Another 1860 Army question


April 14, 2012, 09:26 PM
I'm having a hard time finding info on the R&D conversion cylinder for the .44 1860 Army Uberti. I can find .45 LC cylinders for the 1860 but not .44's. Now, I can find .44 1860 Army Ubertis but not 45 Colt. What am I missing here?

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April 14, 2012, 09:34 PM
There are no .44 cal conversion cylinders for the Colt 1860 Army...or any other revolver I'm aware of. The only options are .45 (Long) Colt or .45 ACP.

The .44 cal designation refers to the cap and ball version of the Colt 1860 Army. When you install the cartridge conversion on the 1860 Army you convert the .44 cal cap and ball revolver to a .45 cal cartridge revolver.

April 14, 2012, 09:49 PM
Kirst makes some great conversion cylinders and we recently had a raffle for an 1860 Uberti with both a 45 Colt and 22LR conversion as well as the standard 44. You can get them here also

April 15, 2012, 08:01 AM
So I can buy the conversion cylinder and shoot 45LC thru a 44 barrel? Also, is it correct that the Kirst conversion is a permanant conversion whereas the R&D would allow you to swap back and forth between cartridge and cap and ball?

April 15, 2012, 08:11 AM
The bore of your gun is actually the same bore diameter as those that shoot 45 Colt and 45 Auto. The ball that a "44 caliber" 1860 Army uses is typically .452-.454. Same as 45 Colt.

I don't know why they call it a 44, quite honestly. Ironically, modern day 44 Magnum/Special is really .429-.430 caliber. I guess "44" sounds better.

April 15, 2012, 08:21 AM
Thanks, I think the modern 44 designation size .429 vs. .454 in the .45 was throwing me off. Sounds like a plan.

Prairie Dawg
April 15, 2012, 01:10 PM
Yes, R & D or Kirst 45 Long Colt conversion cylinders will work well in your 44s. Been using them in both Colt & Remmie repros for years.

April 15, 2012, 04:19 PM
The bore designation was different in the cap & ball guns. The "44" refers to the bore diameter BEFORE it is rifled. Caliber 36 is the bore of a Navy BEFORE rifling. After rifling, the 44 bore groove diameter is 452 or 454. The 36 bore after rifling groove diameter is .375. Bore diameter of the cartridge gun is called by the groove dimension, a "45" measures .450.

The modern 44 uses a cartridge diameter of 45, and after subtracting the thickness of the brass case, the bullet diameter is .43. (.427-.430) .38 is the diameter of the cartridge case of a 38 LC, Special, or 357 Mag. Subtracting the thickness of the brass, the bullet diameter is .357.

This is because the cartridge conversions that led us down this path used the cap & ball chamber diameter after cutting off the breech where the nipples were seated and made the cartridge case fit it, 45 for the 44 cal and 38 for the 38 and .357M cal. The 44 Colt originally used a heeled bullet of 45 caliber as the chamber has no step and barrels were either on conversions and/or used cap&call bore tooling. The current "modern made" 44 Colt revolver uses an inside the case bullet and a stepped chamber throat so modern made 44 Colt barrels use the same bore as the 44 Russian/Special/Magnum.

April 15, 2012, 04:31 PM
To answer a previous question, the R&D (Howell) conversion cylinder is a "drop-in". The frame does not need to be modified. You can swap out the cylinders.

The Kirst, although designed for a loading gate port to be cut into the frame, can still fire a percussion cylinder with the conversion backplate removed, but the loading port will expose more of the cylinder's breech. Actually makes it easier to cap the nipples....

Hoof Hearted may correct me if I'm wrong.

April 15, 2012, 05:40 PM
Thanks RC..I think I'm gonna go with the Howell to keep things simple. Now to find the 1860 I want!!

