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  1. #1
    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    More on the Top-break revolver......

    In my previous post "Thoughts on the Top-Breal revolver......." of about a month ago, we had some discussion on the relative strength of the stirrup latch.

    Steve M1911A1 wrote:
    "The stirrup latch is joined to the frame of either gun by means of two fairly small screws, one at each side of the stirrup. Thus, these relatively small screws absorb all of the discharge force received by the stirrup latch."

    I had no practical knowledge of the Webley other than the occassional firing of other folk's guns. However, in the current (June 2012) "American Rifleman" there is an exploded view of the Webley MK VI revolver. First time I had examined such information. The stirrup latch has two bosses around the screw hole, on the inside of the "legs" of the latch. These slide into recesses in the sides of the standing breech of the revolver. the effect is that these must be sheared off for the latch to fail. In addition, the screw is not two, but rather one through screw. If I remember correctly, this places that screw in double shear, thereby doubling the shear strength of that screw.

    I must admit that I am on the edge of going beyond knowing what I'm talking about, but it does seem to me the latch is much stronger than Steve M1911A1 gave it credit for.

    Steve, you stated, I believe, that you were a retired mechanical engineer. Does what I've said here make sense?

    Bob Wright

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    Bob, I was a mechanical designer for part of my business career, but certainly not an engineer.
    You, and the Rifleman's staff, are correct about the arrangement of the Webley's stirrup latch, and I was wrong. I had forgotten about the recesses in the pistol's frame, and I mis-remembered the number of screws involved.

    Nevertheless, I am not willing to concede that the stirrup-latch idea is mechanically strong. It is sufficient to restrain the relatively weak 0.455 round (and, through pistol modification, .45 ACP), but that's about it. I don't believe that it could be modified, or strengthened enough, to contain a higher-powered cartridge, for instance .357 Magnum, .44 Special (Keith load?), or .44 Magnum. I am not certain that it could be built to regularly withstand even .38 Special.

    Years ago, I toyed with a top-break design that would place its latch in compression, rather than shear. I thought that it was a good idea for the same reasons that you do, so I took it to a real engineer who was familiar with metallurgy and manufacturing processes.
    He shot me down. Although my compression-stress idea was a good one, the real difficulty was in the complexity of the forms, and in the way the mechanism had to fit together. It would've been very expensive to produce, even in large quantity.
    I believe that this is the reason why we do not see further development of the top-break idea.

  3. #3
    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    All the top-break revolvers with which I am familiar have rather short cylinders which preclude the use of longer high velocity cartridges. The one exception that I know of was a few S&W No. 3 and some Belgian copies which were made in .44-40 caliber. I have no experience with these, and know of no one who has any experience with them.

    I don't want to be argumentative, but I'd sure like to see any examples of latch failure using a stirrup latch and high power ammunition. I know from experience of the tension placed on the top strap when firing, having stretched the top strap of a Colt Single Action, but still wonder if that would have led to a latch failure.

    We'll likely never know, but it is interesting to speculate.

    And, a mechanical designer? That's what I ended up being called in my latter working days. We designed conveyor systems, bulk material and package sortation. How about you?

    Bob Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    ...I'd sure like to see any examples of latch failure using a stirrup latch and high power ammunition...
    I wouldn't. It wouldn't be pretty, particularly if the gun were an antique.
    I bet that an old S&W's cylinder would blow at about the same time its top-latch let go.
    I further bet that the Webley would hold out somewhat longer, and that its top-latch would break before its cylinder.



    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    ...[A] mechanical designer? That's what I ended up being called in my latter working days. We designed conveyor systems, bulk material and package sortation. How about you?

    Bob Wright
    I went from having been a Beatnik sandalmaker for more than 25 years, to running the design, specification, and testing "department" (that is, all me) of the manufacturer of an extensive line of rack-chassis for use in electronics.
    Our stuff was made according to the classic Western Electric originals that had been designed for use by the Bell Telephone network, but updated to modern materials and much greater versatility.
    Our customers included (well, include—the company's still running, even though I'm no longer there) the US Air Force, Army, and Navy, NASA, CalTech, a few petroleum-prospecting firms, and lots of "Hollywood" entities. Some of our stuff is still in space, both in the Space Station and as orbiting junk.

