Loading a 36 caliber Colt revolver

Discussion in 'Handguns' started by cheetah4570, Jun 8, 2013.

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  1. Jun 8, 2013 #1

    cheetah4570

    cheetah4570

    cheetah4570

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    I have a Colt 1971 Robert E. Lee .36 caliber revolver I would like to shoot. I'm finding conflicting data on the correct load for this gun. Several sources have suggested a load of 17 to 20 grains of Pyrodex, while a Hogden site suggested a load of 30 grains of Pyrodex. Can anyone provide a good, solid load for this gun:
     
  2. Jun 8, 2013 #2

    cynthialee

    cynthialee

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    start with 15 grains of 3F powder and work up by 2 grain increments
    A 30 grain load in that pistol is overkill.
     
  3. Jun 8, 2013 #3

    hawkeye2

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    An accurate and fun load will end up being between 15 and 20 grains of 3f. Any more than that isn't necessary. Try to avoid substitute powders and stick with real black (GOEX). When you have found a satisfactory load you can add a filler over the powder to bring the ball out to the chamber mouth. Start small and keep increasing the filler till you get what you want then record the amount. I use Cream of Wheat, not the instant. A box is near a lifetime supply and it doesn't attract moisture or go bad. After loading fill the chamber mouths with a fairly stiff lube. Be sure to use good fitting caps so they won't fall off or cause a chain fire. I replace the factory nipples and use Remington #10s.
     
  4. Jun 8, 2013 #4

    crockett

    crockett

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    It's confusing because there are several variables. During the Civil War around 15 to 18 grains of fffg were used so that powder charge is a good standard. These military loads were used with conical bullets that were long and pointed and took up a lot of room in the chamber. If you use a round ball you can actually put in more powder, I'd say 20-22 grains is around the maximum.
    You need to seal the chambers. One way is the time honored Crisco. Put in the powder, then the ball, then fill the end of the chamber with Crisco.
    Another way is to omit the Crisco and use a lubed wad. When this is done, you put in the powder, then the wad, and then the ball. Some folks like this better than the Crisco because it is less messy. No fingers dripping with Crisco.
    Finally there are reduced powder charges for target practice. You can use either of the above methods with less powder. Using less powder means when you ram the ball down on top of the powder (you CANNOT have any air betweeen ball and powder) that the ball will be seated deeper in the chamber. Some folks claim better accuracy is obtained when the ball is closer to the front end of the chamber so now there is a filler added. The procedure would be powder, then a filler (like cream of wheat cereal) then ball, then Crisco.
    For starters, to keep things simple, I'd go with a 17 grain charge. If 15 or 18 grains yields better accuracy then use that, add the ball and use the Crisco. That's how most percussion revolvers were fired for years.
    The only other thing I would add is there is a recent trend to also use a powder measure. Dump the charge into the measure and then the measure into the chamber. The chance of a flask exploding with a percussion revolver is likely very low, no reported events I've ever found, but still a painless and easy thing to do.
     
  5. Jun 8, 2013 #5

    crockett

    crockett

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    And..see you are in Old Virginia, the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond (right off I-95) has Lee's Colt Navy, just in case you want to see the original.
     
  6. Jun 9, 2013 #6

    DOUBLEDEUCE 1

    DOUBLEDEUCE 1

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    Welcome Cheetah :hatsoff:

    I shoot around 20-24 grains FFFG. I top my cylinder off with gear lube from a cake decorater tube. I had too many hang fires when I shot the Pyrodex stuff, so I stay away from it now. :hmm:
     
  7. Jun 9, 2013 #7

    Zonie

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    I don't think 30 grains of powder and a roundball could be loaded into a .36 caliber Colt.

    30 grains is even a pretty hot load for a .44.

    17-20 grains by volume is about right for a .36 :)
     
  8. Jun 9, 2013 #8

    smoothshooter

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    It looks like you have gotten many good recommendations on loads.You would probably be happier with using lubed wads vs. grease over the balls because of the mess involved even after just the first shot with the greased chamber mouths. I don't think grease over the ball or greased wads prevent chain-fires. If you think about it, when the ball is forced into the chamber under the extreme pressure involved in seating, the wad will form a cup around the underside of the ball which will reduce it's diameter and decrease it's contact with the chamber walls, and hence no gas seal. Unless you are using a ball that is way too small, a chain fire is caused by having loose or missing caps on adjacent loaded chambers. Besides, the only ill effects I have ever seen or heard of from a chain-fire is the surprise or embarrassment of the person doing the shooting. Loads fired from chambers where the barrel was not attached have been chronographed at around 150 feet per second-nothing that would damage a gun. From a historical perspective, most of the time percussion revolvers were loaded and shot with no lubrication at all. The reason to use a grease wad or grease over the chambers is to keep the fouling soft. -Sincerely, Smoothshooter
     
  9. Jun 9, 2013 #9

    PRM

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    Never tried 30 grains - don't know if it would fit,never saw the need. I normally shoot 24 grains of FFFG in my Navies and 17 grains in my pocket models. If just plinking on the range, I'll sometimes cut that by 2 grains. Same results on paper.

