Jump to content
SASS Wire Forum

Seeking help with Uberti 66/73 component dimensions

Recommended Posts

Hello all, new poster here, mainly to ask for some assistance that I just can't find anywhere else.


I received from my father a very early Uberti 1866 carbine in .38 Special. 16xx serial number range, 1968 manufacture. Easily identifiable by having a big notch in the front of the lifter well, above the chamber, and an 1973 style trigger safety despite being a brass framed 1866, as well as not having a lever lock. The toggles are good and it runs smoothly, extractor and firing pin are good, barrel and chamber seem okay, but otherwise the gun is in poor condition and mechanically kind of a basket case. I'd very much like to get it running correctly. The problem is of course that these late 60s/early 70s Uberti rifles are largely not parts-interchangeable with modern production ones. Shorter receiver, shorter lifter, shorter bolt and links, different size pins, metric screws, etc.


The most significant of the gun's problems are the lifter arm spring is missing completely, and either the finger arm spring is not the correct part or the cam surface in the lever wasn't machined correctly, as the spring does not actually reach all the way back to the notch in the lever even when all the way closed, so it doesn't actually do anything. As it currently is, the lifter timing is completely off and jams up the gun, and the lever won't stay closed unless you're holding it in place and falls half way open under gravity. The pivot hole in the lever also seems a bit oversized, it's rather loose fitting around the screw. So very likely, both side springs and possibly the lever need to be replaced. (I would like to replace it with an 1873 lever anyway and drill the lower tang to add a lever lock, but one problem at a time here.) And of course conventional wisdom is that if you have one of these early Uberti guns and you are in need of spare parts then you are completely out of luck, they are not available anywhere and you'll never find any except by cannibalizing another gun.


The common sense thing to do here is put a block of wood inside the receiver behind the lever to keep it closed, hang it over the fireplace, and get a brand new rifle that actually works and is supportable. I likely would if I could afford to, but also there's something fundamental about seeing a broken gun that can hypothetically be fixed and wanting to fix it, like wanting to help an injured stray dog I guess. Even if I get it working I probably won't shoot it much as a broken extractor or firing pin would be a death sentence, but still.


Anyway, getting to the point: I have trawled the web for every thread on every forum I can find about these rifles and everyone talks about how they're totally different and mostly not parts-compatible, but no one says which parts or how, or which ones will fit. Contrary to all this, a few people have said they've successfully installed short stroke toggle kits in these guns via some hand fitted modification, so they obviously can't be too alien from each other. And I'm not the kind of person to just throw in the towel and declare "it just can't be done" without doing my homework on it first. So basically what I am asking for is, is there anyone here who with a modern production (as in within the last 25 years) Uberti 1866 or 1873 rifle and a good set of calipers, who would be willing to disassemble their rifle and take some measurements of the internal parts for me? I'm no stranger to doing minor hand fitting of parts and to machines that require a lot of careful handling and finesse in assembly (I rebuild Elgin pocket watch movements as a hobby,) I'm just trying to get a feel for how far up a creek I am dimensionally with this project before I go spending money on anything. Like, bushing the holes in a new lever for different size pins is more of a headache if the hole spacing isn't the same, etc. I emailed Pioneer Gun Works about this but haven't heard back, so I figure asking about it more publicly might be wise.


Attached are photos showing the poor (complete lack of) engagement between the left sidespring and the finger lever, as well as the cam/spring engagement surfaces on the lever and lifter, which look rather different from current production ones. (I realize this thing looks like total garbage, to be clear this is the condition I received it in and I've done no work on it yet. That screw head ain't my fault. :wacko: Also ignore the missing ladle; I do have it, it was in the gun, but the existing screw is stripped and needs to be replaced.)




Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a 38 Spl within a few digits of yours, 1968.  Currently in unusable condition, have not "dived in" to review issues.  The installed "speed hammer" is a clue to the issues...


I have a 44/40, still identical in design as yours, 1978.  I bought it 4 years ago, like new in box, never fired.  I had the same issue with the lever as what appears in your pictures. 


The lever stroke was very sticky.  I immediately disassembled it, other than barrel and lever safety.  It was chuck full of brass and steel filings. Cleaned.  Most important, the lever spring was dragging against and gouging the left side plate.  


The cam surface on the lever was not cut right. The surface was higher on the inside than outside. (Sloping away from the lever.)  When the cam nub on the end of the lever spring ran across lever cam, spring naturally slid away from the lever and pushed into the side plate.  The edge of the cam surface was digging a groove into the spring's nub surface that was supposed to ride on top of the cam.


I used square profile gunsmith stones to make the cam surface perpendicular to the lever side; no slope. Took a long time. Next, I removed the notch from the spring nub, leveled the surface of the nub, and finished with mirror polish.  When I reassemble the carbine, ensure that tip of the nub is pushing against the surface of the lever above the cam, AND that the spring does not rotate outwards as I am tightening the spring screw.


