Cartridge Conversirons

Fea,lruring the [low and [Russelle [Hleard, Roger Muckeliheide! ,JI.,D. Hlom:e'r, ,and Galvinl Patlrick C'olleclion,s,

Thel H·story' D'fThle Guns I, ,Mlludllernl Repro1duct'ionl:s

Introductton By TOm, Selleck

W'ritten &, Photographed .By

Dennis Adler

For'eword 8,y R. L. W'ilson

Table of Contents

Forew,o'Tld IntrodNCR'OIi

'PreFace & Acknowl'edgme,n'fs

1 9 12

'Cba,pter'7: 1"!l1 Iii III .' I! III " III .. II '" •• I~ '!!II '.' II! ~ II! ' ....... 1110

Chapter 8: .... '. 'i iii • !II " ... .. • • ~I l!!i ~ ~ ._ ." ~ ill 01 ,. ...1301

SmQ,It~Fl"iame Co't Breer;ldoa,(/'e,rs and Canversions

ICbap'ter' 2: <II!! ~ •• , ., I. III ,., I. III III ., iii Ii lilil iii ... ill II III Ii I' iii I 11124,

Eu'll'#Y lJeve#opm:eR'f fJf the MelCi,I'lic C:artri,dge

Cbapter' 3: ii Iii • j! '" " ill II .. iii, Ii ill III II 1!l1 ill III !II " III II I I. • .. 401

P,atell.l vs., PQ,tell't

Re'crr:ell.liA,g l;h'e Po's.t

Chapser 11:' ,. ,. . . . .. . . . .. .' .... '. • . .' .' .•. ,.,194

B.r:i:ngiR(f Auth,eRliir;ity to th,e Screen ,alld Rob,b:y

Cba,p'le:r 4: .. ,iii iii, .. it; Iii III ,.; • III ill !II III .. -III III I. III of! '" •• '.' II ... 501

.RemiRglon Cartridge Conversior:1s

Cbap'ter 5:: 11.' III III III .. iii III • ill III III !II • II! II' '11 iii .. , .. !II • '" '" 111172

nle Ti,y',er ,CfJAversi,oR'S ,"nd ExperimlenlQl/lJes(gJlls

Ap'pendix. I: .. ,. . ,. " " • , '" " " " . • .' ••• ' ••. ,.,2.02:

'jrade,(ftdrk, ,aR.d Supplier's Index

Chap'fer 6:: .. ," I. ,. • I. 'III' • III 110 III 'III I iii! .. 'I! Iii! .. III' !II • '" .' 1.92

Index: 111., II III II II .' I. !I'll' '. I.' ... ' .' rll ,. • ~ ~ ,.. iii til I. ojj .... 2,105

Practico,IWoys to Mal:e Old GU.RS New

6, Metallic Cartridge Conversion's

Through his previous works on Firearms - as 'Wi~h his namereus titles onconeetor,- Dennis Adler is creating a library of books ot his own authorship. Wi,th their trademark combinatlen of li:'lely and infDrma.tive text, accompanied byrtch and beautiful photograph:s, these titles are a must rlor any enthusiast oJ these captlvattng subjects.

In Metallic Car:fridge ConversiDns he bas ereated ill book for any devotee of fine firearms. made by Colt's and others, and A.rner'ieana. Here is ill theme t.hat has never been given its dille. A.g:reat many collectors 01 Colt's and its competitors are percussion specialists - while an even greater number concentrate en 'cartridge arms .. In the conversions, there is overlap w:ith both. Since not a E'ew were altered by non-Iactory gunsmiths, the field challenges the eye and the expertise 01 'the collector dealer,

. student and curato.r.

That means there can be pitfalls for all. Metallic Cortridge COUfJersiofis celebrates these ingenious creations - veritable pioneers to the post-Samuel Colt era - lhrough exquisite mustra.tiolls, and thorough, analytical, and 'eJq)os.itoOry text. The. models and variations are docurnented through specimens lmm some o~ the greatest of private and public coll,ections .. In

the process Dr p,hotography, Dennis Adler has had the added advantage of the expertise and experience of each eollector; as credited in the pages that follow.

Because all of the models, of converslens (at least by Colt's) are based on guns originatE}' produced in Samuel Coifs lifetime, the·re is a. direct conneetjon of these arms with that htstortc inventor, entrepreneur, showman and marketing ge11lius,. Thill:kj:ng in terms of the automobile, one can easily compare these converslons to the late models of Ferraris. into the high-tech computer age, just entering into producuonas founder Enzo Ferrarl died.

Colt and Fer.ra.l"~ had a lot in common. It may easily be said that Colt is the Ferran of the rirearms line. There are more than a [,ew owners of Ferrariswho are keen 01"1 Colts" and vice versa. Both founders and both 'brands symbolize technology, craksmanshtp, artistry, adventure, daring, roraance and excitement.

It is particularly fitting. therefore. that theauthor of Metallic Ca.rlri"clge Conversions is very much at home h) the worlds of cars and of gums. In company Yo;i'th OUI good friends Steve Fjestad (ol Blue Book Publications) and Luigi Chlnettl, Jr. (of the North .American Rad rig 'Jearn, importers

and racers of Ferraris est I 94f9) , we made a plilgri,mage ~o Ferran in 1.998 .. Besides having the fulll'actory tour, Dennis tested new cars, tncludlng the F 355 Ft. and was able to pho~!Ograph and drlve on Floraao, the omciaW nest and racing track in Marandlo ..

Dennis Adler is representative of the close association between ijheW'orlds of automobiles and flrearms. ~Il is a great pleasure to see thai he contmues to produce his unique brand of pubucenons on cars, joined by htsgrowlng series of ,equaJUy.stylish and .hdormative books on guns.

ln Metallic Cartridge Conversions, he has created yel another wDrk, not .only for the cou ar~cionado and the lover oE other makes of guns and or Amerjcana, but, as is. also true in his car books, loranyone who is keen on arelated and grea.tJy treasured collecttble: fine books .

Congratelancns are' in order lor Metallic Cartridge COIwe1S.ions. Along with thousands of other devotees, I look forward to many more of Dennis Adler's tomes all gunsand on cars - which. are sure to come in the future.

RL Wilson


lnspectlng the' ivory-stock:ed, Colt cartridge 'Conversion. pistol, Paul Cable takes in tile intricate ,engJ.a:v:ing, reads hts nameinscribedl on the backstrap and says to his wife, "Yom father's a. real artist," Cable is a character from tile movie Last Slana ,al Saber RilJer, and the gun he is, admiring is ill con 1860 Arm.y .44 caliber Richaros-tweeadlidge eoaverslen, a model cornmo.nly seen in the post eMI War era. and throughollt the ]8705.

Cartridge converslon lii:rearms(Jlayed an important role in thepost-CMI War era, liJut in that. simple statement Cable connects past and present, One reason car1tl'Idge converstoa firearms were lmportant in ~hepast and wlhy they are still valued today is thattheyare indeed works oi ad. In his book 'M'et:aiUc Car/ridge' COnlJe.rsl~ons, author and photog:rapher Dennis Adler ties the past and the present together by de~,aiUl1g: therich b'istoIrY slI.rroUluilling the evolution of conversion flll"earrll's and writing about the increasing; pubLic <IIwar,ellUess and interest incollectjng ol'igilJIDaJ models and modem-day repsoduettens. 'fhroug,h the text and pl:uo~Orgraphy in this book, readers cannot help but have impressed upon them a. sense oOf applI'eciaUoll For the depth 0'1 history attached to these :firearms, and the craltsmanshrp required to create theseremarkable. handcrafted revolvers.

The pos~-Civiil War era and settlil!lg of the American Westrep.resent a trall1sitional period ln our nation's hlstory, and the converstonrevolver was a

key piece of that evenUul time. Soldiers came home from the war cltlanged. Am.erica was, expaIJding larther and farther west and manufacturing technology had made g;reat s~Jride5 dltJtrimg the umos 100 aceemmodate the war's demand lor better lil',eanms. 'Jh'istechnology allowed 'mas-s production olpercusston Urearms thmugiilollDt the war y,ears creatilJg a surplus of percussion pistols in the: late: 18605 that would later be converted to ~il'e the new self-contained metallic carl r~dge.

Percussion nream:Js, were eoaverted largely because there existed a demand (or more modem revolvers and the advantages they offered, such as i!I,cclI!:',acy •. resistance to" and speed in reloadil1,g. l'heya]soprevenled the unnecessary waste of already mam . rlaetured nre,aIrms" and pro,vided the average man ""'ith a more sophtsncared sidearm that was less costlythan at :new eo'it Peacemaker. The advantages and av,ailability 0:1 converted ca:r~.rldge revolvers, ina variety of slaes and caHbers contrtbuted markedly to the w,estwa:rd expansion in the 18105 and the seUJi:rng of the American kOIllUer. n 'Was an era nUed '\III1ith challenges and adventure, and it somehow seems approprtete that these legellda:ry firearms became popular at this point in,tory.

A.Uhough firearms were anecesstty on tile lrontter, many wer,e also embellished with im1l~rical,ely detailed ellgravlng. As. documentation on these firearms became more avaUable, it was posslbte te

HI Metallic Ca:rlridge COlwer:sions

,reTify their authenticity and also create accurate reproductions.

Lik,e the originals of the 1860s andI810s. modem reproducnons are also conversions or pereussjon revolvers, and are often built using the same methods and ~ools than gunsmiths used to convert them more than 130 yea:rs ago. A modem, custombuilt conversion then becomes a handcrafted duplicate of run original design. These repruductions are collected by enthusiasts and used for props in films.

As more and more inforRlation ,about the history of ,cartridge cenversron Urearms became available, IiLmmakerrs realized that it was necessary ~o feature hls~or:i,cally correct glllns in their movies. In making a period film it is essential to take tnto account all aspects 01 the surroundtngs, such as bulldmgs, clothing, and firearms. Because of the important role they played in American hms,tory, converston firearms have been featured In several mms and even used to help tell the st,ory. For in:s~ance, in Last S/:Qnd at Saber Ri,l)er the 1860 Army conversion pistol relays tine strife of Cable belng gone f,or so IOllg ' the very guns used in the Wax Between tile States had broome almost obsolete by the time he returned home .. As a (Deal point in the film the handcrafted Colt demonstrates both Cable's admiration for the workmanship and his need for a more m dern nrrearm wit.b which to protect his family and home. The advantage or the cartridge revolver against oldstyle percusston pistols is depicted several. times throughout the mrn.

This is portrayed in Crossfi,re Trail where an accurate reproduction of an 1812 Co1t Open Top carried by the character Ra.fe Covingt,on figures p.rominently 'in the opening scenes and throughout the film. In many ways,. what would simply have been a. prop in an older movie becomes an'a1 part or the story today.

Western lllms retell justa few of the eveats in American hlstory, and as the props, including conversion firearms, become more accurate, that glimpse mto the past also becomes more realistic for viewers. As a result, rums have ~ncreased both the public interest in and the value of original Col~, Remington and other historic models, and Metallic Cartridge COl'llJer.w'ons further underscores this phenomenon in contemporary fJilimmakiJl1Jg.

MOJie importantly" however, I hope tbat both films and written information wm serve to' remind us or what our Amerwcan ancestors accompllshed in an age before eleetrtclty and modern manufacturing. These legendary conversion firearms truly are the icons or an era of resolute sh·,ength and courage. They are as htstoeic allld important as the story or the Ameri.can West itself,

Tom elleck

AlIItho,r Denni:s; AcUe'r in period ,elothiing by Classic OI:d 'West StyEes and W:ah Maker. The holste'rs ,and 'belt wer,e custom made by Jim Barnard of lrailrider Products, In l,ittl'elon, Colorado. 10m 'Selleck's 11860 IFI:lclha~ds, Type II revolver from tihe 111m last Stand af Saber' Rivier is shown In 'iltle rl,ghll-handMiUer-Feche1'il'll holster, and a duplica'le ,of' ~he 1872 Open Top featured iill'l,Cro:sstin! Trail is c!r,adled in the 1872: Me:l(ican~s.tyle d'Ollble~lloop Wolf CI~eel!c: holster., Both g,Ulns were custom built: by Kenny HoweU o,f' R&'D 'GUJilshop 11'1 8'e'loit, Wis.


:1.2 Me'.lamc Ca.rtridge Conuersiolls

When I hear somecne desertbe me as an histOI".ialll I often wonder to whom they are I"eferriflig. Granted, my work is olf atn historical nature, but I am lfirst <lind ~oremostian avowed ftrearrns en.thus.iast

AltholJgh 1 had been a gun, cct!octor f'or more thalll 3111 years, it was not until I mo,yed. to P'ellns;ylvarnia in 1993 that. I was, [i.rst exposed to the alfure oJ black powder pistols, whlle visitill,g Gettysburg. Shortly thereafter I purchased a. Second Generanon Colt [8511 Navy. 'I was lasctnated both with the mechanics of tile gun and its elegant design. and COIII$tmction, I then recalled, ahnost by coLncidience, th,at Ctint [Eastwood had used sim.i.lmr pistols in several of his Wester.llls, The (Jl1llaw.Josey Wale.s; The Good, The 8ad, and the Ug,y, and a ratne:r distinctive 1858 New Model Army-Remington cartridge ,conversioIll in Pate {?ide'r; I watched the 1]'111115 again and 'was even more c,apUilated by these Colt and Remington revolvers .. It was perhaps at that moment I became a "coll1edor'" and began the pursuit i()f ori.gjnal percussion revofvers, Colt Second Generatienmedels. and custom-blll'ilt cartrrdge conversions.

.As an automoUvehi.storiaJil and author; and yes, once again enUms,ia:st. I came to realiae that mooy 0:[ the 3iUJ1tomobile coll.ectors with whem ] worked OIII my books were also avid gun celtectors whose interests fr,equenUy included early Colt and other percasston models bum from the 1830:s to the ,early 1870s. Through orne SIlCh. eonaeetlen I me; R. L. WilsoIil in 1997.l.arr)l' and [ shuck up an immediame friendship MD.d i.~ \iII·as his idea .for me to wrUle my fir,st gun book

in [9,918, Co,il' Btack P(J.ItJeier Reprodl1:ctions .& Rept'icas:A Coiiedor's'& Shoofe.r'sGu.ide. Two ol(her books followed-the First and SemndEditiofiSof 'the Blue Book of Mode,m Bf,ack. Powder Values. All three were published by my friend Steve fjesta.d. o:f Blue Book Pllblicatinns, who was aiso one or Larry Wilso.IIl'S rtlumen:ms publishers ..

My segue Irorn cap-and-ball revolvers; to cartridge coaverslons came durmg the deburt 01 CoIl mackpowde:r at the 1998 Antique Arm.s Show in Las It was, there that J met ancther great fri.end, Bob Millington, a Colorado gUlls:mlth with a talent fo!:' buildjng .I"emarkabty accurate reproduenons of Colt and. Rem.i.ngton,ge eonverslons. Whel1l Illrst saw Bob's display, J thought the;y were aIIJ olrigina] guns" as did many others. A :new passion was, born, and once ,again I jumped in with both feet. I commtssioned Bob to build an authentic 1858 Reming,!On conversion, c:.l8~;g. Seve'raJ months later, while worldng on , automotive book, I traveled to Denvermo pick up .my gu:n. When I wa~ked into E3ob's shop there were' three Remingtons on hi.s 'Workbench. I asked which was, m.ine and he replied, "The one ill lhe middle, t.he other t\"iO are origjnaJs." That "Was the start of a relationship tham has resulted in eight authentic Coil and Remi.lIlgto.n cartr:idge converstons, all o~which are leatured .in thislbook.

The search for Imowledge led me to tile' same place I had been in 1997, at. Larry WiJso:n's doorstep, asking ll...,hy there wasn't afuJl-c:olor history of the original ,guns and reproductions .. And once again he presented mewlth the same chaillenge. "'Why don't

you w;r~te Oolite?" So here we are, several years and many hUlildreds of photographs later.

[0 the proeess of writing and phOot.ographing this book J: mel many wonderful collectors who were willing to share both their guns and their knowledge with me. Among the numemusortglnal Coh and Remington converslons ptctured in this book are examples from (OUT outstanding collectlons: the Dow and Russelle Heard Colleetkm, J .. D. HOofer co;nectjon, Calvin Patrick Cojlectlon, and Roger Muckerheide Collection. They are all members or the Texas GUll Collectors Association, as iis Bobby VallCe, who owns the spectacular Thuer 1860 Army cartridge conversion with shculde« slack (eatured Dill the cover; You can't image the trust these guys had in me to ship their 'valued treasures to my studio in Pennsylvania for phofography. Another colleeto» and friend ES Larry Compeau, wnohas a particular passion for" Letaucheux lPillfil"e revnlvers. He gl'<lI.ciously supplied photos of these unique CiiVU Warera metallic cartrtdge pistols, along with a w,ealth of hfstorle information.. ayj11 g" "thank you" falls wleU short .of my deep appreclanon and respect 101" these' wonderful collectors.

