Uberti/Anvil Remington 1858 smokeless conversion
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- Last updated: 27/01/2017
In mid-2013 I was asked if I’d like to do a review of a smokeless conversion of a muzzle loading revolver. Whilst I prefer modern reproductions to be as true as possible to the original guns of the day, and have shied away from the likes of the muzzle loading Colt SAA revolver, I figured this was a chance to toy around with something different.
So the gun was shipped to me from the designer, Derek Buchanan of Anvil Conversions, along with a strange-looking piece of kit which I was informed was the modern equivalent of a powder flask. That revolver changed my perceptions on non-authentic reproductions, if only from the practicality point of view. The Anvil conversion is without doubt the best handgun I have fired this side of the Atlantic since 1997. I say this only because I have had the opportunity over the last 18 years to shoot a good number of cartridge handguns while on holiday over in the USA, and good as this revolver is, it has to run second to a breech loader. My original review can be found in the November 2013 issue of GunMart or in the review section of the GunMart website (gunmart.net), and such was the impression that the pistol made on me that I ordered one for my own use.
I have long been a fan of Uberti products and the Anvil is based on the Italian clone of a Remington New Model Army revolver, often termed the 1858 model. Other than the brass trigger-guard and case coloured hammer, the rest of the revolver is finished in gloss black with the normal Uberti walnut grips. These grips are, incidentally, as good a fit as I have come across on an Italian reproduction revolver. On first inspection and without prior knowledge, it would be hard to determine which is the factory produced portion of the pistol and which are the newly manufactured parts, such is the quality of workmanship and finish of Derek’s work. The freshly made cylinder, recoil shield (complete with loading gate) and ejector rod look as if they belong on the pistol and could easily have been fitted in Gardone. Tolerances and attention to detail are first-class and the function is flawless. My pistol differs slightly from the one I tested earlier – apart from the shorter barrel – in that the cylinder arbour is further modified. Instead of the standard ‘wings’, this one is fitted with a single screw in the right-side to aid removal. The ejector rod tube is fastened to the frame with one slotted head screw and one Allen head, whereas the previous pistol had two slotted head screws.
The chambers of the new cylinder have the normal .44 inch calibre mouth, but the rear portion, which holds the powder, is slightly narrower, and when a charge of Herco powder is thrown from the powder dispenser it fills this narrow section exactly. The pistol is proved for a maximum charge of five grains of Herco powder and is so stamped on one of the barrel flats. This stamping naturally leaves very visible white lettering on the barrel (see original article) but Derek now re-blues the barrel on return from the proof house so it is not so obvious. Herco powder was chosen because its fairly large flakes would not fall through the primer holes in the rear of the cylinder. A visit to the Anvil website (www. anvilconversions.co.uk) shows that a number of other powders are now listed as safe to use, necessitated by the scarcity of the Herco powder last year.
Lock up on this pistol is about as good as it gets. There is the very slightest hint of lateral movement – testament to the accuracy of machining the cylinder locking notches – but fore and aft is 100% rock solid, and placing a bright light behind the gap shows that you might just squeeze a hair between the forcing cone and the front of the cylinder. Trigger pull is super for an out of the box gun and breaks cleanly at around 1¾lbs. Did I tell you I like this pistol?
Back in the good old days before I, and tens of thousands of others, was not considered a potential homicidal maniac, I could never get to grips with the 7½ inch barrel Colt Peacemaker. It was likely just psychological, but it always felt front-heavy to me, so I chose the 5½ inch models. Likewise with the 8 inch (not 7½ inch, as stated in the original article – my typo) Remington, so when it came to ordering one of the Anvil revolvers for myself I opted for the shorter 5½ inch barrel version. It just seems to feel more balanced. When the pistol arrived it was accompanied by the eight page instruction leaflet, which is very comprehensive, but this has now been discontinued in favour of online instructions and videos on the company website. You are well-advised to study these instructions before dismantling the revolver.
The all-brass powder dispenser proved to be both simple to use and very accurate. Recent communication with Derek led to him sending me the latest modification for the dispenser in the form of a plastic bottle to hold the powderrather than the Enfield oil bottle previously used. The change was instigated by safety concerns that powder enclosed in a brass container could become a potential bomb in the case of a possible car fire while being transported to the range. So a brass collar was devised to allow the new plastic bottle (there are two sizes) to mate with the original dispenser body. One advantage of the new system is that you have a constant check on the amount of powder in the reservoir. The dispenser bodies are now provided with a choice of measuring slides which allow the user to take advantage of a large range of powder charges using powders other than Herco.
In use, the Anvil operates exactly like its black powder counterpart, with the cylinder being left in place for loading rather than the shooter having to use a separate loading stand as with some other smokeless conversions. No wads or grease are required and the lead balls need only to be lubricated with liquid Alox, making for a faster and less messy loading process. It is with the shorter barrel, and consequently shorter loading lever, that the Delrin lever extension comes into its own, reducing the effort needed to seat the ball, not to mention a more comfortable grip. Even on this simple plastic accessory, the workmanship is faultless. This extension piece is supplied as standard with all of the conversions from Anvil that have a barrel shorter than the standard 8 inches. I am not sure whether this piece is available separately but if it is then it would be a great accessory for those who shoot short barrelled percussion revolvers.
Ever wishing to offer the customer a variety of options, a visit to the website will show Anvil’s new Maverick conversion, still based on the Uberti Remington chassis. The new revolver is offered with a range of barrel lengths from 4 to 6 inches and the method for holding the rammer in place has been re-designed. Gone is the ‘latch and catch’ arrangement that has been a feature of this pistol since its inception in the mid-19th century, to be replaced by a system whereby the rammer is kept in place by the ejector rod. (I wonder if Derek got the idea for this from the Colt Cloverleaf revolver from the 1870s?). These new short-barrelled models will presumably appeal to those with a gunfighter impression in mind.
If you are considering taking up Western shooting and want to be competitive, or you are a current CAS shooter who wants to move up a notch from a standard BP revolver, or perhaps you’d just like to shoot a revolver without all of the BP mess, then a visit to the Anvil website should be high on your list of priorities. Delivery times were reasonable for a custom gun when I did the initial review, but I understand business has picked up since then so it would be wise to inquire. Whatever the wait, it will be worth it, as you will not be disappointed. As mentioned in the first review, Anvil does not do conversions on customer’s guns, only new revolvers supplied by themselves.
DISTRIBUTOR: Anvil Conversions (Derek Buchanan)
07789 938 918 www.anvilconversions.co.uk