The Manhattan Conversion

Here’s how to stop fired caps from jamming Colt cap and ball revolvers.

by Paul Mazan

My first cowboy shoot was with a new pair of 1851 Colt Navy clones. They were gifts last Christmas and I had spent a long three months fondling and drooling over them just waiting for spring and a chance to shoot them.

The time had finally arrived and I couldn’t wait for my turn to clean the nefarious Doolin Gang out of the local saloon. At the buzzer, I drew my first pistol, brought it to full cock and pulled the trigger. I was awarded with a boom, a cloud of smoke, and the happy sound of lead hitting steel. The first outlaw had bitten the dust. Second plate and another steely-eyed desperado was pushing up daisies. Thumb back the hammer again the pop of the cap, the roar of the gun, a cloud of smoke, and a hearty “Hi-Yo Silver.” The fourth plate drifted into my sights and I squinted through the smoke cloud. Oh, he could hide but the outlaws days were numbered as I drew a bead and pulled the trigger, only to hear a faint click. I cocked the gun and again got nothing more than a click as the hammer fell. I pulled the hammer to half cock and reindexed the cylinder only to be met with two more clicks as I tried to get those last two chambers to fire. They never did.

Cap and ball revolvers can be a lot of fun to shoot but they can also be frustrating. One of the most common problems that plagues the Colt style of revolver occurs when pieces of a fired cap find their way into the inner workings of the revolver. That was exactly what happened on the fateful day I was theoretically gunned down by the infamous Doolin Gang. There are ways to prevent, or at least minimize, the possibility of this happening. Rotating the gun 90 degrees to the right as you pull the hammer back is the most often used way but the problem stems from a design flaw and a little known modification can help you in your efforts to rid the fictional West of steel outlaws or just have fun shooting a cap and ball pistol.

Read more in our March 2014 issue. Back issues are available.

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