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Old March 1, 2015, 08:28 PM   #1
elhombreconnonombre
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Chainfire in Patersons

Within all the Texas Ranger lore regarding their extensive documented use of the Paterson in combat situations in the Hill Country against the Comanche and bandits I have never read of any chainfire events or use of grease on top of the projectile. Did the .36 cal projectiles just seal that much better in the bore than the .44 projectiles did in the later Walker without grease on top of the projectile?
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Old March 1, 2015, 09:36 PM   #2
4v50 Gary
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I suspect chain fires are due to loose caps.
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Old March 1, 2015, 09:58 PM   #3
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With a tight cap and a ball that shaves a full ring of lead upon seating, a true chain fire is nigh impossible.
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Old March 2, 2015, 11:09 AM   #4
Ephraim Kibbey
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So did the Paterson use tighter fitting caps than Walker or was it just more noteworthy when the big .44 chain-fired than when it happened to the .36?
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Old March 2, 2015, 11:23 AM   #5
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The Colt being such a big equalizing factor back in the Old West maybe chain fires were just accepted or possibly it just didn't happen back then all that often. I've never read anywhere, granted I'm not as well read as some, that mentions chain fires in the old Colts. Now misfires, yes, but chain fires, no.

In the book, "The Vigilantes of Montana" there is a noted misfire involving a '51 Navy during a gun fight but no mention of a chain fire throughout the book.

Last edited by Crawdad1; March 2, 2015 at 11:31 AM.
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Old March 2, 2015, 01:25 PM   #6
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While a chainfire is possible I've come to consider them a rather rare risk. I know we all talk on here about it as though it's not uncommon but in truth I've only seen one account of a true chainfire in my 6 years of BP shooting and reading about BP shooting on various forums.

So I'd suggest that it's harder to generate the right conditions than we tend to believe.

We like to use gobs of greasy stuff these days. And certainly many of us use far more goop than we need to use to simply ensure some lubricating and lower likelihood of leading up the bore and to keep the fouling soft. The proof in this is the number of folks that rely on lubricated wads instead of ladling in great gobs of goop over the balls. The lube in a lubed wad amounts to probably no more than a 10th of the goop we use if covering the ball and filling the chamber to flush with the front face.

The idea that chainfires can come from the nipples and caps is another to consider. The one account I read about some years back right here on THR's BP forum was attributed to a leak past a cap and down a nipple to one side of the chamber under the hammer. So that's a possible cause. Yet like many I've shot my C&B revolvers in cowboy matches where I had to load a "reload" then cap it during the stage. Often as not I've shot the first five then capped the last and shot it. All without a spark running down the open nipple and producing a chainfire.

I now cap before the first shot but this is related more to the ease of finding the bare nipple first and capping the risk of a chainfire being a somewhat distant secondary concern.

So back to the Patersons. It would seem to me that the greatest risk to the guns from using no over bullet lubrication is building up enough lead in the bore to affect the accuracy. But when faced with the realities of a battle I'm guessing that first off the shooter and loader have other issues of higher importance and secondly that the guns would not be used enough during a battle to make this a big issue.

And finally would the fact that the Patersons were a five shot mean that there's more distance to shield one nipple and cap from another?
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Old March 2, 2015, 08:05 PM   #7
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It seems it was used a lot by the Texas rangers during their fights enough to get the Comanche's attention anyway.

"The Paterson had a marked influence on the early west, and was a sought after handgun. Examples of the Patersons success abound, the Paterson alone being responsible for saving wagon trains from attack, as reported by the famous Kit Carson, or 12 soldiers pinned down by over 60 Indians and living to tell about it by Col. Jack Hayes. One surviving Indian encountering the Paterson revolver was quoted as saying the following "Him no good" this simple comment holds a lot of truth in its statement, compared to a single shot handgun the Paterson "was" no good for the enemy. The Patersons greatest success and Colts claim to early fame was garnered from the Republic of Texas. The Texas Rangers used the Paterson Colt with huge success, earning the weapon a new name the "Texas Paterson"

By Kerry Barlow
This article was published in Western Territories magazine.

