View Full Version : Colt Caliber Swapping
03-17-2008, 05:22 PM
Please forgive if this is a newbie question, but I am, after all, a fresh fish. So let's say I have a nice Italian Colt Navy repro, Pietta for example, in a .36 caliber. If I want to go to a .44, can I just get a new barrel and cylinder and put them on the .36 frame? The parts diagrams I have seen show the different calibers to be interchangeable. Am I missing something, or is it really that easy???
03-17-2008, 05:58 PM
Why would you want to??? The Colt 1851 or Navy model was ONLY made in .36 . A .44 Navy never existed and only exists in the minds of the modern repopers. IMHO, stay with the .36 or if you want a .44, spends the bucks and get a '60 Army or a '58 Remington (Iron Framed)
03-18-2008, 04:01 AM
As a newbie, it's perfectly understandable that you'd wonder about this - I did too. Let's go sit over here in the shade and be comfortable while we talk.
It seems you're assuming that all replacement parts for reproduction revolvers are made to precise tolerances and can be swapped from one revolver to another with very little or no fitting. I'm chuckling as I write this, and I know there are some readers laughing out loud. It ain't so, not even between consecutive serial-numbered revolvers, except perhaps the really high-quality Colt Blackpowder Series.
The historically incorrect .44 caliber 1851 Navy Colts have the same cylinder as the .44 caliber 1860 Army Colts. This cylinder has a larger diameter toward the front and forms a shoulder or step, as opposed to the .36 caliber Navy cylinder, which is straight. Look closely at photos of .44 caliber Navys on the Web and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Converting a .36 to a .44 can be done, but it would require machining a recess into the curved part of the frame below the cylinder that would allow the cylinder to fit. Then you'd have to apply the false color-casehardened finish to the exposed metal. Then you'd most likely have to fit the new barrel and wedge assembly to the cylinder arbor and frame, and possibly need to fit the hand, stop bolt, and maybe replace the arbor (axle) to begin with.
Bottom line: It's a great project to show off your abilities as a machinist and gunsmith. It's also expensive, labor-intensive, absolutely unnecessary, and will result in a reproduction of a period firearm that never existed.
03-18-2008, 07:24 AM
Thanks, Frenchie, the shade was a welcome break from the hot sun! And the refreshing beverage we shared helped to take some of the sting out of the Historical Accuracy whipping my hinie took. :p
In reality I hadn't yet considered that aspect. My question was spawned as I perused a parts diagram for said Colt Navy, looking to replace a badly worn hand that makes the cylinder lockup just the tiniest bit loose. The diagram shows 9 different barrels and 5 cylinders that apparently fit the frame. It was more of a rhetorical question than anything, I guess. Well, now at least I don't have to worry about putting a .44 cylinder behind a .36 barrel and really cocking things up...
Thank you, Gentlemen, for your expertise!
03-18-2008, 07:48 AM
My question was spawned as I perused a parts diagram for said Colt Navy, looking to replace a badly worn hand that makes the cylinder lockup just the tiniest bit loose. The diagram shows 9 different barrels and 5 cylinders that apparently fit the frame.
That's almost exactly my own experience. I was saved from buying parts I couldn't use when I saw some examples of these different revolvers at a gun show and realized it was somewhere I didn't want to go. As it is, I still have the barrel from my very first Navy Colt, which I buggered up while trying to get the barrel-cylinder gap straight. I keep it to remind myself to first find out what I'm really trying to do before I try doing it. Even so, I don't always manage to remember that... sigh... :D
Let me highly recommend a book that will be a huge help to you if you decide you like gunsmithing these cap and ball smokewagons: Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West by David R. Chicoine.
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