I did very light de-burring of lever-to-lifter surfaces, lifter spring (with polish), and toggles. No more dragging/gouging side plates. Smooth-as-butter action.


As per the pic below, your cam surface edge is spalled outwards. It appears "sloped" as described above.  The spring is too short; does not reach the notch at end of cam surface when lever is closed.  The rear toggle in picture #1 and #2 shows heavy rubbing against side plate; should not rub significantly.


I recommend that you inspect for toggle pin and toggle damage. If nothing found, try some minor tweeks, reassemble, see if it will cycle better. 


Stone, remove cam spall. Stone cam surface to a flat, mirror finish. Don't use a Dremel. Get or make longer lever spring that fits, then square and polish the nub cam surface. Inspect toggle for burrs or ridges that appear to be holding it away from inner frame. Don't touch toggle notches, pins. Get a lifter spring.  With careful explanation of what you want, a basic gunsmith should be able to do the cleanup if you don't have time.


I am not at all convinced that "modern" 1866 actions are longer than our 1866 actions.  The carriers are longer.  By how much? Gosh, by the same amount as the "receiver notch" was deep.  They swapped the notch for a longer carrier and raceway.  If that is true, then levers, lifters, springs or toggles might be the same as later models.  HOWEVER, Uberti made multiple changes over the years.  "Long carrier" rifle parts may not fit because toggle pin, toggle, or lever dimensions changed.  Our rifle frames are the same length as 1970's vintage Uberti Henry frames which were the same length as original Henry frames.  Just the carrier and carrier raceway were lengthened by Uberti.  New made parts most likely do not work in our rifles, but not necessarily because of frame length.


My "modern carrier length" 1873 is in out of state storage, can't help with "new-made" Uberti measurements.


  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to do a deep clean on my 1873 which was built last year so I'll be tearing mine apart. If you can tell me exactly what you'd like to measure I can get that knocked out tonight. 


*This is a Taylors Comanchero that's been slicked up by Taylors, if that matters.

Edited by John Ruth
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Starlight Nixie said:

So very likely, both side springs and possibly the lever need to be replaced. (I would like to replace it with an 1873 lever anyway and drill the lower tang to add a lever lock, but one problem at a time here.) And of course conventional wisdom is that if you have one of these early Uberti guns and you are in need of spare parts then you are completely out of luck, they are not available anywhere and you'll never find any except by cannibalizing another gun.







I have one of the old Navy Arms 1866 (made by Uberti, imported by Navy Arms).  The two flat springs can be replaced by Whisper springs, you'll have to remove some metal from the brass base of the Whisper spring, but I'm pretty sure you'll find that easy to do.




I got mine from the The Smith Shop before they closed and sold the inventory to Online Outpost



  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks all for the feedback! Apologies for the following image-heavy wall of text...


@ Palouse,


Well, whether or not the receiver is actually a different length is sort of beside the point, I just mentioned it in a "it's one of those old ones with the short carrier" kind of way. It's exactly my point that, maybe modern parts are more useful here than most people have been saying. I just wanna get some research done before spending, instead of guessing and crossing my fingers. Also I realize the changes were made piecemeal over the course of the first several years of production, not done all at once, and there's no comprehensive record of what was changed and when - neither Navy Arms nor Uberti seem to remember, according to other folks' research.


I see what you mean about the sloped surface and the spawling on the lever. Fortunately the spring hasn't been gouging the side plate, as the fact that it can't actually reach the notch means it doesn't actually move up and down! But the more I compare mine to photos of the parts on other rifles, both new and old, the more convinced I am that the lever was never manufactured correctly in the first place - not in terms of the sloped cam surface, but that the notch wasn't cut in the correct place, it was cut too far back. The end of the spring seems to fall in the correct spot in the receiver, relative to the lever screw. So a longer spring made to reach it would have to be a custom made part.




Making a new flatspring from scratch would be a huge pain (and in terms of asking a gunsmith, I have significantly more free time than I do expendable cash.) Since I want to eventually add a lever lock and the existing lever doesn't have the necessary spur for that, I would rather fit a new production lever if possible rather than making a bespoke spring. (I know the lever lock isn't a popular feature with CAS folks and often gets removed, but personally I would prefer having it.) So assuming the dimensions are right (we'll find out tonight I guess!) I'm thinking either a modern Uberti factory lever or a C&I billet lever, the few opinions I've seen on the latter seem positive. I can cold blue it myself - I know cold bluing is an underwhelming finish option but everything about this gun is already underwhelming! :lol:


As for the toggles and the rubbing, I inspected the toggles under a magnifier and everything looks alright, no cracks or deformation. I was thinking the culprit was simply lack of lubrication and the very poor surface finish inside the side plates, but the wear is far more significant on the left side than on the right. After thinking about it a bit I checked and, the rear toggle pin is bent! Very very slightly, I had to check it against a machined straight edge (the back of my dial caliper) to make sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. The holes in the toggle and the receiver don't appear to be egged out. Either way, that's slightly worrying since I know the bolt thrust is supposed to be transmitted directly from the links to the receiver through the large radius surfaces, not through the pin, so I'm not sure what the story here is. But given how simple a part it is, I'm thinking a 4.2mm hardened steel dowel pin of the correct length will work as a substitute, assuming a modern replacement Uberti pin won't fit (I am fairly certain it won't.)




