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56 Colt?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by zimmerstutzen, Mar 22, 2013.

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  1. zimmerstutzen

    zimmerstutzen Member

    Jul 30, 2009
    banks of the Susquehanna
    Found a reference to a .56 colt cartridge made of animal gut. Really 56 caliber?

    "ANIMAL GUT CARTRIDGE - A primitive combustible cartridge consisting of a tubular sheath or sack filled with black powder which is attached to the base of a conical bullet. The sheath is made from thin, treated animal gut and is reasonably moisture proof. See William Mont Storm patent #33,611 and Hotchkiss patent #34,364. Most were made by D.C.Sage and found in .36, .44, and .56 Colt caliber as well as a few others. "
  2. Dave Markowitz

    Dave Markowitz Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Plymouth Meeting, PA
    Some of the 1855 Colt Root rifles were .56 caliber.
  3. jeepnik

    jeepnik Member

    Sep 25, 2011
    During their occupation of India, the British at one point issued cartridges of this type. One rumor spread was that they were made for pig parts. This resulted in some of the indigenous troops refusing to use the cartridges.

    The switch was made so that the cartridge would be more waterproof that the previous paper cartridges.

    In case some aren't aware, the cartridges were a powder charge wrapped in paper or animal gut and topped with a bullet/ball. One bit the bullet/ball off the cartridge and held it in one's mouth. Poured the powder down the barrel and could (if time allowed) use the paper/gut as a patch. When time was short, the bullet/ball was simply spit into the bore and rammed home. Or if things were really dicey, you could smack the butt of the firearm (worked better with muskets than rifles) on the ground to sort of seat the bullet/ball.
  4. AlexanderA
    • Contributing Member

    AlexanderA Member

    Feb 27, 2011
    The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, in India, started when rumors spread that paper cartridges issued by the British to native troops were greased with pig lard. Since the troops were required to bite off the ends of the cartridges to load their muskets, this religiously offended both the Hindus (who were vegetarians) and the Muslims (for whom pigs were haram, or forbidden).


    Regarding the OP's question about .56 caliber, keep in mind that the Minie balls for .58 caliber rifled muskets (muzzleloaders) had to be undersized so as to be slid down the bore. For example, regulation Confederate Minie balls actually measured .562 in diameter; Union ones ranged from .57 to .5775, depending on which period in the war. Since breechloading arms (such as the Colt revolving rifle) didn't have the problem of sliding a bullet down the muzzle through a fouled bore, their bores could be made smaller and still use the same bullet. So, a .56 cal. breechloader is equivalent to a .58 muzzleloader, a .52 cal. breechloader (such as many common Civil War carbines) is equivalent to a .54 muzzleloader, and so on.
  5. Berkley

    Berkley Member

    Nov 14, 2010
    Austin, Texas
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2013
  6. kBob

    kBob Member

    Jun 11, 2006
    North Central Florida
    Berdans Sharp Shooters of the 1st USSS were issued colt .56 cal revolving rifles of the root pattern. They were in general not pleased with the rifles. As is oft discussed here there was the issue of escape of hot gas, debris, and lead at the cylinder gap and the danger of a chain fire that made it not wise to take a traditional hold on the rifle when firing. Also they complained that the rifle was not as accurate as the promised Sharps Rifles.

    I under stand some would lower the loading lever and use it as a sort of fore grip to lessen the effects of the cylinder gap problems and that some would determine which chamber gave best accuracy and use the rifle as basically a single shot with four rounds in reserve should close work become necessary.

    My under standing from one museum display is that atleast some of these cartridges were made with "fish gut" casings. This is not to be confused with "Gutta Percha" plastic of the time period but actual fish intestines used like a sausage case or caseing. They were nitrated to assist in burning and were rather fragile so as to break open upon ramming to seat the bullet.

    Appearently at least a couple of early ACW union state militia/volunteer mounted units purchased the .44 caliber carbine version of the Root design side hammer Colt "rifle"

    Strangest I have seen was a 10 ga revolving Colt Root shotgun. The cylinder gap issues on that one must have been interesting.

    On a trip to San Fransico 20 years ago I got all excited by what appeared to be a .44 Root Carbine on the wall of a tourist trap......trap worked Tourist kBob rushed in. It was a zinc and plastic model like the Replica Model Company guns from japan in the 1970s. Almost bought it anyway but was concerned about getting it al the way back to Florida.

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