36 cal. leathal at 75 yards


October 31, 2007, 07:29 PM
History Channel through their 'Tales of the gun' related a story about Wild Bill Hickock killing a man at 75 yards with a 36 cal. navy colt. That sounds a little far fetched. Any comments?

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October 31, 2007, 07:32 PM
I reelly meen lethal

Old Fuff
October 31, 2007, 08:52 PM
Wild Bill Hickock killing a man at 75 yards with a 36 cal. navy colt.

Happen to have the original newspaper story. The shooting occured in Springfield, MO. with the shooters standing in corners on the city's Plaza. Hence the distance is known.

An ordinary .38 Special is lethal at over 100 yards, and a Navy Colt can match it.

October 31, 2007, 09:58 PM
I've seen two deer killed at fifty-some yards with an 1851 Navy ( two different deer on two different occasions, mind you). One ran about a hundred yards before falling down. As the hunter approached it got up and went another twenty yards or so then dropped. The other one was a lucky shot that went straight into the does chest and she didn't go very far. During butchering/autopsy it was found that the bullet had passed through the lower tip of the heart.
Heck, at 75 yards a round ball or conical from a .36 Navy would probably have about as much energy as a .32 long at the muzzle, not to mention some of the various small-caliber loadings used in a number of military pistols as used by different European nations in the earlier 20th. century. The .32 long at one time enjoyed a great deal of popularity in law enforcement circles, especially among detectives and plains-clothes officers.
Who knows? Some men have died from a single shot from a .22 short while others have taken several rounds from a .357 magnum.
Oh, and for those would-be scoffers of a Navy killing a deer at 50 yards, do a little research on what the most popular cartridge is for deer poaching. That's right, it's the "lowly" old .22 rimfire.

October 31, 2007, 11:39 PM
I've been trying to make up my mind whether to buy navy 36 or an army 44.I think you answers have tipped the scales toward the navy

October 31, 2007, 11:49 PM
you have to remember something. The good old bp revolvers were made in a day when it had to work. Those factory sights were set to hit a guy at 75 yards, and you knew it would do the job for you.
Contrary to many of the european military handguns with 30 caliber barrels, 5 inch barrels and sights calibrated to 1200 meters. like the mauser pistols for example, lugers to for that matter.

November 1, 2007, 12:11 AM
Look at it from another perspective and ask yourself this...
Do you really think you'd survive a shooting (yes at you) while standing only 75yds away from a real pistoleer the likes of Bill holding his pair of .36 pistols intent on killing you if he feels the need to? :scrutiny:

I own a pair myself and although I'm a far cry from Wild Bill I still know I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of them. :)

November 1, 2007, 12:23 AM
I was able to hit a target 4 out of 6 shots at 75 yards (best, usally 3 out of 6) using my Pietta 51 Navy. The target was 18"x18".

November 1, 2007, 12:24 AM
Mr. Hickok was an expert pistol shot and he probably worked up his loads and tested them. I don't think 75 yards would be a huge stretch for someone with his skill.

November 1, 2007, 01:16 AM
Yeah, I'm a big fan of the .36 cal Navy. There's a reason real gunmen kept on using it after other's came along. :)

Also, if I'm not mistaken, Wild Bill was using a "plane jane" cap-and-ball '51 Navy when he made that long shot, not a cartridge conversion.

November 1, 2007, 01:30 AM
It was also said that no matter what Wild Bill would empty his guns every morning clean and reload them

November 1, 2007, 08:50 AM
Are the navies smaller than the armies?

Old Fuff
November 1, 2007, 09:05 AM
Both are built on the same frame, although the Army's is slightly modified to accept a .44 cylinder. In addition the handle on the Army is about 1/8" longer and the barrel is 1/2" longer then a Navy's (8" v. 7 1/2").

You might want to look into a 1861 Navy - same size and caliber as an 1851 model, but looks like an Army.

November 1, 2007, 09:21 AM
I have no doubt the Colts Navy would be plenty lethal at 75 yards.

