Difference between Colt Navy 1851 and 1861


Mac Attack
February 3, 2008, 09:29 AM
What is the difference between the two and was one really an improvement over the other or just a new model with "new paint, leather seats and a new car smell?" :)

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February 3, 2008, 09:38 AM
The 1861 has a different barral/loading lever assembly. The rest is the same basic gun.

The 1851 has a loading lever design that dated back to before the Walker Colt. An attached lever with a rammer hinged to it.

The 1861 Navy used the new style "creeping lever" system, that debut with the 1860 Army .44 revolver. Actually I think the creeping lever may have been used on the older "Root" model Colt pistols, and the Colt long-guns too.

The Creeping lever works on a rack and pinion system, sort of a gear system. Hard to describe, you need to see it to understand how it works, but it's simple. That loading lever requires a different barrel assembly over the old 1851 with it's octagon barrel.

Mac Attack
February 3, 2008, 09:44 PM
So does one load easier than the other? Does the new barrel of the 1861 have any benefits over the barrel of the 1851? Which is heavier and does one point straighter than the other?

February 3, 2008, 10:01 PM
Personally, I think the '61 is better balanced and thus points better.

Local opinion may vary.


February 3, 2008, 11:37 PM


Old Fuff
February 4, 2008, 12:04 AM
The creeping bullet rammer gives you more leverage, and it's easier to push in bullets, but I never noticed a difference with round balls. Also the cut-out in the barrel under the base pin makes it slightly easier to load because there is more space to work with. Both barrels are 7 1/2 inches long, have the same bore, and point the same.

February 4, 2008, 12:11 AM
IE: Whatever one looks cooler to you ;)

February 4, 2008, 12:42 PM
Wild Bill Hickock used the 51 navies that should say it all!. I have both and they both shoot great load easy and both are very pointable. Gus

February 4, 2008, 02:21 PM
Did you notice that Mec's 61 had a blade sight not the bead?

February 4, 2008, 04:51 PM
My Colt 1861 has the blade. IIRC they all do.

February 5, 2008, 02:07 PM
The 1861 points just ever-so-slightly better than the 51.
The 1861 blade front sight is more apt to hit on target than the 51 which will tend to shoot high.

February 5, 2008, 06:39 PM
Perhaps this will help illustrate the points above. You can easily see the difference in the loading lever design. Nobody's mentioned the triggers, yet, however. The difference is pronounced in these two guns, somewhat less in the pictures mec provided. My '61 also has the blade front sight.

February 5, 2008, 06:47 PM
I forget who was asking about guns made to take shoulder stocks. The 61' mykeal shows here is cut to take a shoulder stock.

Note the slot in the grip frame rear wards, the extra screws on the frame, and the relief cuts on the cylinder shield.

February 5, 2008, 06:54 PM
I believe the '51 will take a stock, but you have to replace the hammer screw . . . if memory serves.

February 8, 2008, 12:29 PM
The differences between the 51 and 61 are the barrel shape and rammer.

If cut for a shoulder stock, either could use one.

Neither mykeals nor mecs 1851s are cut for the stock.

Originally, Colt claimed improved metallurgy in promoting the 1861 over the 1851.

Robert E. Lee was known to favor the 1851.

George A. Custer was presented an engraved pair of 1861's.

The 1861 was also produced with a full fluted cylinder for a short time.

Mac Attack
February 8, 2008, 08:50 PM
I stopped by a local pawnshop/gun store today and was surprised that they had several cap and ball revolvers. I handled a 1860 Army in .44 with a fluted cylinder, a Colt Walker, a Uberti 1851 Navy and a 1861 Navy's both in .36. I really like the balance and feel of the 1861 models, but they only had them in .36 Cal and I was really looking for one in .44.

The salesman was very knowledgeable and took the time to speak with me regarding BP revolvers. He has been shooting them for years and suggested that I start off with a inexpensive '61. So know i have to do it find a nice inexpensive quality '61. Any suggestions?

February 8, 2008, 08:54 PM
What were his prices?

Why the preferance for .44? If hunting is on the list, then I understand.

February 8, 2008, 08:55 PM
There is no .44 cal 1861 Colt Navy. The .44 cal 'version' of the 1861 Colt Navy is an 1860 Colt Army. $185 on page 62 in the S&S catalog:

Mac Attack
February 8, 2008, 09:00 PM
All were Uberti's. The '51 and '61's were $279. I think I could get it down to $250 out the door because they have been sitting on the shelves for a long time. The '60 Army with the fluted cylinder was I believe $325.

The reason I want a .44 is because of what the BP essentials post suggests that there is a larger variety of bullets for a .44 than for a .36. Am I wrong? Also, the salesman mentioned that the Uberti's can be converted to accept centerfire rounds. That's pretty darn cool and a nice option but I primarily want a C&B revolver.

