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Old April 14, 2011, 01:13 PM   #1
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.36 Collt hankering!

Over the last few months I have had a hankering to buy another .36 Open Top replica.
I already have a Uberti London replica which I really like! A very high quality top Grade replica. The Uberti's are among the best fitted and finished of the replicas and necessarilary the most expensive of the breed. Piettias are good quality, nicely finished and dependablely functionsl replicas. Honestly they are a "grade" lower than the Uberti's with just a little less finely finished bluing and grip textures. Mechanically they are about 80% as well made as an Uberti with actions a little rougher functioning. Interior parts are well fitted and finished. Uberti's feel "Tuned" right out of the box but Piettias need to wear-in to function as amoothly. This takes around 150 shots.
This time I think I am going to try a Piettia .36.
There are several Piettias out there but most (Brass Framed mostly) are of the .44 caliber which is not exactllly historically correct nor is it what I am looking for. I have a Brass Piettia .44 which has been a good gun with good accuracy. Being a Brass Frame I load the Pieitta light at 20 gr of BP or Pyrodex followed with sometimes a patch and then a round lead ball. Sometimes I use Crisco for chainfire suppresion aand sometimes I use a lubed patch (over the powder). The revolver seems to like a Cornmeal filler putting the ball closest to the forcing cone for best accuracy. It's spot-on and centered at 21 ft and cuts the center out of a target easilly even with the rudimentary sights.
The GOOD preformance of this revolver has led me to want a .36 from this manufacturer!
The .36 caliber is very plesant to shoot with a 22 gr load and seems to have adequate veloocity for 25 yard targeting. My Uberti shoots spot-on at 15 yards. Recoil is nil with the .36's and muzzle blast is about 60% as loud as a .44 Cqaliber loading. The .36 has it's own sound and the speed of the ball is quite fast!
I understand that the gunfighters of old prefered the speedy small ball as it penetrated very well and easilly passed through heavy clothing,and still had enough deadly velocity to complete the balls task of finding vitals of the opponent. From what I have read these .36 caliber had a reputation for clean clear through shots in gunfights! that is suprising because of the deceptive mild manners of the .36. Wild Bill Hickock wassaid to prefer the .36 as his primary fighting gun and if it was good enough for an expert like him, it is good enough for a target shooter and plinker such as myself!
My only complaint about the Colt design is the damnable condition which causes spent caps to fall between the Hammer and the frame. Evidently the Caps don't follow the trough cut into the frame and pieces hang-up on the corner of the hammer notch and fall into the action and jam the hammer from firing. This all happens so fast that you don't notice and the gun fails to fire the next cap.
I have read articles that suggest "The Gunfighters Flip"( a quick shake of the gun to the right) to eject spent cap debris from the frame. I have also been advised to cock the revolver with the barrel pointed downward to clear cap debris. Of the two methods, I have found the downward barrel upon cocking to be the most dependable. The lowered cylinder seems to carry the fragments around the cap channel dependably with this method.You may have also seen the method where the muzzle is raised to near vertical upon cocking as in the old "B" Movies. This method actually works but looks very animated and may get detrimental safety comments and warnings at the range.
The material which make-up the caps themselves might make a difference on Colt Hammer Jamming as each manufacturer uses different thicknesses and materials to form their caps. For instasnce, RWS Caps are thin Copper and almost completely fragment whereas CCI are thick and hard material and hold together. I have found Remington Caqaps to be the most dependable comprimise as they hold together and stay in place as the cylinder rotates past the hammer notch and on to the clean-out cut. This plus a concentrated effort to help the gun clear the fragments keeps the gun running.
Rapid fire with the Colt design is not recommended without one of these cap clearing methods applied. I think that once you find a method make it a habit and your gun will function reliably.
The Colt design requires a wipe down about every 3 cylinder fulls. I just use a dampened (with Windex) towel and give the cylinder and arbor a quick wipe off. I usually apply some crisco or "Traditions" Wonder Lube to the cylinder arbor and reassemble the gun. This keeps the gun functioning reliably. Without such maintance, the cylinder soon loads up with fouling and operation suffers badly.
Reguardless of the minor hassles of Cap fragments, the Open Top colt has a flavor of nostalga that draws the gun to you! The fine balance of the Navy Frame and the super inherant accuracy thet the .36 has makes it a good canadate for your Black Powder Battery. Shooting cost is very low due to the low powder volume required and .375 balls are amongst the cheapest to buy. Wads cost the same across the board as do Caps. overall assembled loads in .36 cost about 60% compared to a .44. Punching paper or tin cans is a lot cheaper with this caliber! It's about the most inexpensive fun you can have using a "real" gun!
Black Powder revolver shooting is a relaxing and fun hobby it's slow procedures allow you to slowly appreciate all the procedures applied in reloading and preping a revolver to fire and you dont just "POUR" cartriges through your gun as you do with a modern semi-auto! It's easy to dump $50 worth of ammo through a semi-auto in 20 minutes. With Black Powder you actualy get to enjoy the processes and to handle your gun more. Handling your gun is alomst as much fun as actually firing it. I think this is a point that getsis never sponen of and skipped with todays Wonder 9's and such... Actual gun handling is fun!
Ok as you see, I am ready for a new revolver, and the little .36 will surely fill the bill! I enjoy shooting but the processes applied to BP revolvers add to the "fun" with the gun. It's fun to slow down and not concentrate on the biggest "BOOM" or the fastest fire rates. This caliber makes sense for several reasons but it's economy stands out the most.
Hopelessly Hooked...
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Old April 14, 2011, 01:20 PM   #2
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I'm glad you are "hooked". You need to read the "Dark Arts" over in CAS city to resolve some of the misconceptions you have.
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Old April 14, 2011, 02:14 PM   #3
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I agree with what you wrote.

