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Thread: Converting 1885 32RF to center fire

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    Converting 1885 32RF to center fire

    I知 looking at buying an original 1905 dated Winchester model 1885 low wall in 32 rimfire, it is in sad shape and very little if any collector value remains. I知 looking at Reboring the barrel and moving the firing pin. My question is will the original low wall action handle something like a 357 maximum? I知 basically going to do what Larry potterfield did in his conversion videos(with a few improvements) just need to settle on a caliber and see if I can get the Donor rifle cheap enough
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  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Hickory's Avatar
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    I doubt that this black powder era 1886 would handle the pressure of the 357 maximum.
    Last edited by Hickory; 12-04-2019 at 04:04 AM.
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    Boolit Master pietro's Avatar
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    I may be in error, but IMO a vintage low wall with thin sides isn't the home for a .357 Max ( a .38 Special would be fine) - but would heartily suggest checking Frank DeHaas' (aka: Mr. Single-Shot) "Gunsmithing Idea Book" on his recommendations for the low wall.

    https://www.scribd.com/document/5675...r-Single-Shots



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    Boolit Buddy blackbahart's Avatar
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    seen the original low wall in 25-35 which is a 40k +psi and the 357 max runs apron 40 k also

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    I don't think the "original" low wall was 25-35 to start with. Low walls were chambered in pistol calibers, most likely 25-20.

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy
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    Ok I’m going to look over the suggested book today, would 357mag at 35k psi be better? Or any other recommendations. I’m pretty sure the bore is junk so it would have to be bored out. I guess I could also rebarrel it but I was trying to save money on the project while still having an 1885
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    You need to stay under 18,000 psi with your low wall. Cartridges that will work include 22 Long rifle ,45 Colt, 44-40, 38-40, 32-20, 25-20, 38 S&W, 32 S&W , 44 & 38 special. There may be some other that are low pressure.

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    Boolit Master
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    Ive seen mentioned that WRA would re heatreat early blackpowder actions to make them suitable for smokeless conversion.Most likely the depth of case was increased ,possibly with a less hardness in the final draw.If the action is OK with a 45 at say 20kpsi,then simple geometry says a smaller base will take more pressure to produce the same loading.......And yes ,I have early low walls with the reciever walls battered and deformed from things like 219 zipper.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy blackbahart's Avatar
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    I should have clarified .I have seen a low wall that has been rechambered to 25-35 and its original cal on the barrel stamped 25 long with X's stamped over it and re stamped 25-35
    . The owner did say it shoots fine .I have never shot it ,just looked at it and it is rechambered for the 25-35..

    As you are correct it was not a factory 25-35

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    While a Stevens 44 is not as strong as the low wall I had one come in a few years back that had been a 25-20 and was re-chambered to 25-35. It came with two broken breach blocks, one had been welded back together. Wonder why someone would try to shoot it again after braking the first breach block. I made a new breach block out of 4140 and installed a liner to take it back to 25-20. On a low wall I have not seen a broken breach block but I have seen a cracked frame.
    The Colt 45 SAAMI max pressure is 14,000 psi.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    Why not just convert it to one of the centerfire 32 pistol rounds ?

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    Boolit Buddy
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    Ok well I always thought 1885’s were made overly strong but I didn’t know they took old bp guns and converted them. I guess 4140 pre hard wasn’t around then either. if I do end up with it I will keep it to low psi cartridge. The rifling in the 32cal barrel is shot out and not worth using.
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    Really, it is not a steel issue or a heat treatment issue. There are two 1885's The lowwall and the highwall. Highwall breach blocks are fully supported by the mortise and the lowwall's are cantilever. The metal is not weaker, there is just less of it in the most important places. The lowwall was designed to be a lighter, trimmer version of the big action and shoot the lesser cartridges.
    Chill Wills

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawlerbrook View Post
    Why not just convert it to one of the centerfire 32 pistol rounds ?
    ^^^ This ^^^

    I like the original 32-20 chambering and I really like the 32 H&R (notice I didn't call it a "magnum" since factory loadings aren't!) I also like both the 25-20 SS and 25-20 WCF chambering, but I have seen a couple of factory SS examples that have had their receivers stretched by too-enthusiastic loadings. If I were to go with a bigger bore, 38-40 and 44-40 would be the absolute biggest rounds I would even think of using. JMHO based on about 30 years of experience, observation and research, YMMV.

