Cap and Ball Sixguns: Old Technology, New World

Ammunition has been scarce in recent months and is likely to remain scarce for the foreseeable future. The first to be introduced were alarm guns and conventional defensive calibers such as .380, 9mm and .45, followed by .223/5.56. After the election, even shotguns are as scary as a chicken’s teeth. The leftists can’t clear the second amendment if the shooters can’t find ammunition. When Mahbub gave the gun to Ali Kim, it was fully loaded. What’s the use, said the genial Afghan, of loosening the gun?

Ammunition that is still available is often sold at a price that is less than the price. Paying a dollar a glass for Russian junk in steel cans is not a good thing to me, but what else can you do? The components of muscle loaders still exist in many parts of the country. Preloading long guns now compete with conventional cartridges in performance, accuracy and reliability.

What about weapons? Are hood and ball rollers that practical in today’s world?

My answer is a qualified yes. They are less comfortable, slower to charge and require more maintenance, but the good ones are more than acceptable in terms of accuracy. Power? The Colt’s 1847 Walker, fired with 60 grains of black powder and a 143-grain lead bullet, produces 396 pounds of muscle energy. A heavy, tapered ball and the same load increase the energy to 450 foot-pounds. It is similar to .357 Magnum and .40 S&W. The smaller .44 and .36 cartridges are similar to .44 Special and .38 Special. Walker (Matty Ross carried one in a True-Grit bag) was the most powerful revolver in the world until Smith and Wesson introduced the .357 Magnum in 1935. Almost as large and hardly less powerful than the various Colt Dragoons produced from 1848 to 1860. These mounted pistols were intended for use by mounted troops, carried in holsters on either side of the saddle. Few men would have bothered to put that much iron on their belts, although Clint Eastwood has been known to carry not one but two walkers like Josey Wales.

Eastwood’s film of bandits also featured a real belted pistol, as the army of the 1860s replaced the clumsy dragons. The Colt Army, also known as the .44, produced the same bullets as its big brothers, but used less powder. A load of 40 grains equates to about 300 feet of energy in a round bale. Remington’s army of 1858 is similar. Eastwood fans will remember him doing one in The Pale Rider.

1858 Remington .44 Army Both companies also produced ship’s revolvers in .36 caliber, which is roughly equivalent to today’s .38 caliber. They fire 25 or 30 grains of powder under an 80-grain bullet or a 130-grain bullet and produce about 200 pounds in the barrel. This weapon was favored by the redoubtable James Butler Wild Bill Hickok, who gloriously carried two hidden under his belt or strap.

1861 Colt .36 Navy and .31 Pocket Small calibers were always pocket pistols, sometimes in .36 caliber, but more often in .31 caliber. Josie Wales carried one in her breast pocket as a last resort. The .31 was usually loaded with a .323 bullet or a .32 #O bullet. 10 to 15 grains of powder produced 25 to 75 pounds of energy, about as much as a .22 short. Pocket pistols are less useful than their big brothers because their size and short range make them harder to fire accurately.

Belted guns, both .36 and .44, and big dragons are capable of surprising accuracy and often produce scattered shots up to 1 ¼ at 25 yards from a solid support. That’s more than enough to hunt. Navy is ideal for rabbits, squirrels, etc., but most conscientious sportsmen prefer a large caliber for deer. Unfortunately, most replica guns have a rudimentary sight that is difficult to see in low light and is not adjustable for wind or elevation. Those designed after the Colts are particularly defective, the mirror is nothing more than a notch on the front of the hammer. Some of the early Colts had a round face, similar to the bead on a shotgun, while others had a more pronounced blade. Revolvers of the Remington type have both a wider handlebar in the frame and a front handlebar. In many cases, the sights are too short for sporting use and send large groups.

Foals are more elegant, and many shooters find them more natural to handle and shoot. Others say that a Remington with a stronger top band has a stronger frame. The Remington mount can even be equipped with an adjustable rear viewfinder. While they may offend purists, these glasses are better suited for hunting and target shooting. For even more convenience, look for a stainless steel Remington target. The Ruger Old Army could be described as a Remington 1858 .44 on steroids. No longer in production and therefore quite expensive if you can find it, it was made of blued and stainless steel, with and without adjustable sight. A stainless steel Ruger with sight is my idea of the perfect cap and ball gun.

