus cloth and I rebore the chambers whether they need it or not, and I polish the bore and I chamfer the forcing cone, and I chamfer the chamber mouths slightly too. I rebuilt a Colt Navy 36 and it shot into less than an inch at 100 feet. I have been trying to make all revolvers both C&B and modern to shoot like that Colt Navy 36 did. I wish I could have owned it!
 

swampdoctor

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Believe it or not I had a Ruger Blackhawk with a too short firing pin and the roughest bore that I had ever seen. A cotton ball pushed through that barrel left half of it behind. But after 140 back and forth strokes with a shotgun mop and Colgate Tooth Powder, turning the firing pin, and putting a 1/16" shim under the mainspring. That 45 Colt shot a 1 1/4 inch six shot group at fifty yards way back in 1977 and it still shoots that well. So every cap and ball revolver gets the verysame treatment that the Ruger got and I have not yet owned one that could not be made to shoot exceptionally well. But I polish the internal parts with Crocus cloth and I rebore the chambers whether they need it or not, and I polish the bore and I chamfer the forcing cone, and I chamfer the chamber mouths slightly too. I rebuilt a Colt Navy 36 and it shot into less than an inch at 100 feet. I have been trying to make all revolvers both C&B and modern to shoot like that Colt Navy 36 did. I wish I could have owned it!
A lot of modern cartridge firing revolvers are seemingly inherently inaccurate. Just about any cap and ball revolver that is correctly made can be made to shoot exceptionally well though. My sons 1860 Colt Army shoots extremely well, but it shoots three inches to the right and nine inches high despite all that I did to try to get it to shoot where aimed. This is common with Colts so at least Remington clones are a bit easier to correct. George I just can't imagine anyone turning a cylinder without drilling the center hole first.I'll tell my cylinder story sometime.
 

george wilson

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I didn't mention turning a cylinder without drilling the center hole first. Not sure where you got that. I'll go back and see what I wrote.

What I did was make the smooth bore barrel with the tapered reamer that fit the bore. Then, I taper reamed each chamber in situ by cocking the gun,bringing each chamber into place successively.

I went back and changed the word cylinder to CHAMBER,which I should have done in the first place.
 

george wilson

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Note: I went back and changed the word CYLINDER to CHAMBER,where appropriate,which I should have done in the first place.
 

gregg

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I have fought with CB revolvers most my life. You Did Good. I just don't see proper chambers in CBs from when I was 18 to now at 61yr old. Last year bought 2 pita remingtons. Both small chambers. I seen great new revolvers but will see Ruger's that don't lock up with the barrel. I love Ruger's just check them first.
 

george wilson

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I have a Ruger Old Army in stainless steel. It shot very well out of the box,as I expected a Ruger to do(Though I have had 2 .22 Ruger single sixes,one a flat gate,that were not particularly accurate.)

The only problem with the Old Army is it weighs a ton! My friend Jon bought one,and filed off a lot of the excess weight very artistically,making his look a bit more like a Remington. Jon is an excellent gunsmith,and worked in the Gunsmith Shop in Col. Williamsburg,before joining me in the Toolmaker's Shop 16 years later. He can hand forge,hand bore and rifle a barrel from genuine wrought iron. Very few can do that.

The stainless steel filed very well,no problem at all. It seemed to cut quite easily. I don't care aesthetically for stainless steel guns,but bought the Ruger in stainless so I would not have to feel in a rush to clean it after shooting.
 

yxrancher

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#9
I had several of the Italian replicas in the late seventies and they were horribly innacurate - i was a kid and attributed it to fouled barrels as it never crossed my mind that they could have been made with an oversized bore! Early liability influenced tolerances?
 
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