column By: Mike Nesbitt | November, 20
One of our readers who followed up on the review of that revolver was Gary Ladd, of Cat’s Shooting Sticks. We corresponded while Gary decided on purchasing a .45 Colt or a .44/40, but what Gary really wanted was one of those revolvers in .44 Special. He settled for getting one in .44/40 but then he thought about getting a spare .44 Special cylinder to go with it. He did that, and the idea sounded so good to me that I ordered a second cylinder for myself.
We ordered them from VTI Gun Parts. While I have visited VTI only by email, let me say they have quite a place. They can provide parts for long lists of replica firearms, by several makers. The list we looked at was for the “Uberti 1873 Cattleman SAA and Target.” In that listing, they show several barrels, in different lengths and calibers, but those didn’t interest us at the moment. Just below those were the cylinders and they most certainly do have those chambered for the .44 Special. However, we can’t expect them to have everything in stock. After several weeks, VTI staff got back in touch with us to make sure we still wanted the cylinders. Delivery after that follow-up was very prompt.
Those new cylinders needed to be fitted by a professional gunsmith to our sixguns. My gun and new cylinder were taken to John Taylor at Taylor Machine Works out of Puyallup, Washington (email@example.com).
John told me that both the new cylinder and the new base pin bushing had to be shortened by .006-007 inch. With his fine machining, the new pieces fit perfectly. John doesn’t do bluing, so the front of the new cylinder remains as bright metal. That’s an easy way for me to tell the difference between the two cylinders, so I might simply leave it “in the white.”
The next thing to do was to shoot the gun with the new cylinder. To do this, some .44 Special factory loads with the 246-grain lead bullets and smokeless powder were selected. The target you see with the gun (in the accompanying photo) was posted at about 15 yards, using a two-handhold and aiming the sights just below the X in the middle of the target. Those first five shots went high but they grouped into one jagged hole. I thought that was fantastic!
Those five shots were followed with five more shots, but these were black powder loads in .44 Russian cases by Starline. The bullets used were the old style .44 Russian slugs from an old Ideal 429184 mould and those were loaded over 20 grains of GOEX’s Olde Eynsford 2F powder. The original .44 Russian load used 23 grains of black powder under a similarly-styled bullet, but the new cases are solid head, which reduces the case capacity by a couple of grains. With just a little bit of compression, seating the bullets over the 20-grain powder charge was no trouble at all.
This time, the sights were held on the bottom of the black for a proper six o’clock hold. The results were just about perfect with hits right in the X-ring. Maybe the shooting was too perfect for me because I had to throw the fourth shot out into the nine-ring. The score for those five shots was still a 49-3X which, for me, is delightful.
Those of you with sharp eyes might notice that both of those groups were fired on the same target. I simply covered the groups from one load, either with the cartridge box or with the gun, while taking the pictures of the gun with the group being mentioned. Not trying to be sneaky, just saving paper.
Following the shooting for group, some shots with more of the .44 Russian black powder loads were taken at a simple piece of duct tape on a piece of cardboard. These were shot offhand with a one-handhold, still at 15 yards. A full cylinder, all six shots, were fired and all can be counted as hits. I quickly noticed that while shooting with one hand, the gun was hitting much closer to the point of aim and that’s something I’ll keep in mind for future shooting.
Gary Ladd informed me he is doing some very good shooting with his Flat Top with the .44 Special cylinder. He uses the Keith-style bullet, (429421) with either smokeless or black powder loads.
My first group fired with the .44 Specials was tighter than anything I had done with the same gun while using .44/40s. My group with the black powder .44 Russian loads was at least as good, if not better than any group I have fired with the .44/40s. Updating to the .44 Special cylinder was a very positive move!
Contact information for VTI Replica Gun Parts: PO Box 509, Lakeville CT 06039; phone 860-435-8068; firstname.lastname@example.org or vtigunparts.com.