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Colt 1851, .36 vs .44 handling

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by gbeauvin, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. gbeauvin

    gbeauvin New Member

    Feb 21, 2011
    Hi, all. I'm going shooting tomorrow with a buddy that has both a Remington "1858" New Army revolver and a .44 caliber Colt 1851. I expect to buy buying a cap-n-ball pistol of my own in the near future (when Cabelas puts them on sale again), and the two models I'm leaning towards are a Remington 1858 in .44 or a Colt Navy in .36 caliber.

    I'm hoping that handling and shooting my buddy's guns will help me decide, but I'm wondering how similar it is shooting a .44 vs. a .36 1851 Colt? Also, how similar is the handling/feel of an 1851 Navy and the later 1861 Navy? I'm not sure my wallet will be able to handle the higher price of the '61, but I figured I'd ask anyways.


  2. tscmmhk

    tscmmhk New Member

    Jun 30, 2012
    I have a .44 1858 Remington New Army and a .36 1851 Colt Navy. In my opinion the 1851 Navy has better balance and pointability. I fact if my memory serves me right the Colt 1851 Navy was used in the design of the Colt 1873 SA. The 1851 Navy has very little recoil and is accurate. I have never handled or fired a 1861 Colt Navy so I can't offer any opinions.
    The .44 Remy 1858 New Army is an accurate and solid gun. Since it's a .44, there's a bit of recoil when fired but it's very easy to shoot. Some people like the fact that you can change out a cylinder very quickly.
    For me, I like the looks and handling of the .36 1851 Colt Navy but would take the .44 1858 New Army if I had to choose between the two. I would try shooting your buddies guns and base your decision on what you like.
  3. towboat_er

    towboat_er Active Member

    Jan 5, 2011
    I like my remmies because the sights are usually pretty darned close, right out of the box. Every colt I've shot has shot high left.

    I like my 44's but I also like the 36's. Get a steel framed 36, load her to the max, and she kicks pretty good.
    I also like the 36's because they use less bp and lead. Bp is getting kind expensive.
    I hope Cabelas puts their Short Remmy in 36 on sale, I'll buy a couple of em.
  4. Prairie Dawg

    Prairie Dawg Active Member

    Mar 16, 2008
    The 1851 is the best handling cap gun of all time.
    Most folks will tell you that it points better than any other -- like an extension of your arm.
    They may quibble about the better aspects of a 44 for defending yourself, but as far as pointability is concerned, the 1851 is the hands-down winner.

    The 1861 is very similar.
    The repro-makers use the same frame & cylinder, only the barrel shape changes.
    Most folks think the 1861 is prettier, but they shoot about the same.

    Wild Bill carried a brace of 1851s.

    The Remington is a fine revolver, but has several issues.

    Because of the lack of a bushing on the cylinder, a remmie sprays the cylinder pin with fouling every time it is shot. After a few shots, it becomes harder to cock.

    Many folks (including me) find that there is too little room between the rear of the trigger guard & the grip frame, so the knuckle on my middle finger takes a beating from shooting a remmie. I couldn't shoot them for a long time. Then I had the bright idea of relieving the TG & gripframe to make more room. It worked.

    The arc of the hammer as it is cocked is longer, so in a match, your cocking thumb can get stressed more than with a colt. That may be neither here nor there for you.

    With a Colt, if you desire larger grips on your 1851, say, if you have large hands, you can swap the grips out for the larger Army grips. Me? I like the smaller Navy grips, so even my 1860 Army (.44) revolvers wear Navy grips.

    If yer curious, Sam Colt chose the smaller Navy grips for the Colt 1873 revolver.

    Weight = about the same
    recoil = Remmie has more because of heavier ball & more powder

    Ease of loading is tilted towards the Remmie as you can load on the gun or easily remove the cylinder and use a cylinder loader like the Powder Inc or Tower of Power.

    However, a properly fitted Colt wedge comes out with thumb pressure & it is easily loaded with a cylinder loader as well. Although, you end up with 3 pieces laying on the table instead of two. And, the wedge must be properly fitted, which takes a bit of effort.

    In the final analysis, you should shoot both & see which one you like better.

    Many folks are rabid about one or the other.

