David R. Chicoine, www.oldwestgunsmith.com

Want help getting the barrel off your Colt or Replica open-top revolver?

Some small notations pertaining to your 19th Century firearm, last updated 1/2/09

(we will add to this page as time permits)

Your firearm was manufactured many, many years ago and of course, it carries no guarantee of any sort. It is however, a small and treasured piece of history that you will want to do all you can to preserve, here are a few very simple things you should know that may help insure your antique weapon's continued longevity:

1) never dry-fire the gun: That means just don't. On old firearms this is a terrible practice, several critical internal parts can easily be damaged or even ruined by doing this. You see, when the gun actually fires a cartridge, the cartridge primer absorbs the blow of the hammer, cushioning the impact that might otherwise damage the firing pin, hammer or lock frame. Old gun parts, especially small parts, are notoriously hard through and through, with some bordering on brittle. The impact of a falling hammer striking the frame can cause a part to shatter, sometimes the firing pins break, sometimes hammer spurs. We have all seen old hammers broken in half, now you know why. The practice can cause other damages too numerous and complicated to explain here, suffice to say it would be best to simply never dry fire.

2) never attempt to pull the trigger when the hammer is in the cock, loading or safety position: the searing area of these triggers are generally very thin and fragile, pulling the trigger while the hammer and trigger are in either of the above positions can cause the tip of the trigger and/or the hammer notches to break out which will in turn cause the gun to malfunction, these areas can be difficult and expensive to repair. The pertains not only to single action revolvers but also to many single shots, lever actions as well as some pump guns.

3) never slam the barrel closed with top-break or tip-up action revolvers: Doing this can easily bend the lock frame or the top strap of the barrel and you may very well cause irreparable damages. In sweetened English: You can bust da' gun.

4) never, ever try to pry a sideplate off any firearm: You may permanently damage the mating surfaces of the sideplate and the receiver. The correct way is to "shock" the receiver after you have removed the retaining screws by striking it with a hardwood or plastic mallet, this will cause the sideplate to jump up of its own accord so it can be lifted off with no damage.

5) springs and hardened steel parts in these guns are very prone to breakage. One must always remember that they were made 100 or more years ago, before the time when much was known about steel alloys and the proper heat treatment of them. So, if a spring or small part suddenly breaks don't be surprised, they all did it regardless of quality, this is just a part of owning an old gun that you will have to expect. If you will carefully follow the hints #1-2-3 above, your chances of experiencing a broken part will be minimized greatly.

6) black powder ammunition, yes. Smokeless powder ammunition, NO! Older firearms, especially revolvers that were manufactured in the black powder era were made with steel alloys that were, at best, flawed by modern standards, some more than others. Even the best of the best were never heat treated to withstand the pressures generated by smokeless ammunition, sophisticated steel alloys and moden heat treatment was only developed in the period following WW1. Be aware that the use of smokeless powder ammunition even with very light loads can severely damage or ruin your antique revolver.

7) fitting hard rubber grips, be careful! Much of the damage done to hard rubber (what they used to call "gutta percha") grips comes as the result of someone trying to force a pair of grips onto a gun that they did not come from. Bear in mind that any guarantee the maker may have offered on those grips expired several generations before you were born, so you get only one chance to do this right. Hard rubber is exactly as its name implies "hard", its also brittle and after being around for 100 years or so, the stuff can be a bit like a crisp potato chip. With older firearms especially, each grip frame is a little different from the next, so even though you may have two guns of the exact make and model that doesn't mean the grips will interchange. Use caution, if a grip doesn't fit easily and pefectly, without any effort; DO NOT FORCE IT! Either take the time to carefully fit the grip to the gun or have a skilled gunsmith do it for you.

8) get the right tools for gosh sakes! Don't use hardware store screwdrivers and automotive punches on guns: You've invested in a fine old firearm, if you want to get it apart without showing the world what you've done and tearing up those great looking screws in the process, why not invest a little in a good set of hollow-ground gunsmith screwdrivers? Hollow ground screwdrivers are made to fit down into the bottoms of the straight sided slots in gun screws. Hardware store or automotive screwdrivers are not straight, the blades are tapered, don't believe me~look for yourself. Brownells makes a wonderful set of gunsmith screw drivers they call Magna-Tip drivers. These have replaceable bits that are made in a huge array of sizes to fit almost any gun screw so you can have one handle and some like a hundred different bits. Check em out, they are a worthwile investment for any serious gun tinkerer.

Gun pins, for the most part are "domed", using a flat pin punch to remove them will do exactly that to that nice domed head, it will flatten it. Flat punches also slip off the pin easily in that critical time when you are trying to get the pin started and you can do serious damage to the surface of the gun if that happens. I highly recommend a set of cup-tipped, pin punches of the kind sold by Brownells in thier catalog.