The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The North Corral > Curios and Relics

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old July 13, 2010, 12:26 PM   #1
jvandy3
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 13, 2010
Posts: 10
1860 Colt Development

Here is a thought. Up until 1858, Colt was (for all intents and purposes) the only revolver provider, especially to the U.S. Up until then, Colt said .44 caliber wheel-guns shall weigh 4lbs. and if you want something light enuff to carry on your hip, you get the .36 cal. Navy. Then, out of the blue, Remington gets a contract for their .44 revolver and it weighs no more than the Colt Navy. Suddenly (in two years--but that's pretty sudden for product development, even 1858) Colt takes it's .44 cylinder and rebates the back of it and then modifies a .36 caliber frame and barrel in order to jam the two together, resulting in the 1860 Army. Do you think the Remington 1858 contract lit a fire under the people at Colt?
jvandy3 is offline  
Old July 13, 2010, 02:10 PM   #2
RJay
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 2, 2005
Location: Arizona
Posts: 1,598
Colt had a number of smaller belt and pocket model revolvers pjrior to 1860. Just off the top of my head how about the 1851 Navy in 36 caliber.
RJay is offline  
Old July 13, 2010, 03:05 PM   #3
Hardcase
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 14, 2009
Location: Sunny Southern Idaho
Posts: 1,901
Sam Colt was always hustling for money and government contracts were definitely the gravy train. I'm not sure that Remington's contract was a driver as much as just the opportunity to make some money (although I'm sure that Colt was happy to follow Remington's example!)

I'm pretty sure that by the late 1850s it was clear that push was coming to shove and there was going to be a need for guns for the Army.

A story goes that in 1861, the Army realized that the Springfield armory wasn't going to be able to produce enough rifles and Sam Colt stepped up and said that he could make an "improved" model for less money. The Army said that they didn't want an improved model, just a standard Springfield, thank you. Colt went ahead and produced 50,000 or so of his "improved" Springfields and presented them to the Army, saying that they could take 'em or wait a long time for retooling. The Army took 'em. In fact, the "improved" rifle was an Enfield P53 guts inside of a Springfield shell. Colt already had the machinery to make them from an earlier contract with England.

I've got one of them from a Colt subcontractor, Lamson, Goodnow and Yale. It's definitely very P53-ish on the inside.

Colt really never turned down an opportunity to make money.
__________________
Well we don't rent pigs and I figure it's better to say it right out front because a man that does like to rent pigs is... he's hard to stop - Gus McCrae
Hardcase is offline  
Old July 13, 2010, 10:32 PM   #4
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 18,639
The interesting thing about the Model 1860 is that it IS an 1851 Navy. The frames are the same, except for the cutout for the larger forward part of the cylinder in the .44 gun. The .44 cylinder is a bit longer, compensated for by the shorter rear end of the barrel, and the grip is lengthened.

The use of the terms "Army" for the .44 and "Navy" for the .38 goes back at least as far as Colt. The army wanted a larger caliber because of the need to shoot horses, a need the Navy generally didn't have, sea horses being much smaller. Today, of course, the idea of shooting horses is unacceptable, and even movies proclaim that no animals were injured. But in a less humane, or less squeamish, time, the horse was a bigger target and killing or wounding the horse put the rider down, plus a wounded horse disrupted a cavalry charge worse than a wounded rider.

So the Army wanted a light weight .44 and Colt "up calibered" the 51 Navy, giving the Army what it wanted with minimal changes to his production line and tooling.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old July 14, 2010, 09:18 AM   #5
Hardcase
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 14, 2009
Location: Sunny Southern Idaho
Posts: 1,901
Quote:
...sea horses being much smaller.
I can see that I'm going to have to keep an eye on you, bub
__________________
Well we don't rent pigs and I figure it's better to say it right out front because a man that does like to rent pigs is... he's hard to stop - Gus McCrae
Hardcase is offline  
Old July 15, 2010, 10:17 AM   #6
madcratebuilder
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 2, 2007
Location: Northern Orygun
Posts: 4,868
Quote:
The use of the terms "Army" for the .44 and "Navy" for the .38 goes back at least as far as Colt. The army wanted a larger caliber because of the need to shoot horses, a need the Navy generally didn't have, sea horses being much smaller. Today, of course, the idea of shooting horses is unacceptable, and even movies proclaim that no animals were injured. But in a less humane, or less squeamish, time, the horse was a bigger target and killing or wounding the horse put the rider down, plus a wounded horse disrupted a cavalry charge worse than a wounded rider.
Step away from the coffee pot Jim.
madcratebuilder is offline  
Old July 15, 2010, 02:00 PM   #7
Scorch
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 13, 2006
Location: Washington state
Posts: 11,340
Jim is right, of course. Cavalry charges were stopped by killing the horses, and you can see the means used to stop cavalry charges when you look at old arsenals of weaponry, be it with pikes, short swords, or chain shot.

