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Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practical? (Read 2610 times)
Paul_F.
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Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practical?
Mar 17th, 2006 at 7:02pm
 
For a couple months, I've been looking at a "Stevens Ideal Model 44, .32 Long Rimfire" rifle listed by an on-line dealer I've bought from before.

I've been hankering after a .32-20 of some kind for a while, and this Stevens is in otherwise nice shape (not perfect, it has "character", but solid).

I'm wondering about converting the .32 Rimfire to a .32-20....
Is it practical? Possible?
Here are my "unknowns";
1) Bore dimensions of the .32 Rimfire... I can't find squat in any of my reference books about bore/groove/twist for a .32 Rimfire.

2) Chamber dimensions. Will a .32-20 reamer clean up a .32 Rimfire chamber without setting the barrel back?  Again, I can find no dimensions of the .32 Rimfire.

3) Firing pin and block modifications?  The machine work itself doesn't bother me.. but not having a rifle in hand to look at, I can't visualize if this is a "hard" job, or a straightforward one.

4) Action strength.. I probably should have numbered this "1". Obviously, if there is something about the Stevens 44's chambered in .32 Rimfire that makes them unsuitable for .32-20, that would be a deal breaker right there...

5) Last but not least; Ethics.
I would be permanently modifying a fine old rifle for a different cartridge. If it was a perfect and pristine example, I wouldn't consider it. Likewise, if the cartridge was widely available already, I wouldn't. But .32 Rimfire is not exactly common, and thus, as it is the rifle is a "safe queen" rather than something to take out as an ambassador of single shots, to interest and entertain not only ME, but others who might say "Say, what is that you're shooting?".

I don't know if the price ($750) is even worth it...


I'd appreciate any opinions, guidance, or even thoughtfully constructed ridicule Cheesy

Paul F.
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singleshot
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #1 - Mar 17th, 2006 at 8:08pm
 
Paul- #4 is the kicker here- The linkage of the action is all that supports the breech block of the 44, and it is just not stout enough for the 32-20. I know because I tried it! It may be OK with standard bullets and light loads, but 150 grainers and light loads quickly cause things to stretch.
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Willis Gregory, aka singleshot
 
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Paul_F.
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #2 - Mar 17th, 2006 at 8:55pm
 
Ah.. just what I was looking for...
Though not the answer I wanted to hear!

Hmm.. perhaps I can talk the price down, and have it lined for .22LR...

Ah well. I might have to follow through with any of my other 3 plans for a .32-20.

Thanks for the info!
Paul F.
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38_Cal
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #3 - Mar 17th, 2006 at 9:02pm
 
How 'bout 32 S&W?  Nice small game load in a rifle, short bullets to work with a slow twist, and very importantly, low pressure to keep the Stevens 44 honest.

David
Montezuma, IA
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David Kaiser
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Green_Frog
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #4 - Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:10pm
 
Paul,

     JMHO, but if I were going to that effort and expense, I would pick up a low-wall in similar condition for about that same money...that way I could build my .32 cf by simply bushing the block and changing the firing pin.  That action IS strong enough for the .32 S&W (original or long) or even the .32 H&R Mag (see many previous discussions  Wink ) or to go ahead and make your .32-20 as you wish.  This way you would also have the advantage of having a rifle with class, A 'WALL!  Grin

     If you have your heart set on that Stevens 44, however, I think the .22 LR route would be your best bet.  Several of the denizens of this board seem to be quite happy with their 44X.22s.  Just remember; as with all things, YMMV!!  Smiley

HTH,
Froggie

PS  IIRC, the groove diameter of the .32 rf was sometimes pretty large (.315 or so) and quite variable, and the twist was pretty slow, mandating the use of short fat bullets. Your performance with any of the .32 cf rounds is likely to be a little less than inspiring.   Undecided
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Paul_F.
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #5 - Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:06pm
 
Green Frog;

Ah, yet more reasons to not consider the idea...

I haven't seen any Low Walls in quite the same condition and price range yet.. but I've only been looking seriously at single shots for a couple years.
If I can keep my patience under control, I'm sure I'll turn one up. Or buy something else first and not have any money when the right one turns up...

Paul F.
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40_Rod
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #6 - Mar 18th, 2006 at 8:18am
 
How bout rebarreling it for a 25-20. As far as modifying it to shoot centerfire. Rifles were made to be shot. Unless this is a meseum quality piece or important in some other way go ahead and make it work. As long as the work is in keeping with the period.

40 Rod
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leadball
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #7 - Mar 18th, 2006 at 9:31am
 
Paul_F
         I've had rifles in both these calibers [32 Long--32/20] neither will shoot with any real accuracy. The 32/20 can very easily be loaded far above the pressure limits of the 44 Stevens. The Stevens Co chambered the 44 in 22 Hornet for about two years and quickly discontinued the chambering because the action would shoot loose very quickly. I happened to see one of these 22 Hornet Stevens at the OGCA show last week--their somewhat rare. The OGCA has loads of singleshots for sale at every show that you would probably find more suitable for your needs than this project,in the same price range.   leadball
PS    I'm also a Paul_F
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Green_Frog
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #8 - Mar 18th, 2006 at 10:57am
 
Paul, I would recommend against the .25/20 (wcf or ss) for the same reasons ... pressure.  I have seen a couple of factory low-walls whose frames had been stretched from extended use of .25-20 wcf.  Cry  I would be most careful of that caliber in even a low-wall and am building mine in ss in the hope that the smaller head will provide a little less total back thrust.  I wouldn't even think of using that 44 in that way. 

