ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

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ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

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

Image

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

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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

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

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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

Welcome to the forums, Per. No problem in bring up an old post. We have some members that specialize in it. :bigsmile:

One thing that strikes me in the original published information is this line:

This was achieved by use of a spigoted ball carrying a waxed felt wad in a chamber which, according to Adams, was bored two sizes larger than the bore


In so far as my opinion goes...admittedly not expert... a couple of thoughts come to mind. One thing, the revolvers of the day, like the ones made by Colt and Remington, were brought into miltary service with factory cartridges made of cumbustible paper, powder, and pointed bullet neatly made into packages. The "paper" containing the powder, upon being compacted down by the loading rod made a partial seal against possible chain fire from the firing end of the chamber. From what is discribed above, the "waxed felt wad" , besides whatever else, seems to be helping to prevent chain fire. So.... a slightly larger chamber than the bore and shooting a ball that is matched more to the bore seems less dangerous than doing the opposite.

The other thing that comes to mind, is that if I were going to shoot the pistol as you discribe the condition and your experience, I'd be sure to use felt wads to prevent chain fire. Either that, or the cream of wheat and grease thing.....which is a messy pain in the butt.
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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

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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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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby DuncaninFrance » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:44 am

This is a transcription of 2 letters I have received from my friend Bill Graham which take this a little further. I am now hoping that Bill and Per will be able to converse directly on the matter.

Wed 10th November 2010.
Thank you for your letter and enclosures . The contributions by Per are particularly intriguing. He too has a very unusual calibre Adams (Taylorson only listed two) so now we know of two more. It would be nice to have details of serial no. and makers name if not Adams.
Even more important is that the same 10bore size discrepancy occurs in his pistol also. Is this a feature of the 90bore pistols only (as seems probable) and if so, WHY?
This brings us back to the original question which you will find in the original article.
I wonder if Per could be persuaded to give FULL details of his pistol so that we could get it reported in the Black Powder newsletter.
Bill.
ps. We especially need to know if his cylinder is parallel bored (like mine) or tapered like almost all other muzzle loading pistols.

Thursday 11th November 2010.
Having posted a reply to you this morning I returned home and logged on to site where I read more from you and Per.
The debate seems to have strayed over into the question of 'chainfires' which would have been a concern to Adams with his lose fitting loads. His rather clumsy solution was of course the thumb tight wad on a spigot.
What is very important (to me) is that another (very rare?) 90bore Adams should have this extreme (10bore size) discrepancy whilst the common 32, 54 and 120 evidently have the more reasonable 2bore difference which Adams intended.
What other features do our two 90bores have in common? Can Per possibly report on his chamber bores? Are the bores tapered (in common with most muzzle loading revolvers) or are they uncommonly parallel like mine? Was Per's pistol made by Tranter (like mine)?
Per mentions cylinder bore tapers and asks for info. I am sure he will find the enclosed data interesting.

Image

a) The 90bore Adams in indeed odd.
b) The Beaumont Adams bore reverted to the normal taper.
c) The dimensional precision of the colt was noticeable
Sorry I am not a computer man (maybe with my disabled hand I should be !) but considering our shared interest and experience with the 90bore Adams do you think he may care to communicate directly with a view to possibly providing information for a follow up article in 'Black Powder?
Again all the best, Bill.
Duncan

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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Niner » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:18 am

The image of the page was too much for my computer, Duncan, so I've attached it for those of us with a problem seeing extra large images....... as remarked about before somewhere. This attachment can be clicked on to produce a larger, but full, image.

I like that he mentioned the standard black powder pistol tapored design rather than parallel design of the loading chambers. That is very much at the center of the question.
Attachments
_ADAMS-2-web.jpg
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Per » Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:07 am

Unfortunately, I am unable at this time to accurately measure the chambers of my revolver (that is, I am still trying to find time to do this). However, a .390 round ball (being a true 80-bore), needs to be pushed with a ramrod down the cylinder, presenting some resistance. Also from this experience, I am positive that the cylinder walls are, indeed, parallel, and not tapered.

At the same time, a .375 round ball will fill the bore nicely, and this corresponds well with recovered bullets at the firing range as well, suggesting that the barrel is 90-bore. The question is then - should this revolver be characterized as a 90-bore or an 80-bore revolver?

For reference: My revolver is an 1851 Adams, s/n 9477R, with a first style frame and no rammer. The revolver is retailed by Deane, Adams, & Deane, it is scroll engraved, and named on the top right flat on the barrel. Unfortunately, it did not come with a case, so, if possible, I would greatly appreciate any information on both the size and shape of the bullets for this revolver - so that I may make a correct mould for it.

Therefore, trying to complete the table to the best of my knowledge with the data from my Adams:
(Duncan and Bill, you are welcome to use this information in your further research. I would, however, greatly appreciate hearing about your further findings).

PISTOL: 90 bore Adams (1851), s/n: 9477R
RAMMER: None
CYL MAX: .388 (est)
CYL MIN: .388 (est)
LENGTH: Not measured. Max charge is: 17 grs FFFg + .1" wad + .390 round ball.

An interesting experience (an, in hindsight, probably not just a little dangerous) at the shooting range was finding that a .390 bullet needed a full charge (~17 grs) in order to enter the bore. Anything less resulted in the bullet being stuck in the forcing cone. Now, slightly older and very much wiser, I have drilled a spigot shape to a Lee .375 mould in order to make correct bullets, with a much lower charge being required. The accuracy does, however, still leave much to be desired - probably to a great extent a matter of finding the right load, as both cylinder and barrel is in excellent condition.

As additional information on "odd-caliber" Adams; My internet searches the last couple of years have resulted in identifying three other 80 bore revolvers (except mine), all in roughly the same serial number range (9500R - 10500R), as well as two similar revolvers specified as 90-bore in the same range (although these may possibly be of the same caliber, cf. our previous discussions). All of these are in addition to the revolvers mentioned by Taylorson in his books. Totally, we should then be at a total of about 7 or 8 Adams 1851 revolvers in about 80 bore - all of which, I believe, from roughly the same serial number range, being manufactured from late 1853 and early 1854.

I hope that this information may be of some interest to you.

Best regards,
Per
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby Per » Sat Dec 04, 2010 5:54 am

While writing the last post, I did not have the revolver at hand. However, I have at this time the revolver in front of me, and may complete the data collection. I will mailthis to Bill directly as well, I just though that this might be interesting for others as well;

I forgot to mention last time that my Adams is indeed made by Tranter as well (W.T. s/n is 7302). The cylinder length (actually, the internal chamber length) is 1", with an overall cylinder length of 1.5" (accurately measured to within the 1/32" range of my caliper).

Last week also provided just enough time for a short trip to the shooting range. With a more reasonable charge (tried between 10 and 14 grs), I managed to see the Adams landing the balls much closer - about 4" at 25 meters this time. Since it has been some time since I was at the range myself, I guess there is still room for personal improvements, though; although the trigger pull of the Adams is fairly light and extremely smooth, it is also incredibly long when being somewhat out of practice and trying to shoot accurately...

Best regards,
- Per
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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby DuncaninFrance » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:45 am

Further information now to hand from my friend bill Graham
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ACCIDENT PT 3 web.jpg
ADAMS MOLDS web.jpg
Duncan

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Re: ADAMS REVOLVER QUESTION.

Postby DuncaninFrance » Thu Mar 27, 2014 9:36 am

Going to have to work on this in sections I think so it can be read..................

Image
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