Colt started out with much smaller caliber sidearms, the Patterson being a 36 caliber, and the Colt Pocket (the most numerous Colt revolver produced) being in 32 Caliber. Of course, everyone talks about the Walker (which Colt did not produce, they subcontracted it), the 1st and 2nd model Dragoons, and the Army models, these made Colt's reputation, as did the later 1873 "P" model. But Colt made a lot of small caliber sidearms prior to the 1861 Army model. It's just that between 1840-1865, there was a lot of development in the firearms industry due to the development of percussion caps, the so-called Indian Wars, and the Mexican-American War. And just about the same time, a few guys got together at Bull Run and kicked off The Big Game.
__________________
Never try to educate someone who resists knowledge at all costs.
But what do I know?
Summit Arms Services
Taylor Machine
Scorch is offline  
Old August 3, 2010, 10:22 AM   #8
jvandy3
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 13, 2010
Posts: 10
colt's development of the 1860 Army

Jim Keenum said:
"So the Army wanted a light weight .44 and Colt "up calibered" the 51 Navy, giving the Army what it wanted with minimal changes to his production line and tooling."

But is that really what led to the 1860 Army .44? The .44 Dragoons already existed to do any job needed by a .44. I am contending that until Remington brought out the model 1858, a buyer had to accept that a .44 (Colt being the only big provider until Remington's 1858) was going to be three-and-a-half pounds. However, Once Remington got their contract, Colt was suddenly faced with a competitor who was providing an advanced .44 which was a light as their .36 Navy (which maybe made things look, in 1858, like Remington was going to be the future).
jvandy3 is offline  
Old August 3, 2010, 01:34 PM   #9
Hardcase
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 14, 2009
Location: Sunny Southern Idaho
Posts: 1,901
I've heard that Colt had been attempting to reduce the weight of the Dragoon revolvers for several years, but the metallurgy of the time didn't allow for thinner chamber walls and lighter frames.

Then came "silver spring steel", which was a stronger, lighter material. I don't get the feeling that pressure from Remington led to the 1860 as much as the availability of the better steel, although I'm sure that the competition didn't go unnoticed.
__________________
Well we don't rent pigs and I figure it's better to say it right out front because a man that does like to rent pigs is... he's hard to stop - Gus McCrae
Hardcase is offline  
Old August 3, 2010, 02:25 PM   #10
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 18,639
I think the chronology here is mistaken. The Army had indicated well before the war that it wanted a light weight revolver that would have the same caliber (if not the same power) as the old Dragoons and Walkers. Colt submitted his Model 1860 (New Model Army) to the Army for evaluation in June of 1860, well before the war, and production was underway in early 1861. Remington never sold any guns to the Army before the war, and did not get its first contract until after war broke out.

So, I will still hold to the belief that Colt produced the Model 1860 primarily at the request of the Army, not in response to the production of a .44 by Remington for commercial sales.

And that rather than turning down the rear of a Dragoon cylinder (ever seen a Dragoon cylinder?) and "jamming" it onto a Navy frame, Colt very wisely made new .44 cylinders, smaller at the rear so he could get away with as few changes as possible to the Model 1851 frame.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old August 4, 2010, 08:32 AM   #11
madcratebuilder
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 2, 2007
Location: Northern Orygun
Posts: 4,868
Jim has the time line correct. Metallurgy was the problem of the day. Colt experimented with various methods and developed what Sam Colt called "Silver Steel" It was this advancement in metallurgy that allowed Colt to manufacture the belt frame in .44 caliber.
madcratebuilder is offline  
Old August 4, 2010, 06:58 PM   #12
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 18,639
I have been reading a book called "Fighting Iron", by Art Gogan, a metallurgist. He discusses "silver spring steel" at some length and casts doubt on the claim that Colt did any experimenation or development of that material, apparently buying his steel from Thomas Firth & Sons (as it was then) in Sheffield, England. Apparently, the steel contained no actual silver, but did have a carbon content such that it was somewhat stronger than wrought iron. The term "silver steel" was used in advertising not only by Colt but by other companies, but seems to have been more an advertising gimmick than any great improvement in steel quality. In any case, Colt's claim to have invented or developed it seems to have been pure hype.

