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Common Guns in the Civil War

The 44 Remington Revolver

During the American Civil War, Remington produced about 130,000 revolvers in 44 caliber as the Model 1858. It had a six shot cylinder and an 8" octagonal barrel.

The Remington is more accurate than the better known 44 Colt 1860. Field experience demonstrates the Remington has between one and a half and two times the effective range of the Colt. Both produce comparable power.

Both were loaded with loose powder and a bare bullet referred to as "cap and ball," or with paper cartridges, and fired with percussion caps.  Loading a cap and ball revolver is from the front of the cylinder.   Reloading an entire six shot cylinder can take several  minutes. The Remington can be quickly reloaded by switching the empty cylinder with a previously loaded one.  Switching cylinders in a Remington is easier then with a Colt, and especially so if the Colt's parts are a tight fit.

A Civil War re-enactor wrote to us that conical bullets are more accurate.  My experience of 50 years ago used only round ball bullets as we didn't have access to conical bullets then.  From what he says, he is probably correct.  He also claims his Colt is equally accurate to the Remington.  Another re-enactor tells me that he cleans his Remington by removing the wooden stocks and putting the cylinder and the rest of the revolver in the dishwasher.  The water is hot enough to heat the gun's metal to evaporate the residual water.  He doesn't do this when there are also dishes to be washed.

The Remington was more quickly converted to breech loading metallic cartridges then the Colt with several thousand Remingtons being altered as early as 1868.  There is now available a conversion cylinder for the cap and ball Remington to shoot the 45 Colt revolver cartridge.  The barrel inside diameter is correct, or close enough.  But the cylinder side walls are just a little thin, so keep the loads down to the original or less.

The rising interest in the Civil War caused an Italian manufacturer to start making a nearly identical replica in the mid-1950s.  The difference is in the screw threads and possibly the barrel rifling.  The screw threads in the replicas are metric because that was what was available then in Italy.  The combination of the screw threads and the rifling strongly reduces the opportunity for faking a new replica into a more valuable original. The total Remingtons made as replicas may exceed the total number of originals ever produced.  I bought my Dad a newly made replica from Dixie Gun Works as a gift while I was stationed overseas in 1968.  We still have it, and as a testament to the ruggedness of the Remington design, it still shoots very well.

For more information, consult "Flayderman's Guide To Antique American Firearms" by Norm Flayderman, or "Colt Conversions" by Bruce McDowell.

Technical Information

Length 14 Inches
Weight 2 pounds
Caliber 44 (.451")
Bullet Weight 138 grains
Power Charge 38 grains
Muzzle Velocity 725 feet per second
Muzzle Energy 160

More About Civil War Guns


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Emory Hackman

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