As with any his~orical book, there is a great deal of research Invotved, and there is one irndlv:iduaJ who cert,ai.JIdy paved the way 'or anyone \'Ii'ritIng about cartridge conversions, the late R., Bruce McDowelL His highly detailed. accounting 'of Colt and Remington eonversloas, published in 1997 by Krause Publications, is (II necessary reference for any eollector of Remlngton and CoU cartridge revolvers, as is a new work O'lil the history of Colt pocket: pistols by John D. Breslin, William Q. Pirie. and David E. Prlce,

There are many people' who become .[riel1lds because of a shared hobby or lnterest, and among the mam}' I Iilav,e met over the years is one individual who never {,ruis to produce remarkable Colt reproductlons, Kenny Howell or R.&D Gunshop. Kenny is best kIllO,,"VD Ior the .g1J.Ins he has buill for Tom Selleck's epic weslems, seseral 0:1 wnich. are pictured in this book. Kenny also introduced me Ito Tom Selleck,

All. olthis serves to. underscore the camaraderie' that exists among gun colteetors, \vhose enthusiasm fOo.r preserving these histori.c arms goes far beyond just cone ting. Each is an. hlstorlan and antiquarian charged, for their brief time, with the responslbility Qf caring lin these rare and magnilkent creations .. When you think about It, we are alljust passing through, the guns were here before us and th.ey will be here longalter weare gone.

It is my hope that this book will help to perpetnete and ru:rther theappreciatlen and preservajton or the original eartrldge conversion ~irearms produced during the post-CivU War era and throughout the settling of the American West, as, \';IeU as the nne selection of contemporary reprcducnons available today ..

This. book encompasses a very brief period, from the late ]8605 to the early 18805 .. lDurillg that. lime thousands of Colts, Rernlngtons, and other pereusston revclvers were eeoveeted to Iire rnetallje cartrIdges asa new era in the history of the gUI1I began 'to unfold.

That story begins here, i n t be ~~

Dennis Adler


Evolution 0,( the Pistol From: Whe,el-Lo,cks to Wheel Gun's

It began with at preblem. A matchlock rirte was dlfflcult to ca:rry" and for a cavalryman in the

l Sth century lighting a match wick on horseback and I!:e,ep:ing it lit was easier said than done.. Fool. soldiers managed to eng,age in battle using matchlocks ior more than a century, but the cavalry was stin charging lnto combat with swords drawn. Of course,it took a lucky shot wruth a matchlock for a musketeer to hU almost anyone let alone a .moving horse and rider, And, a soldler wielding a heavy matchlock muzzlekiader arid weighed down with cast lead balls and pouches 01 gunpowder strung around chest was just as likely tokiU himself with the Light'ed match as he was his intended target There bad to be a better way.

Around 1517, notes flrearms historian R. L Wilson, the wheet-lock was first seen in southem

Ge:rmany, and the cities of Nurembem-,g, Al.Igsburg, Munich, and Dresden, al!Ongwith neighboring: countries, such as the. etherlands and Denmark.

A1lhough at complex design, the wheel-lock offered one the abi.IHy ~o 'ca:rry a loaded firearm on theirperson ,pl"ime.d and ready to discharge. Produced in a variety of calibers, the' basic destgn, though improved overtime, remained in use for more them a oentury.

The intricate mechanism consisted of a steel wheel wUh a serrated edge that protruded through the flash pan. The wheel was mounted. to a square spindle, which passed through ~he lock plate and was attached by means or at short chain (usl!1atily oti three mks.)to a IimWethll spring. The last link ended in at toggle, which lift: into a hook at the end of the mainspring. The gun was "cocked" bywindiing the


Tile wheel~locl!l: mechaliliism, devel'oped In Gerimany ,around 15111, provided tfile bas'is, for the first prac:lic,al pistol's, which were seen in fhe maHer half of the 16tlh century. The design 01 this e)(.aRlple dates from the Ila'te 16th and early 17th century (1580-1600) and liS one' of iii handfu'l of superb reproductlcms, tlTlat lhave, beem buil'!

In Que'bec:, Canada at: COl1l1pa,glnie Roy,ale lD'A,rtilierie, under' the sU,pervlsion of flrearm!s hlstolliian and R1anuf·acturell' Guy Challesvois. V:alued at mere than $3,000 the' halllfJ~buin military-'5ty,le pistol was la,ter engr,aJved in period motif by ma,ster ,gunsmlith Phlll Clravener. ln Lalrobe, P'enn.

Cl'averner also made the eliilgrav,ed nth cernttury powder Ilask. (Musketeer hat, c>OlIrilesy of' 1[)Jllnty' B I 11\,':s", G,eHy,sburg, IPennsylvania)

~6 Metallic Cartridge Cooaersiom

spjndle with a spanner or key, the wheel under tension (held by the DOSie of the sear) and setting the trigger. It was very much like \vincing a

dock. Once loaded and primed, the pan cover was dosed and the jaws of the hammer (or cock) holding the 'pyrites set into position over the pan. [0 this

posture the gun was now ready to fire, Pullling the trigger released the sear spring, causing the wheel to s,pmn one revolution as the pan cover was, thrown open, The SPM~ created by the pyrites striking the serrated edge of the moving wheel ignited the prIming lJl!ildure, which flashed through the touchholeand thus discharged thepistol, Needless to say, this was not an instantaneous ignition!

The wheel-I,Qck mechanism consist,ed of ill steell wheell witll a ~serrated edge that prolruded throughl the flash pan. The wheel w,as mounted 10 a square .sp.ind'le, which passed through 'I:he' Ilook, pblil!ea:l1Id wa~s, "·,cGciked" by winding tine spil1dle will,h a spanner 01' key Iplaclng the wheel under tanslen and :setting Ihe trlgge;r: ,()ioce loaded and primed, the pall1 cover was closed and the ~aws of the hammer (or cock) hol'ding .he lP~rites set into position ,over the pan.


When tlhe Ilintioek was perfected in the mid-17th century lit bliought ~he cost of Ipistol ma,nufactuming down

totlhe point where those of a,Yer,age means could afford t,o OWIil orne.llhle 'fIintloc'k rema~ned Uhe domirnarnt design until the early 19t!h century. 'Pi,cturred are Il'Irriee

Pedersall replladucUon,s, a 'Queern Anne (c. 1680-17000) aln Ame;rica

Remembers Washi'ngton Be. Lee CommemoratlMe c.t n's,. a Ila,ngbarreled Kentucky pistol-made poplJl'ar on the frontier 'following

tile Revo!lution,ary W:ar-and a hand-built and embellished K,entucky pistal by Latrobe, Perm. custom '9,lJ.nma'ker Phil C'rravene,r:.

l8 Metallic Cartridge Conversions

The glieal:es~ problem with the wheel-leek was reliabi]itty, not so much with the gun, as, with the shootee; If, in the heat of battle, one wound thewheel in the wrong dtrecnon, the cham often broke or became dislodged, rendering the gun inoperable. And 'if one 10s'I: the spanner, there was no way mD. to wind the mecharusm=-onee more the gun 'W,as rendered useless, except as .at rather elaborate truncheon.

Though tile wheel-lock mechanism had the ccmplexity of clockworks it was still vasUy superior to the matchlock, if for no other reason than Us

adaptablllty as a small sidearm. By the late 161h centul:")I' the pistol was born.

The wheel-lock pistol reigned supreme (or more Ulan IDOl years, although mostly among the elite, until the flintlock succeeded it in the latter half or the] 7th century. Sturdier, simpler to build, and far less costly to manufacture, the flintlock could be regarded as the firearms equivalent or Henry Ford's Mode.1 T, bringing the pistol within the reach ef allmos~ every man or woman. By the Ume of the RevolutioIl, the mintloclk. mechanism had become the standard .of the world. Alongwlth the trusty Pennsylvania longrlfte

This is a rare c.18IDO.:11840

swive I-barrell ninUock featuring iron fllmiituf!e. Ma:sler ,gunsmit'h Ileonard Day IJleproduced .he earllif' multiple-shot pi.stol design fronil an orl:gi 11'1 all gun. The swlvel-barJlell design wa,s used 011'11 both ri'lles and pistol.s, aillowing a quick follow-up shot Iby rolaling the :second barrel Into Ibattery~ The lPisto~1 is shown wiU'Ila repriodudio:rll map' hom Ihailld-~a.rv'ed by horllsmilh Sl:even Slhroyer.

The c·ornt'inuingl 'ev,olutmon D'I.he' pistol saw the Ipr'ogressioli'll (J'I.he' flintlock into U1e perclLllssion Ilock in tlhe early 19th cenhllry: Plc'tl!lred are ,an engr,B1!redl flill1t!oock Iplstol and lePag:e pereuaslon pis.toL lIallan gunmake;r D'a,vide, P'eders.olli !handcrafted both reproduc1llons"

20 Metullic Carh·idge Conversions

(and shnllar designs), the flintlock pistol helped American patriots win theirfreedom, f1iring one of these spectacular pistols today is another page right out of history.

The earliest flintlock designs, appeared around

16,15 but did not become widely accepted until the mid-11th cemury, The Illntloek uUHzed a simpter, more robust firing mechanism actuated by the' cock, which held ,(II piece or flint between U,s jaws. Unlike the wheel-lock. whleh spun the serrated wheel to

createa spark. the moUock hammer sh:nply feU against a metal leaf call-ed a. frlzzerr, creating, a spark with the mnt that igruted Ithe powder in the flash pan and thus the charge within the barrel. U was almost foolproof and far easler to operate. A'll one had to do was load lt, prime the pan aad, when ready, thumb back the hammer and pull the trigger.

The design proved quite versatile and there were many variations, including side-by-side doublebarreled pistols, and innovative swivel-barrel examples, proViding a quick Ioltow-up shot by rotating a. second barrel i.n~o battery. The firing mechanism could also be scaled down, allowing a d~versily of pistol [rom long-barreted, large .. caliber examples to small pocket pistols easily concealed in a waistcoat, For nearly two centuries the fli.ntJock remained unsurpassed until the Reverend Alexander Forsyth missed his dinner ... quite: _ileraUy.

An avid hunter and sportsman, Forsyth had grollVn frustrated with flintlocks, which while

eEfident, had a :momenta:ry delay from the ignition of the primer to the actual discharge of the firearm, often giving his prey sufficient warning to avoid becomlng the evening's repast, Thus, the good Reverend began development of a more efficient means of igniting the powder charge, and .0 1807 patented both the percussion lock and the fulminating mercury process used 1:0 ignite the powder charge. His idea, however. didn't exactly catch on. It would take more than a decade to perfect the pe:rcus.sion lock and improve the fulminating mercury process. Tile lllntlock would maintain its popularity well into the early ]9;th century.

Historian Kerth R. DUl wrUling :in the August 2000 issue of Man ,at Ar;ms noted, There is hard evidence to support the claim of onmy one gun maker [as the inventor of the percussion cap) Joseph Egg. There are examples fhat may be datedtn 1819, and documentary e .. ridence Indic.ating Ihat he was probably producing the system a year before that. 0111, the case labels that he used In the I820s, the [London gl!] rtghtlully made claim of being 'the inventor of the copper cap. ''''

By the late 1820.s the percussion era was ushered into the fullness of its development. In the end it was

IA. L Mlllllngl:olllDuilt this, 811!1ithentilc reproduction 0": ,011111 'oriiginal Colt. 11860 Army R,j,cihards Type I conlleifsi:on with 1:2· ..

I st,op' ,cylinder; 0. rile of Ule earliest ,of the C.

B. FHchal"ds, patented con cartl'iidge conversions •. AIIiJ ol'i'gillila'llls pictured e'lsewhere' il1l this book.


22' Metallic Cartridge. Conversions

ail so simple, a copper 'cap ccntatntng the mercury fulminate (a gray, crystalline solid), was placed over iii hollow lube and detonated by the im.pact of the hammer, producmg a sma11 flame thatwas sent directly into the powder charge causing almost instantaneous detonation. Taking the idea one step further 'Was Samuel Colt's, patent fall' the Paterson f.v~shot revolver in 1836 (with production beginn'ing the rollo'Wimg year in Paterson, New Jersey), The pistol had finally come ot age.

AJthough the Paterson and am Colt's first firearms manufacturing enterprise both failed, his second attempt in 1847' built upon the shoulders of the now legendary Wall<.er .44 caliber revolver made f·amous in. the war • .... ith Mexico, launched both Colt's and America on the road to an industria] revolution within the firearms i.ndustry.

By the beginning or the American Civill. War in 1861 the Colt's Patent Ftre Arms Manufacturing Company had created an entire range of revolvers" from s.mal1-caJii)er pock:et-s.ized pistols to the mighty Al4caliber Oragoons (successors to the 18417 Walker). and the highlyreg.arded .36 'caliber 1851 Navy and .44 caliber 186'0 Army, the principal sidearms or the u.s .. mUitary th.roughout the Civil War.

Sam Comt may have perfected and patented the design lor the revolving ,cylillder pistol, but he wasn'I alone in the American f.rearms business; he was instead the catalyst :for an emerging industry that flourished throughout the 19Lh century,

Among; CoU's most successlnl contemporaries was E. RemIngton '& Sons in mOl1l, New York. A:fter tile Colt's patent ~OT the revolvmg cylinder expired. Reffilington lntroduced tlhe revolunonary m 8S8 New

Model Army in .414 caliber and lighter .36 caliber Navy version. The Remmgton revolvers featured a sohd

top strap and a fixed (threaded) barrel, providing greater' strength and ease 01 operation compared to Colt's wedge-pinned barrel and open-top design. which by l,sSS was now almost 20 years old. One could change out a Remington ,e:ylinder In seconds, lIiIrHhout having to remeve the barrel, The topstrap added s1i:rength to the frame. and above all else, the threaded Remin,gton barrels assured greater' accuracy. In the heat of battle, a Colt barrel wedged too HghUy could ea:sUy bind the cylinder. Colt nevertheless remained the dominant American pistol or the Civil War era, and \YeU into the postwar move west in the Iate 18605 and early 1,870s. For more than 35 years the percussion revolver, either manufactured by Coli's" Remington, or othersvboth here and abroad, remained the dominant design ..

By the late 1.860s, the black powder pistol had come a long way from the prtmltlve l'6th century whee:n-lock, bllltill many ways, it had remained much the same for neady 300 years, requirtn:g three indivi.duall elements in order to functkm; powder, ball, and a means 01 igniting the charge, The advent of the metallic cartridge, which combined an three components Into one, hastened the beginning of a new era in American firearms tnanufacturtng,

As the American frontier opened up ill the postCivil Wa:r period, the cartridge pistol become a means by which one could aUord self-proteetlcn through the 'concealment of a chargedand readied sidearm. The pistol could be easily retrieved and in time nf need was the great equalizer 0.1 both man. and beast.

Beginning in

1847 Samuel CoU broughl. the percussion pistoll irnto the 'fuUness of i.ts d.eveIDpmernt. CoWs prodl!Jced a wide' val'iiety et black IPowder rel/olvers betweenUJ47

alnd 18'13, which lincluded the' massrse .M c.alilbel" 1841 Walker (top lell andi going cOllllnteli clockwise') .44 ca'liber Fiirst. Second and Third Model D,ragoolll s, the' f,iv,e-<sliilo:t. 36 call ber 1862. Poc'ket POlice', .3,1 calliiber 184JB IBab, Dr,agoolll, and .. 36 caliber 11862 P'QckeIINa .... y" .. 44 caliber118BO Arlmy with reba,ted cylililder or Iluted cyliliilder, and the' .36 eallber '1861 'Navy~andl 185i1 NaV}!;llhe Ilattler four becoming tlile Ipriincipal .sidea.rms of the Unlcn 'Io,rces duri'ng Ille Civil War.


Early Deoelopment of the Metallic Cartridge

in Europe and the United States

The American Civil War-' .

A for Better Weapons

Although Colt and Remington percussion pistols were regarded as contemporary firearms 1111 the Untted tates, cartr1dge-fir:ing revolvers had been in use throughout Europe since

the 18405. And the metallic cartridge itself was even older,

The first record dates back to 1812: when Swi,ss inventor Jean Samuel Pauley received a patent fOil" a self-contained, sen-primed" centerflre metalllc cartridge .. Four years earlier Pauley had applied for another patent, this covering the design (or the first in-line rUle, whicn he improved upon in 1812 with the introduction or a breechloader. A gunmaker named Johann NiWaus von, who, apprenticed under P,alJley fflom 1.808 to 18]4, further' improved the inltne concept \Y:ith his1838 patent lor thetumbolt rille, which evolved into the well-known Prussian

eedlegun a decade later. It was this design upon which German gunmaker Paul Mauer based his celebrated Model 180 8 turnbolt cartridge rifle .. The pioneering Mauser design was adopted by the German military in 1811, and provided the leundatjon ~or the celebratedm900 Spril11gfield.

