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This thread is being created with the question of are they safe to fire with smokeless powder or not?

The reason why this thread was created now is because of the revelation—yes, revelation—that perhaps all Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1899, or maybe even 1898, but shipped until 1905. A reputable poster to this forum suggested that all Colt 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1899 or maybe even prior to 1898, meaning ALL Colt 1878 revolvers should be considered ANTIQUE. I cannot recall which thread this was in so I cannot recall if pre 1899 or pre 1898 was stated. Folks sometimes use the term pre 1898 to suggest a revolver is an antique, but they really mean pre 1899 as that is the cutoff as to whether or not a firearm is antique or not.

As I became more knowledgeable about Colt Single Action Army revolvers—and other early Colt revolvers, both percussion and metallic cartridge—I’m the one that stated emphatically for the first time that, in the context of a thread discussing the topic of “is my Colt Single Action Army safe to fire with smokeless powder or not?”, that ALL Long Flute Single Action Army revolvers should be fired ONLY with black powder! Others have since quoted this verbatim, but it’s not in the literature anywhere. I came to this conclusion after studying Colt revolvers for some time. The reason why I mention that is not to put a feather in my cap, but just to state where this idea originated, and after I am long and gone, if just one person heeds these words—mine, or paraphrased from someone else—and a Long Flute revolver and someone’s fingers, are spared from destruction, then a job well done!

And here’s the basis behind my thought process: It has been debated in various threads as to when a Colt Single Action Army revolver is safe to fire based on date of manufacture. Most, unarguably, agree that such revolvers manufactured prior to 1900 should not be fired with smokeless powder. Some use the date of 1905, which I agree with, which neatly corresponds to a date associated with the Colt Model 1878. I had always assumed 1905 was the date the last Colt Model 1878 revolver was manufactured, but this revelation suggests that’s only the date of last shipment.

Given that 1905 is generally, at the very least, been suggested as the last date of manufacture of the Model 1878 and that coincides with the date as to when I would, personally use black powder in a revolver—by 1905/06, smokeless powder is probably safe to use, although I generally fire only black powder in a 1909 Bisley I own these days. I’m any event, I created this hypothesis relative to Colt Long Flute revolvers with my personal comfort level in mind. HOWEVER, the exception to this is the basis for the sound statement that ALL Long Flute revolvers should be fired with black powder only, simply because one does not know for sure when the stockpile of Colt 1878 cylinders was manufactured, and as Colt squirreled away parts for a very long period of time, it cannot be proven that the cylinders used in Colt Long Flute Single Action Army revolvers were among the last manufactured, or date from a much earlier time frame. My guess is the latter.

But, with the claim that all Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1898/99, it then unquestionably supports my theory that smokeless powder should NEVER be used in a Long Flute revolver! (Of course the date of manufacture of a firearm is the date of manufacture of its frame, so it is possible, of course, that all frames of Colt 1878 revolvers were manufactured pre 1898/99 but component parts were manufactured/assembled up until 1905.

Additionally, a corollary to this is that ALL Colt Model 1878 revolvers should be fired with black powder only as the same theory applicable to the Colt Long Flute Model applies to the Colt Model 1878 revolver.

Is there any definitive proof in the literature that ALL Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1898/99, and, less importantly, do all components predate 1898/99?

Then, of course, if this is the case, how is the status of the Model 1878 revolver changed so that the ATF considers ALL Colt Model 1878 to be antiques? This is already the case with the number one competitor to Colt Model 1878s and the Single Action Army revolver: The Smith & Wesson New Model No 3 revolver. Dr Roy Jinks informed the ATF back in 1968 (presumably) that all New Model No 3 revolvers are pre 1899 and considered to be antiques, as all frames were forged prior to 1899 and are thus antiques.

This thread crosses multiple sections of the forum, but I think it is best suited to the Single Action Army section of the forum.

Now, some eye candy. I don’t have photographs available of my Long Flute Model but here’s a few photographs of a Model 1878 and a New Model No 3 revolver in my possession:

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Too many apples and oranges in one conversation for me.