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    Boolit Master kodiak1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawlerbrook View Post
    Why not just convert it to one of the centerfire 32 pistol rounds ?
    What I was thinking 32-20.
    Ken.

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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I believe the OP was hoping to get his 32rf barrel rebored to 357,and so keep it semi original.

  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy
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    Yes as stated earlier the bore in the current 32cal barrel is completely toasted so I would have to rebore it if I was to do anything. Trust me if I could do a 32-20 that would be ideal. But I’ve been doing some pricing and I think it would be money better spent if I found a decent newer production highwall namely the BPCR model
    I'll keep my guns and my money, you can keep the change!

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  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    You could have a liner installed for 32-20. The extractor would need to be cut for the larger rim, firing pin moved to center.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master marlinman93's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b money View Post
    Ok well I always thought 1885’s were made overly strong but I didn’t know they took old bp guns and converted them. I guess 4140 pre hard wasn’t around then either. if I do end up with it I will keep it to low psi cartridge. The rifling in the 32cal barrel is shot out and not worth using.
    Original 1885's in the High Wall version were made extremely strong, and they've been proven to hold up to a lot of modern higher pressure cartridges over many decades. But the difference between an 1885 High Wall and Low Wall is day and night difference.
    If I was doing the Low Wall my choice would be a traditional caliber they were offered in, even if condition isn't collector grade on the gun. The .32-20 would be my choice, and I'd do the liner John Taylor mentioned instead of a rebore. A barrel with a modern steel liner is a bit stronger than a rebored BP era soft steel barrel. Plus the .32-20 is easy to find brass for, easy to reload, and just a great cartridge in the 1885 to shoot.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by john.k View Post
    Ive seen mentioned that WRA would re heatreat early blackpowder actions to make them suitable for smokeless conversion.Most likely the depth of case was increased ,possibly with a less hardness in the final draw.If the action is OK with a 45 at say 20kpsi,then simple geometry says a smaller base will take more pressure to produce the same loading.......And yes ,I have early low walls with the reciever walls battered and deformed from things like 219 zipper.
    Heat treating doesn't work that way. Besides heat treating comes in two flavors, through hardening and case hardening with the old rifles being made of early grades of weaker steel (with BP rifles usually being even weaker) and being case hardened to make them hard on the surface to prevent wear, not to make them stronger. No amount of heat treating is going to make this metal stronger, harder and more brittle maybe but not stronger and then only the surface is affected. Modern through hardening steels can be heat treated to make them stronger sometimes (in a sense anyway) but this is determined by what their original heat treat condition was to start with. Annealed (soft condition) alloy steels can be heat treated to increase both strength and hardness but in most cases it's a trade-off between hardness/wear resistance and ultimate strength giving up some of one for the other, heat treating temperatures/methods being determined by the desired hardness vs ultimate strength. On those old steels steels no amount of heat treating or depth of case is going to make them stronger.

    As a note that time period for the rifle being discussed here was when alloy steels and heat treating of them was in it's infancy and little was known compared to today, a lot of what they did is now known to be wrong. An example is the early '03 Springfield rifle and the early heat treating methods and steel alloys of the time, a lot of disagreement on whether or not the early improperly heat treated rifles are dangerous or not but whether or not they are safe it's not in dispute that they were (some of them anyway) much harder than they were meant to be. The early 1885 Low Walls were not made from even these early Nickle steels as they were called so heat treating consisted only of carbon packing and quenching to produce a hard surface a few thousandths thick but nothing was added to the strength by the process and no modern heat treat will make it stronger either.

    Of course even the early Low Walls were not exactly a weak action! They are plenty strong for what they were meant for and there are some really good cartridges that are perfectly safe in them, unfortunately the 357 max is NOT one of them! Even if the pressures were held to 38 special, even a bit higher should be safe, such a chamber would just be inviting disaster at some point in time since we have no way of knowing where a rifle will eventually end up and who might chamber full charge 357 Max cartridges!
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