By the mid 18405, rlmftre cartridges were ill common use throughout Europe and ill 1854, the first centerflre or central. flre rounds were produced. However, :illl 1843 a third type of bullet had been invented in France by gunmaker Casimir Lefaucheux (pronounced iue-foe-SYOI+'), and it had become exceedillgly popular in Europe and the United Slates by the 180605. It was klllown as the Lefaucheux plnftre whicl1literally meant that a firing pin was, eontained \'lithin each indjvJdua] bullet! The operation was quite clever .. The hammer Iell on a cartridge pin


I'nventor Ro'lIi'n White was ,origlnaJIy a 'Colt employee, however, wlh.en he approached Samue. CoWl wHhllhe idea 'ror 1he bomd-lhmug;h cylinder Colit showed litHe interest. White I!eCelved a pa'ent for his irnventionl on Aprll13, 1855 Bnd '0111, November '111, '1856 he s .gnedl an agreement with Horace SmHh and Danlem B. Wesson gr,an1iin,g SBlW an ex:cllusi ... e l'I'celilse' to'IU;se 'bored-tlilrough cylilldeltS In its. products. '()P,~oto, courtesy IR. L Wilson)

2:6 Me/allie Cartridge Conversions

R. WltIT,B.


P&h,D t,ed Ap'Y. 31 1866.

extendillg above the rim or the , through at notch, the pin ill tum struck a. percussion cap inside the chamber,ed round, ignitrung the powder. While very effective, each Lefaucheux bullet was a very live round and 11. was in one's best mteresf never to fumble or drop a ptnftre cartridge!

Lefaucheux's ,son Eugene was the lirsM. to ,adapt the pmhre cartrtdge to a revolver and his French patent (AprIl 15, 18S4) fOIJ" the bnred-through cylilndel'

preceded Ronin White's by a. full year, The Lelaucheux revolver wars a superior design to the contemporary ca.p..and-baU percussion arms being used by the American military in the 1860s, and was often preferred by both Union and COnf,ederate troops. 1m Europe title Lelaucheu» pistol had been adopted by the French Navy in 1858, Sweden and SpaID Ifollowed suit in 1863 and orway il1.864.

The mandate for better arms during the Civil War led President Abraham Lincoln to. commlssion Marcellus Hartley. <II partner in the New York firearms importing firm om Schuyler, Hartley & Graham Co. to supply the Union Army with French Lelaucheux pistols and pinfire ammunition in 1862. The Urnion Army received 1.900 Letaueheux pinfil'e revolvers through Hartley and purchased another 10,000 under direct contract during the war. The Confederacy was aliso purchasing: Lelaucheux revolvers, aJong with a. small number of percussion LeMat revolvers, also produced in France and refitted to chamber pinfire cartridges, From 1861 to 18'65 the Conlederate Stales ot America purchased as many as 2,500 Lefaueheux revolvers, which became the fourth most commonly used stdeann throughout the Civlil War, surpassed only by the Colt, Remington, and Starr percussion plstols. Between the North and South more than 1,000,000 pinfilre cartridges werealso ordered during the conlllct, the largest single requlsltlon for metallic cartridges throughout the CIvil War.

Maroellus, Hartley handled the :majorUy of Umon requisitions ior JL,e~auche!Ux revolvers and p,infire cartridges. A ,key lig:ulJre in the American fi.reanms industry o( tile 18605 (importing, Ilinfire arms and


~,. "u'"

""y.;;. ...

. ft".,3-r

J-.-""-" -

__ ~ __ UL' !....T.;:_ _

a,mmunil:ion before, during, and after' the war). he was also responsible for establishing the Union Me~,alUc Cartrldge Co .• whkh was one 0:( only three American [:i["ms knovm to have manufactured and marketed pinfire ammuniflon in ,any ,quantity. Because 'Or the availability of ammunition .in America, the Lefal.n::helllx and other pinfiJl"e revolvers were used longer and more ex:leDsivel,y by Unien forces than im the Southern armies .. [1]

The First American Pistol Cartridge

As 'the 1.1 Southern States were seceding ~rom the Union (1860-61) Daniel B.. Wesson (of Smith & Wesson) was pedecting a self-contalned, .22 callber rim' metallic cartrIdge (essentially the same .22 caliber short iJ'"im~ire build still used~oday), for whtch S&W received a patent in 1860. Wes.sonand his partner Horace Smith had also wisely acquired the

Eugene Le1auclnel!lx the fi'rs,tto, ada,pt the IPill1 re ,cal1ddge ilnvented lily hts 'Iathe'r CasImir" tn fit a revohler; His, lFl"ene:,1il palent (Apri'1115. il854) lor _he lbor:e~Hhrol.lgh cyHncter p~eceded R:oIIUn White's, by one year, nu,e l'elau~heu.1C revo~lI',er w,as a s'l!lperi:or '10 the c:ontempolalij!' 1l:"~~I'II:dH"aU perc;'II ra,rms Ibelngllused by' 11118 Ame~ican mlltlary, andlihe U~S. Army rrequisitioned than 1 O~OO€J durllngl the CiYI'IWar. lPa,tellll r,eprod]ucedfrom The Pinfire ,system wUb title' pe -1IIl1'ssion of Chris Cur1is)1


28 Mel'aUic Car.tridge Conve.rsions

exclustve r'ights to the UJ55 Romn White patent covering the manufacture of a bored-through cylinder, a design in which Samuel Colt had shown littleinterestl when VVhite (a former Colt employee) first presented it to him .. With the WhU,e patent S&W had an out-and-out mOllopoly wilnin the American fire'arms industry until 1869.

When the extension on Colt's patent fora revolvmng mechanism expired, mith &. Wesson quickly introduced their fjjrst cartridg~riring TevoEv,er in January 1857. The S&W M.ode] No, ID was a. 7-shot, .2.2 caliber rimfire pocket pistol. An improv,ed Second Issue model was mtroduced illl 1860., by whk:h time S&'W had sold more than IJ,OOO cutrldge revolvers ..

Tine Smith & Wesson revolvers becameextremely popular during the Civil War, however their small caliber prevented them from being approved for miHtary use by the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, even though S&W had added a I.arger six-shot •. 32 eahber version, the Model No .. 2, in 1.86,1. The mediumframe Mode.! No.2, with either a 5- or l6-inch barrel, was in such demand throughout the war that the lactory had a three-year baddog of' o!"ders! Officers and infantrynlen [requently carried the No.2 as a. back-up pistol. Between 1861allld 1.874 a total of 77.155 were built.

The considerable numb!" of cartridge-firing revolvers used by both sides during th,e Cid. War contributed to a Dumhem' o:r patent .infringements involving Smith & Wesson and Rollin White. The 'White patent, hewever, <could not restrict the i.mport of European cartridge-fi.riJ1lg firearms,. Ums french,

Dritis.hI and Belgian manufacturers produced the: majority of cartridge pistols. seen in America between IS6n and 1871.

New Orlealiils ph(ysilc'ialiill Dr •. Jean Allexallllcire Francois LeMlat" who Ihadlmnoved to the United States from IFraliil'ce in 1843., desigrned the LeMal. percuss'lon rev,ol:v,er. Developed prior to tine Ci,villl War; title Ilarge nine-shot J!l,ls1iol (with a grapeshot barrell undernea,tJh) was produced for tli1e' Gon':ederate Army in liiege., Paris, and London between 1,8<62 and 1865 .. Approximately 3,000 were buiilt" a IPortion of which were ,converted lin France to accept Ihe pinfire cartridg;e. (Photos by Terry liremewan from the Lalil'Y 'Co:rnpe.3J!I.II collection)1


!Here Is a ra~h;ell' ernlnous view a" 31 10-slttot Lefaucheux, revolve!'. The .arge loadingl 'gate opened at the 'lop right (small lab) ,and allowed 'for theeasv ejection of spent carllridg:es ami rapldllDadil1g. 'The ejet::tor can be seen attached to the trame and dll'iecUy in tllolilt of the top chamber.,(Photo byTemry Tl"elill,ewanfirom the Larry Compeau collectiolll)'

30Melafll~c Cartridge Conversions

The most common infringemelill.s of the White patent were lor smai1-'Caliber revolvers sunllar in appearance to the S&W Model No. 1 and .Model No 2; the most \vell-lmown or which were the .22 c,aHber

Fourth Model, pocket pistols manulactured by AUen & 'Wheelock in Worchester. Mass., a variety of 8m,aUcaliber pocket models developed by Bacon Arms Co. in Norwich, Connecticut, the rather prolijlc and

The Iletauebeux pistol was Iproduced in ,8 nl!ilmber o,t 'Il8riationls. The' re,xam;ples p'lctured are c:lnlambel"edl f(!ir 12mll11 pln1lre' ca,rtrldges. (Photo llylierlT'Y' Tr,emewBnho,1lfl the Larry COll11pea,u c,o'II~,tiDn)


The ILefaucli!eulC pinfh'e' was all intelr'esting alrternarttive 10 the' earlry rimflre and oenterlfire, metaltle calf1ridg;e. The' pln is, ,c:learliy shown on this 12,mm r,oulAd.When struck by tihe hammell'" the pin hit the pe:r,cllI.s:siion cap writlhirn the cartridge igniting iUhe pO'Nde,r: ,(Photo by Tenrv Tremewan from 11i1e Larry COrJlilpea.u collection:)

3,2 Me.fall'ic Cartridge Conversions

blatantly copied S&W-s~yle spur-trigger, tip-up models produced by Manhattan Fire Arms Manufacturing Co. 01 Newark. New Jersey, and the .32 caliher S.A. Belt and Pocket Pistols bumiby Lucius W Pond o~ Worchester. Mass. There were, however" many similar designs throughout the ea:rly 18'6'tlls produced brieny by American manufactures Like F. Dr. Bliss (1863-1864), Gross Arms Co. (1864-1866), E. A. Prescott (186~-1863) James Reid (l813]-1865), Springfield Arms Co. (1863),

and Wm. Uhllnger (1861-1865).12/

The most advanced of all Americall cartridge revolvers was the Moore .. 32 caltber riffilfire model, an origtnal and unique design that had the mtsfortune of firing metallic cartridges loaded at the breech, which consrltuted an in[ringement of the. RoHi:n White patent

The Moore':s, Patient Firearms Co. of Brooldyn, New York, introduced its Single Action Belt Revolver in 1861 bol: the follmvillg year lost a patent in~ringement


This rare Louis 11. INimschk.e engraved S8tW Mode'l No.2 lis fitted with ,pear. steeles, INol'e the orijglnal ammo bO'll of ,.32 caliber rimfiilr,e cartriidges.. WiI'd Bill Hickok was ,carrying a Model N:o., 2 the day he was murdered! in Deadwood, South Dakota. [5] {'Roger Mucke,rhaid'e Coillaction)

Deluxe em'be'llishll1ent: by Loui's D.

Nlmschke, the chief' engraver fOIr Schuyller, Hartley and Graham of New York City, was a halhnark of

Man, Smith & Wesson and c'on revolvers produced from the 18505 IlIIIJlI' lu.~iI '191)01.

34 Metallic Cartridge Conuersions

suit wH:h Smith & Wesson and Rollin White. ][1 1862 they had brought. thei]" case before IDe court ,against IIDI;[[macture:rs (Manhauan in pa:rticular)and mstriblJltors of Smith &: Wesson copies and ~6rearms U1ti] bored-ttm:mgll1l eyllnder to fire metallic cartridges. S&W ~hen agreed to buy outrig,ht tile inventories oJ several companies that had lost the court battle, .arnonglliem. Daniel Moore"lIivho sold S&W 3,2909 afhis S.A. Belt Revolvers in ) 863. 1'he last examples bui~twe:r;e marked MF'D FOR SMITH &:

WESSON. Allol:.her 4,880 revolvers were purchased frow Lucius W;Pond; 1,4)'37 from. James Warner; and U24 from Bacon Mamllactlllring Co. 13}

The best however was the :Moor:e, a mediumframe, seven-shot revclver wjth a sYring-oun cylinder and barrel A lever at. the back o.f the recoil sfusidd released the mechaeism allowing both the cyHnder and barrel to pivot to the right, clearilllg the recoil shield and permitting the loading and unloading of each chamber. The latter ~,a.cilitated by a hand-heldextractor rod stored ender the barrel (similar to old Uintlockpisfol rammers), GiVIEIl the period, this W<liS Oil well conceived and emdent means or the loading and un:ll.oading problems associated with early call'tr.idlge-~irillg revolvlers. Although limited in production, the Moo:re became at

LlUcius W. P·ond. was one of'marry AI1I1.erican gunl11lakers who decided te 1:estth.eFil1o'llin Whi.l:e pate/nt: in 1861 ... The, .3.2 c:al:ililell' P,Dlild sing/Ie action pocket (pieIUtted) and belt: mlodels were pwdllJ)cied untiil 1862. After famng in a patent.'lent batl!le' with S&Vrl" P·orna :sold t:he remainirng irnventory lof 4,486i g:ul1Is to SI.W. The' revol''Je'rs were them li!I1'illrkea MAINUF'O [FOR S·MllHi &: WESS,QI:II PA:r'D. I(GUI'll courtesy The· Horse SoUder,. iQeHysblil.~g ,P,en n .. )


Allotiher ma'ke thai felll ulildell' the S8cW and RomnWhiite pateliltwas the' Preseo", which again was quile. diH'e.~el1it 11111 d)esfgrn from the Smith ,Si Wesson models, butsfilJ :s,ub.ieot to. Ihe iinfringement suit.

Produced brY E. A. IPrescoH of Wo'rclilestell'. Mass. "',[Iiml 1,e61 to 11863, the six-shot lITledium-frame' Ir,evolver was, ,chambered for .38, ICBlliber rilmfire making lit. a lIiI10rre potent weapon. 'Both lrcn- and brass-firame mod'e'ls,were usually fiHed w th a 7-112·lncih octag,onall barrel. Olldy,a few hundred 'were

produced be,fo:~e the S&''W suit haillted manufactlllring. (Gun , The Horse SoHder,

,36 Melaftie Carl.ridge Conversions

popular stdeann among Urn on troops.

Rollin White. the man who held the patent lor the breech-leading; boredLth:rough cylinder, .also produced a revolver beginning in 1861, which happened to closelyresemble the S&W Modell 0.1. Built in LoweU, Mass .. , the seven-shot, .22 caliber (pocket pistols were marked MAJ[)E FOR SMITH & WESSON. BY ROlLIN \VHITE ARMS CO. LOWELL MASS. The cyUnders ,. ere stamped with both the WhAle patell t date and White pistol patent date', PATENTED APRlIIL 3. 1855 DEC. 18. [860.

Despite the prolific number of cawtridge-firi.lJlg revolvers .mported from Europeand manufactured in the United States by Smith .& Wesson and its vartous imitators, throughout the Civil War the loose-powder,

patch, cap-end-ball percussion revolver remained the dominant sidearm ot rne Union and Confederate b-ces, as well as the majorily or dvilians on both sides of the conllict. By 1868, however" the true heirs were about to set Ioot upon the stage as the Romn Wbite patent neared the end o( its 14,-:yea:r duration.

Coifs and Remingtolll had been marking time for mere than a. decade, neither willing to challenge S&W and White. Following Samuel, Colt's precedent. with the revolving cylinder. White had applied for a. patent extension in 1868 but the Commissioner of Patents hadrefused !his request. WhIte then appealed to Congress which drafted a Bill CS-21'3)"AII1 act for the r,elief or RoilIin White" that passed both houses but was returned IllIlJIs,igned by President Ulysses S.

Most American gl.mmak.ers blatantly copied the, S8c,W design, whereas Daniel NIcolle came u,p, wilth an orl'glililal ,and ill1lnovati\le c.:llrbiidge' Irev,oflJer ln 1861, a medium-frame, seven-shot, .32 caliber rnimfilTe' mooel with a s.wililg-oU1 cyl'lnder and barrel cOIll1'birnaUol1'. ft, II ever at: the Iback of the recoill sihield Iml'eased the mechanism all'owing both the cylind'el" and barrell to pivot to the right, clearing ttterecoil shield and pernlliHing the I'oading and unloading of each clilamber. A hal'1d~hel~d ejector 11'00 was ,stored Wilder Ihe barrel (similar to old 'mnlloc:k p'istol ramll1ers:). Alter I:os'ing a patent infringell1ent suit wiith SI,W Moore sold 'them 3,299 Df' his revolvers i'n 11863.l'he last: eX3l11illliles twilt wer,e marked N'lf'O FOR SNlI1iIH ,& WESSON. Quite a few welle pUlChased by Union offfcers ,duringl the Civil War. (Siun cOlllrtesyThe Horse Solider, Gettysburg, ~e,nn.)


The' lirsl: :S80W models were alII Up~up desiigns, wUh the barrel latched to the frame atHle boUom, of the !barrel Iu,g, and IliiIing:edl at the fo'rw,am end iQf the ~opstlrap."rhe bal'ire. W,BlS rel'easedl by pushing up on the latches it then tillted up and Ihle cylinder was Il!lIIoved to I,oad and l!.Il1Iload. {R,oger Ml.lckerlne,ide Collectiorn)

Tlhe f'il~st :S&W lrevolversf,eatlilred a 1II11i1ique '·tlP'"'up" barrel desIgn. fhe Ibarre:1 'was piYot,ed upward, ,and tlile' cyilirnde,r removed fll'Om UI,e base pin for loadin,9land unloading.

