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 Brass Framed Revolvers, Myths & Myths, Pt 4

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Mick Archer


Messages : 6
Date d'inscription : 01/10/2013

MessageSujet: Brass Framed Revolvers, Myths & Myths, Pt 4   Mar 15 Avr - 17:11

Brass Framed Revolvers:  Myths and Myths, Part 4

     The Italian reproduction makers realized early on that there was a demand for a lower cost revolver among those interested in shooting blackpowder Civil War revolvers as well as a growing market among the new hobby of Civil War reenacting.
      While the success of the Navy Arms reproduction “Griswold and Gunnison” aka “Reb” revolver provided somewhat of a historically accurate looking choice, in many cases it would be an easier option for an infantryman to add a revolver at a decent cost to their impression or for the Confederate cavalryman to add a second revolver (or in some cases three more).
      As the pendulum swung towards a greater measure of historical accuracy or authenticity, an infantryman other than an officer with a revolver- grew to be frowned upon in progressive circles and at events with higher standards.    And as the rise of the Internet made research and documentation much more accessible than ever before, not knowing what is historically correct (aka “Period Correct”) or assuming because a maker made it and a vendor sold it, it must be okay made brass framed revolver less desirable or questionable for historical purposes..
       In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the whole lower cost, brass framed revolver business would receive a second life or shot in the arm from the phenomenal rise of  Cowboy Action Shooting, a competitive shooting sport mostly based on timed competitions and costumes inspired by 99% plus Hollywood, fiction, or fantasy.
     A side current to this evolution can be traced back to the Italian ‘Spaghetti Westerns” of the mid 1960’s where for the first time reproduction revolvers were used instead of  worn, beat, and used for generations original firearms.   To provide the biggest bang for the buck, see more of them, and to keep costs down, it was (and still is) common for the prop departments to use the cheaper brass framed revolvers.  As result, there are many lads who either learn their history from the “movies” or see a star or character using a brass framed revolver and think it is “cool.”

     The combination of these elements has led to the growth of reproduction revolvers that never (use of the Universal noted) existed:   a brass framed Colt M1860 Army, a brass framed Remington M1863 Army (incorrectly aka Model 1858), and a Colt M1851 Navy in .44 calibre.  


     Without getting into complex metallurgy or confusing chemical analysis of metals beyond my poor understanding (more) “technically” Confederate brass framed revolvers and even the Henry Rifle did not have “brass” frames.
      Instead they had “gun metal” aka “red brass” frames (sometimes called “bronze”).

    Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc in varied proportions to meet different needs.
    Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin (although the tin can be replaced by other metals like aluminum or manganese, or phosphorus or silicon).
    Gun Metal (aka Red Brass, and not to be confused with metallic gray COLOR “gunmetal’) is an alloy of 88% copper, 10% tin, and 2% zinc.  When we see Confederate gunmakers fussing about lead shortages, it is because they were using gun metal with lead such as say  86% copper, 9.5% tin, 2.5% lead, and 2% zinc.  Or roughly,   80-88% copper, 10-15% tin, and 2-5% zinc.   (Lead was added to increase flow for better casting.)  
     Basically as the cooper content goes up, the color shifts pink or red. As the cooper goes down, the metal shifts yellower then whiter.   Because of shortages of key metals, Confederate manufacturing was a little bit random and hard to control exactly due to odd source material such as using Macon’s  bronze church bells  (bell bronze being harder at say 78% copper, 22% tin) in their smelting pots.  So, at times, a ‘brass” frame (or buttons for that matter) may be yellowish one time but reddish the next.
     The frame of a Winchester Model 1866 (aka Improved Henry) analyzed with modern techniques revealed the alloy was 83% copper, 14.5% Tin, 2% zinc, and .5% lead.  So why a Henry or Improved Henry is not called a Gun metal Frame or more easily called a Bronze Frame? Also think bronze “Napoleon” cannon.  .  

    The frame of an Uberti Henry rifle was analyzed by a process known as “X Ray Fluorescent Analysis.”  The finding was 56% copper, 44% zinc. Not a trace of tin.  Truly, a “brass frame.’’

     I might as well add this portion to this Quick & Dirty post.   And that is a quick look at blank and live firing a modern Italian (or Spanish) reproduction of a brass framed revolver due to the “lore’ that surrounds them.

    One of the criticisms and caveat warnings against buying a brass framed revolver, historical considerations set aside, is the dialogue and arguments is that with “heavy” normal loads their frames will wear out and put out the works out of alignment, and even stretch the frame.
    In brief and to over generalize, IMHO this is not a consideration when firing a few dozen blanks at a handful of events each year.
    But, live firing, and live firing a large number of rounds, say in the thousands will.   ESPECIALLY if firing say a Henry Rifle with modern smokeless powder cartridges.

     Many times, brass framed reproductions are “cheap(er) new and used because of their brass frames to begin with.  But, being a cheaper gun overall, they can suffer from being at the low(er) end of the random and sometimes nearly non-existent (it appears) Quality Control issues.
      Live firing a C & B revolver with the “classic” combination of a full charge of blackpowder with room enough for the ball or conical bullet, wears heavily on soft pure brass.   But it is the pressure on those parts that accelerates things getting out of line and out of sorts.  PARTICULARLY where the cylinder arbors are not installed 100% correctly.  This can allow too little space between the cylinder’s chamber mouths and the forcing cone.  When fired (live) the force of the recoil keeps pushing the rear of the cylinder back into the recoil shield eventually not only wearing the brass there and the distorting it out of shape.  This also can cause arbor issues to accelerate, one big one being how the barrel aligns on both “open top” Colt or “solid frame” Remington type revolvers.  (Often times, if one looks at used brass framed revolvers, one can see the barrel tilting or being angled “off” a bit.)
    In summary…

    This should help lay to rest, but it won’t, the myth of the brass framed revolver.

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