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

Bart44

Cadet
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Location
NH
Hello..i'm new here, but thought I'd add my 2 cents.

There were four makers of combustible paper cartridges for .36 and .44 revolvers that supplied them to the Union Army during the Civil War. No foil, no tearing of cartridges... they were made from paper or sheep gut and treated with a potassium nitrate solution. The "spare cylinder" scenario while sometimes used, is largely myth...albeit I recall Josy wales was an afficienado of the technique :wink:

I'm the nations only FFL licensed commercial maker of these cartridges using copies of original maker labels. Been doing it for 7 yrs now. They are sold by Buffalo Arms, Track of the Wolf, Ammo-One, and Dixie Gun Works.
Regards.
 

kevikens

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Location
New Jersey
I understand that Wild Bill Hickock carried Colt Navies, in preference to other weapons. That’s an endorsement that matters.
He did prefer the Navy. Before he switched to a metallic cartridge version he would fire the loaded cylinder and reload with fresh powder and caps each morning. I have read that he preferred the Navy because he had rather small hands. For any reader who has never handled one, try it. I believe nothing was ever made to fit the hand of man better than a Colt Navy
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
For any reader who has never handled one, try it. I believe nothing was ever made to fit the hand of man better than a Colt Navy.

I had a couple of replica Colt Navies, one non-firing and one black powder. I never fired one, but they are extremely comfortable in the hand, a natural extension of the arm. I'm not surprised at their popularity.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
Mine is not a real Colt ,but an Italian reproduction but it just feels right. Like Mr. Hall said a natural extension of the hand.Colt has had engineers on staff for over 150 years. Why is it that the 1851 Navy has that natural feel to it? Most any other model before or after lacks the feel and balance of the 1851. How do you suppose they got it right with this model and not quite right on the others?
 

mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
I agree with the Colt being the best, but for my money, and I have used one I prefer the feel of the Colt Single Action Army in my hand. It feels natural. Of course I really prefer the other Colt. The 1911A1. The Navy is a fine pistol, but I love the CoIt SAA. It was the weapon of choice carried by my g-grandfather for his work as a Town Marshall.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
Many folks scoffed at the "little .36 caliber". They said it was underpowered, too puny. In my opinion it was the 357 magnum of its day. Anyone "ventilated" by one soon changed their mind.
 

kevikens

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Location
New Jersey
Many folks scoffed at the "little .36 caliber". They said it was underpowered, too puny. In my opinion it was the 357 magnum of its day. Anyone "ventilated" by one soon changed their mind.
I recall an incident from the British Army (East India Company forces) putting down the Sepoy Rebellion. A young company level officer had a Colt Navy on him, when a Sepoy charged him wielding a wicked tulwar. The officer got of five shots and hit the Sepoy with all five shots but they did not stop him and he managed to inflict a fatal wound on the officer before falling. Other officers who saw this commented on it and opined that the larger caliber Adams would have stopped him but the .36 Colt could not. Something similar during the Philippine Insurrection happened with the US military which had recently dropped the Colt single action.45 in favor of a double action .38 . This was not the .38 Special but a lighter and less powerful cartridge. Moros with bolo knives hit with these under powered .38's managed to kill US officers before they dropped. The US Army quickly ordered those Colt 45's back in the states to be unpacked from their cosmoline and shipped on out to the islands. The -45 Colt ACP adopted a few years later was as much a return to a hard hitting cartridge as it was a semi auto action.
 

Spunk Puppy

Private
Joined
Dec 30, 2015
Don’t think I’d want a .36 in a fight at all. Not enough stopping power. A Colt’s Dragoons so loaded with a 50 gr. charge of the 3FFFG powder and a .44 ball will easily kill a horse from 100 paces (what it was designed to do) as well as pick a man up off his feet and knock him down. The .36s are about like the .380 ACP of them days, the Dragoon’s was about like a .44 magnum. A Remy 58 or Colt 60 would be about like a .45 ACP, tons of stopping power as well.

As far as spare cylinders, you’ve got to be a nut if you don’t think some back then did that, especially after the war. You honestly don’t think someone could have bought a few of the guns cheap as war surplus after the war and nobody thought to ever take the cylinders out and carry them as spares? Much easier to carry than full pistols and an accomplished gunist can swap cylinders out faster than someone can change out clips on a Glock. Watch this film:


You telling me not ONE person in them days, with easy access to cheap guns and cylinders after the war ever didn’t think to themselves to try it? Poppycock!!
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
A young company level officer had a Colt Navy on him, when a Sepoy charged him wielding a wicked tulwar. The officer got of five shots and hit the Sepoy with all five shots

Operative word being 'young'. I read your passage and had a mental image of a inexperienced Englishman shaking like a life with hot urine running down his leg putting all five of his shots not-exactly-in-the-ten-ring.

Jus' sayin.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Or they could go this route in combat when needed...… whoohoo much more practical…...

