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Original Loads for Cap and Ball Revolvers

TheFebruary1975issueoftheAmericanRiflemanhasaninterestingarticleonwhatloadswereusedinCivilWar.36and.44
caliberpapercartridgesforColtrevolvers.NomentionismadeofRemingtonorothercapandballrevolverchargesbutthey
werelikelyidenticalornearlyso.Nogranulation(FFGorFFFG)isnotedinthearticle.Roundballsweregenerallynotusedin
papercartridges,butwereloadedloosely.Therewasasurprisingdisparityinbulletweightsandpowderchargesinpaper
combustiblecartridgesfortheColts,accordingtothearticle.
ConicalbulletsfortheColtM1860Army.44caliberrevolverrangedfrom207grs.to260grs.Powderchargesrangedfrom17
to36grainsofblackpowder.ConicalbulletsfortheColt.36Navyrangedfrom139to155grs.Chargesrangedfrom12to21
grains.Nearlyallofthesevariationsarefoundinprepared,papercartridgesmanufacturedbyprivatecontractors.Itappears
thatU.S.governmentarsenalsmadefewpaperrevolvercartridges,preferringtocontractthistask.
UnionArmyordnancemanualsof1861specifyaloadof30grsofpowderwitha.46caliber,216gr.conicalballinColtM1860
revolvers.Thesamemanualspecifiesa.39caliberconicalbulletof145grs.,over17grs.ofpowder.
AnofficialConfederateStatespublicationspecifiesa250gr.conicalbulletover30grs.ofpowderfortheColtM1860revolver.
TheConfederatespecificationfortheColtNavyisthesameastheUnion(.39caliberconicalof145grs.over17grs.powder).
Inthe1860sanaverageloadfortheColtM1860.44revolverwas25grs.ofpowderwitha146gr.(about460"diameter)
roundballoraconicalbulletofabout230grs.
TheaverageloadfortheColtNavywas15grs.ofpowderwithan81gr.(about.380"diameter)roundballoraconicalbulletof
about146grs.Oldloadingswilloccasionallylista218gr.conicalbulletwitha40to50gr.powdercharge.Thisisintendedfor
theColtModel1847WalkerorthelaterDragoons,whichhavealargercapacitythantheColtM1860.44revolver.
Ofgreatinterestinthisarticleistheapparentdissectionoforiginalpapercartridgesandtheweighingoftheirpowdercharge
andconicalballweight.

Theresultsfollow:
COLTARMY.44
HazardPowderCo.211gr.conical/36grs.powder
Bartholow's260gr.conical/19grs.powder
Johnston&Dow242gr.conical/35grs.powder
Unknown257gr.conical/17grs.powder
Unknown207gr.conical/22grs.powder
Hotchkiss207gr.conical/22grs.powder
COLTNAVY.36
HazardPowderCo.141gr.conical/21grs.powder
Bartholow's139gr.conical/14grs.powder
Johnston&Dow150gr.conical/17grs.powder
Unknown155gr.conical/12grs.powder
Unknown149gr.conical/13grs.powder

The2003DixieGunWorkscataloguerecommendsloadsverycloselyresemblingtheabove,butwithaball,notaconicalbullet.
All.36caliberrevolvers:.376inchballover22grs.FFFGblackpower.
.44RemingtonandColtoriginalgun:.453inchballover28grs.FFFGblackpowder
.44RemingtonandColtreproductions:.451inchballover28grs.FFFGblackpowder
Inmyownexperience,I'veobtainedthebestaccuracyinreproductiongunswithballsmeasuring.380inchinthe.36and.454
or.457inchinthe.44RemingtonandColt.Ihaveneverfiredanoriginalcapandballrevolver.

In"AHistoryoftheColtRevolverFrom1836to1940"byCharlesT.HavenandFrankE.Belden,theauthorslistload
recommendationslistedbyColtinthe1850sand1860s.
HavenandBeldennote,"FFGblackpowderisbestforthelargeandmediumsizerevolvers,andFFFGforthesmallpocket
models,butanygradethatisavailablewillworkreasonablywell."

