Black powder lingered awhile........

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Bob Wright

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I have been regaling folks on Facebook with stories of long ago. Much of my family history goes 'way back in Tennessee, and from that I've heard stories from my mother and cousins. I knew my uncle told me the first cartridge gun he ever shot was the M1903 Springfield he trained on during World War I. And another uncle carried a Colt Navy (cartridge converted or not, I never knew) while making his rounds at night on horseback. And my former hunting companion, who lived in Mississippi and hunted for the restaurants, used a cap-and-ball rifle well into the 'Thirties.

So, apparently, as long as it fired and killed game, why bother getting a new gun?

Bob Wright
 

tunnug

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I imagine that the price of new fangled devices also had a lot to do with the decision to continue with what was already owned and proven to work.
 

BearBio

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I have read that many old-timers considered muzzle-loaders to be more reliable than early cartridge arms. Remember "Wild Bill" Hickock carried Colt Navies well into the cartridge period!
 

Bob Wright

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caryc said:
Don't forget the messiness of black powder. That was probably a big consideration to switch over to smokeless powder.

Smokeless powder got a bad reputation when it did not work well in revolvers. The pressure generated by smokeless caused many revolvers to "tie up" from case set-back in older revolvers. For this reason semi-smokeless powders were developed, such as LesSmoke. Such ammunition was sold up through the World War I era.

To differentiate between powder type used, factories used the primer as an ind
ication of powder loading: copper primers indicated the cartridge was loaded with black powder. Brass primers indicated semi-smokeless loading, while nickel plated primers indicated smokeless. this was the standard up until about the World War II era.

Bob Wright
 

Bob Wright

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BearBio said:
I have read that many old-timers considered muzzle-loaders to be more reliable than early cartridge arms. Remember "Wild Bill" Hickock carried Colt Navies well into the cartridge period!

This was due to primarily rim fire cartridges. It was difficult to get the priming compound evenly distributed around the rim. And, as fate would have it, that gap usually ended up being under the hammer. For that reason the early Winchesters had double firing pins.


Bob Wright
 

eveled

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A lot of it was economics too. With cap and ball guns you are essentially reloading your own without the cost and space of a reloading bench. No brass to collect.

What has always fascinated me is how fast it seems the flintlocks went away once the percussion cap was invented. The gunsmiths must have had their hands full converting flintlocks to percussion.
 

crstrode

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Jun 23, 2012
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BearBio said:
"Wild Bill" Hickock carried Colt Navies well into the cartridge period!

Hickok was dead in 1876. Centerfire cartridge revolvers were uncommon at that time.

Colt's single action Army revolver was not available until late 1873. The Smith and Wesson Schofield was introduced in 1870, however it was quite rare and had a very limited production run until development of the #3 Schofield in 1875. The US Army ordered 5000 #3 Schofields in 1875.

It is thought that Hickok was indeed armed with a Smith and Wesson #2 revolver along with a Richard & Mason's cartridge conversion based upon a Colt's model of 1860 at the time of his assassination by Jack McCall.

McCall reportedly killed Hickok with a 45 revolver. It has been claimed that the gun was a single-action Colt .45 army revolver with a 7 - inch barrel, serial number 2079. If this is true, the very low serial number demonstrates it's relative rarity at that time.

Since there are lots of fakes and lots of stories about Hickok's life, and his death; provenance of guns and other artifacts is very dubious.
 

gunzo

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I was born in 53 & recall folks being way more frugal in my earlier days than they are now. I suspect it was even more so in the times before that. Plus, parts of the country where gun use would be most prevalent were rural, & there simply wasn't a lot of money floating around even if folks did want the latest new fangled weapon.

It's been said that for decades after the cap lock BP came out, flint locks would be seen as often as the cap. Flints had been made for a much longer period of time,(more of them available) folks already had them, they worked, & they didn't require store bought caps to operate. So, with all the things mentioned, it doesn't surprise me a bit at the thought of folks using BP into the early 20th century.

The years after WWI would introduce smokeless, centerfire arms to more people than any marketing could. Folks were trained, more familiar with them, & more guns available with bring backs & surplus. Thinking all this was what brought mainstream America into the smokeless age.

Another thought that might burst some bubbles is that the Winchester lever or Colt Single Action Army weren't the guns that won the west, as the west had mostly been won by the time theses guns became widely available.
A single shot BP rifle in cap or flint were the best an explorer would have, but likely most settlers, the ones that fought for the west would only have a BP muzzle loading shotgun.
And..... probably most were single barrels rather than the more nostalgic double.
 

Muley Gil

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Judging by the number of cut-down muzzle loading military rifle muskets (some bored smooth) and cut-down military muskets I have seen, I'll wager they outnumbered Winchesters for many years.
 
