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American Handgunner Jul/Aug 2010 - Page 30
PISTOLSMITHING Alex Hamilton FAMCO’s “Colt” cylinders have made caliber conversions more affordable for the average shooter. THE INSIDE SCOOP ON PISTOLSMITHING TECHNIQUES CALIBER CONVERSIONS And A New Kid On The Block C aliber conversions have always been popular with shooters. The most popular conversion I would guess would be machining a .45 ACP cylinder for a .45 Colt or Ruger single action. There are other conversions, such as converting Blackhawks to .218 Bee, or .38 specials to shoot 9mm, and many more. These conversions, especially ones requiring machining a cylinder from scratch, such as a .30 carbine or an off-the-wall wildcat, are expensive. They start at around $1,100, so you gotta really want it. Simple conversions where the barrel does not have to be changed, like reaming a .357 cylinder to shoot .44 special in your .44-40, start at around $650 and go up rapidly. Most expensive caliber conversions do not add any real value to your revolver. When you spend $1,100 turning a .357 Magnum Ruger Blackhawk into a .44 WCF (.44-40) all you have is a Ruger Blackhawk chambered in 44 WCF. What you have for a possible future sale is a Ruger Blackhawk in .44 WCF worth what you originally paid. Ideally, what you want is to have your conversion completed the very cheapest way possible so you can have your fun and not have to worry about blowing your wife’s inheritance. Cheaper Is Good A FAMCO’s elegant Hi-Power frame and slide duo is made to tighter tolerances than factory. Alex wishes they made the Beavertail more upturned and elegant. new kid on the block, FAMCO — and hopefully a rising star in the firearms industry — will help you with your caliber conversions, and will do it for any revolver for a flat fee of $500. If you have a Ruger Vaquero or Blackhawk, any S&W, Taurus, or any other revolving contraption, Florida Arms Manufacturing Co. (FAMCO) headed up by Jim KinkopfPresident, Gared Von Benecke- VP, and Stan Meacham- VP of Manufacturing, will make the cylinder for you for $500. If you would hire me or another custom gunsmith to make a cylinder for your beloved revolver the cost will be around $1,100 and up. Either way, you gotta’ “really want” the conversion. All three FAMCO men have experience ranging from metallurgy, tool design, business, mechanical engineering, weapons engineering and firearms production. If you do not have an interest in caliber conversions, but would just like to replace a worn or damaged stainless, carbon steel or titanium cylinder, Florida Arms can make that for you too. Their fluted or non-fluted stainless steel cylinders are made from properly heat treated 17-4 PH stainless, a firearms industry standard, and their carbon steel ones cut from 4140 tool steel. Another product FAMCO creates is a “tight” frame and slide set for the Browning Hi-Power pistol. The set shown has a slide cut from 17-4 PH stainless and a receiver machined from 4140 tool steel. These major parts are manufactured from a solid piece of billet steel and machined on new, CNC machining centers to exacting, close tolerances. Original Hi-Power parts begin life as castings. As you can see, an extended beavertail is machined into the rear of the frame, which eliminates the infamous HiPower hammer bite. I personally do not like the shape of the FAMCO beavertail and would prefer it to be a little shorter and have a stylish upswing in the rear similar to the custom 1911 beavertail. When I weld a beavertail on a HP frame I always like to add a little style by sweeping it up in the rear and bringing it to a rounded point. nother area that should be improved is the front of the frame grip. The corners and front of the grip could use about .035" more metal so the grip could be checkered, fish-scaled or stippled without cutting through or denting the inside of the magwell. I have always thought, “If you are going to build an existing product design, you might as well make it better,” and although the John Browning’s Hi-Power is a near perfect pistol there is room for improvement. Today, these improvements are nothing more than simple program changes with very little cost, as opposed to making an extraordinarily expensive modification to a casting mold. All told, Jim, Gared and Stan of FAMCO are making high quality machined products for you and I that far exceed the quality of original equipment manufactured parts. Other FAMCO precision machined parts, such as AR-15 uppers and lowers, is a topic more suited to GUNS Magazine. More spiffy ideAs A * For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/productindex WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JULY/AUGUST2010 30