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.36 Navy underpowered?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by ThorinNNY, Feb 2, 2012.

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  1. ThorinNNY

    ThorinNNY Member

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    Watched a program about Jesse James. One of the so-called experts said many Confederate Guerillas used Navy Colts but the bullet being.."so small" took too long to kill and many wounded Yankees were later executed- throats slit, shot in head etc!
    MY reaction was HUH? first time I ever heard that one! I know James Butler Hickock ie "Wild Bill" didn`t gripe about his pair Navy .36`s taking too long to kill.My guess is shot placement has a lot to do with it and that trying to shoot somebody when your`e riding a horse while prolly holding the reins in your teeth may not be all that good for precision shot placement.
    I`m not looking to start a war here, just interested in your thoughts on the subject. Perhaps it`s just hype, legend or extremely good publicity but this is the first I`ve ever heard that the Navy .36 wasn`t a good weapon.What do you think?
     
  2. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

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    Well in light of the fact that the closest approximate in "modern centerfires" is 380acp then yes by that standard 36 caliber cap n ball was pretty anemic. The British agreed and was one of the more legitimate reasons they rejected colt patent revolvers for service in the mid 19th century

    posted via tapatalk using android.
     
  3. Ron James

    Ron James Member

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    > The navy accepted the .36 caliber because they didn't have to worry about shooting horses. The Army wanted the gun in 44 caliber because there were many times they had to shoot the horses out from under the other guys Calvary. That's the simplified reason between the two guns. As with every caliber there are two camps. There are those of us who believe placement with a small caliber is better than a miss with a large caliber, then there's the other camp that believes that it is better to miss a bunch of times with a large caliber than accuracy with a small caliber ( tongue in cheek :D )
     
  4. Omnivore

    Omnivore Member

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    A .375" round ball is about 80 grains. Mike Cumpston says he used a 125 grain conical in a .36 Remington, with 22 grains Swiss 3F and got an average velocity of 978 fps. That's a bit better than a .380 Auto, and a bit less than a 9mm Luger. Conicals were often used in the .36s back in the day.

    Yes; with good shot placement a .36 is good enough. You can be hit with a 50 BMG and survive after all. Anyway, the .31 and .36 percussion guns were extremely popular for self defense back in the mid to late 1800s.

    Hot loads with conical bullets in the 180 to 200 grain range in a .44 percussion revolver with an 8" barrel will pretty well exactly match a modern 40 S&W and come pretty close to the .45 Colt. Not exactly screemin' but more than adequate at close range.
     
  5. ThorinNNY

    ThorinNNY Member

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    Interesting & informative replies. Thanks ,RW Dale,Ron James, Omnivore.
    Ron, you reminded me regular army would shoot the horses out from enemy cavalry.Think guerillas were more interested in shooting the riders,tho.
    Omnivore,I was thinking round ball but yeah,conicals were also used.good point about bullet weight & velocity.
    RW, now that you mention it,it seems to me I vaguely remember that in the 19th century The British army required their officers to furnish their own revolvers and specified .455 caliber.
    I guess if you joined a guerilla group, you were REALLY motivated, and you used whatever weapons you could get your hands on to strike back at enemy you hated . If the raid was successful, there might have been some loot, including better weapons you could use to upgrade your firepower with.
     
  6. StrawHat

    StrawHat Member

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    Mostly, C&B revolvers did not outright kill you. It was the infection that came about from the conditions of the day that killed you. Or resulted in loss of limb. The use of handguns by mounted fighters was in it's infancy during the CW. Many 36s were used quite effectively then and after. The round ball presented a blunter profile than the conical and hits a bit more effectively. The 44 is just more of the same.
     
  7. zimmerstutzen

    zimmerstutzen Member

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    Ditto on Strawhat's comment. The objective was not necessarily to kill the enemy outright, but to remove him from the action. Whether by death, wounding etc. A wounded soldier got care which took up other resources and man power. Death from any wound was more probable than not. A Gut shot soldier dying from peritonitis and sepsis was a lingering painful death. Wars were still fought by the numbers. Throw a thousand soldiers at a line of enemy troops, do it again. The exceptional carnage of such frontal assaults was devastating. If wounded anywhere, what was the average soldier's response? Did they crumple up and lick their wounds hoping to beat the odds, or realize they were dead anyway and fight on to the last breath?

