Field Strip 101: Cap and Ball Revolvers

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FIELD STRIP 101: COLT CAP AND BALL REVOLVERS

By Darryl Choy

Originally Published 3/2003 Photos added 4/2015

The available instructions are: “Tap out the wedge and remove barrel from receiver.” However there is a lot more. The basic rule to remember is: DO NOT REMOVE OR LOOSEN THE WEDGE SCREW.

Without proper instructions, just about everybody violated this rule, including myself. Sam Colt designed this screw to keep the wedge from being lost or separated from the barrel unit during disassembly. Here’s the proper procedure:

Please the Revolver in half cock

1. Place the Revolver in half cock

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2. Tap the Wedge out until the wedge spring rests on the screw

 

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3. Turn the cylinder until a wall between two chambers is under the plunger.

 

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4. Activate the lever so the plunger presses against the cylinder, slowly separating the barrel unit from the receiver.

 

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5 Remove the cylinder.

 

To reassemble, tap the wedge in flush to the right side. The wedge spring is not intended to lock on the right side.  If you tap in the wedge too far, the cylinder will drag or not turn at all. Virtually none of the current owners manual have this information. Now you know. Go shoot that revolver! DC

 

Restoration Tips: Stock Restoration

Restoration Tips (July 1997 Newsletter)
by Cyrus Chun

Poor stock refinishing can ruin a good collector gun if you don’t know what you are doing. My techniques are the results of years of trial and error with advice from other restorers. There are many ways to restore a stock but essentially you need to visualize the final product; aged, mint, used, etc., that you want to achieve.

  1. Color; if you can’t duplicate the original, forget it and live with what you got, e.g., the orange color of Moisin Nagants and light color European military stocks are difficult to duplicate.
  2. Dents; you need to strip the stock finish. Remove all oils and grease or else filler/epoxy will not adhere to the wood. Steaming lifts finish/and oils out of the stock. If it’s not too bad, live with it; after all it was a combat weapon at one time.
    1. Steaming will raise small dents. Place a damp cloth over the dent and apply a hot clothes iron on top. Repeat until done. Sometimes the wood grain is too crushed to be raised.
    2. deep gouges and cracks can be repaired with wood putty or epoxy stained/dyed to match stock color.
  3. Stock Stripping;
    1. paint stripper (rub-off or water washable types) is sufficient and does not raise the wood grain too much.
    2. lacquer thinner is best in a 5 gallon can. Just stand the stock in it and the lacquer thinner will remove the finish and draw the oils out cleanly from the interior of the wood. Raises the wood grain a bit and dries the stock out completely
    3. Oven Cleaner Easy-Off with lye readily removes all the oils from inside the stock. But be thorough in removing all the lye or it’ll continue eating into the wood. The water rinse raises the wood grain a lot.
  4. Finishing; I rarely use sandpaper and if I do it’s for major reshaping only. There are 2 methods (carding and/or boning or a combination of both). These are 19th to 20th Century (1800’s ­ 1900’s) stock finishing techniques.
    1. Carding: Do not stain/finish stock. Take a sharp implement, i.e., a straight razor, hold at a 450 angle and scrap the stock while applying even pressure along the grain of the wood. This will cut the raised wood grains off and keep stock lines sharp. This method removes little wood and keeps the stock edges from being rounded. Edges of markings will be sharp and not rounded.
    2. Boning: Stain/dye the stock to the desired color. Oil the stock with linseed oil or Tung oil. Linseed oil gives a flat military finish and Tung oil gives a semi-gloss finish. Use a flat piece of bone (-10″L x l”W), apply even pressure on the flat part of the bone to the stock and rub along the grain of the wood while the stock is still wet with oil. This lays the wood grains back down into the stock and forms a hard smooth surface/finish. No wood is removed.

Flintlocks: Making Your Flintlock Failsafe

Making Your Flintlock Failsafe

by Earl Matsuoka

There are several areas of special care that a wise shooter pays attention to in shooting a flintlock in a place as humid as Hawaii.  Especially in the hunting field where your gun will be loaded for long periods soaking up whatever moisture is present.  But, before we can get to that we have to set up our piece so it can perform with mechanical perfection.

Even more important than in selecting a new percussion gun, buy the best quality you can afford.  In a flintlock gun, the sparks from the flint striking the steel frizzen flashes the priming powder in the pan carrying fire through the vent into the main charge.  For this discussion we’ll separate this into two stages; the first, flashing the pan or priming charge, and the second, the firing of the main charge in the barrel.

 

The first stage deals with the lock itself and here is where you want to get the best lock you can afford.  Cheap locks are out of time, have soft frizzens that do not spark well or pans that do not seal weather out very well.  They are frustrating and not fun to shoot.  A good lock will produce a bright shower of yellow-white sparks directed into the pan to light the charge instantly.  With everything working properly there should be no lag between the pan flash and the main charge igniting.

