Test Day at the Pistol Range

Custom Taurus Falcon .38, target is rapidfire and double-taps at seven yards.

Some days you go to the range for fun. Some days you go to the range because you just have to shoot something, and paper is the safest alternative. Some days, well, you got stuff you need to test. Loads, tweaks to a gun, function testing a new gun. I had to do these things today, so it was off to Champion Arms in Kent, Washington.

Lots of things to test; my Colt Police Positive Special in .32-20 shoots consistently low with every load I have tried, and I cautiously trimmed the front sight a wee bit to try to bring the groups up to point of aim. The custom Taurus Falcon .38 was shooting low and right. I shortened the front sight a bit and did a little… uh… impact therapy to see if I could get things centered up better.

My vintage Colt Police Positive Special in .32-20. Moose-antler grips spruce things up a little, and the Tyler T-grip helps my big meathooks hang on properly.
I shortened the front sight a bit and painted it orange for better visibility, and widened the rear sight aperture.

I also had two new guns to test. Well, sort of new. ‘Southern Comfort,’ my brass-framed 1851 Navy ‘Avenging Angel-style’ cartridge conversion, had the arbor pull out of the frame at some point. The previous owner had thoughtfully glued it back in. I discovered it the first time I test fired it, when half the gun followed the bullet downrange. OK, I thought, That’s not right…

I’d happened across a brass frame somewhere or other and decided to replace it the bad one… then I decided to change the barrel to a .375 barrel to shoot .38 Short Colt. Of course I needed a new cylinder and breechplate for that. By the time I was done the only parts left from the original gun were the custom grip-frame, grips and trigger-guard, so it’s basically kinda’ a new gun.

The other new gun is an anonymous reproduction of a Colt 1849 ‘Wells Fargo’ .31 that was thrown in as a sweetener on a deal earlier this year. I’d already re-done a .31 Colt reproduction into a .22, so I considered making this one a .32 S&W. But then it occurred to me that it would be a bit more unique to do it up as a .251 TCR (if you don’t know what that is you can read about it here.)

Long story short I re-barreled it, turned a new 5-shot cylinder from 4140, made a breech ring with a rebounding firing pin and changed it over to a sheathed spur-trigger. The last bit I did because I could barely fit my fat finger in the trigger-guard.

Colt Wells Fargo repro converted to .251 TCR. It’s small- that’s only a 3-1/3″ barrel. Lovely handling on this little gun!

I also had some new .251 TCR loads to test using Red Dot powder, which I felt might be a good match for this cartridge.

So, How’d it Go?

Starting with the Police Positive Special .32-20. Good grouping, and the modified sights were a great improvement… but it’s still shooting a bit low. For those interested the load used was an Aardvark Bullets 95gr. RNFP over 3.7gr. of Unique with a Federal #100 small pistol primer. I haven’t chronographed this load, but it ought to be making somewhere around 900fps. It’s definitely got some pop to it; it seems like a pretty nice load for this old gun.

Next was the Taurus Falcon .38. Shot to point of aim at seven yards, good groups. trying out some rapid-fire and double taps produced an acceptable result, but there’s definitely room for improvement. I’ll need to work with this gun some more. The load used was an Aardvark Bullets 125gr. TCL bullet over 3.9gr. of Red Dot with a Federal #100 primer. This is a peppy load, but seems well within standard pressure limits.

Southern Comfort had a small issue; while it shot well the firing pin is a wee bit long and sharp, and punched holes in the primers of all five test shots. That being the case I put the gun up for the day. I’ll rectify this soon. On the plus side the action is unusually sweet, and it easily shot ‘minute-of-bad-guy’ at seven yards.

The load used was a Buffalo Bullets dry-lubed .375 LRN over 10gr. of triple Seven ( a black powder substitute.) The bullets were converted to a heel-base, and loaded into .38 S&W brass, which is virtually identical to .38 Colt Short brass. I don’t know what kind of velocity these are making, but it ain’t fast. I need to chronograph a few and see what’s what.

.38 Colt Short- not a powerhouse!

Firing-pin issues seemed to be the problem of the day; the Wells Fargo shot well… for one cylinder. Then it called it for today by ejecting it’s firing pin; apparently it was secure enough for test-firing primers, but actual cartridges? Not so much. Since it was the first time firing the gun I was more concerned with function than accuracy, but it seemed to put the bullets where I pointed it and functioned perfectly. I will need to hone the chambers; they were a bit sticky.

The load used in this gun was a mid-range load, a Rimrock Bullets hard-cast 55gr. LRNFP over 1.5gr of Red Dot with a Federal #100 primer. This is roughly a .22 LR equivalent load. but I wanted to take it easy on the gun the first time out.

I got the Uberti test-gun out for the other new load- the Rimrock 55gr. over 2.0gr of Red Dot. This proved quite accurate; it’s a good load, but I think the power can be cranked up; I’m pretty sure these hard-cast pills can take a good bit more velocity. I need to chronograph the load, but I suspect it’s doing 1000-1050 fps.

Altogether a pretty decent day of testing; everything basically worked. The things that didn’t are all easy fixes.

NOTE: Load data included in this article should be used with caution, and any use of this data is done at the readers own risk.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 20 December 2019

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