Gatofeonotes:
Inmyownexperience,IuseFFFGinmy.31,.36and.44revolverswithfineaccuracy.Idon'tseemuchneedtouseFFGpowder
inthe.36and.44revolversifyoucangetFFFG.
Coltrecommendedthefollowing,morethan125yearsago:
1dram=27.3grains(grs.)
.44Dragoon:11/2dramsofblackpowder(41grs.)andaroundbulletof48tothepound(about146grs,whichcalculatesat
about.46caliber)oraconicalbulletof32tothepound(about219grains).
.44M1860ArmyPowderchargeabout1/3lessthantheDragoon,or27grains.Aconicalbulletof212grains(33tothe
pound)orthesameroundballusedintheDragoonabove(about.46caliberor146grs.weight).
.36M1851NavyPowderchargeof3/4ofadram(20grs.)andconicalbullet140grs.(50tothepound).Oraroundballof81
grs.(86tothepound,whichwouldbeabout.379or.380diameter).
.36M1862PocketandPoliceConicalbulletover15grs.ofpowder.Noweightisgiventheconicalbulletforthismodelbutit's
knownthatithaditsownbulletmould,castingashorterbulletthantheNavy.36revolver.
Presumably,the.380ballaboveisusedwiththesamepowdercharge.Inmyown1862reproduction,Iuse20grs.ofFFFG
undera.380inchball.
.31OldandNewModelPocketPistolsConicalbulletof76grains(92tothepound)overhalfadram(13.5grains)ofpowder,
oraroundballof50grs.(140tothepoundandabout.320inchdiameter).
Gatofeonotes:Presentday0buckshotmeasuresabout.320inchandmakesanexcellentballforthe.31calibercapandball
revolvers.Cheaptoo!
.265M1855Sidehammer:Ballof35grains(200tothepound,about.285diameter)ora55gr.(128tothepound)conical
bullet.Nochargeislisted,butIwouldguessthat10grainsofpowderwouldbecorrect.

ThelategunwriterElmerKeith(18981984)wroteabook,"Sixguns"inthemid1950s.Init,heincludedachapteroncapand
ballrevolvers.
KeithlearnedhowtoloadandshoottheserevolversfromCivilWarveteranswhenhegrewupinHelena,Montana.In1912,at
theageof14,hebegancarryingaColt1851Navyin.36caliber.
KeithrecommendedFFFGblackpowderforthe.28and.31caliberrevolvers,andFFGblackpowderforthe.36and.44guns.
Hedidn'tlistloadsbyweight,butheinstructedtopourinthepowderuntilitalmostfilledthechamber,leavingroomfora
greasedfeltwad.
Keithpunchedfeltwadsfromanoldhat,andsoakedtheminalubricantmadeofmeltedbeeswaxandtallow.
Gatofeonotes:Iusemuttontallowmyself,availablefromDixieGunWorks.Imixthiswithcanningparaffinandbeeswax.
Thiswadwasplacedoverthepowder,thentheballrammeddownwithituntiltheballwasslightlybelowflushofthe
chamber.Gatofeonotes:Iseatthewadasaseparateoperation,thenseattheball.
Keithnoted,"Apercussionsixgunthusloadedwillshootcleanalldayifyoublowyourbreaththroughtheboreafewtimes
aftereachsixroundsarefired.Itwillalsoshootveryaccuratelyifitisagoodgun."
"Ihadone.36NavyColtthathadapittedbarrel,butwiththeaboveloaditwouldcutcloverleavesforitssixshots,at20yards,
alldaywithseatedbackandheadrestandtwohandsusedbetweenthekneestofurtherholding,"Keithwrote.
"Foritssizeandweightnothingissodeadlyastheroundballofpureleadwhendrivenatfairlygoodvelocity,"Keithwrote.
"Maximumloadsgivetheseslugsfairlyhighvelocityfroma71/2inchbarrelgun.
KeithknewtwoCivilWarcavalrymenwhohadseenanenormousamountofbattleintheCivilWar.MajorR.E.Strattonfought
intheConfederacy's1stTexasRegiment.SamuelH.FletcherfoughtintheUnion's2ndIllinoisCavalry.
"BothMaj.StrattonandSamFletchertoldmethe.36Navywithfullloadswasafarbettermankillerthanany.38Specialthey
hadeverseenusedingunfights,"Keithwrote.
"Maj.StrattonsaidthatforamanstopperhepreferredtheroundballwithchamberfullofFFGtothepointedconicalbullet,"
Keithwrote."SamFletcheralsotoldmehepreferredapureleadroundballinhisNavyColtswithchamberfullofblack
powder,totheissuedconicalballload.
"Fletcherclaimedtheroundballdroppedenemycavalrymenmuchbetterandtookallthefightoutofthem,whereasthe
pointedbulletattimeswouldonlywoundandleavethemfighting.
"Fletcherstated,however,thatwhenforagingandshootingcattleformeat,thepointedbulletwasthebestforbodyshotsthat
hadtobetakenwherepenetrationwasneeded.Butthatonallfrontalshotsonbeef,theoldroundballwasplentygoodand
wouldreachthebrainevenonbulls.
"MajorStrattonclaimedthatwhilethebigDragoonwasslowerforquickdrawwork,onceyouhaditinyourhanditwasthe

bestcavalrypistolofall,"Keithwrote."Itwoulddropahorseaseasilyasamanwithits.45caliberroundorconicalballand
50grainsofFFGblackpowder."
Gatofeonotes:Interestingstuff,no?