It iis aa,s, to see I'iI,QW Innodels lik,e' '1I1e' Mooree, 'with at s,w'i'ng out cylinder' fO!' loa:ding and unloading, were far Isuperio'r i!lil desigliil.

,38 Metallic Cartridge Conoersions

Grant_l41 White's .failure to get an extension opened the Iloodgates for the develepment of both the metallic cartridge and breeeh-loadmg revolver, Colt's

and Remington were about to add a new chapter to the story D( the handgun.

[Ii The f'infire S},Slieffl by Gene Smith and Chris CurUs,. 1981. Gene Smith li"ublications.

i[2~ f<1aydermatl ~s Guide to Antique Ame.riCI1R Hrearms. 7th Edition. by Norm F1Iayd'erman, 19!18. Krause Publications.

[31 A StI1~ of CoJI CofllJefSions o.n.d OJl'ler Pen:ussioo Reoolue.t:S by It Bruce McDo~'eI.~. 1991, Krause Pul:JliCil~ions.


[Sl They Canted Him Wild Bill by Jose pia G. Rosa

Here is a Firsllsslkle S8JW No, .. 1 .'22 calliber rimlife revolllell" wUh iillory stocks and nickel finish. The seven-shot 11410.1 made an Idea'i IPoc:ket rellohnn:. Title First tssue models are disti'mguished by their roundedflr"ame'" which fbllows Into Ihe strap'. Later' versiill:ll1.s, known as the Second Issue revolver had nat sides and a dlslim::Ulle rim ,above tihle grips. '(Roger Muckerheide Coillectiorn)



Patent V·S •. Patent

Colt, Remington., Sm.ith & Wesson, and Rollin White

51 aml.ilel Colt hail no idea what he had done when he turned down RollJilli While's otler tor the patent rights to the bored-through cylinder, nor would he ever: CoWt died on January 10, l862, never to know the outcome of the Civll War, or the Importance of the metalli.c cartrldge. The Colt's Patent Hre Arms M.anufaduring Company, however, would suIfer the can sequences af his decision long after tile conflict had ended,

Followin.g the Civil War,. COIIt's and Remington found themselves, \vith anabundance of surplus capand-baJJl revolvers, Colt's in parncusar, having been the primary supplier of arms to the U.S. military.

As firearms technology advanced b'om the capandJball revolver to the beginning .o~ the metallJic cartridge era Inthe late 1 860s,. this precipitated a need to move inventories of percussion arms that

were fas~ becoming obsolete, It 'was .ollly now that Sam Golt's unjortuaare decision began to wei,gh in.

Historian R. L. WUson notes, that two seminal events led to the advent of the metallic c.artridge revolver in America, "First, was the expiration of the Colt's patent for the mecharncallily revolved cyllllder, ""hich had prevented .any other American gun manufacturer from producing revolvers until m851. Second was the 1855 Rollin White patent for the bored-through, breech-loading cylim:il,el'; aCJI1uired through exclusive license by Smith & Wesson in November I 56."

When the Colt's patent expired, Smith & \ essen, Remington, and other American manufacturers immediately began producing revolvers, however, no one but Smith & Wessolland Rollin White could legany manufacrure cartridge-:firing revolvers utilizing


The' 'c. B.Filichards patel1rt fo'f' the Coli 18611 AI'II1il)' cartridge c:onvelTSion dated J'liIly 25,18711. Inventor Charles, B. Rjchards was a prolilllinenl Co'll rem;ployee who was responsible "'or a nwmber of designs il1lclwdlng tJhe Co'lt Open Top, Clo';i!er lea,t, and New 1lI111e

pockel pistols.

C. B.Rie:luJrd.,." hlljJ/~ in. Aero/reFs.

F..f! e 11 748 J Dirll)-mr JlIL?5 18'a I

42 Metollie Canrid'ge Conoereions

W. M~,SIHt.

empro\tomo'R'1 in Rnohil!g Finll.j\rrms"

Mo" 128,64,4,_ P.I .. I.~.hh2.1U2.

Fig. 6-1

.... ,

($) "£!TI,':-'-m;""""'~~~t),j

fo'llowinglthe R'lc'haro's l)!pe Jl design, which swirtchei!J' hom a breech ring~lIl,ounted rebounding tiring pln, 1'0 a hammer-nloulilted tilring pin, Willi'am Masol1 designed a Inew and less costly means of atta:chlng Ihe ejector ,assembmy to E:he Ibarrel

a breeeh-loading, bOl"ed-tb:mugb cylinder. Thus as One' hand was, untied, tbe otherwas bound.

The vari(JMS aUempt:s during IDe Civil War to sidestep the patent were ql.licidy Ulwuned by S&W and White who, as pointed out in theprevious chapter; aggressively pursued all vlolators, A.s a

l'eSIIU, the design and development 01 c,3Ittri,dge-firing revolvers produced in America up until ) 869 was fraught with lega.l battles over patenL infringements, the.reby stining; theprogress I)] the metallic cartridge [or more than a decade. This ,of course, begs the question, "Why didn't Smith & WesSOIil make

Halving ,agreed to pay a S~ pel' glum royalty to S&W, IRelll'il1gtol1i was licensedl'l(l pr,Qduce a ,cartrjdge ,conversion revolver in 186£1, a year befo:r,etlil.le ,expira:UQn of the Rollin Whil:e'patenil. Tli'le eal1liest models, built 0:111 the 1858 AI1I1i1" were ,con.\rE!lrllledIO Ifi r,e 'live, ,,46 ca~iI}er !"ilnt,ire carll"lidges. These early m,ode1ls did l'Ult have e~ectors,. As pari! of the ,a.greel'll.ernt: with S,&W'iIt wa.s required tihat !tile Mioml'! White patellrt date' Ibestamped on aU

IFllem il1lg~oI1l co:rwwe.rsiio n Icyl i'nders. ~J. I)., IH'of'er Collection)


EJ!F1.un;. -,iirwl'~

..tfj ... .,._ ~...s;-j." ..... --:

signific,am.t lmprcvemenrs in cartridge revolver desjgns between 1857 and 18691"

Throughout the Ci vi II War S&W was barely able to keep up with the demand for the .22 and .32 caliber models it had Introduced between 1851 and 186.1 and no new designs were introduced. But there was much im the works!

Smith & Wesson continued to dominate the smallcaliberr market while introd1Jlcing the landmark.44 caliber Model Number 3, A1m.erican in l870. It was followed by the model .44 Russian, the legendary

Coit's management had decided not to the S&W ,and Rollin Whl:te' pa~el1lt. which had been 'lIi,goIlOIiISly enforced since' 1186,1, however, in an eHorl '10 compeite within ·the, emer,glng metallic caritridg'e mark,e-f, Colt"s I'ntrod'ueec:l thenlll.ler In Septe:mbe'r' ~,Ba8\. Oll'~ginally based on the 1860 ,Army, the' standard pereusslen IcyHnd'er was removed and re;placed by a breecll'l;plale and new ,cvl'i'nder. The buUe1s were then in.serted in ,conventiona.1 cap·and~ ball f,ashiol'll :and pressed into eacliil cll1al1lbe'r with the Iloading lever. ~IRoger IMuc'kerhelde ColI:ect~oll1i)


Colt's ,exlperimental deparbnent was at work Olil ca1rtriidge conversion designs befolie the' 'Wlli.,e pallenl expi'red. Pictured alre predecessors tOI the 'first production models il1llrodl!llc1ed illl 11871, an expel'lmentall1651lNavy (top:) and an 1811-'72 Open Top. Bo'll1 designs util[zed a deeply Ichanne'led ,recoil :sl'lle'ld" tllile NallY was, lifted wltih an ellperim,entalloadlrlQI gate' and ejectDr assembly. John Ill" Hegeman ,Jr. 'Io:rmerly ,owned botll e:xalmp~le's" (IPhoto c,oUlrtes'y A. L Wilsoll)

Schofteld and lmprovedNew ModeJ umber ,3, aU of which featured S&W's pioneering top-break design and automatic cartridge ejector,

For Colt's, the period from 18S5 to 1 69' was an interesting turn oJ events, The HarUord. Cenn, Arms maker was now the one on the recetvlng end otan unbreakable patent, Just as Samuel Colt had prevented any American company from manufacturing 'revolvers until his patent expired, Smith & Wesson, and 'E. Remmgton & Sons (through a Ilcenslng agreement providmng S&W with a I royalty per gun). were the Oldy U.S. manufacturers legally permitted to build a, breech-loading, cartridge-fi'ring revolver, and Remington wasn't granted rffi,ghts unti] 1868. AsIde lrom the somewhat MachiaveHian approach taken in 1868 by F.. Alexander huer and Colt's to circumvent the legal limitations of the Rollin White patent, Colt' was torced to wait, and did no introduce a brieech-IDoading model until .871.

The Thuer design did not US'E <II bored-through cylinder. Each cartrldge was loaded lrorn the front of the eyllnder using the rammer" as one would have loaded a round lOT conical lead baiL .A similar approaeh was takel1lll1y Pond, alterlostng a patent infringement suit with S&W in IB62. The .22 and .32 caliber rlmfire Pond revolver utilized cham bel" tubes, which were loaded wwth the bullet and lnserted lnto fhe cylinder; There were a number of ,.22 and .32 caUber variations built on the (ront-loading principal duiimg the B860s however, only Colt's managed to offer a large ealiber model, the Thuer Army was a .44.

While Coifs is often attributed with producin,g the first cartrtdge conversions, Remington's licensing agreement under the auspices of title US. Army

Ordnance Department allowed the New York anus maker to precede Coifs in the production of breechloa:dil1lg conversions. This was a signifi.canti head staet, and when one considers the superior design or the Remington revolver, the advantage in the early post~Civi1 War years was certalnly held by


While Colt's biggest competitor was producing the first large-caliber cartridge conversion revolvers in 186S, the Hartford arms, maker was busy developing its own designs. The Thuer patent was dated September 15, 1868. The C.B. Richards patent

Metallic carllridges fer Coils ~and A:ermingtons} were prodlllced by a num'ber of manuf'a.durers, lincludfngl the Winchester Repeatiln,g Arms Company, the UlI'II'itecl Slates Cartridge Company Ih e F'rall'llikrord AlrSren al I AI Pennsvlv,ania, and The IIJnlon Melaillic CartJridge, Company, which was founded by Marceillus HarUey, a partner in Ole NewYiorl!c: firearms ilmportlngl firm 01 Schuyler, IHalrtley ,& Graham [:10.(00'111' ,and Rus,selle IHealll'd Co lIeclion'Jl


48 MetaUic Caf"t~'idge Conversions

for Colt's 1860 .Army" I.IUIJi.zin,g a breechplate with. an inh~'I'1JaJ. r,ebolIlnding firing ~)in, and a complete ejector ,assembly HUed to the ranrmerchaneel, was gral1te,d 0111 July 250, 187 t This became the first prodw:cliiol1l. bl"eecl1-loading cartridgecesreersien model offered by Colt's.

At the same time, Co,I1's introduced the 1811-72 Open Top revolvers. the first all-new 'cartridge-nring models to bear the Colt name. Designed by C. B. Richards. aw1Id WHlJam Mason, the. Open Tops were based! on !the 1860 Army frame bul': FiIU,ed 'with all-m.e'illi' barrels and cylinders.

In 1872 tile William. Mason patenti.for Celt's, "lmprovements in Revolving Fire-Arms," was adopted and made available 01]] a wide variety of percussion models, inc:luding the 1851 Navy and Colt's l862' pockef pistols. However, as Wilsoll so poigna:IJUy notes in The Boo.k of CoN Firearms, "Progress from tile earliest expertments through ~Ilelasti. proceeded so qui,ckly that the Open Top .44 revolvers themselves were obsolete almost as soon as their total number of approoomately 7,,001) hadl:Jeen cempteted, "

The fin",,] evolutten came w'ith the introduction 0;( the [873 Colt Single A'ction Army, cemmonly known as the Peacemaker. fn~e,restil1gly, this is Illot where the story of blac.k powder cartridge converslcns ends=thts is where i.l: begins.

With thousands o~ surplus Col~ and Remington cap-and-ball revelvers and parts on hand, Colt's began converting many of its oWllguns, first to the Thuer, then Richards, and later Richards-l\./Iasol:l designs, Cartridge coaverstens were far more ,affordable than the mew Peacemaker, less than half

the price, and Colt's would cornver; a customer's percussion pistol ~o use metalltceartrtdges jor around S5,.lndependent guasmithswere do'il1g o:uUlve'l'si.ons in the :field as well, j)m'bably lor less. Wilson motes, thai Colt factory reeerds indicate a total ol 46,100 cap-end-ball models, were elrher converted to or built as cartrtdge revolvers" in addttlon to ~hose cenveeted illl the field.

"1111 the 18'10s, there was a growing demand fOor cartrtdgeconversfoas," saysWHsolll. "Signal eveats il1l 11ni,ted States history were the compleHon of the tl'anscontinelltalraiiroad In 1869, the pest-Civil War opening of the Wild West, and the series of Indian Wars waged ill the 1870sil1to the 18905,. The Colt revolver in the hands of s,n1erms .. marshals, outlaws, ,gunfighters, Wells fargo agen.!s, cowboys, ranchers, milllers" sodbusters, and ladians was quickly enshrtaed in Ameri,can f;ol klore, "

Despite the number ,of Celt models on the market, Remington also continued ~:O do quIte well w:itl1lits own coaversi 011 5 for the .44 ca'ljher Army and .,36calibe,r Navy models, along with p>ocket pisto:ls and a handful of ne'i'll small-callber cartridge modeJs built prior to I:heilJl~mdu.cti.OIl of .Remill1glton's, Urst aUIlew, large-caIiber cartridge revolver introduced in 1875. from that point on, the CoIl Single Action Army, 1875 Remington, and S&W SchoHeldwere the three most highly regaededrevclversln Americ.llI ..

The greatest evolution of the black powder pistol occurred bet'iiweenl868 and [873. durillg which time the metallic (:,a:rtridge conversion carne ~.oMI1I,e fore as the most advanced form of personal armameat, Witih the metallic eartndge, it was now possible to reload more quiddy; and shoot with greater relia!bility.

TIl,e 'UI,711-72 Open Top was the true! tral1lsil.lonal model betw,een the'

R leha rd's,- M.ason. 'csrtriidge conversions and the 1873 IPe,aoemaker. Around 1',000 were produced in .44 ,caliber II'lmfl'~e" 1hey ,a,re' leasll, distinguished 13, the' nO'Ilil-rebatedl cyllinder, stralght firame too slep down), and solid 111.191 barrel with rear Sight. (Dow' ,and iR:u,sseUe lH'earo Collect1on)

I(Over LearO

The .46, .44, and .415, caliber' Arllll1,y rev'OIVell'5 we:r,e Ihe mest significant Remington cartridge conversions althe post-CMI War era, Pictured ,ar-a si'l( diHerenl. variaUonis. Movlngl clockwise tl"om 'llhelop .right, a Spriinglield .44 cen'.erfl're ex~perimenlaJl •• 46 caliber rim1ij~e New Model Army:, .44 ca'liber cenlerfire New Model ,Army, a RO'1li1'll While patenlfive-shot •. 45 rlm{lire Ion blip of !hIol:sl:er), a Irn'ic'k.elplated,llve-shot:.44 centerflire'. and a Bea'is ,,44 centertlre, ~,J, D. Boler c.ollre.ctlon}


Remington Cartridge Conversions

From. The Rollin White Patent To The 18705

R emmgttm was one of Amenca's oldest arms makers. founded inm8~6 ~y Eliphatet

, Remlngton, n. The company did no~ at first

l1lanuf;acture guns. only barrels. and did so quite successfuJ~y. In 1828 Remington moved to larger lacmties in Ilion" New York •. ailong. t:he Erie CaIIl;M, .at major' trade route in the 19th century. It wasn't until 18418, following the purchase oithe Ames Compsny of Chicopee, Massadmsletts, that Remmgton produced an entire gun, a breech-loading percussion carbine bunt under centract to the U.S. Navy. It was followed by a contract for S,OO!) 'U.S. Model J841 percussron "Mississippi"l"mes.lll As Eor pistols, l1Ierurl.y a decade 'Would pass berore E. Rem'ington & Sons introduced their first handgun, the RemingtonBeals pocket revolver. patented June 241, 18506 and May 2,6, 1857. Fordyce Beams designed the gun for

Remington and shared not onlythe name but the patent rights as well. Beams would d'esign many .of Remington's most successful models throughout the 1860s and 18705.