 

The most important item in this first phase is the flint itself.  I have limited experience with the cut flints now sold through various sources but can get over a hundred shots from a traditional chipped flint by re-knapping when needed and this is a skill you should acquire.  You cannot re-knapp a cut flint very well if at all and knowing you have a dull flint that may or may not spark is frustrating.  The quality of chipped flints varies greatly however and I strongly suggest paying the few cents more and using only black English or amber French flints.  The English flints can be purchased from a number of muzzle-loading suppliers and are great, but the finest flints known are the amber French flints that can be located through HHAA member, Chris Mann, who deals with the person who actually shapes the flints.  Get the size appropriate to your lock.  Set the flint in the jaws of the cock or hammer in a scrap of leather cut from an old shoe with the bevel up or down depending on your individual lock so the sparks are directed into the pan.  Do not clamp a flint naked in the jaws of your hammer.  Some publications have advised using sheet lead instead, but I would do this only on the extra hefty musket locks if at all.  With the hammer on half cock, the edge of the flint should not touch the frizzen face, and in working around a sharp flint be very careful as the edge can be as sharp as a piece of broken glass, and do not under any circumstances get your finger between the flint and the frizzen as an accidental hammer release can separate your fingertip.  You can recognize an experienced flint shooter by the many healing cuts about his fingers that just seems to appear when you unknowingly brush against a mounted flint.  Be careful!

 

Although the frizzen springs should just lightly hold the frizzen closed against the pan, many locks have powerful springs that hold the frizzen closed with such force that the striking flint will shatter edges before it can move the frizzen away uncovering the pan.  You can carefully thin the spring reducing the force needed with a small rotary grinder but watch the heat generated and polish all grinding marks off before compressing the spring again.  Lightening this spring will also minimize gun movement when the hammer falls, increasing accuracy.

  

A simple test of lock timing given me by Mark Silver and Monte Mandarino is to load the priming pan only, turn the unloaded gun upside down and drop the hammer… if there is a falling shower of burning powder all is well for pan flashing and we can move on to insure the main charge ignition.

 

After the pan powder ignited reliably, we have to get that fire into the main charge in the barrel.  Nothing is as important here as the placement of the vent or touch hole in the barrel.  Many replica guns sold today have a fault here correctable by a good gunsmith who can install a vent liner in the proper position.  The correct position for a vent hole is almost even with the top surface of the pan.  Not near the bottom floor of the pan as is sometimes common.  This error leads to fuselike ignition and moisture easily killing the main charge as it travels through the now damp priming or pan powder to the main charge.  With the vent properly placed, wet pan powder can be wiped out with t finger tip, replaced and flashed firing the still dry main charge.  A pan properly loaded is loaded only half way to the top with the lock tapped to move the powder over to the outside of the pan.  This causes the fire to be directed instantly toward the vent avoiding the hand fire like ignition common in movie depictions.

 

Since we want to avoid anything that resembles a fuse, all my guns are equipped with non-traditional stainless steel vent liners that are counter bored from the inside to place the main charge closer to the vent opening.  Since I only use relatively large bores, I also open my vent with a 3/32” drill to easily convey the pan flash.  There is nothing more impossible to instant ignition than a small hole drilled through the whole thickness of a barrel wall resembling nothing less than a 1/2” fuse.  If there is any delay and there will be in this scenario, it would take a might man indeed to avoid flinching when the pan ignites inches from your eye a half second before the main charge fires

Flintlocks: Making Your Flintlock Work

Tribute to Earl –

Making Your Flintlock Work

by Earl Matsuoka

The first question that I often hear is why would anyone want to shoot a gun that is so unreliable?  After years of experience at the range and hunting, I can honestly say that I feel no extra handicap shooting a flintlock over a percussion rifle.  There are a number of techniques and precautions that you must take to insure your gun goes bang and hitting any target within range; provided you do your part.

Although this applies to any muzzleloader, the first consideration is to fire only at targets within the effective range of your gun.  Any muzzleloader can reach quite a distance.  In hunting I’ve learned to keep my shots within a limit of 125 yds.  If the target is judged to be within 100, I shoot “point of aim.”  Since I use patched round balls, my gun is zeroed at 100 yds, placing the ball at 50 yds about 2 1/2” high.  Beyond 100 yds, I aim for the spine which will give me a kill.  Even if I misjudge the range, I’m actually shooting up to 150 yds as the extra drop will still fall within a vital area.  With more than 20 years of hunting experiences, judging the exact range at unknown distances in the field is very difficult.  I feel we all owe our animals the respect of a quick clean kill and should avoid the long range guess, pray and shoot methods.