I enjoy cleaning my revolvers as much as I enjoy shooting them. It is all part of the black powder experience
A story about a man, his harrowing journey, a vast frontier, and a great struggle.
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Old April 14, 2011, 03:00 PM   #4
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With the exception of being falsley accused for trolling (NOT!) the same month I joined CAS, I enjoy the Forum!
999/10% of the posters are great!
I hope you were not one if the ones I ran afoul of as this was not my intention,. I was asking and stating s straightforward question and an observation. As we all do sometimes I am not exactly clear about my wants. Posting works like that sometimes.
I had only been able to aquire different substitute powders as my State is very restrictive as to transportation and storage. Dealers don't want to deal with it all and just stock substitutes. With the loads I shoot I can only run through so much powder and since finally locating some real BP back in June.
I guess there are times to joke around but when someone asks a serious question about safety that is not the time to start in on the circus!
Nevertheless, I think I have leveled things out and apolgies have been exchanged and accepted amongst all but two individuals. I guess those two are losses...
I truely enjoy BP revolver shooting but have a lot yet to learn about the subtlities such as the differences between the brands of powders.Each Caliber has it's own intracicies, each acts differently with different combinations of powder, filler and lead.
Over the past year and a half I have bought, borrowed from the Library and read every bit of information I have been able to find! I am aquiring a nice little library of referance material but nothing beats experience with the breed and that information is greatly appreciated!
My Shooting Club is a good source of information though our CAS group shoots mainly Smokeless Powder (there information is severly limited). The common opnion is that C&B won't do knock-overs. Especally a .36! Admittly .36 M/E is low and you should stick to a .44 for knock-overs.
The .36 is a greatly underappreciated caliber. I too am guilty of going "Big Bore" at the beginning! I went for the biggeswt Boom and highest impacts. Since then I have become interested in .36 caliber because of it's accuracy and velocities.
I am active on many forums but there are just a few who deal with "The Darkside". Here and CAS being the dominate. I sincerely hope the past misunderstandings over at CAS have been laid aside! I hope that with the exception of those two individuals others things have been settled between us all as of today.
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Old April 14, 2011, 04:10 PM   #5
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ZVP. I too have a soft spot for the Colt .36...1851, 61' & 62' police models.
Looks like it might be time for you to start shopping for some of the Colt remakes..I bought my first Colt 1851 when they first came out in the very early 1970's.
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Old April 14, 2011, 04:46 PM   #6
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ZVP, Got no dog in the fight!

