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1884 safe to fire? Loose Cam Latch.

Posted by Ken on Sunday, 29 August 2010, at 9:09 p.m.

Boy am I glad to find a Trapdoor site! There's plenty of info out there about loading for them, but very little in regard to determining if they are safe to shoot! I think the last of the trapdoor gunsmiths died many years ago.

I hope you don't mind me just jumping in, but I wasn't having luck searching your board, probably because I'm unfamiliar with the gun, and don't know what to ask.

My family has had an 1884 trapdoor for longer than any living member can recall. It's been viewed as little more than a wall-hanger, until it came into my possession. I want to load BP for it, and shoot it! But what has me worried is the slop in the (hope I name these right) breech block hinge, and especially in the cam lock's shaft. I just had a chance to handle a friends 1873 in excellent condition. His breech block is snug. There is no play when shut, and when you open to about 45 degrees, there is barely any side-to-side wobble. My breech block, opened to 45 degrees, moves side-to-side an 8th of an inch! When I close the breech, it still wobbles side-to-side, just not nearly as much. But that's nothing compared to the cam latch. His lever that activates/unlocks the cam latch, is firm, with no real wobble, and when you shut the breech, it snaps firmly down into a recess cut in the wood stock. My cam latch shaft has tons of play, and since it does not "snap" down into the closed position, I thing my spring is shot. The lever itself seems to pivot in two holes: one hole located in a removable plate (which I think keeps the cam/shaft in place), the other is a hole bored directly in the breech block itself. The amount of play between the cam lock's shaft, and these holes, is ridiculous. Too many years of rapid, forceful slapping of that breech-opening lever? Egged out my holes? What I am noticing is that if I gently push down on the lever, like a strong new spring would do, the breech block settles in a bit better, and seems to lock up a bit tighter. I'm starting to think that the excessive play in my cam lock shaft, is translating that movement into a sloppy lock-up when the breech is closed. So priority one is to firm up that shaft?

So, the big questions are: 1: should I fix it? 2: can it be fixed safely?

The "should" question comes up since this is (everyone who's seen it, including re-enactors and a collector) say that it is original, and unmolested (should have asked them if it was safe to shoot, but it wasn't mine then). Still, it's "browned" and does not show any case-hardened colors on the outside, but the stock is original, and in great shape. Keeping it's collector value means little to me, since I'm not going to sell it. And if I'm keeping it, I'd like it to work, since I have no use for ornamental guns.

As to whether it can be fixed? I would think so, but I could see making some new parts, like maybe a new plate that holds the cam lock shaft, so that I could make the hole smaller and remove some of the play? I would imagine a new breech block hinge pin could be made (I'm a blacksmith, with some machining knowledge) if the old one is worn. Perhaps a shim could take up some of the slop in the breech block hinge?

Anyone have similar slop/wear? Does it even matter. I don't want my trap door to be a "jack in the box" when I pull the trigger.


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