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Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 08:24 PM

Product review--R&D Conversion Cylinder
 
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About a year ago, “Aladdin Sane”, THE Mad Reloader began asking around here on HC about Cartridge Conversions for the 1858 Remington revolver. The universe must be in harmony, as the “Wheel o’ Karma” has come full circle and now I’m writing an article for HC about it! :D

The product in question is the R&D Conversion Cylinder, in calibre .45 “Long” Colt, as produced in the Great State of Wisconsin (Ooo-rah! Wisconsin!) by Taylor and Co. Important note—make sure that if you buy one of these cylinders—make sure to buy one for the manufacturer of your 1858 (Filli Pietta, Uberti, Armi San Marco, etc.) They do NOT interchange, as each of the repro makers has a slightly different set of blueprints for their Remmys.

What this nifty little device does is takes your cap & ball 1858 Remington, and updates it to the 1858/1869 cartridge conversion as was used provisionally by the US Army from 1869 to about 1873. Like the original Army Conversion, the cylinder has to be removed for loading, with a separate backplate corresponding to the dimensions of the percussion cylinder. (S&W Company did not sue, as arguments were presented them that it did not violate the Rollin White patent then still in force). Originals were produced in .44 Colt for Army use and a civilian version in .46 Rimfire. The R&D is an apparent hybrid of these 2 variants, having the firing pin arrangement similar to the Army Conversion, and the slightly angled chambers of the .46 Rimfire, so as to accommodate the .45 Colt cartridge rims. IMHO, it would be entirely appropriate for re-enactors doing an impression from that epoch.

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 08:44 PM

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As one can see by this side-by side comparing the R&D cylinder to the percussion, there isn’t much difference between the two cylinders. Solid ferrules as opposed to nipples for #11 percussion caps, and the cylinder star has been thankfully cut in such a way that facilitates removal/replacement with clearance for the pawl/ratchet

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 08:50 PM

Concessions to modernity are as follows—the cylinder is made from 4150 steel, and the backplate from 4140. Also, one of the ferrule assemblies has a silver finish, so that one has a marked chamber to keep as an empty for safe carry. The conversion comes with a hinged plastic case, instructions/limited warranty, and a little velveteen drawstring bag to hold the cylinder, all for $240. Coupled with the Filli Pietta 1858 Remington I got from Cabelas, the whole kit & kaboodle ran me well under $400. Slightly cheaper than what I’d pay around here for a used SAA clone, much less expensive than buying a new one. (FWIW—spare cylinders less backplate will run you $120). An added plus for some folks is that in many locales, none of this requires a FFL or filling out a 4473. The conversion is regarded as a “gun part”, the percussion revolver is an “ATF non-gun”—however the revolver WITH cylinder is an FFL item, as the owner has basically “manufactured” a handgun. (Just an FYI for anyone considering selling their converted pistol!)

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 10:06 PM

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Loading & unloading drill goes as follows: Put the hammer to half-cock, unlatch the loading lever and lower slightly, pull the cylinder axis pin forward, roll out the cylinder clockwise, remove backplate, manually remove casings. Then load new rounds, replace backplate, roll the cylinder into the frame clockwise, drive axis pin home and latch the loading lever closed. This is going to require a whisker of dexterity, more so than using an old H&R/NEF pull pin revolver.

Balance and heft of the conversion presented no change over that of the original cap & ball configuration, Appearance-wise, there was no change in the configuration, as indicated by the picture. In the foreground of the picture are the six loads I used in the performance test. Starting from the left: 250 grain RNFP “Cowboy Action” load (as made by Ultramax, Hornady, W-W, etc. This one’s a PMC); 225 grain FP CA load consisting of 4.7 grains of Bullseye and a CCI #300 primer; 200 grain RNFP CA load (as made by Ultramax or Winchester); 180 grain RNFP CA load consisting of 5.1 grains of Green Dot and a CCI #300 primer; 160 grain RNFP CA load consisting of 3.9 grains of B’eye and a CCI #350 primer; 155 grain LSWC loaded to Cowboy Action spec with 3.9 grains B’eye, CCI #350 primer again.

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 10:10 PM

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The reason for such a spread of loads is as follows: My Pietta repro has original type 1858 fixed sights. Using a 140 grain lead ball and 30 grains of Pyrodex, I can get a group at 50’ of paper plate size or smaller, firing it in percussion mode. The original Remington conical was of 150 grain weight, looked to be a RN-HB based on an old catalogue listing I found. My buddy “Space Cowboy’s” dad is going to rummage around the attic & shed to see if he can dig up this OLD brass bullet mold that he seems to recall made .45 conicals for the Remington. For the purposes of my test the closest anyone had in my part of AZ were the 160-grainer by Meister, and the 155 SWC from Laredo Bullets (this was also the source of the load data for 150-160 grain CA’s). No one hereabouts is producing the 150-grain “collar buttons” usually used for gallery loads in the .45-70, and billybedammed if I’m going to drop the cash for the special production Rapine mold just to run off one box of test loads! Decided to wait & see what the range results would be.

