1851 London Navy

Cap and ball revolvers are still great shooters. Here’s how to prep a Uberti/Cimarron London Navy for black powder.

by Ray Ordorica

Quite a few years ago Colt offered its second generation cap and ball revolvers with a serial number range supposedly continuing from where they left off a century or so before. I acquired several of them and found them to be mighty fine guns. One which I shoot often is the 1851 Navy. Along the way I’ve made a few modifications to it that make it a more enjoyable gun but I’ve always had a problem with it. Its trigger guard is the square-back version (second version of the original Navies) which is just too small for me. It’s always been tight on my trigger finger. There’s another version of the gun that has always appealed more to me and that’s the London-London 1851 Navy. These were made entirely in England and feature a large trigger guard on an “iron” frame instead of silver-plated brass, as on my 2nd Gen. Colt. I looked for an original for a long time but never found the one I wanted.

Unfortunately, prices for the good old original ones from the Civil War era have gone higher than I’d like to pay for a gun I want to shoot, so I was compelled to do something entirely sensible: I bought a Uberti London Navy from Cimarron Arms. This gave me a brand-new gun that looked pretty much exactly like it ought to look. My finger fits the trigger guard nicely and my bank account has not been sucked dry. With a long, hard look in Nathan Swayze’s ’51 Colt Navies, the bible on the original 1851 Navy Colts, I see that Uberti did an extremely good job of copying the London-made Navy, with most of the details done exactly right. Uberti, most likely under the direction of the good folks at Cimarron, correctly created the thick lug at the back of the barrel where it attaches to the frame; the correct later-type latch for the loading lever; the correct V-shaped loading notch on the right-rear side of the barrel lug; and matched quite a few other details. Of course Uberti could not duplicate the Colt markings, but the Uberti does have “LONDON” on the top of the barrel. Happily all the Uberti manufacturing nomenclature is hidden on the bottom of the barrel under the loading lever.

So I have the Cimarron/Uberti in hand and it’s about as slick and smooth as my 2nd Gen. Colt Navy, which is saying something because that Colt Navy feels as smooth as a Swiss watch in all its operations.

Read more in the October 2016 issue.

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