View Full Version : Correct load for 1860 Army

February 11, 2011, 08:25 PM
I took a fluted 1860 Army (Pietta w/Ivory grips) to range. I used to put 30 grains of powder in chambers. I took colt flask w/ spout and loaded goex w/ wads and ball. I only hit outside of target 2 times and all other 3 missed at 15 yards:o I measured the colt spout and it only held 25 grains. Now I am no marksman but I think I can shoot something that big from that distance. Was the powder charge too small? And I have found just by plinking around that by not using wads gives better performance. OK ---I think I should use 30 grains in that gun w/out wads or am I just a bad shot w/25g/w/wad


February 11, 2011, 08:36 PM
With the smaller charge you probably shot over the top of the target. With less velocity, the bullet is in the barrel longer while the recoil is raising the muzzle. I find I get BETTER accuracy using the felt wads than without them.

February 11, 2011, 08:54 PM
There is no 'correct' charge for the 1860 Army, or for any black powder gun, for that matter. The fun part about bp is that you get to find out what load works best for each individual gun. And you do that by shooting it, lots - that's where the fun comes in.

Without knowing how big your target was it's impossible to say if your skill is at issue. I'd start at a much shorter distance (no further back than 10 yards, but the best distance is 5 yards) to be sure I was on the target and to see if I could get a decent group, regardless of where it was with relation to the bullseye. Once you know where the group center is, then you can start moving back, or more to the point, working up a load that produces the smallest group and thus the 'correct' load for that gun. THEN move back to a 'more respectable' distance.

Starting out with an unfamiliar gun at 25 yards is asking for frustration.

February 11, 2011, 09:29 PM
Well it was 15 yards. I thought the spout held 30 grains. Anyway, it didn't and the target was mybe 2x3. I read you need 30 grains in these. But safety manuals suggest safe loads at 25. And of course I've read you can't overload one if you can get the ball seated within chamber. I've read it all. But I think 30 grains of real BP in an `1860 or maybe 35 grains of substititute would be right. I'm trying to hit on what most people would use in these whether realBP or substitute. Am I close. I did find out that I were'nt no good w/ 25 grains in it. And I always before shot 36 c 1851 or1861 navys so I am not real new at the 44's

February 11, 2011, 11:39 PM
I haven't shot my 1860 enough to experiment with different loads. Thus far, I have loaded with 20 gr of Triple 7 FFFG. Using the 15% rule, that is roughly the equivalent of 23.5 gr of black powder. My gun groups well with this load; but tends to shoot about 5 inches above point of aim at 15 yards. Using a six o'clock hold on a 6" bull, my groups are usually in the extreme upper portion of the bull. Of course, there is the occasional flier, but I know who causes those.

Edit: I do use wads between the powder and the ball. I am using .454 balls.

Fingers McGee
February 11, 2011, 11:46 PM
I had to open the rear sight notch on my Pietta 1860 Armies to get them to print on the paper. They were shooting way over the target at 15 yds.

February 12, 2011, 12:27 AM
As most of you know, I am still a relative newbie to BP shooting. The only thing I have found to dislike so far is that adjustable sights are not historically correct for most of the weapons. I love the fact that adjustable sights allow you to quickly zero your weapon for whatever distance you are shooting.

It's probably because of my military background and thousands of rounds fired in service rifle competition; but I just don't feel comfortable or confident with fixed sights.

February 12, 2011, 06:44 AM
Apologies - my reference to 25 yards was a typographical error on my part.

I don't think the difference between 25 and 30 grains is going to be apparent at 15 yards; the issue is most likely the sights. Assuming a 12 o'clock hold on a target 2 feet tall your gun is shooting more than a foot high at 15 yards, I believe; that's unusual but certainly not rare for a repro Colt as Fingers testified. I've had similar results.

The load is most likely not the issue; the sights are suspect. Again: start at 5 yards and note the group size and location; that will tell you where to start.

February 12, 2011, 09:59 AM
Most the repros are like the originals, sights set for about 75 yds. Open the notch in the hammer, a taller front sight or Kentucky windage.

February 12, 2011, 11:00 AM
Ok, does this bring us back to using a filler to bring ball forward, reducing bullit jump inside cylinder?

