Frequently Asked Questions


What is the age of my pistol, and why is this important?

The quickest way to identify when the pistol was manufactured is to look for the Italian Proof Date Code.  The two-letter code is enclosed in a rectangle and typically on the right side of the pistol,  near the trigger guard, or behind the grip area.  We are not looking for the "PN."  Please reference the chart below.  If the percussion pistol was manufactured prior to 2002, we will request that it be sent in. Frames and parts are different in older percussion pistols. These slight differences may affect chamber alignment to the barrel and how the cylinder indexes.  Please call our office for more information.


What is Cowboy Ammo? 

Cowboy ammunition is loaded with lead bullets and either smokeless powder, black powder or black powder substitutes in a brass case.  We do not recommend using ammo with a muzzle velocity over 850 fps/12,000psi. 

A few manufacturers that make cowboy ammo:

  1. Powder River Cartridges.

  2. Black Hills

  3. Bone Orchard

  4. Fiocchi

  5. Ten-X

  6. Ultramax

  7. Winchester


Why can't I use Jacketed Ammo?

Jacketed ammunition exerts higher pressures than cowboy ammunition.  The barrel is designed for LEAD bullets only. The rifling in the barrel is deeper than a barrel designed to fire Jacketed ammunition.  Jacketed ammunition creates more pressure and is absorbed either by the firing pins/ferrules, the arbor pin and or the frame.


Can I dry fire my pistol? Can I use Snap caps?

We do not recommend dry firing.  A snap cap will absorb some of the impact, but we cannot guarantee that the firing pins will not peen over.  Should damage result from dry firing, replacement firing pins can be ordered here.



Why should I use a Hollow base bullet in my .36 percussion pistol?

To overcome the larger bore of the 1851/1861 & 1858 .36 revolver (.361), we recommend using the hollow base bullet.  A hollow base bullet will expand into the rifling and allow for more accuracy.  Kenny recommends using a 38Spl Hollow base wad cutter.

If you prefer not to have to use a hollow base bullet, lining the barrel would a better option.  Please refer to the question, "Is barrel lining necessary in my .36 percussion pistol?" See Barrel Lining service here.



Is barrel lining necessary in my .36 percussion pistol? Would I be able to shoot my cap and ball after lining the barrel?

The .36 barrel of the 1851/1861/1858 has a bore dimension of .361.  Any 38 caliber bullet is .357.  So how do you overcome the larger bore?  A simple solution would be to use a hollow base bullet, A BETTER option, would be, to line your barrel with .357 (Groove Diameter) .351 Bore diameter hammer forged barrel liner.  Lining the barrel would allow you shoot any Cowboy 38 caliber cartridge.  You can also still shoot with percussion cylinder. See Barrel Lining service here.


Will the conversion cylinder work in my Armi San Marco, Armi San Paolo, Colt, Connecticut Valley Arms, Colt, Euroarms, Haas, Lyman, or Navy Arms?

The conversions cylinders were built for the following manufacturers:  Pietta, Ruger, or Uberti.  If the pistol is manufactured by any of the manufacturers from above or one that is not listed, we strongly encourage you to call us.  We can discuss the possibility of building a custom cylinder for you.  Custom cylinders are $300 plus the cost of any replacement parts and shipping.  Please call for more information. Click here for the Howell Arms Work Form


Do you make a Gated Conversion Kit for 1860?

No we do not, however if you would like to be notified if we ever do produce a conversion cylinder, please email us to be added to the list.


Do you make a conversion cylinder for the Percussion 1873 Cattleman?

No we do not, however if you would like to be notified if we ever do produce a conversion cylinder, please email us to be added to the list.


Why does my gun need a fitting? How much does it cost?

Due to gun manufacturers variances, we sometimes have to fit a conversion cylinder to a pistol.  We always try to make any adjustments to our cylinder to make it work, however, because these pistols are hand assembled by people, the internal parts, such as the hands, or bolts may be modified. We will never alter a pistol without the customers approval.  Fittings are only $25.  Please keep in mind, if we must replace parts, or additional labor is required these costs are not included in the $25 fitting fee. Click here for the Howell Arms Work Form



Will the Reduced Pull Spring Kit damage my Thompson?

No, it will only reduce the amount of force needed to cock the Thompson.  The neoprene buffer will absorb the impact of the bolt.  The original Thompson used a phenolic & steel wafer to absorb the impact of the bolt. For more information about Reduced Pull Spring kit click here.