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Trigger Mike

moderns smokeless in 1880s SAA

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will a black powder frame era 1st Gen SAA hold up firing modern smokeless cowboy ammo? Winchester 250 grn, ultramax 200 grain?

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Black powder is cheap, why take the chance?

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The early production SAAs weren't made of real stern stuff. Good for the BP loads of the era, sure. Good for today's ammo??? maybe not so good.

Considering the availability of suitable substitutes (reproduction) I think I'd leave the the old early manufacture 1st Gen guns on the wall and shoot reproductions.

Supposedly we can't get enough BP in a case to blow up a gun ......... But ...........

 

Coffinmaker

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A fellow brought his 1883 Colt to use in his first cowboy match at our range. Blew the top strap off....he's never been back. Personally I wouldn't do it.

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"Use Black Powder Only!!" Yeah, AGREED, but your real question is, WHY?

 

The short and simplistic answer is this:

Black powder burns.

Smokeles powder explodes.

 

Even very light loads of smokeless powder or the abortive "duplex" loads, a mixture of black and smokeless, are bad ju ju for a black powder gun. Just don't do it. It is not worth it. That Colt didn't survive all these years for an avoidable disaster to come along and destroy it.

 

More:

The black powder goes through a burn process that, when graphically illustrated, looks much like a gentle bell curve. The smokeless powder's explosive ignition, on the other hand, when graphically presented, looks like a sudden large spike. This sudden, explosive ignition causes (if you even get more than one or two chances at it) hammer-like stress on the old, unproofed steel and will, either immediately or not long thereafter, with repeated shooting, cause catastrophic failure in the steel. The very least that will happen in the first several shots, even with extremely light loads of smokeless, is that the unproofed steel with stretch or otherwise deform.

 

Someone else may have their version of the above, but that's what I know.

 

Don't shoot smokeless powder in an old Colt or any other black powder gun. I wouldn't even use artifical black ... only true black, and a good grade, too .... and then only light to medium loads of the stuff.

 

Cat Brules

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?

 

Black powder is an explosive, and smokeless powder is a flammable.

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NO! It might not blow up right away... but every shot will stretch the Iron frame a little bit.. and, at some point, IT WILL COME APART! The front end pressure spike on smokeless powder, even a very light load, is too much for the Iron frame. Black powder NEVER reaches that kind of pressure peak.

 

Snakebite

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+ 1 on the no. Not worth it to the shooter or the gun. I think 1898 is the point they made SAs for smokeless.

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For a 1st Generation Colt - black powder. But if this powder is not for you ... a minimum charge of Unique which produces a low velocity in the 600 fps range and pressure using the 250gr bullet.

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will a black powder frame era 1st Gen SAA hold up firing modern smokeless cowboy ammo? Winchester 250 grn, ultramax 200 grain?

You can use smokeless loads, witihin some guidelines.

 

When compared to the muzzle velocity of 730 pfs, of the 250gr ultramax, versus the original black powder velocity of around 1000 fps, you would think that it might be ok to use.

 

Take care and do understand about what Cat Brules mentioned about the spike in pressure difference of smokeless versus blackpowder.

 

Your local Colt Single Action Army gunsmith may be able to help in the inspection of your revolver as to possible cracks/ weakness/strengths that are unseen by the untrained eye.

 

One possible spotlight is the walls of a vintage 1st generation Colt cylinder are thin and the metal is subject to having weak spots.

 

So, take care and consult an expert Colt SAA gunsmtih. They are wonderful to shoot both in blackpowder and in the proper smokeless loads.

 

Oklahoma Dee

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"Use Black Powder Only!!" Yeah, AGREED, but your real question is, WHY?

 

The short and simplistic answer is this:

Black powder burns.

Smokeles powder explodes.

 

Even very light loads of smokeless powder or the abortive "duplex" loads, a mixture of black and smokeless, are bad ju ju for a black powder gun. Just don't do it. It is not worth it. That Colt didn't survive all these years for an avoidable disaster to come along and destroy it.

 

More:

The black powder goes through a burn process that, when graphically illustrated, looks much like a gentle bell curve. The smokeless powder's explosive ignition, on the other hand, when graphically presented, looks like a sudden large spike. This sudden, explosive ignition causes (if you even get more than one or two chances at it) hammer-like stress on the old, unproofed steel and will, either immediately or not long thereafter, with repeated shooting, cause catastrophic failure in the steel. The very least that will happen in the first several shots, even with extremely light loads of smokeless, is that the unproofed steel with stretch or otherwise deform.

 

Someone else may have their version of the above, but that's what I know.

 

Don't shoot smokeless powder in an old Colt or any other black powder gun. I wouldn't even use artifical black ... only true black, and a good grade, too .... and then only light to medium loads of the stuff.