"Ben McCulloch, a veteran Ranger and Hays's second in command, later wrote that the fight for the top of the hill was hand-to-hand, and "they took it rough and tumble." Fighting fiercely even though heavily outnumbered, the Rangers drove off two counterattacks on their flanks with the firepower of the Colt Patersons before the Comanches finally fled the field. Captain Jack Hays led the pursuit for three miles, making sure his Rangers kept the warriors under heavy fire with their revolvers. "Crowd them! Powder-burn them!" were Hays's shouted orders. During the running, three-mile, hour-long Comanche retreat, Yellow Wolf rallied his warriors for three separate counterattacks with the Rangers fighting in relays — one group quickly switching the cylinders of their Colts while the other engaged the Comanches. Just as Yellow Wolf was haranguing his warriors into making one more attack, Ranger Ad Gillespie shot him in the head at thirty yards. Now thoroughly demoralized, Comanches fled the field."

The Colt Paterson revolver caused a revolution on the Texas frontier as the pendulum of warfare swung in favor of the Rangers. While Sam Colt may well have invented the five-shot and later six-shot repeating revolvers, the Texas Rangers certainly discovered their utility. Mounted warfare between the Comanches and the Rangers would never be the same.

ŠJeffery Robenalt
"A Glimpse of Texas Past" March 11, 2011 Column

Last edited by Crawdad1; March 2, 2015 at 08:13 PM.
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Old March 2, 2015, 10:38 PM   #8
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Thanks for the post Crawdaddie
I had relayed in posts long ago of the technique of the Rangers swapping out cylinders in their Patersons. This technique has not been historically been documented with any other Colt or Remington percussion guns in combat.
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Old March 3, 2015, 07:58 AM   #9
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"one group quickly switching the cylinders of their Colts while the other engaged the Comanches."

Interesting stuff and great topic Mr. Elhombre!!!

I also noted that the pony express riders would be issued 'SPARE" cylinders and carry these with their '51 Navys. forgoing their rifles to carry Colts during their desolate rides. That's saying something.
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Old March 3, 2015, 10:06 AM   #10
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How strong is the documentation that they swapped cylinders? How/where were the spare cylinders carried? Were they carried fully capped?

I'm mildly skeptical that swapping cylinders is something that would have been attempted in the middle of a fight. And if in fact swapping in the middle of a fight was common in these early days, then surely someone dropped/lost one of the three pieced of gun he was attempting to juggle during the swap..
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Old March 3, 2015, 10:14 AM   #11
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I read in the book "Empire of the Summer Moon" that each Patterson was issued with 3 cylinders. I have no doubt that they were changed in combat with the Commanches.
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Old March 3, 2015, 10:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
I have no doubt that they were changed in combat with the Commanches.
well I'm glad you are free of doubt. personally, I've seen guys who can't even light a cigarette on horseback. the idea of breaking a gun down into three separate parts (assuming you don't loose the barrel key!) on horse back and/or under fire seems far fetched.
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Old March 3, 2015, 10:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
I read in the book "Empire of the Summer Moon" that each Patterson was issued with 3 cylinders.
Great book for an unvarnished view of that period of history; pretty sobering.
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Old March 3, 2015, 10:33 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 72coupe View Post
I read in the book "Empire of the Summer Moon" that each Patterson was issued with 3 cylinders.
And just to be accurate, according to p146 of "Empire of the Summer Moon" those were three additional cylinders. Wow!
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Old March 3, 2015, 11:36 AM   #15
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As far as loosing the parts of the revolver in combat, how many parts are used to reload a rifle or carbine?

Ram rod, cap box, cartridge box and I can only guess what else.
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Old March 3, 2015, 12:09 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by 72coupe View Post
As far as loosing the parts of the revolver in combat, how many parts are used to reload a rifle or carbine?

