View Full Version : need load advice

May 10, 2007, 03:04 PM
HI, im thinking of purchasing a 1851 navy in .36 call cap and ball. I have a newish book i bought at boarders called the black poweder reloading manual. I was looking at some of the loads for the 1851 navy and they maxed out at 25grains fffg. Which propelled the 83Grain hornady round ball at around 850-900fps for a massive whooping 172ftlbs of energy.

That cant be right, from what i hear that gun was very popular with over 200,000+ beiing sold. Even wild bill hickock carried 2 of them, so why would anyone depend of what amounts to a +p 380acp round for defence. I dont know much about the weapons and loads and bullets of that time, so maybe im missing something.

I read in a post a qoute from a elmer keith book saying the 1851 navy in .36 was more effective then a .38 special. But the special seems to be a heck of alot stronger.

The power of the gun wont determing weather i buy it or not, i just want to shoot it as colt designed it, with full power(but safe) loads, like Hickok would have used.

If anyone has any reviews of them i would like to hear them, im considering the one made by cimneron(spelling, for the life of me i cant remember how to spell that companys name.)

And what are some loads that people use, and there performance with said loads.

Jim Watson
May 10, 2007, 03:32 PM
You gotta remember, there were no antibiotics or sterile surgery in those days. A penetrating torso hit could be a death sentence and the standard Civil War treatment for a serious arm or leg wound was a neat, fast amputation and the hope the victim survived the infections. Any weapon was a serious deterrent, and had psychological stopping power even if not very powerful.

May 10, 2007, 07:20 PM
Most black powder revolvers will shoot more accurately with "moderate" loads than full cylinder, "heavy" loads. Yes, you can safely load your 1851 Navy with heavier loads than 25 gr, but you will likely sacrifice some accuracy. Jim Watson's point is a very good one; they didn't care too much for "stopping power"; massed fire was more useful, and most any hit was sufficiently debilitating, if not immediately fatal.

As to what Bill Hickock used, well, I don't know, but I think he prized accuracy over a loud bang and lots of smoke, and if he was the gun expert legend says, he developed an effective load for his revolvers by experiment, and the result was likely not a full cylinder "hot" load.

May 10, 2007, 10:07 PM
Remember too that everything is relative. The .36 percussion revolver had respectable power compared to the other weapons available in 1862. The fact that it may be low-powered by today's standards doesn't matter; today's standards didn't exist back then.

You might instead choose a .31 pocket revolver, a derringer, or a .44 percussion revolver. Of these only the .44 revolver really outpowered the .36, but up until 1860 the .44 was the Dragoon, and weighed twice as much.

When lighter .44s came along, they had less powder capacity than the old Dragoon had, making the power difference between .36 and .44 a bit less than it had been. I'm sure a lot of people thought they weren't giving up much by staying with the trusty .36.

Besides, by that time the .36 caliber 1851 Navy had been synonymous with "belt revolver" for a decade. That brand recognition would have kept the '51 going for quite a while, even if it weren't a great gun-- which it is.

May 12, 2007, 05:44 AM
If you want to try for a little more weight in the bullet try the Conical style. They are a little more difficult to load than round ball at least that is what I have found.

I have also found that a .375 roundball can be a little small in some 36 Navy revolvers so I use .380 RB instead. They are hard to find but performance was improved in my revolvers. I would guess that the .380 obtraits more and therefore becomes longer as it goes through the forcing cone.

As far as Power goes compared to todays my thoughts would be---I would not want to be in front of a Navy 36 in 1851 or 2007.

Have fun, be safe and read about this hobby as much as you can.

May 12, 2007, 07:55 AM
Xwingnut-- your larger ball is also going to be squished when you force it into the revolver's chamber, even leaving out the part about the forcing cone. I've read somewhere this increases accuracy, since after smashing the larger ball has more bearing surface on the rifling than a smaller one. Maybe that helps accuracy even if you don't consider the forcing cone.