Joined
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In 1994 I bought a USAAF Commemorative Colt 1911 for my Daughter for her graduation, who was at the USAFA at that time. The FFL that received it for me, at no charge, was the owner of Lane's Trading Post In Rosenberg. Both he and is brother were WWII Pilots. Both are gone now but family members still fly out of Lane Airfield and still own Lane Ag Flying Service.

Anyway Mr. Lane had a 45-70 Springfield Trapdoor Rifle hanging on the wall which I asked him about and if it was for sale.
He told me soon after Pearl Harbor a train was going thru the small towns with a box car that had the 45-70s in it and were for sale for $5.00. Lots of Folks bought them. NO THIS one was not for sale. :(
Factory 45-70 loads are still loaded to black powder pressures so they can still be used in the trapdoors. 70grs. of FFFG and a 405/500 gr. bullet with a kill range of 1 1/2 miles is nothing to sneeze at. :D
Mr. Lane was just a great person to spend time shooting the bull with. He and his brother both started the Ag Service and built the airfield after the war. There was not enough business for both of them so Mr. Lane opened The Trading Post which is now gone.
 

BearBio

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crstrode said:
BearBio said:
"Wild Bill" Hickock carried Colt Navies well into the cartridge period!

Hickok was dead in 1876. Centerfire cartridge revolvers were uncommon at that time.

Colt's single action Army revolver was not available until late 1873. The Smith and Wesson Schofield was introduced in 1870, however it was quite rare and had a very limited production run until development of the #3 Schofield in 1875. The US Army ordered 5000 #3 Schofields in 1875.

It is thought that Hickok was indeed armed with a Smith and Wesson #2 revolver along with a Richard & Mason's cartridge conversion based upon a Colt's model of 1860 at the time of his assassination by Jack McCall.

McCall reportedly killed Hickok with a 45 revolver. It has been claimed that the gun was a single-action Colt .45 army revolver with a 7 - inch barrel, serial number 2079. If this is true, the very low serial number demonstrates it's relative rarity at that time.

Since there are lots of fakes and lots of stories about Hickok's life, and his death; provenance of guns and other artifacts is very dubious.


The Op was about black powder arms, rifles and pistols, we should stay on topic.
On the contrary, cartridge firearms were pretty common, both rimfire and centerfire:

For "buffalo rifles", I'll refer you to: "Buffalo Cartridges of the American Frontier" By Chuck Hawks and for lever rifles, "Winchester Rifle" on Wiki, with references. Both are too long to quote here.

For revolver cartridges, it should be noted that the lowly 22 short (developed as a defense round) was developed in 1857 and was a common sidearm for officers during the Civil War. The Henry Flat was developed for the Henry Rifle and 44 Rimfire for the '66 Winnie and Colt revolver; the 50-70 was issued in 1866 , followed by the 45-70 in 1873. 1873 also saw the 45 Colt & 44-40 WCF (Can't see Colt making pistols that weren't selling). For more complete info (also too long to quote here), I'll refer you to: "A Short History of Handgun Cartridges from Black Powder to Modern Magnums" By: John Barsness.

All articles are available on Google.
 
Joined
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Colt SAA in 45 Colt was made well for the military. Probably took awhile to get to the civilian market of the West.

This six-shot single action, chambered in the same .44 Rimfire cartridge used by the Henry lever-action rifles of the day, soon morphed into a chambering in Colt’s new centerfire black powder .45 cartridge and submitted for a new U.S. Army handgun contract to replace older cap-and-ball revolvers. The new long-barreled six-shooter, with its .45 Colt chambering, was adopted in 1873 by the Army with an initial order of 8,000 revolvers. Eventually, this would grow to some 37,000 guns.

Colt began offering 44WCF/.44-40 as a single-action chambering in either late 1877 or 1878. Sources vary. Between serial numbers 41,000 and 45,000 the factory began acid etching the term “Colt Frontier Six Shooter” on barrels. This continued to approximately 1889 at the 130,000 serial number range which is when “Colt Frontier Six Shooter” became a roll stamp. It was standard until production ceased for the first time in 1941. By then 71,391 standard fixed-sight single-actions, single-action targets, Bisley’s and target sight Bisley’s had been made as .44-40s.

Poor Sam Colt. Although he was one of the richest men in America when he died in 1862, he never got to see his company introduce its first revolver built specifically to take it out of the cap-and-ball era and into the realm of the self-contained metallic cartridge. But it wasn’t the well-known Richards or the Richards-Mason conversions, for both incorporated surplus parts from Colt’s .36-cal. 1851 Navy and .44-cal. 1860 Army – two of the most prominent handguns used during The War Between The States.

