1846 Colt Walker - carrying same ca. 1870?

RBEmerson

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Cade Miller carries a Colt Walker .44. It's cap and ball, and has its problems(*). NTL Cade liberated one from a Texas boy who had the misfortune to show up at the Battle of Franklin (TN). It's now the early 1870's, and Cade's a Deputy Sheriff in Omaha, NE. At 4 1/2 lbs, and 15" overall length, it's still Cade's "daily carry".

What I don't have is info regarding carrying a Walker (or similar cap&ball) for extended periods (i.e., daily carry). How well did caps stay in place over time (and on horseback)? What does black powder of (presumably) uneven quality do to 1840's iron cylinder walls?

(*)The weaker metallurgy of the 1840's was challenged by a chamber that could accept up to 60 grains of powder, but Colt said to stop at 50 grains. Overloaded, the cylinder walls would rupture, with adverse consequence(!)s for the shooter. The charging lever (the rod and mechanism under the barrel) was held in place by a spring, which wore out quickly. One common fix was to tie the rod to the barrel - a problem as the rod's needed to charge the 6 chambers of the cylinder.
 
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Cade Miller carries a Colt Walker .44. It's cap and ball, and has its problems(*). NTL Cade liberated one from a Texas boy who had the misfortune to show up at the Battle of Franklin (TN). It's now the early 1870's, and Cade's a Deputy Sheriff in Omaha, NE. At 4 1/2 lbs, and 15" overall length, it's still Cade's "daily carry".

What I don't have is info regarding carrying a Walker (or similar cap&ball) for extended periods (i.e., daily carry). How well did caps stay in place over time (and on horseback)? What does black powder of (presumably) uneven quality do to 1840's iron cylinder walls?

(*)The weaker metallurgy of the 1840's was challenged by a chamber that could accept up to 60 grains of powder, but Colt said to stop at 50 grains. Overloaded, the cylinder walls would rupture, with adverse consequence(!)s for the shooter. The charging lever (the rod and mechanism under the barrel) was held in place by a spring, which wore out quickly. One common fix was to tie the rod to the barrel - a problem as the rod's needed to charge the 6 chambers of the cylinder.
In my Cunninghams novel, I have several of my protagonists carrying the Walker model Colt revolver well into the 1870s and even beyond. After the introduction of the model 1873 Army (the famed "Peacemaker"), many switched to it from the Walker.

Obviously, the cartridge round was a vast improvement over cap and ball. What is more, prior to the Model 1873s introduction and after, Colt was modifying Walkers and supplying parts for gunsmiths to modify them to chamber and fire the .45 caliber cartridge.

Research from Colt itself indicates that variations in the metallurgy in Walkers necessitated the powder reduction in a recommended chamber load, and repeated firing at higher load levels could indeed cause cylinder-wall rupture. Chain fire from an ungreased cylinder could also radically injure a shooter.

The quality of black powder during the time period discussed was variable, so load level was imprecise. Having had much experience with modern-day percussion caps, which (with the correct size selected) stayed on very well, I truly cannot say whether caps of that day were more likely to fall off during daily activities.

The chamber ramrod was indeed a problem; the solutions to which varied among shooters. I carried a Ruger Blackhawk .44 with an 8.5 inch barrel. JOE
 
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Thanks for your comments!

Agreed that cartridges have much to commend them (<-- understatement). Although not yet written, at some point we'll find that Cade has managed to get his hands on spare cylinders if (question) cylinders were interchangeable. AFAIK "the" Eli Whitney had a hand in building Walkers for Colt. It follows that mass (1100 units altogether) production would make cylinders interchangable. (In my Billy Yank, Capt. Wilson comments carrying spare cylinders moved reloading cap&ball from "molasses in January" to "molasses in July")

Interesting to hear about switching to cartridges for the Colt Walker. I wonder about the economics of this, though (thinking out loud).

"Chain fire from an ungreased cylinder could also radically injure a shooter." Wow! I hadn't thought about that. I'm not likely to use this "feature", but it sure does suggest a possible "deus ex machina" plot event. (for example, ungreased Walker as a booby trap... hmmm...)

Colt provided a powder flask with each pistol, but they seem to have been lost or otherwise not used frequently, contributing to the Walker's "difficult" reputation. Agreed that contemporary black powder QC was ...um... problematic. That's part of what prompts the question about long term consequences.

In addition to losing the powder flask, conical balls were sometimes put into the chamber "pointy end in", giving room for more than the 50 grains allowed. Not A Good Thing.
 
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Thanks for your comments!

Agreed that cartridges have much to commend them (<-- understatement). Although not yet written, at some point we'll find that Cade has managed to get his hands on spare cylinders if (question) cylinders were interchangeable. AFAIK "the" Eli Whitney had a hand in building Walkers for Colt. It follows that mass (1100 units altogether) production would make cylinders interchangable. (In my Billy Yank, Capt. Wilson comments carrying spare cylinders moved reloading cap&ball from "molasses in January" to "molasses in July")

Interesting to hear about switching to cartridges for the Colt Walker. I wonder about the economics of this, though (thinking out loud).

"Chain fire from an ungreased cylinder could also radically injure a shooter." Wow! I hadn't thought about that. I'm not likely to use this "feature", but it sure does suggest a possible "deus ex machina" plot event. (for example, ungreased Walker as a booby trap... hmmm...)

Colt provided a powder flask with each pistol, but they seem to have been lost or otherwise not used frequently, contributing to the Walker's "difficult" reputation. Agreed that contemporary black powder QC was ...um... problematic. That's part of what prompts the question about long term consequences.

In addition to losing the powder flask, conical balls were sometimes put into the chamber "pointy end in", giving room for more than the 50 grains allowed. Not A Good Thing.
Thanks for the reply.

Colt wanted to compete with the Smith & Wesson "Russian" revolver, introducing the cartridge technique to pistoleers before they had the 1873 ready to go, so they began to modify Walkers for firing cartridges before the release of the 1873 Army. Gunsmiths licensed by Colt also did this, and a modification was less expensive than a new gun.

Mis-loading the conical bullets could cause a number of mishaps. Treacherous stuff, but part of daily life on the frontier.

I've survived a ruptured cylinder and a "chain-fire"; both will make you wonder what you did with your breakfast.

Joe
 

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I should look into the S&W Russian, which I currently only know by name. Blame "Hollyweird" for my near-addiction to Colt pistols when there's a saddled horse somewhere in the story.

As to your own memorable black powder experience(s), yikes! and holy moly! you survived. Intact, I hope.

I used to have a pump-action .22 LR rifle of uncertain origin that had been dry fired much too often (the thing is long gone, thank goodness). The firing pin hammered the edge of the receiver to the point where, on occasion, a cartridge would blow out at the base. That I still enjoy binocular vision is a small miracle. Pesky things, mishandled guns. [/ smile]
 
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Ian McCollum on why a Colt Walker as a daily carry could be interesting. The discussion about black powder grains bouncing around in a powder flask is particularly noteworthy. Good thing my MP doesn't have access to this video, or Cade might give up the Walker in a New York Minute. OTOH, his story begins "There are moments when I think, Cade Miller, you’re your own worst enemy.". [/ laugh]