Sorry I can't remember where I just read this, but somebody advocated taking emery cloth, wrapping it around a marble, and using it to chamfer the opening of each chamber. That makes the chamber mouth a funnel. Before, ramming an oversized ball sheared a ring of lead from the ball. After, all the lead in the ball gets forced into the chamber. This too is supposed to improve accuracy, since it eliminates any variation in ball weight that might arise from a greater or lesser amount of lead getting sheared off when loading, and since more lead rammed into the chamber is supposed to increase bearing surface even more.

I didn't do that on my own belt revolver, a Pietta Remington repro. I like the ring of lead as proof the ball was oversized enough. Also, it's spooky accurate (for me-- I'm a bad shot) out of the box, and I don't want to mess it up. But here's the information, for your consideration.

May 13, 2007, 01:22 PM
sorry been busy the last few days, but i have been thinking, i doubt they used a powder measure back then, didnt they just load straight from the flask. if they did, im sure more then a few '51s had 28+grains in it.

I guess i just got caught up in the modern day hype of if its not 125gr + weight moving at 1100fps+ then its no good defensivly. But now that i think about it, i bet that round ball/conical would have enough power to penetrate the heavy clothing of the day and still reach the needed organs for a incap.

The reason im so concerned about it, is i feel that im doin a disservice to the gun and its heritage if i give it weenie loads. Sure it wont take down anything bigger then a rabbit/coon/ect. but it will take down a man, and with conicals probably equals the .38special in stopping power.

My next question is, i havnt purchased it yet, but is the 1851 navy safe to carry loaded with all 6 chambers filled, i know the remington '58 is due to the notches between the cylnders, but i just dont like the idea of only having 5shots in a six shooter. This gun isnt just for cas shooting, its gonna go on hikes,camp outs and other such activities. Why you may ask, im not sure i can answere that, i know im not the only one that takes a percussion handgun as a belt gun when horse riding/camping/hiking it adds a bit of nostalga and history to your walk, as well as some modicum of protection hehe.

If its not safe to carry 6 rounds im sure a custom revo shop could do something to improve the saftey of it.

May 13, 2007, 03:40 PM
The flask spout was/is a powder measure.

Think about it: a cylinder full of powder with a cap on top = loaded round. Now, lower the hammer on it. Should be safe, right? As long as the hammer doesn't "bounce" if the gun is dropped or if your hand or sleeve doesn't accidentally pull it back a bit and then release it, etc. Or, put the hammer on half cock: can't move and accidentally fall on the cap, right? Wrong.

Leave one cylinder empty and put it under the hammer. Take advantage of and learn from a hundred and fifty years of experience. If you think you are going to really need that sixth round, carry two revolvers. If it was good enough for them it's good enough, and safe enough for you. And the people you'll be hunting and hiking with. Now, if you're always going to be by yourself, well then, have a good time - hope you don't springing a leak in your leg or foot.

May 13, 2007, 06:18 PM
Generally, revolver flasks come with either a 28 grain spout for the .44s or a 21 grain spout for the 36s. and goex black powder will weigh very close to that . Swiss is denser and will likely weigh 30 and 22 grains. 25 grains under a ball in 36 is a full chamber. You use the same volume (same spout) of substitutes like pyrodex even though those powders are lighter.

.36 revolvers usually get higher velocities than recorded in your manual with swiss being faster than goex and pyrodex P being pretty close to swiss. Here are some loads clocked ina 61 navy and they are comparable to several 51s we have chronographed. We have gotten this sort of performance consitently over a period of time:

.36 " 85-Grain Round Ball Loads Vel fps Spread fps (6rounds)
25Grains Swiss FFFg .380 " 1101 71
25 Grains Goex FFFg .375 1000 59
22 Gains Swiss FFFg .375 1048 35
Same load wonder wad 973 60
22Grains Goex FFFg .375 849 74
Same load with wonder wad 801 74
22Grains Swiss FFFg .375 1070 37
22Gr/Vol. Pyrodex P. 375 1015 44
Same load with wonder wad 1045 66
The Pietta chambers are somewhat smaller in diameter than the Uberti which measure about .373. Speer round balls seem to be an actual .375" and are round. they will work in both. Hornady balls will usually seat with good sealing in Pietta but will often roll into the uberti chambers and come back out stuck to the loading lever. They are either undersize or not perfectly round or both. They are also more commonly found than the speer product
prompting many of us to look for 380 balls ( dixie gun works) or cast our own from an economical Lee mould.

