Handguns Colt’s ‘Old Model Navy’ Revolvers Found a Ready Market in the West

USS ALASKA

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Joined
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Colt’s ‘Old Model Navy’ Revolvers Found a Ready Market in the West
By: Joseph G. Rosa, Wild West Magazine   1 day ago

While most Union cavalry regiments used the new .44-caliber Army, some were armed with the Navy revolver. It also became a favorite of guerrilla bands on either side of the Civil War. Many carried spare loaded cylinders and extra Colts in their belts, giving them massive firepower when raiding or attacking.

While percussion, or cap and ball, weapons are accurate and generally reliable, they are somewhat tedious to load.

The shooter must set the weapon at half cock in order to revolve the cylinder. He then pours a measured amount of powder into each chamber, followed by a lead bullet; also available are prepared paper or foil cartridges, which include powder and ball. The shooter then rams the charge home using the hinged or creeping lever beneath the barrel. Finally, the shooter places small copper caps filled with fulminate of mercury over nipples at the rear of each chamber.

The Navy revolver also proved popular with Civil War spies, wagon masters, guides and scouts, such as Union scout James Butler Hickok, who by war’s end had earned the moniker “Wild Bill” for his action against Rebels.


Full article with pics can be found here - https://www.navytimes.com/home/left...revolvers-found-a-ready-market-in-the-west-2/

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

Jobe Holiday

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IMHO, the idea of a "loaded and capped spare cylinder" is a modern re-enactor myth. In 50+ years of reading first hand accounts I have yet to read about the use of "spare cylinders". Spare revolvers are frequently mentioned in Southern accounts, but rarely in Northern writings. The "spare cylinder" seems to have taken on a life of its own in modern times because it is so dramatic and dashing! Just my personal thoughts, and we've been down this road numerous times on this forum!
J.
 

drm2m

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Location
Quebec
Two martial '51 Navies and one '61 Colt navy.

Two%2051%20and%20one%2061%20Colt%20Navies_zpswgocgcag.jpg


I don't know when the military had access to the .36 caliber skin cartridges---which did away with feeding powder and bullet into the cylinder.

This photo is not mine.

.36%20caliber%20cartridge_zpscggv3jq8.jpg


.36 and . 44 caliber cartridges ---this photo is mine.

.36%20%20.44%20caliber%20%20cartridges--_zpsf1l91met.jpg
 
Joined
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mo
IMHO, the idea of a "loaded and capped spare cylinder" is a modern re-enactor myth. In 50+ years of reading first hand accounts I have yet to read about the use of "spare cylinders". Spare revolvers are frequently mentioned in Southern accounts, but rarely in Northern writings. The "spare cylinder" seems to have taken on a life of its own in modern times because it is so dramatic and dashing! Just my personal thoughts, and we've been down this road numerous times on this forum!
J.
Actually several national gun experts differ.

https://truewestmagazine.com/got-a-spare/

Not sure how texas rangers or pony express doing it before the war is somehow "modern times". The only ones who say they were carried capped seem to those trying to say it too dangerous to do, swapping a cylinder would be faster then loading 6 chambers.....you could still cap it after swapping...….. and still be well ahead timewise.
 
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Jobe Holiday

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The Perpetually Frozen North
First of all, this is about the American Civil War, not the pre-war "Texas Rangers" or the "Pony Express" which were not Military, nor what this topic is about! However, yes the Pony Express did carry one spare cylinder for a M-1849 Pocket Revolver (5 chambers, not 6) because of the small size and light weight. The spare cylinder was to be exchanged, if needed, at the horse exchange stations....not while riding. All of which begs the question....why would you knowingly mix Apples & Oranges, other than to try to prove a point which does not exist?
J.
 

mofederal

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Southeast Missouri
I really doubt how much impact the Navy had on the gold rush as it began in 1848. By 1850 a lot of people were already in California. I have read many accounts of the miners and the Pepperbox and probably some of the other Colt revolvers also, but the Navy I don't know, and probably a lot of others don't either. The article has quite a bit of information about civilian use of the revolver as well a military.
 
