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Common Guns in the Civil War

44 Colt 1860 Revolver

One of the most popular of Civil War pistols was the Colt 44 Model 1860 Army Revolver. In the eyes of many, this 44 caliber revolver is the gun with the graceful and unbeatable looks.

Around 200,000 were made by Colt between 1860 and 1873. Nearly all were made during the War. It had a six shot cylinder and a 7" or (more common) an 8" barrel. The standard cylinder featured an engraved scene of a naval battle.  The Army designation meant it was 44 caliber. 36 Caliber was known as Navy, but both terms were merely convenient marketing designations.  Many Colt 36 Navy were carried into the field by the Army, and many Colt 44 Army were carried to sea by the Navy.

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 then fired with percussion caps. Misfires in cap and ball revolvers were more common than in the subsequent metallic cartridge guns.

Colt's first effort to convert this revolver to metallic cartridges was in 1869 designed by Thuer which was disappointing. The Richards conversion of the 1870s (with the closely similar Richards-Mason conversion and the 1871-72 Open Top) were both successful and used more modern looking cartridges.

The 44 Colt is available as a modern made replica from more than one manufacturer in several brand names, including from Dixie Gun Works.  The cartridge conversion model became available a few years ago because of a growing interest in Cowboy Action Shooting, but the cartridge version must be purchased through a dealer in your state with a Federal Firearms License (FFL).

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

More About Civil War Guns

 

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