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Need some advice


Two-Bit Charlie

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I'm starting to look at pocket pistols. I'm looking at H&R's right now. What is the best caliber, 32 or 38? I understand that the Model 2 H&R was made for black powder. Is it safe to shoot smokeless loads in it? I saw one at a gun show and the cylinder free spinned with the hammer down. I saw a post for a H&R on Gunbroker that said that was normal, is it? On what models? Does the hammerless models have a heavier trigger pull? The one I tried at a gunshow seemed to! Any recommendations?

 

Two-Bit Charlie

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I also would like to aquire a pocket pistol and am interested in your responses. I was curious about your line.............

I saw one at a gun show and the cylinder free spinned with the hammer down.

Not being familiar with a type of gun that would do this, but this sounds spooky to me. How would you know which chamber you were on or if you were on a dead one? Smithy.

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Free cylinder spin is common...gun advances to the next chamber.

 

38's are generally easier to shoot as they are usually a bit larger.

 

H&R and IJ's are super common...and cheap.

 

:FlagAm:

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Pull the triger and hold the trigger and then the cylinder will lock up release the trigger and most will spin free. I have alot of them and the ladies like the small frames and the men like the bigger frames. I like both 32 and 38s but and a big butt. I find factory ammo in the 38s are way more then you need for side matchs and is hard on these old guns. I shoot both black and smoke but only use Trail Boss for you really can't over load these small case with this powder. Another thing about pocket pistols is that they are double action. Alot of first timers shooting try and pull the hammer then the trigger. With these guns just pull the trigger as fast as you can.

 

Deacon Stone

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All of mine are 32s except a H&A 38RF (which I don't shoot). They do tend to have pretty small frames.

As Phantom said free spin is normal. They lock up when the hammer falls. You used to be able to pick them up real cheap, especially Iver Johnsons and H&Rs.

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I have owned IJ's, H&R's, Hopkins and Allens, American's (Forehand & Wadsworths) and S&W's. This is one area where you get what you pay for. The S&W's are leagues beyond the others for about twice the cost of teh lesser guns.

 

.32's use standard .312/.313 bullets. The .38 S&W uses a .360" bullet. You can shoot .358's in them but they get dirty quickly due to the amounf of blown-by powder. I would use Trailboss in either.

 

My ultimate in this class would an original, late-model Colt Lightning in .38 Colt. These delicate guns were carried by many as close-quarter guns.

 

Your other option is derringer. The Bond and American versions are both very good. The Cobras and imports are distant comparisons. The Bond and Americans can be found in good used conditions for around $300. I have never seen one worn out as most owners carry tham much more than they shoot them.

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I purchased my 32 S&W from my favorite revolver gunsmith. That way I knew the gun was working perfect. He usually has a few guns for sale and at the time I was looking he had a couple of pocket pistols. I use off the shelf 32 S&W ammo in it. Since so many guns that use this caliber were made to shoot black powder over 100 years ago, the factory ammo is low pressure and smokeless and very light loads. You only shoot about 5 rounds per match so reloading doesn't make too much sense when you can get the ammo at most gun shows.

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Free cylinder spin is common...gun advances to the next chamber.

 

38's are generally easier to shoot as they are usually a bit larger.

 

H&R and IJ's are super common...and cheap.

 

Thanks Phantom, I didn't realize that this was a common function of these older model pistols. Smithy.

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Howdy

 

Here is a short course on Iver Johnson pocket revolvers. About 1900 or so, IJ redesigned their line of pocket revolvers, making them safe for Smokeless Powder.

 

There are three ways to tell if an Iver Johnson revolver was designed to shoot Smokeless Powder. The simplest way is to examine the locking notches on the cylinder. Look at the photo of the Black Powder IJ. Notice the shape of the locking notch. Notice that there is only one flat edge to the notch. That edge captures the bolt. There is no other flat edge to capture the bolt on its other side. When the hammer is back, the hand presses against the ratchet teeth and prevents the cylinder from backing up. That is why the BP Iver Johnsons can 'free spin' if the hand is retracted. It is not a very positive lock up. Notice how the locking notches on the Smokeless model look pretty much like the notches on any modern revolver.

