Finally Finished: 1873 Sheriff’s Model in .251 TCR

Last year I needed a gun to test the new cartridge I was developing, .251 TCR. I had an Italian percussion version of the 1873, so I converted it to fire center-fire cartridges and chambered it for the new round. It had some issues and I really didn’t like the look of the cylinder, but it did the job. I always intended to finish it up properly, but never got around to it.

It’s actually a six shooter, but you need to leave an empty chamber under the hammer. I never liked the liners showing in the gaps where the percussion caps went originally; it looks make-shift and unfinished.

Another issues was ejecting the empty shells. I’d shortened the barrel to 3-1/2″ for test purposes, and since it was just a test gun I didn’t fit an ejector. Because of the way I was using it removing the cylinder to load and unload wasn’t too much a problem. Later when I looked at doing one I discovered the placement of the ejector housing made it hard to adapt it for the smaller caliber.

Since this is effectively what people call a ‘Sheriff’s Model’ and the extractor was going to be a pain, I did what Colt did and ground off the ejector housing. Now I can easily unload by poking out the empties with a rod. First issue fixed. Now for the big one; a bespoke cylinder. I actually started this in May, and it sat through the month of June on the lathe, half-finished. I finally decided it was time.

I finished the lathe work and got ready to cut the lock notches and decided to try something new. It’s a bloody big cylinder for six rounds of a .25-caliber cartridge; why not make it eight? I’ve never done an eight-shot cylinder before so I was a bit nervous, but I went for it. I will say, it’s a lot easier to locate eight notches than six. Just divide the cylinder into quarters and divide the quarters in half.

I really need to find a better way to make lock notches. I normally use a cut-off wheel in a Dremel (a Foredom, actually, but everyone knows what a Dremel is) but this makes rather over-size notches. This time I used a carbide bur, and it worked but they have a crude look to them. I guess I need to keep looking…

After the lock notches were cut I line-bored the cylnder, then cut the chambers and honed them. For this I used a 1/4″ tool-steel rod, and superglued a single layer of 1500-grit sandpaper to it. I mounted it in a hand-drill and went into the chambers with it. Rinse and repeat until everything is smooth and shiny.

This is the point where the pucker-factor went through the roof. I did not have an eight-shot cylinder to get some idea where to cut the ratchet to rotate the cylinder correctly, and didn’t know if I would need to replace the hand or if the stock one would do. I looked things over carefully and decided, ‘OK, about there…’ I took a deep breath before getting started, because if I screwed this up it would not be fixable, and hours of work would be down the drain.

I didn’t screw it up. I cut the ratchet and was easily able to adjust it to work correctly, and I didn’t need to change the stock hand. *Whew!* I polished the cylinder, then threw on a quick coat of Van’s Instant Blue. I’ll get around to rust-bluing it later.

Looking very dapper with it’s new, un-fluted cylinder.
A bit more svelte with the unused ejector housing removed.
Eight shots… well, seven really; I still need to leave the hammer down on an empty chamber for safety.

So the .251 TCR revolver is finally finished… for values of finished. Like, ‘It’s finished until I find a really sweet piece of wood/horn/antler to make cool grips.’ Or I come up with some other thing I just have to do, like lowering the hammer spur… Hmmm, lowering the hammer spur… For me a gun like this is not so much a thing as a process, but I can at least say this stage of the process is complete, and I’m happy with it.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 2 July 2020

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