Has anyone researched this? I recall reading that Hickok used an 1860 Army in an early shooting, and was thinking it was in Missouri. I'm not sure if this shooting was the one. Will have to look it up when I have time.

The often recited mantra about Hickok is "He ONLY EVER used 36 Navy Colts,......." He was known to have owned and used several different caliber and model pistols over the years. He is best known for his use of the pair of Navies in later years.

Ghost Tracker
November 1, 2007, 09:34 AM
James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok was the Doug Koenig / Ron Leatham of his time (okay, maybe Jerry Miculek). He practiced daily & knew-well his revolvers' capability. If you gave any of these three modern shooters a .36 Colt Navy Revolver at 75 yards...I'm absolutely willing to bet they could drop a man like a hot horseshoe.

Harve Curry
November 1, 2007, 12:09 PM
To add to the discussion a .380" pure lead ball weighs 83 grains.

November 1, 2007, 08:26 PM
Wild Bill was one of the greatest pistol shooters ever in my opinion.Most people (and pistols) back then were accustomed to shooting no more 25 yards away.He was hitting guys square in the heart at 75 yards,some of the time with glaucoma.And He was using a cap and ball for that particular shooting I believe.

Harve Curry
November 1, 2007, 09:46 PM
Not all '51 Colt 36cal are the same, like anything else.
Some take .375" balls, some larger. Check the cylinder chamber mouths to the rifing groove diameter. Forcing cone work has also helped for cap & ball revolvers.

November 1, 2007, 09:56 PM
If, I'm not mistaken, Wild Bill would ride into a herd of Buffalo and drop five or six with a pistol in each hand and the rains in his mouth. This is no small feet from horse back with pistols inside the herd. My self I think if I found myself on horse back in the middle of a thousand head of wild Buffalo I would be screaming for my mother. I live close to Yellowstone and see Buffalo fairly often. Just one bull is enough to get your attention. They are wild animals that value their space. So you better as well. And their space is were ever they say it is.

November 1, 2007, 10:30 PM
I'm as big of fan of Wild Bill as anyone but I'm reluctant to take anything mentioned so far as fact. Those who study the old west know theres been a century long tradition of fibbing to the tenderfeet, and never letting truth get in the way of a great story.

Jim K
November 1, 2007, 10:40 PM
Well, the .36 is perfectly capable of killing a man at 75 yards, and well beyond. In all respects but bullet weight, it is equivlent to the .38 Special standard load. Penetration and lethality are about the same.

As to the famed Mr. Hickock's "feats", pardon me while I go find a salt block, as a grain won't be enough. If those marvelous demonstrations of his shooting ability occurred, they must have been on the increasingly rare occasions when he was sober enough to locate his gun.


November 1, 2007, 10:53 PM
I'm reluctant to take anything mentioned so far as fact.

Stories aside, unless I'm mistaken I believe the OP was taken back by one of two things or both. The two things being one, that a .36 could be accurate and lethal enough to kill a man at 75yds and two, that Bill could accomplish this feat. Even without having any concrete proof, there is little doubt in my mind that the first of these is very feasible and when coupled with the skill and experience of the second is pretty much a done deal. Would you write this line of reasoning off as story time BS too?

November 1, 2007, 11:00 PM
The fact that we're still talking about this man, James Butler Hickok, 131 years after his death, leads me to believe that there was a great deal of substance to the stories about him. I believe that he shot a man in the heart, while being shot at, from 75 yards away. Luck? Skill? Both? Doesn't really matter. There are some myths that should not be debunked. It's hard to handle an 1851 .36 Colt Navy and not think about JBH, even today.

November 1, 2007, 11:20 PM
I'm sorry I confused Wild Bill with Buffalo Bill Cody. I rechecked "Gunfighters of the Western Frontier" and it was Buffalo Bill Cody that rode into the herds of buffalo dropping them with pistols in each hand. My bad.

Harve Curry
November 1, 2007, 11:35 PM
hello Misfire99,
I read Buffalo Bills autobiography and he wrote about a contest he go into, his choice of firearm was Lurcia Borgia(spl?), a 50-70 Springfield. Cody's challenger used a Henry or a '66 and Cody shot more buffalo down from horse back then the officer did. I don't have the book you mention but I don't recall him using 36's in his autobiography.