    Then what was the reaction in the guerilla actions. Did the civilian targets react the same as the soldiers or did they simple fold when wounded, to be slaughtered like sheep later. Those civilian targets were more likely to be farm families and unarmed towns people with a few having a shotgun. Not much fire power against mounted men with revolvers.
     
  8. gyvel

    gyvel Member

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    My general take on these calibres, is that the .36 evolved into the .38 S&W, and the .31 evolved into the .32 S&W.
     
  9. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Member

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    zimmerstutzen nailed it dead on, then as now, the idea isn't to kill outright. The idea is to take as many men out of the fight as possible thereby giving you the advantage in manpower. It's much more effective in war to wound a man and in the process take three others out of the battle than to kill him so that those three others simply pass him by.
     
  10. Kleanbore

    Kleanbore Moderator

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    As I understand things, the most popular .36 Navy cartridge conversions were chambered for several different cartridges, both rimfire or center fire, each with with a bullet diameter in the range of .375 inches.

    The last and most popular of these was the .38 Long. The .38 Long was superseded by the improved, inside lubricated .38 Long Colt.

    That should help with the answer to the original question!
     
  11. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    The principal reason that Quantrill Guerillas carried .44 revolvers is that they usually armed themselves through battlefield capture, and that's generally what the Yankees used. At the time Quantrill was shot and captured he was supposedly carrying (among others) a Colt 1862 Police Model (.36 caliber with a lighter powder charge then the “Navy.”).

    Elmer Keith, who as a young man carried an 1851 Navy, and knew several Civil War veterans who had also done so, had a high regard for the .36, which he believe was a much better "man-stopper." then the .38 Special.

    Without question, from the perspective of being a “stopper” the .44 had advantages over the .36, but I have never found any contemporary accounts that this was a serious considerations when the various irregular guerilla groups selected revolvers, and period photographs confirm that at least some Quantrill Guerillas, and others carried 1851 Navy Colt’s – usually in pairs.
     
  12. J.T. Gerrity

    J.T. Gerrity Member

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    I saw that show, too, and was bothered by the same attitude; that a .36 caliber ball won't kill a man, just slow him down. HeII, a .22 will kill you if you're hit the right spot!

    Everyone is forgetting Wild Bill's shot at Davis Tutt at 75 yards. It could have been a fluke, but it still had enough oomph when it reached him to put him down with a hit to the heart. Then there's Phil Coe, the unfortunate Mike Williams, a couple of rowdy Union soldiers and a host of others that Hickok dispatched with single shots from his .36 cal. Colt Navies (though from closer ranges). I'm not sure if he was using conicals, but I doubt it.

    Then there are the Texas Rangers' Patersons. Definitely using ball ammunition, Sam Walker, Jack Hays and the rest routed the Comanches at Walker creek and elsewhere, then carried the pistols with them into the Mexican War.

    Now, there's no doubt that a .44 caliber pistol is a more powerful weapon in every way and, given the choice, it's what I'd choose to carry. It's one of the first things Walker insisted on when he and Colt got together to design the "improved" revolver. Still, I'm always bothered when folks underestimate the power of black powder firearms and consider them to be somehow impotent, especially the Colt Navy (which is arguably one of the most famous firearms in history) and other smaller caliber guns. If they didn't work, people wouldn't have bought them, and tens of thousands of gunshot victims would have lived to a ripe old age...

    Just my opinion :)
     
  13. mykeal

    mykeal Member

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    Nope.
    Poor shooting did not outright kill you. The gun just did what it was told to do, something that's been true for hundreds of years but people still don't get.
     
  14. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer member

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    I wonder if people in the old west were just more likely to surrender to fate if shot with anything. Back then, a torso shot was pretty much a death sentence. As soon as you were shot you just figured you were a dead man due to infection and poor surgery techniques. Some guy with dirty fingernails and a scalpel was going to tie you down and fish around for the ball.
     