Your first revolver should have a full-length barrel (7½ or 8 inches). With longer barrels, the black powder burns more efficiently and the larger radius of the target makes it easier to aim accurately. If you can afford two guns from the same manufacturer, the second can be a short sheriff model.

The two best known Italian manufacturers are Uberti and Pietta. Even these sometimes need to be adjusted to get the best results. It is therefore necessary to be careful with the lesser known marks and to avoid the revolvers with brass carcasses. Soon they will relax on a regular regime of full power. Stay in line with Colt and Remington’s Dragons in the Civil War era, and you can’t go wrong.

Colt Patersons replicas and pocket models without a charging lever are less convenient. The lack of this feature is also a problem for Peacemaker only Uberti drums. The best solution is an independent press: Remove the cylinder, load it and reinstall it. Pietta Starr’s look-alikes are intriguing, but seem a bit problematic like the originals. I’d like to try one of the copies of the LeMat Pietta. With the 20-gauge barrel, the shotgun comes in a case with nine 44-gauge cartridges. Civil War riders like Jeb Stuart charged their blue whistles – one shot. Cost #4, 6 or 7-1/2 would be great for small game or snake hunting. Another tempting option is a revolver with a removable stock or even a rifle. B. A Remington Uberti from 1858.


Loading the six-shot pistol with the firing pin is as easy as possible. The above press could even be used on pistols with loading handles, but most shooters leave the revolver fully assembled. The empty gun can then be held in the hands or placed with the barrel upright in a stand that looks a bit like a wooden bookcase. A good practice is to pull one or two percussion caps on each nipple before loading to remove oil and dirt from the chamber.

In the age of percussion, fine black powder was the only possible choice. True black powder is explosive, not only flammable, but also leaves a lot of resinous residue. Many shooters prefer black powder replacements like Pyrodex or Triple 7. Depending on the manufacturer, the weapon may be marked Tri F, FFFg or P. Pyrodex is also available in 30-grain cylindrical bullets for .44/.45 caliber pistols. FFFFg powder designed to light flints can increase pressure. NEVER use smokeless powder: He turns your gun into a pipe bomb. They say the original Walkers burned through the cylinders with 60-degree loads, but that’s unlikely with modern replicas in good condition.

A measured charge of granules or powder is introduced into each chamber. You could use a bucket, but a bottle with a spring loaded cap makes life easier. A finger passes over the open mouthpiece, then turns the plunger and presses the lever so that the powder flows from the plunger into the mouthpiece. Release the lever and load. Screw-on nozzles of different lengths allow batches of different weights to be placed in the same bottle. Some shooters add a greased felt ball to the powder. The bullet or slug is then placed on top with the loading lever under the barrel. Made of soft, pure lead, free of tin and other alloys used in mid-fire. If a round bale is used, it should be slightly larger than the diameter of the chamber. The Navy’s .36 caliber revolver can have a bore up to .375, so a .380 bullet is recommended. Military .44 caliber, bore approximately .451, best with .454 to .457 bullets. Place the bale on the neck of the chamber and cylinder so that the bale is directly under the ram of the derrick. Pulling the lever should take some effort: When you receive the bullet, drop the lead ring.

This is important for several reasons. A tight fit allows for greater speed because the resulting gas cannot escape around the balloon. It also prevents chain fires where a spark from one room ignites charges in adjacent rooms. Note that this contrasts with the practice of muzzle-loading rifles, where the diameter of the bullet is smaller than the diameter of the bore. There, a tissue covers the space and blocks the incision in place. In contrast, conical turrets are cast with a bore diameter. You could use a hollow point ball that looks like a mini ball, but solid metal jacket balls are easier to throw. In any case, the exploding black powder hits the ball to fill the grooves. Bullet or bullet, it’s a good idea to fill a loaded chamber with a lubricant like Bore Butter, especially if you haven’t used a bullet between the powder and the bullet. In both cases, the grease increases the safety factor, improves performance and softens spilled powder for easier cleaning.