Firstly, with properly fitted nipples and caps, there is no reason to go through the "B Western" manipulations of the cap and ball revolvers. I shoot them a lot and my caps either fall off, as intended, to the right of the gun as the cylinder is rotated or stick tight until I take them off at the loading table. I have had one cap this year drop under the hammer. I reached in with a fingernail and popped it out with very little lost time.
Secondly, I heartily disagree with your observations about the relative quality of Piettas and Ubertis. Uberti makes some fine guns but their cap and balls, out of the box, are not some of them. I have sold or traded away all of the Uberti cap and balls that I did own. Externally, they look pretty but the internals are off a bit and if you are going to shoot them much you will have to do some adjustments. See Larsen T. Pettifoggers Articles on tuning black powder revolvers.
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Old April 14, 2011, 05:55 PM   #7
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I guess I got lucky with mine. I dat the moment I have a broken hand spring but as you know it and the trigger springs get a lot of part failures on all brands. I have considered trying to find one of the aftermarket replacements but don't know where to look?
Yea Pettifoggers articles are great! There is So much to learn about these charcol bruners! (It makes you really appreciate a Ruger Single Six!)
MY London feels like it had an action job when compared to my Piettia .44. Even with the slick brass Piettia frame the gun cocks about 1/3 harder than my London! I think there must be a slight difference in the arc of the trigger pull or maybe it's the placement of the hammer pivot bolt? Whatever, the Uberti is super smooth and easy to cock.
I think the Navy's are the easiliest handling of all the Colts (Clones and otherwise). The grip length of trigger pull and overall balance are perfect!
I wish I had a stubby belly gun made from a Navy as it might just be the ideal BP carry gun. Maybe with a 3" bbl anda rounded, bobbed hammer? I'd want a loading lever even though it'd likely be impratical and useless, it just looks right. I guess I am nearly describing a Police model which come to think of it IS perfect!
Have you ever gotten to shoot any paper cartriges i your 36's? I herd that they are hard to load because of the small space in the frame. Sure seem pratical having a ready to go load made-up! I think a lot of getting your spent caps to fall of at the right time or not fall into the action, is a matter of matching a cap to the individual nipple. Like I'd said before I am having good results from Remington caps. they are made up of good metal and fit the Italian Nipples correctly. BTW, I pinch my caps so they fit tight and pressthem on with a dowel. So far thar works for me. I also lower the muzzle when cocking. I know in old times real life you'd probably not have time to try this when under Indian attack.
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Old April 14, 2011, 06:22 PM   #8
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I'm a Uberti man, myself. I have had several Piettas (still have a Dance revolver that I like very much) and all but two or three were crap. Granted, that was about 15 years ago and they are said to have gotten a lot better. I don't just punch holes in paper with them either. I carry them while working. I have had to use them too.(four legged critters, not two) Never had a problem. I have one Uberti 1861 navy, and two Uberti 1851s with another on the way. I think the .44s are great ( I have two "58" Remingtons, two 3rd model Dragoons, and one Walker with one on the way all Uberti) but I think the .36 is under rated and just fun to shoot. They are accurate, and have enough power to defend yourself or your cattle as it were. It's nice to see others get bit by the BP bug.
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Old April 14, 2011, 07:12 PM   #9
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Hello, ZVP. My first revolver was a used Navy Arms 1851 .36. I used to make paper cygs. for it. I only shot R.B. The ctgs. were made up on a tapered mandrel I turned up at school out of brass. I remember I used waxed paper, with a tissue paper base for easy ignition. I packed ball & powder tight that if dropped, they would burst open. When loading, sometimes you could feel them burst in seating. Later I went to nitrated paper. One thing I always wanted to do..but never did, was to make nitrated "skin" ctg's. I planned on using the intestines of the squirrels I shot in fall.
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Old April 14, 2011, 07:55 PM   #10
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Oh yea the .36 bug has bitten me bad!
I already have one but it broke a hammer spring and besides, ya just gotta have two guns!
I am a beginner at all this but have been studying the hobby in depth for a little over a year I have 3 .44's and the .36 London with a bad spring. Gotthe part but I am having a gunsmith fit it as I don't have the stones to mill it into the correct size.
I have been looking at a standard Piettia model with a brass triggerguard. A plain model meant just for shooting enjoyment.
Do any of you have the velocitys for different loads (using the standard .375 round ball)? from what I have read, I was estimating a 22 grain load should make about 875-900fps with a energy of around 100 fp. This is way below a .38 Special and even under a .380 Auto but it seems to be a preferred load of many folks. My .36 does really well with just this powder charge and a lead ball. I think it would make for a good "carrying load".
I don't have a chrony but am very carefull to load as exactly the same chamber to chamber. I load each chamber from a powder measure individually filled, settled (by tapping it to settle the powder to the top) and this way each chamber is as close as possible to the next. I know I could just cut the Flasks spout to a weight and just throw a spoutfull into each chamber. I could be close enough but I am somewhat of a perfectionest when it comes to even BP. This wayI am further safeguarded in case of accidential ignition and only have a small amount of powder in hand while loading.
Everything as safe as possible!
Besides like I said I like to handle the gun a lot and play with the BP toys is a blast too! So many helpfull little tools! Measures, cappers etc...
with the number of .36's carried about during and after the War and the fact that Colt built the Navy model untill '73, it must be a good gun/caliber choice. I doubt animals and Heaven forbid, people are just as tough these days... The little .36 ought to suffice for a field companion.
As a matter of fact I either carry a .22WMR stoked Single Six or a .357 Ruger Vaquero but with my intrest in in BP shooting, I wanted to find a light but powerfull enough revolver to carry once in a while. Yes I know it's a weak opponent compared to the Vaquero.
I wonder how Fish and Game officers would treat carrying a BP revolver openly afield? Gotta admit in a cross draw, it's a classy carry piece!
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Old April 15, 2011, 12:30 PM   #11
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I did it!

