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H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619

Colts not in their original caliber.

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Posted (edited)

 

Just out of curiosity, how many of us have an old SAA that is not in it's original caliber?  I have seen more than a few of these over they years, and when I find them at gun stores, they tend to be far less expensive than the otherwise would be for a gun or their vintage.   Not that I've actually seen that many in the shops, but I have met a handful of pards who have one.   It is my understanding that once upon a time, this was actually quite commonly done.

 

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This one left Colt in the 1880's.  According to the factory letter, it started life as a .44-40, but is today a .32-20.   Colt has no record of doing the conversion themselves, but I couple of gunsmiths I've showed it to are of the opinion that it is possible that they did, and probably in the 1920's.  But that is all speculation.   The nickel finish is correct to the letter, but I don't know if it is original or not.  Grips are not specified in the letter either, but these have clearly been with the gun for a very long time.   

Edited by H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619

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If the barrel lettering is correct at it her markings appear correct, I will bet you a dollar that Colt is just wrong.  It probably left the factory as a .32-20, and Colt’s records are incorrect.  There has to be something about the markings on the gun that are out of place.

 

CB

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1656965268_ColtFSS1881bFeb2020.jpg.a88b9c23dd9d2ebb7b5ca9b126640d5f.jpg

 

Same kind of deal with this old Frontier Six Shooter dating 1881.  I have a factory letter saying it started out with a 7-1/2" barrel. It is still 44WCF but barrel is non-standard 5-1/4".  The roll markings are of 1920s vintage.  Numbers stamped inside are strong evidence that Colt did the work and remarked the stampings with roll markers of that time. The factory letter makes no mention of the rework.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Cat Brules said:

If the barrel lettering is correct at it her markings appear correct, I will bet you a dollar that Colt is just wrong.  It probably left the factory as a .32-20, and Colt’s records are incorrect.  There has to be something about the markings on the gun that are out of place.

 

CB

 

32WCF was first available in Colt SAA in 1884 with something short of 3,000 made from then on. Fourth most popular caliber but way behind 45Colt,  44WCF and 38WCF.  

 

Here is a deal on the Colt website that should come up with the date of manufacture. 

 

https://www.colt.com/serial-lookup

 

Here is a link to a post on the Colt forum showing differences in features over time.

 

https://www.coltforum.com/threads/subtle-changes-in-the-colt-single-action-army-a-photo-essay.48166/

 

Edited by Warden Callaway

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

This one left Colt in the 1880's.  According to the factory letter, it started life as a .44-40, but is today a .32-20.   Colt has no record of doing the conversion themselves, but I couple of gunsmiths I've showed it to are of the opinion that it is possible that they did, and probably in the 1920's.  But that is all speculation.   The nickel finish is correct to the letter, but I don't know if it is original or not.  Grips are not specified in the letter either, but these have clearly been with the gun for a very long time.   

 

When grips are not specified in the letter, that means that the grips were the Factory Standard.   I believe that in the early 1880s the standard grips on the SAA were still varnished walnut for civilian pieces and oiled walnut for military arms.

 

If the cylinder is original to the gun, part of the serial number should be stamped on it, and match that of the frame. 

Edited by McCandless
grammer

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Well it’s not an old Colt, but I had. Winchester/Colt commemorative changed from .44-40 to .44 spcl with a new .44spcl cylinder and shorter .44spcl barrel. I kept the original cylinder and barrel so that if I had to sell it I could. Wanted a short barreled Colt for my right hand to be like John Wayne shoots. 

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On my revolver, there is a .44 stamped just behind the trigger, indicating that it started out as a .44-40.   The cylinder does not have any numbers on it that match the rest of the gun.   No doubt of it being a conversion.

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I mentioned in the topic What Is The Oldest Gun You Shoot that my 1901  7 1/2" 45 Colt SAA started life as a 4 3/4" 38-40.  I used to talk to a guy from Colt (Joe Canale, I think?) that attended CMSA events for Colt.  He looked it up for me.   There are no markings on the barrel or cylinder.  The price I paid for it around 2001 was about right for a "shooter" gun.  I've put a couple thousand rounds through it and now shoot it in 2 or 3 matches per year.  Shooting this one will not diminish the value.  I think it will always be worth something more than I paid.