 

Cat Brules

 

 

 

Bottom line, regardless of the reasoning, use only real bp.

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Well I must say that I am really surprised at some of the comments on this thread. Do your own research as to burn rates, what effects them, the difference between a class A Explosive and a class B Propellant. And... learn for yourself about the front end spike on the Smokeless powders... I don't care what ANYONE says... even a light load will produce too much spike for that gun... also... check into what the gun was made out of ... was it Steel or was it Iron? They started using some steel in the late 80s... but even it was not proofed. The Iron frame will not show a crack.... it is so soft, that it will stretch and then break apart.

 

Snakebite

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For a 1st Generation Colt - black powder. But if this powder is not for you ... a minimum charge of Unique which produces a low velocity in the 600 fps range and pressure using the 250gr bullet.

With all due respect, John Boy... the first part of your comment is way too general. The "first generation" single actions were produced well into the 1900's, and there is no reason the ones produced after the turn of the century can't be shot with prudent smokeless loads.

 

In my personal opinion, no Colt Single Action Army which isn't stamped as proofed for smokeless powder should be subjected to smokeless powder loads.

 

Regards, TJH

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Please, folks, if you don't know the internal ballistics of BP versus smokeless, and that BP is a low order explosive and smokeless is a progressive burning propellant (which, oddly enough, produces much higher pressure peaks than a similar BP load), you should not try to share that with others.

 

A review of any good loading manual will tell you more than some of the posts on this thread. Let's get at least the important stuff right, pards!

 

Good luck, GJ

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I agree with the fellows who say don't shoot it at all. I have had a freind bring over a first gen colt he wanted to shoot. Let him shoot my ruger in the same configuration. Explained that metal science then was not what it is today. Something goes wrong with grandpa's gun valued in the $3000 range and it become a hunk of metal worth scrap value. Shoot replicas, retire the originals...

 

Regards,

 

Ivery

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Shoot it with BP loads and it remains a piece of history. Shoot smokeless and it may become a fribbit. Is it worth it to you? :(

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Howdy All ;

As the owner of two early first gen. guns one made in Nov. 1873 (shipped to Granpop on Feb.2 1874) and the other made in Sept. 1882 (shipped May of 1883).... The first in .45 colts and the second in .38-40....

 

I have fired both guns a fair bit over the last 30 years ,,,,, But I won't subject them to the hard life of CAS even with only "Black powder loads....

And by the way there are "Trustworthy" reports of blown cylinders of early guns ,,,,,,, before Smokeyless powder was invented ....

 

And Just so you know the presure curve of modern Smokeless powders CAN be far and away gentler than that of a full load of Black ... Blackpowder is a true explosive , Smokeless is a Flamable Solid .....

I as see it this way ,,,,,, the reason more of the old guns didn't break ,,,,,,,, BECAUSE they saw liminted use ,they were never built to be shot as much as some of us shoot ...

 

Didn't you ever Wonder why "BAT" and "WILD BILL" and other SHOOTIST"S were regulary ordering new guns ,,, I'm sure a fondness of guns was Part of the reason .....

 

 

 

Jabez Cowboy

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I ask mainly because I am thinking of buying a 45 colt 1st generation and have many smokeless 45lc left and can see at my death my children shooting the smokeless in the 1st gen gun. I will buy GOEX blackdawg ammo and have it on hand to shoot out of it and use up my smokeless rounds.

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I too had a Colt SAA built in 1873! It was a Ainsworth, with all the matching stamps and cartouch. Script on the barrel of course. Low 3 digit. I also shot mine... with BP loads of course. Since they can bring a HUGE amount in top condition, and even a very sizable amount in any condition, I stopped shooting mine and sold it for such an obscene profit that It kept me awake at nights for weeks ...... because of the smile on my face.

 

If you would be so kind, I would be very interested in knowing the recipe for one of those Smokeless loads that don't have a peak pressure that is greater than any BP load. 8700 is about the slowest that I know of, and has a low pressure like BP, but I believe that even it has a front end peak that far exceeds BP. I'll certainly stand corrected, and be delighted if your recipe proves to not have that front end peak. Maybe Bird Shot can test it on their labs equipment. It would sure be worth knowing.

 

Thanks.

Snakebite

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I ask mainly because I am thinking of buying a 45 colt 1st generation and have many smokeless 45lc left and can see at my death my children shooting the smokeless in the 1st gen gun. I will buy GOEX blackdawg ammo and have it on hand to shoot out of it and use up my smokeless rounds.

 

Mike, that is a good idea, and in addition I would be ordering the reduced Blackdawg load that is available. It would give just a bit less stress on the gun but still be a hoot to shoot. Also, try to attach a tag to the gun or something to let your ancestors know not to buy any smokeless ammo for the gun. Couldn't hurt.