It Is worthy of notethat E. Remington & Sons which was headedin later years b:y Eliphalet R!emi.ngton's eldest son, PhHo,f2J prospered well into the post-Civil War era and the American expansion West. but suffered a severe reversal of fortune ill the mtd-I 80s and was forced mto receivership in 18816. The company was reorganlzed two years later as the Remington Arms Company under the contrQI of Marcellus Hartley and the New York sporting good fir:m of Hilirtley & Graham, which had played a sig;rnlf!cant role during: the Civil, War sllIpplying the Union wUh arms and ammunftlon. Remington later merged with Hartley & Graham and the Union


Tihe: ,expell'irrne.l'lltal Sprl'ngfleldl Aril1!lo:rycartliidge ,conversion 01111 the· IR;emingto:n Army' Ii:Itili i2ed a two-piece, 1C:)!1'lrnder (sirrnilarto the type IL!Is'eCli Onl tile sma:IJer-calibel' Remililgt.olil-1R'il!l~el!',. New !Modell Poll'ioe and IN:ew Model .lPcu::~et rr,e'il!o'ivers) ,anC!! was, chambelled fol'

.M centeriljr,e ca.l"tri.d:ges. As showlI11 l'nlli1e cJose-:lIIp,tl1el back ,cap li1a,di six 1lloatirng 1111'111.91 pins a'rnd the cyHnder a,fiI.t!I cap locked ~ogen1.ell' wl~1i'Ii two ·inle.~cornnec:Ungl Ualnges" This is !the' same basic apP]\o· used today by l<iel1ny :Howelll o<f IFI,BlD ', in 'the desigln of his; IR:ellll1lil1 9;lon ,c9!l!1ridge' Ico:n ... ·ersiOI!1l cylirnde;rs. (J. I). H.Dfer C'oHecliol1l)1

5.2 MetatHc COrlfridge Conversion's

Metallje Ca.rtllidgle Company (lol1nde<l by Hartl.ey ,a:fterthe Civil War) beooming Re·mington-U.M,C. in 19:n2. l3J

Introducing its first percussion handgun in ]857, Remi.l1gton had barely getten its feetwe~ in the revc.lver business whe:o the Civil War broke out, Nevertheless, the advanced design of the mS6l Alrm.y Model Revolver andlmproved 1863 New Model Army made them one o~ the most popular stdearms of the Ul1Ii.on forces durlng the war, second only to the Coil 1860 Army.

Always looking :for a. sales, advantage, the New York arms makerproduced one of the very ~irs~ double-aetien revolvers in America, the Remjng~cmRider. 'named after Ohio im.vento,r JoseplJi Rider who

joined the 'company in the late [·8505 .. The Rider pistOl'S., introduced in 18601 were among the earliest to be r.ollveded to fire metalli:c cartrtdges, and the Iirst ca.l"tridge-:iir.irng, double-action revolvers in America.

.More sig;mi[icaJn~, lrJ,owever, was tbe Remingtol1l New Model Atrmy, an impmvemellt of the orig;ina] 1.858 Re'miI1lglon-Beab Army, and the ideal large-caliber revolver for a cartridge converslen. Between ~8'63and ]S7S, more than 120,000 percusston models were produced, ma:rn)1' of which R.emington ceneerted to fire metallic cartridges beginning in 1868. This foll.owedlengthy neg:otiations between S&W and R.em.iDgton. An agreement fi:nalllyr,eacllied in febrl.lllary 1868 witb Remington agreeing' to pay a licensIng fee 01 $1 per gun to S&W .. A total of 4,5.74

Remlngton New M.odd Army percussion models were converted to fi:re the.46 caliber I" metalltc cartridge. S&W sold the majiorUy 01 the guns to Benjamin K.iUredge a wholesale and rela.] :Urearms deajer in Cincinnati, Ohio, who had initiated the request lor the cartridge conversion models through

&Win 1867.

The conversions required the manufacture of a mew cylinder, since six: .46 caHber rounds would nol fit wlthln the diameter ofthe original six-shot percussion cy.inde,r, thereby Tu11hlg out the po.ssibUity of cIJUin,g: off the back and bering the chambers ~hough.The .46 'caliber Remington conversions only chambered Ilve rounds, but they were five big ones.

He:re Is a Reminglto'l1l New ode,1 ,Anny, c. U16H,9 early or nrst cOR1i!'e~siolli withlive--s,ho1: .. 46 caliber' cyilinder. Note (lile U155, Rollin White patant d'ale on the cyHlI1Ider. Tihls was Irequilr1ed a:s, pad of' theaglreemenl: bemeen Reminglmlandl Smith Be. Wesson. (J. D .. IHofer C,oU,eclion:)


A'rIIother If,are modelli:s thle' Beals Remington conu,ersion to .44 caliber centertire. The Be'als d.esign was 'he odgllnal 1i858 A,l1my perc;:,ussi'on liIlode'l of 'which ,apPl"o)('ilnately 1,,900 were ibluilti .. l"he squared shape of t!he Iloadinig lever and German sillver enna front sighl

helps dlstingruish 'Ihe Beals hom I,alel" moders.lln 1870·71 the Or,dll13l1lte Department sold ,appll'Oxlmatel~ 15,,000 sIJliIP'IIJS percuss,iom A'rmy revolvers, some of wh'lcilil wel1e Reml'ngton,·Beals models" later cOlllvel1ed by an independent col1ltra,clor to .44

centelifir,e,. One' '0' the di,s,Unguish'ing characteristics of these non-fact'Dry conversio,ns is that the breech plate is wel'ded to

the ilnside surface ,of the recoil slhiel~d and tlile ,cylindell' has been cui, and a new rear :section welded ol'll.,'The ex,ample ,shown has the number 13 eb:liled iirnto the' loading channel. The reason fDII' thl!s ts unknown. (J., D. Hofer Callecrionl

54 Melal'lic Cartridge Conversions

The back of the frame, where the cylinder butted up aga.inst the recoil shield, was dovetailed to accept a new recoil plate, which was fiUed between the back of the frame and! the cy:lil1lder. and Fastened wifh a small screw. The right side of the r'eeon shield and frame ''iIIore're d,eeplychaorneled to ,a1low the loading and extracting of cartridges, however. there was no loading gate. A slot lim an elector assembly was, dovetailed into the r.ight side of the barrel lug and the ejector housing secured by alonger Ioading lever screw passmgthrough the lug [rom the leU side. The right tab IOf the cylinder pin was also cut on to ,allow

the ejector assembly to Iit, and a slot was cut out of the loading lever t provide a resting place for the Lshaped tiip of the ejector rod. The majority o( ea:r~ .4'6 caljber conversloes, how~ver. were not ritted with cartridge ejectors, Reshaping the front portion of the hammer Into ,8. flring pin cempleted the conversion.

The same basic design was used ror later models chambered to, the new .. 441 callber Martin eenterttre and Remington .45 callber centerhre cartridges. These later designs, introduced in the summer of

1 6·9, were six-shot revclversand offered the cartridge elector. The legendary Bullalo Bill Cody, a

The most successful Qf' \he Remlngton cartridge ponversiana was the New Model AI1m' .44 oenterf!re" The~ later examples. c. 1870, were offered wjth the hand elector. The :frame V>'8S dovetailed to allaw the electOI" assembly to sll(le into place a~d then secured bylhe loading leller screw P8seing through 'rom the 'k!ft side of the fraIR'. A small notch was cut Into the loading rever to anow a rest for the L1, shapiW' tip ()f the ejectat II'Od. All Remington cartridge conversions retained their perclJssion loading levers since It also held the cylinder pin in place When latched. Note the new "plnched"1ront sight, another (llstlhgLlishlngteature althe 1863 Neew Model

Army. (CaMn Patrick Collection) ,

Second fo,tlile Army conve'rsllons in po,pularity were tlile early lNIa,v, and New Mod'ell Na,vy revolve~s" Pictured altha top ~elt Is an 11868

Be,a,ls Nall'Y with two~piece cyllinder chambered for .SiB rillilfirej on the Rel1lili.ngton advertisementl'or the .38 calilbe.r r,imfire is. ,all1lengrravedi

N'ew Model' Na'VV; to the Immediiate r~ghl an O:h:iI Model N,al\l'y' c. 1870·711 converted flO .38 cenlerlilre and sl:lOwi11 gl the Iloading ga1:e' opened;

and at tihe far rllght a ;pri'Wate' BIrIIDOry' converslcn 'of an ea,ly IBeals INavy chambered for ~38 centerfire with the breech ring

wel:ded to the' 'cylinder; pnsslbly done al UleWhilneyviUe .Armorv this model has, mo, ei,eclol" land nle recoil shle.ld is n,at c:ha'rnneled, "!hillS Iltle cylIIndel" would have to be relmoved fa:r laa,dlng ,alnd unloading. {J" D. !MIofer CollecUolll)

56, Metaffrc CQnridge Conoersiens

crvilian working as an Army scout during the Indian wars (\\Vhosevalor earned him the Medal iQf Honor in [,872) helped 11:.0 make the Remington .414 one of the most lam.ous revolvers in Ameri1ca, claimin,g that, "'It never failed :me. "141

Remington's New Model Navy was the next percussion revolver to get tlilJe cenversion treatmeut

beginning in 1872-73. It was chambered for either .38 rim1.mre or .38 centertire cartridges. The NaV}' was also the first model to come standard 'with both a loading gate and cartridge ejecl:or.

just as Colt's W.a:s doing in the early 1810s, Remmgton produced both new conversions whil.e modlly'lng older percusslon models sent to the

The New Miodel Na,vy was the, fi~stfaclOIft'y cQlilversion to fea,ture al.oa:dlng gate,.,Tlhe IN1a,yY breech rings were Rlucll widell' than 'Ihe' ,Alrmy oonversi~orns and extended into l'Ie onlglnal c~lIlld'er opeliling. Tbe New Model Navy oOIil,ve'rslons had a channeled recoil slniel'd, allildl rec'la.ngl!lla.r s,loHed 'c!{linder stops, 'whereas earUeli ·Iiil.onfl:u:tory Model UI:6~ INallY ctOrlfliersions li!Iad l'ectan!!ll!l'lar cylinder stops, tlilin breeclll plate,s and Illtll' loading 9:a'l8. AI,SiO note tll,e Ull'ing and saJety lIlol:c'hes at the bac!k: aftlile cylinder. ,(J., 11i),. Hofer Colle;ction)

Here Is a trio of' Rellllirn,gton INlall!ll' CIOl1,v8I1's,io.rn$ showIng hYD-iP'lece cyfinders, 811'1 englrSI'Jed New Model Navy I(with loading gate and ,eject.ol"}, allld the' rara Bea'is con",erslon. (J. 0'. Hoter C~o'llec'tiollll)


The New MlodellNavy I desi~gnleatllred a hiinged loading gale w'ilh a s:p'ring latch Ipln tnet locked IntO' the top of the breech riing.

Close-up of the ,early IBeams INavy' shows, detail 0" the breech rlmg 'Welded 11:13, the cylinder. Tille hammer faoe Ihas been modilled for cernt.edlre carrt:ridges. '!Jel]' feW' examples of' the' Bea'ls N'avy we~e' conllerte.d to use' centerfire metallic, cartridges. {J. D. Hofer Col action)1

5 Metallic Cartridge Conoetsions

factory by the mlhtary or owners. Jn 1875, for example, the U.S. avy contracted to have 1,000 New Model avy percussion, rievolvers used during the Civ:il War returned to Remington for converston to.38 cenrerflre, The 'cost of converting the Navy models 'Was $4.25. each. including new grtps and reltnlshmg,

Following the Civill War, Remington Introduced a, number of new percussion models" among them the New Model Pollee revolver and ew Model Pocket revolver, cn .36, caliber and .31 caliber; respectively Along with thee Rider, ,aU oj the new 1~:Istols were offered wHh factory cartridge conversions, though many were also built inUially as cartridge revolvers,

The New Model Police was chambered for .38 :rlml:ire, the New .Model Pocll' revolvers (designed by Fordyce Beals) for ,,3,2 rimfire, Both could be converted back to percussmn pistols bychangmng cylinders, 1P'lfOviding greater versatility than Cok's models, once converted could not be with a. percussion cylinder.

Remtngton's approach to the conversion of Us percussion revolvers was consider,aMy more di.Vlfrse than Colt's, which had t,aken omfy one course of action wiith the C. B. m.cllards, and WiUi,am Masoo. deslgns.

A Two-Part Solution to Cartridge Conversions,

Remington utUized several! different methods, one of which follow'ed three influential British designs, ~:he C .. C. Tevts patent (1.856) J. Adams patent (L8S1) and W. Tranter patent (1865), all of which made use of a split cylinder: This I"eq U1! red cutting off the 'back portion of the cylinder below the percussion nipples,

/h//I /1

... ~. "
L'~. -e
~ .. -I' IlLaw' ando,rder in the' IPost-Civlll War era was a tOllJgh job, anid ReEl1ington oHel1E!d an exemlplary line of ,Qomp,act. fivf!..shol, .,36, caliber revolvers known as the INew Model Police. Danvers'ions ~D .38 caliber rimtire'we~e p"~QdLlcedi from 1,:874, (8. year ,a'Her ~h,e pereussten model's were di,soonlinued) tllmug.1h 1888., P·clu~ed ~c;loC!k:Wise' fl'Olirl top IleR) are a New M'odell Ponce in ,38 rimfi're with 4-1,/2-inch iball',re'l;; a nickel finis.tillmodel wi,1h 3·1/2-irnch barrel, a 6-112-lnch modell hol:ste;r.edi" a fully lerngrs'II,ed sib',erplated !model w'iid! 3-1/2-:1rnch bane'l, ,8 William Mason COllUl!,ersiion 1:0.38, Icanterfire' wttih 6-1/2-,irnch barrell, a fa.ctory cOllllier1.ed 3-112- inclll model with mickiell finish and 1111011' 9liipS lin a holster, and a IN'ew Model Polllcewlr1ih 5-H2~inlch barrell a~so lin a, hol' (J. I). IHofer


60 Meta'llic Cartridge Coeoersioo«

This ,el'Dse-up shows the' fitting of~he two-piece ,cy'lindeli. The ham rnertaee could be rested en the slots between

ohal11ber.s: as a safety (thougli:lnot an idea)' so'luUon). The desiglil! althe

hammer wol'iked for bo~h nmt'ire cartridg:es and the odgmna'i percussion ,cylindell'" providing (he owner w[th two choices, mala,llle carl:rldg,e or loose powder.

drilling the chambers ,completely through and counter bering the back of the cyUnder to accommodate the cartridge rims, A cyliflde,r cap, with ratchets to engage the hand, and a pill (or pin hole) corresponding to either til piIiI. or cot.oul in the cylinder (locktng cap and cylinder together) completed the conversion. Fortunately, the design .of the Remington hammer required only slig;ht modificaUon wn order to work with the two-plece cyEin.ders. Slots cut into the cap allowed the tace of the percussion ptstnlhamraer to. strike the rimfi!re cartridges. Then by slm.ply switching bad{ to the percnsstan cylinder the gun could again be used as a conventional cap-and-balfrevclver .. This was fairly handy on the Frontier when at box of cartridges,

162 Metallic Cartridge Conversions

couldn't be found!

Approxiimately 18,000 New Model Pollee revolvers were built between 1865 and 1873" many or which were coaverted to fire melal.lic cartridge. 'Remington offered the Police Modellll':ith a. choice of (,our barrel ],engths: 3-1./2,4-1/2',5-1/2 and 6-1}2 inches wRh prices or 1,0 for the ~112 and4-1/2-ili1ch models, $10.50 [or the 5--.[/2 and Silfm the 6-l/2_ Options included a lI1Jic~el-plated frame for an extra 75 eeets, and a full mickel 1inwsh for $1.501. I.vory stocks were a whopping $5, Peart ' 9. and engraving added another $5. A fancy Ne .. v Model Ponce with 6-l/2-inch barrel would have set its O\VU1er back a total o[ $26,.50 in

] 873,. A box o[ 100 .38 caliber rimlire cartridges cost $] .'101 and a case of :1. 000 rounds was, :11.00-

The same conversion principle IUJIsed for the New Model Police applled to the smaller, Irve-slaot New Model Pocket Revolvers" among the most promic of all cartridge conversions. The pocket models w'ere manufactured as percussion revolvers from 1865 to 1813, thus there W,OlS nearly a decade of production before the conversion to .32 caliber rnnfire was tntroduced illl 1873,. The pistols were aJv,ailable with .3.-. inch, 3,-1/, 4-.jnch, and 4-I/2-inch barrel leng:ths" the latter two beiIllg quite rare .. than 25.,000. Pocket Revolvers were: produced .. the majority were e.ther converted to or producedas certrtdge fifring models chambered for .32 centedire. The guns wel'le often avaiilable with botlt cylinders ,again making the Remington a more versatlle model than a eomparable CoU pocket pistol.

The five-shot Rem'ington-Rider poeket models, also in .3,2 calliber, were consfderably more- ~i.mned with a total production between 1860 and 1873, of

R:elillinglicm New Mode,1 Pocket Aievoh"ers were offered with Iblued finishJ nickel trame' or 'tulll'llickel finish. More than ,25,000 wer,e pr:odUlced" with lhe' majonilJ ,oollve:-rrted to liire me1a.le cartridges wtth a two-;piece ,cylinder. The one ,e:)lcepliion p:i'clured is. a C. B. Illclnards-tvlpe eonverslon to .32 cailiber center1lre. TIMs eXaJDlp,le has a channeled ret:oi~ shi.eld s:imilar to, the ,early Col cartridge' rcon'lersionsf,or tIlile P,oclitet N1a,loI)I: (,J. Dl Ho'er Collection),

64 Metallic Cartri,dge Coauersions

apJJJ10ximately :2 1]00. A good percentage 01 these were converted to ttre metallic cartridges with a new two-pieee cylinder al1ler ]813.

