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Shooting antique guns


Cockney Rebel
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Apologies if this has been asked before.  I did a search but nothing came up.

What are folks thoughts regarding using antique guns in a CAS match, assuming that they have been verified safe to shoot.

Most CAS loads are typically light loads but is the rapid cycling considered too much wear and tear or can these old girls take it?

 

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Just my opinion. They can take it as well as the new guns if they are in good condition. That said, it is gonna break. I bought a brand new Uberti 73 rifle for CAS because I broke the firing pin on my original Winchester 73. Have broken 3 firing pins in the Uberti since. The difference, it is easier to find parts for a new gun. We do run them hard.

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The oldest gun I've shot in this game dates to 1870-1872, a 10 gauge "American Arms Fox Patent Side Swing" double barrel. Black powder only, of course, and toward the light end. The Colt dates to 1876 - I shot it gently in one match, just to say I did it. :)

SideSwingShotgun.jpg

Edited by Three Foot Johnson
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I run some antiques from time to time.   (I use the legal definition of the term, made prior to 1898.)  For pistols of this type, they only get black powder.  For rifles, I am willing to shoot smokeless in them.  For example, "Trapdoor safe" loads in my Trapdoor Springfields, or my 1886 Winchester.   I also have no problem with running cowboy level smokeless loads of the WCF rounds in the couple of antique rifles I have.  Same for my Spencer.  There's just a lot of steel around those chambers to absorb the pressure.  But by no means would I run "hot" or even modern factory ammo in them. 

Shotguns are more of a question mark for me.   Unless you know they have had their chambers lengthened, they probably are for 2-1/2" or maybe 2-5/8" shells.   IF you have had the chambers lengthened to 2-3/4" you may be able to run light smokeless loads in them.   I have had reputable gunsmiths tell me yes and no, depending on the make model of the gun.  Caution would indicate use only black.

 

 

And that brings up the other question.   How "hard" do you run your guns?  Some folks run 'em hard.  If your goal is to shoot a sub 20 second stage, then antiques are not for you.   If you just wanna have fun with old timers, and if you don't abuse 'em, they should be okay.   Especially if you only use these guns once in a while.

Those are my experiences and opinions on the matter.

And by the same token, "old" guns, say made between 1899 and 1940, can handle smokeless, but again should be run with a bit of care.  And again, check the chambers on the shotguns.

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25 minutes ago, Ranger Dan said:

Just my opinion. They can take it as well as the new guns if they are in good condition. That said, it is gonna break. I bought a brand new Uberti 73 rifle for CAS because I broke the firing pin on my original Winchester 73. Have broken 3 firing pins in the Uberti since. The difference, it is easier to find parts for a new gun. We do run them hard.

Are you saying that the metallurgy of the late 19th Century is equal to that of the early 21st Century?

 

Phantom

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I have two, an original 1873 (1890) and an 1892 (1897) that I shoot for one stage once or twice a year. I am careful to shoot a little slower and lay it down a little easier than normal. It's very, very fun if you are not worried about your time.

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Colt did not proof their SAA models for smokeless powder until roughly 1902. Does the Colt have a VP on the trigger guard? If not, it is a BP proofed firearm. Generally speaking all Colt SAAs were smokeless proofed by 1912.

I have spoken with experienced SAA smiths that have found stress cracks on older Colts that they can only attribute to excessive stress due to the use of smokeless powder.

If you read the boiler plate on boxes of "cowboy" ammo, they will say not for use in blackpowder firearms.

That said, there are some powders that emulate the pressure curve of blackpowder. I will let you do the research on that.

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If you want to SHOOT your antique guns; even within the context of our game - go ahead.  Understand that they are NOT made with the same steel or tolerances that modern guns are and you will need to feed them and handle them accordingly.

 

If you plan to COMPETE with your antique guns - understand that the wear and tear of our game (at speed) is abusive on equipment and you will break things.

 

But ultimately they are your guns and as long as the firearm is deemed safe - you can use whatever you wish.  

 

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14 minutes ago, Phantom, SASS #54973 said:

Are you saying that the metallurgy of the late 19th Century is equal to that of the early 21st Century?

 

Phantom

Nope, I'm saying they were/are just as reliable as the modern copies.

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This topic has been debated by very learned people. Cozmo is an experienced SASS member but not under that alias. JPlower is Dave Lanara who has worked on more SAAs than all of us combined.

 

https://www.coltforum.com/threads/black-powder-or-smokeless-where-to-draw-the-line-on-a-older-colt-saa.379378/page-10

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14 minutes ago, Ranger Dan said:

Nope, I'm saying they were/are just as reliable as the modern copies.

Welli guess I just misunderstood what you meant by "They can take it as well as the new guns if they are in good condition"

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Early on in my SASS days, I competed with an original Winchester '73 (born in 1892) that had seen hard times in an earlier life.  It gave great service and still shoots great for those times it comes out to play.  I only shoot BP in it BTW.

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Maybe I'm just missing something here...but if you can shoot the firearm at a range, you can shoot it at a Match.

 

The question is what do you want out of it so far as performance goes.

 

It's kinda silly to ask if it can be shot...I guess I'm just confused by the question.

 

Phantom

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Quality was poor to excellent back then as it is today. The problem is that even to quality guns are at least 120 years old. Some have seen hard service,  been neglected,  and poorly repaired. 