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Northern Virginia
First of all, this is about the American Civil War, not the pre-war "Texas Rangers" or the "Pony Express" which were not Military, nor what this topic is about! However, yes the Pony Express did carry one spare cylinder for a M-1849 Pocket Revolver (5 chambers, not 6) because of the small size and light weight. The spare cylinder was to be exchanged, if needed, at the horse exchange stations....not while riding. All of which begs the question....why would you knowingly mix Apples & Oranges, other than to try to prove a point which does not exist?
J.

I have always been skeptical of the extra cylinder theory, but I find the points raised in the True West article convincing. Other than the lack of contemporary documentary accounts of the practice, the main argument against the idea that extra cylinders were carried is that it would have been impractical and dangerous. However if there is evidence that other mid-19th century users, even if they were not CW US military personnel, adopted this practice and found it useful, it casts doubts in my mind on the argument that US and/or Confederate troups would not have done so for practical and safety reasons. I find the Kriegsmarine example particularly cogent. If the highly professional and technically advanced Prussian military adopted the practice and modified its holster rig to accommodate and extra cylinder, it's hard to dismiss the utility of the practice.
 
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mo
First of all, this is about the American Civil War, not the pre-war "Texas Rangers" or the "Pony Express" which were not Military, nor what this topic is about! However, yes the Pony Express did carry one spare cylinder for a M-1849 Pocket Revolver (5 chambers, not 6) because of the small size and light weight. The spare cylinder was to be exchanged, if needed, at the horse exchange stations....not while riding. All of which begs the question....why would you knowingly mix Apples & Oranges, other than to try to prove a point which does not exist?
J.
Why indeed are you, when its well known many carried personal weapons in the CW, almost all irregulars did, not sure why your trying to argue everything in the CW was somehow standardized, when its well known it wasn't. Even the militias here would often provide their own arms to be able to compete with the guerrillas. The Missouri State Guard fought almost a year with whatever they brought themselves.

Odd when your now conceding the practice was known not only at the time, but even before the war.....when earlier you somehow suggested its only a modern idea... And yes prewar Texas rangers and pony express are relevant when someone is suggesting its only a modern reenactor myth, when in fact it was a practice done even before the civil war...… would assume its safe to assume during the CW people didn't forget they could do something they were doing before the war.

If you read the articile its mentioning Wild Bill Hickock a irregular jayhawker scout and Bloody Bill Anderson a irregular partisan ranger......Its obviously both by title and example referring to the western theatre. Which always was more independent and far less standardized
 
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Story

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SE PA
Actually several national gun experts differ.

https://truewestmagazine.com/got-a-spare/

Not sure how texas rangers or pony express doing it before the war is somehow "modern times". The only ones who say they were carried capped seem to those trying to say it too dangerous to do, swapping a cylinder would be faster then loading 6 chambers.....you could still cap it after swapping...….. and still be well ahead timewise.

From the article -
For irrefutable documentation of the practice, one can refer to a number of studies by respected firearms historians, R.L. Wilson, Roy Marcot and R. Bruce McDowell, who not only write about it, but also show numerous photos of revolvers produced with spare cylinders. The manufacture of revolvers with extra cylinders was not uncommon, with some revolver makers, like Remington, advertising the sale of extra cylinders.

Where to start? Phil Spangerberger, with his body of knowledge and practical experience, should have delved deeper into the mechanics of these scenarios. It's not like dropping an empty magazine from an autoloader and slapping in a loaded one.

Irrefutable. adjective impossible to deny or disprove.

Well, first off that's hyperbole. I'd buy Irrefutable for a dollar if someone were to trot out a bunch of period first-person accounts of "yup, I carried a loaded spare cylinder and when ambushed by Greasy Joe and his cousins on July the 9th Anno Domini Eighteen and Seventy One, playing hide-and-seek reloading along the way until I had sent all of them to their well-deserved eternities in Hell".

A fancy boxed pair of Remington 1858s with spare cylinders and very little wear tells us what, exactly? That a wealthy person purchased them and they sat in the box, seeing little wear and tear. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for practical gunfighting. Pricey safe queens are also more likely to have survived than weapons that saw use every-day, or thereabouts.

As discussed elsewhere, a Remington is easier to swap cylinders than a Colt. But doing so takes a shooter out of the fight for as long as it takes to swap said cylinders - far longer than the 12 seconds or so it'd take an experienced shooter to eject empties and thumb in fresh cartridges into a rimfire/centerfire revolver.

Next up -
It stands to reason that if a revolver was rendered inoperable, rather than completely discard it, you might salvage the otherwise useless cylinder and carry it loaded and ready for use.

