The Hobby Gunsmith

Product Test-

Marbles and Lyman Tang Sights

We don’t have any new guns or equipment to test this month so we take this opportunity to bring everyone up to speed on the equipment we tested in the past. These include the AWA Lightning, the Ruger Old Army with the Kirst Cartridge Konverter, and the two Henry Rifles.

The AWA Lightning
   American Western Arms selected The Hobby Gunsmith last year to do the West Coast testing of the new Lightning Rifle. We were asked to use the gun, show it to others and let them shoot it, and see if we can find problems that need to be reviewed by AWA. We experienced early ejector bar problems that we addressed by adding a setscrew to the ejector bar to allow it to be tightened and adjusted in the future.

   Although we had some early teething problems with the gun, those were completely corrected by the little setscrew and the gun has performed flawlessly for many months and well over three thousand rounds of shooting. I have personally enjoyed some very fast rifle times, but have since turned the gun over to other people who are shooting it as was requested by AWA.

   Our test lightning was our first real venture into shooting .45 Colt cartridges and we have since had to purchase about a thousand empty casings to keep up with the shooting of this and the other two .45 Colts we have picked up along the way.

   Despite a lot of people claiming the AWA Lightning cannot handle blackpowder, we successfully shot the gun for many matches using American Pioneer Powder that used to be known as Clean Shot. This combination worked fine and shooting six stages without any cleaning is not the slightest problem for this gun. This discovery makes the gun a formidable contender in the blackpowder categories.

   One of the people who tested the Lightning was Southpaw, SASS 57. He often shoots an original Colt Lightning and was interested in shooting the AWA version. We had some concerns since he wanted to push the gun to its limits using up some older blackpowder cartridges. This AWA Lightning went six rifle stages without any cleaning or problems. The gun even cleaned up easily. Southpaw used the gun again the following month with blackpowder cartridges with the same results and shared it with the match director for the last three stages of the day. This means the gun actually went nine stages of shooting blackpowder without being cleaned. It also seems to have retained its accuracy throughout the day.

   So much for the rumors that the AWA Lightning cannot be used with blackpowder. That was a lot of boom and smoke for such a frail appearing rifle. We are continuing to shoot the Lightning without any problems. The only improvement I would make would be to install a tang sight on this gun to speed target acquisition.

 The Kirst Konverter in the Ruger Old Army Revolver.
   Last year we had an opportunity to unveil the new Kirst Konverter for .45 Colt cartridges for the Ruger Old Army. That gun now has over six months of shooting American Pioneer Powder loads with no problems at all. In fact, the Kirst Konverter has held with normal wear on the bluing while the bluing on the Ruger has deteriorated to the point where we are thinking about completely redoing the finish of the gun.

   This combination has proven to be very effective, but the hammer spring was designed with enough strength to hold the cap on the ROA’s cones. This is more spring tension than needed when shooting a cartridge conversion so we installed a nineteen pound spring for a Ruger Blackhawk. We even cut about five coils from the lightened spring, which resulted in a very light hammer and trigger that has still reliably fired each round. We plan to try coating the internal moving parts with rubbing compound and seeing if that helps to smooth the action of the ROA. We will report on our success with that process. This gun is also slated for a set of new grips.

   The Kirst Konverter must be removed from the frame to reload the gun. This has become a natural process as we have gained experience. This gun gives us the advantage of being able to be used in any CAS category. We used it as the second gun to a Blackhawk in the Modern Category, shot it in the Traditional Category, and as the left-hand gun while shooting in the Gunfighter Category. It could certainly be used in the Frontiersman Category. We have come to really like the Kirst Konverter in the ROA as a natural and fun gun to shoot.

The New Henry Rifles
   We had the opportunity in the last few months to practice with a Henry Golden Boy and to shoot the Henry Big Boy in CAS matches. Although the Big Boy is not approved for SASS competition above the local club level, I have enjoyed shooting it.

   The Henry Golden Boy has had several hundred rounds of .22 long rifle pushed through it in practicing target acquisition and levering. I have created several drills for mounting the gun and getting the first shot off more quickly than before. I find the weight and balance of the Golden Boy to be similar to my Rossi 92, which makes it an excellent practice gun shooting inexpensive ammunition.

   I shot my first CAS monthly match with the Henry Big Boy using the wrong ammunition. I was using .44 special ammunition with semi-wadcutter bullets. This combination fed each time, but hesitated a little as the bullet entered the chamber.

   I tried loading some .44 magnum casings with my more customary 200 grain round nose flat point lead bullets and filled the cases with Goex FFFg blackpowder. It was time to find out if the gun could handle this combination.

   It was a match that appears to be made in heaven. These bullets loaded easily and reliably every time. By the end of the first stage I was taking the feeding of this gun for granted. Even the lever action seemed much smoother with the longer magnum casings and the rounded bullets.

    The Henry Big Boy is stock from the factory with absolutely no modifications or improvements. The lever action feels a bit loose and there is a safety interlock to prevent firing the gun before the bolt is completely locked closed. Although my gun has less than two hundred bullets fired through it, I was comfortable using the lever action without adding a leather lever wrap to protect the back of my hand. I will add the wrap, but the stock action is quite smooth.

   How did the Henry Big Boy handle the blackpowder loads? It handled them like a veteran. The heavy octagon barrel absorbed the recoil of the powerful load so the gun was back on target quickly. It drew a lot of attention at the match and a couple of people found the gun to be much more handsome in person than in the marketing photos. Everyone who expressed an opinion has said they believe the Henry Big Boy should be allowed in SASS competition.

   The Henry Big Boy is one of the few guns I would be comfortable shooting in CAS and is reliable enough for personal protection in a tight situation. One thing I have come to like is the loading and unloading of this gun. Loading is done through the front of the magazine tube with the follower removed. Unloading to check the number of rounds in the tube can be done without cycling the action. Simply remove the magazine follower and tilt the gun to let the cartridges slide out the front of the tube. This is a nice safety feature I have come to appreciate.

Marbles and Lyman tang sights.
   We installed these two sights last month and had the opportunity to shoot both guns. We found that we liked the Marbles sight on the Rossi Puma the most, but we suspect that might be because the heavier barrel makes the gun more stable when using a tang sight. Target acquisition was much more rapid and confident than with the open sights.

   We used the Lyman tang sight on the Winchester 94 trapper and found we could shoot much faster with this gun than we have in the past with the open sights. Although the shimming of the tang site was inconvenient, the shooting of the gun with a tang sight is a pleasure.

   Both brands of sights improved our shooting with the two test rifles. I suspect one of these sights will become standard equipment on any rifle I shoot in competition. We hope to have an opportunity to test the tang sights at ranges longer than found in SASS competition. Perhaps we will test them at around 100 yards.

The Kirst Remington .45 ACP Konverter
   We have been slowly building an 1858 Remington cartridge conversion revolver based on the Kirst ported Konverer. That gun is nickel plated with a barrel shortened down to the loading lever latch under the barrel. We installed a dovetail front sight and cut a loading port through the recoil shield. Last month we set the barrel back in the frame and set the forcing cone to eleven degrees (to be covered next month). We even installed a Wolff hammer spring intended for the Colt SAA.

   We quickly sighted the gun in at the range and shot three stages with .45 ACP cartridges loaded with bullseye powder and a 200-grain lead bullet. I used the gun in my left hand while shooting in the Gunfighter Category and found it to be an excellent gun. We had no misfires or problems during the three stages we fired in competition. We look forward to completing the gun with a custom made extractor and making it a regular competition shooter.