Prairie Dawg
April 15, 2012, 09:16 PM
RCFLINT--You are correct.
Can still be used as a cap gun & there is no problem accessing the nips.

tom e gun
April 15, 2012, 09:50 PM
i have an 1860 army with a kirst cylinder and loading gate, with loading port cut. it does make it easier to put caps on when using the black powder cylinder, but it is prone to having the exposed cap flying off when you take your first shot. recoil knocks that lil bugger right off :D

HL Hunley
April 22, 2012, 03:19 AM
I'm a greenhorn, but was looking at the same thing. I thought it would be great to have a converted army pistol, but in "my" caliber, .44. (I haven't bought a single gun yet, but am planning: .44 across the board in revolvers and rifles for Period Correctness and convenience).

This is what I found: the R&D conversion WILL do it, but not quite as we might wish. You have to use "heel bullets," (which are period correct), or period INcorrect "hollow base." (These are Chinese terms to me, as I haven't ever reloaded - yet).

For practical purposes, this might as well be a separate caliber, from what I can tell, kind of "mooting" the whole point. But here is the blurb on the conversion, and a tutorial on reloading heel bullets. Hopefully it helps and is not some rubbish from a noobie.

R&D blurb on Buffalo Arms

Tutorial - loading heel based,41633.0.html

Driftwood Johnson
April 23, 2012, 11:12 AM
I'm a greenhorn, but was looking at the same thing. I thought it would be great to have a converted army pistol, but in "my" caliber, .44. (I haven't bought a single gun yet, but am planning: .44 across the board in revolvers and rifles for Period Correctness and convenience).


You are making this much more complicated than you have to.

A few definitions.

Bore: The diameter of a hole when it is drilled. Sometimes the verb bore is used instead of the verb drill when referring to making a hole.

Groove: The extra depth the 'bore' has been cut when rifling is created.

When a rifle barrel is made, first a hole is drilled (bored). Then a second tool is run through the bore to cut the rifling. There are several ways to do this, but the end result is a set of grooves running the length of the barrel in a helical (not spiral) pattern.

Once the rifling has been cut, the part of the original bored hole that remains is the lands. So with a rifled barrel you have grooves and lands. Peer down a rifled barrel some time with a strong light and you usually see tool marks running across the lands. These marks left behind by the spinning drill. They are all that is left of the original hole when it was bored. However the tool marks left in the grooves will be running the length of the barrel because the cutter that created the grooves was pulled through the barrel.

So when somebody uses the term 'bore' and 'rifling' interchangeably, they are actually incorrect. The bore is the inner diameter where the lands are. Groove Diameter, or Rifling Groove Diameter is the correct way to to refer to rifling diameter.

Heeled Bullet: Pull the bullet out of a 22 rimfire cartridge sometime with a pair of pliers. That is a heeled bullet. The bullet is the same diameter as the outside of the cartridge case. The 'heel' is the narrower section that slips inside the cartridge case.

At about the same time that revolvers were being transitioned from Cap & Ball to cartridges, cartridges themselves were still being developed. There were quite a few competing designs on the market. Things like rim fire, needle fire, teat fire, centerfire, and a few others. Cartridges had not been around for very long, and the market place had not yet weeded out the inferior designs. Heeled bullets were one of the designs that have since fallen by the wayside. rcflint is correct. The first cartridge conversion revolvers were made by sawing off the rear most portion of a conversion cylinder, where the nipples were. This left a straight hole through the cylinder, no step as in a modern chamber. So a cartridge having the bullet and brass case of the same diameter was going to work best in such a cylinder. And that is what was used in most of the early revolvers that were converted from Cap & Ball to cartridges during and shortly after the Civil War.

But the problem with heeled bullets was they carried their bullet lube on the outside of the bullet. That's why there is a waxy coating on modern 22 Rimfire ammunition. Bullet lube to keep the bullet lubricated as it slides down the barrel. But in Black Powder days bullet lube was soft and gooey. It would attract dirt and contamination. Smith and Wesson had been manufacturing cartridge revolvers since 1857. As a matter of fact, they controlled a patent that made them the sole manufacturer of cartridge revolvers until about 1870. Around this time the Russian government approached S&W and offered them a contract for a large order of 44 caliber revolvers. But the Russians stipulated that they did not want their revolvers to fire ammunition with heeled bullets, because of the problem of the soft bullet lube picking up lint and dirt. The Russians stipulated that they wanted a new type of bullet, that would carry the bullet lube in grooves cast onto the bullet, and the grooves should then be pushed up inside the cartridge case where the lube would not contaminate anything. This actually simplified ammunition making a great deal. The bullet could be a simple cylindrical shape of just one diameter. In order to keep the surface of the bullet where the lube was in contact with the rifling, the diameter of the chamber ahead of the cartridge case as well as the diameter of the rifling was reduced, to match the inside diameter of the cartridge case. So even though the cartridge case was still about .44 in diameter, the bullet diameter was reduced to .429. That is why you will see a step in the chamber of modern revolvers, to transition from the case diameter to the bullet diameter. The new round was dubbed the 44 Russian, and it was the direct ancestor of both the 44 Special and the 44 Magnum rounds. They are simply longer, the bullet and case diameters are all the same.

