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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Several decades ago I acquired this unusual 1851 Colt Navy-Navy conversion to shoot. At the time if you wanted to shoot a conversion, you had to shoot an original. The gun had a period cut-back barrel with a rifle front sight. It also had been refinished and blued. However, while it lacked the cylinder scene, all the markings were there, with the exception of a US and Colt's Patent on the frame. It is possible that these markings were never there. The barrel underside has the inspection mark of Commander Richard W. Meade and the naval anchor. The cylinder has the double serial number. The barrel had the New York city address. The brass back strap has the small U.S.N on the butt. Interestingly, the serial number 3974 places it in early 1851 manufacture. It has the small trigger guard, but it has the thick lug. It is converted to .38 Colt.


The serial number is outside the two navy purchases, which fall into 55500 - 62000 and 89000 - 91000. Other guns have been noted outside these serial ranges, including one made in 1856. However, the brass back strap is unusual. Guns sent for conversion were believed to be 1,000 of the 1851 Navies and 1087 of the 1861 Navies. It is possible that this gun was a so called "trials gun" or a "Keyes" gun used as a replacement for a missing gun. One other possibility is that it was included with the guns that were turned over after the capture of Norfolk. Bruce McDowell, when visiting my home to include one of my 1851 Navies in his book on conversions, examined the gun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
GRI: What was Mr. McDowell's comments on seeing this gun? Many differences to an original one returned from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

View attachment 451609 View attachment 451617 View attachment 451625
At the time he came to photograph an unusual 1851 Navy conversion using a two piece cylinder similar to the Remington conversions and one that I still have today. He asked me about my other conversions and I dragged them out. He focused on two, this gun and a non-Colt, which he bought and is in his book. I hadn't thought much about the gun (to me it looked good and was a shooter) and almost didn't bother to drag it out. He pointed out immediately the brass back strap and said he knew of no other. Then, after examining it closely, he said the markings were original, but could not explain the gun. He then took pictures of several of my guns and I believe this one was included. However, only one of my conversions he photographed made into his book, other than the one he bought.

Note: I have attached an image of my 1851 Navy with a Remington style conversion which appears on page 386 of Bruce McDowell's book.
 

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GRI: The differences between mine and yours is self evident.....
The second sample is typical of a after market gunsmith conversion, many period conversions were done by local gunsmiths or blacksmiths.
Here is a well done non-factory conversion:
View attachment 451761
 

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GRI: The differences between mine and yours is self evident.....
The second sample is typical of a after market gunsmith conversion, many period conversions were done by local gunsmiths or blacksmiths.
Here is a well done non-factory conversion:
View attachment 451761
Was the intension with this type of conversion to use the ram to eject the cartridge (if it was long enough) or was some tool carried to pry the spent shell out? The conversion would have been a whole lot easier, but it would have really slowed down the reload operation.
 

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Was the intension with this type of conversion to use the ram to eject the cartridge (if it was long enough) or was some tool carried to pry the spent shell out? The conversion would have been a whole lot easier, but it would have really slowed down the reload operation.
The ram is part of the original percussion revolver. No function in the conversion.................Jim
 

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The ram is part of the original percussion revolver. No function in the conversion.................Jim
I have a handful of these old percussions so I am aware of what the ram was originally used for. Factory cartridge conversions (along with better non-factory conversions) removed the ram and added the SAA style cartridge ejector.

With the original ram left on this conversion I was wondering how they intended the spent shells be ejected. I don't think the ram would have been long enough to eject an empty shell. I do have a few SAA's which I have fired and most of the time spent shells will not 'fall out' by themselves just by holding the revolver vertically, they do need to be 'punched out'. Without the ejector you might have to 'dig' a stubborn shell out with a knife blade -- awkward!
 

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And if we can digress just a dab more, here is a later "conversion" of the 1862 Pocket Navy which with it's serial number of 3124 meaning that it is actually a newly made cartridge gun using some parts of a percussion revolver. This one is one of the more scarce models, the round barrel and lug with a rarely encountered 6-1/2" barrel. It has been reported that some 1,200 to 2,000 were made of all barrel lengths in the mid-1870s. This particular pistol is pictured in the McDowell book in black and white on page 348 - I thought color presented here of it for the first time would be of interest.



 

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Excellent clear picture showing good markings on the conversion, nice to know that the Colt factory reworked the old percussion models. This example shows how his percussions where leading the field at that time, and where worth converting thanks for your research and posting.
Kind regards,
ALSS.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I thought of my old thread and the current discussions on two 1851 Navy - Navy Conversions and feel it might be due to be revisited.
 
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