View Full Version : More C and B revolver questions...

Matt Wallis
June 25, 2001, 09:25 AM
My period of interest really is that of the Old West, rather than the Civil War. So my interest in percussion revolvers is in how and when they were used out west.

Now, when you watch most Westerns and other depictions of the Old West, the Peacemaker and other cartridge revolvers are almost always featured. How accurate is that? How long were percussion revolvers in use in the Old West (not counting cartridge conversion). What models were the most popular?

Wild Bill is famous for his "Navy pistols". Does anyone know what model he used? How long did he use them anyway, and were they still C and B or were they converted?

Questions, questions! Sorry about that. But I would appreciate any responses.


PS. Any good Westerns that feature percussion pistols?

June 25, 2001, 09:49 AM
Bill's pistols were 1851 Navy Colts in 36 caliber. Don't know if they were converted or not.

The percussion revolvers were used a lot longer than the movies would have you believe. The Peacemaker was not what every cowboy carried, Hollywood mythology aside. Jesse James used S&Ws, for example.:cool:

June 25, 2001, 06:03 PM
Quigley Down Under uses all sorts of cap n ball pistols. Great scene in the cave where Laura San Giacomo loads a pair of them. The Sharon Stone version of The Quick and the Dead has one of the competitors (the Swede) loading and using a Le Mat. Some of Clint Eastwood's movies feature cap n balls, which he often reloads by swapping cylinders.

June 27, 2001, 09:21 AM
Colt introduced the ever popular Peacemaker in '73 this was one of the first cartridge revolvers and was by far the most successful. Remington and S&W both produced cartridge revolvers soon after this date. Before then revolvers were of the cap-n-ball variety and many were produced by companies besides Colt and Remington. Conversions were common after cartridges became available and what the "cowboy" shoot really depended on his personal perference and available $$.

Just like today, it was expensive for the common man to buy and shoot guns. If anything, after factoring the value of a dollar now vs. then it is cheaper today. So going out and buying a brand new colt often wasn't an option. Converting a CnB to was cheaper.

Hope this helps, and I've got a lot of pictures of revolvers of the time on my site.

June 28, 2001, 04:16 PM
Fun little side note of history...

Down in the Boise history museum there's an old Colt army cap and ball pistol. The barrel was sawed off shortly after the pin attatchment point, and as far as I could tell was never converted to cartridge use.

.. and it belonged to a ne'er do well who was caught in the early 1900's.

(but then, it's often said that Idaho is 25 years behind the times.. maybe it's always been that way)


July 2, 2001, 10:08 AM
Elmer Keith tells of using a Colt Navy in the early part of the 20th cent..

S&W made selfcontained metallic cartridge revolvers before the Civil War and large bore revolvers before Colt. Colt made cap&ball revovers until 1872-73. C&B revolvers were used long after the Civil War. Have people stopped using revolvers today just because semi-autos are the rage.

Cap n ball
July 3, 2001, 09:24 AM
Ron, I think cap and ball guns in general have an appeal to those of us who use them based upon economy and the aesthetic properties of a method of shooting that requires a bit more knowledge of ballistics and intimacy with the piece you grow to really like. If I run out of cartridges my semi-auto becomes useless. If I run out of caps I can use the tips of kitchen matches and run my own ball and if I had to with a little experimentation I could make my own powder as well. Flinters are even more versatile in that to shoot a smoothbore I can put dang near anything down the barrel and to get ignition all I need is the right rock. These sorts of firearms are almost indestructable and will still function long after semi-autos either run out of ammo or start jamming. They were used for a very long time by people who were not just down the street from a gunsmith. The reliablility factor is considerable. I have an affection for doing some things the old-fashioned way and personally, I like the smell of black powder second or third only to new mown alfalfa and a clean stable.

Alex Johnson
July 8, 2001, 04:59 PM
One of Hickock's 51's is on display in the Buffalo Bill Cody museaum in Cody Wyoming. I would imagine that it is pretty well authenticated and it was not a conversion. That said, Hickock owned many guns including cartridge ones, I have heard he was rather fond of the S&W pocket pistols. I remember reading about a documented gunfight in which Hickock shot a man down with a Colt Dragoon. I figure that Hickock was comfortable using the guns that he had used in the war and probably felt no great need to change. Keith once talked about the Navy being a better manstopper than the 158 grain 38 special police load (how he made a comparision I have no idea). In Hickock's case the percussions served him well right up until the time of his death and even there nothing short of having eyes in the back of his head would have saved him.