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Old September 1, 2011, 02:13 AM   #1
larryf1952
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Pietta 1851 Confederate Navy

I never thought I'd do something like this, but tonight, I had a few spare minutes before meeting some out of town friends for dinner. Cabela's is in the same shopping center as the restaurant, so I was cruising the gun cases. They had a Pietta black powder 1851 Confederate (brass frame) .44 replica on sale for $139. I asked to see it, and I was impressed with the way that it felt. It seemed to be a well made gun for such a low price, and although I've never owned a black powder gun, I've always been somewhat fascinated by them. I can blame Clint for most of that, and when Mattie Ross pulled out that big Colt Dragoon in "True Grit", my interest was renewed.

The best part of this whole deal was bringing the gun home and unpacking it in front of the Missus, as she was preparing for bed. She came over and looked, and asked what kind of gun it was. I gave her a brief history, and she picked it up, held it out in front of her in the standard 2 handed hold, and said, "It's long and heavy." Then she said, "If you're not going to shoot it, you should put it in a display case for people to see." No argument...no fuss...she kissed me and went to bed. That's partly why we'll celebrate our 38th anniversary today.

Anyway, this gun has a 7 1/2" barrel, and I just really think it looks cool. I bought it on impulse just because I wanted it, and I'll never shoot it, but maybe I'll pull it out when I watch Josey Wales, and we can shoot at Red Legs together.
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Old September 1, 2011, 02:25 AM   #2
American Eagle
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Oh no, you bought a brasser. Brass revolvers are very pretty, but keep in mind that brass is not as strong as steel. Therefore, you should always use a lighter load of powder when shooting your brass revolver. Do not go above 20 grains of black powder with this revolver. And yes, you will end up shooting it sooner or later, black powder shooting is too much fun to pass up.

I have a Pietta Remington 1858, the best cap and ball revolver ever made (in my opinion). A lot sturdier than the 1851, and easier to take apart. You should pick one up whenever you have a chance. You will love it.

Do go to the Black Powder forum and share your black powder experience with us when you decide to shoot it (you will eventually). Anyway, enjoy your brazzer. Black powder is addicting.

Here is a picture of me striking a cowboy pose with my 1858. If you've never seen a Cuban cowboy, I guess there is always a first time for everything. I wonder what my Spaniard and French ancestors would make of my cowboy fantasies if they were alive to see me?

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Last edited by American Eagle; September 1, 2011 at 02:59 AM.
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Old September 1, 2011, 02:37 AM   #3
larryf1952
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LOL! "Brazzer"...I love it. I looked at the same gun with a steel frame, but it was in .36 caliber and ran $189 on sale. I felt that was a little too much for a gun that I just wanted to fondle and play with. I don't plan on shooting the gun, but maybe I'll change my mind someday.

I love your pic and that 1858 Remington, but where's your hat and string tie?
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Old September 1, 2011, 02:44 AM   #4
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**I meant to say Brasser....excuse my misspelling.**

You will shoot it eventually. Black powder shooting is not too expensive once you buy the accessories for it. It is a lot of fun too. Every time I take mine to the range and shoot it, all the people with Glocks and other plastic pistols stop and stare. They are mesmerized by the white cloud of smoke every time I fire a shot. Usually 4 or 5 will eventually wander my way and ask to hold it and shoot it. She gets a lot of attention from strangers, but that's ok. I don't mind it as long as I get some plastic brick shooter hooked on revolvers.
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Last edited by American Eagle; September 1, 2011 at 02:58 AM.
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Old September 1, 2011, 07:55 AM   #5
tpelle
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Percussion revolvers are a lot of fun.

You know, of course, that there really was no such thing as a .44 caliber "Navy" revolver. In Colt-speak, .44 revolvers were always "Army", .36 caliber were always "Navy".

Also, no Confederate factory ever made a brass framed exact copy of the 1851 Navy. Griswold and Gunnison in Griswoldville, GA made a similar revolver, however. And there were likely a few "cottage industry" shops that made copies.

But, in short, the "Confederate" or "Reb" revolvers are largely modern marketing creations.

Most revolvers in Confederate service were "liberated" from Union sources, either captured when the Confederate States took over arsenals in their territory, or battlefield pickups.

If you want to shoot 'em, you can expect pretty good accuracy. Here's a pic of my Pietta Remington clone, and a target showing the results of shot 6 through 10 ever fired out of that revolver at 50 yards, using a Keith hold:



For the first five shots I used a sub-6:00 hold, as I had no clue where the POI would be and I didn't want to put any balls over the berm. After seeing that I was hitting below the target, I reloaded and shifted to a center-mass hold. (Excuse the .22 hole - somebody cross-fired on my target!)

A Keith Hold is (for a right handed shooter) reclining back on your left elbow with your right knee drawn up, and bracing your shooting hand against the side of your left knee.

Last edited by tpelle; September 1, 2011 at 08:04 AM.
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Old September 1, 2011, 08:11 AM   #6
georgepittenger
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I love your pic and that 1858 Remington, but where's your hat and string tie?



And perhaps your Zorro mask , si' ?



Nice gun !
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Old September 1, 2011, 08:50 AM   #7
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Don't worry about shooting a brass frame Colt copy. As long as you keep the charges at a reasonable level you won't have any problems. As a general rule for cap and ball revolvers with steel frames you would start the load at half the caliber size, 22grains for a .44 and 18 grains for a .36. For the brass frame you would consider this as a maximum load. I generally use 10% less in my brassers, 20grains for a .44 and 16 grains for the .36's.

