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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Have a question for those who know more about this than I do (hope it's a lot of you all - smile).

I've see several 1st Gen BP framed SAAs fore sale that have replacement barrels and cylinders from the smokeless era, probably 2nd Gen for the most part. I understand that the majority of the pressure from a smokeless load is contained in the chamber/cylinder. I just wonder how much of a beating the BP era frame/top strap will take from driving a ~250g bullet into the forcing cone at smokeless pressures? And no, I'm not talking about Elmer Keith loads but standard loads at about 850 fps.

Dave
 

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It will absorb 5.6 x 10[SUP]-[/SUP][SUP]9 [/SUP]Newton microTonnes per square mm, for no more than between 100 and 10,000 firings before catastrophic failure.

Seriously, how would someone know that doesn't do testing?
 

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Have a question for those who know more about this than I do (hope it's a lot of you all - smile).

I've see several 1st Gen BP framed SAAs fore sale that have replacement barrels and cylinders from the smokeless era, probably 2nd Gen for the most part. I understand that the majority of the pressure from a smokeless load is contained in the chamber/cylinder. I just wonder how much of a beating the BP era frame/top strap will take from driving a ~250g bullet into the forcing cone at smokeless pressures? And no, I'm not talking about Elmer Keith loads but standard loads at about 850 fps.

Dave
The pressure of a smokeless load IS NOT CONTAINED IN THE CYL.-it transfers w/a little less pressure to the basepin & then a little less than that to the frame,& if there's any wear on the basepin or in the frame where the basepin fits it can cause damage,over the yrs I've found 5 or 6 that have had cracked frames,in the last one [a US stamped frame] I found a crack running from the basepin retention screw up to the basepin hole in the frame,I pulled the basepin & found the crack continued clear up to where the bbl was screwed into the frame.
 

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The pressure of a smokeless load IS NOT CONTAINED IN THE CYL.-it transfers w/a little less pressure to the basepin & then a little less than that to the frame,& if there's any wear on the basepin or in the frame where the basepin fits it can cause damage,over the yrs I've found 5 or 6 that have had cracked frames,in the last one [a US stamped frame] I found a crack running from the basepin retention screw up to the basepin hole in the frame,I pulled the basepin & found the crack continued clear up to where the bbl was screwed into the frame.

Jim has stated the facts correct about shooting a black powder frame with smokeless Cylinders and Barrels! I have a 1904 framed SAA revolver that has been changed to .44 Special caliber. I still shoot black powder loads in this revolver as a "just in case"! My just in case is I don't know what has been fired in the revolver since the caliber change and I ere on the side of Safety! I know a 1904 Frame "may" be capable of firing smokeless loads, but I don't know if the "Elmer Kieth Loads" have been fired and the Frame weakened in it's past. I shoot SAFE even if it is a PITA to do that. I don't want my revolver damaged and I don't want to get hurt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Seriously, how would someone know that doesn't do testing?
Jim Martin, thank you so much. Your post is exactly the information I was looking for. If someone's interested in buying one of these "converted" guns it would be advisable to give a close look at the basepin, the basepin hole in the frame and the area around the basin retaining screw. That's excellent information to keep in mind.

Abwehr, your caution about not knowing what kind of loads have been fired through one of these guns previously is equally relevant. Thanks to you as well.

Dave
 

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I have a 1901 Colt SAA that was once used and abused during the fast-draw craze in the 1950's. It was also poorly re-nickled. I had Eddie Janis rebuild it, using a Colt 2nd Gen .38 Special cylinder and barrel. It only gets shot with factory wadcutters (which I have a ton of). Supposedly the steel in the early 20th century guns is better and OK per Colt to shoot with smokeless loads. Wadcutters are fine with me, way more fun than .22s and, I think, not stressing the frame unduly. Plus, it doesn't take much to kill a paper target.

Does anyone know the cutoff year for blackpowder only in the SAA? I've always been told it's 1900 and over 192,000 on the serial number (my rebuilt .38 is #218xxx).
Bob
 

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The pressure of a smokeless load IS NOT CONTAINED IN THE CYL.-it transfers w/a little less pressure to the basepin & then a little less than that to the frame,& if there's any wear on the basepin or in the frame where the basepin fits it can cause damage,over the yrs I've found 5 or 6 that have had cracked frames,in the last one [a US stamped frame] I found a crack running from the basepin retention screw up to the basepin hole in the frame,I pulled the basepin & found the crack continued clear up to where the bbl was screwed into the frame.
Which prompts a question for the wise and always helpful Jim Martin, and anyone else who has experience in this matter: I have an 1884 shipped .45 colt SAA, and a 2nd gen barrel and cylinder in the same caliber. It's clear from his comments above that swapping the barrel and cylinder would not let me safely fire smokeless rounds, at least not very many of them. Would the swap allow me to safely fire modern black powder rounds such as that sold by Buffalo Arms? Or, is modern black powder sufficiently different from the 19th century original to still pose a risk?

Thanks, as always.
 

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Which prompts a question for the wise and always helpful Jim Martin, and anyone else who has experience in this matter: I have an 1884 shipped .45 colt SAA, and a 2nd gen barrel and cylinder in the same caliber. It's clear from his comments above that swapping the barrel and cylinder would not let me safely fire smokeless rounds, at least not very many of them. Would the swap allow me to safely fire modern black powder rounds such as that sold by Buffalo Arms? Or, is modern black powder sufficiently different from the 19th century original to still pose a risk?

Thanks, as always.
A very good question you asked. When shooting black powder, even in early SAA revolvers, you should have the revolver checked really well to make sure there are no hidden cracks on the Frame. I normally shoot full loads of BP and it is fun. I will never shoot ANY smokeless loads in them; even a very low powered cartridge. The peak pressure of smokeless powder exceeds the streangth of the old BP frames! Just don't do it! Use Black Powder.

Buffalo Arms BP ammo is fine to use.....after you check the Frame. You can only pack so much BP in the .45 Colt case with about 1/8" comppession of the powder. A full load of .45 Colt is still pretty healthy load, LOL!
 

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I have a 1901 Colt SAA that was once used and abused during the fast-draw craze in the 1950's. It was also poorly re-nickled. I had Eddie Janis rebuild it, using a Colt 2nd Gen .38 Special cylinder and barrel. It only gets shot with factory wadcutters (which I have a ton of). Supposedly the steel in the early 20th century guns is better and OK per Colt to shoot with smokeless loads. Wadcutters are fine with me, way more fun than .22s and, I think, not stressing the frame unduly. Plus, it doesn't take much to kill a paper target.

Your information about the smokeless powder frames starting ABOUT 192,000 is correct. I'm not sure anyone knows the exact number. The problem is it's difficult to know if the cylinders have been replaced with an older BP cylinder. In your case, since you know your cylinder, you should be fine with smokeless. I have a 1901 SAA #218xxx in 41 Colt. I shoot both BP and smokeless with no ill results.
 

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I believe it's impossible to say precisely when a black powder era First Generation top strap will fail. We have no way of knowing the metallic composition without possibly destructive testing. We can't tell what heat treating it was subjected to in the 1800's. Will Magnafluxing or Eddy Current testing foretell future metal fatigue? If I owned a black powder era revolver that was tight, well timed, and in overall good shape I believe I could safely shoot it with black powder. Then again perhaps it would be a wall hanger. I've read of some testing that indicated certain smokeless powders have the same pressure curve and a lower peak pressure than black powder. I haven't researched this because I don't mind shooting and cleaning up after shooting black powder. Actually, I enjoy experiencing what a cowpoke of the 1800's went through. Good luck in your search for information, but remember, always err on the side of safety.
 
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