I just couldn't pass up that $80 savings on the basic Gov't model Navy! You can't beat that price anywhere!
The pistol will replace my .22 LR Cimmaron Plinkerton that quit working at 1500 shots. It was a wear test to see just how long a $189 .rimfire would last? Unfortunatelly it went waytoo quickly. So now I'll have a trail gun with a little more power and a LOT more class!
For snakes and Dog packs it'll be ideal and I hope I NEVER have to defend myself from human threats but I think the .36 would be better at that also?
I am still looking all over the net for .36 articles on loads and tricks and tips about the Navy Model. Who knows I may even try some Conicals through this one? Maybe some paper cartriges even?
It's on backorder so this is like doing a waiting period... Just like waiting for Santa!
If anyone has any Navy Model tricks, please let me know, OK?

Last edited by ZVP; April 15, 2011 at 02:27 PM.
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Old April 16, 2011, 06:45 PM   #12
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My first .36 was a Colt 2nd generation 1851 Navy. I've put perhaps 2,000 rounds through it and it's still working fine. I have to tap the wedge in a little farther than in the past, to get it tight, but it still locks up tight.
I use 1/8" thick wool felt wads, greased with Gatofeo No. 1 Bullet Lubricant:

1 part canning paraffin
1 part mutton tallow
1/2 part beeswax
All measurements are by weight, not volume. Substitution of any of the above ingredients results in an inferior lubricant. I've tried all variations, with various tallows and greases, and the above is clearly the best.
Okay ... hope I headed off about a dozen inquiries of, "What if I use ...?" that always seem to follow my recipe.

I cut my own wads from felt sheets ordered from Durofelt of Little Rock, Ark. Most of the felt you'll find today is synthetic. Durofelt offers 100% wool felt. It makes a difference, because the synthetic wool is largely polyester (plastic) and may leave lumpy plastic deposits in the bore. Being plastic, it also resists soaking up the Gatofeo No. 1 lubricant, but wool soaks it up nicely.

Best accuracy will be found with black powder. I use FFFG grade, or FFG if I can't get FFFG.

Seat the greased wad on the powder as a separate operation. Then, seat the ball.
It is best to use a ball of .378 to .380 inch diameter. Some chambers are too large to hold a .375 ball during recoil. Also, in my experience, the larger balls are more accurate. I credit this to a wider bearing band formed on the ball when it's rammed in the chamber, providing more of an area for the rifling to grip. That's my theory. Don't know how I'd prove it, though many others have stated it as fact since I first suggested it about a dozen years ago.

