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Login Name Post: Historic revolver lube?        (Topic#307163)
40 Cal.
Posts: 424
04-16-18 05:09 AM - Post#1679896    

This is a question not a primer on my knowledge.

Is there any documented indications as to what and where and how much and just plain DID THEY concerning lube used in revolvers?

I have not uncovered nor heard of what they did for lube in the Colt nor Remington nor any revolver used back beginning with the first revolving handguns. Certainly there have to be recorded how to documents stemming from both manufacturers recommendations AND users systems.

Have experimented with a bunch of systems but always wondered what is historic and the problems experienced by the ODG's ( old dead guys)

Any help and insights will be appreciated.

62 Cal.
Posts: 2891
04-16-18 07:15 AM - Post#1679901    

    In response to bigted

From what I've read over the last nigh-on sixty years, the old-timers relied on common sense with regard to lubricating mechanical devices of all kinds, including guns. Unlike today, where there are literally thousands of different unguents to anoint your smoke pole, back then there were only natural lubricants, of which Sperm Whale Oil was principal for both lubrication and lighting. Grease, again, would have been a naturally occurring product, often a by-product of the meat industry, with lanolin available if sheep were handy.

The arbours of revolvers were annointed with grease, as per the in-case instructions for Colt products, but as for the others, it's matter of more research.


juice jaws 
40 Cal.
Posts: 468
juice jaws
04-16-18 07:26 AM - Post#1679903    

    In response to bigted

What do you mean by lube? Lube to oil their guns or lube over the ball to prevent chain fire?

40 Cal.
Posts: 302
04-16-18 09:03 AM - Post#1679915    

    In response to bigted

A boyhood friend has a Manhatten that still has a loaded chamber. The over-ball lube appears to be an animal grease--beef or mutton tallow we guessed from the smell. Lube for the machanics would have been something like bear or sperm oil.

Posts: 26652
04-16-18 05:17 PM - Post#1679988    

    In response to bigted

Colts instructions for using his revolvers follows. I highlighted the comments on oiling.


First explode acap on each nipple to clear them from oil or dust, then draw back the hammer to the half-cock, which allows the
cylinder to be rotated; a charge of powder is then placed in one of the chambers, keeping the barrel up. and a ball with the pointed end upwards without wadding or patch is put into the mouth of the chamber. turned under the rammer, and forced down with the lever below the surface of the cylinder, so that it cannot hinder its rotation(care should be used in ramming down the ball not to shake the powder from the chamber, thereby reducing the charge).
This is repeated until all the chambers are loaded. Percussion-caps are then placed on the nipples on the right of the lock-frame, where, by drawing back the hammer in the full-cock
the arm is in condition for a discharge by pulling the trigger; a repetition of the same motion produces the like results with six shots without reloading.

It will be safe to use all the Powder the chambers will hold, when loading with the flask, leaving room for the Ball, whether the Powder is strong or weak. Fine grain Powder is the best. Soft lead must be used for the balls. The cylinder is not to be taken off when loaded. The hammer, when at full cock forms the sight by which aim is taken.
To carry the arm safely when loaded let down the hammer on one of the pins between each nipple, on the end of the cylinder.
The arm should be throughly cleaned and oiled after firing, partriculary the arbor-pin on which the cylinder turns.


Take the white case off the Cartridge, by holding the bullet end and tearing it down with the black tape. Place the Cartridge in the mouth of the chamber of the cylinder,
with the pointed end of the bullet uppermost, one at a time and turn them under the rammer, forcing them down with the lever below the surface of the cylinder so that they cannot hinder its rotation.
To ensure certainty of Ignition, it is advisable to puncture the end of the Cartridge, so that a small portion of gunpowder may escape into the chamber while loading the pistol.


Set the lock at half-cock; drive out the key that holds the barrel and cylinder to the lock-frame, then draw off the barrel and cylinder by bringing down the lever and forcing the rammer on the partition between the chambers. Take out the nipples. Wash the cylinder and barrel in warm water, dry and oil them throughly; oil freely the base pin on which the cylinder revolves.