This is an unusally good off hand group but it is not unusual to get groups of about double this size at the same distance and many Uberti navies of either 51 or 62 variey will do this every time from the bench. for sustained accuracy, I either clean the barrel after each six rounds or use under ball wads from the Possibles Shop (google) these are treated with lubricant and will keep the bore very clean.

this paterson is a .36 bore and you can see that velocities are comparable if somewhat less than recorded with the 61. the chambers are a bit shorter making 22 grains a full charge.
The range is 20 yards and the right hand loads were with powder decanted from some old .44 special black powder factory loads.

Many shooters put the hammer down on an empty chamber. I load mine with six putting the notched hammer down on one of the intermediate safety pins. My safety pins are not peend down and provide positive retention. The five beans in the wheel practice was needed with the later single action cartridge revolvers because the "safety' notch on the hammer could break away if the gun was dropped and allow the gun to discharge.

May 13, 2007, 08:35 PM
Along the same lines........
I have a .44 Pietta Navy with the brass frame. I want to shoot it occasionally, but want to be careful about the frame, because of all the scary stuff I have heard about the brass.
What should I be loading it with??
Have had it a month and still haven't shot it :(

May 13, 2007, 09:40 PM
Huntcast -

Just stay away from "maximum" loads and you should be fine. What is "maximum"? Well, a "full" cylinder is too much; I stay under 30 grains but that's for accuracy. What you should probably do is develop a load by trying several to see what the gun likes best (tightest group). Start with 20 grains, using a felt wad if needed to be sure the ball is seated, shoot 5, then move up to 22, shoot 5, etc. until you find the tightest group. Use the same technique (felt wad, compressed load, etc) each time. I'm pretty sure you will find decreasing accuracy above about 27 grains. Go up to 35 if need be; 5 shots at 30 and then at 35 won't do any damage and should be enough to show accuracy decreasing. I will "predict" (read: guess) you will end up with 22-25 grains, and that will be just fine for the brass frame.

May 13, 2007, 09:40 PM

As Mykeal and MEC have said, the spout on a flask is a powder measure. You point the flask spout down with your finger over the end, push the flask's lever to admit powder to the spout, maybe tap the flask a bit, then let the lever close, and you've measured a load of powder.

Then you let the charge of powder drop into the chamber of your revolver, where it finds a spark from the last load, flashes off, sets off the flask, and blows your hand off. Or that's what people warn me could happen. So even though the flask spout is a measure, I for one use a separate measure and then dump that into the revolver chamber. You could instead measure powder with the flask spout, dump it into a separate container (such as a period-correct fired bottlenecked rifle case) and then dump THAT into your revolver's chamber.

I'm sure the guys on the Civil War battlefields would never have bothered with any of this, or with putting grease over the revolver balls, or a greased wad under them, as many of us do to reduce the chance of chainfires. If they had been loading from flasks, they would have done so as quickly as they could. Personal safety takes another meaning when someone else is shooting at you.

But I believe that powder flasks on the battlefield would have been rare. Some articles I've read online lead me to think most of the revolver ammunition was in the form of paper cartridges. A charge of powder and a lead ball in a rather weak tube of flash paper, if I remember correctly.

The muzzle-loading rifled muskets of the day used paper cartridges. Paper cartridges were a pretty standard way of doing things back then.

May 13, 2007, 10:38 PM
Paper or linen cartridges have been around since the matchlock. In the late 1840s, nitrate treated combustable linen and paper cartridges became standard with the rifled muskets using the english Minie bullet and the burton variation both in england and here. During the 1850s, there was some interest developing in envelop cartridges for revolvers. the early ones seem to have been made of metallic foil but sometime before the civil war, they began using nitrated paper and conical bullets. Cased sets of colts generally have A powder flask with spout and a bullet mould that throws a round ball from one chamber and a conical from the other. Later ones from the 1860s have all of that equipment plus boxes of paper revolver cartridges.

flask thrown loads remained popular as did the round ball as a projectile even when the packaged cartridges became available. More powder could be gotten under a round ball than the bullet.

