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PH1400 Classic Arms Ethan Allen Pepperbox Pistol Kit Reviews
Product: PH1400 Classic Arms Ethan Allen Pepperbox Pistol Kit
From: Chris Burgin
Date: Friday 12 May, 2006
Review:

This is a fun kit to build. When assembled, you end up with a four-shot revolver, about 9" in length. As advertised, it is a double-action, but along with that comes a mighty trigger-pull. I quickly learned that this gun is intended to be fired by wrapping the forefinger around the trigger and pulling with the second-knuckle. You'll need fairly large hands and a strong trigger-finger for this. One thing I did not realize until assembly is that the barrel has to be hand-rotated between shots. Classic Arms calls this an "Ethan Allen" pepperbox, but the design of this gun is quite a bit different from the original 'Allen' models. Still, it is a fair approximation of the multitude of 'pepperbox' revolvers that were produced by various manufacturers in both the U.S. and Europe in the decades before the Civil War. As far as I know it is the only pepperbox-reproduction readily available today and you can't beat the price. My hat is off to Classic Arms for making this kit available.

Despite this praise, however, I am dinging Classic Arms a star in my rating as there were three parts in the kit which I found to be manufactured incorrectly (as opposed to needing finishing, more on that below). For starters the hole in the grip for the grip-screw was not countersunk deeply enough and I had to drill that out. Next, according to the instructions, an extra nipple, painted red, was supposed to be supplied with the kit and used for dry-fire testing the trigger/hammer before installing the four 'real' nipples. My kit included five nipples... but they all looked the same to me. Well, because of the reviews I read here of the nipples 'mushrooming' from the impact of the hammer, I heat-treated all five and so far they are holding up just fine. Lastly, the hole in the trigger that the trigger-pin passes through had too close a tolerance and the trigger held up... forcing me to pound the pin back out with a punch and use a small round file to enlarge the hole.

Other than these three correctable problems, however, for me the kit went together fairly easy and was pretty much ready to assemble straight out of the box. In my experience the universally despised grip is actually functional without serious reworking, so do not necessarily be dissuaded from getting this kit just because of the negative comments posted here regarding the grip. That being said, however, the grip feels and certainly looks better if it is taken down to a rounded shape like those on original pepperboxes. Over the course of several evenings in front of the t.v. I rasped the thing down to an acceptable shape. Probably took me a total of about 6 hours.

In my research I also noticed that four-shot pepperboxes tended to have deeply-fluted barrels, as opposed to the minimal fluting that this kit's barrel-cluster comes with. Ultimately I ended up grabbing my Dremel and a couple of grinding wheels and lengthening/deepening the grooves quite a bit. Elapsed this took me about another six hours (not including the frequent breaks to let the metal cool!) over the course of several days. With the Dremel I also ground down the forward edges of the trigger as otherwise the darned thing will try to amputate your finger when you pull it. Grinding the metal was followed by much sanding with a series of emory cloths.

To treat the exposed steel I used a plug-in electroplating kit to plate the barrel, hammer, trigger and triggerguard with nickel. The grip I coated with linseed oil. This finish-work took about another 6 hours... so all told I spent about 18 hours on the thing and must say that I am quite pleased with the result. In short, this kit requires at least a couple of hours of effort and basic hand tools such as files, rasps, sandpaper, emory cloth, pin-punches, a hammer, wrenches and screw-drivers. If you really want to go to town than you will need a Dremel and/or some product to blue/brown/plate the steel. The instructions that come with the kit are minimal, but adequate, as is the line-drawing exploded view showing all the parts of the kit and how they fit together.

If you want a pepperbox badly enough to build one, I'd highly recommend this kit.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars! [4 of 5 Stars!]

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PH1400 Classic Arms Ethan Allen Pepperbox Pistol Kit
Much more difficult than it appears. I have finally modified ..
3 of 5 Stars!

 

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