Book Review by David R. Chicoine 5/20/03
Metallic Cartridge Conversions: The History of the Guns and Modern Reproductions by Dennis Adler. 208 pages, hardcover, 250 color photos. $39.95 plus $4. P&H Order this book online from: Krause Publications, Dept. BNP, P.O. Box 5009, Iola, WI 54945-5009 (800) 258-0929
Metallic Cartridge Conversions, what in the world are they? Perhaps this excerpt from Gunsmithing Guns of the Old West (Krause 2001) will help to explain. . .
Development of the metallic cartridge in the late 1850's opened up entirely new concepts in firearms and when the U. S. Civil War ended in 1865 this new era had already begun to dawn brightly on the firearms world. These metallic cartridges were completely self contained, having everything they needed to fire already within themselves including the primer-cap, all the shooter had to do was open the breech of the weapon and insert the cartridge into the barrel's chamber, close the breech, cock the arm and fire. In short; these were vastly quicker and easier to load and re-load than any of the previous variations of the muzzle loading system. On top of that, with this pre-loaded ammunition, you no longer had to worry about getting caught in the rain, until the advent metallic cartridges this had always been a major source of concern with loose-powder weapons; now your powder would always be dry. By the late 1860's some muzzle loading percussion weapons, including many percussion revolvers, were being converted into breech loaders. In the case of cap-n-ball revolvers, by literally cutting off the closed breech portion at the rear of their cylinders, this exposed the rear of the chambers and allowed metallic cartridges to be inserted from the rear. . .
Even amid their on-going development of a more modern cartridge-specific revolver that would become the Single Action Army in only a few years, Colt was experimenting with several methods of converting their cap-n-ball revolvers to fire brass cartridges, beginning with the Thuer conversions of 1869, later the Richards and Richards-Mason conversions, and finally the 1871-72 Open-Top which was the first large frame they actually built specifically to handle metallic cartridges, and the immediate pre-cursor to their famous Model P Single Action Army or Peacemaker of 1873. In persistent efforts to deplete their inventories, Colt continued to produce their cartridge conversion revolvers in all frame sizes, selling them right alongside the newer model made-for-cartridge revolvers. . .
This excellent new reference book is the second book about these colorful and historically important revolvers to become available in the last few years (the first book, A Study of Colt Conversions by R. Bruce McDowell, Krause 1997, set a very high standard, and that is a book which I still recommend.)
With this new volume, Mr. Adler has taken the subject a step forward, by providing us with a healthy dose of fresh historical background and some truly excellent photography. Conversion revolvers were not only very popular in the 19th century; they were used daily by a few very famous, as well as by many of the not-so-famous characters that helped to settle the American frontier. As is so eloquently explained in the forward by actor Tom Selleck "they are as historical and important as the story of the American West itself". Metallic Cartridge Conversions covers not just the Colt percussion revolver conversions, but also the many conversions of Remington and other makes of percussion revolvers so prevalent in the 1870's. An entire chapter has been devoted to the modern-day reproductions of these remarkable guns, which are covered here better than they have ever been before.
There is no need to mince words, this is a very well written, beautifully presented, full-color, hardcover book that I consider a welcome addition to my ever-growing library on firearms history. Colt collectors, Remington collectors, cowboy shooters and those folks who love firearms history will really enjoy this! In both presentation and content, it is just as at home sitting next to McDowell's scholarly work on the same subject as it is all by itself on my living room coffee table.
This new book is a must-have!
back to book review index