Efficiency of the blackpowder handgun...

Cruentus

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This sparked my interest from another thread, where we were discussing the Eastwood movie, "The Outlaw Jose Whales." In the movie, Eastwood uses Colt Walker .45's. The Walker is actually blackpowder instead of cartridge, but some say was the king of the handguns in its day.

What I was wondering about is how efficient were the blackpowder handguns. How fast could you reload in the field? How accurate were they, and for how far? How about jamming and other issues?

Anyone know about these, or ever get the chance to shoot one?

Paul
 

dearnis.com

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"Josey Whales" is pretty accurate on the need for the "New York" reload. Other than that; reliable enough, but demanded fanatic cleaning. Wild Bill Hickock, arguably one of the most deadly men of the era, went to his grave carrying .36 caliber colt navy percussion guns, and this was well into the cartridge era. Supposedly he would fire 12 practice rounds on arising, then tear the guns down, clean them, and reload before going about his day.
It is also worth noting that Hickock met his demise not due to his "antique, underpowered weapons..." but rather due to his failing eyesight and a failure of awareness; he was shot in the back without a chance to draw.
The Walker, like the LeMatt, was, IMO more of a curiosity.
More to follow; long day.
 
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Cruentus

Cruentus

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I saw that on Wild West Tech, about Wild Bill Hickock recently. I found it interesting that he used the ol' ball and powder.

But, what about reloading those things in a fight or on the field? Were you pretty much screwed when you were out?
 

Tgace

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Pretty much...had to carry BU weapons, derringer, knife....
 

MA-Caver

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I've had the opportunity to shoot a .40 cal black powder pistol (dunno if it were a Navy Dragoon like the owner said it was) but it was definitely a chore to load up. with 30 to 35 grains of powder to a lead bullet that had to have the percussion caps put on (last thing to do..duh) and using the right size wadding (these were precut store-bought) and using the built in ram-rod... I couldn't imagine the balls (pardon the pun) that a gun-fighter would've had to empty his gun and reload in the midst of a heated fight (of course from under cover).
I recall a History Channel episode a while (long while) back that said something about how the powder was wrapped up inside the wadding for faster reloads. A lot of work either way.
My friend set up a shooting range for us to play around in... he also had a .50 cal Hawkin replica which was a neat one to shoot but damn my shoulder hurt afterwards using the 90 grain measure for our shots. Anyway he challenged me to shoot at a can of (old) chili and shoot it from the hip like in a quick draw.
I still get a chuckle remembering the look on his face going from OMG shock to disgusted as this was THE first time I ever fired such a pistol and nailed the can and all it's splattering glory from about 30 feet or ten paces. Did pretty good on the second shot as well as I nailed the post the can was sitting on.
It's a powerful weapon no matter what caliber and definitely one not to get shot with. Again I can't imagine being in the military in the early days of the civil war where the honorable way to do battle in the field was to stand in a line and fire then reload while the opposite sides were taking their turn at ya.
One note ... on the muskets I've seen a guy get as good (reloading) as the combatants of the Civil War in firing three rounds a minute. Watching him it looked surrealistic but his marks on the target were evident enough that he knew what he was doing.
When circumstances permit I'll be wanting to own a black powder pistol and musket/rifle... very neat and not requiring all that gun-permit jazz either.
 

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Remember too that we are looking back; to the guys who had these things they were a HUGE step forward. Multiple shots!!!???? You mean I don't have to transition to a knife after (maybe) getting my two "pistols" (sawed off-caplock rifles) to fire!!!
There was no way to employ the number of rounds that we think of in a "modern" (post 1890's) engagement. Remember too that the dominant rifles of the second half or the 19th century were tube-magazine lever guns, from the early Sharps and Spencer, to theh Henry and Winchester. They could put out a lot of rounds, accurately, and fast, and their decendants still can today. BUT, when that tube mag is empty it is a ***** to reload (hell, even a shotgun tube is a pain under stress).

Let me throw a book recommendation in here; "The Deadliest Men" by Paul Kirchner (spelling may be a bit off). Good discussion of Hickock, Bowie, and many others in this (and other) periods. The author has illustrated many of Col. Coopers books as well.
 

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If the weapon was designed to allow removal/replacement of the cylinders in a "combat reload" type method.
 

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The thought of trying to change cylinders under pressure makes me cringe. Old west guns are not really my thing (though one of my students has the cowboy shooting bug bad and is trying to get me into it...). A second weapon is soooo much easier.
 