Admittedly he was little distracted by someone asking about gun, but reckon in middle of combat fumbling around in pockets and pouches for supplies without a handy table would be at least as distracting......but they did have an alternative to swapping a cylinder
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 15, 2018
Location
South Texas
I heard how the Moros were hypped up on something (possibly only adrendaline?) Which made them somewhat more invincible. Were the Sepoys high on anything? I would think a 36 could stop a man.
 

sourdough

Corporal
Joined
May 29, 2017
Location
Pe Ell, Washington
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.

Just re-reading a few older posts. I respect Phil Spangenberger as a writer (for many years), but his article's photo and the rest of his discussion is most primarily about the 1863 Remington NMA/NMN. There were many more Colt revolvers being used by both sides in the ACW, especially prior to 1863, and that would have not been a good option with the Colt guns.

As has been stated, forget about the spaghetti Westerns insofar as being historically accurate.

Jim
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
In Sept. of '64 in Central Missouri, 6 guerrillas from Anderson's band were caught and surrounded in a barn by a troop of 200 Union cavalry. The guerrillas were all killed in the fight. The Union troopers found 30 revolvers on them. No report of any extra revolver cylinders found on the guerrillas.
 

sourdough

Corporal
Joined
May 29, 2017
Location
Pe Ell, Washington
In Sept. of '64 in Central Missouri, 6 guerrillas from Anderson's band were caught and surrounded in a barn by a troop of 200 Union cavalry. The guerrillas were all killed in the fight. The Union troopers found 30 revolvers on them. No report of any extra revolver cylinders found on the guerrillas.

Very good post!

That averages to about 5 revolvers apiece, and no spare cylinders reported.

Even in modern day terms with a 1911 or a DA revolver w/a speed loader, the fastest reload is a second gun.

Jim
 

hrobalabama

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 12, 2014
Location
Andalusia, AL
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.
There is no evidence that Colt or any other mfg. issued "spare cylinders" during the war of 1861-1865. This is a modern assumption. They carried extra revolvers, most cavalrymen that is.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
In Sept. of '64 in Central Missouri, 6 guerrillas from Anderson's band were caught and surrounded in a barn by a troop of 200 Union cavalry. The guerrillas were all killed in the fight. The Union troopers found 30 revolvers on them. No report of any extra revolver cylinders found on the guerrillas.

I'd like to read up on that engagement. Got a source?
 

nc native

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 30, 2011
Location
NC Piedmont
Both the 1851 Colt Navy and the 1860 Army were used in the West in significant numbers after the Civil War
whether they were in original black powder form or conversions to cartridges before the Colt 1873 Peacemaker
and other cartridge revolvers replaced them with time. The Colt Navy was a useful firearm in the hands of a
skilled shooter, like Wild Bill Hickok who carried a pair of Colt Navy revolvers for most of his life and killed Davis
Tutt in 1865 after the war in Texas with a shot at seventy five yards during what is considered the first classic
Wild West gunfight.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
I'd like to read up on that engagement. Got a source?

Sure, all ya gotta do is ask!

This is a portion of OR's, report #42 from Gen. Clinton Fisk, commanding the Dist. of Northern Mo of some of the Union activities against guerrillas in central Mo from Aug. 29-Dec2, 1864.

''Major Leonard, Ninth Cavalry Missouri State Militia, who was moving from Fayette to Rocheport, came upon a gang of these guerrillas, and killed 6 of them, capturing 32 horses and 30 revolvers. Our only casualty was 1 wounded. Among the dead bushwhackers was a Captain Bissett, recently a terror in Platte and Clay Counties."

The back story to the report is this: After the Centralia Raid, Anderson disperses his men into smaller groups into the Perche Hills of western Boone and eastern Howard Co. Mo., north of Rocheport, Mo. The weather turned wet, and this group of men found shelter in a barn where, due to the weather, thought they would be safe from discover from Union Patrols. They unsaddled their horses in an attempt to dry things out, and cleaned their weapons, and generally lounged around in the barn while outside, it continued to rain. Mj. Leonard, on a patrol with some 200 men out of Fayette and moving eastward towards Rocheport comes a trail of muddy horse prints and follows them and eventually come upon a slave who tells them that there are some bushwhackers a near-by barn. The rest of the story is give by the geurrilla, Hamp Watts' in his book, "The Babe of the Company," beginning about half way down page 15 and continuing on to the next page. Note that Hamp Woods says the incident occurred in early Sept, before the Battle at Fayette, and indicates that the killing of the six men may have been one of the reasons that Anderson attacked Fayette. But in the OR's, Gen Fisk gives the date as occurring later in Sept. after the ambush at Goslin Lane, which occurred on Sept, 23. I tend to think Gen Fisk date is the correct one.

The link to the book is here-->
https://digital.shsmo.org/digital/collection/amcw/id/15622
 
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