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    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    Well, I didn't mean to use an old gun for the test and trial, sort of a one of a kind test model, using modern steels for a full size mock-up. Make the cylinder long enough to accommodate a .44 Special or .41 Special, sort of a rimmed .40 S&W. And using the Webley type stirrup latch, just to see what would happen.

    Such a revolver doesn't need .44 Magnum performance, just something in the way of a .40 caliber rimmed cartridge of moderate performance. Wouldn't expect such a revolver to be a hunting arm or long range. Just a modern, potent, "bulldog" type of thing.

    Bob Wright

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    Rhetorical Question: How wealthy are you? Got $30,000.00 (or more) to burn?

    I bet that .44 Special, in "normal" (not Keith) loadings, might be the Webley's upper limit. But to try that, all of the Webley's front-end parts would have to be scaled-up some. Expensive!
    In .40 S&W, the mechanics might be marginal—or you'd have to make the top-latch parts pretty darn beefy, and bulky. No Webley parts allowed. Very expensive!

    It might be worth building a new barrel and a new cylinder, in order to use .44 Special cartridges, or .45 "Long" Colt. But I believe that you wouldn't be gaining anything, ballistically speaking, over 0.455 or .45 ACP. (The standard .45 ACP load was supposed to duplicate the Army's .45 "Long" Colt load.)
    Might .44-40 be too much for the Webley parts?

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    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    All of the .44-40s I have seen were of the S&W "T" shaped latch, not the Webley stirrup latch. All were in good condition for their age and usage and appeared to lock up tight. I have no idea how many rounds had been fired through them, nor how well they performed. All were collector's items, more or less.

    I did have some experience with .38 S&W caliber revolvers of this type. Most had worn frame lugs and jumped open when fired. I had the lugs built up with weld metal (once with silver solder) and would work them back down with a file. Worked as long as I kept the gun. As to silver solder, we were young kids and didn't know brazing rods from E- series electrodes then.

    I did have a guardian angel, though.

    Bob Wright

    P.S. I am not saying use Webley parts, but Webley design, starting from scratch. As to the .40 S&W I don't believe it stresses the top strap any more than a .45 ACP, with its light bullet. My observation is that recoil is more influenced by bullet weight than velocity. And it is this sharp upward recoil that stresses that top strap.

    And, what's $30,000 when you're "what iffing?"

  8. #8
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    ...[W]hat's $30,000 when you're "what iffing?"
    Yeah, but you keep whetting my appetite...
    I like the top-break-revolver concept just as much as you do.

    Dang, I wish I were rich!

  9. #9
    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post

    Dang, I wish I were rich!
    Well, I've always considered myself rich, just didn't have much money!

    I sure have enjoyed this discussion with you, very thought provoking. Sure thought it would not have been so exclusive, however.

    Bob Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    . . . Steve, you stated, I believe, that you were a retired mechanical engineer. Does what I've said here make sense? . . .
    Very interesting to hear about you guy's backgrounds. Even more interesting to read your ideas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    . . . I sure have enjoyed this discussion with you, very thought provoking. Sure thought it would not have been so exclusive, however.
    OK, I was going to watch/listen to my ballteam getting clobbered by the S.F. Giants again.
    But, you two have captured my interest. Again. So, I'll just listen, and watch when the bat cracks.

    OK, all this bs below is done. Now it's the bottom of the third.
    D'Backs up 1-0 over the hated Giants from the metrosexual capital of the world.


    For what it's worth, I have stated before that I AM a retired mechanical engineer.
    In many areas, this "may" entitle my to express my opinions. For whatever they may be worth.
    In a very few limited areas, I might even claim some reasonable knowledge.
    In some extremely small areas, I even claim hard-earned expertise.

    All that to be kept in mind whenever I start to pontificate in our great forum.

    I had looked at the Webley "article" and exploded view schematic.
    Unlike you guys, I just said, "another cool design that didn't make it into the "forever mainstream".