Cautious loading manuals and black powder books recommend against throwing charges direct from a flask in case of smoldering powder left in the chambers. Usually, the nature of black powder doesn't present much of a chance of that happening and the slow pace of reloading makes it even more remote.. I can see it as a possibility with paper cartridges if a piece of paper from the envelop doesn't burn away as expected. Most exploading flasks seem to have happended when people were hastily reloading muskets either to shoot buffalo or other people . After a shot, they would immediately up-end the long gun and dump an unmeasured charge from the flask directly into the barrel intending to throw in a ball or handfull of shot for a rapid second shot. Possibly, some of them may have been using powder that had been cut with elements that didn't fully combust leaving embers that are usually not present with decent black powder.

Loads from a Pietta .36 '51 Navy:
Load 1851 Navy Velocity Spread
.375 ball 22 Gr. FFFg 80 grain 1020 fps 5
80 gr. ball 22 Gr./vol. Pyrodex P 1092 69
80 gr. ball 22 Gr./vol. American Pioneer 639 113
80 gr. ball 22 Gr./vol. Hodgdon’s 777 1070 296
110 Grain Bullet 22 Gr. /Vol. Pyrodex P 902 129
fps= feet per second

Bullet Loads from Uberti 62 Navy
110grain Bullet From Brass Replica Mould 15 Pyrodex P 815 36
100 Grain Bullet Dixie Scissor Mould
22 Grains Goex FFFg 831 38
22 Gr/Vol. Pyrodex P 995 46
125 Grain Buffalo Bullet
18 Grains Goex FFFg 803 99
18 Gr/Vol. Pyrodex P 965 71
18 Grains Swiss FFFg 918 37
Early literature lists loads with bullets weighing in the 140-146 grain range. these bullets are not currently available and were mainly civil war era suitable for the 62 colts and Remington Navies which had larger loading windows under the ram to accomidate longer bullets. Powder capacity and velocity would be less than from the above replica bullets.

Bullets are usually less accurate than the round balls, less powerful and more difficult to deal wiith.

May 15, 2007, 11:42 AM
Mec, i was looking at a gunshop yesterday at some unknown brand of 1851 navy,(company was called spesco? came with a nice box and a mold and 2 cap holders and a flask.) Looked like a real quality gun. I was looking for the intermediate safety pins you mentioned they have, and i couldnt find them. The guns little instruction paper mentions them as being between the nipple and the chamber, which was confusing for me. could you show me a close up veiw of your gun, and highlite that pin your talking about.

THo i did find out that if you put the hammer down on that large hunk of steel between the chambers( that large area with nothing on it, i hope you know what im talking about) the gun would still rotate to the next chamber from that position.

While im not trying to skirt the rules when it comes to safety, i just feel that back then, they carried with all full chambers in these percussion guns, they were so much slower to load then the metalic guns, they needed every shot they could get. Tho, im sure with more research i could find out one way or the other, which is what i intend to do.

Maybe i could get a custom shop to ad in some type of hammer block saftey or somesuch.

May 15, 2007, 12:58 PM
Ive seen replicas that had the notched hammer but not a hint of a peg between the chambers. In fact, I have one of them. A poorly articulated revolver with no markings whatsoever. It arrived in the white with no markings and in a Colt box with colt literature. There were several sets like this bought by a local collector It probably came from a batch made by armi san marco or Palmetto and soundly rejected by colt black powder. At least that is what the purchaser was told. Internet experts deny that such a thing is even possible.

I suspect the Paterson users wouldn't give up one of their five shots in order to have an empty chamber to set the hammer down on. Probably lowered the hammer in between or just lowered the hammer on top of a cap. If anybody shot himself because of that, it may have influenced the pins that showed up singly on the Walker and pocket models and between every chamber on later guns.