Wh.He a very versatile des,igD, time MOil,ieee cylinder had one drawback, it had 1)0 beremoved

from the gun in order to be loaded or unloaded, That was less of ill problem than one might think, however, as the Remington design allowed for tile 5wi{t removal of the cyllinder by sifmply dropping the loading lever, sUding tile cylinder pin (base pin)



'I'.;pu. Ii, ,.,_ S+ 1.0, Boml.

UI, U' ,4;, In. Ii


-; :z::
U) C
.... 1M'"
:0: :::
a. An ad for Remington's New Pocket: Revolver slilow-eda retalt prlce of :$9.'25f,ortile standard modelwilh a 3,.;1I2·inch barrel and blued fini'sh. (J., ID" Hofer ICoUecUo:lII)

Smalll bl!l~ elegant, the Reming,ton IN~ew ModellRevo'lver,s were' ravaillable wfittlfullifaclory leng:ravin,g. This, handsome ,example" wttJhI a :3:-1J2·inch barml, eptlonalpaar] gi1ips. fulll nickel 'I'inish and ,englravilliil.g ,oost $22 in 1813. (J. D. Hlatar Collect~ol1J)


A New Model Pocket Revoilvell' wiith 'ulll nlckell finisJil ,alnd a 4-112·inch barrel i:s shown wilh an extra twopiece cylinder. INote, the narrow hammer safety slets !between ~he' li:hambe'f slots. The smailipin on the cyllinder lined IJP with ,a Iml'e iin lhe' cap to lock both halves l:ogethel" . .'The ,ratchet on cyllllllder cap e:ngag,ed tile halild to rotate the ,cyllinder. (JI. D. Ho,fel' ColI'edh:III~)1

66 .Metallic Ca'l'widge Conversions

forwardand rolling the cylinder outot the frame. This took only ,a matter .0:£ seconds, and a cylmder could be emptied and reloaded quick1y (as CUnt !Eastwood demonstrated in Pale Rider wi,tll a ew

Model Army). With practice, one could reload a Hemiington conversion much faster than a CoH, whlch required rotating eaeb chamber to the loading gate in .order to eiect the spent cartridge and reload.

0 rn
Z > ~
~ (;Ii
-.: 3
.... -
~ (Tq
;0: a ~
;e U1-
'" ...
-- .. in
::l '# "C
:.t; 0
_- ~
:;, ... _.
0.. z
Z '-"
I ..
,;.:; Ko
0 en
t:;I 0
.. Z
..- Of course, Smith & Wesson made both designs obsolete in 1870 with the tntrcductlen of tl1le Model No .. 3 Smgle Action top-break revolver, featuring an automatic ejector that lacked all sbe spent cartrtdge cases out of the cyUnder at once as the barrel pivIQted down.

Among the more rare of Remington conversions Me tile Belt Mod'el revolvers, whIch were smaller than the New Modem Army and Navy but laf'ger than the .38 caliber New Model Police, and carried six munds. It is estimated that no more than 3.001) Belt Models were produced and Oldy a fraction of those

converted from .. 36 caliber percussion to .38 caliber r[mfire. Even more rare is the ReJll:ungtol1l.-Ride:T Double Action New Model 8ell. Revolver, which was ident:icaJ in all other respects to the Sin.gJ'e Action except for the trigger mechanism. Both SA and DA mod:elsutilized a six-shot, two-plece cyUnder and had 6-1/2-inch octagonal barrels.

Back in lB68 R,emington had taken the initiative to pursue the cartridge conversion market regardless of the White patent, which lNould expire less than three months after the nrst AJ6 caliber Army revolvers were introduced .. Colt s was by now 'intO'

IHere is an unusual and rare 'lfariatio,rn of the' Flell1il1gl:on Pocket Revol,yer' litled 'wirth a larg;e trigger and trigger glu3lrd. (.J. D. H~ofer C:olI'ection)


This i~s another 'rare exam;ple of the New Modell Pocket This one' lUltillizes a Richa,lId's'·lype' conversion w,l1h a breech rling and channel:edl reeon sli1ie1ld for I:oading and unioadilllg. The Irevohrer is, chamber,edi ",or .32,1c;allbe'f centertire cartrldg:e.s. (J. D. Holer Conection)1

168 Metallic Carh-idge Conoersions

production with the Thuer conversion mine, which while more aesthetically pleasing was infinitely less practical than the Remmgton rimflre cartridge revolvers.

The Remington was also an easier revolver to ccnvertin the [jel,d., A skilled :goosmith could c.c:IPY the factory design and make the necessary parts 1:0 cOl1lvert an 1858 Army or New Model Army into a eartrtdge revolver, Including a aewcylmder. And this would have been far easier after 186'9 when the .44 caliber cartridge became readUy available, The smaller dialillil,e,ter of the rounds would have permitted the existing percussion cylinder to be used for the

conversion .. (The diameter of the .46 cahber rimfire cartridges was such that the wall thickness of the chambers would have been too thin it a percussion cyill.inder were bored out for six: rounds). A fi.eJd conversloa pro1baJtdy wouldn't .have had. an ejector assembly or ehanaeledreced shield, aIu:! mnst often either a two-piece c:yl.inder welded together (all,er cuttmg aw,ay the portion containing the percussion nipples) •. or at thick back-plate welded to the inside surface of the recoil shieldJ51 Similar designs. us:ill1\ga two-piece cyllndenere the most common contemporary cartridge conversions, used today JOIr repmduction Remington Army and Navy models.

This is a '9~eat pair of RemlngtonIRide'r .32 ri'mf'ire poc'ket IPistols

showing lighl allild pnduse engr3,viing style.s arnd ivory grips. lin 118:73 the model at, l1e' top ri:gll1l: would have so'id fDIiS~8. A box of

11100 cartJriidges,'CQ1st 5,1.20. The !I,ves'lilolIR'elltlill,gtoliil,-Rlder waslhe first doub'le-adiollillcartri:dg~e revo.h.rer buiU In ,America.

Remington used a two-piece cylinder for the cOlilvelision., I(J. O.

Hof,er Comlecfion)

70 M'elatlk Cartridge COQoersio.ns:

The .36 caliber Remington Navy was also an excellent eandidate for conversion, having the same basic design asthelarger .441 caliber Army, The earhest designs were on 'the Remington-Beales avy models but the lIDa.jority o( conversions were performed on the New Mod,el Navy revolvers, c.1863- 1878. The' avy models. were fitted wiith ill hinged and

latched loading gate and nearly all came with an ejector assembly, The factory eonversions sold for $9' and were chambered ~or .38 caliber rlmhre cartridges. Later models (e .• 74) were avallahle in .38 caliibe.r centerftre ..

By 1875 Re:rnillgton had converted or built. thousands of cartridge revolvers in a variety of

calibers and models. The 18<61 New Model Army conversion went out or production in m875 with the debut 01 Remington's first all-new cartridge model, the IBiS Single Action Ar-my. The .. 38 caliber 1863 New Modelavy conversion, how,eyer. remained in producuon lor another three years. and conversions

[II Fiayderffl(1(1:$ Guide ,ro Amiquf! AmericaI'! Firearms 11th Edli Ii on. [2j E1ip.haJel Remington died in 1861, at which time managemelilt 01 !.he company was Iallen over by his. sons Phllo and Samuel :Remington.

[3] f1ayife:f'man!l; GuidI? 10' Antique Amencan Fim«rm~ 71 II Ed ilion.

or the New Model Police were done as late as 18880. The Belt Mode. was discontinued in ]873. 015 were the R.emington-Rider Double AcUon versions,

For E. Rem:ington & Sons, the era or the cartridge eonverstcn was nearing an 'end.

[4] Buffalo Bill's Wild Wesl-AIJ American Legend byR. L Wilson ..

F'lG}'!iennoil s Guide to Antique Americon Firearms 7th Ediitiol'l. ~5l A SJudJ' 01 Coil' COlwel:S;ons OI/d Olfler Penussio« Revolvers, R.

Bruce MclDoweU.



Five Shots. ',P1ull Iength, 6t in.

3 in. Barrel Weip~ 10 oz.

P'RJiCE.-$1.20 per' 100~ $19,00 per 1,0001.



Nickel plated frame FtiIl nickel plated

EXTRA. ROR Ivory Btocb



$8.'1)0 8.30 9.00

,5.00 6.00 4.00

32-100, Calibre..


This is an 1873 ,adverUsemell1lttior the cal1rtdg,e con,versiion Remington-Rider. Note that vou CQuldl sml DU,y l:he p.ercuSiSion model fo'r 81 11'10'11811' IlesiS" •. J. D. Hofer Collecl:ion)


Colt's Attempt to Circumvent the ,Roillin White Patent

The Thuer Conversions and Experimental Designs

CI olt's had miSS. ed an opportunlty that, at the 'time, hadn't appeared to be of any great signiricance. When Samuel Colt dismissed Rollin White's, patent for the bored-through, breechloading <cylinder design in 1855. the metallic cartridge was perceived by most American arms makers as more of a curiosity than a Iar-reachrng innov,ation. A decade later the Civil War bad changed that perception, but for Colt's there was nothing that could be done until the Whwte patent, and the Iron-fisted gnp Smnh .& Wesson held on its rights, expired in April [869_

Prior to the expiration of the White pa ent, Colt's had experimented with bored-through ,cylinders on a variety or percussion models, a Third Model Dragoon chambered for the.44 caliber Henry rimfire cartridges, a. small caliber UW'9 Pocket Pistol,

an 1860 Army (a design that would later influence the 187]-'72 Open Top), and an 1861 Navy chambered for .38 caliber 'cartridges. Colt even built a Pocket model fitted wltha two-piece cylinder, and a pinfire COIl version utilizing a Lafaucheux design adapted to am 1851 Navy. Most were vtable designs, however, none could be manufactured for sale, since there would be patent violations. The only way for Colt's to legally circumvent the Vo/hite patent was to find a means ol loadmg a metallic cartridge other than at the breech. Logically, there was only one alteraatrve (althollgh others would be tried) and that was, to load the cartridge from the front of the <cylinder. Enter f: Alexander Thuer; a Colt's employee since 1849,. an inventor, and a ~adory marksman who spent a significant amount of time traveling the country demonstrating Colt percussion revolvers.


Thl.s 1860 Army Thuer conversion wifh British proof marks Is the onl'yklllown cased example to be lifted with the altachahle shoulder stock. The revolver also has a unlqUle flnger rest forward of Ihe trigger guard to help steady the pistOl, whUe keeping one's hand cut of harm's way trom the cylinder blast, when fired as a carbine. (Bobby Vance Collection)

In September ~868" Thuer received patent No. 82258 ~(Ol" a m.etaJlic cartridge conversion system that did not infringe upon the Rolhn wmte patent. Thuer assigned tile patent to Colt's Manu:facturing and production of the Thuer aheranon (the term used mn Coifs joumals andcorrespendence) began late in 1869.

Somewhat generic in tts legal descriptlon, the Thuer conversion ~'ias intended (0:1" a " ... pistol or rine which has a revolviing chambered breech Olf c:yliinder' capable of beIng loaded [rom the front, the principal object of the said invention being to produce a device bywhiclJi a revolver-adapted {or the use 0'(

loose ammunition can ata small cost be changed, so that cartridges having pruned rnetalltc shells may be used."

In theory" the Thuer alteration was a brilHant design. Inpractice it would prove to be less than ideal,. bet fol' Colt's it was the .only game in ~own" The Hartford arms maker immediately seized on the opportunity to convert a variety of its, post-Civil War percussion revolvers to 'the new design. despite its inherent shortcomings. Beginning in. 1869 the: Thuer conversion gav,e Coil's a Ica.rtridge-Jiring model. to compete in a market segment that had been dominated by Smith & Wesson (or a. decade.

Durlngl '11:Ie Civil Wa'r' a'l1lles1iirnated 12,9,.01]0 con 1,880 Army revolvei~s; were Issued, selol',eralllliil.o'LIIsand of whlc!hlwere modiffed t.O accept. an , shoulder stock. Where wele, cutOl.lts. illl fhe' IJl"ecoil :sJil'jeltil 'to' e'mgag,elllil.e sholJl~delJ' stock 'yoke'. al1d alourfliilsc:rew in tl1.ell"al1llEl: fur support.TlrJe bun strap' was 8'1:50 n.otchied to receii\'e the shol!llder s,tock screw' ,caillCh. Not.ethat on the:1i!huel" conversion (arrnd later percussion modets ,abov'e sel'ialll number 50,000) the fourth screw was 110t used to secure tlile: shoul.der stock. (Bobby Vance Oollection)1


Colt's had eXlpermmentedwith cartr,id:ge 'conversions whille ~he While patenlw(ls stillilin e.ect.

IPiclu~ed ls la, very rare, Third !Model IDr8,goolli ~in the 1230B all' 12400 ,S/er,iel nlilmber range) cOl1llleded to 'fime .44 Thwer cernler1i.r,e. Nole the fine sernl] 'engm,ving with II panel seene on the barrel Ilig. The gun at the' botmm was an experimental fac:tory',conv,ersion 1'110,.1:5703, chalJll1ibe'l'ed for .44 caliber rimfir9. jlhls example originally frolJll1 the John IR. Hegeman ,collection, featwres a speciaJ'l'y lIII1allluhl(;llIIred cy'linder of two-seclioll'ls land a challlll1leled recoil shield '10 ,allow loading and ul1'load'u,!!I 'wiU'Ioul U1e need to remove the cyliill'lldel': (,Photo, cowrtesy R'. 11.'Wilsol1)

76 Melalfi,c Cartridge Conversions

F"ol1ow'ing the licensing agreement with &W in 1868, even Coifs oldest cornpetjtor; E .. Remington & Sons had a distinct adeantage over the arms, maker from Haruord,

The Thuer mechanism (as shown ill the patent drawtngs)\Yas a rather arcane design that could be adapted ito any Colt cap-and-ean revolver and was produced in sizes to !:it all Colt frames. Regardless of the model, 'the operation was basicaJly rhe same and relatively simple compared to theiintricacies of IDoading a percussion revolver.

Colt sales literature described the loadin:g procedure as [onows,: "'Bring the hammer to hal cock. See that the boss or projection on the ring: in the rear of the cylinder is moved in position to the

Anotihlelr experllmenta'i deslgrn by Colt's, this example lLI!sing a cyl!iinder loaded from thefrern with firling pins repla,cing the percUSSiOIlil, nipples. The slII1Iall tool was used to, extJr;a,ct 'the spent ca:shlgs. (Photo courtesy IR.l. Wilson)1

tun , p Ie c,f thle evo,llItion of C'o,Ws, conlle'rsiolils is evidenced by this palr: an 185'1 Navy cOllilverted!'lo ·tl'le Thuer aU:eraUon ,and! an 1186,2: Poc!keli.

N~a,uy chambe'~ed fOIf .38, rimfire, 'Withl ·tbe Richa Ids-M!asorn cartridlge corn",-emiion, c. UJ73. TItle POcket Navy' verslen s'li'Jown, has a I.oading gate (many did not), and 'filO ejec:tolr: ,(ExHable l)o'llection. PihDilo cOUli1:es.y' R. L wnson)


Among the· nlOsi rallie' of'Thuer conversions are ~hose done on t:he, 18491 Pocket Pb;tol. Tille superb cased example with a iFlm::1h bar,rel displays ,all ,ot the pa'tellted Thuer Iloading tools.lhe tapered profile' ,ot the lhuell' centerfire car1ridge is clearly shown Ibythe l:hiree' .31 ,caliber rounds sUiliing In the lid.

No,le' that the cased Tlhiue:r model atso came' witlPlthe 'o,riginal pereusslon cylindeli. (lPhot.o ,oourles:y R. L. Wilson)

78 Meta/Jic Cartridge Conversions

right o~ th hammer; Hold the pistol in the leit hand. muzzle upwards, thumb and forefinger grasping the cytiinder, hammer Ito the ~eft, bun resting on the breast, Insert the eartrtdgesand ram them home in

the usual manner."

It seemed to be a very m:mll.ctic,aJ and emcient means of loading. The self-contained black powder cartridge was far easier to handle than loose powder,

This: exquisite Thuer 11860 Army, lNoI.118532611.E." Is, ,gold·, and sll""er-iplatedial1.d fitted in an elaborate' IOsewood' case .. IOnce 8galin both the percussion and 'lihuer cylilnldell's are included as well as a bOlll[ of Thuer cartrid,ges .. (!Or • .!Joseph A.Murphy 00llec1ion. Pll1loio courtesy R'. l. Wlilison)


80 MelaUk Cartridge Conv'ersions

a ball aad a percussion cap. Ramming Ute cartridges into the chambers was simple, Extr,act,illg the spent shell casings was not. And here lay the problem with the Thuer conversion.