Either way the insides of the side plates look horrible and I'm thinking I should lap those flat and smooth on a surface plate.




@ John Ruth,


That would be excellent, thanks very much! A Taylor's Comanchero should be fine, assuming the lever hasn't been modified as part of the short stroke conversion, which I don't assume it has. I'll put a list of measurements I'm looking for at the end of this post. I apologize for how long a list it is, I tend to be extremely thorough.


@ Chantry,


I've seen differing opinions on whether people love or hate the Whisper springs, or the PGW hinged springs. I think I would prefer to stick with stock style springs, but this is still good to know - if Whisper springs can be made to fit, standard ones will probably work too!




Okay, as to the dimensions I'm looking for:


Finger lever and pins:
A - Diameter of lever link pin
B - Diameter of lever screw, the smooth part where it passes through the lever and lifter
C - Diameter of rear toggle pin
D - Center-to-center spacing of the two holes in the lever
E - Width/thickness of the lever around the link pin hole
F - Width/thickness of the lever around the lever screw hole






Lifter arm, just in case that ends up being a problem too:
G - Diameter of the circular part of the arm, where it rides next to the finger lever
H - Length of the arm from the center of the pivot hole to the end of the lobe, measured parallel to the arm
I - Height of the lobe
J - Width/thickness of the lobe (about where the lobe meets the arm, since this seems to be tapered)
K - Width/thickness of the circular section, next to the lever






Side springs and screws and receiver, I guess assuming yours has stock style springs, tho I guess the same would work with Whisper springs:
L - Length of the finger lever spring from the center of the screw to the tip of the working end, measured parallel to the barrel bore
M - Same length measurement on the lifter arm spring (not pictured since mine is missing completely)
N - Center-to-center distance from the side spring screw holes to the lever screw hole in the receiver, measured parallel to the barrel bore
O - Diameter of the screw heads on the side spring screws (or diameter of the hole the screw head sits in)
P - Diameter of the screw threads on the side spring screws






Sorry, I know some of these are weird and hard to measure accurately. Ballparking it to the hundredths is probably good enough for those measurements. Also I know the side spring screws are a matter of careful adjustment so I get it if you don't wanna remove those, I just wanna make sure the screw diameters are correct to where they'll fit in the existing screw holes/pockets in the old style receiver - although what Chantry said already implies they will.


As a complete aside, the old style loading gate ladle is a completely different design from the modern ones; seems like that actually might be a good thing, since I see people complaining about how fragile the ladle is on modern Uberti guns more than any other part failure. Either way, I know there was a change to the modern guns and there is an older "small screw" ladle and a newer "large screw" ladle, but I'm unsure if the small screw referred to there is the same screw as on these old late 60s/early 70s guns. The screw on this one is a metric M3 fine pitch (0.35mm thread pitch) type. It seems the screws in these old Uberti guns are extremely soft and very easy to mess up, which this one is. The threads in the ladle itself seem fine. I just ordered a button head Allen screw from McMaster-Carr for the time being, I can trim it to the correct length and it should work fine. I know that'll look completely ridiculous on the gun but there isn't exactly a wide selection of off-the-shelf M3-0.35 screws to pick from, and my first priority here is just to get the gun actually working. I can always replace it with a proper one later if I can find one, or have one fabricated.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Oh, haha, while I was in the middle of typing that post that I actually got an email reply from Joe Alves Jr. at PGW. I won't copy-paste it in its entirety, but this is the pertinent excerpt:


the modern day side spring will NOT fit the older 66, it's a length issue. The older springs were longer. Were it the other way around at least we could grind and profile to length but not with this issue.


Well, darn. If anyone would know it would be him. That being said, I'm still interested in the measurements from a modern gun, if for nothing other than academic purposes. Maybe I'll still learn something useful (and having it up here will help anyone else who goes digging for info on this same style rifle in the future.)


ETA: After thinking about it for a while, trying to reconcile what Joe said with what Chantry said, I'm wondering if my lever was manufactured correctly for the longer spring, but my rifle was made right around the time of changing from the long spring to the modern short spring, and was assembled incorrectly with the old style lever but the new style spring. So then later short-carrier guns would work with modern Whisper springs but older guns like mine wouldn't. Just thinking out loud here.

Edited by Starlight Nixie
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Starlight,


I'll have to knock these out tonight/tomorrow as I had some things come up yesterday putting this task on hold. But I do intend on getting this info to you here. 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.