    I do have "some knowledge" about CAD and CADM. Computer aided design/manufacturing. I never actually "did the work".
    By the time this really took off in the '80's, I was low-level "management". I supervised engineer teams that took the "solid model"
    car body/structure designs. And, they converted these into "FEM mesh models". Finite Element Method. The technology was being
    developed that allowed computer computation of the loads and stresses in a car body. The goal was to model an entire 30 mph
    crash into a fixed barrier. First, to correlate the model with the actual crash test results. Then, to model various structural changes
    that improved the crash performance, and improved the safety of the passenger occupants.

    That is a long-winded synopsis of several years of work by my team, and several other teams working simultaneously, and sharing
    technology improvements. They succeeded. As always, more time and effort led (leads) to great improvements.

    I know "most" firearms manufacturers are using the "same technology" for solid modeling all the parts of prototype guns. This just
    leads directly to all those "super machines" carving pieces of metal without having to "program" the CADM machine on its basic level.
    Besides that, all the "fitment" problems are addressed in the computer model. Ruger has exceptions in it use of investment casting
    for big basic pieces like "a frame". Saves machining time/cost. You can see some of this stuff "in action" when a gun show gets a
    demo tour of some manufacturer. The technology has been refined so "lesser lights" can afford a good bit of "this action".

    Given you are doing the solid modeling, the next step is what I described above. FEMing mesh models lets you actually determine
    the stresses created in all the parts of the design. From simply "moving" the parts against each other, as in cocking a revolver,
    tripping the trigger mechanism, and actually putting the "firing load" process into the model. I don't actually know if this is how they
    are acomplishing their goals of "design before prototyping". Because, parts in firearms are not being permanently deformed, their
    computer modeling process may be considerably easier than predicating the "crushing" of a complex stucture like a automobile
    front, rear, or side structure in a crash. I'm very sure a LOT of development has taken place since I retired in 1997. A LOT !

    All this is to say, all you guys need to do is convince ONE firearm company there is a BIG market for top-latch revolver.
    Bingo, here comes a design that WILL WORK for whatever cartridge and power level is "deemed needed" for big sales.
    And it will safely handle the design loads. With a safety margin. Probably take a year, and a bunch of experts' time. Which is money.

    Remember the S&W "story". Big boss is tired of those little guys (Freedom Arms) with the real powerful stuff being "top dog".
    "I want a S&W revolver that is the most powerful (energy) revolver in the world". Gotcha covered Boss, here it is. Just took a year or so.

    OK, it's done. Now, some of "the little bastards" are now talking "velocity".
    "Dammit, I want an S&W revolver that is the fastest (velocity) in the world". Gotcha covered Boss, here it is. Just took a year or so.

    All it takes is money. And the big boss's signature.

    There is a TON of these "war stories" from the glory days of Detroit. "I WANT ......". "Yesterday". "GET ON IT". yes sir !

  11. #11
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
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    ...But we three retired people just have nobody to tell to "Get on it! Now!"
    And none of us is Skeeter Skelton or Elmer Keith or Jeff Cooper or even Roy Huntington, so the gun companies aren't going to listen to us particularly carefully.

    Oh, would that we could.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    Yeah, but you keep whetting my appetite...
    I like the top-break-revolver concept just as much as you do.

    Dang, I wish I were rich!
    Hey Steve and Bob: given this, surely you must have (or lust after) the S&W Model 3 Schofield, eh ?

    Smith & Wesson Model 3 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    If we can trust whomever "stuffed" this into Wikpedia (always a concern) there is some interesting info on the Model 3 top-break.
    I'll just repeat a "little bit"

    Modern reproductions
    Modern reproductions of the Smith & Wesson model 3 Revolver
    are made by a number of companies, including (most notably) Smith & Wesson themselves,
    as well as the Italian arms-makers Uberti and Armi San Marco.


    The link says both the modern S&W version, and the Italian versions are "strengthend".
    The strengthened areas are mentioned, but no real design change details are documented.

    So, there you go. I don't think you'd have to be rich to grab one of the "modern Schofields".
    Just want a top-break badly enough to purchase a REALLY UGLY gun.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have a three Italian "repro's". My Italian made Beretta 92 FS I bought in 1992 doesn't count.