First--Remove the stock, by turning out bottom and two rear screws that fasten it to guard and lock-frame, near hammer.
Second-- Loosen the screw that fastens mainspring to the trigger guard and turn spring from under tumbler of the hammer.
Third--Remove the trigger guard by turning out the three screws that fasten it to the lock-frame.
Fourth--Turn out the screw and remove the double arm spring that bears upon the trigger and bolt.
Fifth--Turn out the screw pins that hold the trigger and bolt in their places.
Sixth--Turn out the remaining screw-in and remove the hammer with hand attached, by drawing it downwards out of the lock-frame. Clean all the parts and oil them throughly.
TO PUT THEM TOGETHER--Replace the hammer with hand-spring attached, then the bolt, the trigger, the sear spring, the trigger-guard, the mainspring, and finally the handle, returning each screw to its proper place, the arm is again in for use.
Just Jim...

40 Cal.
Posts: 424
04-16-18 06:45 PM - Post#1680001    

    In response to Zonie

Zonie, couple things jump out at me. First unless the (pointed BALL) was lubed with something it seems like they did not use any over/under BALL lube for lubing the BALL for its run thru the barrel or reduce flash over to another cylinder thus igniting it causing a chain fire.

The second thing concerns the BALL. These balls do not sound to me as if they are the total round balls that we are using mostly today. Instead it sounds suspiciously like the conicals becoming popular. Most probably sounds like the Johnson and Dow bullets by "eras gone" fame.

Interesting. Found a utube from eras gone that refers to the US Army suggesting lube over or on the bullets as in dipping them in melted lube refering to lube being a mix of bee wax or paraffin mixed with lard.

40 Cal.
Posts: 213
04-16-18 07:32 PM - Post#1680006    

    In response to bigted

I took the "ball pointed end up" to be the sprue, and soft lead ball would allow a press fit in the chamber that shaves a ring of lead off on the chamber wall. If a ball is fitting that tight there will be no chain fire from the front of the cylinder and no need for grease/lube over the ball, which in fact is not called for from Colt in this printing

36 Cal.
Posts: 60
04-17-18 07:42 AM - Post#1680062    

    In response to bigted

The description for loading is with "Colt's patent foil cartridges". These were loaded with a pointed bullet, generically referred to as a "ball" much like the use of the term "Minie Ball" for the rifled musket bullet. There are surviving examples of these in cartridge collections as well as some excellent descriptions of their construction in one of the early books on Colt's history (which I have somewhere in this house). As far as I can recall they did not use any type of lube.

Posts: 6188
04-17-18 08:01 AM - Post#1680066    

    In response to desi23

Pointy bullets were used to assist penetration through the garments of the day.
The powder charge power was often upped by using powder a little different from what we regularly use nowadays.

Perusing the web pages of recovered relic bullets from the 1860's war will supply plenty of examples to scratch your head over.

Posts: 6978
04-17-18 12:50 PM - Post#1680132    

    In response to bigted

  • bigted Said:
First unless the (pointed BALL) was lubed with something it seems like they did not use any over/under BALL lube for lubing the BALL for its run thru the barrel or reduce flash over to another cylinder thus igniting it causing a chain fire.

In discussing the problem of chain fires and the changes made to the design of the guns in order to prevent them, Sam Colt made no mention of using lube to cover the cylinder mouths.


75 Cal.
Posts: 5689
04-17-18 01:18 PM - Post#1680140    

    In response to Spence10

Thats cuz Bore Butter didnt go retail until like 1870

Posts: 6978
04-17-18 04:15 PM - Post#1680170    

    In response to bigted

  • bigted Said:
The second thing concerns the BALL. These balls do not sound to me as if they are the total round balls that we are using mostly today. Instead it sounds suspiciously like the conicals becoming popular.

In a description of the English factory manufacturing Colt pistols by Charles Dickens, he explains that bullets, moulds, flasks and percussion caps were shipped along with each container of pistols, and used the term "conical ball" to describe the bullets.


