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Quisto56
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Ballard and Mecheam high wall
May 19th, 2005 at 3:36pm
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I have wondered what the difference in these 2 actions are and which   if one would have any advantage over the other in materials or workmanship. Is anyone winning with one more than the other 

Quisto56
  
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hst
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #1 - May 20th, 2005 at 2:52am
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Mr. Quisto56:

Both are good actions that will finish into a very nice rifle. The big difference between the two is that the Meacham is a Coil Spring action and the Ballard is a copy of the earlier flat spring action. 

The Meacham also has a through bolt butt stock attachment setup that is alleged to provide a more rigid union. This might fall under the heading of an elegant solution to a non existant problem, but it can't hurt.

Glenn
  
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Quisto56
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #2 - May 20th, 2005 at 4:40pm
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what would be the advantage of the coil spring over the flat spring  or is there any advantage
  
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JDSteele
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #3 - May 20th, 2005 at 11:38pm
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The Meacham also uses what is commonly called a Mann-Neidner or safety type firing pin, while the Ballard uses the original Winchester style. IMO this is an example of what Jeff Cooper once called a questionable solution to a nonexistent problem. P.O.Ackley said that he preferred the original leaf- or flat-spring action over the coil-spring type and he also recommended against the Mann-Neidner type firing pin.

I also believe that the Ballard uses the drawbolt buttstock attachment, as does the Meacham.

Please be advised that I have repaired several Ballard wall firing pins used in BPCRS competition. The Ballard pins were not absolutely correct dimensionally and were not heat treated properly IMO. At last report, the new 'top hat' firing pin repairs were still going strong after several thousand rounds.

I own & have used both flat- and coil-spring actions and much prefer the flat spring type. Because of that, and the fact that I also much prefer the original type firing pin, I like the Ballard much better and would use it in spite of the firing pin breakage problem. After all, a simple repair will take care of the firing pin.

But, like the madam said to the Bishop, "You pay your money and you take your choice." My preferences are just that, strictly my own opinion based on subjective things. Either action will do you a great job IMO.
Good luck, Joe
  
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #4 - May 21st, 2005 at 8:28am
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Quote:
he also recommended against the Mann-Neidner type firing pin


I remember reading a reprint from the early 1900s about the then new firing pin conversion.  I recall it was developed by Mann.  Given the advances in primers and steel, it may not be as useful as it was then, but there's little doubt in my mind that the Mann conversion was and is safer.  Whether it's overkill today, each purchaser must decide.   

One advantage to the Meacham (in my mind) is the option for an inertia firing pin.  With the hammer down on a live round, there is very little chance of an accidental discharge with this arrangement. Only of concern for hunters who stalk, it may be worth considering.

The flat spring was a remarkably clever solution, allowing many functions to be done with a single spring.  The few I've handled, including a Ballard, seemed stiffer to me than the coil spring jobs, but others with more experience with these actions say this isn't so.
  

Karl
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Green_Frog
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #5 - May 21st, 2005 at 9:00am
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Just a random thought, but I find a coil spring action a lot more difficult to assemble than a flat spring action, and if you are shooting BP with it, you will want to disassemble the rifle (at least take out the block and hammer assembly which is where the reassembly problem arises) periodically to remove the fouling that inevitably accumulates down in the action.   

     I seem to recall that the Meacham action is longer in the barrel tang than the original, but I can't remember why...it could be that it would be a good start on making the takedown action which must be coil spring operated for practicality's sake.  BTW, when taken down, all of the field stripping problems in the preceding paragraph seem to diminish, but the assembly of the block, hammer and coil spring is still a task!  As with all things, YMMV and this is just IMLE.  8)

HTH, Froggie
  
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PETE
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #6 - May 21st, 2005 at 9:09am
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The Mann-Neidner firing pin can be necessary in some of the old guns that have worn pin holes or firing pins.

  What can easily happen is with even normal pressures the primer can flow around the firing pin, as those shooting smokeless in BP era guns can attest to. I have a coupla BP era Walls with large firing pin holes and every once in a while you can feel the pin pop back as it drags out & over the fired primer.

  Two things can happen here. The primer can burst, and if there is no vent hole drilled on top of the receiver the shooter gets a blast of gas back in the face. Worst case scenario is if enuf pressure is released to break the little screw holding the firing pin in and it gets blown back out of the gun. The second thing is the primer can flow around the firing pin preventing you from opening the action. You either have to break the firing pin or disassemble the gun. I had this happen once. Forget exactly how my gunsmith got it taken care of, but it did end the days shooting!