    I did find some ballistics on .36 caliber revolvers. The tables are based on Remingtons which would not be significantly different from the Colt.

    .36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 23grains 3F GOEX Black Powder 160 grains, Conical 725 ft/s 186 ft-lbs 16.57 ft-s
    .36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 25 grains 3F GOEX Black Powder 130 grains, Conical 811 ft/s 190 ft-lbs 15.06 ft-s
    .36 Remington, 1858 6.5 inch 30 grains 3F GOEX Black Powder 80 grains, .375 ball 987 ft/s 173 ft-lbs 11.28 ft-s


    I don't think you are going to have enough of a difference in charges to damage the gun with any of them. Accuracy is another matter. The hottest loads are normally not going to be the most accurate.
     
  10. Jun 9, 2013 #10

    Rick Son

    Rick Son

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    That was educational,i'll use that info..
     
  11. Jun 10, 2013 #11

    cheetah4570

    cheetah4570

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    Thanks to all for the good advice! I have enough information now to get started.
     
  12. Jun 10, 2013 #12

    cheetah4570

    cheetah4570

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    How long can you leave a properly loaded percussion revolver loaded?
     
  13. Jun 10, 2013 #13

    crockett

    crockett

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    IMHO 25 grains in a Colt Navy 1851 is the maximum and even with that charge you have to crunch the powder down pretty good to seat the ball.
    Robert E. Lee's Colt Navy was well sealed at both ends and 7 years after his death someone took the pistol and it fired off all the rounds. I'm told the chamber ends were sealed with something substantial (like sealing wax) and the caps might have received a similar treatment. In any event a loaded cap and ball revolver is good to go for a long time.
     
  14. Jun 10, 2013 #14

    cynthialee

    cynthialee

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    longer than you will be around
     
  15. Jun 10, 2013 #15

    Wes/Tex

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    Back in der olten days when Colt's remade percussion revolvers guns were new, I copied some of Dean Grennell's ideas from an old "Black Powder Gun Digest" with similar results. Using some of the Lee Loader measures and the powder flask that came with the gun, I got about 21 grains FFFg from the flask, 28 grains from the #108 dipper and short-dipped the #129 dipper for just over 29 grains. The #129 held nearly 32 grains full and was too much powder to comfortably seat the ball. The results were 680fps for the flask with a 8-1/4" X 6-1/2" group, 810fps for the #108 dipper with a 3-1/2" X 2-1/3" group, and 950fps for the short-dipped #129 dipper with a 4.5" X 4" group. Put a new, longer spout on the flask and filed it back to 28 grains even. Your mileage may vary! :wink:
     
  16. Jun 11, 2013 #16

    PRM

    PRM

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    Black Powder has an indefinite shelf life. Guns and other ordnance well over a century old have been found with viable powder. The black powder will not degrade any faster in a gun than it does in the can sitting on a shelf. Take your side arm off prior to going swimming and you'll be OK.
     
  17. Jun 11, 2013 #17

    cynthialee

    cynthialee

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    Did you read the post where one member accidently put a cylinder that was loaded into soapy water for an hour and they all fired?
     
  18. Jun 12, 2013 #18

    PRM

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    Yep...that was a little amazing. Pretty good water tight seal. I shoot #11 caps and squeeze the sides for a tight fit. Not sure mine would hold up to a soaking. But, I never submerge my guns either. These older style guns are pretty reliable. Other than being a little slow on the reload, I've never felt at a disadvantage with one. They are my favorites for an afternoon in the woods, plinking, or even doing nightstand duty. My double barrel 20X20 Pedersoli Howdah loaded with #4 buck and a 60 caliber patched round ball feels pretty good when things go bump in the night. LOL :stir:

    On a serious note, I usually have a couple of C&Bs loaded. I have for one reason or another gone up to a year before a particular gun makes it to the range. Never a problem. I packed away a can of GOEX FFFG in a foot locker years ago. Forgot about it. It went through seasons of drastic climate changes in a storage building. It was over 20 years later that I found it while cleaning out some stuff. It still shot as good as they day I brought it home.
     
  19. Jun 13, 2013 #19

    cheetah4570

    cheetah4570

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    OK, here is how my project worked out. I got Pyrodex P (FFFG) equivalent powder, and filled the flask that came with the gun. With my finger over the spout, I filled the spout and discovered that it delivered accurate, consistent charges of 17.7 grains of Pyrodex. This would fill the cylinders to about 2mm short of full, allowing me to seat the round balls to just below the lip of the cylinder, which also compressed the powder slightly. It was pretty easy to judge the seating pressure. The old gun is now loaded and ready for firing this weekend. I'll let you know the results. Also, it seems the powder charge leaves just enough room for a patch under the ball, so I'll try that, too, when some patches arrive.
     
  20. Jun 13, 2013 #20

    cynthialee

    cynthialee

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    you do not use a patch with a cap and ball revolver
    a wad is optional
     

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