Monthly Archives: November 2016

Livin’ the Puglife.

     I finished this gun last night, a Pietta 1858 Remington ‘Pug-nose’ revolver. Sort of a western ‘Belly-gun’ or ‘Shopkeeper’s Special.’ I posted pictures on some of the gun forums, as I often do. Commentary was positive, though after tendering his complements one fellow commented,  “I just can’t see how you’ve improved over the original here. After a lot of work it seems you’ve created something less accurate and less comfortable to shoot?”
     It’s a fair question, I suppose. The tempting response is, ‘If you don’t get it I can’t explain it.’  That’s a bit of a cop-out though, isn’t it?
     Whether I’ve improved the gun is very subjective; if one wished to carry the gun concealed it’s certainly better for the purpose than if it still had the original 8″ barrel and grip-shape. That leaves aside the fact that you’d have to be a bit daft to do so; there are certainly better options in this day and age.
     This is obviously not intended to be any sort of modern, practical gun. First of all it’s a cap-and-ball gun, which has been obsolete for over 130 years. Even if fitted with a conversion cylinder to fire modern metallic cartridges it’s still quite a bit less efficient than a Ruger Blackhawk or Vaquero. What we have here is an historical ‘what if?’ What if someone living in the 19th C. wanted a full-frame .44 as a concealed carry weapon? Shat would they base it on, what would it look like and be like to shoot? I understand the appeal, obviously; I like ‘cowboy’ guns and I like snub-nosed revolvers. If you are not a fan of either or both you will probably not ‘get’ this gun.
     There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; I only dimly understand the idea of taking a utilitarian service pistol and turning it into and ultra-high tech tactical race-gun. The thing is we’re all in this hobby, this common obsession together. I don’t need to understand something to appreciate the passion and creativity of it’s construction.
     Of course there is often more to it than simply the gun itself; there’s always a story that goes with it, a learning experience that I just don’t get from a standard, stock pistol.
     The story here is that some years back a gun-writer did a similar gun and posted it to YouTube. A friend of mine liked the idea and asked if I would convert one of his guns in a similar fashion. He had a pair of 1858s and offered me one in exchange for the work. It was a fun project. To make a long story short I practiced on ‘my’ gun to work out the details, then made his. For me the work was the point of this project; I got to practice my hobby-twice- with virtually no expense to myself and got a free gun into the bargain. Even after I spend $350 on a cartridge conversion I’ll come out ahead on the deal… I also get the added fun of making a custom holster or two for the gun.
     While there are more practical options I’m a lot more likely to strap this gun on for woods-walks or as a hunting companion than I would be the full 8″ barreled gun, and while harder to shoot accurately it will probably be more than adequate for my purposes.
     As for being unpleasant to shoot I have a pretty good suspicion that this gun in it’s current form is as heavy as a 4-5/8″ Single Action Army, and with standard loads .45 Colt is pretty much a pussycat. I had a 3-1/4″ Cimarron Thunderer that wasn’t at all unpleasant to shoot; even my recoil-averse wife was OK with it.
     I really enjoy working on guns, seeing a concept come to life and overcoming the challenges (like the shortened loading-lever.) Turning a vision into a reality, as it were. It doesn’t hurt that I wind up with a unique, interesting firearm that is the work of my own hands.
     Did I improve the gun? From my perspective and uses I most certainly did; I took a common, inexpensive reproduction gun and turned it into something unique, fun and that I can justifiably take pride in. You may not, and don’t need to, understand that. The important thing is that I do, and since it’s my gun that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

.22 Magnum Pistol Build (Part 3)

This is the ‘home-stretch’ of this build. Lot’s done, and little left to do at the end of it.

Side-plate and mainspring in place.

This view shows the parts, including the trigger and trigger return spring in place. The trigger is actually the piece v=cut our of the frame for the trigger.



Here is the hammer In the cocked position.  The half-cock notch is recessed so that the trigger cannot be pulled.

