Always on the lookout for a new and interesting way to molest a gun I was pretty excited when a friend that works in a gun shop back east reported that they has a .31 Colt reproduction going cheap- mainly because it had issues like a missing or broken cylinder stop and the trigger didn’t seem to be working. I have a couple feet of 5/16″ outside diameter .22 barrel liner lying around and a cunning plan to put it to use in a .31 Colt, so a quick phone call and it was on it’s way to my eager hands.
It arrived today and is is pretty much as advertised. The cylinder stop and trigger return spring are missing. Further examination found no proof marks of any kind. One side of the barrel is marked, ‘.31 Caliber Black Powder Only.’ The other is marked ‘Made in Italy.
Finish is crude in the extreme- there are tooling marks, the cast brass grip-frame is completely unfinished and the wood handle isn’t even close to being fitted to the frame. The finish- and I use the term loosely- appears to be very thin nickel that may have been applied with a garden rake. Sanding marks are plainly visible through it and it is worn away in many places.
When the barrel was held up to the light is was solid black inside with no sign of rifling or anything else but gunk. Without much hope I ran a wire-brush dipped in Hoppe’s #9 powder solvent down the bore and scrubbed a bit. It actually pushed a quantity of black dust out of the barrel, and when I looked again I could see rifling. Some patches later and the bore was gleaming and pristine! Running patches into the chambers produces mild rust stains and nothing else. Examining the nipples the are blued and in perfect condition- it has never been fired.
So how to explain the unfinished and missing parts, the fact that it has never been fired and the crude finished? It seems obvious to me- this was a kit that someone simply threw together without any attempt to finish it, and they left some parts off. Perhaps this was used as a child’s toy or for costuming; the right-hand side of the grip has ‘CJ’ scratched into it with 16 notches.
The gun sports a six-inch barrel currently and is complete but for the two parts- which can be had from Dixie Gun Works for $20 total + shipping. The actual parts are for an Uberti, but if the don’t fit I can likely modify them to, or at worst use them as a model to fabricate new ones.
The pristine bore almost convinced me to do a .32 S&W conversion, but I’m not all that sanguine about trusting the cylinder with that. No, .22 LR it is. I’ll get the parts ordered and proceed from there. Of course once the mechanicals are sorted I’ll do the conversion, then a complete finish/refinish. Might take some time to get to this one, but it should be interesting… Naturally I’ll keep you posted.
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