Per the warranty card included with the cylinder, please to use Cowboy Action or Black Powder loads ONLY!!!!. And per my talking with Tammy Loy, who works at Taylor & Co’s R&Ds guns, that covers factory rounds only.
This isn’t a .454 Casull, heck—this IS your great-grandpappy’s gun! So no Glaser Safety slugs or +P or stuff that is best used in a Ruger Blackhawk. For those of you wishing to roll up your own, keep in mind what the maximum OAL for a .45 Colt round is and don’t exceed it! You can see by this shot from the front of the cylinder, which has all 6 of my test loads in it for demonstration purposes that the 155 grain SWC goes to within 0.002” or less of the front of the cylinder! And I couldn’t seat that bullet any deeper, folks!

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 10:25 PM

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Now for the moment some of you have been waiting for: The test results. Started off with the 250 grain PMC Cowboy Action loads. Got groups of about 4-5" spread at 50', tolerable I suppose. The PMC loads were kinda harsh for Cowboy loads--I have this sneaking suspicion that they were actually Standard Velocity. I do NOT reccomend these for use in the 1858/1869.

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 10:29 PM

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Next on the list was the 225 grainers, (got mine from Laredo Bullets, same style also made by Meister). Load data taken from the 2001 ed. Cast Bullet handbook. The group here was 3" or under, recoil was quite pleasant--about on a par with the cap & ball 140 grain round ball load.

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 10:44 PM

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Third on the list was the 200 grain RNFP. Please to note—this is the lightest grain weight available at this time as a factory load of the CA variety. This time my group was again, 3" diameter or less. This load felt exactly the same as if I was firing the percussion cylinder--another winner!

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 10:50 PM

This project has just entered the Twilight Zone...
 
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Now I’m down to my custom handloads. Taking a hint from Rocky Raab, I was able to infer a Cowboy Action load for a 180 grainer based on some published data for a 185 grain target SWC in .45 ACP, hence the 5.1 of Green Dot. .. But with a bit more elbow room inside that big old .45 “Long” Colt case, thusly generating even lower pressure! ;) Larry Cheatham of Laredo Bullets figured that of the 6 projectiles, this particular weight would perform the best…
Well, not quite. Group opened up a little, now we're looking at nearly 4" again. (Perhaps I should have stuck to B'eye...) Still a pleasant shooter, and I'd definitely load this one again. (Maybe a Bullseye load next time though.... :rolleyes: )

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 11:05 PM

160 grain loading...It's ammo. (Hooray Ammo!)
 
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For the fifth test load, I wanted something for a 160 grain projo as mild as the weather in Barbados, so I got a load from Larry Cheatham. 3.5 to 4.0 grains of B’eye, and “good luck getting the powder to ignite when it gets up to the front of the cartridge.” :eek: 3.9 grains of B’eye looked really puny in the cavernous confines of the .45 Colt case, and the seating depth of the projectile wasn’t going to take up much room at all! His suggestions were to either use a filler wad (NDG for revolver use!) or a primer with more flash, hence the CCI #350 for this “Red Stripe” low-velocity lightweight. (It’s ammo! Hooray Ammo!) “I and I” fired off about 2 dozen rounds, “mon” and my group continued opening up. (ave diameter 4 1/2 ") Recoil wasn't any different. Maybe I should have stuck with the #300. Deifinitely gotten below optimum performance here, folks...

Mad Reloader 04-13-2003 11:13 PM

The TRUTH about De-Evolution!!!!
 
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The sixth and final test load assembled was IMHO the ultimate de-evolution of the .45 Colt, using the 155 grain SWC loaded as deeply as I could over the dinkoid 3.9 grain pinch of B’eye waay down at the bottom of the unfurnished basement of the cartridge. Getting the things seated to the proper depth and successfully crimped was a major hassle, though the finished product had a surprisingly high-tech look to them that belied their low-velocity ca. 1871 anticipated performance.
This last batch ended up with the following results. Groups opened up to about the same size as the 250 grain PMC factory C-A loads that seemed more like standard velocity. Ragged holes in the target paper, per Smooth & Deadly (she took the really nice pic of the cylinder comparison, BTW!) she felt they were within a hair of keyholing. :eek: Not going to bother loading these again, best off with the 200 grainers, or the 225's or the 180s. Remember to keep loads within Cowboy Action levels, folks! :D