First? BP dating and what is safe? Typically, BP guns were considered pre 192K for a serial number on a SAA. No one seems to actually know where that number came from however or has proof the metallurgy changed at 192K. For my own use I prefer a gun with Colt's VP stamp. They were "verified proofed" by Colt for a reason. The VP stamp is more typically 1906. Victorio has posted the VP transitional serial numbers many times. The VP stamp certainly was not a production stamp much earlier THAN 1906/1907 by the examples we actually see.
(15) Colt SAA "VP" proof mark? | Colt Forum
Reality and actual use?

As most of us know already the early BP Colt SAA doesn't generally just "blow up" in use with smokeless.

But if there is going to be a problem it is generally with a 45 caliber gun. Cylinder walls are thinner, lock notch is scary thin, and the bullets are heavier (255 gr) in a 45 Colt.

Every other caliber has more metal at the cylinder lock slot and cylinder walls and is shooting a lighter bullet. Stronger cylinders and less pressure because of it. The smaller caliber guns have lower pressures compared to a 45 Colt.

Bottom line? I don't shoot early, pre 1907 45 cylinders with smokeless. I don't have the same worries with a 200gr bullet in a 44-40 or a 180gr bullet in a 38-40 or any worry at all with a 115gr bullet in a 32-20. Easy enough to replace an old cylinder with a new one from a 2nd Gen gun if you just have to shoot an earlier gun. A lot more going on to make an antique Colt "unsafe" than just the BP/smokeless conversation. Caliber and condition, are a bigger concern to me. Better yet, if you really want to shoot and antique Colt, save the Colt, buy a Pietta.

Educate yourself as to what is safe and what isn't for your own use, and most importantly, why. Or just stick to BP.

The easy answer to this conversation IMO? If you own a Long flute and what to shoot it? All the long flute guns were made up around 1915. We know all the SAA guns were VP proofed by Colt prior to 1915. I would not be in any hurry to shoot an original long flute SAA in 45 Colt. I'd be way less concerned about the other caliber Long Flute guns. But for good measure, in any caliber, I'd simply have a new long flute cylinder cut and line bored. Then you can shoot the gun with smokeless and no worries. I've done that with three long flute guns myself. One in 45, and two more in 38-40.

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This thread is being created with the question of are they safe to fire with smokeless powder or not?

The reason why this thread was created now is because of the revelation—yes, revelation—that perhaps all Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1899, or maybe even 1898, but shipped until 1905. A reputable poster to this forum suggested that all Colt 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1899 or maybe even prior to 1898, meaning ALL Colt 1878 revolvers should be considered ANTIQUE. I cannot recall which thread this was in so I cannot recall if pre 1899 or pre 1898 was stated. Folks sometimes use the term pre 1898 to suggest a revolver is an antique, but they really mean pre 1899 as that is the cutoff as to whether or not a firearm is antique or not.

As I became more knowledgeable about Colt Single Action Army revolvers—and other early Colt revolvers, both percussion and metallic cartridge—I’m the one that stated emphatically for the first time that, in the context of a thread discussing the topic of “is my Colt Single Action Army safe to fire with smokeless powder or not?”, that ALL Long Flute Single Action Army revolvers should be fired ONLY with black powder! Others have since quoted this verbatim, but it’s not in the literature anywhere. I came to this conclusion after studying Colt revolvers for some time. The reason why I mention that is not to put a feather in my cap, but just to state where this idea originated, and after I am long and gone, if just one person heeds these words—mine, or paraphrased from someone else—and a Long Flute revolver and someone’s fingers, are spared from destruction, then a job well done!

And here’s the basis behind my thought process: It has been debated in various threads as to when a Colt Single Action Army revolver is safe to fire based on date of manufacture. Most, unarguably, agree that such revolvers manufactured prior to 1900 should not be fired with smokeless powder. Some use the date of 1905, which I agree with, which neatly corresponds to a date associated with the Colt Model 1878. I had always assumed 1905 was the date the last Colt Model 1878 revolver was manufactured, but this revelation suggests that’s only the date of last shipment.

