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Author Topic: "Howdah, Pardner!" Walker repro conversion...  (Read 781 times)

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Offline Tinker Pearce

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"Howdah, Pardner!" Walker repro conversion...
« on: March 16, 2019, 10:01:56 PM »
For those not familiar with the term, a 'Howdah' is a platform on the back of an elephant, and the well-heeled used to hunt tigers and other dangerous game from them.  Occasionally a critter, understandably cross with the hunters, would decide to join them in the Howdah. In the close quarters a rifle was unwieldy, so hunters adopted what were known as 'Howdah Pistols.'  these large-caliber weapons came in calibers ranging from .45 to 12-bore, and were most often double-barrelled.  A few years back I wondered, "What would a 19th Century American carry as a Howdah Pistol?"  Well, a revolver of course- and the most powerful available was the Colt-Walker. This was designed to fire a 210gr. Pickett Bullet over a charge of 60gr. of Black Powder. For comparison .45 Colt used a 250gr. bullet over 40 gr. of BP.

Since it was me it would need to be a cartridge conversion, of course. Kirst makes a .45 Colt cylinder-conversion for the Walker repros, but it seemed to me given the original loading there ought to be a more powerful cartridge than .45 Colt for this.  I was shortly told that I was not the first to envision a cartridge specifically for Walker conversions; .45BPM, .450-225-60, .45 Walker... it's been done a few times, generally using a Kirst cylinder bored out for the longer cartridge.  I was doing my own conversion on a Armi-San Marcos cylinder, and decided to go my own way. Since I was already making 200gr. heel-base bullets for .44 Colt I decided to do a straight-walled heel-base bullet. I based the casing on .303 British, cut at the shoulder and expanded to accept the .430" heel-base of the .451 diameter bullet.  The new casing would comfortably hold 55gr (by volume) of FFFG black powder under my heel-base bullet. This was, in effect, a 'stretched' .44 Colt. Following the naming conventions of the period I named the cartridge .44-55 Walker.  I originally loaded the cartridge with Trail Boss, and from my gun this was sending the 200gr. bullet downrange at 1150-1200fps for around 600ft./lbs. of energy.

I turned down the base of the ASM cylinder around the sprocket, bored the chambers through and reamed them to .454". I made a breech-ring with a loading-port and a rebounding firing-pin, which is mounted to the frame with screws.  The gun needed to be handy for it's intended use, and the 4-1/2lb. gun was definitely not that! I bobbed the barrel to 3-1/2", and though the gun still weighs 3-1/2lbs. it's much easier to maneuver. I fitted and refinished the grips, then stripped and rust-blued the barrel and cylinder. I mounted a front site and dubbed the result 'Thumper.'

It's a hoot to shoot with either Trail Boss or Black Powder. There's a definite jolt when it goes off, but the gun's weight takes any sting out of it. I now make the brass from annealed and resized .460 S&W brass; much easier than expending and resizing .303.


Offline Omnivore

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Re: "Howdah, Pardner!" Walker repro conversion...
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2019, 11:21:01 PM »
Very cool!  I like the monicker, 44-55 Walker too (no decimal point is needed because the number already indicates hundredths of an inch).  Have you chrono'ed it since the barrel was cut down?
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Offline Tinker Pearce

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Re: "Howdah, Pardner!" Walker repro conversion...
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2019, 12:26:46 AM »
Very cool!  I like the monicker, 44-55 Walker too (no decimal point is needed because the number already indicates hundredths of an inch).  Have you chrono'ed it since the barrel was cut down?

No, I had to extrapolate from data using similar cartridges in full-length guns. Penetration in kiln-dried Douglas Fir is comparable to a .44 Magnum 200gr LSWC load that makes 1200-1250fps. out of a 4" gun. Until I chrono it I'm just guessing, of course, but it's a reasonable guess.