    The first one I purchased was at the Sidney, Nebraska Cabela's. An 1858 Remington steel frame .44 percussion by Pietta.
    For $90. That was long ago for that price, of course. AMAZING quality. I've got a Howell .45 Colt conversion for it too. Cost $200.
    Bob, as an ace pistoleer, I know you know about "how does a .44 cap and ball revolver shoot .45 Long Colt through the same barrel.

    I also have an 1873 clone by Pietta in .45 LC, through EMF. "Case-hardened" frame/hammer. All else blued. Very nice quality for $450.
    I REALLY like the "Pietta stuff" being hid under the barrel next to the ejector rod housing. With "real" Colt markings elsewhere.

    Best of all is an 1866 Win. Yellowboy in .45 LC by Uberti. Also through EMF. A friend at work was a hard core competitor with a FFL.
    He got it for me at "his price". $525. The wood fit to brass and steel is incredible. And, the wood is amazing. Would be wonderful even
    if on a custom rifle. At least to my untrained eye. The tiger-striping on the fore end seems so "random" and non repeatable I can't
    imagine it being a treatment instead of the actual wood. As part of the deal, the guy ordered two rifles. A second one for a good
    buddy of mine at the same price. When they arrived, I got to choose which I wanted. His wood was VERY nice. Mine was (is) GREAT !

    All that digression just to taunt you guys about you getting a top-break. I really have to admit that the Schofield makes MUCH better
    sense as a calvary sidearm from a purely functional standpoint than does an 1873. If S&W had just made the frame to take the .45 LC,
    I (lots of people) think it could have remained the Army standard sidearm. The Italian repro's can be had in .45 LC. So, not hard to do.

    But, S&W stubbornly developing the shorter ".45 Schofield" instead of making it in .45 LC plus Colt's marketing "genius" killed it.
    And Schofield's brother being head of the Army Ordance Board apparently was a political liabilty.

    But mostly, I like to think, to hell with its functional superiority,
    it is just a really, REALLY UGLY GUN ! Proving once again that even "hot-shot engineers" can fall prey to their emotions.

  13. #13
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    The S&W Schofield is a nice gun, available in modern form in .45 "Long" Colt I believe, but it's a single-action pistol.
    I dunno 'bout Bob, but I'd have one only of it were double-action, and came with a 4" (or shorter) barrel.

    I'm one of those who believes that Merwin & Hulbert were onto something, but screwed-up by not making their pistol as quick to reload as it was to empty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    . . . I dunno 'bout Bob, but I'd have one only of it were double-action . . .
    Oh crap. Missed that.
    As my most favorite ever SNL character (RIP) used to say, "NEVERMIND !"

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    I'm one of those who believes that Merwin & Hulbert were onto something, but screwed-up by not making their pistol as quick to reload as it was to empty.
    Plus 1 on that.

    Except, it is ugly too. UGLY. I guess I will NEVER get over Saturday afternoon movies innoculating me against double-actions.

  15. #15
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    DanP_From AZ, et al:

    As a matter of fac, the Remington cap-and-ball ".44s" were first converted to .46 Short R.F.

    As to "ugly", I thought the P-47 Thunderbolt was an ugly airplane, but it had a brutal beauty, if that makes sense to ya'll. Same way with some of those pugnacious pistols of the past, the M&H being one of them. Incidentally, I have one round of .42 M&H in my collection.

    But, to get back to the vein of my original post, I believe that whatever I had proposed could be done if I had remembered what that was. But, this thread has been more interesting and though provoking than I have engaged in in a very long time. Thank you all for you input. Whatever it was.

    Oh, and Steve, you keep referring to it as the .45 "Long" Colt, and correctly so. BUT, I have in my collection an old REM-UMC .45 Colt round (so headstamped) loaded with the 250 gr. bullet with the short case. Also a Peters Cartridge Co. .45 Colt Govt. round.

    Seems REM-UMC tried to consolidate the .45 Colt and .45 S&W into one round. And Colt did not cotton to stamping ".45 S&W on their revolvers.


    Bob Wright

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    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    ...Seems REM-UMC tried to consolidate the .45 Colt and .45 S&W into one round...
    No, if I remember correctly the US gummint had already done that. REM-UMC and Peters were just following along.
    Wasn't the government-issue cartridge made for use in the Colt SA shortened from .45 "Long" Colt, in order to also fit S&W's pistols?