The cartridge ejection procedure as descrjbed in the instruction manual req.llIi:red, the shooter to, "Movethe boss on the ring in rear of the cylinder to the left of the hammer. 'hen cock and snap' the pi5.:01 until all o~ the shells. He ejected, Then meve the boss on the ring back to the right or the hammer, and the pistol is readiy lor reloadi.Dg." This process could be compared to the hand ejection of spear shells from a bored-through cyUnder; and the time to aecomplish either task was likdy about the same. Emptying the Thuer, however, seemed a more lahorious ~as,k since the gun had to be cocked and !fired six more Urnes, assurnmg that the cases were ejected on U'le Hrst snap. The manual noted that " ... .should the tirs! blow faEI ~o eject the cartridge; it should be repeated .. "

On the plus side for the Thuer; when. a box 0:1 preloaded cartridges was netavallable, one could use the patented Thuer cartridg·e loader to mate bwlets"r,eusing empty cases HUed with a fresh primer, a measure of black. powder, and a cast conic am lead bullet. The Thuer loading tool, petented January 4,1810, used I:.h,e cylinder p,io to hold the loading

dies and the rammer to first seata new primer in the case and then the bullet. In a worst-case scenario,the Thuer breech I"ing and cyllnder eould be easily removed and the percussion. cyminder replaced, The Colt Thuer. (like the later R'emington Pocket, and Rider mm.1els),was two guns in one and 'came cased with bothpercussionand cartridge cylinders.

The Tlhluer alterattou was offered on the l8419

T1tll!Jer' conversions were often higlliilly embeillishediand 'this is arnother superb example· of: an 11860' Army, .1:40. 185315lE, with .-;.,;ii1:j; .. IiiI" elaborate s'cJrio,II,englra\lingl, mielkel tlnish .and <Cilecker>ed wary slooks. Onl!.1e again note that I,he I~evolll'ell" is, c:a.sed with baCh Iperc:ussion and Thuer cylinders. ,(Ex-Hable C,o'llecUolJl<. P!h.Obll' ,courtesy Fl. L. Wilson)


Pocket,]851 Navy, ID.861 Navy, 1860 Army (tbe premier version), Pocket Pis,tol of Navy cahber, aTlld the 1862 Pocket Poli,ce . Dragoon revolvers <lind Sidellammer ptstola and rInes. wer,e also manufactured bun these are eonslderedas

experimental only. {I}

The breech ring was designed to :fit into place ag:ainsl the recoil shield, with the ratchet (machlned on a collar-shapedeatenslcn from the breech or the cylinder) passing through its center to ,engage the

ThiiSi photos shows a cartridge e!li1olluliiontr,om Cnl~'s. Shown is (frolill 'lOp), is Mode'l Ul1i1 Nalll"jl' TIhlJier cOIiIYer.S,ion, N'Il\. 288.2:2 Itf,'o,l1I!I1erl:~r lH:ege:ma:n CoHee:lIi!)I1)" an. '1860 Arm, .R:icllllil)d:s 1:vpe I ,conversioll'l '0.18,72" and a ip:rol:otype :s,eiWen-sho,l, Qpen TOIP' M!DdeI11,87t· 72 Frol1Uer. ,(Photo COlJll1oe,sy R.l. Wiillson)


£1. 7?ltlc;r_~ .&vo. zer:

_J5 J'J:2Stf .7i?l'c.:m'C-a' e,;t$.~

~~ tIt_._./1-.-c.-

hand .. As with percussion cylinders. the Thuer breech rilllS and cyLinder combination were held in pla.ceby the center pin (arbor), barrel and wedge .

The Thuer cylinder was actuaUy bored completely through, but since it could Dot be loaded from the breech. its design netvielate the White patent The ,cylinder chambers had an unusual tapered bore to accommodate the shape of the cartrldges, wbich were slightty narrower at the re:ar,<Ii necessity 1.0 smooth the progress 0.1 loading with the rammer. Thuer conversjon rammers (after [B7.o) also had .a threaded opening into Which a primwng punch 'could be screwed. This was used to seat the primers when making shells ..

With ~ewIDlceptIons.,lactory ecnverslens to the Thuer alteration bad the I.oarling channel at the right

841 MetaUic Cartriclge COIJ!JeTS'ioRS

F. A'le'xand'el'lihlJell' l'eceil.l'ed h'is·lpa1erl'Wt 'for the Thaer Revolver 0111 September 15, 1,868. The patent covered ~he' ,rather ,e.xtem:;ive design of the cOll\l'·on Iring, whIch housed ~he firing pln and cartridge' shiell eJ,ect:o:r.lIihe design, as noted in llt1e close-up view of !Fig. IS". l11ii'lized twe irrrlerr,oc!klng Ileveil's set In'ro motJon by the hammer to "bool" Ule empty carnid'ge casings Old ,oif thle cyilirnder clilamber.

F .. Alexander Thuer c. 1868 is sl1.0Wil1l with a slrloulderstocked U!l6Q Army ,oonll,ersion.TllIuer was the Colt':s 'I;eld l'iep reSienlaUve, 81 marksman ,ot 5,Ql1Ile IrienOWI1I. who toured the ,coliJnrtry seH:ing up ,exlilibitions of CoH~s pereusslcn revolvers. 8'om in Pn.lss·ial lin 11926" he was 42 when he devised and Ipatented Colt'si ~irs.t: 1C',;u1irldg,e conversion design. Nole the small pi's.l'Ol in ·lhu:ell"s, right breas~ (Phot.G courtesy R.. L Wlilson)

Cio'lt.'s expe.riim·ented with a v.ariety 01 convelrSi:oln des:jgns. This. repmducli'on crest,edl by 'gl:mslI1illth R. L. Mmin~!JtDII1 ,copies one of the eartler a'H:empts, to, use a wide' breech ring and olllie-piece cylinder chambered for .44 Irim'tire C'B rlri:dg,es .. The re produc:ti on,'f, is chambered for.44 'Clente rrflm-,e.


This IBritish prooledl1860 Army c'onvel'Sijon iSlquire rare'. It isllile only I!m,ow:rn IcasedTlmer leqlllipped wiith a shou'ldell' stock. The label glued 11111:0 Ihe, lid reads, Colt's: Pat€('/!' Fi'Fe,A.l'IT!s Jl.fanufacturi.crg Co. 17: f:all Mall, london, S.1f.' and eontafns all 01 fhe loading,and firing illl,striUctiiorns. (lBobby V:arnce' ICoHecll:olil)

86 MetQ'ilic Cartridge Conoetsions

side of the barrel Jug mtlled deeper to provide greater clearance :Ior the loading and ejecting .of cartridges. This modification, however; was rare~y performed on field conversions. The lack: of that rnachtntng however, may indicate the weapon under inspection is an aHteration done by a modern lalt)]ricator.

The most complicated part of the Thuer mechanism was the breech ring itself. It contained a reboundtng firing pin, and an ejector mechantsrn, noted by the elegantly scripted" I n to the right of the boss. The ejector 'consisted of two mnterlocking and pivoting levers, the smaller, uppermost lever, (resembling a 7 in shape) ptvoted to tnel"ea:r of the rin.g when struck by I:he hammer .. The bottom edge engaging the top ot the second lever (shaped somethmg like an L) which then pivoted forward to "boot" the empty cartridge case out of title chamber nearest tOo the right of the barrel lug (F1ig .. 6. in the Thuer patent illustration). A third position on the

ring .. located between the llre and ~{'" detents, provided a hammer rest as a safety. Before the gun could be discharged, the boss (001" thumbptece) had

to be moOved back intothe tiring position. It wasn't an Ideal solutioa.but it worked.

AltholLlgh similar, the breech rings, 0111 large-frame Colts differed fmm those on Pocket Plstols, The most obvious djstinction was the absence of a hammer rest on the Pocket Pistols .. In additi.on, a springloaded lever. pivoted within the conversion ring and extending outward just below the thurnbpiece, was employed to hold the nng in the fire position. To eject spent shell casings, the ring was rotated counterclockwise (agalnst the sp,rifl.g tension) until the thumbpiece rested on the frame, The ring had to

be held by hand while the (artrridg,e cases were ejected otherwise it would aueomatlcally rebound to the fire position. On the large-fram.e revolvers a small stud was used to lock the ring into either the fi.I"e or "r pesitton. The big advantage to the Pocket Pistol design was Ulat it couldn't inadvertently be left In the: '""" position when loaded ... a petenually fatal error!

Tile first Thuer models were offered for sale in the lauer half of ]869 and all versions remained av,aiiable tmUllsn, when they were succeeded by the Richards cartridge conversion. Owners of Colt percussion models could return theis revolvers to 'the factory, and for at small fee have them converted to the Thuer system. Additionally, Thuer breech rings and cylinders were sold 'to Colt dealers and gunsmiths who performed fie.ld conversions. The number of guns converted in the field and those sent to. Coifs for converston is uflknown, however. :no more than 5,m:m facl"ory~bl.llilt examples were made. These encompassed all modem variations produced both in the United Stales and in London. (21

The' most commcn Thuereonversjon is the .44 callber 18601 Army (with Britlsh proof marks), fOol.lowed by the .36 cahber mss.'3iVY .. 44 caliber 1860 Hartford Anny model, Pocket Pistol of Navy Caliber, 1862 Pocket Pollee, 1861 Navy, and the very rare .31 caliber 1849 Pocket The ,.44 caliber Third Model Dragoon" and First Dragoon are considered extremely rare. f3J

It is mreresung to note that the Thuer cartridges, primarily manufactured and sold by Colt's, were centerftre, whereas early metallic cartridges [01' ColU conversions and 1 n·n Open Tops were rimHre .. The reason lor this :is that Thuer cartridges were intended

for reloadjng and centerffre was the logical choice since new primers could be easily seated in the


Colt's Metallic Ca,rtridge Revolving' Pistol.

1['0 LOA D 'l'H.E PISTOL; Bnus 11M blmmllT to blrttld.. Sa Ih.I. ,Iv.: bc'S'I Of pl'qjc~n 01'1 lh~ ring in I:I.'IIr of lhtil ('ylinda is ~lIoved. i'R pmition l Ih~ ng'" of the bmma. Hold ,h~ ria\ol ill Il'w len m.iI. Du.le upTil>alrd!;, ~hll"lb alid torll,linga( gl'lUJ'iog dte ol:,)'lindu" haroma 10 the l.dt. butt ,"]jDg 011 die brea.. ]l1SIlrt ,ile ,"&rll'ldgn flnd him thrift Aomp in lhv u,;u.1 l'I'IanM1'. "Nte P~101 is: 'flredin lhe ol'di~ry way-

TO F.lJilCT' 'l'HE ,sHELlS: Marl! lih~ bo'I5 on the rilll ill rt.T or ahe qlihder Ie Ih~ ltflor lbe lwnm". Tlum welt. lind IMp l~u pi.,loll. until' 1.11 or lhe ilhell! .,. ejt'C't:'d. Then mou dI. bon on tbe rril'l!' hide 10 d!.e II'IJAt or I1hI! lum'mol.r, lind lhe p-i!ilol IS ~)' fur relCllldinc.

The r..decl carlrid~ (MIn be dmcd by ihe 5amc pl'UOiC a!O .Nt d~ribed rnr ejl!'Cl!ins t"e empty shells; shoard tlte fl", blew .f'iIIIil Co eject ahc' C'lIl1riidgQ:" rl Aould In: MfHltd.

CA U'FION: Can rna be r .. Un (0 move .IIIc boa CI'Il the rilll buk Ito Ihp' ,y'" at lhe hll1l1- mer after the ej.~'lon, 'of 11m drell .. JO In.l Illhc ,pillal wi'll ollIlllllY, I.IC rady 'Dr Ii.riln~lI~eepl whm !.he ejectoT i. to bB U«od.

'l'1I~n: is • W'dy Mt~1l u.n .... !.he be. DI'I I.lta M'II£ ill IUir ,of Lh", e)'lindeT, in .hicih \he binimer ~J ft'lit "hen t}.e pi Mol h not ilili ".. TM: riftS ho C!III'f'I', mlllt be It\Oyed. to t&~ ";11' in til., case" so fi 10 briaB Lbe flring·pin .nde .. the hamme!"; btrort: u.e pbloI can be Bre:I.

'nIe .u. caD b. Rl.a:rd and ued a1 01\'8 .to tN1 be lCIlu.ittfj,

Onlc:E Of' CoL'I''s PAT. ftu AIW Mro. Co.

Btn1ford. a... ... 1 IIM8.

Coil's madei1 sound qUli'~e slmlple t,oload and unload ,BI T:huer' eonve'fsion. Wheneverylhing worked as advertised it was. But sometime·s,tIt1e' ,c'anridg,es WQuldn'tse,at easil~' wrtlhllhe rammer; they wOl!llldn't e,~ect 'he frst time the hamlJ1e'lI'~actilvaied ,e,jecloll' was fired, and tile breechringl had a t:endell1,CY '10 bind up when fouled by' !black: powder residue. The problems WEI'rellke many experienced with cap-and-balm l1evo!lvers,. Tlrlelhue'r' was better, but not as good as, a cintridge gun wilh ,8. bored-tlliriough. breech-loading cyHnderr.



conversIorn ring and cylinder were held in pl'ace by the ,e,yUnder' pin,

ibarrel and wedge. TIi1,e des~g,n' ,allowed the revolver to be reverl:ed back to percussion lise' by F'e rrnovil1,g title I"irng am:il cylinder and rep'lacing the'

cap-ann-ban cylililder; I(Bobby Vance Coll,ectlo:rn)

lite 18601 ,Arllll1lJ!' was ,3 COl1lsilll'erabli, accul',arte 'weapon wilei'll fiUed with 'title ,attachable' rs1hlouldell' stook. This London mode'l liJad a 'Unger rest allidellll'~'llillreaded into 'the, "ral1lile just rorw,ard of [he tri'gger guard) 10 provide a betler 1wo·ha,nded 91'il;)l. (Bobby Van/De Colleclion)

88 Metallic Cartridge Con,oersions

In this view, the ratchet and ,collar ext:ensiion 'imm the blre8c'h of the ,c!llililder are shown .. TlliIe' ooillar" 'Nhiicih liit wU.hln the IrieCeS$ of' the breech nlng, also preven~edl 'the! cylinder fiOOm beili1g loaded at the l~eall'.,iII'his clearl,~ illuslnUed'that the Tliiluer alteration In no W;BiY infring~ed upon the White patent for the' bo,red-through, breech- 10adil1g cyilindell'.

Tfliis, 'view shows the,Thuer conve'~si'on rilng as iit'faoed the reeoll sinie'I'd"TIhe c¥llil1der Iratchet e,xtemfedltlhrol!lgh the ~ente'r of the liiin!!llto engage the hand and advance ea,ch round! as the ham,mel' was cocked. Note' the British proof' mamk on the Icylinder. The rings ,and, ,cyHnd'e-rs were both Illilmbered. Tillis examp'le is lII1arked 011"

reclaimed brass shells. Thuer cartndge boxes stated:

The .Empty Carlridge Shells clan be'Reloaded: Another benefit of the Thuer design was that all models, includIng Pocket Pistols, fir,ed six ro,unds" thus the smaller Pocket revolversgained an extra shot when fitted with at Thuer eonverston-c-an advantage even

the later Richards arid Richards~Mason models did not of~er. {4}

Despite the advanced design, the Thuer ",'as not a successful gun. As R L. Wilson noted in Th,e Book ot CollFirearms,.Severali pOints had beenagainst the Tnuer becoming a popnlar product in the Colt line:

IHere is an 1860 Army c.1870 fitted with the Tlilliler allel'8lion. The finish is nick.el with livolrY QriipiS" llhe carved California-style ho'ister is from the S8'l1IIIe period. (Roger Mllllc,kerlAelde CollectlDI11I holste'r, George Jackson)


The p<J,lernl' date W'a,$, st:a:mped on every' c,onverrs,ion I'lngi.

T1lills, i~s I:l1IieTh'Uler convelJ',siion riinglin the firing' position.

90 MelaUic Car,trfdge COl'weTSions

The tapered cartridge, the special loadi:n,g ~ools, and the: easily touled ccnverston I'ing all contrtbuted to the poor sales snowill1g."lll1terestifl.gly; the maj[l.jirily of Thuer alterattons kJIIOWD to eellecters are in very good com:iliUon-'"proof," wrote Wilson, "tha~ most were seldom. IJIsed.",5J

AIIthough thei.rr rar.ity males them highly desirable today among collectors,. the Thaer ulHmately proved nothing more than a s,nort-:lived s~opgap measure, or asthe old blackpowder sayi.lJ1g goes----a nas,n in Ute pan,

lilne Book 01 Colt Firearms [2] Ibid

! l] The &ok ol Col t Fl rearms and A SnudyoI CQI t Conversions and Ol;her Percussion Revolvers,

L4] Historian and ocllthOJ R. Bl'1IIce Ml:lDoweil notes ~''''t both Jhr,eand SiiK-shol Thuer cylinders were produced jar the Pocket models.

