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How Much Powder Can 1860 Army Handle?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by DougB, Aug 16, 2007.

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  1. DougB

    DougB Member

    Jan 5, 2003
    I shot my Pietta Colt 1860 Army revolver quite a bit recently. I loaded with 25 gr of Pyrodex pistol powder from a powder flask wth built-in measure. I was surprised at how low the recoil seemed to be - and got the impression that this isn't a very powerful load (I'm not sure this makes sense, but the balls didn't seem to hit with the impact I expected). I believe he manual that came with my revolver recommends 15-20 grains of powder, so I assumed 25 would be kind of a stiff load. I noticed also that the balls seat quite deeply in the cylinder - there is obviously room for a lot more powder - I'd guess 30-35 grains. So, what was the normal original load for these revolvers? Is loading with more than 25 grains dangerous or likely to be very hard on the gun? I know that for most shooting, there's no reason to try to maximize power in these revolvers, but I was carrying this in the woods and it occured to me that if I'd felt threatened by a bear or mountain lion, I would't have had much confidence in this revolver or load (I'd much rather have had my compact .40 - which is hardly a big-game hunting setup).

  2. mike101

    mike101 Member

    Jul 12, 2006
    SOUTH Jersey
    You can safely load as much powder as the chamber will hold. Don't forget to leave room for a ball or bullet.;)

    I used to load an Uberti 1860 with 35 grains. That was about as much as I could get in there. That may not be the most accurate load, though. Experiment.
  3. Shotgun Willy

    Shotgun Willy Member

    May 2, 2007
    Oklahoma Territory

    If I remember correctly the book that came with my 1860 said 2 different things in different parts of the book. I think that around 30 gr. is supposed to be the max load. You'll probably find that around 25 is where you'r best accuracy lives.
  4. mykeal

    mykeal Member

    Sep 9, 2006
    Mike101 and Shotgun Willy are right on...

    Pietta's 1860 Colt Army can handle 30+ grains quite easily, but you will see accuracy diminish. When you say that the recoil and impact are less than what you expected, I wonder if you are perhaps comparing it to a .45 caliber smokeless powder round - it won't be anything like that. The pressure wave builds slower and is not nearly as large, and muzzle velocities are significantly lower as well.

    People who want the gun to perform at it's best will load for accuracy, about 22-24 grains, you'll need to experiment to find out what's best. People who want lots of smoke and noise will fill the chamber. Nothing wrong with either approach, the gun can handle it (brass frames excepted). The idea is to do what's fun for you.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2007
  5. Cincinnati Slim

    Cincinnati Slim Member

    Jul 2, 2006
    Load for 1860


    I've got two spouts, one nominal 30 Gr. the other 35 Gr.

    When I measure 'em to see what actually gets "thrown" it comes out to 28 Gr. and 30-31 Gr. See, the skin of your finger pushes into the spout a little ways and takes up some space. So a 30 Gr. spout actually throws about 26-28 Gr. depending on how much space the tip of your finger takes up. A true 30 Gr. load of fff blackpowder or 28 Gr. of Triple-Seven is just about right for most 1860s. Any more just comes blasting out the end of the barrel as additional flash, smoke and recoil. Which is all cool but it won't get the balls onto the target any better...

    Happy Trails,

  6. 1858remington

    1858remington Member

    Oct 5, 2004
    If your lookin for more felt recoil, ditch the pyrodex powder.

    If you shoot real blackpowder, or the 30gr pyrodex pellets, you'll get the BOOM your lookin for.:evil:

    I found that with my uberti 1858 remington pyrodex powder produced the least recoil, and was not consistantly accurate.:barf:

    The pyrodex pellets however made the gun recoil like a modern 45 colt.:eek:

    But nothing beats the BOOM of real black powder.:D

    besides its what the guns were made for.
  7. barman

    barman Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    Versailles, France
    If you're looking for recoil, try shooting conical bullets instead of round ones. Recoil increases with the mass of the projectile you are using.

    However, don't expect that gun to be super-reliable against bears.
    It was designed to kill (or harm) human beings.
  8. O.S.O.K.

    O.S.O.K. Member

    Apr 4, 2007
    Here's what I do

    I use the 30 grain spout with Pyrodex P - pour the load into the cylinder, place a lubricated felt wad and then the ball - seating snuggly. This combination does very well for me.

    I would not rely on any cap and ball for serious protection in the woods.

    For that, I would recommend at least a 4" .357 Magnum revolver with 180 grain xtp or similar bullets. A good heavy cast bullet load would be better. Better yet, a 41 mag or 44 mag. A 4&3/4" ruger blackhawk in 44 Mag would be a very good pistol for this purpose and can be had used for $300 on gunbroker and the like.

    If you really want black powder and need the protection, then get a conversion cylinder for 45 Colt and load 250 grain round nosed flat points over 35 grains of 3fg with magnum primers. Or just buy comercial loaded bp ammo That'll do. Should give you 900 fps with a 250 grain cast bullet - 450 foot pounds of straight-line penetration.
  9. Bad Flynch

    Bad Flynch Member

    Aug 3, 2004
    Indian Territory
    Well Pyrodex is designed for, and Hodgdon's sole recommendation is for, volume loading. That means just what you are doing: loading with a spout by volume or loading with a measure by volume. Weighing charges will give you the wrong amount of powder, so keep it by volume.

    It is possible to load Pyrodex by a relatively complicated density/weight method, but it is second best by far and, moreover, unnecessary.

    The loads recommended by the manufacturers are guaranteed to be anemic enough not to cause a blow-up. I suggest that you buy Lyman's Black Powder handbook and a couple others of that ilk and see what they recommend. Some even have the original military loads listed.
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