Text Box: Text Box:

A Brief History

When the American civil war ended a new era in American and firearms history was about to take place. The civil war had seen the introduction of brass cartridges and the Gatling gun to the battlefield.  One of the big obstacles to revolver development was the patent held by Rollin White preventing the loading of cartridges via the rear of the cylinder.


On April 1869 the Rollin White patent expired.


Colt had explored ways around the patent and produced models such as the Thuer conversion which loaded pre loaded cartridges via the front of the cylinder but this was unreliable and slow.  Colt experimented with various forms of rear loading prototypes in anticipation of the expiry of the Rollin White patent. In particular Colt was keen to use the large stock of percussion pistol components held in stock following the end of the civil war.

Richards an employee patented a method of adapting a percussion revolver to the use of brass cartridges.  The Richards conversion was initially applied to the 0.44 1860 percussion Colt. The conversion was an immediate success albeit with one drawback, it was expensive to produce. Mason another employee of Colt modified the Richards design to produce the Richards-Mason conversion which not only simplified the conversion but could also be applied to the 1851 0.36 colt variants and the 1849 0.32 pocket revolvers. In reality the Richards– Mason conversion could be applied to all Colt revolvers although the company did not include conversions for all revolvers.


W Mason of the Richards-Mason partnership left Colt and took up employment with Remington. He brought with him much knowledge which was used in the same way as with Colt, to convert many of the percussion revolvers still in the Remington store houses following the Civil War.


In a short space of time the principals of the Richards-Mason conversion was being applied to Remington, Spiller and Burr, and Starr revolvers. In effect the conversion could be applied to just about any percussion revolver there was at the time.


Hollywood has presented for many years the image of the only gun used in the West being the 1872 Colt peacemaker or one of its variants. In reality from 1870 through to the 1890s the most common handguns were the either the Richard– Mason colt conversions or conversions of other models based on the principals of their design. It was down to cost. In 1873 the US military were taking delivery of what became Colt Peacemakers and they typically cost $15 a significant expense to the average cowboy or farmer. Significantly the US government from 1871—1873 had commissioned both Colt and Remington to convert literally thousands of muzzle loading revolvers to breach loaders. It would be some time before these conversions were taken out of military use and when they were they would be sold on to the general public for as low as a $1!.


The average cowboy and farmer in all probability owned a muzzle loading revolver post the civil war. A competent blacksmith would convert one of these guns to chamber metallic cartridges in either rim or centre fire as required for around $1.5.  The method the blacksmith would have used was based on the Richards - Mason pattern.


From 1870 to the1890s saw a proliferation of cartridge conversions, some films recognise the part these conversions played and this, time permitting, may form part of the next site update.


The basis of these cartridge conversions has been copied by Anvil Conversions and adapted to produce nitro conversions. 


Est April 2011  

Member of The Gun Trade Association