With a greased felt wad, there is no need to use grease over the seated ball. The lubricated wad saves time and messiness, compared to putting grease over the seated ball.

In the 1851 Navy:
My target loads are 20 to 22 grains of Goex FFFG powder.
With the wad, a full load is about 24 grains.
Without the wad, I can get about 27 grains of FFFG under a ball, but then I have to put grease over the ball to keep fouling soft.
With the 27 gr. load the 82-grain ball gets about 1,000 fps from the Navy's 7-1/2 inch barrel. I don't often shoot this load as I have no need for a maximum load to just put holes in paper or tin cans.

The greased wad will keep the bore fairly clean. Grease over the ball will keep the bore clean about 3/4 of the way from the breech, then fouling suddenly becomes heavy. I can't explain it, but that's my experience. In my experience, greased felt wads are the way to go, even if you have to sacrifice a few grains of powder to get them to fit under the ball.

I also own two Remington .36 revolvers. One, made in 1973, has very shallow rifling and has never been particularly accurate, despite my meticulous efforts. Groups from a benchrest at 25 yards are 4 to 5 inches.
The other Remington .36, made in 2001, is a tad bit more accurate with 3" groups or there abouts.
My Colt 1851 Navy will deliver 2" groups at 25 yards from a benchrest all day long, with occasional groups slightly tighter.
This is not an indictment of the Remingtons. Each gun is an individual and has varying capabilities and preferences.

I've never found conical bullets as accurate as the ball, at least in the .36 caliber.
I have an Uberti-made Remington .44 that is amazingly accurate with the Lee 200 gr conical, cast of pure lead and lubricated with Gatofeo No. 1 Lubricant. Balls are right on the heels of the Lee conical, as far as accuracy goes, so I usually just use .454 or .457 inch balls.
After all, do I really need a 1/2" tighter-group advantage to knock off tin cans and informally shoot targets? Because I have to cast the conicals, and casting takes time and preparation, I am stingy with my Lee conicals.

I think you'll find the .36 a splendid caliber. It's too light for deer, probably marginal for coyote-sized animals, but just right for rabbits, grouse (shoot in the head to save meat) and dispatching the occasional vermin.
Alas, the Colts almost always shoot high, as much as 12 inches higher than aim at 25 yards. The installation of a taller front sight, coupled with some judicious filing of the rear sight notch deeper, may cure this.

But don't grab that file just yet! Find out what load is most accurate in your .36, then alter your sights to that load.

The .36 has little recoil. Ballistically, it's about the same as the .380 ACP with full metal jackets. However, ballistics are only a guide.
The ghosts of millions would disagree with the .380 analogy, having been put in an early grave by the .36 caliber. It served well in the Civil War, and by all accounts was a dependable man-stopper.
As for gunmen preferring it because it would penetrate heavy clothing -- first I've heard such an assertion. The internet is a wonderful tool, but it also allows people to perpetuate or create myths that are soon taken as fact.
Recently, I read one message board poster claim that if troops were issued a Colt, they'd immediately try to swap it for a Remington.
He had no source for this claim. I very much doubt it, as Colt's revolvers were very highly regarded in the Civil War and around the World. Was the Remington a better design? Perhaps, in some aspects, but for natural pointing ability and balance, the Colt was and remains King.
In battle, a naturally pointing gun can save your life.
I like both designs myself, finding small faults with both. Yet, both were very good in their day and can still be deadly today. They are not toys and should be treated with as much respect and caution as modern firearms.

Enjoy your .36. Were I you, I'd consider getting an 1861 Colt from Buffalo Arms. They sell Cimmaron Arms cap and ball revolvers at a good price. Cimmaron takes the time to pick the best Ubertis, then gives them a little extra care. I paid $300 for mine and it's equal to my old Colt 2nd generation 1851 Navy, at least as far as fit and finish go.

I'd go with Uberti, by the way, as their barrels have slightly deeper rifling than Pietta. This shrugs off fouling longer, it seems. Plus, I've never encountered an inaccurate Uberti (except for that 1973 .36 Remington mentioned above, with very shallow rifling).

