ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

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DuncaninFrance
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ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby DuncaninFrance » Wed Aug 26, 2009 6:29 am



This was written by a collector friend of mine in the UK and published in Black Powder - Summer 2009. If you can't quite read it and would like a larger copy, pm me and I will send it to you as an e.mail attachment.
Duncan

What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch? -- W.C. Fields
"Many of those who enjoy freedom know little of its price."
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby oneshooter » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:03 pm

You can do this quite simply.

Right click on the picture.
Save to my pictures.

Open My pictures
Double click on picture
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Look on the bottom and there is 2 magnifying glasses
Click on the one with the + in it.

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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Per » Sun Oct 31, 2010 3:46 am

As no replies have been posted for a year, it may be that this thread is inactive?

I managed to acquire a 90 bore Adams about two and a half years ago, and have since asked the same questions regarding bore and chamber sizes. The chambers on my Adams are also very close to 80 bore,while the bore is, indeed 90 bore. I found this to be quite a challenge when deciding to shoot with it; without having the original bullet mould - how could I find balls that would fit properly?

I was initially told the revolver was an 80 bore. Consequently, I bought a .390 round ball mould from Lee, finding that the bullets would fit tightly in the cylinder. The forcing cone does, however, seem to be substantial enough to be able to compress the bullets, as a full sized 80 bore ball will fit.

Going to the shooting range, I tried initially with a rather mild 10 grs charge, but to my surprise, the ball would not even pass the forcing cone...! Only at 17 grs was this possible. The accuracy was not great -grouping 5 rounds in roughly 10" at 25 meters. With a wad behind the ball, this charge would completely fill the cylinder.

In addition to this, I found that one of the chambers is noticeably smaller than the others, making it quite difficult to load. Gradually reading up on Adams revolvers, I realized that this could not be the "finger tight" way of loading the revolver.... I therefore reduced the ball size to slightly above bore diameter (using a .375 round ball). In order for these balls to stay in the cylinder, however, I also realized why the Adams bullets I had seen in pictures had its "tail": the tail was designed to attach the oversized wad, which would hold the bullet in the cylinder. With the same charge, the accuracy is the same,but it seems that the revolver works better - and is quite easy to load.

In his book "Adams' revolvers", Taylorson mentions several calibers in which the revolvers were made. He also stated that the cylinders were bored a size or two larger, which I interpreted as being one caliber selection bigger, not just a number bigger.This due to the fact that the difference between a 52- and 54-bore is quite significant, while the difference between 89- and 90-bore seems to be more of a normal deviation. With this in mind, it seemed logical that a 90 bore has a 80 bore cylinder, in the same way as a 54 bore should have a 52 bore cylinder (i don't have a 54 bore, so I cannot verify this).

Returning to the subject of this thread; I can safely say that firing an 80 bore ball in a 90 bore adams works - even though I would not recommend it. In fact, anyone trying to shoot with an old firearm, especially when the bullet size is not very clear such as in the case of the Adams, a competent gunsmith should be consulted first.

Another interesting question would then be; Are the "80 bore" revolvers actually 90 bores, only measured at the cylinder, or do nominal 80 bores also exist (with probably a 75 bore cylinder) ?

Hope this information is of some interest.

-Per
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Niner » Sun Oct 31, 2010 10:31 am

Per
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Per » Sun Oct 31, 2010 6:53 pm

Thank you for the warm welcome, Niner.

I haven't tried the paper cartridge solution quite yet - but hope to have time to do so at some time... As far as I can recall, though, I would probably not consider the paper cartridge as a means to seal the chamber, as this paper was nitrated. With such cartridges, I don't think I would feel comfortable using anything but grease on top of the ball to seal the chamber, fearing that the nitrated paper could act as a kind of fuse.

As for the'51 Adams and due to the significantly different size of bore and chamber, the cylinder with a correctly sized ball (according to Adams himself) will not be even close to holding the bullet. This was my initial challenge with this revolver which first made me try the .390 ball with a wad, and afterwards forced me to modify my Lee .375 mold, adding a spigot to the bottom of one of the cavities.

In doing this, I duplicated the original round ball, threading the wad onto the spigot and hammering it to fasten it. In this way, a severely undersized ball can be pushed home with fingers alone and will stay in place (the recoil of the 90 bore is not excessive...). The bullets can, however, easily be shaken out, which is probably why Adams quite soon added a rammer, and, as it seems to me - also redesigned the bullet molds from having a conical and round ball, both with a spigot, to having two conicals, on with, the other without a spigot. This last point is, however, only my own speculations - it would be great to get some indications on this being true.

As for chain-fires, I am a little puzzled. As far as I have read, the British never really reported any cases of, or had any problems with chain-fire, neither on the Colts nor the Adamses. However, when the Americans tested the two competitors, they managed to experience this a number of times, but only on Adamses - blowing off a number of rammers from the Beaumont-Adams revolvers they tested prior to the Civil War. When thinking of it, this could probably come from the use (or lack thereof) of wads behind the bullets. While the British were used to wadding their bullets, the Americans were probably in use to load the Colts and Remingtons without wads.