November 1, 2007, 11:52 PM
I lived in a small town northeast of Cincinnati called Loveland and every day for 12 years I passed a small cemetery on my way to work. One day on my way in I noticed, it was hard to miss, a brand new head stone that was 5' tall 2'wide and about 6" thick and was coal black. What really stood out was a card hand spread fanned across the top. I made sure I stopped by on the way home. It was at first very obvious that it was new due to the fresh earth and the footer. Turns out the hand was the 'dead man's hand' and the guy that the stone marked was a fellow named Rich and according to the groundskeeper and the inscription he was the dealer that dealt Wild Bill the hand. Seems a currently living relative found the grave and had the stone made. five years later the stone was gone. That was about 15 years ago and I've never found out what happened to the marker. Always thought I'd stop by and ask. If I ever do I'll let you all know

November 1, 2007, 11:57 PM
Bob, I never said anything was BS.

November 2, 2007, 12:38 AM
Would that be "Lucrezia Borgia?" He chose a heckuva woman to name the rifle after.:)

From wiki: "During the Renaissance, social climbers would commonly boast "I'm dining with the Borgias tonight." A smaller number would boast "I dined with the Borgias last night." Lucrezia was said to employ a chef and a poisoner (two separate people) full time to take care of her guests."

November 2, 2007, 12:45 AM
You're absolutely right Tim and I apologize. You did not use the term BS. :)

You used the word fact and the opposite of fact then would be fiction. ;)

Yes indeed, I'm sure that not all but at least some of the stories told about WBH and others are tainted with just that. A load of fiction. :D

November 2, 2007, 09:30 PM
If you are looking for a nice, quality .36 revolver, then go with the Cimarron Uberti 1861 Navy, or the 1858 Remington New Model Navy in .36 caliber. You will love firing either one.

November 2, 2007, 11:07 PM
RWMC, I just went on the cimarron site and noticed something. Does the Remington have off chamber notches as a safety so you could load all cylinders and lower the hammer between cylinders?

Gaucho Gringo
November 3, 2007, 12:10 AM
Yes Pancho, Remington 1858 Mew Model Army and clones have the safety notch between the caps to put the hammer safely down. It works quite well and is another of Remington's one up features on Colt. In my opinion Colt percussion revolvers have no peer as far as looks. functionality is a different story in my opinion. Everyone perceives things the way they think they do.

November 3, 2007, 10:05 AM
Hey Gringo, I've got a Pietta '51 Navy that has the pins for the hammer to rest on so the cylinder can be carried 6-up. It has worked quite well on mine so far. Is this different than the Remington?

November 3, 2007, 10:25 AM
This Thread is most interesting.I have never shot Black Powder revolvers but this may change that. What was the approximate muzzle velocity on the 51 Navy in 36 caliber? Thanks, Byron

November 3, 2007, 10:53 AM
This Thread is most interesting.I have never shot Black Powder revolvers but this may change that. What was the approximate muzzle velocity on the 51 Navy in 36 caliber? Thanks, Byron
Check out this (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=187104) old thread started by Mec. Should at least give you a head start. :)

Doc Rizzi
November 3, 2007, 01:04 PM
I just finished what is in my opinion the best book ever written about Wild Bill. It is called They Called Him Wild Bill. The Life and Adventures of James Butler Hickok. The author is Joseph G. Rosa
He uses primary sources for his research. Letters from Bill to his brothers and family, military orders and reports, and the accounts of reports of eye witnesses. The problem, as stated by the author, is that the newspaper men of that era would often embellish their stories to make their paper more interesting. These stories would appear in newspapers back east and add to the lore. This being said, however, he did accomplish some very amazing feats that are well supported by documentation. The actual gray area with regard to his 75 yard shot in he killed David Tutt is not the distance but in who actually fired first. Hickock was waiting for him in the square. Tutt was shot twice. Once through the heart with the pistol in Hickock's right hand and once in the right thigh with the pistol in Hickock's left hand. Hickock was arrested for the shooting, stood trial and was acquitted. Hickock left town soon after. The book does in fact de-bunk some of Hickock's feats. It also gives due diligence to how good he was with firearms, not just his favorite .36 Navy's.
This being said....what I really was looking for in this thread was what size the trigger guard screw was for the .36 Navy....but I found that info elsewhere...lol. I love shooting the .36 Navy. I use two of them for CAS. They are not always 100% reliable in a stage...but I am not fast enough to win anyway...so I might as well have some fun.