Given that 1905 is generally, at the very least, been suggested as the last date of manufacture of the Model 1878 and that coincides with the date as to when I would, personally use black powder in a revolver—by 1905/06, smokeless powder is probably safe to use, although I generally fire only black powder in a 1909 Bisley I own these days. I’m any event, I created this hypothesis relative to Colt Long Flute revolvers with my personal comfort level in mind. HOWEVER, the exception to this is the basis for the sound statement that ALL Long Flute revolvers should be fired with black powder only, simply because one does not know for sure when the stockpile of Colt 1878 cylinders was manufactured, and as Colt squirreled away parts for a very long period of time, it cannot be proven that the cylinders used in Colt Long Flute Single Action Army revolvers were among the last manufactured, or date from a much earlier time frame. My guess is the latter.

But, with the claim that all Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1898/99, it then unquestionably supports my theory that smokeless powder should NEVER be used in a Long Flute revolver! (Of course the date of manufacture of a firearm is the date of manufacture of its frame, so it is possible, of course, that all frames of Colt 1878 revolvers were manufactured pre 1898/99 but component parts were manufactured/assembled up until 1905.

Additionally, a corollary to this is that ALL Colt Model 1878 revolvers should be fired with black powder only as the same theory applicable to the Colt Long Flute Model applies to the Colt Model 1878 revolver.

Is there any definitive proof in the literature that ALL Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1898/99, and, less importantly, do all components predate 1898/99?

Then, of course, if this is the case, how is the status of the Model 1878 revolver changed so that the ATF considers ALL Colt Model 1878 to be antiques? This is already the case with the number one competitor to Colt Model 1878s and the Single Action Army revolver: The Smith & Wesson New Model No 3 revolver. Dr Roy Jinks informed the ATF back in 1968 (presumably) that all New Model No 3 revolvers are pre 1899 and considered to be antiques, as all frames were forged prior to 1899 and are thus antiques.

This thread crosses multiple sections of the forum, but I think it is best suited to the Single Action Army section of the forum.

Now, some eye candy. I don’t have photographs available of my Long Flute Model but here’s a few photographs of a Model 1878 and a New Model No 3 revolver in my possession:

View attachment 826272 View attachment 826273 View attachment 826274 View attachment 826275
Well....
Nice gun pics
 

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Since the Long Flute SAA wasn't sold until 1915, wouldn't they (at least the ones that haven't blown up, so far) have been fed smokeless rounds for most, if not all, of their lives? Is this a situation where the worse the condition of the gun, the safer it would be to shoot with modern ammo? The real risk, it would seem, would be to shoot smokeless rounds in a high condition Long Flute SAA.
 

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Looking at this like we would historical documentation of a Custer gun where is the proof that all the parts were manufactured before 1899. The ATF will not go for that idea. Manufactured and assembled are two different things. We know the " Alaskan " trigger guards and triggers were made after 1899. Jim Martin has stated that the frame can crack from smokeless being used in pre smokeless guns. One man's observations do not count as hard proof. Colt would have fired the long flute guns with proof loads and then put the VP stamp on the gun. Normally a proof mark is enough to satisfy the ability to use smokeless as in the cases of older British Damascus shotguns that have been reproofed for use with nitro.

Now I may be completely wrong but I can't remember any factual proof of what Colt changed when it went to smokeless proofed guns. Are there any historical notes on the steel being upgraded? Many inexpensive guns of the late 1800s to the early 1900s can be found with excessive wear in the form of the metal being stretched from being used with smokeless. Most of these guns used a very poor grade of steel or iron to start with. I don't recall seeing any Colts that have become loose or show signs of excess wear from being used with smokeless. Normal wear and stretched metal from too much pressure are also 2 different things. We can safely assume that many saw use with smokeless powder when it became widely available. Blown top straps I would think can mainly be attributed to double loading of smokeless powder.

I am not trying to make a point that old guns are safe to shoot with smokeless. I am simply asking where is the documented proof for all of this.

Personally I don't like the thought of shooting much of anything through an antique 45 caliber Single Action for all the reasons Cozmo stated.
 

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I may be completely wrong but I can't remember any factual proof of what Colt changed when it went to smokeless proofed guns. Are there any historical notes on the steel being upgraded?
No Colt factory notes that I have seen. In a world of opinions, the VP stamp and "smokeless OK" or "BP only" is still just our opinions. Not a lot of LF guns built. Just like the older BP framed guns that eventually received a VP stamp much earlier than would be normal @ a factory rebuild, why risk them today?

What mrcvs is really pointing out is just a cautionary tale based on an educated opinion.
 

