Colt and Remington BP revolvers with Conical Bullets

Loading Tips
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For loading off the gun, John utilizes the Tower loading stand with
cylinder base plates for the 1851 Navy, 1849 Pocket Model, 1860 Army,
Remington New Model Army and the Ruger Old Army.

Colt or Remington? I have often wondered which I would have picked had I lived in the last half of the 19th century. I have not had the privilege of shooting original Colt and Remington .44s side-by-side for comparison, with my only experience being with original Colt percussion sixguns and cartridge conversions. For this piece we are looking at replicas, not reals, as they are available from both Pietta, Uberti and also Armi San Marcos in the recent past. Pedersoli also produces an 1858 Remington especially for target shooting and is used extensively in Europe for this.


The most accurate shooting percussion sixgun using conical
bullets John has found thus far is the Remington New Model Navy
using the .36 Colt Cartridge Works conical bullet.

Targets shot at 18 yards with the Johnston & Dow .44
bullet in the Remington New Model Army.


For our purposes now we will compare current-production Colt and Remington with their assets and liabilities. The Colt 1860 is of open top design. The cylinder runs on an arbor and the barrel assembly is fitted over this arbor and held in place by a wedge. Upon firing, especially heavier loads, the wedge takes a beating. However, one advantage is it breaks down into the three main parts of mainframe, cylinder and barrel assembly, which makes for easier cleaning.

The Remington consists of a solid frame with a barrel solidly screwed into the frame with only the cylinder readily removable. This makes for a much stronger design. When it comes to sights, the Remington replicas use a square notch rear sight cut into the top strap, matched with a post front sight set in a dovetail. This makes it very easy to sight in a Remington as the front sight can be tapped in either direction to adjust for windage while the top of the post can be filed down for elevation. Not so easy with the Colt! The front sight is normally a bead or brass ramp set solidly in the barrel and the rear sight is just as crude — a notch cut in the top of the hammer that’s lined up with the front sight when the hammer is cocked.

I routinely make two changes on Colt sixguns. I use a file to open up the rear sight and replace the front sight with a Remington sight set in a dovetail. This allows me to precisely sight-in Colt sixguns. The original and replica Colt sixguns had a short front sight and as a result, shot 6″ to 8″ high or worse.

The Colt has one major advantage over the Remington — pointability. The grip of the Colt is much more comfortable to most shooters than the Remington, which feels somewhat cramped. The Colt 1860 Army grip handles heavier felt recoil much easier and the 1851 and 1861 Navy grips, especially with the rounded trigger guard, are exact duplicates of the Colt Single Action Army. It is just about perfect for handling standard loads and it also points much easier.

Remington and Colt .44s have the loading port cut to accept conical bullets. Eras Gone Bullet Molds offers authentic bullet designs that match the originals from the Civil War era. One of these is the Johnston & Dow, a 217-grain pointed bullet designed for penetration. I checked this bullet for fit in the loading port with nine Colt-pattern .44s and a like number of Remington .44 sixguns. Five of the Colts would accept this bullet and seven of the Remingtons would do likewise. This does not say they were also easy to seat as individual cylinders have different size chambers. I routinely size this bullet to 0.454″ and it seats easily in my Remington 1858.


Conical bullets available for the .44 include the Johnston & Dow
and the British Kerr (above) from Eras Gone molds, Lee Round
Nose and the Kaido.


Switching to .36 conical bullets, I used the .36 Colt Cartridge Works conical bullet for checking. This is a 126-grain bullet and checking it with 10 Colt-pattern sixguns, I found it worked in all loading ports and also works exceptionally well in one of my favorite percussion sixguns, the .36 Remington New Model Navy. These two bullets were the most-used by Colt in making paper cartridges.

For test-firing in the Uberti .44 Remington New Model Army with an 8″ barrel, I went with the Johnston & Dow conical bullet with loose powder instead of paper cartridges. The standard load for the originals was 25.0 grains of some sort of black powder, which we do not know specifically today. I used the same powder charge with three different powders. My most accurate load is with 25.0 grains of Triple Seven FFFg giving five shots in 1 ½” at 20 yards and a muzzle velocity of 765 fps. The same powder charge of Pyrodex yielded a 2 ¼” group with a muzzle velocity of just over 700 fps while Goex FFFg gave the same accuracy as Pyrodex with a muzzle velocity just under 700 fps.

Switching to the .36 Conical, I chose my Uberti .36 New Model Navy with a 6 7/8″ barrel. The .36 Colt Cartridge Works bullet was loaded over 20.0 grains of both Pyrodex P and Triple Seven FFFg with the results being the most accurate loads I have yet to come across using conical bullets. This is one of the reasons the Uberti .36 New Model Navy is a favorite percussion sixgun. Both powders gave groups of just over 1″ for five shots at 20 yards with the Triple Seven load resulting in a muzzle velocity of 1,008 feet per second. Pyrodex loads give 100 fps less velocity. In all loads, I used Remington #10 percussion caps and had no cap jams whatsoever, just 100% reliability.

As I mentioned earlier, just because the conical bullet fits in the loading port does not mean it will seat easily. There was no problem seating the two above-mentioned conical bullets. However, some bullets, like the .44 and .36, are virtually impossible to seat in some instances. What happens is as the bullet is seated, it pushes lead ahead and causes the bullet to jam solidly in the mouth of the cylinder. I mentioned sizing conical bullets to 0.454″ and for some I go down to 0.451″. All .36 bullets are sized to 0.375″. Generally speaking, most percussion sixguns of either caliber or persuasion tend to shoot round balls more accurately than conical bullets. The Uberti Remington .36 New Model Navy has proven to be a welcome exception.

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