 

Also notice the little picture of the owl on the grips. On a Smokeless IJ, the owl faces back towards the grip. On a BP IJ the owl faces towards the cylinder. Finally, if you remove the grips, you will find the Smokeless IJ has a coil hammer spring, the BP gun has a flat spring.

 

Iver Johnson Black Powder

 

Iver Johnson Smokeless

 

Folks, I have heard over and over again that modern 32 S&W and 38 S&W ammo is downloaded enough to be safe for the Black Powder revolvers. It just is not so. Colt did not factory warranty the SAA for Smokeless powder until 1900. Do you think the makers of these cheap pocket pistols were using better steel than Colt?

 

I don't care how much you download a 32 S&W or a 38 S&W with Trailboss or Whiz Bang, or any other smokeless powder. You still are dealing with the pressure spike of Smokeless powder, which is much sharper and steeper than the pressure curve generated by Black Powder. Those old pocket pistols were not designed for Smokeless, and no matter how many times grandpa fired them with Smokeless, he was playing with fire. One of these days, they may let go. And if you find one that has been shot loose, I guarantee it is because it was shot with Smokeless loads. Read what Dave Chicoine has to say about frames of top break revolvers, including Smiths, being stretched from shooting Smokeless in them. I just picked up a real nice old S&W DA 44, a big, heavy 44 cal top break. Yup, it has been shot loose from too much Smokeless ammo.

 

Today, cowboy shooters will spend $500 on an Italian replica of a Colt, but they blanch at spending any serious money on a pocket pistol. What's with that? That Smokeless IJ of mine cost about $100 a few years ago. It is safe to shoot with Smokeless. That other one is not. If you want to shoot Smokeless in a pocket pistol, look for a Smokeless IJ.

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I pulled an old American Bulldog .32 pocket revolver out of the safe when I found out folks were carrying them at SASS matchs.

I always thought it spooky that the cylinder would freespin, and consequently never shot the thing.

Upon closer inspection it was discovered that it does lock up when cocked, so I am studying the gun with more enthusiasm.

After reading an article about Bulldogs I learned that I would need to find black powder loading for this centenarian nickle-plated revolver. in the mean time, I collect empty casings for the eventual load, and am tooling a bitty holster to match the rest of my rig in my spare time.

Until the time that I have been able to develop a load and test the gun properly, I will be relegating it purely to a decorative aspect of my costumed personna.

And thanks to Driftwood for his micro history lesson. I pulled the grips from my Bulldog and confirmed that it is a black powder model.

I certainly am glad that I nor anyone that I know ever put any contemporary ammo through this thing.

It is definately a great looking addition to the get-up, maybe it will never get shot, but it is certainly better than it's being buried in a safe for the rest of my existance.

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If you can find one, probably the best pocket pistol of the era is the Hopkins & Allen Safety Police.

 

It was designed for smokeless powder, and it has a rebounding hammer.

 

The latter is an important point, as on some of the cheaper ones of the time the hammer rests on the firing pin causing it to protrude from the recoil shield all the time. I have a US Revolver model (the economy Iver Johnson line) that does that. Thankfully I paid $0 for it - found it in a box in the basement of an old house I was cleaning.

Energetically slamming the gun shut, if the loaded round lines up, could impact the primer and result in an unpleasant surprise.

 

The XL series of the Hopkins & Allen guns, with the firing pin mounted on the hammer, are also of the rebounding design so it retracts away from the cartridge bases and primers.

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....My ultimate in this class would an original, late-model Colt Lightning in .38 Colt. These delicate guns were carried by many as close-quarter guns......

Colt Lightning/Thunderer is not a SASS-legal pocket pistol. Reasoning is apparently that, while many did use the short-barrel versions ("shopkeeper" or "sheriff" models) as pocket guns, they were also carried as belt guns. O'course, they aren't legal as main match guns, either.

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