That is why heeled bullets are obsolete today. The only commercial ammunition manufactured today using heeled bullets is 22 Rimfire. Every thing else has gone to modern bullets that are just one diameter.

Getting back to 'bores'. The convention with revolvers in Cap & Ball days was to call out the caliber of the gun by the bore diameter. The diameter the hole in the barrel had been drilled before it was rifled. But if you measure the rifling grooves of most modern manufactured 44 caliber Cap & Ball revolvers, you will find they are actually 45 Caliber, not 44.

Forget about Period Correctness, whatever that is. A 44 Colt cartridge with a heeled bullet will not work properly in a modern made 44 caliber Cap & Ball revolver. It will be too small in diameter and will not engage the rifling properly, unless you use a hollow base bullet which will expand to grip the rifling. But you are making much more work for yourself than is necessary. That's why all the conversion cylinders made for modern 44 Cap & Ball revolvers take 45 caliber ammunition. It is the correct diameter. You will also find when you start loading your own ammunition that it is much simpler to load with conventional dies than to try to crimp heeled bullets. You don't need any special equipment, all you need is conventional loading dies.

Trust me on this.

April 23, 2012, 11:38 AM
So when somebody uses the term 'bore' and 'rifling' interchangeably, they are actually incorrect. The bore is the inner diameter where the lands are. Groove Diameter, or Rifling Groove Diameter is the correct way to to refer to rifling diameter.

That may or may not be correct depending on which definition and which dictionary that's being used as a reference source. For instance, the World English Dictionary states in part:


7a. the hollow part of a tube or cylinder, esp of a gun barrel
b. the diameter of such a hollow part; caliber

It would seem to me that according to definition 7a, any part of the interior of a barrel can be referred to as being part of the bore.
Since I don't have a Ph.D. in English, I wouldn't know any better except to simply apply the definition of bore that seems to fit into a given context. I really don't want to "bore" anyone about it further, but felt compelled to add my 2 cents. :)

April 23, 2012, 12:18 PM
It doesn't take a doctorate in English to realize that the bore diameter is the land diameter. :banghead:

April 23, 2012, 01:13 PM
7a. the hollow part of a tube or cylinder, esp of a gun barrel
b. the diameter of such a hollow part; caliber

According to definition 7a, the hollow part of a gun barrel is the bore which is greater than just the lands. Which definition of the word "bore" that applies is determined by the context when the word is used.
Definition 7b specifies the caliber.
When one cleans their bore, the whole hollow is cleaned and not just the lands.

April 23, 2012, 03:13 PM
When a gun barrel is made, the bore is the diameter of the hole down the length of the tube, THEN the grooves are cut. It ain't rocket surgery! :banghead:

April 23, 2012, 03:14 PM
BTW, I don't give a crap about your quoted definition. In the gun industry it is wrong.

Driftwood Johnson
April 23, 2012, 04:07 PM
According to definition 7a, the hollow part of a gun barrel is the bore which is greater than just the lands. Which definition of the word "bore" that applies is determined by the context when the word is used.
Definition 7b specifies the caliber.

OK, I will grant you that when I eyeball down the barrel of an old rifle I am looking for pits in the 'bore'. I often use the term 'pitted old bore' and in that sense I am talking about the entire hole down the barrel, not just the lands. But that is just a loose statement. It is better than saying a 'pitted old hole'. By the same token if I want to clean out Black Powder fouling after a few shots to regain accuracy, I will 'swab my bore', I won't swab my hole.