November 3, 2007, 01:28 PM
Elmer Keith, in his book "Sixguns by Keith" has this to say about BP Colt revolvers:

"For it's size & weight, nothing is so deadly as the round ball of pure lead when driven at fairly high velocity."

"Both Major R. E. Stratton and Samuel H. Fletcher told me the .36 Navy with full loads was a far better man killer then any .38 Special they had ever seen used in gun fights."

The old Colts were sighted for long range fighting.
I have no doubt that if James Butler Hickok decided to kill you at 75 yards with one of his .36 Colts, you were as good as dead before he pulled the trigger.


Gaucho Gringo
November 3, 2007, 05:48 PM
FSCJedi, it is a different way to try and achieve the same results, namely carrying six loaded and capped chambers somewhat safely. On the Remington and clones the notches are between and below the nipples and the hammer rests in these notches. In order to have an accidental discharge the hammer has to raise up above the level of the nipples as the cylinder turns. On the system you describe that some Colt's and clones use all the hammer has to do is fall off the pin, a somewhat easier task. Neither way is really recommended as the safe way to carry a cap and ball revolver. Recommended way is hammer down on an unloaded cylinder.

Harve Curry
November 3, 2007, 06:07 PM
Doc Rizzi, QOUTE:".....The actual gray area with regard to his 75 yard shot in he killed David Tutt is not the distance but in who actually fired first. Hickock was waiting for him in the square. Tutt was shot twice. Once through the heart with the pistol in Hickock's right hand and once in the right thigh with the pistol in Hickock's left hand.."

I'd have like to seen that. I wonder how Hickock stood when he fired left hand? Like a duel edge wise to the opponent and left eye lined up with the sights?

Old Fuff
November 3, 2007, 06:25 PM
When a house renovation gets over with and I can get to my books, I have a bound copy of Harpers Monthly that has the original story with printed drawings for illustrations (they didn't have any way to reproduce photographs at the time).

Anyway, the picture of Hickok firing his revolver shows him with one, not two guns, pointing it with a slightly bent arm - which was the usual way in those days. However reference is made to the effect that he carried a pair.

Doc Rizzi
November 3, 2007, 07:07 PM
It is too bad that we do not have photos of those days. We are at the mercy of artist renditions and the written record of "eye witness" accounts. At best, we can hope to find several sources that agree to what they saw. Even in modern day investigations is it amazing how "eye witnesses" report what they saw. It is often difficult to believe they witnessed the same scene. It is fun to sort through those old writings. The book I mention in the earlier post shows several "tin types" of Hickock. Check it out if you get the chance. I bought my used copy for 7.00 on Amazon Books.

Harve Curry
November 3, 2007, 08:21 PM
Interesting video on youtube:
Deadwood City bought some of Wild Bill's guns and belongings.
I couldn't find a video of the shooting of Dave Tutt though!

November 3, 2007, 08:24 PM
The fact that a 36 cal. ball fired from an 8" barrel powered by about 22 gr. of black powder can still have enough energy after traveling 75 yards to penetrate clothing,skin,tissue and bone then kill a man refreshes my belief in my ml hunting guns at distances just beyond 100 yards which is my skill level with iron sights.

Harve Curry
November 4, 2007, 09:40 AM
I remember reading that tests have shown a blunt object will penetrate human skin at 200 FPS. Seems like even a little slower would do that.

