Ammunition

Review: Taylor’s & Company 1860 Army Snubnose

Black Powder Snubnose Revolver

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 Revolver
The Taylor’s & Company snubnose is a great fun gun.

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.

1860 Army Sights
The sights are not great, but a bit better regulated than originals. They are authentic.

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.

Disassembled 1860 Army Revolver
The conversion and cap-and-ball cylinders are easily interchanged.

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!

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. There are those out there that consider old percussion handguns as ineffective and impractical for any kind of defense. Compared to modern cartridge pistols there is that argument. However there are many modern cartridges not a great choice for defense. The .25 auto is by no means a stopper neither id the .32 even the .380 is the minimum at best.
    I was testing a percussion pistol in my collection made by Wm. Mortimer in Edinburgh Scotland. Quite compact and sturdy and a very effective truncheon. It is a massive .80 Caliber that fires a 600 grain ball, At 15 feet it will penetrate 4 inches of kiln dried oak. The n=muzzle blast is deafening and the ball of flame is a sight to behold! A real magnum even by todays standards. Oh, it has a fine go at class 3 Kevlar body armor. Those old kilt wearing Scots were pretty serious about their pocket pistols….

  2. My very first rifle of my own was a muzzleloading .32 caliber squirrel gun.150 years old but it was MINE. I started shooting black powder guns before there were reproductions. I was just a kid and haunted the local farm auctions and bought just about anything I could afford. Mostly old muskets cap and ball revolvers and single shot pistols. Cheap at the time (not anymore) My folks were a little annoyed after I filled my closet and half the basement with old muzzle loaders. I was hooked after a number of years (50+) and several hundred guns late, I just cannot stop…. lmao

  3. I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on this little number. I love vintage and enjoy putting them through their paces out in the field and at the range. Looks like a well done replica.

  4. I don’t know/don’t recall what was actually used in the 19th century to seal chambers. While Crisco/grease will get the job done, I much prefer to use lubricated felt patches/wads designed for the purpose. It seems hard to make black powder shooting messier, but futzing around with grease will do it.

    Regarding the cylinder conversions for centerfire use, AFAIK original and reproduction percussion revolvers have no internal safety mechanisms — and are customarily carried hammer down on an empty cylinder. So, conversion actually turns a five-shot cap & ball revolver into a four-shot cartridge gun. I can’t tell from the article whether the conversion cylinders can quickly swap out for reloading, or if they require disassembly of the pistol and/or cylinder to reload.

    It is a cute thing, though.

  5. While not being suited for edc or self defense it’s still an awesome firearm that bring back the days of long ago with its mystery and what it must have felt like to carry and depend on such a weapon for your safety . Beautiful revolver .

  6. Never owned or fired one of the black powder revolvers,I would love to.
    Thanks for the article, nicely done…

  7. As gunsmith and long time collector (55+ years) I specialize in Care, Repair and Preservation of Antique & Historic arms for Museums and private collections. The venerable older Colt percussion revolvers is a fascinating area of collecting and shooting, with proper care and attention to their capabilities. Modern reproductions are a much preferred option for avid shooters. No sense in accidentally ruining a fine valuable antique. There are many original cartridge hand guns that can hold their own along side modern weapons. Do not discount the .44 American, .44 Russian as the were the fore-runner of todays .44 Special. The array of .45s are in the mix also. Obviously the renowned .45 Colt (Long Colt) is a no joke round. The Smith ^ Wesson .45 Schofield is for the most part identical. And of course the 1873 Winchester .44 WCF (.44-40 ) very effective in both revolver or rifle which was by design. Lots of great firearms out there. For fun and for practicality I am know to carry some pretty unconventional side arms. Single Action Colt Bisley, Merwin-Hulbert Pocket Army in 1873 Winchester, Smith & Wesson .45 Schofield, S&W Third Model Russians, Americans too. Even an Artillery Luger or a C96 Broomhandle Mauser ( which is a fantastic piece of engineering with power in even the seemingly diminutive .30 Mauser)
    I digress, get a good quality reproduction and have a blast!

  8. I think that the pistol is a very beautiful and important part of out history. I’m proud to be an American and to know that we once made things that held importance

  9. The chamber change and the style of it makes me want it just to have!! It’s also vintage, the handcraft is well out together for an 1860’s gun.

  10. While I think an 1860 army is completely impractical for any kind of defensive use, that doesn’t stop it from being totally cool! Nor does it stop me from wanting one!

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