[IiI :it. L 'IVilso:n notes !Ihat. surplus Thuer [cofl""f!'rsion lings and unnumbered cylinders \'\!,I!'re s,old iDilhe '1920s anel 1930s., and a lew Coil 1800 Army re:v'ollle:l''S were suffils~uently "cenverted" dming Ihe 201h century, 'ill'illese guns do not have the same collector's, va_tue as OlIn 'orig'illal gun built by Col ~ 'is belwee .. '1869 and Isn. Caveat emptor,

iTilile' business side 101' Uil,e Thueil' rirnQ shoW's, '[tile firr~ng pim I(one [Q['clo.ok: IPosHiiolil),a.rnd tl1.e a,ieclor 1iliI8cihia:I1'ism (seve;n o'c:loc:k posi;Uon). Tlile :Up al.llle bottom 0'1 'Clile level'wou:ld be dl'iven IOlI'Wam br~ IlI1Ieimpact 0'1 tlilehsllnl1llel' ro, ,Kick. th.e spent eUi,ng,g 01111: of the ,cl1am'bel' .. A'l least ws[sthe' Ideal1Flilelace' of tlile ihlalllll1lller 'lMa.s liitted wlitlil a ci'llOu'lar m.elal Ilnsert.l!o[pre'Velllf damage to the hammer by atcl:d'e:nta.1 strikimg against. 'tIh,e ring wlirlelli nol: ln the propew position a.n:Ii:II'the! l!epeated ,strikilJ1,g [Em the ej,ector head.

The C. B .. Richards 1860 Army Conversions


Prae:ti,caIWays 10 M,ake~ Ol,d Guns N·ew

I I you I~, 0, ,k' CI, O,SIelY a,.tth,",e Thuer .patenl,. drawing you willsee two names at the lower left, the

witnesses, Horace Lord and C. 8. Richards.

It was Cha.rles. B.Richards, Oil prominent iDvent<or and Colt's Assi.stant Factory Superintendent. who reaUy put Ute lead into lHar~iord's. legendary percusston models. III 1871 he was grantedpatent No. ~ n.fIH JIDrlmprouements in Re.l)olvers.

As described by Richards in the patent tex:t,"My invention relates to that kind of revolver whic:h has. a, ehamhered breech. or cy~il1der. It has for itsobjeet to provide a compact and cheap form olr~hi51dnd of arm, which shall be fiUed, ~o:1"' the cOllvenieo~ use oj a flanged metallic cartrtdge, and Hi is paTlicnlaJ~y useful as furnishing a means 0:1 <converting a revolver COllstrlUcted and intend.ed for loose ammuuitton into one adapted for tile kind or rnetaltle caJrtridg:es which

are loaded into the chambers from. the real"'.n/H The C. B. Richardspatel1lt was assigned to Colt's. and intended for the alteration of the ~860 Arm., to .44 caliber eenterflre cartridges, a process that began ccmmercially ln 1.872, ill, year' after the intrIDdudi.OllOf the new Colt .44 rimfire Open 'fop modellRmchards and Mason also designed the Open Top_ Colt's most promililent inventor. C. B. Rkhards designedthe W811 Cloverlear revolver as w·el], marking: iritis third signUi:cantpilitent for Colt's.

The original Richards conveesien, common~y referred to as the Type I or First Model,. utilized a breeehplate wUh a rebounding ~irin.g pin. The breechplete was combined with a new~y manuja:CtuJ1l~d cylinder, or a. cap-and-baUcylinder, the percussion portion 101 which had been cat away,. the chambers bored completely through and a mew



The C.B. Richards Ipatenl for "'IIlI1pr,ovemen1s1 in Revolivel"s" wa,s 'granted on JllIly' 2,5;, U171 and assigned to the Colt's Patent fireArms ManILillfa:cturillJ,g Companv_ (Photo 'cowr1,esy R. L. Wilson)

C. B.Richnrd.r" .Imp/'~in .Herolrer.f,

F'.9',r tt14B1. I.MKmJJI1L?5UJ~l



et~e .. oL-

94 Metallic Cartridge Conversions

ratchet cut to engage the hand [2/. The conversion also required removing 3/1'6th of an inch from the face of the recoil shield into which the breech plate (also referred to as 'the conversion ring) was seated and seemed by the cylinder pi III " The breechplate measured 0.49 inches In thtekness by 1.675 inches in diameter with a channel slighUy I,arger than the stze of the cy,linder bore cut out of the righm side to lacilitate the loading and ejection or cartrtdges lrom the breech end of the cylinder; On alii RIchards conversions this channel was protected by a hinged loading gate attached to the breech .ring. The right side of the recoil shield was also channeled for cartridge leadlng, however onsome experimental models, and on later Richards-Mason Pocket conversions the loadlngga~,e was irequently omitted, leaving the rear of ~l1e cyhnder chamber exposed.

The llnal alteration to the 18'60 Army required the hammer (ace to, be ground flat in order tostrike the floating firing pin. The sum of these modHications were irrevell'sible and. thus ruled out the refitting of the gun with a percussion cylinder; This was at dlsadvantage upon which Remington capnalraed ill the early 18705 with their popular two-piece cyIDindel's. A simple switch back tOo Ute percussion ,cy~mndel' allowed the use oJ loos'e powder; caps, and balls in the same gun.

One of the most complicated and costly components of the Richards conversion was the cartridge ejector assembly. The newly fabricated housing (containin,g the ejector rod, spring, and ejedor head) was attached to a metal plug that fit into the channel previi.ousLy used for the loading rammer. The lug and right side of the barrel jus~

above the rammer channel were notched to accommodate the ejector houstng, whfch was secured by the I:oadifllg lever screw passing through the lug fmm the left side.

DisUngu.ishing characteristics o~ the Rh:::hards TYiPe I conversion ring are the i.nftegral rear "V" sight cast into the top 01 the breechplate, the lnternal fMng pin and a. 1/32nd of an inch overlap of the cylinder at the breech. Whel1l vIewed from the side,

the Type l breeehplate shrouds Ule back of the cyUnder;, whereas 0.1l later Richards-Mason conversions there is dear separation between the face of the conversion ring and the cylmder breech.

Prlced at $15,. tile Ricllaros [860 A.rmy was produced c. 187] to C'. ] 878 and it is, estimated that Colt's manufactured 9,0001 examples in the serial number range #1 to #87'000 (excluding Richards-Mason arms :from approxtmetely #5800 through #19llQl).

The ,alterationiroRl 11,860 Army (lap) to tille First Model RieilalFd,s was e'xiensi'ol1e. The' percusstcn model lis e, I:our-screw example wi1h the Ii,acoil ,shlel:d 'cut to accept the aHaclh:ahle sliJoulde:r slack. yO!k,e. Wilh Ule oonversion ril1lg

and Iloa.ding 'gate, it becomes obvious at a glance why sholUlde'(' stocks, ,eoul'd no longer be used with IlTIe A'lcllards conversions,. (Dennis AussellllColiectllon)


Th'is palr 'of First Modell R'ichards, ,reva'ivers shows some subtle diHer,enoes between those pl"iaduced byCalt's as cartridge Quns with new' cyllinders" and CMII 'W:alr-Br8 percussion l/'elio!'ol'!iI\ers converted to lillie lA:i:cllla~d'si sys~el1n. 'Note the elector rod on the pel'cLllssion conllemion, which exlel1lds Ipas,1 the w,edge slot. Tile percuseton lIiIl,odel al:so hastliile less commonly soon Iron trigger guard. Both" however; are' fiHed with the secolll,d type loadiingl Q:ale, whiich has ilIA ,exfema gat,e spl'ilng, Indicated by the screw at the base of the' breech ring beneath Iloading, ,ga~e hlng,e. "Denniis Russelll Collection)

'96 Metaitic Cartridge Conversions

Here is anot~el' view of the 'two, d'ififerelllt styl'es o'iloadirng gat,es used on the Fiin~t Nlodel rRichanils revo!lvers, the' o:rig,imalllntemal-s:pri'II1!:!11 de.s!911il and late'r merna'i sprillil!) with retainIng screw. The chang,a '101 'tlile mo're' easily prrodl!u::ed e:xltemal~s,priln,g lype' came around serial number :2;5'000'1: the original modelis. Also note the dil1ferent eJ:ector rod 1ip·s:, nat am earl'y cOlllverslons" rounl:l'eCill'on fater examples. (Dow and Rl!Isselie H!eal'd CO'lledion)


A disassemb'led Filrst. M'odel Richards displays, the, iindillidUla~ componenl:s of the C.B,. Richards pat:en~ the 'ejector hOLlsing', con!lell1ed cylinder, lIJIodiftedl barr:el allill!il lug" and breech ring wil:h i'lill:egral l',e,Blr sight.. Tille' noteliles In Ihe' ,side of the barrel arnd II'ug were necessarr to 'tim the ejeelot housing. The Iplug (e:xtel1ldlng '11"01111 below the ejector houising,) was desi~gned to fil within Ihe Ir,alll1'l1Ier chanlnel and utlillize the I'oading le,ver serew I(the hole iis ,aibove t!he rammer pl:ug} for liIlounltililg. (R'ogel' M'uclk:erheide 'Colle,cti'on)

Richards numbers are also wn the percussion series, from as earlyas serial #167,000 to#200614,.13}

En addition to Iactory production models (those originally built as cartridgerevclvers) and factory cenverslens, many 1.860 Army revolverswere converted to the Richards style 0111 ~he bOl1ltiie~. A skilled gunsmi~h could ,copy the design.

Among the rarest examples of nhe Richards I860 Army conversjon are those with W2 cylinder stops, (rather 'than six), the addRmonal set having been intended to serve as a safety, by locking the cyminder between chambers .. Altbough tlhe design worked. one

had to make certain that the cylinder was rirml . set on the stop" otherwtse rut could easUy rotate back to a loaded chamber. The ]2-stop' safety system proved more or less as effecttve as {he slots cut between chambers 0111 Remlngtoo percussion cylinders, which funetloaed ,simiJarly. The principal diHicu]ty with the [2-sto]1 design (as wUn the six,-smop conversion cylinders) was that the bolt slots oocasionally broke through when the percussion chambers were enlarged to accommodate.44 centerfire rounds. They also had a tendency to wearthrough over timeand many sw:vlving examples have one or more broken

'98 Melatfi.c COJ"ll'ldge Coaeersions

bolt slots. Il"onically, the cyUnder .Iocking notches on the 12-stoJl rarely broke through because they were cut between the chambers.

Author Bruce McDowell's theory on the failure of the 12-s'top cylinder design is perhaps the most .likely. He pointed out tnat the 1.2:-5tOP cylinder could. if not properly set or wi:th wear to the fingers 01 the lock bolt. cause the acnon to jam. A gun that could possibly jam because of the cyliindeRr design was a llahility few could alford in the Old Wes,t.

The U.S., Rieb.ards

mn l8'71 the U_ . Ordeance Department ordered the conversion of app.I"OXlima.tely 1,200 U.S.-issue

.Model 1860 .ArmypeJ:'lcussion revolvers to the Rlchards design for the .44 centerftre metallic cartridge. Colt's handled thealteratiens in Hartford" and Uis believed tbat some of the U. S. models were also. Ifitted with the 12-stop cylilllder.

Eve!"y gun wilbim the Ordnance Department order was stamped with a new conversion serial number located beneath the original fad.ory staDliping .. This usually conslsaed of a two- or three-dig'it number 'with an A sufftx, The I1IC\V numbers 'were stamped 0111 the barrel .Iug, cylinder, breech rlng, loading gate and ejector rod arm. 'The military conversions were also stamped with U.S. either lorward of, or just above the wedge on the lett side.of the barre], On later

CI,o,se-up detail sholfto!s the, plugl for ~he e,wector hoU!slngli", l1elaUOliillo Ihe r,ammer channel used to support I!hie' assembEy:., (Rog~el" M'lIIckierhe'ide Coll:ec:tiion)1

'ihis is, a fare First Modell Richards wHirl. the 12-stop cylinder. Nole the ej,ecto'r r,ad and chamber bolt sl'ots br,okel1l tlhrougJlil" This, was, most common on medels with ,colilverted pel'lCallss'ion 1C:ylinders .. lihe' 'gun is :shown wi:lh an I!.1l1Imal'ked "S'lim, ,Jlrn" hol!ste;r a;lI1d a period IBlllff8'Io Skinning Jtrn'if'e set with ,clhe<:~kel'ed lifOI')!' handles. I:Guns~ IRoger Muckeriltlelde Colll:ecl:h:ln, Iknife set, George Jackson Collection)

1100 Metallic Cartridge Conoersioas

conversions the A suffix was eliminated, only the loading gate and breeehplate were numbered, and the converston number was stamped either above 01" below the original serial number. Spring'ield Armory inspector marks "A" (rOJ O. W. A.inswvrth) were present on an milita:ry conversions, and boththreeand fm:m:r-screw' (the latter variation designed for ,31 shoulder stock) Army models were modified. The breechplateand loading gate altered the contour o( the recoil shield, narrowing the slots or'igjlllaUy used to anchor the shoulder stock yoke. Thus the shoulder stocks could not attach tothe Richards conversions as ori,g:inaUy designed ..

The U.S. Ridllards models were issued to and 'Used by the Cavalry well into the 18805, by which time the Colt Single Action Army and various S&W models made them obsolete, Good examples 'of the U.S. models are hard to find because of the wear and tear they experienced in IlI1iilJitary service, C~viliaD 'Richards models, however" are relatively common. The civi.lian models bore new serial number as well but w'ithout the A suffix, U.S. stamp or government taspeceer's mark seen 011 the military versions. The majoriity o:fcivili3JI1 first Model Rlchards converslons had six-stopcyllnders, as did most engraved specimens and atll1!ick,el-plated conversions .. There are no known examples of an originru nickel-plated Richards ArmyconversiolJl with 12 cylinder notches. It is interesting to note that both the Union Metallk Cartridge Company and U.S. Cartridge Co. used a 12- stop Ri.chards conversion to illustrate the labels on their boxes.

These Type ,I Richards ccnverslons are broken down lnto four primary categories: the iirst

production done in [8'71 to convert military percesslon revolvees to metamlic cartridge; those converted a~ tlb:e Hartford factory using' le:tto'Ver percnssj,on in'lem~,oEY; models. bll1!lllt at Hartford with newly manufactured c:y1inders,amd the ~2~stop, variatioa, both ~Il civHian, ClIIId U.S. models, of whIch appl",ollrimately 100 were 1)l'odl..lced. It reamins questiornable whether any 12,-stop U.S.-marked models were or:igilJally bll]jilt, though some examples exist toaay;,

'JIlI,e Se'cond MllJidel Riiid13lids COlEliversiom The Ridhards Type I proved an expensive undertaklag [or Colt's because of the ,eompleldty of tile breeehplate des.ign, internal rebounding .firiIllg pin, and the numbel" (If steps necessary to :modJ!'ythe barrel, and assemble and mOlllll1t the new ejector housing.

III comparison to the simple R'emingtofll New Model Anny eonverslcns, 'the Richards Type I was a far more dasl"lilllig and iOllovatiive design "v()l'tby 0.1 the Colt name, but i~was, also becoming clear to Colt's management that a less co,sUyapproa,dl w,as necessary ttl the di:mcul~ post-Civil War environment. In UI7:2, WIlliam Mason, Coifs Supermtenderrt of the Armory (.!"om. IB66 to 1882, introduced a ne,,1II' design that simplif"ied the conversion. Masorn':S,lmpro,!Jeme.'fI'IS i1l RelJo.ioing Fire'·Arms was patented o~ July 2, 1872. In the interim, however, C. B. Richards introduced a secoad version af his. design uWi the D.ew 'Mason breechplateand a ifilr.ilng pin riveted ~.'O the hammer. Olt<en referred to as the Transition Richards" Olis second variation, produced c. i872 reduced prodectlon costs, thO'llgh it still retained ~he

cartridge ejector assembly of the Type I. The shortlived 'Type n depletedsemalmng inventory while Colt's, prepared to inUooduce the all-new Ri.chardsMason line, which would be expanded to include the 185] Navy; 1861 Navy, and Pocket, beginning in 1872-73.

This c!ose·up' shows am eiarly Filrs,t M.odel OOtrwlfHs,iolil laadil1:g 'gate' (cornve:rs:ion 11\:10. 52) and a 12:stop cylii'rnder: .. TliIe' r,ebated ,cyllrt(:lell'~ bolit silots o'iten brok.e Ihmllilgh beeause of tlile thinner clhamber wa:lI:S crealetil1lly the Icol1verslon to .441. c,al'itll'iidges.Tih;e satiety slots ra,r'el), broke tlilrrQugl1il becausle Illtey w~re cut between clilal1lllbers •. (IR.oger M'uu::lteri1e,ide C,allection)


This slhows an le,alrl)! Type 11R1'c'hards with a, t2-S;IOp ~,Iind'er 1[l'\eprodlJcfi'on) and a fa,clo:ry sl:I(:-sl:op Type, II. i1ihe latel' six-stop, !Models wUh Ir,ou.ndi eJeclm rod ~"p we:r,e pr,oduced by Colt's, as I!n~ginal cartridge glUlns; and were fl'Hed wiililll new c"lIndell'S. Tlhe occ'u.rl'ence of: broken Ibolt slots o:f1Ilf1Iew cylinders, was lrare. (Author"s Coilleelion and IDow ltiealrd Col ection)

102 ,Metallic Cartridge Conversions

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