  Of course the firing pin hole can be bushed and a new smaller diam. firing pin installed, and a vent hole can be drilled to vent gases from a ruptured primer if not already in the breech block.

  The Mann-Neidner assembly cures the oversize primer hole of course by providing a smaller diam. pin for smokeless powders and is spring loaded to pull the pin back as the lever is dropped.

  In todays world, what with non-corrosive primers and powders, and the toughness of the primer cups the Mann-Neidner might not be really necessary, but in the days when it was introduced it was considered quite useful. Broken firing pins were not uncommon in fouled or rusted actions.

  As for coil vs flat spring. I've got both and I think it's just a matter of personal preference. I like the flat springs because they "load" better and don't seem to have as much system vibration after the hammer is dropped.

PETE
  
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JDSteele
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #7 - May 21st, 2005 at 11:19am
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The original reason for the firing pin conversion was, indeed, due to the old soft primer cups along with the oversize firing pin holes. Remington brought out the # 7 1/2 primer because the old 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 primer cups were cratering and blowing with the new smokeless powders in the Hornet, 222 and 223. Today this is no longer a consideration, especially with the Meacham and Ballard small firing pin noses and holes. Even in an old original, a simple bushing and timing job will solve all problems.

Ackley's specific objection to the Mann-Neidner conversion was against the floating firing pin used in some of them. A floating firing pin in a high-pressure application is an invitation to a pierced primer and possibly worse. It's OK with cartridges below about 40K psi but will blow primers with loads much over 45-50K psi.

He also was well aware of the need for a firing pin retractor in most Win wall actions, and the Mann-Neidner has none. The pronounced 'over-center' toggle action of the lever-to-block linkage means that, upon opening, the block usually moves before the hammer spring tension is relaxed. This sometimes results in the firing pin nose sticking in the primer and breaking.

This over-center toggle action has been described and measured in my past articles in the Journal a year or two ago, a title like 'Tight-Breeching the Winchester Single Shot' or similar. By reducing the over-travel, the chances of a broken firing pin are greatly reduced since the retractor now has a chance to work before the block moves.

Of course the Mann-Neidner has no retractor so it's dependent upon perfect ammo for reliable operation. Perfect ammo is a lot easier to ensure today than it was 100 years ago, but I still much prefer a retractor and a properly-timed action.

My personal bottom line: A) no floating firing pin in a rifle, B) a firing pin retractor in all single shot rifles, C) snug-fitting polished firing pin noses, and D) all actions to be properly timed. Action timing is another subject, too lengthy to be detailed on this thread.

Other reasons for my preference for the flat-spring action: A) easier to load because of the two positions of the opened breechblock (fully opened & 'relaxed'), B) as Frog said, easier assembly/disassembly, and C) the mainspring tension is adjustable in several ways. All in all there's no hesitation for my choice but as always, YMMV.
Good luck whichever you choose, Joe
  
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PETE
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #8 - May 21st, 2005 at 8:06pm
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Joe,

  I'll have to respectfully disagree with you about the Man-Neidner firing pin not having an retractor spring as part of it's assembly. John Campbells first vol. on the Winchester SS, page 74,  shows a spring as part of the assembly with the clear statement that the spring should be in front of the assembly instead of the rear as shown in the photo, thus pulling the firing pin back as the hammer is moved back when the lever is dropped. This is the assembly my gunsmith made for one of my Walls. My purpose at the time was to see if there was an advantage and was installed on a breech block with grossly over-sized pin hole that would show primer extrusion even with very mild loads such as we use in SS competition.

  The Mann-Neidner pin was also made so that it would have been almost impossible to blow out of the breech block. As such it was perceived by the high pressure wild-cat cartridge shooters of the day as being necessary, considering their guns were usually re-barreled for these cartridges.

  Possibly there are more than one version of the Mann-Neidner firing pin but the illustration in Campbell's book is the only way I've seen several drawings and pictures of it.

  I will certainly agree with you that a properly timed action with any of the standard Winchester chamberings was perfectly safe with any sane/safe loads. But, as you know, many of these guns were re-barreled to cartridges well in excess of any loads the Winchester chambered these gun for. Even at that many of these guns will have original firing pins still in them showing that the Mann-Neidner assembly wasn't really needed after all. It's main appeal to me was in reducing the size of the firing pin and it's hole in the breech block making it more suitable for modern smokeless powders and primers.