In selecting a quality flintlock, we are limited to a selection of production guns that have a slow barrel rate of twist which are best suited to using a round ball.  Do not even bother to try using modern conical or the sabot type projectiles as they will not be accurate.  I suggest using a round ball caliber not smaller than .54 for hunting big game with at least 90 grains blackpowder behind it.  Smaller bullets have taken game here and on the Mainland, but also increases wounding the animal as a result.  During the flintlock era, there was a rich tradition to respect and enjoy a round ball projectile used in hunting.

One of the things that prevents shooters in Hawaii from using a flintlock is the supply of blackpowder.  Pyrodex by itself does not work in a flintlock unless you are able to endure long and comical hangfires where the priming in the pan flashes and the main charge ignites in the barrel 2 full seconds later.  But Pyrodex can be made to work well with the assist of small amounts of fine grain blackpowder (4F granulation).  One pound of powder will last for about 700 shots.  First you make a measure from a modern pistol .380 ACP cartridge case.  Load the case full of blackpowder and pour down the barrel before loading the Pyrodex.  Prime the pan with the same 4F blackpowder and your gun will perform like the whole charge was blackpowder.  The blackpowder is used as an ignition aid and will correct the hangfire problem.

For bullet patching, use only tightly woven cotton or linen such as pillow ticking.  Do not use synthetic or blends as they will melt and tend to fuse to your barrel walls; a real mess.  Lightly lubricate your patches with Wonder Lube or T.C. Natural Lube to cut the fouling and make additional loading easier.  I patch tightly.  If time allows, I run a patch to remove most of the heavy fouling between each shot.  It aids accuracy by making consistent shots and removes most of the fouling that attracts moisture that may damage the powder charge which reduces velocity.  I never count on a quick reload because I’ve never seen an animal stand patiently waiting for me to shoot again.

Tribute to Earl Matsuoka

Remembering EARL MATSUOKA…

EARL MATSUOKA, former long-time HHAA member, passed away peacefully after a long illness on June 9, 2011.  Earl was a nationally recognized stock maker, wood restoration icon, and master custom flintlock maker.  His re-stocking of fine, double-barreled shotguns has been featured in national publications.  Earl’s interests even extended to the premier Las Vegas Antique Arms Show where he displayed his outstanding work under his dba, Ohana Antiques.  His wood restorations include artifacts (non-firearm) at the Bishop Museum.  Many of us have handled his superbly built, Yeager flintlock rifles. His skill in fine-tuning a flintlock resulted in extreme fast lock time… so fast that Earl’s flintlocks could be fired upside down!

Thirteen years ago, Earl wrote a 5-part series about flintlocks which was published in the HHAA Newsletter:  Part I — Why Choose a Flintlock?;Part II — Making Your Flintlock Work; Part III — Making Your Flintlock Fail-Safe; Part IV — A Reliable Flintlock in Wet Weather; and Part V — Flint Knapping for Flintlocks.  These were printed in the February, March, May, June, and July 1998 issues, respectively and reprinted after his death.

Proper Way to Install an After-Market 10/22 Barrel

Proper Way to Install an After-Market 10/22 Barrel

by Mike Fujioka

It’s a normal “bolt on and off.” Here are some hints on installing the barrel.

Remove the factory barrel and strip all parts from the receiver until it is bare. Try to fit the new barrel. If the barrel will not slide into the receiver as easily as the factory barrel, you will have to hand fit it. All you have to do is sand the barrel extension (the part of the barrel that slides into the receiver) with sandpaper to remove a slight bit of metal (evenly around the extension) so that it slides in snugly. Not TIGHT, but SNUG! (“Snug” means you can still remove it by hand pressure only; a little resistance is good.)

Do not sand or enlarge the receiver opening for the barrel!

NOTE: Be sure to clean off all metal sanding debris from the barrel extension before a trial fit. Failure to do so will allow metal grit to bind the barrel into the receiver at the half-way point. It’s a pain to constantly clean before each trial fit, but go slow and don’t rush it. If the barrel gets stuck, use a large wooden dowel placed against the barrel extension from the inside of the receiver and tap the wooden dowel with a small hammer lightly to push the barrel back out (having to do this just once will definitely ensure that you remember to clean off all sanding grit before trial fitting next time).

If the fit is TIGHT, do not hammer the barrel in. You might crack your receiver! Nearly all hand-fitted snug barrels shoot very accurately.

Be careful when tightening the V-Block while securing the new barrel to the receiver. Snug is all you need, and both screws should have even torque pressure applied. If the V-Block cracks or breaks, this is not a problem. Order an after-market steel one which will prevent this from happening again.

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