February 12, 2011, 11:49 AM

February 12, 2011, 01:59 PM
I use 35 grs. of Pyrodex and a lubed wad most of the time. Minute of Coke can at 25 yds.

February 12, 2011, 08:27 PM
Ok--I pick up that mag "Guns of the old west " and I don't have the issue but I remember last year the author purchased some from Traditions at a trade show. Basically he was talking about firing the 1860 and 30 grains of Goex as compared to 35 grains. The 30 grains did the best. So, I thought I was putting in 30 grains instead of 25. Hawg is probably right because 35 grains of pyrodex would be close 30 grains of RealBP. So to sum up on this para, I don't think 25 grains is adequate for that gun in target shooting.


February 14, 2011, 01:47 AM
There's a link on another thread showing an original "skins" cartidge for the Colt 44--and it contains 18 grains of Hazard's powder per the box. Makes you wonder...

And the sights ARE adjustable---with a file!

February 14, 2011, 12:24 PM
FWIW, the only "quick and painless" sight regulation I've ever done on a repro 1860 happened when I brought the wrong sized balls and flask spout by mistake and had to resort to using only the small supply of Pryodex pellets and Buffalo conicals I had taken along as an afterthought or go home.

In my then-new 5 1/2" Pietta 1860, I was astounded to find that not only did that combo shoot exactly where I aimed out to 25 yds, but would plunk them into nice, round 2 -3 " groups, too. Every single other C&B revolver I've ever had took at least some amount (in many cases, a great deal) of tedious experimentation with various powder charges and repeated cut-and-try sight alterations to get even close to that result.

Personally, I'd start out as mykeal suggested and move in closer at first. Working systematically from a solid rest and using a calibrated measure or dippers to throw your charges, find the one which gives you your tightest average groups regardless of where they're printing. Then either find a flask spout which delivers that same volume or alter an oversized one to do it.

Then comes the tricky part: altering the sighting notch in your hammer to regulate your POI with your POA.

DON'T GET IN A HURRY! IMHO, it's best to do this with a couple of high-quality needle files rather than grabbing your Dremel and a cutting wheel, even though that case-hardening can be a b***h to work on at first. It's only a very few 1000ths deep, and power tools can wind up taking off more metal than you want or need to REAL fast if you get impatient or heavy-handed with them.

IIWY, I'd start by getting your groups centered for windage. Rear sight= remove metal on the side you want the group to move towards. Take just a very few file strokes off at a time, then carefully firing at least one group after each alteration. This can take several tries to accomplish but you can buy a considerable amount of powder and lead for the cost of buying and fitting a new hammer, so BE PATIENT.

Once that's been done, move back to the range you plan on doing the bulk of your shooting from and regulate for elevation. Generally, this will require making the notch deeper to bring the groups down. Same system as above, please.

A somewhat more expensive, if less labor-intensive, alternative would be to have a 'smith cut a dovetail in your barrel and install a "tall" blade-type front sight. Then you just need to "drift" it slightly in the dovetail for windage and file it down for elevation. Not "Period Authentic", but it does work just dandy.

Hope this is of some help.

February 14, 2011, 01:00 PM
And the sights ARE adjustable---with a file!

Any sight setting is only good for a particular distance. If you do the "adjustment" with a file and change your distance, there's no going back.

February 18, 2011, 08:25 PM

I still go by the article that 30g of goex in an 1860 army is the best load. Great sights are great. Um that sounded redundant. But I think the sights on them already should be fine at 15 yards. I thought I was shootin 30 grains when I first posted but checked spout -maybe 26+/- grains. i agree that the lesser load held the ball in before recoil and I guess I ain't the best shot. I went down to barn and shot cans at 30 ft with 6 rounds of 30 grains. I then used 25 grains and aimed lower. Yes I hit but some also veered to right.


February 19, 2011, 08:53 AM
What Fingers said.

30 gr loads? Depends on what you are doing. Plinking, bulls eye shooting, squirrel or rabbit hunting? Fine

If you shoot them a lot as the cowboy shooters do, then 30 grs is too heavy. Excessive wear on shooter and gun.

Drop that back 5 to 8 grains per shot and you have a much more harmonious outcome.