Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pietta 1858 Remington with Kirst Konversion

Caveat: Without getting too deep into legalities, converting a percussion revolver into a cartridge firing breechloader is legal in my jurisdiction. Before you undertake a similar project please familiarize yourself with all the relevant laws.

Last week I did my first cartridge conversion of a percussion revolver. Such conversions were common in the years following the Civil War as the use of metallic cartridges became widespread, but there was still a large supply of percussion wheelguns left over from the war. Both Colt and Remington performed these conversions, as did plenty of indpendent gunsmiths. The Colt 1872 Open Top was not much more than an 1860 Army modified to use metallic cartridges. Remington even shipped New Model Armies with a .46 Rimfire cylinder and a percussion cylinder from about 1868 through 1875 or so.  With the rise in popularity of cowboy action shooting, cartridge conversions have become popular once again.

This revolver started life as a Pietta replica Remington 1858 New Model Army. As it came from the factory it was a percussion arm, taking separate powder, ball, and cap. To do the cartridge conversion I bought the cylinder, backplate, and Remington factory style ejector from Kirst Konverter

After getting the parts and reading through the instructions, I broke out every home gunsmith's favorite tool, a Dremel.

I got this Dremel and I ain't afraid to use it!

Note: Wear safety glasses when you're grinding away with the Dremel. You don't want metal shavings, sparks, or grit in your eyes.

First, I cut out and glued to the inside of the frame a template provided by Kirst. Then, I masked the frame with a few layers of duct tape to protect against the inevitable skips. Next, I used a grinding wheel and sanding drums in the Dremel to cut out the loading port in the right side recoil shield.

I also needed to slightly sand down the feet on the bottom of the cylinder backplate because they were too high, causing the cylinder to bind. This is mentioned in Kirst's instructions. I used 600 grit emery paper to polish the cylinder base pin, and some cotton patches with Flitz metal polish to slick up the center hole in the new cylinder. I also polished the front of the cylinder with the 600 grit paper, but even so, the barrel/cylinder gap is very tight.

The next major step was to cut a notch in the loading lever to fit the "flag" on the end of the ejector rod. Unlike most single action revolvers which have a spring loaded ejector, the Remington factory design is a simple rod retained in the open position by the original loading lever. To use it you need to drop the lever. Obviously, this is much less convenient than a spring loaded ejector.

I used a hacksaw to rough in the notch, then finished it with a flat and a square needle file.

Once all the parts were fitted I polished the areas where I'd cut and then touched them up with Birchwood Casey cold blueing solution. All told, I have about 8 hours invested in the project.

[B]One thing that's very important to note is that any of the cartridge conversions are rated for black powder or factory cowboy loads only, and lead bullets only,  with a MV of under 1,000 FPS. The guns are built for use with black powder and soft lead bullets. The forcing cones are not designed to handle jacket bullets. Running hot loads, or God forbid Ruger-only .45 Colt loads runs the risk of catastrophic failure.[/B]

I'd hope to take it to the range today to try it out for the first time, but I had to work on my washing machine instead. {grrr}

I’ll post a range report after I shoot it.


DirtCrashr said...

Nice work! I've often thought of taking that route to blackpowder happiness.

Dave Markowitz said...

Thanks, it was a fun project.

Anonymous said...

This will be my next project

Kaido said...

Very Well Done project the Piettia and photography and story.

Dave Markowitz said...

Thanks Kaido.