PETE
  
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JDSteele
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #9 - May 21st, 2005 at 9:12pm
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Pete, I guess I wasn't very clear about the retractor. IMO a spring is not an adequate retractor in some cases, and so I never think of it as being one. When I say retractor I mean a mechanical one, one where either the firing pin itself is retracted very positively via mechanical means or else something breaks.

The original John Browning design and later Winchester adaptation is a good example of this positive retraction and, when combined with a small-&-snugly-fitting firing pin nose, is perfectly adequate for any load the brass and primer cup will stand. In the past I've repeatedly loaded my high wall test mules to pressures which expand the primer pockets rather dramatically, just to establish the do-not-approach limits with a particular wildcat and brass. No pressure-related problems
at all as long as the action is timed properly.

I'm not saying that the Mann-Neidner is A Bad Thing, of course it's not. I am saying, however, that IMO it's completely unnecessary and in fact is not q-q-i-i-t-t-e as good as a properly-timed and -fitted original style. If I had a rifle with the M-N conversion I'm sure I'd leave it alone if the conversion was done properly. But I'd go to some lengths to avoid doing the conversion in the first place.
Cheers, Joe
  
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KWK
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #10 - May 22nd, 2005 at 12:32am
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JDSteele, you make a good case for the original pins.  In so doing, you noted a few I issues I've wondered about.

You mention what I read in one of de Haas's books, that over about 40 ksi, the primer needs to be supported lest it burst. (An aside: you mentioned a "floating pin". By this do you mean what is also called an "inertia pin"?) It seems to me a hammer or striker can offer to the primer maybe 5 ksi of support at best, so it's not obvious to me how it can prevent rupture with 50 ksi on the other side. I trust you've seen this, but I just don't understand the "why."

Many classic single shots depend on a simple retraction spring. If I understand what you're saying, even with a proper fit between the firing pin and its hole, the primer can get enough grab on the pin to keep the spring from retracting it?  Is this dependent on cartridge pressure or on primer or on both?

You also mentioned the old guns had really sloppy fits between the pin and its hole.  I've been studying some patent drawings and I see some very simple actions which pretty much require a very loose fit.  With modern primers in very low pressure cartridges, such as the .44-40, do you think there'd be any danger of flow back of the primer?

Lastly, no real arguments from me here.  I don't consider myself all that knowledgable on these topics, but I do wish to learn.

  Karl

-----------------------------------------------------------

I've thought this afternoon about how the pin might support the primer.  I had been considering only the forward push on the primer from the hammer spring, but the primer indentation is round.  The cartridge pressures will press on the sides of this indentation, and keeping the pin in the indentation must help resist this.  Perhaps if the pin's surface is not smooth, the primer might even grip it some.

« Last Edit: May 22nd, 2005 at 8:40am by KWK »  

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DonH
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #11 - May 22nd, 2005 at 7:55am
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In the matter of "flat spring v. coil spring", wasn't the change to coil spring due as much (or more) to facilitate a take-down arrangement as it was to better functioning  than the flat spring?
  
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PETE
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #12 - May 22nd, 2005 at 12:20pm
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Joe,

  I certainly agree with you that the Mann-Neidner arrngement is probably not really necessary in a properly fitted and time action with current components available to us today. But, as you know there aren't many of either around unless they're in collector grade. Since I don't deal in high grade guns I don't recall ever seeing a Wall action that the firing pin hole wasn't enlarged, and very few that were timed properly. All, I'm sure, just due to a lot of wear.

  IMO opinion this was why a lot of the Walls had the Mann-Neidner firing pins installed. Certainly corrosive primers and the early highly corrosive and fouling smokeless powders would make any help in retracting the firing pin an asset. With the powders and primers we have today a bushing and small diam. pin would be all that's needed.

  Again, IMO, I always get a kick out of these latter day experts who didn't have to try and work around the conditions the old timers had to when coming from the BP era to the smokeless powders we use today. They always have some snide remarks to make about how crude, or ineffective their efforts were. At the time the Mann-Neidner pin was brought out many of the experts of the day thought it to be a definite advantage. Only with hind sight and modern components can we say it MIGHT not have been a necessary item. But we can't even say that as we don't have the components they had to prove otherwise.

PETE
  
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JDSteele
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #13 - May 22nd, 2005 at 6:35pm
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DonH, I personally believe you're correct about the development of the coil spring being pursued to facilitate the takedown feature. The actual lock time may even be a little slower with the coil spring vs the 2nd-model flat spring, I've heard that opinion in the past.