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i have an original 1st gen colt 38-40 that was converted to 22 cal , still marked in original caliber , sleeved barrel and cylinders was told and believe factory refit , aftermarket front tru-glo sight sorta detracts a bit so i may seek out a more traditional and replace it , 

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HK, 

Reminds me of a Colt I bought from friend, "Sherriff" Jim Wilson, many years ago during my IHMSA days.  I think I bought it because he offered and I thought I should have a Colt.  It was a nice Colt of probably early 2nd gen, don't really recall knowing, ivory grips and 45.  Soon thereafter I got into CAS and mentioned to Jim of my shooting 38s for the game, interestingly, he told me that that Colt actually originally was 38 (possibly 38-40)and that he had had it converted by a gunsmith acquaintance, as I remember from Abilene.  I decided I did not need a Colt so bad and sold it to friend who wanted it more than I.

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It looks like it says .44 CF on the trigger guard. That's .44-40. The gun also looks heavily buffed and the edges on the frame are not sharp. I would say it was a .44-40 when it left the factory and was  buffed and re-nickled when it was converted or later. The .32-20 was highly popular around the turn of the century and someone might have wanted something better for small game.

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Posted (edited)

I've seen a number of "transformed" old Colts.  My old pard, the late Hank, had a few... some of which he'd built from parts or re-built to suit his whim.  A few had good stories.

 

One of these was a 2nd generation .45 he'd bought new in '73 or '74.  A Buntline, no less!  Bought it at the San Francisco Gun Exchange.  In his hand that thing was amazingly accurate.  Well, about twenty years later, he needed another revolver for a new game that he, his missus, and three kids had taken up.   Something called "Cowboy Action Shooting."  So, he dug into his boxes of parts and converted it to a 4 3/4" barreled .44, and it was thusly used for many years.

 

Once in a while, after he retired from competitive shooting, I'd encourage him to "make it right" some day.  Early last April, Hank sent me a simple text:  "Ned is back."  He'd made it right.  Sadly, he passed a few weeks later.  But he left behind a nice, 12" barreled, .45 Colt Buntline.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Hardpan Curmudgeon SASS #8967
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Posted (edited)
On 5/20/2020 at 11:28 PM, Hardpan Curmudgeon SASS #8967 said:

I've seen a number of "transformed" old Colts.  My old pard, the late Hank, had a few... some of which he'd built from parts or re-built to suit his whim.  A few had good stories.

 

One of these was a 2nd generation .45 he'd bought new in '73 or '74.  A Buntline, no less!  Bought it at the San Francisco Gun Exchange.  In his hand that thing was amazingly accurate.  Well, about twenty years later, he needed another revolver for a new game that he, his missus, and three kids had taken up.   Something called "Cowboy Action Shooting."  So, he dug into his boxes of parts and converted it to a 4 3/4" barreled .44, and it was thusly used for many years.

 

Once in a while, after he retired from competitive shooting, I'd encourage him to "make it right" some day.  Early last April, Hank sent me a simple text:  "Ned is back."  He'd made it right.  Sadly, he passed a few weeks later.  But he left behind a nice, 12" barreled, .45 Colt Buntline.

 

 

 

 

Man, I fondly remember the SFGE from after it moved to 2nd Street.    Not a single gun shop nor sporting goods store (that sells ammo) is in operation in SF anymore.  

 

Thanks for this reminder, Hardpan.

 

Is converting a handgun’s caliber worth doing?  I’d think selling it and buying in the caliber you desire is probably done more currently.

Edited by WOLFY

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13 hours ago, WOLFY said:

Man, I fondly remember the SFGE from after it moved to 2nd Street.    Not a single gun shop nor sporting goods store (that sells ammo) is in operation in SF anymore.  

 

Thanks for this reminder, Hardpan.

 

Is converting a handgun’s caliber worth doing?  I’d think selling it and buying in the caliber you desire is probably done more currently.

 

Oh heck yeah, if you have the knowledge, skills, tools, and parts!  ^_^

 

In ol' Hank's case, he had all.  A few Colts of varying vintage he'd bought over the years, some that had come down through the family, some that he'd traded for or were just given to him.  There was even a First Generation "black powder frame" that an old fella had given him - in the form of a cigar box full of parts that had been given to HIM something like fifty years before.  

 

There's a story about Hank at a California EOT.  Someone noted that one of his resurrected Colts had a dovetailed front sight and called a violation on him - "Lookit!  That's an adjustable sight!"  He argued; someone argued back.  Eventually one of the Wild Bunch (Tex?) was called on to settle the dispute.  He examined the revolver carefully - and when he spotted the Orville Ainsworth inspection stamp, he rather pointedly advised the fella who'd complained that this revolver was just fine...    