  15. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    I think that in the old days the .36 was a more marginal round primarily because of the wide loading variations that were used in actual practice.
    For instance the difference between loading ~20 or ~30 grains of powder in a Colt verses a Remington can make for significant enough variations in lethal performance.
    Also during the war, the powder and cartridges being produced could have been more susceptible to being of poor quality, and maybe even powder spoilage to a degree.
    And then there's the wide disparity in the distances that the .36 was being used at during actual combat.

    Whereas some have said that the .36 makes a good small game getter, others have claimed that's it's an adequate man stopper. Thus, how it's loaded and with which powder can make a world of difference in performance.

    I found a thread with some period loads for the .36 that were posted by Gatofeo, and IIRC it was also posted on THR as well although I didn't search for it. His last 2 statements are the most telling, "So, as far as a "standard load" for the old Colts, there ain't no such animal! The soldiers used what they were issued, and that issued ammunition varied greatly."

     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
  16. ThorinNNY

    ThorinNNY Member

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    Articcap
    Thanks for a most informative post. It seems like Gatofeo covered just about all the bases.
    Every spring my muzzleloading club holds a Border Skirmish. We get together and shoot about 40 pre-rolled paper cartridges using powder loads and Minie Balls common in the CW era .577 cal rifled muskets.
    There are 2 types of ammo- we issue packs of 10 paper cartridges & caps with either the Frankford or Watervliet style Minie ball. Each type performs slightly differently and by the time you get a feel for how one type shoots, your`e issued the other one.
    Since theyre made up in advance by club members using the techniques of the 1860`s theyr`e nowhere near as consistant as modern factory loaded ammo or even your own pet load .So the point about soldiers having to make do with what`s issued is well taken
    My Musket likes a Parker Hale moulded Minie ball with 55 grains FFG best. It`ll certainly shoot other loads, but not as well as its favorite.
     
  17. robhof

    robhof Member

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    All they had to do was give the injured person a drink of water: it sure killed all the good and bad guys in the old westerns, one minute they're talking and breathing, but thirsty and one drink and boom they're dead.
     
  18. Phantom Captain

    Phantom Captain Member

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    J.T. Gerrity said:
    It's my understanding that that shot was made with a .44 Colt Dragoon and not a Navy. Regardless, it's still impressive!
     
  19. Ron James

    Ron James Member

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    Sorry, don't mean to be offensive, but the ideal of any army issuing weapons that are only meant to wound rather then kill is rather far fetched .. If you only wound the other guy, OK, that how it gos, but the purpose is to put him down for the long count., not to just to wound him so he can return to action later. Come on folks, don't accept these old myths as facts and keep puting them out .
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
  20. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    The idea is not quite that far fetched. The Hague Convention of 1899 and other conventions drafted limitations to the laws of war that outlawed the use of hollow point bullets, bombing from the air and chemical weapons. Yet hollow point bullets are preferred by individuals for self-defense and by most U.S. police agencies because they certainly are more effective.
    It shows that the world powers would rather not simply kill the enemy by using any means, but only by using the prescribed, more humanitarian methods which may not be as lethal.

     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
  21. kBob

    kBob Member

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    Actually soft pointed, hollow pointed or ball expanded cartridges were out lawed because it was believed they caused "unnecessary suffering" Barbed weapons were also outlawed because they caused the same.

    Most of the current ex-spurts babblings about wounding an enemy come from some or the early papers on the requirements for what would become the M-16 series. It was stated that they must have the same wounding capacity at under 300 meters as the then current 7.62 NATO round. That meant an ability to produce the same repeatable caractoristic tissue displacement and penitration such as what we do now with ballistic gellatin. It had nothing to do with the idea of producing a wounded warrior so that two others might be taken out to transport him to the rear. Dr. Fackler also later used the term wounding power, but again to describe a weapons capability to displace and or penitrate flesh perhaps after going through clothing equipment or barriers of one sort or another.

    Now back to the original topic.