Pete, I agree about the origin of the Mann-Neidner conversion. From what I've read, a blown or severely cratered primer was a common occurence with the old soft primer cups, sloppy fits and early smokeless powders. These guys HAD to be concerned with the gas-handling properties of their rifles, and the Mann-Neidner conversion proved it would positively prevent gas blow-by back into the shooter's face. It wasn't until around WW2 that John Buhmiller established the actual upper limit of the high wall's strength and gas-handling abilities with the original design, and the earlier smiths quite naturally tended to err on the side of caution.

I also believe that Winchester altered Browning's original design intent by increasing the over-travel that's built into the linkage dimensions, thereby ensuring that none of their actions would be what I call properly timed. Some amount of overtravel is necessary in any toggle linkage so that it locks up solidly and doesn't open under pressure, but I believe Winchester intentionally made SURE theirs had enough overtravel!

Karl, my definition of a floating firing pin is a pin that's too short to reach the primer when the hammer is fully down, a perfect example is the Colt Government Model 45. When provided with a retraction spring it's known as an inertia pin because it relies upon inertia to be able to strike the primer against the resistance of the spring. This was Ackley's major objection to the M-N type conversion, the fact that some conversions used inertia or floating pins that allowed the primer cups to blow.

I first encountered this phenomenon while using the then-new Armalite AR-180 5.56/223 back in the '60s. My very early model had a very strong f/p retractor spring, it was actually strong enough to force the firing pin to the rear against the pressure of the hammer spring. This allowed the primer indentation to be forced to the rear, into the firing pin hole, causing that portion of the primer cup to 'disc' or break out around the edges. The resulting disc was pushed back into the f/p hole and jammed the f/p when the next shot was fired.

My ammo obviously had primer cups that were too soft to stand an unsupported f/p hole. I cut two turns off the retractor spring and changed ammo, no more problem.

To give a little more background, I've been rebuilding single shot rifles and SA Colts since the late '60s and over the years have encountered just about every example of ill-fitting parts that you can imagine. When pressures are below ~20K psi as in the 44-40, 45 Colt, 38 Special, 44 Special, etc, I dont really worry too much about f/p fit since I've seldom had a primer even crater enough to prevent OK functioning, much less blow out. However the noticably higher pressure (~35-40K) loads in cartridges like the 30-30, 30-40, 357 Magnum, 25-20 High Speed etc require a snugger fit for the f/p nose to prevent cratering and its resultant malfunctioning, or even primer rupture in extreme cases. These cartridges in my experience usually won't blow a primer even if unsupported, unless the f/p fit is GROSSLY loose or the f/p nose is rough or sharp.

In 25-20 walls I have found that a large f/p nose will allow the primer cup to actually push the f/p to the rear enough to cause discing/cratering, even when the large f/p nose is a snug fit in its hole and the mainspring tension is high. Also found the same thing in small Martinis when using cartridges with SR primers. Apparently or at least in my experience the small primers are much much worse in this area, almost demanding that they be bushed to a much smaller diameter while the LR primers can be used with f/p noses as large as 0.100" with few if any problems, again in my experience.

I personally have found that some unsupported primer cups will blow or disc beginning at ~45-50K according to my best SWAG. In my experience the SR cups are more prone to discing than the LR ones but both will do it. Now, I don't have any pressure-testing apparatus so those figures are merely SWAGs, but they should be pretty close.

Most of the old SS rifles I've worked on have had some sort of mechanical f/p retractor. Examples that come to mind are the Winchester, Borchardt, Ballard, Martini-Henry and Remington roller. The trapdoor Springfield does not, and that is a major design/safety flaw. Only one of my Whitney rollers had a retractor, but Whitney was a less-expensive knock-off of the Remington.

IMO Frank de Haas' books should be required reading for all single shot enthuiasts. There's more good solid info in just two of his books than in all my dozens of other single shot rifle books put together.
EZXs, Joe
  
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PETE
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Re: Ballard and Mecheam high wall
Reply #14 - May 22nd, 2005 at 7:21pm
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DonH & Joe,

  Been trying to recall where I read it, but if memory serves me there is actually a flat spring take down Win. 85 that was made.

Joe,

  I'm treading on thin ice here but would you think the over travel was designed in by Win. in order to be able to accomodate both CF and RF cartridges without a lot of extra machining? Seems I recall a conversation a long time ago suggesting this.

PETE
  
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