The new Uberti 1872 Open Top is a classic beauty that faithfully replicates the old school Richards/Mason conversion revolver.
Shooters today tend to take for granted self-contained metallic cartridges that combine the primer, powder and projectile into one unit that is easy to load and handle. But when they first appeared, they were a gigantic advancement over the time-consuming process of stuffing powder, wad and ball into a barrel and then adding a cap to set it all off.
The first practical metallic cartridge revolvers developed by Colt were introduced in 1871. A Colt engineer named Richards designed a system to allow old cap and ball revolvers to fire the newfangled metallic cartridges. Modified guns were called Colt Richards conversions and had a new breech plate, firing pin, rear sight, ejector rod and usually a new cylinder.
Then another Colt engineer named Mason made some improvements, which included mounting a firing pin on the hammer. By this time though, all the old cap and ball barrels that were fitted with a loading rammer had been used up, so new barrels were used that did not have the rammer recess. These newer modified guns were called Richards/Mason conversions.
There were mainly three calibers or cartridges used for conversions. They were the .38 rimfire, .38 centerfire and the .44 Colt centerfire, with the most well known probably being the .38 Colt. It used a heel-type bullet – similar in appearance to the bullets used in .22 rimfire ammunition today – with 130- to 150-grain projectiles and a diameter of about .375 to .380 inch. Eventually, the round was modified and became the .38 Long Colt with a .357-caliber bullet of about 150 grains.
For testing, Uberti sent a Model 1872 Open Top revolver chambered in .38 Special, which is representative of a Richards/Mason conversion. It does not have need of a breech plate to fill the gap between the breech and the back of the cylinder, and a barrel representing one of new manufacture for the period is used. This gun is nevertheless a nearly accurate replica of a revolver that was used in the Old West.
When single-action revolvers were common, shooters knew how to carry them to prevent a discharge if they were dropped and the hammer was driven forward to strike the primer of a cartridge. It was simple. Carry the revolver with an empty chamber beneath the hammer. Yeah, the gun is a six-shooter, but it was safer to carry only five rounds if the gun wasn't going to be fired immediately after loading.
Accomplishing this is actually pretty simple. First, pull the hammer back to the half-cock position. This frees the cylinder to turn clockwise when viewed from the rear. Open the loading gate on the right side of the revolver and drop a cartridge into the exposed chamber. Rotate the cylinder clockwise, past the next empty chamber, to the second empty chamber. Then load a cartridge and continue rotating the cylinder clockwise putting a round into each of the next three chambers. Now there are five rounds in the cylinder. Close the loading gate while keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction.
The test 1872 Open Top was nicely finished and well fitted. The 7.5-inch barrel as well as the cylinder, trigger guard, ejector, ejector rod housing, and grip frame were nicely polished and blued. The recoil shield, loading gate and hammer were attractively color case hardened, and the front blade sight appears to be made of brass. Stocks, or grip panels, were of dark-stained walnut with a gloss finish.
Takedown for cleaning is simple but does require a screwdriver, hammer and drift. After making sure the gun is unloaded, the hammer should be half cocked. Then, the retention screw for the barrel wedge on the left side of the barrel should be turned about 1/4 turn so the flat allows the wedge to be removed by gently tapping it out from the right side. Next, the barrel assembly can be removed from the frame. That may require gently tapping with a soft hammer because the fit is tight, as it should be. Then the cylinder may be pulled forward and separated from the frame.
For more information, visit Uberti.com or contact Stoeger Industries at 800-264-4962.
UBERTI 1872 OPEN TOP
Load Velocity (fps) Average (in) Best (in.)
American Eagle 130 FMJ 876 .67 .64
Black Hills 148 HBWC 691 .70 .63
Hornady 110 Critical Defense 1,004 .72 .69
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second 15 feet from the muzzle by chronograph, and accuracy in inches for three five-shot groups at 7 yards.
Caliber: .38 Special
Barrel Length: 7.5 in.
Overall Length: 13 1/4 in.
Weight: 44 oz.
Sights: Fixed rear notch and front blade
Action: Single action
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