November 4, 2007, 10:00 AM
A very informative thread. However, I suspect there is always someone just a bit slower than the rest of the crowd and ends up missing something. :(

Were all of the old Colt revolvers, from the .36 to the .44/.45 "factory sighted" for 75 yards? Or was that just the .36 caliber.

Also, are the clones of today sighted the same and, if so, what load is recommended with today's Goex to maintain that sighting?

Although I am mostly a lurker, I am the one always sitting in the front row with pen & paper....just in case there's a quiz later. :banghead:


November 4, 2007, 10:59 AM
"On the Remington and clones the notches are between and below the nipples and the hammer rests in these notches. In order to have an accidental discharge the hammer has to raise up above the level of the nipples as the cylinder turns. On the system you describe that some Colt's and clones use all the hammer has to do is fall off the pin, a somewhat easier task."

This is not entirely correct information. The motion required to rotate the cylinder on Colts type percussion pistols is exactly how you descride the Remington system. The hammer has to be pulled back some to clear the pin. You may have seen guns that have been dry fired, and the notch in the hammer nose was peened closed enough that it didnt fit down over the pins properly, (this seems fairly common, and is a very good reason NOT to dry fire a percussion pistol), but when functioning properly, both types function basically the same.

If what I wrote was not clear, the hammer face should be down against the rear of the cylinder when set over the pins, not sitting "on" the pin. Guns that do not do this should be adjusted to function properly. The hammers are very hard, a file doesn't work well. A cut-off wheel in a dremel works well for this. Some new guns are not fitted properly and should be corrected before use.

"Were all of the old Colt revolvers, from the .36 to the .44/.45 "factory sighted" for 75 yards? Or was that just the .36 caliber."

Almost all of the Colt's type percussion pistols are sighted high at what is now considered "pistol range". The reproductions are generally made the same as originals as far as sights. You will have to shoot your guns to see where they hit for you with whatever load you want to use. Most loads will shoot high at closer range. When out in open country, 25 yards doesn't seem very far.

November 4, 2007, 11:47 AM
Malamute, I should get off my butt and find a colt and a remington repo and see what you are talking about but alas there are no good gun stores in this area and last week I drove 50 miles to a big Pro gunshow and saw only 6 cap and ball revolvers in the whole damn show. Obviously cowboy action shooting is slow to catch on around here.
As I read you, colt has a similar off chamber safe area for the hammer. Colt uses a notch in the hammer face that would rest over a pin in the cylinder between chambers.The remington system I'm familiar with because it looks similar to my NAA pocket carry pistol and I'm very secure in it's safety. The colt system seems safe if not abused and might not be apparent until it failed. The remingtion system, if abused, could be more apparent due to the fact that the hammer wouldn't come to rest in the notch. Do you reach the same conclusion?

November 4, 2007, 12:08 PM
I have owned a couple .36 Navy revolvers. I own an original thats pretty well used up, but intact and could fire, plus a Pietta repro. Got rid of a brass framed repro.

Thats said, My Pietta .36 Navy is quite accurate, fairly hard hitting. I would think that a lot would depend on how hard your balls are!! I have fired soft, pure lead balls at a thick plank and had them bounce off! The balls would be flattened out about the diameter of a quarter. Balls I cast myself are somewhat harder, and penetrate pretty decent.

I've tried conical .36 slugs and wonder wads and all that. None of these seem all that conducive to "power"! Conical slugs and wonder wads reduce the amount of powder the revolver will chamber will hold and reduce the gun to modest plinking velocitys. I didn't think they were any more accurate in my pistol either. Round balls on top a max chamber full of powder topped off with grease is a reasonably potent load in a .36 revolver. I just use less powder and more grease for plinking.

Yes, I could see the .36 being lethal at 75 yards. I remember reading in one of Elmer Kieths books that in his opinion the .36 Navy was far more effective than ballisics would indicate.

Marlin 45 carbine
November 4, 2007, 01:30 PM
consider the fact that W.B. took on 6 armed men (McCandless fight?) and beat them off killing 2or3 and wounding the others while being shot multiple times as well as stabbed a few he could definitely give as good as he got. he carried them Navys for a reason he wasn't a peny pincher when it came to weapons and owned several different one of all types..
I would not have been looking for trouble with him, he did after all run John Wesley Hardin out of some cowtown.

