Join Date: August 28, 2007
Location: Hudson, Florida
Here's the things I would point out to a newbie seeking their first BP revolver.
Let's start with the big bore most powerful ones first.
1. Walker and 3 versions of Dragoons in .44 caliber.
I've had a Colt Walker clone that can shoot up to a 50 grain charge. It was the most powerful revolver in the world from 1847 up until 1935 when the .357 magnum revolver came out that was arguably more powerful. I say "arguably" because although .357 has more velocity, it is arguable as to whether it has more knockdown power than a .44 ball shot from a .50 grain Walker charge. So the Walker is the most powerful BP historical revolver if that is a consideration. Second in power from the Walker are the three different models of the Dragoon. The 3 versions of Dragoons are just slightly less powerful than the Walker since they have a slightly shorter cylinder and shorter barrel. The Dragoons also have a better loading lever catch than the Walker since the Walker's loading lever spring can allow the lever to drop under a heavy recoil charge.
2. .44 Colt and Remington .44's.
Although it is not historically accurate in .44 caliber since it was originally only made in .36 caliber, the reproductions of the 1851 Colt are also made in .44 caliber. The 1860 more streamlined Colt reproductions are also made in .44 caliber. All the BP Colts use an open frame (no topstrap over the cylinder) and are available in brass and steel frames. The steel frame will accept more powerful powder charges without damage, whereas the brass frame ones should be loaded with lesser charges due to the brass frame under recoil being imprinted by the steel cylinder and also because heavy charges can stretch and deform the brass frame. That being said, as long as you load 20 to 22 grains of BP in a .44 brass Colt frame or 12 to 15 grains in a .36 caliber brass Colt frame, it shouldn't cause those imprinting or deformation of the frame problems.
My experience is that the 1851 and the 1860 Colt clone .44's, are better balanced to my hand than the 1858 Remington .44 is. This is because of the extra weight of the top strap on the frame of the Remington. I personally prefer the 1860 Colts over the 1851 Colts because I have large hands and the 1860's have longer grips than the 1851 does so my pinky finger doesn't have to curl under the grips of the 1860's like it does on the 1851's.
The 1858 Remington has a top strap closed frame which makes it arguably stronger than the Colt clone's frames, is much easier to completely disassemble than the Colts because it only takes one screw to remove the trigger guard to expose the bolt stop and bolt stop/trigger spring, one screw to remove to drop the hammer down to where you can unscrew the cylinder pawl (hand) from the hammer, and one screw to remove the trigger and bolt stop and one screw to remove the bolt stop spring and one screw to remove tension from the hammer spring so it can be removed. That of course is total disassembly and not usually required for normal cleaning. Normally just removing the single screw to remove the trigger guard is all that is necessary to clean and lubricate the internal mechanism. That is a big plus over the Colts (which I will cover below). Also the Remy cylinder can be removed in just a few seconds and replaced with another. Whereas the Colt clones must have the barrel to frame wedge pushed almost all the way out, then lower the loading lever against the cylinder to lever the barrel off the Colt frame and then slide the cylinder off the arbor, replace it with a loaded one and reassemble in reverse.
For myself (and I think most people would agree), the Colt clones have a better balance in the hand than the Remy due to several factors, one being the grip and its angle, but chiefly in my mind because of the extra weight of the topstrap of the Remy which to me negatively affects the balance in my hand. I can live with that, but it is a factor and although I have both Remy and Colt clones, it is an important factor to me and I much prefer the balance of the Colts. However, the Remy due to the design of its frame, is less inclined for spent cap fragments to drop into and jam the action as frequently as happens with the Colt design frame.
In ANY of the Colt clones, in order to completely disassemble them, you have to remove all the screws that hold the frame and grip assembly together, as well as the screws that hold the trigger, hammer, and bolt stop spring. So there are more screws to remove than on the Remy. Also you have to remove the wedge that holds the barrel to the Colt frame. Unlike the Remy, when you reassemble the grip assembly to the Colt frame, you will find that the grip assembly is slightly "sprung" (in order for it to fit tightly when all screws are tightened) so that you must start all the screws a few threads before you tighten them all down. Otherwise you can strip out the threads on the screws because they can go in cocked at an angle if you tighten one down before the others. So you have to balance in your mind whether you would prefer the superior balance of the Colts, or whether you would prefer the easier disassembly of the Remy and its (arguably) superior strength due to its topstrap closed frame.
3. .36 caliber (full sized) Colt and Remy clones.
The factors are all the same as discussed above. The only difference is they are in the smaller .36 caliber and some of the Colt frame models (1862 police and others) have smaller frames than a full size .36 caliber 1851 does.
4. .31 caliber Colt and Remy clones.
The factors are all the same as discussed above. The only difference is they are in the smaller .31 caliber.
Although my first BP revolver was a .44 Walker, (which also is the only time I ever experienced a chainfire with a black powder revolver on the very first time I ever shot a BP revolver), I would not recommend that to others for their first BP revolver. I am torn between whether to recommend as a newbie's first revolver, an 1851, 1860 Colt, or an 1858 Remy. They are all good and I do prefer the balance of the Colts. However, if I had to make a decision for a newbie, I would recommend the steel frame 1858 Remy in either .36 or .44 caliber as their choice for their first BP revolver. Because being steel frame and (arguably) having more strength due to its closed frame topstrap, it will forgive mistakes in overloading without the frame stretching or being deformed or imprinted. And also because it is easier to disassemble for cleaning. Then once familiar and confident with shooting and cleaning their Remy, I'd then suggest either the 1851 or 1860 Colt clones in steel frame also, with a nod towards the larger grip of the 1860 if they have big hands like I have since the 1860 grip is longer than the 1851's grip.
Then once familiar with both their 1858 Remy and either 1851 or 1860 Colts in either .36 or .44 caliber, they can afterwards then graduate to the larger, heavier Dragoons/Walker as well as the rebated cylinder much smaller frame .36 caliber revolvers such as the 1862 police or the even smaller frame .31 caliber Colt and .31 caliber baby Remy revolvers also.
So my advice ultimately to a newbie seeking their first BP revolver would be a steel frame Remy first, then a steel frame 1851 or 1860 second, then perhaps later a Dragoon, or an 1862 police, or a .31 caliber Colt or baby Remy.
Finally, it is only my opinion, (and it is arguable), that although Pietta makes a good 1858 Remy BP revolver (I had one and no complaints), I think the Uberti's are just a little better overall in quality over the Pietta's. Not to say the Piettas are bad, just my opinion the Uberti's are a tad more quality fitted and finished. This can vary though from gun to gun and time period to time period it was manufactured. Also on the Pietta 1858 Remys, the front sight and loading lever catch are soldered straight into the barrel and must be heated with a torch to remove. But on the Uberti they are both dovetail friction held in place and are easily removed with a hammer and punch. This becomes important if you need to completely remove the arbor from an 1858 Remy, since you must remove the loading lever catch to take the arbor out of the 1858 Remy. So between Uberti and Pietta 1858 Remys, for that reason alone I'd choose the Uberti.
That's my advise to a newbie for their first BP revolver, based on my experience.
"This is my Remy and this is my Colt. Remy loads easy and topstrap strong, Colt balances better and never feels wrong. A repro black powder revolver gun, they smoke and shoot lead and give me much fun. I can't figure out which one I like better, they're both fine revolvers that fit in my leather".
"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".
Last edited by Bill Akins; July 11, 2013 at 03:12 PM.