The Colt frames were still wrought iron and remained so up to the smokeless powder era. That is the real reason frames and receivers in those days were case hardened. Iron cannot be hardened by heat treatment, and case hardening was used to reduce wear. Its decorative aspect caused its retention long after it had any practical purpose and its use on modern steel frames is purely for traditional and decorative reasons.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old August 12, 2010, 11:53 AM   #13
jvandy3
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 13, 2010
Posts: 10
silver spring steel

AHH, now we're gettin' to it. You guys are giving me info I did not have and I thank ya for it. I did not know the details of the metalurgy issue and I always thought that the "1858 Army" was first sold to the Federal government in a military contract. Now you tell me that Remington did not get the contract until after the war broke out altho they introduced their revolver in 1858.
I can accept that my idea was wrong because of lack of info which is why I proposed it as a theory in the first place. (Wasn't entirely sure I had all the facts and looks like I didn't.

Thank you.
jvandy3 is offline  
Old August 12, 2010, 03:00 PM   #14
SIGSHR
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 13, 2005
Posts: 2,967
IIRC cavalry and dragoon SOP was to carry the revolvers on the horse, the notion of carrying one's revolver on one's belt hadn't taken hold yet. Also I read years ago that the 44/45 caliber was settled on because it produced "50 round balls to the pound (of lead)." And I am pretty sure that the M1858 Remibngton did not appear in any numbers until 1863 or so.
SIGSHR is offline  
Old August 12, 2010, 09:38 PM   #15
James K
Staff
 
Join Date: March 17, 1999
Posts: 18,639
An interesting fact is that the U.S. had no cavalry until the Civil War period. The earlier mounted force was called Dragoons or Mounted Rifles, and there is a distinction between such forces and true cavalry.

Dragoons rode into the combat area, but then dismounted and fought as infantry. They generally carried heavy pistols and either infantry rifles/muskets or a long arm sized between the infantry rifle and the later cavalry carbine. Sabers, except for officers' swords, were not normally issued.

Cavalry, on the other hand, fought from horseback. That condition meant that a short weapon was needed, and the cavalry carbine came into use. Why a short weapon? Trying to manipulate a full length infantry musket or rifle on horseback would have presented many problems, not the least of which would have been the possibility of knocking an adjacent rider right off his horse with the long barrel.

And fighting from horseback also meant that the saber made sense; backed by both the strength of the cavalryman's arm and the momentum of the heavy horse, the saber packed a lot of punch and (in spite of various comments over the years) really was a formidable weapon.

In the Civil War, some "cavalry" units, especially on the Confederate side, actually fought like the old Dragoons, dismounting and using rifles and shotguns rather than fighting mounted.

In general, though, cavalry feared infantry. The massed fire and longer range weapons of the infantry meant that a cavalry unit simply could not stage a frontal attack against any sizable infantry force. Flank attacks and harassment were the best cavalry could do unless the infantry were either badly outnumbered or very inferior or demoralized. Against a strong and determined infantry, the cavalry would be cut to pieces. (Once, informed of enemy forces ahead, Sheridan asked if it was cavalry or infantry. Told it was cavalry, he responded, "Ride right over them." He could give such an order as head of a 10,000 man unit of three cavalry divisions, a column 16 miles long!)

But the infantry feared cavalry also, to some extent. The constant worry about a surprise cavalry attack led even to some changes in infantry equipment, including the use of a magazine cutoff on rifles, so a full magazine could be kept in reserve in case enemy horsemen suddenly appeared.

Jim
__________________
Jim K
James K is offline  
Old August 13, 2010, 08:55 AM   #16
madcratebuilder
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 2, 2007
Location: Northern Orygun
Posts: 4,868
Quote:
I have been reading a book called "Fighting Iron", by Art Gogan, a metallurgist. He discusses "silver spring steel" at some length and casts doubt on the claim that Colt did any experimenation or development of that material, apparently buying his steel from Thomas Firth & Sons (as it was then) in Sheffield, England. Apparently, the steel contained no actual silver, but did have a carbon content such that it was somewhat stronger than wrought iron. The term "silver steel" was used in advertising not only by Colt but by other companies, but seems to have been more an advertising gimmick than any great improvement in steel quality. In any case, Colt's claim to have invented or developed it seems to have been pure hype.
100% correct! Sam was a salesman first and always.