Come to think of it I may be mistaken on the models. The shop had 4 C&B revolvers - a 1851, 1860 and 1861. I believe the '60 was set up to accept a stock but I don't recall if the '61 was set up to accept one?

Mac Attack
February 8, 2008, 09:06 PM
Mykeal, the link you provided had a 1861 Colt Navy with an octagon barrel. The one's I handled were round.

February 8, 2008, 11:37 PM
Mykeal that site you offered is really nice and they offer guns I didn't know existed such as an octagon barrel Colt Police and the octagon barrel 61 Navy.
The prices are really good. Do you know if they are current?

February 8, 2008, 11:50 PM
Mac Attack, I wouldn't let the lack of bullet options disturb you. I think the post you referred to was by Gatefeo and he wrote that .375 rb was available but if you wanted .380 you would have to cast them yourself. I bought the Lee mold for the .380 and shot both the .375 and the .380 and find only a slight difference. The .380 should present more bullet to the rifling but probably I'm not good to tell the advantage.

Old Fuff
February 9, 2008, 12:03 AM
The .380 round ball was often specified for original Colt 1851 and 61 Navies. Today that isn't much of an issue unless you ream your chambers to bring them up to match the bore, as in some replicas you have .380" bores and .372" diameter chambers. Bad news to say the least.

February 9, 2008, 12:34 AM
Mykeal – Pancho’s right. That site is like being led to a whole ‘nother candy store. Bless your eyes.

February 9, 2008, 12:34 AM

I've used both .375 and .380 RBs in an 1851 Navy and - with me shooting and using Pyrodex - there wasn't any detectable difference on the target.
A charcoal-burner from Georgetown who has a lot more C&B guns than I'll ever have told me he's never seen any significant difference between the two either.

Not saying Gatefeo is wrong but maybe any difference is really mostly a "gun-by-gun" situation.

I do know the Navy I shot was pretty impressive for accuracy even with Yours Truly doing the shooting.


February 9, 2008, 11:18 AM
The octagon barreled 1861 mentioned in the catalog is a misprint.

Not uncommon in this day of non editing prior to printing.

There was an octagon barrel and round barrel version of the 5 shot 36 colt.

As for the .380 vs .375 round ball. I like the 380 as it provides a tighter seal in the chamber. Also gives a tiny belt to be engraved by the rifling.

Oh yeah, it is also th only size I have,

Old Fuff
February 9, 2008, 11:27 AM
Regardless of the ball's diameter, it will be swedged down to the chamber diameter. The larger ball might give you a little more bearing surface, but I doubt that it would make a difference in hand-held accuracy. The reason for recommending the .380 ball is in case someone has larger chambers in their revolver. If so, an undersized ball could cause problems.

February 9, 2008, 11:52 AM
The reason I would recommend the larger ball is if you have more than one 36 it takes the guess work out of which one uses which diameter.

I like to keep things simple.

The less variables the more enjoyment.

February 9, 2008, 03:51 PM
Well sorry to say Mac Attack that we couldn't help you make a decision on what to buy based on the caliber. You can believe it when I say whatever you buy it won't be the last. Just ask Scrat.
Myself I have 7 sidelocks 3 inlines and 3 C&B revolvers and everyone of them is a different mystery to be solved.

February 9, 2008, 03:54 PM
Oh yeah, Not to forget that when things slow down you can get into molding your own projectiles. That's when you know you're not only hooked you're flopping on the bottom of the boat.

February 9, 2008, 04:36 PM
hey wait i have about 10 molds. :rolleyes:

yep your going to get hooked. i guess the only think i can recomend because it will happen. Go out and buy the best priced 1851 or 1860 model you can. Then when money is good buy the other one. Thats what i did. Now im hunting for some more.
I just have to get a bigger safe. As im out of room again.

Old Fuff
February 9, 2008, 05:20 PM

The Old Fuff has just learned that since they are addictive, all black powder revolvers have been determined to be controlled substances. All such revolvers, along with associated propellants, caps and projectiles are to be sent to the Old Fuff for proper disposal...

All of the above should be delivered by common carrier, such as Fed-X or UPS. Said projectiles should not be delivered in another way you might be thinking of… :eek:

(Old Fuff runs to take cover…) :D

February 9, 2008, 07:27 PM
Oh it isn't to bad until you find you can do more things with a ball mold than you thought it should. Then yer addicted!

February 9, 2008, 10:32 PM
Mac Attack and Pancho - There is no octagonal barrel 1861 Colt Navy or 1862 Colt Police. That has to be a typo.

The link I provided was to their 2007 catalog. It has since been replaced with a 2008 catalog with new prices, and unfortunately the Euroarms 1860 Army for $185 is no longer offered. So the prices and listings in that link are obsolete.

The new catalog also claims an octagonal barreled 1861 Navy, so that typo has continued. I'm sending them an email asking about it. I'll post whatever their answer is.

The 1862 .36 cal gun with an octagonal barrel is called the Pocket Navy; the round barrel is the Police or Pocket Police.

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