Colt Lightning keyholing
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Thread: Colt Lightning keyholing

  1. #1
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    Colt Lightning keyholing

    Some time ago I acquired a Colt Lightning in .32-20 and just recently got around to taking it to the range. It's accurate enough at 10 yards or less, but keyholes something awful. Accuracy rapidly declines to 75 yards but shots stayed on the target paper and backing.

    I was shooting Black Hills 115 gr FLP.

    I'm pretty sure it's the barrel. After taking the rifle apart, a patched .32 jag slipped through without resistance. A patched .338/8mm jag was tighter. A patched .35/9mm jag fit tight and I could feel the shop rod turning. I saw a couple of barrels at eBay but I'm reluctant to buy unseen and don't want to have the expense of relining the barrel. This could finally push me into reloading. However, I suspect finding a proper sized bullet to fit the .32-20 case will be problematic.

    I will appreciate any and all thoughts on this topic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnyvincent View Post
    Some time ago I acquired a Colt Lightning in .32-20 and just recently got around to taking it to the range. It's accurate enough at 10 yards or less, but keyholes something awful. Accuracy rapidly declines to 75 yards but shots stayed on the target paper and backing.

    I was shooting Black Hills 115 gr FLP.

    I'm pretty sure it's the barrel. After taking the rifle apart, a patched .32 jag slipped through without resistance. A patched .338/8mm jag was tighter. A patched .35/9mm jag fit tight and I could feel the shop rod turning. I saw a couple of barrels at eBay but I'm reluctant to buy unseen and don't want to have the expense of relining the barrel. This could finally push me into reloading. However, I suspect finding a proper sized bullet to fit the .32-20 case will be problematic.

    I will appreciate any and all thoughts on this topic.
    I assume that you are speaking of a 32-20 Colt Slide Action Lightning. If the bore is awful, then that may be the problem. It sounds like the rifling isn't spinning the bullet. The normal bullet dia is 0.3125" (happens to be 5/16"). The bullet dia should be only about 0.001" larger than the bore diameter. Check the bore size against the bullets that you are shooting.

    The problem could also stem from excessive rod wear at the muzzle. Also I have seen 1/4" of the barrel nipped off at the muzzle by someone that suspects rod wear. If the resulting muzzle isn't perfectly perpendicular with the bore, horrible accuracy can result. Also the muzzle can have a ding that causes awful accuracy. That makes me wonder why some Texas Ranger pics show a group of men with muzzles down (on the ground). Oh yes, it was safer than muzzles up!

    I was once invited to a backyard cookout, barbecue and pelon were served. After eating, I got to talking about old Winchesters etc. The host said "I have an old Winchester 1892 carbine in 38-40 that won't hit the side of a barn". I asked if it was for sale. He said "Hell no, I will give it to you"! He did. I took it home, and a few days later simply re-crowned the damaged muzzle in a lathe. That SRC had been shortened about 3/16" with a hacksaw. And no it wouldn't hit squat! But after re-crowing, I got 2" groups at 50 yards with those (crude) original SRC sights!

    So you might want to check out your gun for anything like I mentioned above. If it is determined that your bore is hopelessly bad, one option would be to re-line the bore and chamber. Re-lining jobs cost about $400. Eventually it comes down to "Is the gun worth all of this additional expense"?

    Good luck!
    Last edited by victorio1sw; 10-06-2019 at 12:00 AM.

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    Thanks, Victorio. You are correct as to the rifle.

    It's the bore. I took it too a gunsmith. I could only find folks who would line the barrel for $1000.00 down. Looks like this one has become a wall hanger/fun shooter with a 25 yard backstop.

    Nice to hear about your Winchester and to see we can mention other makes without being chastised. I've an 1873 rifle produced in 1875 equipped with a Lyman Tang peep site that gives slightly larger groups at 100 yards - could be me. I had to desecrate it by having a modern red front site installed so I could see it. The original front site can be re-installed.

    Thanks again.

    Stay safe.

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  5. #4
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    You could try cast bullets sized a little bigger than normal.
    Curtis M Brier, CPA, CIA, CFE

    Amat Victoria Curam

    Never buy a gun you'll have to make excuses for later

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    The .32-20 bullet is fairly long in relation to it's diameter as opposed to the .38-40 or .44-40, and it takes a pretty good bore to stabilize it. The longer a bullet is in relation to it's diameter the harder it is to stabilize. I have a muzzle loading rifle that shoots round ball only that has a rifling twist of 1 turn in 72 inches, while some of the 6.5 calibers require a 1 turn in 7 or 8 inches.

    As mentioned above, the last 1/2" or so of the barrel must fit the bullet snugly or the rifle will sort of cough the bullet out.

    These are Winchester bullets for the .32-20, .38-40, and .44-40, and illustrate how much longer the .32-20 is in relation to it's diameter than the other two.


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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnyvincent View Post
    Thanks, Victorio. You are correct as to the rifle.

    It's the bore. I took it too a gunsmith. I could only find folks who would line the barrel for $1000.00 down. Looks like this one has become a wall hanger/fun shooter with a 25 yard backstop.

    Nice to hear about your Winchester and to see we can mention other makes without being chastised. I've an 1873 rifle produced in 1875 equipped with a Lyman Tang peep site that gives slightly larger groups at 100 yards - could be me. I had to desecrate it by having a modern red front site installed so I could see it. The original front site can be re-installed.

    Thanks again.

    Stay safe.
    I have heard some very good things about this guy who relines barrels. Richard Schoenberger, 8984 E. County Road 1600W., Sunman, IN. Phone: 812-623-4881. Takes about 3 weeks to do this work. He charges about $400 to $450 for these liners. That includes a new chamber.

    I hope that helps.

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    Thanks JohnnyP and Victorio.
    I was talking with a gunsmith today and will be slugging the barrel - casting it actually - to get a better idea of what I'm dealing with.
    Stay safe.


 

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