Conversion Cylinders

Working with and understanding conversion cylinders for blackpowder revolvers.

by RK Campbell

Conversion cylinders are a modification for blackpowder cap and ball revolvers to take metallic cartridges. The typical conversion cylinder may be a five or six chamber cylinder designed to fit a Pietta, Uberti, or Ruger Old Army revolver that is specific to the handgun. As an example, Taylors & Company (, 540/722-2017) lists seven different cylinders for Pietta and Uberti handguns. A Pietta cylinder doesn’t fit a Uberti and even with the correct cylinder, some fitting may be needed.

Conversion cylinders are designed to accommodate firing modern cartridges such as 38 Smith & Wesson or 45 Colt, depending on the conversion cylinder. A cap and ball revolver with an original caliber of .36 takes a 38 Special conversion while .44 caliber guns take a 45 Colt conversion cylinder. They are of strong steel and quite safe but common sense tells us that brass frame cap and ball revolver may not stand up as well in long use as steel frame revolvers. Fortunately, the strength is in the cylinder, although small parts and the frame may take a beating. In every case conversion cylinders are limited to standard pressure loads. +P or heavy loads would be a real problem and should be discouraged. A standard loading such as the Black Hills Ammunition cowboy loads are recommended.

The cylinders normally do not require fitting if they have been …

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