The Hobby Gunsmith

March Feature-

Making a Conversion Extractor

Many people have written to ask about what happened to the Dragoon Conversion project that was featured in the first newsletter about a year ago. It is time for us to formally return to that project even though it has made a few appearances throughout several articles in the last few months.

   Some of the more observant readers have noticed the dragoon frame showed up in the electroplating articles. Others noticed the bluing article showed the bluing of the conversion ring for the old dragoon. These people were very observant and want to know when it will return.

   The last formal article about the Dragoon included making a cartridge extractor. It was a two-piece affair that would have worked, but just did not have the elegance of a properly made extractor. It required a lot of thinking to figure out how to make a proper extractor and this article illustrates how new version was made.

   We are actually making two extractor housings for two different conversion projects. We have illustrated a lot of how-to articles by using an 1858 Remington Revolver to illustrate these processes. We will again feature photographs of building the extractor for the Remington and should be ready to show progress on the Dragoon conversion extractor next month.

   We started with a trip to the local hardware store to get some half-inch mild steel bar stock that we will turn down into the new extractor housing. We also ordered a couple of four-inch Ruger extractor rods from Brownells instead of making our own. We will probably have to make our extractor for the Dragoon, because it must have a much longer extractor assembly to eject those long .45 Colt cartridges out of the long cylinder from an extractor that is mounted forward of the frame.

   The objective of our design is to function as close as possible to the cartridge extractors that appeared in 1873. Most cartridge conversions I have seen use an extractor that is in a partial housing or must be pulled forward and locked into a notch. This raises concerns about the possibility of having the extractor rod work loose and fall back into a cylinder opening while trying to shoot in competition.

   The problem we had to address is how to enclose the extractor return spring in the housing while keeping the front of the extractor pleasing to the eye. We decided to machine the outside of the extractor down to an appropriate outside diameter before blind drilling the inside of the housing to the correct diameter for the Ruger extractor rods.

   Using a blind drilling method down through the housing requires us to install the Ruger extractor rod from the front end of the housing, which requires us to machine the guide from the front of the housing. This would leave us with an unsightly gap in the front of the housing and nothing elegant to retain the extractor rod against the spring pressure.

   The answer came to us while loading a Henry Big Boy rifle. The Big Boy has a locking slot at the front end of the magazine tube that is similar to the housing we are building. Henry installs the spring-loaded cartridge follower in a tube that has a cap. We decided to make a similar cap to install on our housing to provide an extractor rod stop that also partially hides the slot in the extractor housing.

   We started by chucking the steel stock in the lathe and beginning the process of removing excess metal from the outside diameter of the steel stock. After aligning the stock in the chuck, we drilled a small pilot hole into the end of the stock. The pilot hole is used to insert a dead center to provide support to the end of the rod opposite the chuck. Without using the center to support the rod, any attempt to use a lathe tool will cause the stock to deflect and be ineffective.

Cutting excess material from the outside diameter of the extractor housing.

   After using the lathe to remove excess material, we filed and polished the outside of the extractor to a near mirror finish. We then removed the dead center from the tailstock of he lathe and replaced it with a quarter-inch drill bit. We then used the lathe tailstock drill bit to bore a quarter-inch diameter hole down the center of the extractor housing. Using a normal drill bit allowed us to only drill a couple of inches down the housing shaft.

Drilling a pilot hole before using the quarter-inch drill in the tailstock.  This special short bit is designed for a very short  hold with very little deflection.

   With a quarter-inch pilot hole drilled down through the new housing, we removed it from the lathe and moved it to the drill press equipped with a long quarter-inch drill bit marked with tape to indicate the desired depth of the hole. We slid the housing onto the drill bit and raised the drill press bed up to allow us to lock the housing in a vise to maintain alignment of the drill to the center of the housing. We then began drilling.

The long drill bit ready to begin drilling down the center of the housing.  Note the tape on the drill that tells me when to stop.  Also note the bottle of cutting oil with brushes and a syringe.

   Why use the drill press instead of continuing to drill with the lathe? Drilling with a lathe is not easy as lubricant tends to drain quickly out horizontal hole allowing the bit to overheat. This is solved in production machine shops with hollow drills and high-pressure lubricant pumped into the hole. We do not have such elaborate production equipment.

   Moving the drilling operation to the drill press allowed us to keep the housing vertical where the lubricant would remain in the bottom of the hole during the cut. We did constantly add drilling lubricant to the hole as much of the lube was carried out of the hole with the chips. We let gravity work for us instead of against us.

   With the center of the housing drilled to the proper depth, we moved the housing back to the lathe, but installed the stock in the chuck and used a hacksaw to cut the housing at the appropriate length to allow a quarter of an inch of material at the end. We then turned the housing around and chucked it in the opposite direction than before. This exposed the blank end of the housing to the tailstock where we installed a drill that was slightly larger than the Ruger extractor rod and drilled the appropriate hole to allow the extractor rod to exit the end toward the cylinder.

   This left us with a complete housing with no way to slide the extractor rod down through the housing. We removed the housing from the lathe and clamped it to the cross-sliding vise on the drill press. We chucked an eighth-inch end mill in the drill press and aligned it to cut a slot down the extractor housing for three and a half inches. The distance was intended to allow one inch of blind space in the housing to hide the ejector rod spring, provide three inches of extractor rod travel, and then a half inch of extractor housing cap in the end of the housing to retain all of the parts.

   We passed the end mill down the extractor housing to complete the slot. Then we  used a small file to remove any metal that was lifted up by the milling process. We also ran the file up and down the slot to give us a nice clean slot for the extractor to ride in. We hope to get a real milling machine before long to make this kind of work much easier.

Milling the eighth-inch slot down the extractor housing to provide a guide for the extractor rod.

   Next it was back to the lathe with the old stub hat was left over from making the ejector housing. We chucked in the lathe and turned it down to the same outside diameter as the extractor housing. We then turned down the first half-inch of material to the same outside diameter as the inside diameter of the extractor housing. We then polished the part and parted the new part from the lathe using a hacksaw. We need to get a good parting tool for our lathe so we can do a better job of parting. Parting is the process of cutting away the stock on a lathe while it is running.

The completed extractor laid out between a ruler and the extractor housing that will be used on the Dragoon project.

   That completes the process of making the new extractor housing for our conversion projects. The assembly went together easily and fit as it was intended. The extractor moves smoothly against the spring and the spring holds the extractor tightly against the end cap of the housing. We feel this is a much better extractor than we made before and the old one has been thrown away. The only thing left to do is to drill and tap the end cap to lock the cap in place with a small screw. That will be done after the extractor has been mounted on the revolver so we can decide how to best orient the retaining screw.

   With the center of the housing drilled to the proper depth, we moved the housing back to the lathe, but installed the stock in the chuck and used a hacksaw to cut the housing at the appropriate length to allow a quarter of an inch of material at the end. We then turned the housing around and chucked it in the opposite direction than before. This exposed the blank end of the housing to the tailstock where we installed a drill that was slightly larger than the Ruger extractor rod and drilled the appropriate hole to allow the extractor rod to exit the end toward the cylinder.

 

 

Makers of fine Cartridge Conversion kits for:

  • Remington New Army

  • 1851 and 1861 Colt

  • Ruger Old Army

www.KirstKonverter.com