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This thread is being created with the question of are they safe to fire with smokeless powder or not?

The reason why this thread was created now is because of the revelation—yes, revelation—that perhaps all Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1899, or maybe even 1898, but shipped until 1905. A reputable poster to this forum suggested that all Colt 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1899 or maybe even prior to 1898, meaning ALL Colt 1878 revolvers should be considered ANTIQUE. I cannot recall which thread this was in so I cannot recall if pre 1899 or pre 1898 was stated. Folks sometimes use the term pre 1898 to suggest a revolver is an antique, but they really mean pre 1899 as that is the cutoff as to whether or not a firearm is antique or not.

As I became more knowledgeable about Colt Single Action Army revolvers—and other early Colt revolvers, both percussion and metallic cartridge—I’m the one that stated emphatically for the first time that, in the context of a thread discussing the topic of “is my Colt Single Action Army safe to fire with smokeless powder or not?”, that ALL Long Flute Single Action Army revolvers should be fired ONLY with black powder! Others have since quoted this verbatim, but it’s not in the literature anywhere. I came to this conclusion after studying Colt revolvers for some time. The reason why I mention that is not to put a feather in my cap, but just to state where this idea originated, and after I am long and gone, if just one person heeds these words—mine, or paraphrased from someone else—and a Long Flute revolver and someone’s fingers, are spared from destruction, then a job well done!

And here’s the basis behind my thought process: It has been debated in various threads as to when a Colt Single Action Army revolver is safe to fire based on date of manufacture. Most, unarguably, agree that such revolvers manufactured prior to 1900 should not be fired with smokeless powder. Some use the date of 1905, which I agree with, which neatly corresponds to a date associated with the Colt Model 1878. I had always assumed 1905 was the date the last Colt Model 1878 revolver was manufactured, but this revelation suggests that’s only the date of last shipment.

Given that 1905 is generally, at the very least, been suggested as the last date of manufacture of the Model 1878 and that coincides with the date as to when I would, personally use black powder in a revolver—by 1905/06, smokeless powder is probably safe to use, although I generally fire only black powder in a 1909 Bisley I own these days. I’m any event, I created this hypothesis relative to Colt Long Flute revolvers with my personal comfort level in mind. HOWEVER, the exception to this is the basis for the sound statement that ALL Long Flute revolvers should be fired with black powder only, simply because one does not know for sure when the stockpile of Colt 1878 cylinders was manufactured, and as Colt squirreled away parts for a very long period of time, it cannot be proven that the cylinders used in Colt Long Flute Single Action Army revolvers were among the last manufactured, or date from a much earlier time frame. My guess is the latter.

But, with the claim that all Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1898/99, it then unquestionably supports my theory that smokeless powder should NEVER be used in a Long Flute revolver! (Of course the date of manufacture of a firearm is the date of manufacture of its frame, so it is possible, of course, that all frames of Colt 1878 revolvers were manufactured pre 1898/99 but component parts were manufactured/assembled up until 1905.

Additionally, a corollary to this is that ALL Colt Model 1878 revolvers should be fired with black powder only as the same theory applicable to the Colt Long Flute Model applies to the Colt Model 1878 revolver.

Is there any definitive proof in the literature that ALL Colt Model 1878 revolvers were manufactured prior to 1898/99, and, less importantly, do all components predate 1898/99?

Then, of course, if this is the case, how is the status of the Model 1878 revolver changed so that the ATF considers ALL Colt Model 1878 to be antiques? This is already the case with the number one competitor to Colt Model 1878s and the Single Action Army revolver: The Smith & Wesson New Model No 3 revolver. Dr Roy Jinks informed the ATF back in 1968 (presumably) that all New Model No 3 revolvers are pre 1899 and considered to be antiques, as all frames were forged prior to 1899 and are thus antiques.

This thread crosses multiple sections of the forum, but I think it is best suited to the Single Action Army section of the forum.

Now, some eye candy. I don’t have photographs available of my Long Flute Model but here’s a few photographs of a Model 1878 and a New Model No 3 revolver in my possession:

View attachment 826272 View attachment 826273 View attachment 826274 View attachment 826275
This feels like an un-winnable argument that goes on forever. But maybe this one gun will carry some weight in this discussion.

