Need Original First Hand Accounts Of Cylinder Swapping In Cap And Ball Revolver

99octane

Cadet
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
I'd like to know if anybody has found any original, first hand account of spare cylinders being issued with revolvers (Navy, Army, Remington 1858 etc.) to troopers, to be used for "fast reloadsing", or first hand accounts of spare cylinders being used this way.
I know Paterson revolvers came with a spare cylinder, I'm interested in subsequent firearms.
I know the practice is mentioned in several modern historical and fictional works, but I'm looking for any original proof: letters, diaries, registers of units or arsenal inventories, sale accounts from manufacturers to the army, issue receipts for revolvers with multiple cylinders, requisitioned or captured arms registers, pictures or... well, anything original that would prove that having a revolver with multiple cylinders was if not common, at least real, and original accounts of them being used for fast reloads. Letters from soldiers, diaries, pictures again, military manuals and so.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Admittedly, my interest is primarily in the infantry, where you don´t see a lot of revolvers, but I have never seen a primary reference to making a cylinder quick-change. The Missouri guerillas, and the post-war western gunmen, wore multiple revolvers because reloading was time-consuming. If the quick-change was the answer, Frank and Jesse James would have carried a pocketful of cylinders rather than wearing 4,6 or 8 revolvers apiece.
 

Don Dixon

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 24, 2008
Location
Fairfax, VA, USA
After the Civil War Congress requested that the War Department provide a list of the ordnance materiel purchased by the Federal Army during war to the to support possible Congressional investigations of ordnance contracts and purchases. The resulting list was published by Congress in 1866 as Executive Document 99, and is generally regarded as the bible of ordnance purchases. Had the revolver manufacturers provided the Army with spare cylinders with some of the revolvers they sold the Army they would have billed the Army extra for them. This is not reflected in the records in EXDOC 99.

You won't find reports of changing cylinders because such reports don't exist. The manufacturers didn't supply spare cylinders with pistols. Any spare cylinders would have to have been fitted to a revolver by the factory or by a gunsmith in order to ensure that the chambers lined up with the barrel. This is not to say that occasional individuals did not purchase spare cylinders and have them fitted. That is possible. But, carrying a loaded, capped, spare cylinder is like carrying a hand grenade with the pin pulled, and is egreriously stupid. If you don't cap the nipples the powder leaks out through the nipples. Plus, changing out cylinders is more difficult than it appears, particularly on horse back or when one is fumble fingered while under fire.

Its just more farb bullsh*t. Even if Clint did it in the movies.

Regards,
Don Dixon
 

99octane

Cadet
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
Admittedly, my interest is primarily in the infantry, where you don´t see a lot of revolvers, but I have never seen a primary reference to making a cylinder quick-change. The Missouri guerillas, and the post-war western gunmen, wore multiple revolvers because reloading was time-consuming. If the quick-change was the answer, Frank and Jesse James would have carried a pocketful of cylinders rather than wearing 4,6 or 8 revolvers apiece.
Yes, that is what I've found hard proof of.I've seen pictures of outlaws and raiders with several revolvers. Like, 2 in holsters, 2 that looked like some pocket model tucked in the belt, and another pocket in hand.
 

99octane

Cadet
Joined
Apr 16, 2021
After the Civil War Congress requested that the War Department provide a list of the ordnance materiel purchased by the Federal Army during war to the to support possible Congressional investigations of ordnance contracts and purchases. The resulting list was published by Congress in 1866 as Executive Document 99, and is generally regarded as the bible of ordnance purchases. Had the revolver manufacturers provided the Army with spare cylinders with some of the revolvers they sold the Army they would have billed the Army extra for them. This is not reflected in the records in EXDOC 99.

You won't find reports of changing cylinders because such reports don't exist. The manufacturers didn't supply spare cylinders with pistols. Any spare cylinders would have to have been fitted to a revolver by the factory or by a gunsmith in order to ensure that the chambers lined up with the barrel. This is not to say that occasional individuals did not purchase spare cylinders and have them fitted. That is possible. But, carrying a loaded, capped, spare cylinder is like carrying a hand grenade with the pin pulled, and is egreriously stupid. If you don't cap the nipples the powder leaks out through the nipples. Plus, changing out cylinders is more difficult than it appears, particularly on horse back or when one is fumble fingered while under fire.

Its just more farb bullsh*t. Even if Clint did it in the movies.

Regards,
Don Dixon
Thank you! Your mention of EXDOC 99 is exactly what I was looking for: something that had, or didn't have, mention of it, and could be considered direct proof (or disproving).
I also believe it was nonsense. People wanting more firepower carried more guns (as seen in several pictures of the time).

Swapping cylinders on horseback would have meant juggling empty cylinder, fresh one, gun and cylinder pin, while galloping and holding the reins... Makes very little sense compared with just grabbing a loaded gun and shooting with that.
Some mention that guns were heavy, but I've seen pictures of people carrying a brace of holster guns and 2-3 pocket revolvers like the Colt Pocket 1849... That would have made a lot of sense.

But before stating something, one should also search hard for proof of the contrary...
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
This discussion reminds me of a Civil War video game I once played on Playstation ... a first-person shooter type that among other weapons featured an Allen and Thurber pepperbox pistol of unspecified caliber. Rather than reloading each barrel individually, your character would simply unscrew the entire barrel cluster and replace it with a new "pre-loaded" one. Laughably unlikely in the real world ... maybe video games have also contributed to this idea of cylinder-swapping in revolvers? I've certainly heard it repeated multiple times, but never found primary sources to back it up.
 

Lampasas Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
Here's a good account of the actual process of reloading in action by Sgt. J. Steakley, of Company K, 3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry.
On Sept. 18, 1864, Steakley and sixteen others became separated from their command during a skirmish in the brushy Ozark ridges near Doniphan, Missouri. Steakley took command and ordered a charge:

Oh, how badly we needed our sabers and how we wanted them! The seventeen of us dashed right into their midst. But we were not fighting "paper collars" or "greenies"; we were fighting Joe Shelby's veterans, who knew nothing but fight. I emptied a double-barreled shotgun and two eight-inch revolvers at them and then called to the men to stop and form and load up, as I knew that their weapons were about all as empty as my own.

We formed and began to load up, when it seemed as if providentially, I dropped the pistol caps which belonged with a bunch of cartridges. I slid from my saddle and while stooping to pick them up, happened to glance beneath the underbrush.... What did I see but one hundred or more of the enemy advancing upon us in line of battle.... I picked up that bunch of pistol caps, sprang into my saddle and shouted: "Boys, this won't do. Look yonder. Let's get out of here!"

Our guns were empty. I directed one of my company buglers to run out eastward about one mile and stop, so that we might load, none of us having even two chambers of a pistol loaded. I learned subsequently that the bugler and a private who went with him never stopped till they reached Popular Bluff, fifteen miles or more away.


Steakely's detachment made it back safely to Pilot Knob, where they took part in the defense of Fort Davidson and the successful retreat to Leasburg.
 
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