The mechanism complete and assembled. After adding a .062″ music-wire firing-pin I did the first firing test, shooting into a 5-gallon bucket of water. Not wanting to get splashed I placed a piece of cardboard over the bucket. This did keep me from getting splashed but it didn’t stop about 1/2 gallon of water from wining up on my shop floor…

Walnut stocks fitted. Both the handgrip and fore-stock are each made of three sandwiched pieces glued together. This allowed for a very snug fit- the pieces actually stay in place without screws.

With the chamber opened. The fore-stock serves no practical purpose I can think of; I just thought it looked cool when I sketched the pistol originally.

Semi-finished. Difficult to tell in the picture but I have lightly cold-blued the frame and barrel, mostly to protect them until the sights are mounted. I sanded the grips and did a bit more shaping. The fore-stock has a single screw through the bottom to secure it. For the hand-grip I debated whether to use a single screw from the bottom or a cross-screw; you can see which won. The stocks are finished with a penetrating acrylic finish;it’s essentially a super-thin superglue but it creates a durable, water-proof finish that dries in under a minute. In the past this has proven quite durable.

Though not visible in these pictures the block on the top-front of the barrel has been hollowed to place a front-sight. I have not settled on the design of the rear sight; I have both fixed and adjustable concepts that I am playing with.

After the sights are mounted I’ll refinish the gun with a darker blued finish. Currently there is no extractor; while I can do some very limited milling on the drill-press I cannot achieve anything like sufficient precision for fitting the extractor. Once I get the correct power-supply set of for the milling machine I’ll attend to that.

The 3/8″ barrel-liner will also be replaced eventually; the chamber is very ‘sticky’ owing to the lack of a proper reamer. I’ll polish it as best I can, but I am dubious that i can achieve a satisfactory finish. right now empties must be driven out with a brass rod inserted into the barrel. This means that right now the barrel is secured with glue; once I fit a new barrel-liner with a properly reamed chamber it will be silver-soldered into place.

I’m very satisfied with the trigger; in the half-cock notch it is quite impossible to ‘pull through’ and drop the hammer. At full-cock the trigger-pull is extremely light and breaks sharply, and while there is significant over-travel it doesn’t bother me. Eventually I may fit an over-travel screw if it becomes an issue.

This build is going to be in-progress for some time to come, but it is finished enough now that it will be going on the next range trip. I’m really pleased with it, and with the progress that I have made so far. It feels great in my hand and points naturally. Once it’s fully refined and finished it’s going to be a really nice little pistol.

Since, aside from a few details, the gun is essentially complete this is the end of the build series, though there will be updates as more work is done. I am also looking into getting video and/or more detailed photos of future builds; a friend has offered to be a photographer/videographer for the next build so we’ll see what happens.


.22 Magnum Pistol Build (Part 2)

Between doing things that actually make money I got a few more hours in on this project. Having a bit more experience this time around is making a difference; this one is going rather faster than previous builds. The work shown here was spread out over a couple of evenings, though some odd small bits were done while glue was drying.

The chamber is reamed for .22 Magnum and burnished with a hardened steel rod. hopefully this will be significantly smoother than some of my past chambers…
The crowned muzzle. Smoothed to 600 grit, then chamfered carefully by hand with a conical reamer and polished. This has been very successful in the past so I have every faith it will work this time as well.
1/16″ brass pins secured the central frame sections to the right-hand side plate, then they were carefully silver-soldered and cleaned up. The frame is now permanently assembled.
Holes in the frame drilled and tapped for the assembly screws. these start life as 8-32 Allen-head screws, but eventually will wind up as slotted screws.
Sideplate mounted. the screws will be recessed and shortened, then slotted later in the build.
The barrel hinge-screw has been drilled and tapped. The hammer has been cut out and placed in the frame.
The hammer is now milled for the mainspring, and I fabricated the hinge-screw, which protrudes from the side plate; the mechanism can be assembled and tested without the side plate. I wound the mainspring from music-wire and mounted it, but it was getting late so pictures will have to wait. The trigger and lock are next. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day which I traditionally take off work so I imagine I’ll finish the build tomorrow.