Thanks for the book title, I well get a copy.
madcratebuilder is offline  
Old August 13, 2010, 09:03 AM   #17
mapsjanhere
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 6, 2009
Location: Albuquerque
Posts: 2,336
It was an oversized game of rock paper scissors. Infantry beats cavalry, cavalry beats artillery, artillery beats infantry.
__________________
F 135 - the right choice
mapsjanhere is offline  
Old August 13, 2010, 02:43 PM   #18
SIGSHR
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 13, 2005
Posts: 2,967
If the infantry had time to form positions properly they usually defeated cavalry-cf the British "square". Watch the scenes in the movie "Waterloo" where the French cavalry attacks the British infantry after they have formed up. In the English Civil Wars the pikemen were to protect the musketeers-the pikes were usually 16 feet long so they had plenty of reach, the development of the bayonet eliminated the need for pikemen. And large bore-.69-.75 caliber-muskets were used to be able to down a horse. Cavalry was most effective against the enemy's cavalry or in attacking rear areas.
SIGSHR is offline  
Old December 8, 2010, 12:17 PM   #19
jvandy3
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 13, 2010
Posts: 10
jvandy3

Hmm. Have thought more on it and think my original premise was the right one: Colt as a organization had gotten complacent due to market dominance and was shocked out of it with the sudden introduction of the 1858 new model Army by Remington and scrambled to produce the 1860 Colt Army. That stuff about metalurgy was Colt trying to cover its complacency; if it were really needed to produce a 2.5 lb. .44, then the Confederacy would have been unable to make copies during the war especially in a brass frame. I think that Colt dominated the market in the late 1850's and did not concern itself with any demand for a lighter 44. Instead, Colt more or less was telling people that if you wanted a handy side arm it would have to be a 36 because 44's were over 4 lb. period. When Remington produced it's 1858, Colt's engineers "bodged together" a competitive 44 by rebating the Dragoon's cylinder and fitting it to what was really a modified Navy frame. Nothing like competition in the market place to make things happen. I also note that the Remington was better at avoiding jams from spent percussion caps, having notches for the hammer between chambers so you could load all six and being actually held together with screws instead of old-fashioned wedges.
jvandy3 is offline  
Old December 8, 2010, 03:27 PM   #20
MJN77
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 27, 2009
Location: on a hill in West Virginia
Posts: 653
From what I have read about Remington revolvers, the patent was granted in 1858 but production was from 1860-1862 (Remington-Beals army/navy), 1862-1863 (1861 model army/navy), 1863-1875 (1863 new model army/navy). So, the Colt 1860 would've come out around the same time. The replica Remingtons that are popular today and are listed as "1858" models are actually replicas of the 1863 new model army revolver.
As for cavalry tactics in the Civil War, more often than not, cavalry fought dismounted with carbines. There were only a few actual mounted cavalry clashes other than small squad incounters, in the war. Mounted fighting was pure chaos. In the swirl of horses and men that was involved in close quarters combat, you were just as likely to cut down one of your own men or slice the ear off your horse, as hurt an enemy soldier with a saber. Sabers might have been formidable in the right circumstances, but by the time of the Civil War revolvers and carbines were employed more and more often. Confederate General John Hunt Morgan's cavalry threw away their sabers in favor of sawed off shotguns. On one occasion when Morgan's men were being charged by mounted union cavalry, Morgan laughed and said " look at those fools again with the sabers, let 'em have it". Morgan's men stopped the charge cold with devastating rifle fire. The confederates, then mounted up and charged the union survivors with shotguns. Mosby's rangers ruined the day of many union cavalrymen and they were only armed with revolvers. At the battle of Miskel's farm on April 1, 1863, Mosby's rangers were outnumbered more than 2 to 1 by union cavalry. The "yankees" mounted a saber charge. The rangers counter charged with revolvers. The "yankees" lost.....badly.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skirmish_at_Miskel_Farm
Sabers are only formidable if you can get close enough. That's hard to do in the face of carbine and pistol fire.
I know that was off topic. Sorry.