That passage just skins the surface of the conversation.

Fine motor skill (or dexterity) is the coordination of small muscles, in movements—usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers—with the eyes. The complex levels of manual dexterity that humans exhibit can be attributed to and demonstrated in tasks controlled by the nervous system.

By numerous accounts, those fine motor skills on a range turn into fumble fingers when getting shot at and the adrenaline is flowing over-pressure.

I can see where spare loaded cylinders could be carried, but reloading would only occur when the shooter was out of the fight; a civilian running away to hide behind a building, a cavalry trooper falling to the rear. However, that would require said shooter to break contact and find cover, without being shot in the back.
 
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mo
As discussed elsewhere, a Remington is easier to swap cylinders than a Colt. But doing so takes a shooter out of the fight for as long as it takes to swap said cylinders - far longer than the 12 seconds or so it'd take an experienced shooter to eject empties and thumb in fresh cartridges into a rimfire/centerfire revolver.

WTH you realize we are talking about blackpowder revolvers.....there is no "thumb in fresh cartridges into a rimfire/centerfire revolver"
One has to measure powder, seat a lead ball, then cover it in grease to prevent a chain fire....6 times...…. You aren't going to reload a blackpowder Colt or Remington in anywhere near 12 seconds, you probally couldn't load one chamber of the six in the field in 12 seconds......the closest you could come to it is by swapping cylinders....and either way it still needs capped to fire.

I would agree however, haven't seen any authors who say the practice was done, suggest it was done mounted. And would more then likely be done between fights or behind cover
 
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Story

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WTH you realize we are talking about blackpowder revolvers.....there is no "thumb in fresh cartridges into a rimfire/centerfire revolver"
One has to measure powder, seat a lead ball, then cover it in grease to prevent a chain fire, You aren't going to reload a blackpowder Colt or Remington in anywhere near 12 seconds......the closest you could come to it is by swapping cylinders....and either way it still needs capped to fire

Reading comprehension time. I never said a BP cap and ball would take 12 seconds, I compared the process to the next two generations.
 
Joined
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mo
Guess we could compare loading a springfield to swapping a clip in a AR.....but don't see the relevancy.....

Suppose we could compare to quick ejecting a clip from my 9mm, While I've had a Colt navy, Centerfire revolvers, and 9 mm automatics.. The latter 2 have little in common with hand loading a blackpowder revolver….The oddest thing is what would have been even more impractible then changing cylinders, is trying to hand load a revolver in combat conditions.

But the article shows there is not some consensus it wasn't done, when in fact there is known instances where it was practiced. How widespread it was, will probally not ever be known as there wasn't polls or surveys then, what we are left with then, is if it was done or not.....the degree cant be quantified with much accuracy. But if we know something was in fact done......it was in fact done, to say its myth or poppycock after you know it WAS done….....well is myth or poppycock
 
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Joined
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mo
The article mentions foil cartridges. Excuse my ignorance, I'm new at this cap and ball thing. But is a foil cartridge?
not in the modern sense, its premeasured powder or powder and ball wrapped in foil/paper or cloth, still has to torn open and manually seated with ramrod, or loading arm on revolver, for every chamber

Haven't read of accounts of guerrillas carrying cartridge boxes though it might have been done, would be rather pointless if had preloaded cylinders or enough extra pistols
 
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Spunk Puppy

Private
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Dec 30, 2015
Actually several national gun experts differ.

https://truewestmagazine.com/got-a-spare/

Not sure how texas rangers or pony express doing it before the war is somehow "modern times". The only ones who say they were carried capped seem to those trying to say it too dangerous to do, swapping a cylinder would be faster then loading 6 chambers.....you could still cap it after swapping...….. and still be well ahead timewise.

YES THEY DID just because it wasn’t writ doesn’t mean it weren’t done. I’ve read account of it done and watch the film High Plains Drifter, Preacher carries his 58 Remy with spare cylinder on the belt. It was done and didn’t come from nowhere.
 

Story

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YES THEY DID just because it wasn’t writ doesn’t mean it weren’t done. I’ve read account of it done and watch the film High Plains Drifter, Preacher carries his 58 Remy with spare cylinder on the belt. It was done and didn’t come from nowhere.

"Not sure if serious"
 
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