Mad Mondays: 8. The first modern repeaters.

History, Mad Mondays

Although there were a few early attempts at creating repeating firearms, there was a huge breakthrough in 1836 with the Colt Paterson.

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This revolver was the first use of the single-action, where the firearm was cocked and the cylinder rotated and indexed automatically. This was aided by the introduction of the percussion cap, which vastly simplifies delivering an ignition charge to a main charge of powder compared to a flintlock. 

So, what did this mean for firearms? Well, all of a sudden in order to take a second shot all you had to do was lift your thumb, grab the hammer and pull it back, then squeeze the trigger. In a world where nearly every gun available to people required you to ram a powder and ball down the muzzle with some force, prime a pan and then take aim and fire, this was a massive increase in firepower. Especially as the operator of this new revolver could follow up their first two shots with another three.

Admittedly, this came at a bit of a cost. The first revolvers were perfectly good, until they broke. Unit armourers did not have the expertise, nor the parts available to repair broken Patersons. As a result once a Paterson broke, it was unserviceable. To the soldiers of the time, this gave the impression that they were fragile. Whether or not this is fair, the result was that although these were adopted for military use, they did not see widespread adoption.14554256_3

Fortunately, the Republic of Texas liked the look of Colt’s revolving firearms well enough that they bought around 400 pistols, shotguns and rifles for their Navy. Although this service didn’t last long in itself, when the Texan Navy was disbanded these revolvers were surplussed off and ended up in the hands of the Texas Rangers. With them, the Paterson saw extensive use against the Comanche during the Texas-Indian wars, finding a great deal of favour among the rangers.

 

Such was their preference for this over every other firearm available, that Zachary Taylor, Commander US-Mexico Border at the time, sent Samuel Walker (formerly of the Texas Rangers, now serving with the US Mounted Rifles) to New York to have  Samuel Colt make a few changes to the Paterson to make it more suited to battle and cavalry use in particular.

Unfortunately, Colt was out of business. Sales had not been good enough to keep his company afloat and it had closed down. However this significant military contract was lucrative enough to allow him to undertake the design work and contract Eli Whitney to manufacture the new revolvers.

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This new model was named the Walker Colt, it featured: six shots, a simpler loading system (including a built-in ramrod) and at .44 and .454 cal were big enough to fell a man or horse with one shot, important not only for combat but also dispatching wounded animals safely.

This still wasn’t perfect, with the built-in ramrod prone to deploying under recoil, preventing the efficient cycling of the gun, though many fixed this in the field with a piece of rawhide to tie it up into place! However, the firepower this offered was outstanding and a real man-killer.

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We’ve now jumped ahead by following this line, so in the next article we shall take a step back and look at the first adoptions of percussion weapons by militaries, before looking once again at the development of repeating firearms.

 

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Revolvers, giving you hop. Colt Single Action Army stripping.

Imperial Era, pistol, Weapons

Our willing volunteer to have a hop added is this gorgeous blued Colt Single Action Army.

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First step, remove the side plate.

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Then take out the spring and the hand (the part which pushes the cylinder round).

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You can then pull out the centre pin and the drum.

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There is a pin at the top of the barrel in the frame, push this out with a punch and a second pin that holds the ejector unit in place.

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With both of these removed you can take the barrel off.

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You can then slide the inner barrel out. At this point get out the o-ring and round needle file. The o-ring should be 1-2mm thick.

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Then, start working on the barrel. Keep the channel the file produces on one side, by the time you work through to the inside you want about 3-4mm of the circumference removed from the inside. You may wish to give yourself a little extra space on the outside to hold the o-ring. Use a very sharp knife to cut the rubber roughly to size.

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Once in situ, use the knife again to chamfer the edges of the o-ring so that it sits fairly flat against the barrel. There should be minimal space between the rubber and the barrel to preserve the gas seal. Through the barrel you should see just a flat, small line of rubber across the top. It doesn’t need to be much, just enough to catch the BB as it passes. If you can’t see it, file away a little more but go slowly, you can’t add material back on.

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Use the collar at the back of the barrel to hold the o-ring in place. Check inside the barrel to make sure the o-ring hasn’t slipped in. It should be firmly wedged in place by the collar, depending on the pistol you may wish to seal it with electrical tape or PTFE.

Some pistols have a locating lug on this collar, which keeps the barrel oriented in a specific way. This gun does not, but if yours does then make sure the hop window is oriented correctly to the top.

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Put it back in place, make sure the hop window is at the top.

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Re-assemble the gun, there aren’t really any specific tips to put the SAA back together. While you have it open however, oil the moving parts with a little light oil (3-in-1 is perfect) and if you haven’t a CO2 cartridge in, put silicone oil into the cartridge pin and on the seal. Revolvers don’t need a lot of maintenance, but a bit of oil every now and then keeps them going nicely.

 

If you are so inclined, you could use a flat file and install a flat hop instead, though this fixed hop is quite adequate. 

 

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