Brass frame Pistols?

Discussion in 'Black Powder Shooting / Muzzleloaders / Handguns' started by Brushpopper, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. Brushpopper

    Brushpopper New Member

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    As someone new to BP pistols,I was wanting to know what are the problems associated with brass frame pistols? Is a brass frame pistol safe to fire with a live charge?
  2. remington1990

    remington1990 New Member

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    The brass frame is fine for shooting live rounds but don't over load it. Or it will expand the brass I think dixies gun works said 20 to 25 grams I shoot up to 30 grams in my steel frame 1858 remington army I like the look of the brass frame but I like steel better but I ain't an expert on them I am just starting out myself too
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2011
  3. Hawg

    Hawg Active Member

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    About 18 grains in a .36 and 25 in a .44
  4. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    Brass frames were used in the old days because they were easy to cast and were adequately strong for the BP loads then in use. Steel was recognized as better, but the ease of working with brass (especially in the absence of heavy machinery) was sometimes more important.

    In a percussion revolver the difference in strength is less of a problem than in a cartridge revolver because in a percussion gun the whole cylinder recoils into the frame boss, a strong part of the frame. In a cartridge gun, the recoil of the cartridge is further up on the frame where there is more of a lever arm force and even if there is a top strap, the frame can be overstressed.

    FWIW, many repro guns today are actually made of brass, but the old guns were made of bronze, or gun metal, a somewhat stronger material.

    Jim
  5. Hawg

    Hawg Active Member

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    That's true. Gunmetal was bronze with a high copper content, sometimes called red brass. Also there were no brass .44's back in the day.
  6. stewswanson

    stewswanson New Member

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    I have a 12 inch barrel Pietta 1858 with brass frame which I have used for 3 years with no "stretch" in the frame. I measured the Cyl./forcing cone spacing with a feeler gauge when it was new and check it each year. I usually use 27 gr. of Pyrodex or 24 gr. of 777.
    Stew
  7. Hawg

    Hawg Active Member

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    27 probably isn't too much for a .44 but would be on the high end of the scale. The first sign will be the cylinder ratchet imprinting the recoil shield. This was after 18 20 grain loads out of a .36 Remington.

    [​IMG]
  8. Gatofeo

    Gatofeo New Member

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    Most black powder revolvers of long ago had steel frames, not brass.
    Brass was adopted by the Confederacy for a few revolvers they made, only because the Confederacy didn't have a history of working in steel. However, its foundries had experience with brass and bronze.

    The Confederacy never made a lot of their own revolvers. They preferred to buy them from England, or confiscate them off the battlefield or captured shipments.

    Brass-framed revolvers (original or modern-made) should not be fired with full loads. Over time, the higher pressures damage the frame: the higher pressures slam the rear of the cylinder back against the brass frame, battering and stretching it.
    For that reason, it's best to keep loads no more than what Hawg suggested above: 18 grains of FFFG black powder for the .36, and 25 grains for the .44 caliber.
    And note, it's grains and not grams as was posted above. A grain is a unit of measurement: 7,000 grains equal 1 pound.

    Generally speaking, modern-made cap and ball revolvers with brass frames are not as well made as their steel counterparts. Finishing and fit are not as good as with steel-framed guns.
    Brass-framed revolvers typically have rougher bores and chambers, more burrs in the action, and lack the finishing that steel models have. Yes, there are exceptions but from what I've personally observed at gun stores and shows since the 1970s, this still holds true.
    Brass-framed guns are more cheaply made, and the maker spends less time in final fit, finish and polish. It's why they cost less.
    There are a few exceptions, when brass-framed revolvers are made as exacting replicas of a Confederate revolver, but most brass-framed revolvers are not actually replicas of an authentic model.

    It's best to buy a steel-framed revolver. If you MUST have a brass-framed revolver, use moderate loads in it.
    Incidentally, Hodgdon does not recommend the use of its 777 powder in brass frames. It's not intended to be a straight-across substitute for black powder, like Pyrodex is. Hodgdon 777 is in a class of its own, and more powerful than regular black powder. It should only be used in steel-framed revolvers.
  9. Brushpopper

    Brushpopper New Member

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    I'd like to thank everyone for all the info. Ya'll have been a big help to this newbie. Steel frames for me from here on and I'll be sure to not overload the brass frame pistol I have. Once again,thanks!
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