But in a technical sense, I stand by what I said earlier. The process of creating rifling defines the difference between 'bore' and rifling grooves. First you bore the hole, then you cut the rifling (actually, a lot of the time the hole is reamed between being drilled and rifled).

Using the term 'bore' to mean drilling or otherwise cutting a hole, you gotta first make the hole, then you rifle it. You can't cut rifling with a drill or a boring bar, you can only make a hole with those.

By the way, I am looking right now at the Army's specifications for the Single Action Army, dated 1882. I quote:

Bore Diameter (lands diameter) ---------.445
Groove (groove to groove) diameter-----.454 min, .455 max.

End of discussion.

April 23, 2012, 04:21 PM
Wow. Talk about making it over complicated...:what:

HL Hunley
April 24, 2012, 01:59 AM
Driftwood, and others, thanks very much for the detailed info! I'm absorbing.

What I was getting at sounds similar to the original post: I'll be shooting .44-40 in a Colt 1873 revolver and a Winchester rifle (clones), so wouldn't it be marvelous to have a converted Army C&B revolver in the same caliber...

Unfortunately the conversions by R&D seem to be for the following only:
.45 - as mentioned
.44 Colt - which is apparently NOT the same as other .44 calibers, never mind .44-40

There's a tutorial I stumbled on that shows you how to handle heeled or hollow base stuff, so it still exists. But not only is it a bit complex, this is not the same caliber as .44-40, so for practical purposes, it's yet another caliber.
(From CAS city: "The 44 Army sized pistols support the use of 45 calibre Center Fire ammunition as well as 44 Colt in either Heel Base or Hollow Base." POST:,41633.0.html)

I'll probably have to go with the .45 conversion, but it means reloading 2 calibers. GRRR! :mad:

As for "period correct", that means what was actually used in the period we're talking about, in this case the 1870s when the conversions were offered. From what I just read, heel bullets were used. Hollow base can apparently physically be used, but they either were not used in the 1870s, or didn't exist. (All the reload terminology is still a mystery to me). It might seem crazy to be period correct, but it adds another layer for me, shooting the guns as (close to practical) they were originally.

Thanks again for the info.

Driftwood Johnson
April 24, 2012, 09:24 AM
HL Hunley

I was being a bit facetious when I said I didn't know what Period Correct meant. Personally, I prefer the term Historically Accurate. Period Correct sounds too much like Politically Correct and I really can't stand that term.

When you say you will be shooting - are you planning on getting into Cowboy Action Shooting?

Yes, 44-40 is different than 44 Colt and different from 44 Russian/44 Special/44 Magnum. They are all different.

Here is a photo you may find useful. Left to right the cartridges are 44-40, 44 Special, 44 Russian, 44 S&W American, 44 Henry Rimfire, 45 Schofield, and 45 Colt.

The 44 Russian cartridge I mentioned earlier is next to the 44 Special round. Dimensionally they are identical except for length. Next to the 44 Russian is the 44 S&W American round. This is the round the Russians did not want. It uses a heeled bullet. If you look carefully you will see the bullet is the same diameter as the outside of the case, whereas the brass is crimped in a bit on the Russian round and the bullet is the same diameter as the inside of the case.

44 Henry Rimfire is the round that was chambered in the first truly successful lever action rifle. It was developed for the famous Henry repeating rifle. The case is copper, and as the description says, it is a rimfire round. It held about 26 grains of Black Powder and carried a 200 grain bullet. Both the Henry rifle and its successor the Winchester Model 1866 fired this round. The Henry round was always a little bit anemic, so in 1873 Winchester brought out the 44-40 round and the Model 1873 Winchester to go along with it. The 44-40 (aka 44 WCF for Winchester Center Fire) carried 40 grains of Black Powder and a 200 grain bullet. This was a significant increase in power, so the Model 1873 had an iron frame, rather than the bronze frames of the Henry and 1866. You have to look closely, but there is a slight taper to the 44-40 round. It is usually called a bottleneck round, but the taper is so slight that I prefer to just call it tapered.