    The interesting part, to me anyway, is that the .45 ACP round was originally arranged to duplicate .45 "Long" Colt, and .45 Colt/.45 S&W (the short one), ballistics.
    By that time, smokeless powder had arrived and was thriving, so it was easy to do, even in the short .45 ACP case.

  17. #17
    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    Actually, the round for the old Schofield was the .45 S&W round, and it was that that was submitted for Army trials, loaded with 28 grs. of black powder and a 230 gr. RN bullet. The Army arsenals continued to load both for a brief period, finally dropping the .45 Colt round.

    The .45 ACP round was already a commercial load, with a 200 gr. FMJ bullet. The Springfield arsenal made two rounds, the .45 M1906, in revolver and auto configuration, which were to be the minimum acceptable rounds for consideration by the Ordnance Board. So far as I can determine, the .45 Colt never entered into consideration, with the possible exception of the M1909 round for the M1909 revolver.

    Bob Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    . . . As to "ugly", I thought the P-47 Thunderbolt was an ugly airplane, but it had a brutal beauty, if that makes sense to ya'll . . .
    Ah, the sweet mysteries of an Internet thread. Who KNOWS where items can lead you. Damn, do I love to touch-type.

    My Dad was drafted in WWII, after he graduated from college. By the Army Air Force.
    He was sent to a succession of bomber crew "schools". Like gunner, radioman, navigator, bombadier. (and more ?).
    At each school, he was ordered to "move up to the next school" because "you're too smart to stop here".
    The final step was to go to flight training. He came out "the far end" as a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot.
    He was older and "somewhat more mature" than the typical "I want to be a fighter pilot" jock.
    He was married in college, and I "came along".

    All of "their WWII history" was relayed to me by my Mom. Until late in his life, when I got a private pilot license.
    Asking questions did get him to relay a few "war stories". But, only about training. Several in his "squadrons"
    were killed along the way. And I found out Harry Truman was his hero. Harry had the bombs dropped when my
    Dad was on his final leave before being shipped to the Pacific. He stayed in the service until 1947, to "complete
    his obligation". When the now "Air Force" sent folks to ask him to come back for Korea, he refused. "I did my
    complete duty. And, I'm on my first job as a school superintendent, and have a wife and three kids. Sorry, no."
    We were listening from our "one bedroom". "Oh God, our Dad is a coward". We all got "over that" later on.

    He never flew in anything but commerical airlines again. Except once.
    "Mom, how come Dad isn't crazy about flying like I am?"
    "Dan, the only reason he became a pilot was because he said, if I have to fly, I am going to be the one in CONTROL".
    I was seven or eight at the time, poring over his flight logs, and amazed at his leather flight suit/helmet/boots.

    That "once" was when he got conned into flying in Beech Baron from Kansas to Dallas for a school administrator conference
    with a total of four guys. My Dad insisted on the right front seat, alongside the pilot. My Dad was on his case about flying around
    a thunderstorm. The idiot insisted on "clipping the corner". In the clouds, they got "bounced badly". And the pilot lost control.
    And panicked into a spin. My Dad hit him on the side of the head, and took over. He landed at the nearest airport. The pilot
    "went home" in a rental car. The other three drove to Dallas in their rental. The plane was ferried "home" to be sold. The
    pilot moved away "very soon".

    I never heard this story until I went to his service. Afterwards, quite a few "local folks" were getting a "little sloppy and sentimental"
    as I was invited to his informal "wake" afterwards. The two guys in the back of "that Baron" were also part of his golfing foursome for
    many years.

    I was(am) a total control freak as an adult. "Driving? I drive", etc.
    Actually I've gotten a bit better in my old age. But, I'm just another example of "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree".

  19. #19
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    Well, Dan_P from AZ,

    Maybe you;d appreciate this photo. It was taken by my brother. These were visitors to his base as he was with the 55th Fighter Group, a P-38 group at that time, later P51 grp.



    Bob Wright

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    Maybe you;d appreciate this photo. It was taken by my brother. These were visitors to his base as he was with the 55th Fighter Group, a P-38 group at that time, later P51 grp.

    Thanks much, Bob. Its been added to my collection.

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