 

 And the Gun Exchange.  I still have the Stevens SXS that I bought from Nate Posner at his old shop - before Second Street.  The "new" shop was heaven!!  :lol:

 

So Wolfy, I gotta ask ~ "Barbary Coast Vigilance Committee?"  In El Paso??   :)

 

 

 

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I have a couple of original colts that started out in other calibers.  They loose something in the collector value but the shoot beautifully.  Many years ago I worked for the Old Sacramento  Armory.  When I started, they were one of the biggest distributors of Colts in the US and they had a cabinet full of Colt factory parts including 1st and second generation SAA and Bisley parts.  I bought several barrels and cylinders  in .45 and used them on guns that were in bad shape, several of which I still shoot today (30+ years later).  I have a 1905 gun that has a later .44spl barrel and both .44spl and 44-40 cylinders. That came from a friend.  It was rebuilt and blued by Christie’s at some point.  I would love to get a good 44-40 barrel for it, but they are hard to come by.  It is too bad that Colt does not make replacement barrels for the 1st and 2nd generation SAAs.  There would be a good market for them.  
 

I too recall the San Francisco Gun Exchange fondly.  Great shop with great stuff.  I almost bought a 45-70 1886 winchester there when I was a kid.  I just couldn’t swing it on what I made at that time, but I never forgot it.  I didn’t get an 1886 till last year when I bought a deluxe made in 1888.  

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Posted (edited)
On 5/22/2020 at 6:37 PM, Hardpan Curmudgeon SASS #8967 said:

 

So Wolfy, I gotta ask ~ "Barbary Coast Vigilance Committee?"  In El Paso??   :)

 

 

 

 

I tried contacting Frank Tabor, around the time I was retiring from SFFD and blowing town for Texas, but had no such luck.  

 

I’ll still be visiting there from time to time as my family is still in Frisco.   I’ll definitely return when it’s time to tar n feather Gov Gavin.

 

Edited by WOLFY

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56 minutes ago, WOLFY said:

 

I tried contacting Frank Tabor, around the time I was retiring from SFFD and blowing town for Texas, but had no such luck.  

 

I’ll still be visiting there from time to time as my family is still in Frisco.   I’ll definitely return when it’s time to tar n feather Gov Gavin.

 

 

I remember Frank ~ "Tabor Engineering," wasn't it?  He used to shoot at Chabot, as I recall... I seem to remember him telling me about a "manly man" match that had to be shot while smoking or at least chomping a cigar.  :rolleyes:

 

Remember Bob Chow?  Val Giannini...?  There were couple of other good guys down on the peninsula whose names I can't grasp at the moment.  

 

I knew a several LEO's in the City and Daley City, but the only firefighters I knew were in Marin and Alameda.  Well... not counting a few I met the night our frat house caught fire during a party.

 

Oh... and when you come back for Emperor Newsom's T&F party, I'll hold your beer for ya.  Hell... I'll BUY the beer!  ^_^

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Posted (edited)
59 minutes ago, Hardpan Curmudgeon SASS #8967 said:

 

I remember Frank ~ "Tabor Engineering," wasn't it?  He used to shoot at Chabot, as I recall... I seem to remember him telling me about a "manly man" match that had to be shot while smoking or at least chomping a cigar.  :rolleyes:

 

Remember Bob Chow?  Val Giannini...?  There were couple of other good guys down on the peninsula whose names I can't grasp at the moment.  

 

I knew a several LEO's in the City and Daley City, but the only firefighters I knew were in Marin and Alameda.  Well... not counting a few I met the night our frat house caught fire during a party.

 

Oh... and when you come back for Emperor Newsom's T&F party, I'll hold your beer for ya.  Hell... I'll BUY the beer!  ^_^

I thought it was Tabor’s Shooters Supply?  I do remember a bay area gun store had that “engineering” name (they had a fabrication business prior to getting an ffl... oh my memory swerves).  Here’re a couple other shops I bought a great deal from back in the day (maybe they’ll ring a bell w you) H&H Enterprises Gun Shop in Redwood City and Trader’s Sporting Goods in San Leandro.  

 

yeah, it was a black powder and lit cigar category.  chabot was OWSS, so you loaded up your 97s and misses were 10 second penalties.   ironically one of my last SASS matches (prior to moving to El Paso), i was walking from the loading table and a couple pards clued me into the “no smoking on the firing line rule”.   

 

I was in a gun store near San Pablo a couple years back and they had a series 70 gold cup that was set up by Bob Chow, going for only $800.  I kinda regret not having put the money down for it (even though I have a thing against adjustable sights).

 

 

Edited by WOLFY

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Always thought that I could get a good deal on a SAA in .41 Colt.  Hard to find ammo.  I shoot rifles in .32 and .38 WCF.  

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