    I like Remmies, and every time I see Pale Rider, I want to buy more, but the bottom line is 95% of the time, I pack the range bag with Colts.
  5. Naybor

    Naybor Member

    Nov 5, 2010
    Was South East Oklahoma ~ Now Southern Ohio
    I've had both when I was younger and do like .36 much better than the .44.
    Recoil is much better and easier to holster, uses less lead and powder.

    FYI, you can load the .44 with less powder to give lighter recoil.

    Try both and buy what YOU like.
  6. gbeauvin

    gbeauvin New Member

    Feb 21, 2011
    Well, I tried both and I think I prefer the Remington. There were some things I like better about the colt, and I'm sure I'd be happy wih either, but for my first revolver I'm gonna go with the remington. The range master commented "I like that black powder gun... It sounds like a cannon!" :). Now to finish working the OT that's gonna pay for it!!

  7. mdauben

    mdauben Senior Member

    Jan 11, 2011
    Huntville, AL
    I agree. The .44s are still great guns but the .36 is just a joy to shoot. YMMV.
  8. Mr Gunsmith

    Mr Gunsmith New Member

    Sep 14, 2012
    Western North Carolina
    I'll throw my vote behind the 1851 Colt as well. I have a Pietta 1851 Colt that is in .44 caliber & it point & shoots like a dream. The notch in the hammer for aiming is a perfect complement for "getting a bead on the target" quite literally. It does tend to shoot a little high to the left but once you have adjusted for that the gun never fails to be dead on accurate.

    I load mine with 24 grains of Pyrodex P & .454 Hornady lead. But usually after about 24 shots the fouling needs to be cleaned. It can take a charge up to 30 grains but the accuracy suffers a little with the higher load.

    Like Prairie Dawg mentioned above the wedge being properly fitted is the key to a quick breakdown & reload cycle. Check out the pistol stand Cabelas offers. It makes reloading a breeze & with practice I can reload in less than 2 minutes. I also agree that when holding it in my hand it just feels so right. But give them both a try & see which you prefer.

    Oh & welcome to shooting the old fashioned way. It is quite a nostalgic way to enjoy some 'shootin iron!'
  9. gbeauvin

    gbeauvin New Member

    Feb 21, 2011
    Thanks guys :). I was worried that if I liked the '51 best (I tried a .44 1851 Colt and a .44 Remington New Army), I would find that the .36 Colt handled different than the .44 (since I wasn't interested in the .44 1851, only the .36). Turned out I was more accurate with the Remington, and it seemed a little more friendly, so that's what I'm going to start with! Had a blast with both guns though... I thought about getting one of each eventually (.36 caliber Navy pistol for the left hand, .44 Remington for the right!) but the wallet will only handle one right now!

    I ended up over-rotating the cylinder with the ball only halfway seated... doh! Then it hit me, "Just remove the cylinder, dummy" so I popped it right out (of the Remington) and used a ball-seater (intended for a muzzle-loading rifle) to push it in far enough to where it would rotate when i put the cylinder back. I'm half tempted to try loading off-gun with a ball-seater rather than a press, and just ram the balls home after I put the cylinder back in the gun. Of course for the price of a ball-seater I'd be halfway to a press anyways probably.

  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Senior Elder

    Dec 29, 2002
    Los Anchorage
    I went the other way for my first c&b and got the small bore Navy. In fact I just inaugurated my new 1851 Uberti and absolutely loved it. Accuracy was dead-on in a little group around the bull at ten yards, without even trying hard. Can't wait to see what it does out at 25. The trigger pull was far better than any of my centerfire revolvers. Cleanup was a breeze using boiling water and soap, followed by alternating bore butter and rubbing alch.

    The balance of the 51 is excellent. It's heavy enough to give you stability but not heavy enough to cause any shaking. In the traditional one-handed stance it really shines. Even the total newbie shooter from Australia I took out there found it very easy to shoot one-handed and zapped a couple of bulls at ten yards. This is a guy who'd never even *handled* a real firearm before. Between the 1851 and my Trapdoor it was starting to look like a low-budget sequel to "Quigley Down Under."

    The only down side was the horrible rain. But I'm not finished! I'm building a loading stand with a little umbrella for Saturday.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012

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