Capt. Willard
November 4, 2007, 01:45 PM
I have also heard this particualar shooting was done with a dragoon not navy pistols. I havn't studied it one way or another ...if it was with two pistols they were probably navy's though. Anyone know for sure?

Old Fuff
November 4, 2007, 05:39 PM
Newspaper accounts and the Harpers Monthly article have Wild Bill armed with "Navy Colt's," but neither were particularly accurate or reliable. By the end of the Civil War few men were still carrying Dragoons as belt guns. There was no shortage of more modern Colt's and Remingtons, among others.

On Colt revolvers of that day the rear sight was a little "V" notch in the hammer nose. At the factory great care was taken to insure that at full-cock the hammer was back against the backstrap. This prevented strain on the hand, and battering of the cylinder notches by the cylinder bolt. Modern reproductions often aren't so adjusted, and the hammer is forward of the backstrap when it's at full-cock. Since the hammer nose rotates in an arc, the net effect is that it is higher then it would be otherwise, and this in effect causes the gun to shoot higher.

Even so, these guns were sighted to shoot higher then generally is the case today, and occasionally you'll find an original gun with a higher front sight dovetailed into the barrel. Such a sight could be moved in the dovetail to adjust for windage, and made high and filed down to correct elevation - at whatever distance the owner desired.

Your great-great-grandparents weren't so dumb after all. ;)

Harve Curry
November 4, 2007, 06:44 PM
I might be wrong but I think the old revolvers almost always shot high. The old word was "regulated" to hit at 100 yards, going back to the 1847 Colt Walker. Soldiers were taught to hold on the belt buckle of their target with rifle or revolver. Maybe Old Fuff can add more to this old method.

November 6, 2007, 02:39 AM
I think I've heard that 75 yards is the magic number for '51 Navies.

Doc Rizzi
November 8, 2007, 12:11 AM
I have a pair of Pietta Navy's and they are tack drivers out to about 25 yards. I use them for CAS and when the expended caps don't jam up the works they are fast and accurate. I only load them up with 15 grains because for CAS you don't need much. I have experimented with higher loads but have not been able to find reasonable groups out beyond 25 yards. I suppose that if I practiced a few hours every day that my skill would increase as I became more familiar with the way that particular gun shot. Reading primary sources like Harpers is nice. One of the frequent contributers to that publication was a man named Nichols. He actually was the one that started the "embellishment" of Hickock's feats with the blessing of Hickock. He wanted Nichols to write something that his mother would be proud of. The tabloids in the East picked it up and the legend was born. So now, it is very difficult to sort out the fact from the fiction....but fun researching anyway.

sixgun MAK
November 10, 2007, 07:44 PM
Maybe those 36's can kill a man at 75 yards, but they do a poor job on feral cats at 25.

November 10, 2007, 08:03 PM
Lethal, Yes

Preferable, No

A .36 caliber lead ball is lethal allot farther than some would guess or think.

One sad case of recent history comes to my mind.

It is the case in which a San Jose officer Gordon Silva was killed as a result of a single OO buckshot pellet that hit the officer below his vest from a ricochet.

Tragically two officers died in this event one was murdered by a crazy person he was trying to help by his own service revolver the other died from one single shotgun pellet gone astray, always know what is beyond your intended target.:fire:

November 11, 2007, 01:09 PM
Ask Davis Tutt!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 11, 2007, 01:12 PM
Ask Davis Tutt!!!!!!!
PS: you,ll have to dig him up.

kentucky bucky
November 13, 2007, 12:51 AM
Not to be a smart a##, but if you don't think .36 is lethal, then why don't you amaze your friends and soak up some .22 rim fire at the same range? The point being, there is no doubt they are plenty lethal at that range and even father. I would bet that Wild Bill could do head shots at that range, from what eye witnesses said about his marksmanship.

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