Last edited by MJN77; December 10, 2010 at 07:10 AM.
MJN77 is offline  
Old December 8, 2010, 04:05 PM   #21
Long Path
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 31, 1999
Location: N. Texas
Posts: 5,888
This is a great thread, spanning several months. Please keep it going; I'm learning (not the least, about books I need to get.).
__________________
"Welcome to The Firing Line, a virtual community dedicated to the discussion and advancement of responsible firearms ownership."T.F.L. Policy Page
Will you, too, be one who stands in the gap? ____________ Better and Better, the blog. _____
Long Path is offline  
Old December 10, 2010, 08:36 AM   #22
jvandy3
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 13, 2010
Posts: 10
Remington 1858 spurred Colt's development of the 1860

Regardless of the actual production dates, The Remington came before the 1860 Colt. Whether it was in production or just being patented. Whether Colt saw the patent application (very conceivable) or a prototype somewhere, he would have been aware of Remington's development and it's threat to the Colt market. Up to that point, Colt was presenting a 44 as a 4-pound saddle gun while a belt pistol of 2.5 lbs. as being limited to 36 caliber.
jvandy3 is offline  
Old December 10, 2010, 12:19 PM   #23
MJN77
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 27, 2009
Location: on a hill in West Virginia
Posts: 653
If you say so. Do you have evidence of this, or is it a theory? Apparently your mind is made up. I'm just wondering if it is based in fact or conjecture. Not being sarcastic, if you have proof of this I would be interested to see it. Colt had been working on a smaller .44 since complaints from some British officers about the navy revolver's lack of stopping power. During the Crimean War (1853-1856) some british officers carried privatly owned 1851 navys to battle. In combat, sometimes an attacker would take all six rounds from the .36 and still kill the shooter before dying. This was the first "test" of the 1851 in war. So, Colt was working on the concept of a "belt model" .44 for a few years before Remington even had a patent. Remington may have spurred them on a bit, but Colt had their own ideas going. You seem to believe firearm design was an easy thing in the 1850s. With the technology and metals they had to work with, it wasn't. Look at the Walker revolver. It was the first .44 colt and it was bigger and heavier than the Dragoons. Several of them blew up due to poor quality steel. After that experience I think Col. Colt would've been pretty cautious in the design of a smaller .44. You also have to take into account that this was a new field. The first revolver was only 22 years old in 1858. The first successful revolver was 11 years old. Colt wasn't dictating the size of .44 pistols, he was working with the technology of the time.

Last edited by MJN77; December 10, 2010 at 12:55 PM.
MJN77 is offline  
Old December 10, 2010, 10:00 PM   #24
Hawg Haggen
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 8, 2007
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 11,421
Quote:
if it were really needed to produce a 2.5 lb. .44, then the Confederacy would have been unable to make copies during the war especially in a brass frame.
They didn't. Not a .44 with a brass frame. Only .36's and the frames back then weren't brass but bronze with a high copper content called gun metal. The brass framed .44 reproductions are fantasy pieces that never existed.
Hawg Haggen is offline  
Old December 11, 2010, 09:28 PM   #25
jvandy3
Junior Member
 
Join Date: July 13, 2010
Posts: 10
reply to MJN77

Well, I guess I did sound a bit stubborn there, but I am quite familiar with engineering progress and difficulty so I am under no delusions as to the difficulties involved. However, from the above discussion, there seems that Colt did some after the fact talking about metalurgy to make a light 44 to explain why they had not done so earlier. And Colt had not, to my knowlege, produced one until the appearance of the 1858 Remington 44. Looking at the 1860 Colt Army, it does appear to be a modified 1851 Colt Navy frame with a rebated Dragoon cylinder mated to it.
This is my theory that I am proposing as an iterrpretion of these facts. Although Colt was doing some experimenting with the idea, things did not come to fruition until the appearance of the Remington Army even if the appearance of the 1858 was only a patent application (although I think it may have been some early production). I know the Walker was really big and heavy but it was also firing up to 60 grains of powder (although probably more often less powder than that) whereas the 1858 Remington and 1860 Colts were rated for much less powder at maximum. I am just theorizing here to push out an idea that Remington came out with a much more advanced product that sort-of kicked Colt into responding.
jvandy3 is offline  
Reply

Tags
soft coal gunner

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:25 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2013 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.13612 seconds with 7 queries