Cimarron’s Richards-Mason Conversion Revolver
by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

 

 

 

Around 130 years ago, the center fire revolver cartridge was coming on strong. With the expiration of the Rollin White patent held by Smith & Wesson, Colt and other gun makers were quickly introducing new revolvers with bored-through cylinders allowing the use of metallic cartridges in their handguns, resulting in a major improvement in the ability to rapidly load a six-shooter with ready made center fire and rimfire cartridges.

One of the most popular cartridges revolvers at that time was the Colt conversion of the percussion Model 1860 Army to fire metallic cartridges.  Colt employees Charles B. Richards and William Mason had been granted patents for the conversion of the percussion revolvers, which were readily accepted by shooters of that era. Even after the introduction of the legendary Colt Model P, better known as the Single Action Army, the Richards-Mason conversion revolvers remained popular, due in part to their much lower cost. Although popular at the time, were it not for the growing sport of Cowboy Action Shooting some 120 years later, we most likely would have never seen the reintroduction of the Richards-Mason revolvers.

With the Cowboy Action Shooting crowd, there is a constant demand for authentic equipment and accoutrements relating to the period of the old West. These shooters seek to emulate the clothing, tools, and certainly the guns of the frontiersmen of the late nineteenth century. Shooters of those days, just as in modern times, carried a wide variety of handguns, in spite of what most Western movies have led us to believe.

To satisfy the cravings of Cowboy Action Shooters, and others who enjoy the guns of the old West, Cimarron Firearms Company has introduced a replica of the Richards-Mason conversion revolvers. I recently received such a Cimarron revolver for evaluation, and that sixgun is the subject of this article. While Cimarron offers this revolver in other calibers, mine was chambered for the old .44 Colt cartridge. Were it not for the Cowboy Action Shooters’ need for things authentic, this old cartridge would not exist. A six-shooter chambered for a modern cartridge, such as the .357 SIG, would be an abomination to any self-respecting shootist. The .44 Colt is a relic of the old West, having been out of production for decades. The original .44 Colt was one of a very few .44 center fire cartridges to actually use bullets of .44 caliber, throwing a 210 grain bullet of .444 diameter. Other American .44 cartridges use bullets closer to .43 inch diameter. Thankfully however, the Cimarron replica can use modern .44 bullets, having a barrel groove diameter of .430.

To obtain ammunition for shooting the Cimarron, I turned to the best source for sixgun brass cartridge cases...Starline (see article at Starline Brass). Starline is the only producer of .44 Colt cases known to me, and they also provide the widest range of high-quality handgun brass available, along with cases for many fine rifle cartridges. .44 Colt cases differ from the other popular .44 cases, such as the .44 Russian, Special, and Magnum, not only in length but also in rim diameter. The .44 Colt case having a smaller rim diameter, I found that the Dillon 550 shell plate for the .41 magnum worked perfectly for loading the .44 Colt cases. I used loading dies for the .44 Russian, but .44 Special dies should work as well. Having no loading data available for the .44 Colt, I used Hodgdon’s Cowboy Load data for the .44 Russian, and achieved satisfactory results by doing so.  The excellent groups shown were loaded using 250 grain semi-wadcutter cast bullets over a load of Unique powder. This load was not listed in a manual, so it will not be disclosed here, but it was one of the most accurate tested in this revolver. For shooters who do not load their own, .44 Colt ammo is available from Black Hills Ammunition.

I was genuinely surprised by the fine accuracy of this Cimarron sixgun. The rear sight on this revolver is a notch on the hammer as on the percussion Colt revolvers, and the original Richards-Mason  sixguns. I was expecting groups in the ballpark of 5 to 6 inches, but was pleasantly surprised in the ability of this gun to produce accuracy  better than most modern designs.

The Cimarron Richards-Mason .44 is a faithful reproduction of the original, with the addition of a hammer-block safety to allow the legal importation of the sixgun. This safety is screw-activated and very unobtrusive, and was ignored during test firing of the gun. The Cimarron can be carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber or with the firing pin resting between the cartridge rims as with the originals. The quality of fit and finish on the Cimarron is beautiful, with perfectly-fitted one-piece stocks, a naval battle scene roll engraved on the cylinder, and a deep blue-black finish, with a case hardened frame and hammer.

The disassembly of this sixgun is one of the easiest for cleaning and lubrication. The wedge retaining screw is turned slightly, the wedge tapped out, and the barrel and cylinder slid forward and off the frame.

The ejector rod rides in a cam-cut housing to allow for quick ejection of the empty cases. The action on this gun is very smooth and precise, with an excellent trigger pull of about four pounds.  All cases ejected smoothly with the ejector rod completely clearing the cases from the chambers.

For a Cowboy Action Shooter looking for something both different and authentic, or any sixgun lover wanting to shoot a replica of a fine revolver of the old West, I highly recommend the Cimarron Richards-Mason revolver. It is finely crafted out of superior materials, beautifully finished, surprisingly accurate, and affordable.

Check out the Richards-Mason conversion along with many other fine Cimarron revolvers, rifles, and leather online at: www.cimarron-firearms.com

It’s like taking a trip back in time.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.

 

The Cimarron Richards-Mason Conversion revolver is a very fine reproduction of the original Colt.

 

 

Carried in quality leather (such as this San Pedro "Slim Jim" rig), the Cimarron Richards-Mason Conversion would be an outstanding choice for Cowboy Action Shooting.

 

 

As can be seen here, the Cimarron exhibits quality workmanship in the precise machining of the loading gate, as well as the frame and "step-down" cylinder.

 

 

The authentic-style ejector rod with "bull's-eye" button rides in a cam-cut housing.

 

 

The beautifully-made one-piece stock is perfectly fitted to the grip frame. Cimarron's workmanship is second to none, and it is fine detailing such as this that separates Cimarron from the competition.

 

 

Frame markings are historically accurate, including the authentic "two line" patent marking. Legally-required Italian proof marks are cleverly hidden for authenticity. Cimarron's firearms are hard to tell from the originals!

 

 

The Cimarron Richards-Mason Conversion is easily disassembled. A quarter-turn of the screw allows the barrel wedge to be removed, and the barrel and cylinder slides forward off the frame.

 

 

The screw-actuated hammer safety is relatively unobtrusive and can be easily ignored, allowing the gun to function as God intended!

 

 

The sights of the Cimarron Richards-Mason Conversion revolver are also authentic, consisting of a rudimentary blade front sight and a hammer-notch rear sight. Author expected these sights to make the Cimarron an average performer at best, but...

 

 

The Cimarron proved to be far more accurate than expected, consistently producing groups such as the 1-1/4" 5-shot group shown at top and the 1-7/8" 10-shot group shown at bottom. Such accuracy would be the envy of most modern revolvers equipped with adjustable target sights!

 

 

The Shootist. Cimarron's quality and painstaking attention to historical detail are well-known, and we have long been admirers of Cimarron's products. Author was very impressed with the accuracy of the Richards-Mason Conversion, and highly recommends this gun to shooters looking for a fine six-shooter for Cowboy Action Shooting (or general plinking and packing) that is a bit different from the norm.