 

This Marlin 1889 44WCF needed nothing but a good cleanup.  The Original Colt 1878 10 gauge had already been restocked.  I made some repairs. 

 

142102274_ColtFSSMarlin1889Colt1878(1).jpg.cd63f7e1664d1641dac2d3ce9990bfbb.jpg 

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1 hour ago, Cockney Rebel said:

My question concerned the speed of shooting being too hard on the guns.  At a range I would take one considered shot at a time.  In a match I would be looking for 10 rapid shots in seconds.

So you want to be somewhat competitive...hence my question on performance.

 

Don't shoot antiques if you want to be competitive.

 

Cheers!
Phantom

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1 hour ago, Cockney Rebel said:

My question concerned the speed of shooting being too hard on the guns.  At a range I would take one considered shot at a time.  In a match I would be looking for 10 rapid shots in seconds.

Yep speed shooting them would be allot harder than a trip shooting them on the range.

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27 minutes ago, Slapshot said:

Yep speed shooting them would be allot harder than a trip shooting them on the range.

Nothing says one has to shoot fast at a match...and if one's focus is to shoot fast, why even consider shooting antique guns?

 

So yes, I understand that generally one will take their time shooting in a standard shooting range environment, but one can also shoot at "range" speed during a match if they so choose.

 

Phantom

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Yep fully understand that generally speaking range shooting would be less stressful on a firearm than cowboy shooting. That is if your going for the fastest. I think if I was shooting antiques, I wouldn't be to concerned with shooting the fastest knowing that my speed would already be hampered by the firearm I choose.;)

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7 minutes ago, Slapshot said:

Yep fully understand that generally speaking range shooting would be less stressful on a firearm than cowboy shooting. That is if your going for the fastest. I think if I was shooting antiques, I wouldn't be to concerned with shooting the fastest knowing that my speed would already be hampered by the firearm I choose.;)

But in the context of the OP's comments, speed is a desirable attribute.

 

Therefore, why even entertain using an antique firearm?

 

Seems silly...but...what do I know?

 

Phantom

PS: That was a rhetorical question.

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1 hour ago, Phantom, SASS #54973 said:

But in the context of the OP's comments, speed is a desirable attribute.

 

Therefore, why even entertain using an antique firearm?

 

Seems silly...but...what do I know?

 

Phantom

PS: That was a rhetorical question.

Was it rhetorical, LOL. :lol:

 

Maybe its the challenge of being as fast as he can with older firearms. Kind a, maybe sorta, like they tried to be in the real west.:huh:

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21 minutes ago, Cockney Rebel said:

Phantom, to answer your question; because I like the idea of firing a genuine antique versus repro.  To me, being as interested in the history as the sport, I just find the idea appealing.

Then speed would be a secondary concern.

 

Again, if the gun is safe to fire in a standard range environment, then it's safe to shoot at a match...just do it.

 

You want to run at competitive SASS speeds, then it's a silly idea.

 

Phantom

18 minutes ago, Slapshot said:

Was it rhetorical, LOL. :lol:

 

Maybe its the challenge of being as fast as he can with older firearms. Kind a, maybe sorta, like they tried to be in the real west.:huh:

Your logic is fascinating.

 

Phantom

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When I bought my 1901 vintage .45 SAA twenty years ago, it was to shoot. Not full time, of course. I have about 3000 rounds through it now.  These days it only comes out once or twice a year to shoot with my brother's 1st gen 32-20.  I'm a middle of the pack shooter so not too fast but I don't slow down for the guns.  Now, that gun always had a light trigger and lately seemed lighter still.  So it is currently at a 'smith getting the hammer rebuilt.  Did I wear it out shooting matches?  I think it was already worn, but who knows.  The $150 price tag for the repair will be worth it.

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You cant take it with you, so play with it while you can.
I dont have any antique "SASS " guns, but I do have some others that I was "afraid" to shoot "too much" because they were antiques......then I thought "XXX am I saving them for, the afterlife? Do I really care if they last 100 more years, I will be gone in 10 or less"
30% of my enjoyment comes from the "competition" of the SASS game...the rest is just enjoying shooting my guns.
Shoot your guns...if you want to try to win the 1st prize Caddy at each match-shoot .32 RNVs.

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With regards to shooting "authentic" guns as opposed to reproductions, I get that.

But that doesn't mean you have to shoot antiques.  

You can get real Winchesters and Marlins that were made as late as the 1980's.   (I consider anything made before the addition of a modern safety "real.")
 

You can still get real Colt that was made last Tuesday.  (If you can find one, that is.)

 

But let's say that you want to keep it to stuff made between, say, 1900 and 1945, plus Second Generation Colts.   These things are out there, and with enough searching you can find things that are perfectly shootable, if a tad on the ugly side, for a reasonable price.   Even these are getting "older" but they don't have the concerns about shooting smokeless in them the way true antiques do.    This is probably the more reasonable way to satisfy a desire to shoot vintage guns with a minimal amount of concern.

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Ask yourself this: If it broke, would you be able to get  parts and fix it, or is it down for the count. Never take anything in a boat you aren't willing to lose, never shoot anything you aren't willing to break. 

I have antiques I have shot once, just to do it, with very light loads and careful shooting, but would never shoot them in a match. I do shoot old L.C.Smith shotguns all the time, and I shoot my old Trapdoor in matches, but both are common enough that I can get parts if need be.

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