The lure of black powder revolvers is a strong one with some shooters. I sometimes enjoy firing the cap-and-ball revolvers.
The experience is interesting on many levels. Accuracy potential is good if the shooter is skilled and the revolver is loaded properly.
A Brief History Lesson
History is interesting. Modern replicas of Colt and Remington revolvers are better made than the originals in the case of the Taylor’s & Company revolvers.
There are some pretty cheap brass-frame guns as well, and while they have their place, for a bit more money a truly excellent revolver is available.
The 1860 Army was among the first revolvers made with the Bessemer steel process. The 1860 Army was a development of the Colt Navy.
The .36 Navy was about as effective as a modern .38 with hollow points. The soft lead ball of the .36 Navy expanded at close range.
At longer ranges — and many engagements on the frontier took place at extended pistol range — the .36 lost much of its effect.
By rebating the cylinder, Colt was able to shoe-horn a .457-inch ball into the chamber.
A widened frame was used, while the grip was slightly lengthened. The revolver was little more difficult to carry than the fast-handling Colt Navy.
Many shooters kept the .44 Colt Army long after cartridge revolvers were available.
The .44 cap-and-ball hits harder than early cartridge revolvers such as the .44 American and .44 Colt.
The .45 Colt, however, eclipsed the cap and ball revolvers.
In the 20th century, once hobbyists created a demand for cap-and-ball revolvers, makers such as Uberti created not only functional replicas, but interesting variations not originally available.
During the heyday of the revolver in the Old West, many older revolvers were modified into hideout guns.
While there were small .32 and .38 revolvers, fighting men realized that these calibers were often ineffective.
A used, but not used-up, Colt cap-and-ball revolver made a fine back-pocket revolver.
After all, reloading was so slow in those days, that carrying a second or third gun provided a fighting chance to live.
1860 Army Features and Specs
To create these backups, it was common to cut the barrel back as short as possible, usually two to three inches. The loading rod was eliminated.
Seldom were sights fitted.
However, custom gunsmiths created what were practical masterpieces, adding dovetail front sights and special grips to these revolvers.
Some were useful only across a gaming table. Those with custom-made sights were practically as accurate as full-size revolvers.
The Taylor’s & Company 1860 snubnose is a purpose-designed hideout that may have existed in the Old West.
This revolver features a well-designed front sight. Since there is no loading rod mechanism, the revolver is supplied with a separate loading rod.
This revolver is unique, in that it features a birdshead grip. I have never seen an original Colt Army with the Colt Lightning-type grip.
The Taylor’s & Company revolver is nicely fitted and finished.
The revolver is loaded by adding the appropriate charge of Hodgdon FFFG powder first. A good starting charge is 28 grains for about 680 fps.
Up to 32 grains is good and somewhere in that range, a sweet spot of accuracy is found. I used Speer .457-inch balls and CCI caps.
The ball is rammed home over a lubricated wad. Finally, the nipples on the cylinder are capped.
I usually run Crisco or a purpose-designed grease over the chambers to prevent chain fire.
A chain fire is when the flash from the load firing also ignites another chamber.
This is an experience best avoided and potentially quite dangerous.
These revolvers, like the original, often fire quite high in relation to the point of aim.
Taylor’s re-visioning of the 1860 Army is properly sighted for the six o’clock hold at 25 yards.
It isn’t difficult to place five rounds into a four-inch group at 25 yards. Give the black powder smoke time to clear away as you fire!
I don’t think you would be very popular at an indoor range.
A Note About Conversion Cylinders
A popular option for black powder cap-and-ball revolvers is a conversion cylinder.
After the Civil War, there was a lively industry in converting cap-and-ball revolvers to cartridge use.
Some revolvers were permanently altered, in most cases they could also be fired with the original cylinders.
Since cartridges were sometimes difficult to find, this made much sense.
Modern shooters find the convenience of the conversion cylinders attractive. The conversions feature a plate that goes over the chambers.
The plate features an individual firing pin for each chamber.
Since the .36 frame Colt Navy was morphed into the Colt Army .44, the revolver’s conversion cylinder is a five shooter.
The conversion is loaded and then placed into the frame of the Colt Army.
Loading and unloading isn’t a fast process, but then, we don’t purchase these revolvers for speed.
I used standard cowboy loads, such as the Hornady 255-grain RN and equivalent handloads using 255-grain bullets.
Recoil is different. Powder burn is cleaner. Accuracy is about the same, and the point of aim and point of impact are well regulated.
Despite the six-shot cap-and-ball cylinder being replaced with a five-shot conversion cylinder, the new cylinder cycles and locks-up fine.
Conclusion: Taylor’s & Company 1860 Army Snubnose Revolver
These revolvers are fun guns. They are useful for recreation and among the greatest fun guns for many of us.
They have no appeal to many modern shooters. I am certain some shooters in the 1870s were thrilled to move to cartridge revolvers.
To others, there is nothing as much fun as black powder. The Taylor’s & Company revolver is nicely made — actually beautiful.
It is an object with merits all its own and well-worth its modest price.
What do you think of these reproduction cap-and-ball revolvers? What about the 1860 Army? Let us know in the comments below!