    In europe atleast, before the founding of the red cross, it was an unfortunate duty of young officers to roam the battlefield after an action and deliver mercy to those they felt too grieviously wounded to waste time on. I don't see that as a lot different than the supposed throat slitting of the Guerrillas. People in the ACW were wounded by a lot of things and left living if breifly. Even by solid cannon shot.

    let's face it the .36s were basiclly 9mms and the .44s basically .45s and that arguement is still going on and nowhere.

    I personally would not like to be shot with either and while personally as to carrying into battle might choose one but would not be particularlly uncomfortable if issued the other.


    -kBob
     
  22. BCRider

    BCRider Member

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    If this bolded part is true and consistent then it suggests that the .36 bullets powered with 22gns of black is equivalent of a full power .38Spl or even a .38+P. It suggests too that the lighter round ball would be moving at well over 1000 fps and have similar hitting power.
     
  23. Montenegrin

    Montenegrin Member

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    There are two methods of increasing power in .36 navy.One I remembered was to use three commercially available powders in one chamber.Second (that I have read on TFL forum) is that you should make powder in even finer granulation than FFFFg,and then put 5 grains of that on bottom,and fill rest of chamber with Pyrodex,but in this method you must pack ball and grease and powder REALLY CAREFUL.Don't remember what was using,just remember that with 145 conical and 26grs of powder using one of these methods got 1100fps.
     
  24. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    It's evident that different guns will achieve different velocities with the same loads. While there is plenty of evidence that 22 grains of powder in an 1851 can produce over 1000 fps with the round ball (Ed Sanow article, 1038 fps loaded with 22 grains), Mike Venturino published test results stating that he only obtained 870 fps loading 25 grains of fffg Swiss in a 2nd Generation Colt 1851 with round ball.

    BTW he obtained 7.5" of white pine board penetration with that load firing into a baffle box. He goes on to say that the U.S. Army's 1874 Ordnance Manual states that 1" of white pine penetration correlates to a dangerous wound.
    On a side note, he also states that, "Jesse James carried a .36 caliber ball in his torso for over 15 years with no apparent ill effects. Tough guy, that Jesse."

    Read the article with full test results listed on page 2 comparing 13 loads:

    Old west pistol power: a baffling experience
    by Mike Venturino

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BTT/is_173_29/ai_n7578405/
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2012
  25. PRM

    PRM Member

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    I keep HPs in my .38 snub, but generally carry FMJ or LSWC in most of my guns. I used to think that you had to have a HP for self defense. As I have grown older and read considerably more on the topic ~ I'm not as sold as I used to be on that idea.

    There are a percentage of the hollow points that don't expand as the manufacturers claim. The hollow cavity fills with clothing, flesh, drywall ... and simply doesn't do what it is supposed to. HPs give more piece of mind to the one carrying it than anything else.

    When you get to the issue of penetration and smaller caliber rounds, you have to ask: Do I want the extra penetration to get into the vitals or the possibility the round will open up some?. In reality, an effective HP could make an already anemic round less effective by stopping adequate penetration.

    Hand-gun calibers generally do not have the velocity to create secondary wound channels like a high-powered rifle. Your basically punching a hole, and there are no guaranteed one shot stops You better hit the CNS or a large bone to get immediate affects.

    As posted above, lots of folks during the Indian Wars, Civil War, and Westward expansion of this country found themselves very sorry to be on the business end of a Navy caliber revolver. Their velocity is sufficient and the soft solid lead projectile is more than adequate for penetration. It comes back to shot placement or where you "punch the hole" that counts.

    Although, I'm sure there were preferences in caliber (.44 or .36) and this is discussed in Captain Randolph Marcy's book "The Prairie Traveler" The 1859 Handbook for Westbound Pioneers, Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-45150-x .
    (GREAT HISTORICAL READ FOR A RAINY AFTERNOON)


    If you look at the numbers of 1851 Navies manufactured by Colt (250,000 produced domestically, and another 22,000 produced in London) VS the number of 1860 Armies (over 200,000) during the 1st Generation era, There does not seen to be a great preference for one over the other.
     

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