May 15, 2007, 01:42 PM
so essential where i was resting the hammer in the store, is were the safety pins are. If im looking at the picture correctly, then the safety pins are the little round bumps on that flat part between nipples. Which is were i was resting the guns hammer. Sorry if im sounding clueless, its just i have no experiance with a bp gun.

May 15, 2007, 02:27 PM
right. There is a slot on the bottom of the hammer face that will fit right over those bumps. The only way the hammer is going to slide off onto the nipple is if something nudges it back and starts rotating the cylinder. The remingtons, Lemats, and several others have slots between the nipples that catch the hammer nose and serve the same purpose.
I would stay away from any revolver that lacked the pins as it is likely to come from Palmetto or asm and to have a number of quality issues that may not be apparent at visual inspection. For a shooting revolver, I would stick with Uberti. Parts are available from cimarron arms or vti gun parts and the revolvers, from the box are usually basically sound even though you might have to smooth them up and deal with minor issues. Many shooters prefer Pietta products and they are every bit as smart as I am. Newer ones have improved a great deal and you can get parts for the more common ones from VTI gunparts. Some shooters swear by Euroarms and there are a couple of their retail distributors who stock guns and parts. My only experience is with one of their rogers and spencer revolvers and a couple of civil war replica rifles. All were extremely well done and good shooters.

May 15, 2007, 02:36 PM
I was thinking of buying mine from navy arms, but that is also made by uberti if i remember correctly. Tho my issue with navy arms is they list the 1851 as coming in both .36 and .44 but dont offer a 1860 .44 army, or the 1861 navy.
Not sure if thats nitpicking on my part, but meh, i think it is prudent to nitpick when you consider purchasing a firearm.

edit, mec thanks for your information bro, i really appreciate it, im kinda surprised that colt didnt put some kind of safety divice on the 1873, makes me wounder why Mason(the inventor) would release such a unsafe product. Did they do no quality assurance testing? Surely it wouldnt take to much to add some form of safety divice that allows all 6 chambers to be loaded. If i buy a SAA its gonna be a Berreta stampeed, It has a transfere bar safety, but is as close to traditional as you can get. Instead of 4 clicks when you pull the hammer back you get 3, Since i have never heard a real Colt saa before, i can live with it. When i held that stampeed for the first time i felt like a kid again, even tho its a replica i felt like i was back in the old days, were men were men and wemon were wemon.

I know that some think a replica cant take a person back, but that one just felt "right" in my hand. Sure it had a more modern action, but at its soul, its still a colt. But thats a topic for another day, I still plan on getting a '51 just not sure from who lol.

May 15, 2007, 03:01 PM
I tried to get some things from Navy a while back and found out that they were out of everything but cartridge guns. Any time a .44 Navy is advertised, it is made by Pietta. Best bet for Uberti guns would be Midway USA- they list whether or not an item is actually available on site. Cabelas gives good service as does Taylor Inc. Dixie Gun works is very responsive but you have to call them on the telephone to fined out if a cataloged item is actually available. If it is, they ship fast.

Dixie usually tells which company their guns come from. Avoid anything from Palmetto as they seem to take pride in selling non working replicas.

all of these companies have a very customer-friendly return and replace policy. If you order a Uberti product, you are less likely to have to take advantage of it than with other makes.

May 15, 2007, 05:56 PM
From messing with several reproductions of the Colt Peacemaker, it seems to me that while the "quarter cock" hammer notch is not a safety, it was meant to be one. It does raise the firing pin above the cartridge primers at least.

Among other dangers, it's too fragile to be any use. But it makes it seem to me that Colt did at least TRY to have some sort of safety device on the Peacemaker.

I've heard people say you can lower the firing pin of a Peacemaker or exact replica so that it rides between the rims of two cartridges as if riding on a percussion gun's safety pin or notch. I've never tried it, and in larger diameter cases such as the .45 Colt I doubt there'd be enough space between case rims for this to work. And to try this with rimfire cartridges would be a disaster. But it is one technique that the old guys might have used, under the proper circumstances.

