1851 Navy vs 1860 Army: which is it and parts interchangeability?


August 31, 2004, 05:58 AM
I am trying to identify a bp revolver.

It is either a 1851 Navy (possibly a Yank) REPLICA in 44 cal, or it is a 1860 Army in 44cal.

Both of these pistols have the "Engaged ..." scene pressed into the cylinder commemorating the Texas Navy vs the Mexican navy I believe. And although the original 1851 navy was 36 cal, there are replicas in 44.

Both Uberti and Pietta made each, I believe.

Besides that, the finish is worn and the engaged scene is mostly not visible, it is either not blued or 100% worn down to base metal, octagon barrel says 'made in italy' but nothing more.

Both Uberti and Pietta are Italian, right?


Anyway, iof there is a way to identify it please post and help me out!

Also, either way, are the parts of the 1860 interchangeable with the 44 cal 1851? Is a cartridge conversion process or cylinder available for it?


I know pics would help, so i am working on it!


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August 31, 2004, 09:27 AM
Beats me about the parts interchanging. Historically, there is no such thing as a .44 caliber Colt Navy so there is no way to tell without trying. Maybe its just an Army with a Navy gripframe on it.

A good way to tell between a 1851 Navy and an 1860 army is to look at the barrel. The 1851 Navy's are somewhat blocky and angular. The 1860 Army has much more rounded and fluid lines. The later model navy, 1862 or 3 has similar lines to the Army.

Most cartridge conversions for colt percussion guns involve a good deal of smithing.

August 31, 2004, 11:35 AM
Let's see...

The '51 Navy has a brass cone for a front sight, while the '60 Army has a rounded blade.

As MrAcheson said the Army is more streamlined - particularly the hinge of the loading lever.

Yes, Uberti and Pietta are Italian. There are other Italian makers of reproductions as well, although the only one I can think of at the moment is ASM (Armi San Marco).

Interchangable parts? No idea.


Old Fuff
August 31, 2004, 01:48 PM
The original Colt 1860 Army was based on an 1851 Navy frame that was modified to take a rebated cylinder (.44 size at the front, same as the .36 Navy cylinder at the back). Since the revolver in question is .44 caliber it should have the rebated cylinder. If so, all of the parts between the two models should interchange - IF THEY ARE FROM THE SAME MAKER! Also these guns are hand fitted. Replacement parts would probably require the same. Replacing lockwork might not be a problem, other then fitting. But changing a major part such as a barrel, backstrap, or trigger guard would likely be a major project and might require refinishing.

August 31, 2004, 03:32 PM
The barrel on the '51 Navy is a hexagon shaped barrel, .36 caliber. Loading lever is a pivoting type. This has the gripframe of the SAA peacemaker. EMF imported some .44 caliber '51 Navies which were made Armi San Marco.

The '60 Army had a larger gripframe, a rebated cylinder with a frame to match. The rebated cylinder has a step in it, the Navy didn't have the step. The loading lever on the Army is a creeping type with cylindrical teeth on an arc that engages with holes in the bottom of the barrel.

There is an 1861 Navy which was a cross between the '51 Navy and the '60 army. Essentially it has the frame of the Navy and the barrel of the Army. This was originally in .36 caliber.

Probably the only interchangeable parts on the originals were the hammer, trigger, hand and spring.

September 3, 2004, 09:01 AM

Old Fuff
September 3, 2004, 09:32 AM
Colt never made a .44 caliber version of their 1851 Navy model, although they did produce a handful of .40 caliber prototypes. A friend of mine owns such a revolver, serial number 1. The problem was that steel had not reached the point of development where a Navy-sized cylinder could be bored to .44 and not blow up because of thin chamber walls. By 1859 Colt was able to import a type of Swedish steel that could do the job if the cylinder was rebated (made larger at the front then at the back with a step about 2/3rds of the way back from the front). Thus at this point they were able to make a satisfactory .44 revolver on the basic Navy frame. But rather then make a modified Navy model they introduced a whole new model – the 1860 Army.

The Italians however did what Colt didn’t and built a .44 Navy model using an 1860 frame combined with a new 1851 barrel bored out to .44 caliber. In the process they also used the shorter 1851 Navy backstrap and trigger guard.

If one wanted to go to considerable trouble they could convert one of the reproduction .44 Navy models by substituting an 1860 Army barrel assembly and backstrap/triggerguard. In all other respects the two revolvers are identical except for minor cosmetic details.

This of course presumes that the conversion parts were obtained from the revolver’s original maker. Parts do not necessarily interchange between products made by different companies, and in any case usually have to be hand fitted.

September 3, 2004, 10:38 AM
From all this, looks like I have a repro navy model in 44cal.

Now, to find 1. an instruction manual! and 2. if there is a cartridge conversion cylinder for it.

Anyone know?


September 3, 2004, 10:52 AM
Brownells carries a cartridge converter cylinder, but they are expensive! And, only good for black powder cartridge loads in the lighter CB frames.

September 3, 2004, 02:42 PM
cpileri -

NRA sells a good instruction manual for black powder revolvers, "The Muzzleloading Pistol Handbook."


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