{I'll post my Conclusion tomorrow. Feel free to make your comments & observations after this, my Bicentennial post [#1776!] :) }

Mad Reloader 04-14-2003 07:59 AM

Conclusion
 
In conclusion, best performance with the as-issued sights on my “1858/1869” Cartridge Converted 1858 Remington came from the 200 grain bullets, followed by the 225 grain and 180-grain projectiles.
The loading/unloading procedure may be a bit tricky for some as it makes a Colt SAA rod-ejector look convenient and a Schofield or Webley look instantaneous. My only complaint with the R&D cylinder for the Remington is that it is only produced in ONE calibre--.45 Colt. .45 S&W Schofield cannot be used, as the rims are too wide to fit in the countersunk chambers (unless of course you use .45 Colt brass trimmed down to Schofield length…) and although Black Hills might have ceased rolling up .44 Colt ammo, the brass is still available from Starline, this might make for an interesting alternate chambering.

A final note— R&D also makes their conversion cylinder for the Ruger Old Army (in .45 Colt), they still have some available for the Rogers & Spencer (.45 Colt again) and can start up their Special Production tooling to run one off for the Starr. FWIW, they also have a cylinder of identical style to go in the .36 1851 and 1861 Navy Colts, converting them to .38 Long Colt (heeled outside-lubricated bullet is de rigeur for that variant). I personally have some doubts about this concept on an open top Colt, as to load & unload the cylinder you’re going to be constantly removing the cylinder axis wedge and barrel, which is why Colt went with the Richards-Mason series conversions once the Thuer concept tanked. But since you’re pulling the wedge anyway on the 1848 Wells Fargo and the 1836 Patersons, R&D style conversions may have application there.

Update from R&D (18 April 2003)
Spoke with Tammy Loy, who works with their gunsmith, and there IS a distinct possibility of R&D offering a conversion cylinder in .32 S&W for the 1848 Wells Fargo (or one of the other pocket .31's) in the near future! :eek: But do NOT hold your breath waiting for a conversion cylinder for the Paterson! R&D uses CNC machining, and tooling up for the 1836--would not be practical, even for a semi-limited run, due to their anticipating NO demand for such few Paterson repros as are out there. (But they've already got the setup for the R&S and the Starr DA, so not to worry about those 2!) ;)

Mad Reloader 05-25-2003 07:38 AM

Update 5/26/03--

Going to add on a little more here once I test 2 more loads for Cowboy Action grade ammo--An old load by Stebbins involving a 240 grain Keith SWC, and a 225-230 grain FP Rocky says is "Da Bomb"! Just need to get to the range one more time... :D

bump! ;)

Mad Reloader 07-29-2003 09:31 PM

Postscript--additional load data
 
Well--after TWO more range sessions, here's the results of some additional loads tested--

The 200 grain Ultramax brand CAS load--actually grouped about 1/2" wider than my 200 grain RN/FP with 4.7 grains of B'eye. Kicked a little more, too. :eek:

Laredo Bullets of Tempe, AZ had begun limited production of a 190 grain TC/SWC that is in essence the old Lyman #452488 with a bevel base. Got a 3" group out of them using 5.3 grains of Green Dot...my Bullseye loading was much less spectacular with this projo. Suffice to say, this one would be an acceptable "hunting load" conforming to CAS velo/ressure specs! :)

Also took a cue from the great Rocky Raab and used up the last of my PB to roll off 2 test batches. 200 grain RN/FP with 5.0 grains, and a 225 grain FP also with 5.0 of PB. The 225 grainer grouped about the same as the Ultramax factory load. Thusly--ANOTHER WINNER! :cool: Group opened up about an inch with 5.0 of PB behinf the 200 grainer, so looks like a 220-230 grainer is ideal with the PB, CAS shooting fans....;)

And my FINAL test batch is from the late, great Stebbins. 3.9 of B'eye behind a 240 GRAIN "Elmer Keith" type SWC. To my amazement--group was the same size as Rocky Raab's 225 & PB, also the Ultramax 200's!! :eek:
:confused: The ultra mild recoil got me to wondering, though--my MV has got to be down around 600 f/s. Perthaps lower. I might roll up some more of these--but between RR's 225 with 5.0 of PB, the Ultramax 200 grainers, and my faves of 4.7 of B'eye and the RNL or the Lyman 452488 with 5.3 of Green...

:D Methinks we've got this covered.
........Stay tuned to HC for further firearms product reviews!


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