If you have excessive cylinder end play it can accelerate peening of the recoil shield from the ratchet hitting the recoil shield when fired. If you start to see a outline of the ratchet in the recoil shield then back the load down.

This .44 Pietta 51 Colt is my range work horse, I use this as a loaner for friends at the range to learn these black powder toys. Five seasons now and it's as tight as when out of the box.




This Spiller & Burr copy has been in regular uses since mid 70's, it has a light outline of the ratchet on the recoil shield. I figure close to 800 rounds fired.

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Old September 1, 2011, 09:11 AM   #8
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You 'have' to shoot it (and then clean it )!!!! Gives you an appreciation for what our ancestors had to do in a 'hostile' environment. So much for 'hiding' too with that cloud of smoke! Not that expensive for a can of powder, ball, caps, and cream of wheat. Since I don't shoot a whole lot of BP, I just use a Lee dipper for powder measure...
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Old September 1, 2011, 12:11 PM   #9
DPris
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Buddy pulled his arbor loose on his brass-framed .44 "Navy" many years ago while shooting moderate loads in only a handfull of shooting sessions.
They do not hold up as well as steel.
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Old September 1, 2011, 02:59 PM   #10
larryf1952
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. I was looking through the manual today, and Pietta recommends 25 grains of black powder as a max load for this gun. I have to wrap my head around cleaning a gun with hot, soapy water, though, so that may take some time.

When I lived in Houston in the mid '90's, a guy that I got to know at the range would show up with a Ruger Old Army now and then. I used to like to just watch him load and shoot it. He'd fill up the whole firing line with big clouds of smoke, but nobody seemed to mind, and he did attract a lot of attention. I thought the gun looked great, and that sort of got me paying attention to the black powder revolvers. I took a special liking to the lines and workings of the 1851 Navy.

Tpelle, I know very little of the history of these revolvers. I had heard that the Confederacy used brass frames due to their shortage of steel, but I have no idea which guns (if any) were built that way. I also know that "Wild Bill" Hickock used a pair of .36 caliber 1851's while he was marshal of Abilene, KS. It would seem to me that if I had been a Confederate officer and had been issued a brass framed revolver, I'd have picked up a Union steel framed copy at the first opportunity.

madcrate, that is the gun that I bought. I almost freaked out today when I saw some discoloring on the left side of the frame that looked exactly like a crack. I took a magnifying glass to it and determined that it was just a stain from some leftover machining lube or something like that. A little Brasso removed it, and I sighed a sigh of relief. I wiped the oil off of it and put it in a pistol rug. A friend of mine came over this morning and saw it, and when he opened up the rug, his eyes widened, and he said, "Wow, cool! A Fistful of Dollars gun!"

That's the reaction that I was looking for.
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Old September 1, 2011, 03:05 PM   #11
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AMERICAN EAGLE: OK but where is your hat, whiskey and Harley motorbike?

I wear an 1858 on me all the time and it is my personal sidearm as well as hunting arm.

I don't have a camera but you should have seen when me and several (almost 70-80) local MCs thundered into Reno couple of years ago during a poker run. I had buckskins with my 1858 in a standard Confederate leather belt holster. It was a cross between "Lonesome Dove" and "Easy Rider", if you don't count the Honda Goldwings and various sportbikes that also came along for the ride.
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Old September 1, 2011, 03:19 PM   #12
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Cap and Ball pistols are great!

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Old September 1, 2011, 05:56 PM   #13
tpelle
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Are you sure about that 25 grain load? Seems pretty stout to me.

The issue with the Confederacy was not so much a lack of iron and steel, but more a case of them not having sufficient machinery to work it - at least to dedicate to revolver manufacturing. Machines that could work steel were used for arms a little higher up the strategic food chain.
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Old September 2, 2011, 06:42 AM   #14
madcratebuilder
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Quote:
I know very little of the history of these revolvers. I had heard that the Confederacy used brass frames due to their shortage of steel, but I have no idea which guns (if any) were built that way. I also know that "Wild Bill" Hickock used a pair of .36 caliber 1851's while he was marshal of Abilene, KS. It would seem to me that if I had been a Confederate officer and had been issued a brass framed revolver, I'd have picked up a Union steel framed copy at the first opportunity.
Not many of these are still around, not many were actually made. The Spiller & Burr has the highest number of survives.

William A Albaugh III wrote several books on the Confederate brass frame revolvers. Used copies on Amazon are the likely the best source.

25grains is to much for a brass frame .44. Keep it at 20-22 grains max.
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Old September 2, 2011, 01:13 PM   #15
larryf1952
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Quote:
Are you sure about that 25 grain load? Seems pretty stout to me.
I'm pretty sure that that is what I read in the user manual. But, I would rather trust your judgment as an actual user and start conservatively, were I to choose to actually shoot the gun. If I really did make the decision to get into black powder shooting, I'd probably buy a steel framed gun. For right now, I have enough trouble keeping up with cleaning my other guns and keeping them supplied with reloaded ammo. I don't need to complicate matters.

Thanks for the tips!
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Old May 19, 2012, 10:03 AM   #16
v1rot8
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1851 Navy 44

Cabellas has the Pietta 1851 Navy 44 caliber on sale for $129. Think I will make a birthday gift to me this weekend.
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