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We can probably have this arguement until the cows come home! On the one hand, I have done pressure-time curve tests with various smokeless powders in .45LC, and, yes, you can tailor some smokeless loads with curves that are gentler than others, and you can limit the maximu peak pressure...again, with the right loads. The problem is that you really need pressure measuring equipment, and it can be tricky to get the measurements with strain gages cemented to a single chamber of a revolver.

 

But, even though I've shot guns that were over 100 years old with smokeless powder, and not had them come apart...yet, I DO NOT RECOMMEND SHOOTING THESE GUNS EVEN WITH BLACK POWDER for any extended amount! There are a number of guns I have retired from actual shooting just because of their age.

 

If you are concerned about what would happen if you buy that old Colt's and there is smokeless ammo around that someone might shoot in it, then you should either leave a tag on the gun warning against shooting it, or get rid of the ammo, either selling it or shooting it up in a gun that will handle the loads.

 

Ride easy, but stay alert! Godspeed to those still in harm's way in the defense of Freedom everywhere! God Bless America!

 

Your Pard,

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Howdy

 

Here is some information gleaned from Jerry Kuhnhausen's book Colt Single Action Revolvers Shop Manual, the most authoritative book I know of having to do with the mechanics and capabilities of the Single Action Army revolver. This may be useful for this discussion.

 

Cylinders and frames of SAAs made prior to approx. SN 96,000 (mid 1883) were made from materials generally resembling high grade malleable iron. Cylinders and frames from approx. SN 96,000 to about 180,000 (mid 1898) were made from transitional low/medium carbon steels. These cylinders and frames were not factory guaranteed for Smokeless Powder cartridges. Cylinders and frames from approx. SN 180,000 (mid 1898) began to be made from medium carbon steels. Later versions of these cylinders were better and more uniformly heat treated. SAAs with cylinders in this final type were factory guaranteed in 1900 for standard factory load Smokeless cartridges. Shortly after this Colt began stamping a triangle with VP in the center on the trigger guard. This stands for Verified Proof, and indicates that the gun has been proofed for Smokeless powder.

 

Here is a photo of the VP symbol on the trigger guard of a 2nd Gen Colt.

 

 

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v495/Driftwood_Johnson/colts/colt%20markings/ColtVerifiedProof.jpg

 

 

 

Here is a photo of the VP symbol on a Bisley Colt made in 1908.

 

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v495/Driftwood_Johnson/colts/colt%20markings/BisleyColtMarkings.png

 

 

For what it's worth, just about any old Colt made before 1900 has probably been fired with Smokeless powder at some point. Probably without any damage to the gun. But doing so repeatedly can be risky. By the same token, if it is an old Colt and it has the VP proof mark stamped on the trigger guard, one can shoot Smokeless powder in it, as long as the usual cautions about the gun being in good condition, and the pressure generated by the loads being within SAAMI spec, are observed.

 

 

Here is a pair of pressure curves superimposed on each other to illustrate the problem. Yes, these loads are shotgun loads, and yes, the Smokeless powder is not identified. But the concept is the same. Both loads achieved the same velocity with projectiles of the same weight. In addition to the amplitude of the curves, notice how much gentler the Black Powder curve is. Notice how the sharp pressure spike generated by the Smokeless load, in addition to being higher, is much shorter in duration. That's what causes the problems with old guns, the short duration pressure spike can shatter the old steel.

 

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v495/Driftwood_Johnson/Pressure%20Curves/pressure_curve.jpg

 

I don't own any pre-1900 Colts, but I own several S&W Top Breaks made before 1900. I'm sure they have probably been shot with Smokeless at some point, but I would not dream of shooting them with it. As my friend Happy Trails said just after blowing up an antique Merwin Hulbert, 'I guess I shouldn't have been firing them with Smokeless Powder'.

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1st gen Colt's were made from 1873 till 1941. Black powder frames had a screw retaining the base pin 1873-1896. Then the spring loaded cross pin held in the base pin. Some say all guns from this transition are OK for smokeless. 1898 up were as Driftwood said made of better quality steel and I've read that Colt warranted all guns OK for Smokeless from 1900. The VP (Verified Proof) in a triangle stamped on the trigger guard didn't appear until 1904.

 

So there are Plenty of first Gen Colts that were made after 1900 until WWll that were safe to use with smokeless. I have 2 Colt SAA in 38 WCF mfg in 1900 and 1 Colt Bisley 38 WCF mfg 1902. I do shoot some smokeless (loaded lightly) but mostly real Black Powder in them. Any Colt made in the 1880's should only be shot with Black Powder loads. A friend has a Colt .45 made in the 1880's that was restored by John Kopec and has an extra Smokeless .45 Colt clyinder that John fitted to the gun.

 

Jake

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