Ram rod,
Loosing the ramrod was a real concern. Plenty of ram rods were lost on the battlefield (and bayonets). A disciplined manual of arms was likely the only thing keeping most soldiers from either shooting the rod toward the enemy or leaving it stuck in the ground somewhere. Some early cavalry pistols and carbines had the rammers hinged on the gun so they could never fall free.



Quote:
cap box, cartridge box and I can only guess what else.
Those are attached to the soldier. Even cavalry carbines were generally attached to the trooper. Fine manual skills degrade under stress and I can't imagine what taking a Colts revolver apart/reassembling would be like under fire, let alone on a horse.

Not saying that Patersons were never reloaded under fire (anything is possible) but I'm highly skeptical that this was a preferred or common practice.
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Old March 3, 2015, 03:21 PM   #17
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But back then you had to know how to ride a horse, what other means of transportation was there? The Texas Rangers were probably recruited for their horsemanship and spent a whole lot of time endlessly on patrol riding day in and day out, month in and month out probably living in that saddle. They could have also practiced with these weapon taking them apart over and over again until they became proficient at handling a Colt. Why wouldn't you when you're endlessly on patrol?

But the Pony Express riders were told to primarily use their horse's speed to escape Indian attack, I guess they had themselves some pretty good bloodlines. If they get close aim for their horses but if you found yourself afoot then they would have use for the spare cylinder.
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Old March 4, 2015, 05:14 PM   #18
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Quote:
...one group quickly switching the cylinders of their Colts while the other engaged the Comanches.
The quote with this information appears to have come from a contemporary account of the battle. So apparently it would seem like such cylinder swaps were done when conditions permitted.

Ex', this part of the quote was also related to the time while they were presumably unmounted and stationary on the hill. So the group with the empty guns could readily just step back while those with the freshly re-assembled ones stepped forward to take over. Much like the old single shot musket troops were used to doing.

There's also the possibility that they stopped their horses or veered away and slowed to a more calm pace to change cylinders.

Also while I'm not much of a horse person I sort of doubt that they could run for 3 hours straight. So it's likely that they weren't at a full gallop the whole time. So here again they could have slowed to rest the horses and changed cylinders during such lulls.
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Old March 4, 2015, 07:35 PM   #19
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Exactly!!! Or individually, rein up, slow to a trot then a walk or stop completely and change the cylinder that may have been housed in their possibles bag then rejoin the fight. Lot of ways they could have done it.
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Old March 4, 2015, 08:03 PM   #20
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I have some exprience in fire fights. None of it was on horse back or carrying a Patterson. But I was carrying a Colt of a different sort. In my experience when some one is trying to kill you it tends to concentrate your mind on what you need and what you need to do to remain alive.

If your mind tells you that you need to retain all the parts of your revolver you will. As an example I left little piles of empy M16 magazines all over the Central Highlands but not one loaded one.
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Old March 5, 2015, 09:14 AM   #21
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Quote:
In my experience when some one is trying to kill you it tends to concentrate your mind on what you need and what you need to do to remain alive.

I will defer to you Sir and your knowledge and experience.
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Old March 5, 2015, 11:30 AM   #22
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From the Ranger acconts I have read, they used their single shot ml rifles during the initial encounter at distance, then enaged their adversary at closer range using their revolvers...many times chasing them down during a running firefight. This was the SOP during engagements with the Comanche with their Patersons and during the Mexican War against Mexican Lancers with their Walkers.
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Old March 10, 2015, 05:42 PM   #23
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Thank you 72 coupe! An Honor Sir! My wife wants to know what "72 coupe" you might be referring to?
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Old March 10, 2015, 07:15 PM   #24
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Old March 10, 2015, 09:20 PM   #25
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At least some of the "chain fire" stories originated when we were still shooting old original guns (there were no repros until the late 1950s, just before the CW Centennial). Many of those old timers had chamber walls rusted through from years of poor storage (sometimes loaded) and the first load would touch off adjacent chambers to either or both sides.

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