40 Cal.
Posts: 472
04-17-18 07:09 PM - Post#1680204    

    In response to Spence10

IIRC - The "conicals" were used primarily in the ready made paper cartridges. For single loading the round ball was still King.

40 Cal.
Posts: 424
04-17-18 09:00 PM - Post#1680224    

    In response to stubshaft

And this is a historic statement or a WAG?

70 Cal.
Posts: 4969
04-17-18 10:27 PM - Post#1680239    

    In response to bigted

Elmer Keith actually knew some civil war cavalry solders in his youth and said they all preferred the round ball for accuracy and killing power to the pointed conial bullets of the day!

50 Cal.
Posts: 1100
04-17-18 10:37 PM - Post#1680241    

    In response to bigted

For the most part, no lube was used.
I have experimented with shooting my percussion revolvers with no lube, and found everything still worked okay, but I only got around 18 to 20 shots before things started getting tight, as opposed to 75 to 90+ shots with lubed wads.
Keep in mind people did not go out and shoot, and shoot, and shoot like we do now, and they bought paper cartridges with no lube when they could afford or get them.
The 18 to 20 shots I mentioned earlier was A LOT OF SHOOTING, even in a fight, in the old days.
3 or 4 packets of ready-mades, or loose powder and ball equivalent, would last even someone who carried a revolver most days or every day, a long time. Usually months, sometimes years.
But some DID use lubed felt wads when available or practical.
I think the idea of glomming grease over chamber mouths is a modern ( 1960's ) invention of little use.

40 Cal.
Posts: 424
04-18-18 07:59 AM - Post#1680273    

    In response to smoothshooter

I am beginning to see and believe that with few exceptions, very few, that the reason we find no accounts of loads and use IS because folks back in the day were not as enamored generally with the sixgun as we are today. I think that with the exception of military or law enforcement, revolvers played a very small role until the turn of the 19th century , and by then almost everybody used the newer cartridge guns for popping tin cans n such.

Maybe it is true that because no long session shooting was conducted, there was no need to use any lube for either bore lube nor chainfire reduction.

I know from my own experiment with roundball paper cartridges, that in a pietta 36 cal short barrel (5 inch), that i was able to shoot into a 6 inch group 60 times at 25 yds with nothing for lube except for the oil i lubed the revolver with from the shoot/cleaning from the time before. The cartridges were made with Zig Zag cig rolling papers and 20 grains Old E powder and sparked with CCI caps. Now i do know 6 inch is pretty lame accuracy in todays shooting , and this from a rest to boot, however in a gun fight such as in war as a last ditch effort, 6 inch accuracy will certainly get it done.

I had never contemplated the TOOL aspect and the best use of a sixgun was and is as a last ditch effort to get out of a dangerous life threatening situation. As opposed to today in modern times where with the advent of modern life, we have both time and energy for the pursuit of FUN and the funds to blow on that fun at the range shooting these very fun and sometimes very accurate sixguns are possible.

This has been a fun and learning endeavor and i thank all who contributed. I have a ball reading all posts on a subject matter and we certainly do have knowledgeable and insightful folks here, THANKS ALL

58 Cal.
Posts: 2212
04-18-18 10:37 AM - Post#1680318    

    In response to M.D.

“Elmer Keith actually knew some civil war cavalry solders in his youth and said they all preferred the round ball for accuracy and killing power to the pointed conial bullets of the day!“

True. But also look at the pointy design of the conicals of that era. We now know that this allows the flesh to stretch thereby creating a smaller than caliber wound channel typically. Even a RN or ball (at handgun speeds) generally doesn’t create quite a caliber sized hole. However with Keith’s experimenting we find a WFN will create a wider than caliber hole the wider the meplat and the faster it is pushed as it cuts a hole that diameter or larger.

If Keith’s design, or something similar, were available then I’m certain they’d opt for them over the ball. And not just because they are very effective but also because they’d have them available in the faster to load paper cartridges.

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