Hollow based bullets were quite common with old Black Powder cartridges. It is the same basic idea as the Miniť ball. The Miniť ball was a conical bullet with a hollow skirt at the bottom. It was developed for quickly reloading muzzle loading rifles. The bullet was narrower in diameter than the rifling. It could be dropped down the barrel on top of the powder, it did not need a patch and did not need to be an interference fit with the rifling. When the powder went off, the expanding gasses expanded the hollow skirt at the rear of the bullet to engaged the rifling. Same thing with hollow based bullets. Not quite as extreme as a Miniť ball but the same basic idea. The very early 45 Colt cartridges were loaded with hollow based bullets. This was because there was sometimes enough variation in the rifling from gun to gun that a conventional bullet might not engage the rifling properly. So the hollow base could expand just a tad to fill the rifling. Hollow base bullets are sometimes helpful today. They are sometimes loaded in 45-70 for old Trapdoor rifles that may have worn rifling.

Hollow based bullets are also sometimes used today for conversion cylinders for 36 caliber Cap & Ball revolvers. The cylinders are usually chambered for 38 Special or 38 Long Colt. But the rifling groove dimensions for a 36 caliber C&B are all wrong for those cartridges. To wide. So the shooter has to either line the barrel for 38 Special, or use hollow based bullets to expand and fit the rifling.

Here is another photo you may find useful. Two different 44 Colt rounds surrounded by a 44 Henry Rimfire and a 45 Colt. everything in this photo except the 45 Colt has a heeled bullet.

My hat is off to you for wanting to shoot 44-40 in a lever gun. You probably already know that no rifles were ever chambered for 45 Colt in the 19th Century, although that chambering is very popular today. I am a bit of a purist too, I have five rifles chambered for 44-40, an Uberti Henry and 1873, two Winchester Model 1892s and a Marlin Model 1894. The Marlin and the Winchesters are antiques. I am a rare bird who shoots 44-40 in my rifles and 45 Colt in my pistols. Most will advise against shooting two different cartridges, particularly two such similar cartridges. Loading a 45 Colt into a 44-40 rifle will jam the gun, I am very careful never to do that, knock on wood.

Be advised too that 44-40 is a little bit fussy to reload. Not really difficult once you get the hang of it, but it is a little bit fussier than 45 Colt.

April 24, 2012, 04:58 PM
My solution was to order a Uberti 1860 Army and next will come an R&D .45LC Conversion Cylinder. After that an 1872 open top...Great information in some of the replies. Thanks for the responses.

HL Hunley
April 25, 2012, 04:15 AM
Driftwood, thanks heaps for the info, I've saved and labeled the photo. What a collection of "nearly identical yet totally different" rounds!

"PC" - I love your "Historically Accurate" and am making the switch, as I have similar feelings for the "Politically Correct" pure sh--. Nuff said!

Yes, I'm Cowboying up. While waiting for the firearms license process (difficult and painful here in Australia, wish I was back in the US), I'm researching everything. Already ordered War for Southern Independence boots and found an 1883 American Waltham watch; and have been studying the Colt manual.

I've read that .44-40 is tricky for reloading as you say, but I'm glad it is still do-able. I hear good brass to prevent cracking at the edge is key. (Until I study reloading, it doesn't "click" yet). I'm sure I'll turn out a lot of mangled brass at first...

A lot of folks I know go .45 with rifle as well, but I'd like to avoid that and stay true as you said. (which also means no Ruger revolver with nasty modern transfer bar).

I knew the Henry was praised, but never knew what a jump the .44WCF was. You mentioned the 45-70 Trapdoor, I was fortunate enough to fire three rounds through one a couple months ago, it was something.

I'm hoping to mostly shoot black powder, it's just like a sweet whiskey when it goes off, smooth and deep. Smokeless is...not the same (no offense to smokeless shooters). I was surprised at what little kick a BP loaded shotgun has compared to the sharp kick from modern factory ammo. And I don't mind the "mule ears".


HL Hunley
April 25, 2012, 04:16 AM
JGH4445 - looks like that will be my solution too! But I've learned a lot.

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