Just as I write this, I realize an important safety fact. After having recently purchased a Beamount-Adams myself, I was surprised by the fact that the chamber has a rather long taper into the cylinder, almost 1/4" on a 120 bore(.338) revolver. I cannot remember having noticed such a taper on my original '51 Colt Navy, making it probably less inclined to chain-fire than the Beamount-Adams. As it seems to me, this taper facilitates loading, but it could probably also open up the front of the cylinder, increasing the chances for a chain-fire (when not using a wad), something I should probably remember when bringing the 120 bore to the range for the first time...

-Per
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Niner » Sun Oct 31, 2010 10:21 pm

Looks like you have done your research and certainly know a lot about the subject of chain fires as well. It would sure be interesting to know why the pistol in question was made the way it was and how it was expected to be loaded and fired. I hope somebody who knows the answers will respond.

That nitrated paper cartridge not looking like a very safe way to prevent chain fires by the nature of its cumbustable nature seems reasonable enough. However, it also seems to me ...with a Colt for instance.... the paper cartridge is loaded with the pressure of the loading arm pressing it down and compressing it, and in doing so the paper at the base of the lead bullet would be pinched and pressed between the walls of the cylinder and the outside rear edge of the bullet and would effectively block a chain fire to the powder by sealing the path. No air means no combustion. Or, at least, this seems to be the case to me....or maybe wishful thinking by those who did it this way.
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby DuncaninFrance » Wed Nov 03, 2010 11:26 am

While I was in the UK last month I visited Bill, the chap who posed the question and was lucky enough to see his collection. He has 2 Adams and 2 Tranters!
I will print off and send him your posts Per and will let you know what he says about them. welcome to the site, I hope you enjoy your stay with us :bigsmile:
Duncan

What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch? -- W.C. Fields
"Many of those who enjoy freedom know little of its price."
You can't fix Stupid, but you can occasionally head it off before it hurts something.

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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Per » Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:56 am

Thanks Duncan,

I am glad for whatever assistance I may provide in clarifying the issues surrounding the use of the Adams vs. Colts. This is, in fact, one of my main entry-points regarding collecting firearms, and, at some point I even made a seminar series covering the main innovations related to revolvers - from the fixed multi-barreled approach to more firepower, through all revolver-related patents, all the way to automatic pistols.

The interesting aspect of this, is in my opinion not only in the history itself, but in the opportunity to actually compare the Adams '51 with a Colt on the firing line, and then realizing the superiority of the Beamount-Adams over both of these - by the virtue of its superior handling; lighter weight, hard hitting - and most importantly - Double Action... It seems pretty obvious to me what solution would be better on a battlefield, but I am at the same time not entirely sure if I would choose the Beamount-Adams or the Lefaucheux: They are both equally fun to shoot, but as an officer on a battlefield, I would probably prefer the Double Action of the B-A, despite the penalty in reloading. As for the Colt? Sorry - only as a target revolver, even though it may be loaded a bit harder (have had too many caps jamming the mechanism - may be my original nipples are too small for a no.11 cap, but anyway)...

Another relevant question, though somewhat off-topic, but which probably should capture our attention as collectors and shooters even more, is the effect firearms has had on the society and vice versa. Which were the drivers in developing better firearms, and what effect has improvements in firearms had in the society - especially considering that hardly a single country, and especially no cultures, have developed without conflicts?

Returning to the topic: Another interesting aspect to measure on the Adamses, and in particular the Beamount-Adams, is the taper into the cylinder. Does anybody have any data on this?

Niner: As for the nitrated paper cartridges - as far as my chemistry goes, nitration is adding KNO3 to the paper, which, when heated produces O2. Therefore, even though there is no air surrounding the paper around a tight-fitting ball, the paper will produce the oxygen itself for the combustion. If this is correct, I would at least consider the danger in the nitrated paper acting as a fuse into the powder, unless possibly being smothered by grease, oil or water?
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Niner » Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:23 am

That's interesting Per. I didn't know about the chemistry of the nitrated paper and the self production of 02 in compressed spaces and will certainly take your word for it. However, would you agree that most US Civil War era revolver pistols in the continental US were loaded with nitrated paper cartridges and without grease? It must have worked out sastisfactorily more times than not.
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Per » Fri Nov 05, 2010 4:33 pm

Unfortunately, I do not own any original combustible cartridges myself, so I have to rely on images, as well as patent drawings... However, I think we should be able to agree on the fact that there were a number of patents covering combustible cartridges - both nitrated paper and different types of skins.

As far as I can see and in the case of nitrated paper cartridges - the paper itself did not cover the bullet, but was glued to the heel at the rear, thus never really being in a position to be ignited in front of the bullet.

As for skin cartridges, I believe having read somewhere that these were quite brittle, and fractured exposing the powder when loaded, and the remains either being burnt or blown away by the powder charge. The skin itself may have been treated in order to burn better, but its main property, again as I remember, is to be thin, more or less waterproof, and to break when being crushed by the rammer.

Looking at chain fires, I do agree that, as far as the nitrated paper either does not cover the bullet, or is cut around the bullet during the loading (oversized bullet, sharp edges around the chamber), there should be no additional danger of chain fires compared to a normally (powder and ball) loaded chamber - without grease or wads. Yet, today, it is common practice to either fill the chamber in front of the ball with grease or add a greased wad behind - not only to grease the bullet but mainly to reduce the danger of chain fires...

In any event I do agree that this was the primary way of loading military revolvers at the time, and, apparently - it worked most of the time.

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