I like the .36 because I use less lead and powder. A pound of lead or powder go farther. The .36 is nifty and thrifty.
"And lo, did I see an ugly cat. Smoke. Brimstone. Holes in parchment. And this ugly cat was much amused." --- The Prophesies of Gatodamus (1503 - 1566)
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Old April 18, 2011, 10:50 AM   #13
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Since you are a fellow Utahn, have you ever read that ole Porter Rockwell's heavy, wool greatcoat would stop a 0.36 bullet??
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Old April 18, 2011, 03:40 PM   #14
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Great post lots of info!
BTW I got the 36 penetrates heavy clothing from Elmier Keith in his book "Guns of the old West"... Not a made-up story.
I like your interpretation of the .36 it's the same conclusion I have come to believe!
The economy of the .36 is but one of it's selling points but a huge one! It fires with a lot less powder and the balls are sometimes cheaper.Wadsand caps are about the same.
My guns seem to work best with Remington #11's. They have stock nipples on them still.
Accuracy and velocity are good with the .375 balls but I just got some 380's and wouldn't ya know it the Hand Spring broke! I am looking forward to trying the 380's as I seem to have one loose chamber on my London model. I was hoping this would keep all the balls tight.
On the .44's I have 2 Remingtons which like the .454 the best. Accuracy is very good with a 30 gr load of either Goex or Pyrodex fff. I haven't tried Conicals yer in the .44's but I'd like to. I understand that fpe goes way up with a Conical. For just general shooting I prefer the Soft Round Lead Ball as it seems to serve well and loads easily.
Great point on the sight adjustments on the .36! It is a very flat shooting ball and I agree, first find the best groups, then fix the sights. On my London, I only needed to take a little off the Hammer to get nice 15 yard zero's at 10m you just have to hold at the bottom of the 10 ring and you are there!
Black powder revolver shooting is a very hands-on type of shooting which appeals to me as I am able to individually taylor each chamber for consistancy. I charge apowder measure for each chamber as #1 for safetys sake, I am only pouring a small amount of powder into the chamber should an errant ember set it off,. #2 I am able to precisely control an exact amount of powder to the load. I'm probablly going overboard on the safety but I always wait a couple minutes to reload and blow a cap off to clear the chambers.
I'm sure Civil War and indian Fighters were far less cautious but they had to be and needed to reload fast!
For years I shot a .45 Semi-Autos and revolvers and I just poured the ammo thru the guns. Now with my Single Actions I've slowed down and really enjoy each shot (and loading). It's a lot better now! I have always shot single shot rifles so now I have slowed it all down to a relaxing pace!
Thanks for all your help! I'll try to save all the loading daqta you posted.
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Old April 18, 2011, 04:04 PM   #15
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I tend to agree with ZVP in the most general terms in his opinion of Uberti versus Pietta. The fit and finish just seem to be at a higher level. Keep in mind that my opinion is only from the small handful of Ubertis and Piettas I own. I've read posts about problems with both Pietta and Uberti on numerous forums. My opinion is only based on personal and limited interaction with the handful I own. I will note that my first Uberti 1858, while a beautiful firearm, has the common problem where the barrel was not rotated to top-dead-center. Rather it was off by about 5 degrees so I chose to send it back and get a replacement rather than mess with it myself.
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Old May 9, 2011, 06:44 PM   #16
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I had to change my order a bit since the 'Govt Model Navy's were supposed to be backordered for almost a month more, I opted for the Piettia .36 Police revolver. It cost about $25 ore but would arrive within a week (it came in even earlier!)
The revolver I got is a great shooter and a very intresting interpritation of the Police model. It is based on a full size Navy frame rather than a Pocket frame and is a 6 shot gun. It shoots nicely and is capable of full charge (22-25 gr) loads! So far I have stopped testing at 22 grains and it groups nicely.
I have only trsted it with Pyrodex and will move on to real Black Powder on my next outing. So far the Pyrodex did well with the new rifling and sharp riges etc. Once the barrel gets "seasoned"my groups should tighten up and velocities will improve too
As an experiment, I'm just going to shoot this one to wear it in. I did this with a brass .44 Piettia Navy and it shoots really tight groups.
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