Rather it was a short-lived, but nonetheless highly significant, .44-cal. revolver called the New Model Holster Pistol, or as it is better known today, the Colt 1871-72 Open Top. Both the Richards and Richards-Mason conversions were created thanks to the 1869 expiration of Rollin White’s patent for a bored-through cylinder, which he had previously licensed exclusively to Smith & Wesson. But now the field for innovation was wide open, and Colt employees Charles B. Richards and William Mason – each in their own way – were quick to take up the challenge.

First was Richards, who was awarded a patent in 1871 that altered the cylinder and hammer of the 1860 Army so that a center-fire .44-cal. cartridge could be loaded from the rear of the cylinder, rather than have loose powder and ball rammed in from the front as had been customary. This was achieved by milling off the back portion of the percussion cylinder, then affixing the frame with a conversion ring that incorporated a shallow fixed rear sight and a surprisingly modern-looking, spring-plunger firing pin, which was struck by the filed-off flat surface of the former percussion hammer.
 

noahmercy

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Other advantages to the muzzleloaders was the ability to re-cast balls and bullets, easily adjust the powder charge to suit the situation, load multiple projectiles (buck and ball), and use miscellaneous items for shot (nails, rock salt, pebbles, etc.) in "frontloading" shotguns. Not hard to understand why even today, some of us find the old smokepoles to have utility.
 

WildWildWest.

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Olathe KS
Hickok was dead in 1876. Centerfire cartridge revolvers were uncommon at that time.

Colt's single action Army revolver was not available until late 1873. The Smith and Wesson Schofield was introduced in 1870, however it was quite rare and had a very limited production run until development of the #3 Schofield in 1875. The US Army ordered 5000 #3 Schofields in 1875.

It is thought that Hickok was indeed armed with a Smith and Wesson #2 revolver along with a Richard & Mason's cartridge conversion based upon a Colt's model of 1860 at the time of his assassination by Jack McCall.

McCall reportedly killed Hickok with a 45 revolver. It has been claimed that the gun was a single-action Colt .45 army revolver with a 7 - inch barrel, serial number 2079. If this is true, the very low serial number demonstrates it's relative rarity at that time.

Since there are lots of fakes and lots of stories about Hickok's life, and his death; provenance of guns and other artifacts is very dubious.
I am interested in where you heard that Hickok was killed with a Colt SAA #2079. I have heard this to and I am trying to track down its authenticity.
 

Biggfoot44

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807
Part of it was simply : You already owned it , and it worked , no reason to spend what was then big $$ on something else .

But look at us here on this Forum , and similar
We're still talking about , and using Revolvers , manually operated rifles & shotguns, and pistols made of metal .

Most of those were " obsolete " more than 100 years ago . ( Ok , metal frame pistols were " obsolete " 35 years ago .)

We like something , competent with them , meets our needs , and expected requirements , we don't imeadately get rid of them , and jump on the first thing new with a flashy advertisement .

100 yrs from now , the guys on the phased pulse rifle forums will be shaking their heads about us .
 

Enigma

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Apr 17, 2002
Messages
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Location
Houston metro area, TX
I have been regaling folks on Facebook with stories of long ago. Much of my family history goes 'way back in Tennessee, and from that I've heard stories from my mother and cousins. I knew my uncle told me the first cartridge gun he ever shot was the M1903 Springfield he trained on during World War I. And another uncle carried a Colt Navy (cartridge converted or not, I never knew) while making his rounds at night on horseback. And my former hunting companion, who lived in Mississippi and hunted for the restaurants, used a cap-and-ball rifle well into the 'Thirties.

So, apparently, as long as it fired and killed game, why bother getting a new gun?

Bob Wright

I read somewhere that Alvin York had never owned or even fired anything other than black powder before he was drafted into the Army. I wish I could find that reference again, but I have yet to locate it again.
 

Bob Wright

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I read somewhere that Alvin York had never owned or even fired anything other than black powder before he was drafted into the Army. I wish I could find that reference again, but I have yet to locate it again.
My uncle, the late Buford Prowell, served with the 118th Machine Gun Batallion, 30th Infantry Division during World War I and he told me the first cartridge rifle he ever shot was when he went into the Army. He met York through membership in the American Legion and was from the same part of the country. And as late as the early 'Thirties another uncle carried a Colt Navy, whether converted to cartridge or not I never knew. He went armed when making his "rounds." Had to do with sales of corn.

And my old hunting companion, who lived around Water Valley, Mississippi, used a cap-and-ball rifle on up until the beginning of World War II.

Bob Wright
 

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