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Escrima Demon

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My grandpa told me that the .44 cap and ball revolvers (Colt Dragoons & Walker) were the most powerful commercial handguns until the .357 magnum was made.

is this true?
 
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TonyM.

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Yup. The 44 was the most powerfull handgun before the .357. The 45 was around but not as powerfull and the 44special was and is a week load.
Ball and cap revolvers are a lot of fun but make sure you greese the ball end of the cylinder really well or you'll get a chain fire. Happened to me once. Not fun.
 

KenpoTex

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Escrima Demon said:
My grandpa told me that the .44 cap and ball revolvers (Colt Dragoons & Walker) were the most powerful commercial handguns until the .357 magnum was made. is this true?
Actually, IIRC, the .45 Walker can be loaded to levels that rival the .44 mag.

As far as efficiency, The current issue of American Handgunner shows a test in which "cowboy rounds" (.45 Long-Colt, .44-40, and .32, .36, and .44 blackpowder) were compared to some of the modern rounds (.45 auto, .40 S&W, and 9mm). The test was the number of 1" pine boards that could be penetrated by the various calibers. Interestingly enough, the .45 Long-Colt had the most penetration, followed by the .44-40 (the .44-40 was the predecessor of the .44 Russian which became the .44 S&W Special).

So yeah, all of that to say that just 'cause they're old doesn't mean they won't "put the hurt on ya."
 

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The .45 long colt was limited by two things- case construction and the time/pressure curve of black powder. (see a good reloading manual for sectioned case views). In modern cases, and chambered in a a modern revolver that can take the pressures, the .45 LC can be loaded (safely) to higher levels of both pressure and performance than the .44 mag (and damn near anything short of the current crop of over-mag handgun rounds). It is also the parent cartridge to the .454 Casull.
 
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Escrima Demon

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Who makes a .45 caliber Colt Walker pistol?

I looked in my dads Gun Digest and all they show is .44 caliber.

What is a .45 Long Colt? My great grandpa carried a colt piecemker in .45 Colt when he was in world war 1. He told my dad and grandpa that it knocked the krauts on their *** when he shot them.
 

KenpoTex

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Escrima Demon said:
Who makes a .45 caliber Colt Walker pistol?
Replicas of the Colt Walker can be had from companies like Cabelas, Navy Arms, etc. Colt hasn't produced them for many years.

Escrima Demon said:
What is a .45 Long Colt? My great grandpa carried a colt piecemker in .45 Colt when he was in world war 1. He told my dad and grandpa that it knocked the krauts on their *** when he shot them.
.45 Long Colt is the term used to differentiate between the .45 auto(used in semi-auto handguns) and the original .45 which is one of the calibers for which the Colt Single Action Army (peacemaker) revolvers were/are chambered.
 
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Escrima Demon

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Thanks I thought it was .45 ACP (M-1911), and .45 Colt being the revolver cartridge.

Is the .45 Long Colt different from the .45 Colt used in the peicemaker? My dad says there is no such thing as a "long" colt cartridge.
 

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.45 Long Colt.."this century-old cartridge was originally chambered in Colt's famous Peacemaker, and enjoyed an illustrious career in the Old West. It declined in favor as double action revolvers came to dominate the handgun scene, but has managed to recapture shooter interest..." 4th edition Hornady handbook.
 
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Escrima Demon

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Now im confused, the Speer loading books and NRA books call it the .45 Colt cartridge. So do most of his handgun hunting books, and reloading die boxes.

None of my dads .45 ammo boxes or reloading brass call it .45 Long Colt. He has a .454 Casull and says it is a beast to shoot with hotrounds

Thanks for the help.
 

KenpoTex

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Escrima Demon said:
Now im confused, the Speer loading books and NRA books call it the .45 Colt cartridge. So do most of his handgun hunting books, and reloading die boxes.

None of my dads .45 ammo boxes or reloading brass call it .45 Long Colt. He has a .454 Casull and says it is a beast to shoot with hotrounds

Thanks for the help.
As far as I know, the correct name for the round is the .45 Colt (not "long Colt"). However, most people refer to it as the .45 Long Colt. Why? because the because when you say "I've got a Colt .45" you could either be referring to a Peacemaker which fires .45 Colt or a 1911 which fires .45 ACP. (since the 1911 was produced primarily by Colt for the first 70 or so years of that models existence).
So basically, it's just a slang term that makes it easier to communicate.
 

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