.31 vs .36


January 5, 2013, 01:14 AM
I know that size had aa lot to do with the popularity of Colt's smallest revolver but due to the relatively similar cylinder capacity of the .31 and paper cartrige powder charges for the .36 (both around 18G). I wonder how much actual preformance difference there was betwen the two revolvers?
WHat velocity did the .31 shoot at?
WHat was the ball weight of a .31 ball?
I bought a copy of "Packing Iron" and throughout it, there are a great many Pommel and belt holsters dedicated to the .31 Colt, showing that it was reguarded as adequate self defensive revolver. In the Book it's about a tie between the two for belt holster manufacture! I was really impressed with popular dependance on the smaller revolver!
I haqve never had the chance to shoot a .31, only .36's which are really healthy preformers
Comments please?

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Skinny 1950
January 5, 2013, 02:23 AM
I have a Baby Dragoon .31 cal which is about the same size as an 1849 Pocket and with a full chamber it clocked at 722 Feet /Second, The Colt 1851 .36 cal with a full chamber came in at 860 Feet/Second.
The .31 ball (.319) weighs 48 grains and the .36 cal.(.375) is 79 grains.
The .31 is pretty mild but still I wouldn't want to get shot by one, it is not a "man-stopper" but back then even a scratch could lead to death by infection so these small guns could be deadly.
I find them difficult to load due to their small size and haven't been able to hit much with them but maybe I should concentrate on it a bit more.

January 5, 2013, 03:29 AM
The best of both worlds is the Uberti or Colt .36 ''Police'', built on the .31 Pocket model frame.

January 5, 2013, 12:18 PM
A feller once gave me some very wise words considering killing power. "A pistol can kill a bear. But probably not in your lifetime."

I think that would apply to the .31 as a self defense weapon against people also. Don't get me wrong, I would not want to play "catch the bullet" with one. But I firmly believe you could empty one into a determined bad guy, and he could continue to cause you harm. He might eventually die of infection or bleed out, but eventually doesn't help you much.

The .36 is a bit better. If you don't believe me, ask Dave Tutt. But even with a .36 bullet through his heart, he had time to walk around a bit before dropping. He could've used that time to continue firing back at Hickock.

The .31's are fun guns to play with. The .36's are even more fun to play with. But don't bet your life on either.

January 5, 2013, 12:40 PM
sounds like .32acp and .380acp ballistics....

January 5, 2013, 12:46 PM
I'm not so sure there's much use for a BP .31...

January 5, 2013, 01:15 PM
Sam Colt made money by selling guns people wanted to buy, not trying to convince folks what they SHOULD buy. Obviously many of our ancestors wanted a small revolver.

Sometimes a cat can make a big dog back down just by showing his little fangs.

January 5, 2013, 01:51 PM
Had Mr Colt offered the pocket .36's at the same time there probably would have been less .31's sold.
A guess of course...

January 5, 2013, 04:05 PM

colt offered the 1849 in .31 until they quite makeing C&B revolvers all together so from 1862 to 1873 a lot of folks that mayhaps could have bought a Pocket police in .36 bought .31 caliber 1849 revolvers. Colt produced and sold more 1849s than ANY other revolver over its production life.

Guess again......


January 5, 2013, 04:55 PM
These things always come down to assumptions about how determined your adversary is. If you shoot a very determined bad guy with any handgun and they're in range with a knife or already have a gun pointed at you chances are they'll find some way to cause you harm before they go down. If there's a not very determined bad guy who just wants to intimidate you into handing over your wallet and you pull anything that looks like a weapon they may say "just kidding" and keep going. There's a whole host of scenarios in between.

A lot of people, then as now, balanced "more power is always better" with "the gun you're willing to carry is better than the one you left at home" and go for weight rather than ballistics.

January 5, 2013, 06:25 PM
Pulp says: A feller once gave me some very wise words considering killing power. "A pistol can kill a bear. But probably not in your lifetime."

I like that. I think most people don't know how death works. In most cases, no matter what you are shot with, a person does not die instantly. Even with severe injuries it takes a human from a few seconds to a few minutes to die.

I have seen a lot of people shot with 223. Every one of them shot in the head or torso died, some quicker than others.

January 5, 2013, 10:16 PM
I'm not so sure there's much use for a BP .31... rodwha

I owned a CVA Remington Pocket .31 for several years. Sorry I got rid of it. It was a cheap fun little gun to shoot. Pretty accurate and was plenty big for squirrels and varmints. I popped more than one rat around the barn with it. Over time it started spending more and more time in the gun case, so it eventually got sold :-(

January 6, 2013, 10:33 AM
The surest way to incapacite any animal quickly is to hit it in a vital area of the central nervous system with enough force to cause injury and disruption of function, i.e. the brain via the skull.
There are also vertebrae and vital blood vessels such as in the neck and chest.
The question is how many times would someone need to be shot in the head before they are stopped or go down?
The Israeli air marshals are taught to shoot for the head using Beretta pocket pistols loaded with .22 shorts. Maybe that's not effective enough for everyone but it apparently works for those who are trained and have the shooting skills.

Posted by kologha from Cap and Ball Ballistics by Ed Sanow,
Handguns, February 1998

Cap and Ball Wound Ballistics

1 Shot Stop

.31 Pocket
Baby Dragoon
46gr RB
821 fps
69 ft lb

.36 Navy
Colt 1851 Navy
70gr RB
1038 fps
189 ft lb


Velocities from different guns can vary a lot.
Here are velocities from older replica pocket models posted by mec.
Note that there's a 60 grain bullet for the .31.
Some folks suggest loading with 4F.

From Replica .31 Pocket models:
Load Velocity Spread (5)
50 Grain Ball 12.5 FFFG 720 fps 51
50 Grain Ball 12.5 Pyrodex P 682 47
50 Grain Ball 10 Hodgdon 777 650 53
50 Grain Ball 13.5 Swiss FFFg 814 73
60 Grain Bullet 12.5 Pyrodex P 668 79
Pyrodex and H777 charges from measure calibrated for Black Powder. The volume is the same but the weight is different.

From Replica .36 Pocket Police:
80 Grain Ball Velocity Spread
15Gr FFFG 774 FPS 60
15Gr/ Vol. Pyrodex P 774 23


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