Bozeman Trail Arms, Mfg.
Q. If I can't afford a Colt, what clone variant do you recommend? Which brand/model?
A. This is tough as I don't want to knock or insult anyone's guns BUT.......the Colt brand is the best, period. Even with all the issues, with their hit or miss customer service, etc., Colt is THE gun. It's just historical fact after all. Now, if you can't swing a Colt, going way back, my favorite gun to perform magic on was the Armi San Marco that EMF in California used to sell. They're long out of business AFAIK nowadays. It's a shame though! They were kinda crappy, rough and poorly assembled, soft screws, BUT, they were EXACT copies of Colts and I could really work wonders with them. Really. But, no more.........so from my recent experiences the gun that now fits that bill is the Great Western II revolvers, also imported and sold by EMF. Can you tell I like EMF?? They're pretty, inexpensive and like raw clay for me to mold. Uberti's, Cimarrons (which are Ubertis) and Piettas are all good guns, no problems, but those were/are my favorites as far as clones go. USFA used to make REAL nice clones also, gorgeous guns, but, heck, they cost as much as a real Colt and now they're out of business...what a shame!!
Q. I've noticed that my gun's hammer will slip off from the half cock or quarter cock notch now, what's happened?
A. That's not good. If you can put the gun on the first or second position and the trigger will pull (be gentle, don't break your good notch!) and the hammer falls it means most likely that the notch has broken off the hammer. Very unsafe condition to have! It means that either the hammer will need to be rewelded and the notch recut (Colts) or hammer replaced (clones). Hopefully in the process of it breaking originally the trigger itself didn't get damaged or that may need replacing also. The photo below shows a good, unbroken Colt hammer on the left and a Colt hammer with a broken half cock notch on the right.
Q. I've noticed the trigger guard a/o grip strap has become loose on my Colt, what's up with that?
A. It probably is loose. It's like magic! With use, the triggerguard screws and backstrap screws can easily loosen. This is why Colt started using the little red plastic washers on those screws but they really don't seem to always work that well. Your best bet is to get a good set of hollow ground screwdrivers, so you don't bugger the screw heads, and check the tightness of those screws occasionally. I would also suggest doing this rather than using any Loc-tite. On Italian clones be careful! The metal is not always hardened that well.
Q. What do you think of the "coil mainspring conversions" on clones and others that Ive heard about?
A. Coil springs, true coiled springs, seem to work just fine in the guns they're designed into. Ruger Vaqueros and Blackhawks and Winchester and Rossi leverguns for instance. But in MY opinion they are an answer to a non-existent problem. ANY spring can break and I honestly have never seen a broken Colt SAA mainspring. I'm sure it can happen but I've never seen it. I've encountered broken trigger/bolt springs but I change those out to Heinie "music wire" springs anyway and I custom grind the flat mainspring to get the feel I like. Not to mention they can take away from the natural feel of a Colt. After all, why design a COLT SAA clone and borrow from the design of a Ruger Vaquero? That's where the Colt Cowboy and Beretta Stampedes ran into problems IMHO. Me, personally, I wouldn't bother worrying about them.
Q. So you DO work on the Italian SAA clones? USFA's, AWA's, Armi San Marco's, Pietta's, etc?
A. Absolutely. I know that some people won't work on them, I understand that, as they can some times be more work than a Colt. They don't always feel the same as a real Colt, etc. This could lead to a possibly unsatisfied customer but I feel that everyone deserves a sweet feeling six-shooter! The clones can be fine handling guns, especially the USFA's, the latest batch of Great Western II's from EMF in California and most definitely, if you still have one, the now defunct, out of business Armi San Marco's. So yes, I welcome your business. I will make your clone, Remington, Colt conversion or cap and ball be "all that it can be". The few guns I don't work on are listed below.
Q. What about removing trigger creep and for that matter what IS trigger creep?
A. With respect to what called trigger creep.......trigger creep is when you finally settled your sights on a target and start to pull the trigger. You can actually feel it moving somewhat before it breaks and the hammer falls. The funny thing is that you'll rarely even feel this when the gun is stock as the springs are so heavy and the trigger pull weight so high you have to really squeeze and that travel isn't felt. But after everything is smoothed up and springs lighted it can occasionally rear it's ugly head. Sometimes there's none, I leave it be. Sometimes there's a little bit, I also leave that be. If as it is, sometimes horrible, I will then reduce the trigger creep. It's all a matter of safety to me. These aren't benchrest rifles we're working with here, there "Cowboy" six-shooters we "play" with and I don't like the idea of putting out a product with a hair or close to a hair trigger. Look at the picture below as it shows the hammer and trigger in the cocked position ready to fire. As you can imagine there's a bit of creep going to be evident here and removing it means making the notch/sear/step in the hammer shallower. I like a crisp trigger as much as the next guy, just not dangerously so.
Q. You adjusted my barrel for windage and it's shoots great now, BUT, the front sight is tilted to the left and looks weird now?
A. Yes, that IS weird, isn't it? One of the mysteries of life! It's amazing but that's just how they all end up. Colts, clones, Ruger Vaquero's, all of them. UNLESS they have an adjustable rear sight to compensate with like the "Frontier Model", when I turn the barrel to center the P.O.I. it will typically be tilted to the left. I've seen maybe 1 in 1000 where it may end straight up and down and shoot to center. I always figured those rare guns must have had their front sights soldered in crooked!! Sorry, I swear I didn't do it!