This sheriff's model was made in about 1892, but not actually sold until 1905. At the time of sale, the Triangle VP was added to the trigger guard.

I also know something about the long flute cylinders that will not be published here, for reason of detecting fakes. But the LF cylinders were "upgraded" for smokeless powder.

This is not being said to encourage anyone to go out and shoot the heck out of your long fluted Colt SAA's. The 2nd and 3rd gens were made for such shooting.
 

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This sheriff's model was made in about 1892, but not actually sold until 1905. At the time of sale, the Triangle VP was added to the trigger guard.
Neat gun.

Vic, not sure if your comment is meant to imply the older guns are safe with smokeless, when we now know, Colt often as not, VP stamped older guns being refinished when the serial number would clearly indicate today, that they were not Smokeless safe.

I own 3 long flutes, all in 45. Nothing special about the cylinders other than the short bushing which isn't adding any strength to the lock slots.

the LF cylinders were "upgraded" for smokeless powder.
That is a bold statement.
 

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Neat gun.

Vic, not sure if your comment is meant to imply the older guns are safe with smokeless, when we now know, Colt often as not, VP stamped older guns being refinished when the serial number would clearly indicate today, that they were not Smokeless safe.

I own 3 long flutes, all in 45. Nothing special about the cylinders other than the short bushing which isn't adding any strength to the lock slots.



That is a bold statement.
This Colt M1878 was not returned for re-work. I have owned 9 long flute SAA's, with most being 45's, and all cylinders were upgraded in a manner not to be described here. Only one was a re-work that was originally shipped to Stauffer Eshelman in New Orleans on Aug 2, 1915.
 

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This Colt M1878 was not returned for re-work.
Got that. A VP stamp doesn't make a 1892 gun a smokeless gun.

all cylinders were upgraded
As I said.."bold statement". I'd give you the benefit of the doubt. At the moment I simply don't believe it however.

If proven, (and you aren't offering any proof) then all long flutes must be upgraded and safe, and mrcvs and myself simply wrong assuming the 1878 cylinders were "upgraded" to be safe by 1915.

I like learning about these guns. A well-kept secret is no help to anyone.
 

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Got that. A VP stamp doesn't make a 1892 gun a smokeless gun.



As I said.."bold statement". I'd give you the benefit of the doubt. At the moment I simply don't believe it however.

If proven, (and you aren't offering any proof) then all long flutes must be upgraded and safe, and mrcvs and myself simply wrong assuming the 1878 cylinders were "upgraded" to be safe by 1915.

That is a well kept secret then I guess.
No surprise here, coming from you!
 

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Funny how you typically go to insults when someone disagrees or questions your opinion Vic.
You claim to know that Colt "upgraded all cylinders". Couple of ways to actually do that but you offer no proof.
Thanks for adding to the base knowledge of Colt's manufacturing history :rolleyes:
 

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This feels like an un-winnable argument that goes on forever.
The Colt M1878 is a double-action revolver that was manufactured by Colt's Manufacturing Company from 1878 to 1907.
Actual production stopped around 1905. Just 10K of the guns built between 1899 and 1905. 51K +/-guns total.
But 10K cylinders is a lot of cylinders :)

Funny, I guess, if you think you must win a discussion.
We know that Colt first started using the VP stamp just prior to the 1878 being discontinued in 1907. If all the LF cylinders that went into the LF SAA guns were made in 1905 I'd have little worry about shooting smokeless in a LF SAA. On the other hand, if they were all the surplus LF cylinders were made prior to say 1899 I'd have 2nd thoughts on what ammo would be appropriate for those guns.

No one knows when the LF cylinders used in a LF SAA were produced. Until we do, if we ever do, it is no argument, just more opinions being offered.

I don't see it is an unwinnable argument, but as an ongoing discussion we may never have a definitive answer to.
 

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You claim to know that Colt "upgraded all cylinders". Couple of ways to actually do that but you offer no proof.
Rumor around these parts is that the finish on the long flutes actually has a bit of Sam Colt's DNA mixed in, thereby providing extra strength to the steel.

"Sam Colt was a hard man, during hard times, who drove a hard bargain, so this finish needs to be hard." - Someone at Colt circa 1905
 
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