May 15, 2007, 08:19 PM
absolutely. Truth be told, I suspect that most users of single action armies loaded six and used the first notch as a safety. The old model ruger black hawk manuals even said that placing the hammer in that notch made the guns safe to carry "under most circumstances." I sold the SBH and don't have the manual any more so can't photograph the page to prove it is really there.

It probably worked very well as a safety too. There are concerns that dropping the revolver on the hammer will shear the notch or the tip of the trigger-neither of which are very substantial -and allow the gun to fire. The terminal discharges I have known about came when the carrier just set the hammer down in contact with a primer. they go off real easy like that.

May 18, 2007, 11:25 AM
sorry for the delay in replys, busy week again. Thats what i figured, it made sence for the peacemaker packer back then to trust the factory when they said it was safe to carry. My question is, is it possible to improve this safety notch so that it wasnt so flimsy?? That way you could retain that 4 click sound everyone creams for, and have a safe gun.

Back to the '51 navy, i was looking at powders and am stuck between 2 brands. On one side there is hogdons 777 and the other is GOEX Pinnacle Replica powder. Both claim to be non corrosive bp substitutes. My question is, why is it on hogdons site in there reloading data they always show the slow loads. Is 777 safe to use up to 28grains of powder in a 51 or does it somehow have higher pressures then regular bp. Same question about the goex pinnacle replica, they dont make any reloading data claims but say it loads reloads and shoots like bp, in a cleaner way. Any advice on these would be greatly appreciated.

May 18, 2007, 12:03 PM
stronger parts probably do help. As above, Ruger used to indicate that the safety step was safe but they don't do that anymore. Neither does freedom arms.

I've checked out Pinacle in a number of pistols and revolvers. See results here:
Nothing very encouraging and the only really good results I got were with heavy charges in the dragoon

It is possible to get some really good loads with H777. ful charges with significant compression can be wild, giving extreme spreads in the 200+ fps range. Generally, people reduce the charges somewhat and try to set the ball right on top the powder column without any significant compression. This can produce low extreme spreads and good accuracy but the results are still not entirely predictable. We've had fine results from the 50 Clements ruger and a number of single shot pistols.

June 4, 2007, 02:12 PM
Couple of points,...

Keith mentioned that the Colt 51 Navy was considered by the Civil war veterans he knew to be a better manstopper than the results they had seen and heard of from the 38 spl with standard loads, meaning the fairly pointy shaped round nose 158 gr factory load. He also mentioned that the men that used them considered the round ball superior to the conical for fight stopping. The round ball had a more blunt profile, higher velocity, and seemed to have better shock then the pointed profile of the conical. The conical was considered useful for foraging, (shooting livestock for food) since it had better penetration, tho the shock was less. "Foraging" generally meant shooting livestock (hogs and cattle). Head shots would likely be prefered for this task.

I carried a Colt SAA for several years, mostly in a well fitted handbuilt half flap holster (meaning nothing moved the hammer back to cause the cylinder to rotate). I tried carrying the firing pin between the rims of the shells for a "safety", and found, many times, that the cylinder had moved, and I was carrying it with the hammer down on a loaded round. I finally quit doing it. Using the "safety notch" on the hammer is probably safer, tho I went to loading 5 rounds as best. My gun was a 44 spl. I think the rims are very close to the same diameter of a 45 Colt cal.

Keith mentioned that he knew of a couple guys that had been carrying Colt SAA's fully loaded, hammer in the "safety" notch, and they had stirrups fall off the top of the saddle when saddling up or adjusting the cinch, causing the gun to fire when the stirrup hit the hammer and sheared the trigger tip and/or hammer notch.

If you expect trouble, top it off, for regular daily carry, 5 is best.

It wouldn't bother me to carry a percussion pistol fully loaded with the hammer resting on the pin between chambers, tho I have not done it so far. I've not heard of anyone having trouble with a percussion cylinder moving when carried this way. Some percussion guns have been dry fired, peening the hammer face, and the hammer notch does not fit down over the pins properly. Best to check your gun before carrying loaded.

June 4, 2007, 02:42 PM
" I think the rims are very close to the same diameter of a 45 Colt cal..."

close enough that I use the same shell holder for reloading both cases