Q. You've mentioned and I've heard of an "early rising bolt". How can I tell if my gun has that problem?
A. An early rising bolt (cylinder stop?) on a Colt or a clone is a problem and it's one of the ways your gun is now not timed properly anymore. The gun will actually function fine but you may feel the bolt dragging on the cylinder AND it will always eventually scratch and even gouge the heck out of the finish and even the metal on the cylinder. It will usually get worse with use too. On a Ruger Vaquero or Blackhawk it designed to rise early, it's normal and can't be changed, but on a Colt it's not good. Typically you'll need a new bolt fitted to the gun, or maybe a new hammer cam installed, or with an Italian clone, a whole new hammer. Below for comparison are two pictures, the one on the left shows a properly rising bolt popped up right before the cyl notch in the scalloped lead in area, the one on the right shows a bolt starting to be a problem child, rising a little too early barely in the scalloped lead in and sometimes even BEFORE the scallop! I can of course fix this problem.
Q. I've heard the term "bad hammer cam" and "bad bolt". What are these issues?
A. That refers to the small (3/16" DIA) round boss or cam that's on the lower portion of the hammer on all Colts and it's many clones including cap and ball guns. This part operates the bolt (cyl stop?) dropping it down to allow cylinder rotation and at the proper time letting it pop back up to stop and lock the cylinder into battery for firing. If the cam goes bad it can cause the early rising bolt spoken of earlier, causing more issues. The cam itself can be pressed out and a new one pressed in on a Colt SAA but on all the Italian clones they are a cast boss on the hammer and the whole hammer will need to be replaced. The damaged cam is usually caused by being soft iself and the leg of the bolt that rides on it being to hard. It can actually cut a slice out of the cam causing the damage! You don't see this too much on Colts but on the Italian clones I've seen it fairly often. If I get the clones to work on before they've been fired too much I can stop this damage in it's tracks with the action job, or of course repair it if it's already happened. The photos below illustrate this situation. On the left is an Uberti Cimarron hammer that started to get destroyed by the leg of the bolt. You can actually see the flap of metal the bolt leg was cutting out of the cam. I was able to save this hammer as I caught it early. The picture on the right simply shows a typical bolt and the area of the leg that rides on the hammer cam and does that damage.
Q. What do your action jobs do, what exactly are they?
A. My action jobs are just that, ACTION jobs, they make your revolver's action (internal mechanism) function properly and cease to slowly grind themselves up internally. It makes it feel smooth as silk during the cocking stroke. This is common with Colts but way more so with the Italian replicas whose steel is of uncertain origin and their heat treating can be and usually is questionable. During this process they will become a lot easier to thumb cock and smoother to cock and fire. Trigger pull is typically 1.75 ~ 2lbs when I'm done and with less chance of something going wrong down the road, like an early rising bolt and possibly the hand gouging the ratchets at the rear of the cylinder. Or in the case of some Ubertis I've dealt with, the bolt leg actually cutting/gouging the hammer cam right off the hammer! And at this point I HAVE to mention these results can rarely be achieved by simply installing lighter "competition" spring kits commonly available into your gun. I've repaired quite a few failed action jobs that were done by other gunsmiths for just this reason. You may get lucky but an action job is a lot of precision work, changing the angle of some metal surfaces, polishing certain surfaces and NOT polishing some others! I honestly have corrected some other people's work where the action just wouldn't function properly, cylinder skipping, too light of hammer blows (unfired primers), dangerously light trigger pulls!! I must say that a Colt SAA must not have TOO light of an action, like as if there's no springs in the gun. It may feel good playing with it, but.....For proper functioning and firing their must be some tension in there. Reliability and Safety, key words! I still want the four "clicks" to be there... "C-O-L-T" ....the action must still feel "solid", "positive". My action job will make your gun feel better, more fun to shoot and last longer without any breakage issues (and help you shoot faster). "Smooth like butta"........
Gunsmithing related to the SAA's operation and basic troubleshooting
Q. Are there any guns you don't work on?
A. Yes, I stick the to Cowboy Action crowd pretty much. I do work on Glocks, 1911's, AR's, etc., for my local Law Enforcement guys but that's the exception to that rule. I will never again work on any Colt Thunderer or Lightning. They were a design that should have never been built. Neat guns, historical, but horrible to try and fix! I will not work on any more Armi San Marco (Cimarron) S&W Schofield clones either. Parts are no longer available and these guns were unfortunately "born" with some hefty design problems. Too bad because they were the most "accurate" clone to come out. The Uberti Schofields are still no problem. I don't like working on any shotguns other than honing and polishing chambers of break opens for better extraction and I'm not set up to do ANY rifle rebarrelling. I don't work on more modern revolvers of the double action variety. Obviously, if you're not sure, feel free to contact me and just ask.
Q. So how do I get my gun(s) to you and what's your turnaround time?
A. As far as shipping to me please check out the "shipping" link at the top of the page for instructions, hints and address. My turnaround time is currently running around 4 months.