Percussion caps are simply copper capsules coated with a layer of pressure-sensitive material similar to that used in conventional primers. Use No. 10 or No. 11 closure plugs, depending on the size of the nipple. For small nipples, you can sometimes operate a little over 11s by squeezing lightly. They can fall off during recoil and cause misfiring, or a loose chain can cause the chain to fire from the back of the chamber. It is much better to place the cap on the nipple. If necessary, replace the nipples according to the size of the existing caps. I have an extra set of parts. Make sure you buy nipples that match the threads on the gun. The Pietta uses metric nipples (6m x .75m x .200″). Ubertis measures 12-28 x .200″, except Ubertis and Dragoons, which measure ¼ x 28 x .215. Ruger Old Army wires measure from 12 to 28 x .250 inches. Expect to pay between $12 and $40 for a set of six.

Each shock arm should be cleaned as soon as possible after the shot. Triple 7 may be a little less sophisticated in this regard than the old black powder or Pyrodex, but why take the risk? Here on the coast, residual moisture and acid salts can literally destroy a barrel. Stainless steel isn’t stainless either, just rust-free. Most shooters find the Remington model easier to disassemble and reassemble than the Colt-style.

If it is not possible to clear the field completely, at least remove the wooden claws before clearing. Use water-based solvents; black powder does not react to the same chemicals as modern smokeless powders. Many old school shooters use very hot water, with or without soap. Murphy’s Oil Soap is a favorite. Then rinsing with clear, preferably boiling water heats the metal so that it dries faster.   Once the piece has dried, assemble and lubricate it before storing. Another good habit is to clean or at least check for rust the next day.

There are many patented solvents and black powder cleaners that can be as good or better than traditional methods. After the recovery from the civil war, torrential rains fell on the camp. I had to put everything back in the car right away or I would end up in a sea of mud, so I sprayed foam on the barrel of my musket and drove off. Hundreds of miles later, I was relieved to discover that the new entanglement treatment had worked.

I wouldn’t hesitate to use a cap and ball cap when hunting, especially now that killing a buck or a rabbit is no longer a matter of life and death. Again, models with a belt are best suited for multi-purpose use. Walkers and dragons, because of their weight, are best suited to hunting sitting or standing.

Good percussion revolvers can be purchased for two to three hundred dollars and are always available online, shipped directly to your home with no paperwork in most jurisdictions. Just because federal law doesn’t treat them as firearms doesn’t mean you can carry them with impunity.

Cylinder for converting cartridges Conversion guns are also available for many rifles that allow them to fire low pressure cartridges, called cowboy cartridges because of their use in cowboy shootings. They are available in stores like Midway in the United States. They’re not cheap: You can pay almost as much for a converter as you can for an Italian-made revolver. To load, remove the drum from the frame and remove the rear section, which contains separate sticks for each room. When using conversion cylinders, .36 caliber revolvers generally take .38 long Colt and .44 .45 long Colt (not .45 ACP). Conversion cylinders are generally treated as part of the firearm and therefore shipped immediately unless purchased with a companion revolver. In this case, the weapon is considered a modern ammunition weapon and must go through an FFL.

The Colt Single Action Army of 1873 virtually outlived the percussion pistols. Colt used the remaining cartridges from the armies and fleets of the Civil War and produced similar cartridge conversions. Gunsmiths also rebuilt revolvers for individual owners. If they didn’t attach the loading pins and ejector rods, the shooters had to remove the cylinders to reload them, but even this was faster and easier than using the powder and bullet. During the Civil War, flammable cartridges were made of nitrided paper with gunpowder and pistol balls. They are (of course) loaded with gunpowder in the back and the bullet in the front. The paper is completely consumed during the burning process. You can buy them from Dixie or make them yourself at home.

In some parts of the country, revolvers with blanks are the only weapons available.   It would be comforting to have a loved one on hand if things go wrong at night: Many Boot Hill residents can attest to this. Conversion patterns are the best mousetraps. If such converters are not allowed in your home, fans out west may recall that Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef both replaced impact cylinders to stay in action. It’s not as fast as a 1911 tactical reload, but the first step to surviving a firefight is having a gun. It’s better to have four. Just ask Josie Wales.

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