I'm a little surprised though that Dale53 hasn't chimed in to extoll the virtues of a Bentz chambered .22 lr for that 44.  That is a combo he and I have discussed at length and which I know he has built with considerable success.  Wink

As for an affordable low-wall project gun, drop me a line off board (gfrog53ATyahoo.com) and I might be able to hook you up.  Got anything interesting to trade?   Grin

Froggie
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Bent_Ramrod
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #9 - Mar 18th, 2006 at 1:05pm
 
Paul_F:

The .32 Long round had a bullet the same size as the case.  The only examples I have are the Navy Arms stuff made in Brazil, which mikes about 0.312".  Barrels can go down to 0.308" (I have a Marlin Ballard of this size) and I've heard they can go up to 0.316" sometimes.  You ought to check barrel diameter  before going further in your plans with this project.  According to Grant, the .32RF had a twist of 20".  Depending on manufacturer, .32-20's went from 16" to 20" to 24" in twist, so you should be all right, unless you really want to go up to 150 gr or so for silhouette shooting.

I pulled some fired .32RF cases out of my brass recycle can that had been fired in a Stevens Favorite and found they'd expanded to 0.320" diameter.  According to COTW, the rear portion of a .32-20 cartridge is 0.354" OD and the front after the slight bottleneck is 0.327" so a rechambering ought to clean out the old chamber.

The Stevens 44 was originally offered in calibers up to .38-55, including the .32-20.  I have specimens in .32-35, .22WCF (relined), .32-40(rebarreled) and  .25-20WCF (set back and rechambered).  With sensible loads at blackpowder pressures, they will hold together quite well.  High-speed jacketed or lead loadings, including factory rounds, will loosen up the linkage in short order.  With sufficient use, of course, they will all need a rebuild of new pins and maybe link eventually.  This linkage can be bolstered up by soldering a pair of projections onto the top of the lever over the holes for the link pin.  With judicious filing, these projections can be fitted to slide under the breechblock when the lever is closed, causing the lever pin and the frame to bear some of the thrust of the cartridge rather than the block pin, link pins and rear of frame only.  This will not make a 44-1/2 out of your 44, but it will eliminate any tendency of the linkage to get loose with extensive use of standard loadings.  I've done this mod to all but one of my 44-size rifles and to a couple of my Favorites. 

Whether this mod destroys the "originality" of the rifle is sort of a tricky question, as the lever extension to prop the breechblock was shown in the drawing in the original patent specification and sometimes was used in the Side Plate rifle.  Both the extension and the side plate were lost in the redesign,probably for cost considerations.  Dutcher had a good article on this in The Gun Report, Feb. 1992.  My rifles are all pretty minus on finish, and I buy them to shoot, so I don't have any particular problems with this modification.  The work I do adds value to the clunkers I fix up, rather than detracting from their collector status.

Your change of the firing pin from rim to center fire would require drilling the firing hole through and bushing the breech block.  I can't remember offhand whether the Stevens RF firing pin had the tip offset or whether it was made concentric with the body and the firing pin hole offset.  The latter situation would complicate your switchover some, but it wouldn't be impossible.  All it takes is lots of time and tons of money, like everything else. Smiley

If you really have a nicely original rifle (and the price asked suggests this), I believe there are still stocks of the Navy Arms Brazilian .32 RF available, although I think they've stopped importing it and the price is climbing.
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marlinguy
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but they sure are neater!

Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #10 - Mar 18th, 2006 at 4:35pm
 
I'll agree that the 44 action is a weaker action than the 44 1/2, and it can shoot loose after many rounds of hot .32-20's. With that said, I own, and have owned a number of 44's in that caliber, and hotter calibers, and have yet to have one that was tight when I bought it, ever begin to show signs of shooting loose.
I don't shoot factory loads in mine, and I do shoot only cast lead bullets. I think if you decided to convert your gun to .32-20, and kept your loads to a reasonable pressure range, I don't think you'd ever shoot it loose.
Heck, I owned one in .44-40 for years, and never had it loosen up.
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Dale53
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Re: Convert Stevens 44 .32RF into .32-20? Practica
Reply #11 - Mar 19th, 2006 at 1:01am
 
I heard my name being paged Roll Eyes (by the Frog). My suggestion for the Stevens 44 is to convert it to a .22 long rifle rimfire. The rolling action of the breechblock is ideal for a full match chamber. I have one I converted from .25 rimfire that has had several cases of .22's thru it without a single problem. It shoots "x" ring all day long, also. The Stevens 44 action is a FINE action for the .22 rimfire. I do NOT care for it in a centerfire cartridge simply due to lack of strength.

I have serious reservations about spending any serious money on a weak action chambered for a centerfire cartridge. Even if you "obey the rules" sure as shootin' the next person to acquire it will NOT. We don't need accidents in the shooting sports. Save your centerfire projects for strong actions (Stevens 44, Winchester High Walls, Ruger #1 & #3, Sharps-borchardts and the like. It has been suggested that I am overly conservative but I still have all my fingers and eyes (and I LIKE that Grin).

YMMV
Dale53
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