Common Guns in the Civil War
Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver
One of the most popular of Civil War revolvers was the Colt Model 1851 in 36 caliber. Around 250,000 were made by Colt between 1850 and 1873. It had a six shot cylinder and a 7-1/2" octagonal barrel. The standard cylinder featured an engraved scene of a naval battle. The Navy designation meant it was 36 caliber. 44 Caliber were known as Army, but both terms are merely convenient marketing designations.
This model was carried by such different men as the Confederate Commanding General,
Robert E. Lee, and later the Sheriff of Abilene, Wild Bill Hickock.
It was loaded with loose
blackpowder and a bare bullet, referred to
as "cap and ball," or with paper cartridges.
Loading a cap and ball revolver is from the front of the cylinder.
It was fired with percussions caps. Misfires in cap and ball revolvers were more common than in the subsequent metallic cartridge guns. The misfire problem was well enough known to be commented on when it didn't happen after unusual circumstances.
The '51 Colt carried by Robert E. Lee made the commentaries. When it was shot after his death in 1870, every chamber fired when it had last been loaded during the middle of the War about seven years earlier.
The '51 Colt Navy was the first gun to be
made as a replica in the 1950s. The markup prototype for new Italian
production was assembled in 1949 from old original Colt parts. When the
rules were very different back then, I bought my first one when I was
sixteen. It was fun shooting it with my Dad, and we learned a lot
together. We must have fired it about a thousand times.
Newly made ones can be still be bought by legal buyers from
Dixie Gun Works and others.
Curiously, although the bullet in the
36 is lighter then the bullet in the 44 cap and ball revolvers, the
powder charge isn't so different, and the muzzle energy (the power in
the bullet) are more nearly the same.
For more information, consult "Flayderman's Guide To Antique American Firearms" by Norm Flayderman, or "Colt Conversions" by R. Bruce McDowell.
||2 ½ pounds
||840 feet per seconds
||120 foot pounds
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