Selecting a Defensive Caliber the Old Way

Selecting a Defensive Caliber the Old Way

This is a discussion on Selecting a Defensive Caliber the Old Way within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Hi All, I'm an Old West aficionado. When looking back on the weaponry the old timers used, I sometimes wonder how we got so wrapped ...

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Thread: Selecting a Defensive Caliber the Old Way

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array Joshua M. Smith's Avatar
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    Selecting a Defensive Caliber the Old Way

    Hi All,

    I'm an Old West aficionado. When looking back on the weaponry the old timers used, I sometimes wonder how we got so wrapped up in caliber wars.

    When the Texas Rangers were commissioned they had a rule: No close relatives. These brave souls were often young and reckless, fighting with single - shot muzzle loading handguns and Bowie style knives.

    When Colt's patent came along they jumped on the Patterson bandwagon. A five shot, .40 caliber deal, it offered more firepower versus power - per - shot. Replicas are .36 caliber, and a common myth is that the originals were also in this caliber.



    After the Patterson came the Walkers. These were huge revolvers born out of a collaboration between Capt. Samuel Walker and Col. Sam Colt. They held six shots (five with the hammer down on an empty chamber), .44 caliber, very powerful, holding the most powder of any cap'n'ball revolver. They were also very unwieldy. The Walker's barrel measured 9".

    The Dragoon was a downsized, improved version of the Walker. They featured improved loading lever lockup and a shorter barrel among other modifications. The Dragoon retained the Walker's caliber though not its powder capacity.



    Both the Walker and Dragoon models are sometimes referred to as being used to great effect when buffaloing a person when the Ranger couldn't shoot 'em.

    Then came the ultimate cap'n'ball: The Colt Ranger, named so as to capitalize on the Texas Rangers' success with this newest revolver. It was later renamed the 1851 Navy after heavy sales to the United States naval forces. This was the last revolver designed by Sam Colt himself as his health failed shortly afterward. It featured improved ergonomics, a .36 caliber chambering which was actually a .38" bore, a 7 1/2" barrel, lighter weight, and handling that was so superb that it was retained up to and included in the Model P, or Model 1873.



    Prior to the Model P, the 1851 Navy design was simply the best, hands down. It was favored by the Calvary, civilian scouts, lawmen, the lawless, and the average armed citizen alike. Wild Bill Hickok was famous for his love of them up through the metallic cartridge era. It was modified to suit the person. I've even seen some sliphammer examples.

    How does this compare to the modern day? Let's take a look.

    First, the Rangers went from large bore, single shot handguns to a revolver with a smaller bore diameter but increased firepower.

    Next, they chose the large bore Walker - seemingly the best of both worlds. However, it and the Dragoon proved too difficult to handle, especially for smaller hands.

    Finally, a well - balanced, light revolver in an acceptable caliber comes along. It is adopted and becomes the most popular handgun until the cartridge handguns.

    But how does the power of the '51 Navy compare to the handguns of today?

    Using the formula (diameter x weight x velocity) / 7000 I came up with these numbers:

    9x17mm, 90gr@1050fps: 4.8

    9x19mm, 125gr@1250fps: 7.9

    .38spl, 158gr@800fps: 6.5

    .357mag, 125gr@1350fps: 8.6

    and the .36 cap'n'ball?

    (.38 x 70gr x 900fps) / 7000 = 3.4

    Ladies and gents, Wild Bill toted the approximate equal to .380 ball ammo during his time in Abilene and several places before and since. Grizzly Adams used it as a backup for hunting bear when contract hunting for loggers. (Grizzly's M.O. was interesting; I may post it one day.)

    I very much doubt that either of them were concerned about "knockdown power."

    In his biography for which he was interviewed, Wyatt Earp states that he witnessed Wild Bill put all five shots of one of his brace of Navy Colts inside an "O" on a shop store some 50 to 75yds distant when asked how good he really was. Though the biography was written by an author well - known for his dime novels, it is also well known that Wild Bill practiced daily, firing at targets of opportunity then cleaning his weapons before reloading them for another day's duty.

    And how about backup guns?

    Check out the 1848 5 (meaning 4) shot Baby Dragoon. It is in .31 caliber. It was considered acceptable, as were derringers.

    This all puts the caliber wars into perspective, doesn't it?

    I think I will keep my 15 shot 9mm with two spare magazines and feel secure. ;)

    Josh <><

    All images copyright Uberti Firearms and are hyperlinked from their site.


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    Josh - good resum&#233; of the evolution of the old guns - so far tho sadly the pics ain't showing. I wonder if Uberti has a block on hot links?

    I am not the best historian at all but follwoing the descriptions you gave, I am wondering when the .45 Colt comes along - I forget my dates. That once in use seemed to become the de facto revo of choice, plus too of course the same cartridge in levers.
    Chris - P95
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    Senior Member Array Joshua M. Smith's Avatar
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    P95...

    It's worked on every other forum... hopefully the "edit" doesn't time out before I can figure out the problem.

    Josh <><

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    Odd then - I did look into your post and all links looked just fine re content and tags. I also tried a ''show picture'' on one and it still went to darned red ''x''!

    If you need to edit there is plenty of time - if a problem just holler.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I took a quick peek on Uberti site and couldn't actually find any pics with URLs/filenames that matched yours. Possibly didn't dig very deep.
    Chris - P95
    NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.

    "To own a gun and assume that you are armed
    is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."


    http://www.rkba-2a.com/ - a portal for 2A links, articles and some videos.

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    Senior Member Array Joshua M. Smith's Avatar
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    Ok, that's a bit better. Uberti changed their website and pic locations.

    I don't feel the new pics are as good but they work.

    Josh <><

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    Distinguished Member Array jarhead79's Avatar
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    I see the guns. Maybe you got them fixed.
    www.ubgholsters.com short wait times. Use 'defensivecarry' as a coupon code for a discount to your order.

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    Great post, Joshua! Informative and interesting
    "I surrounded 'em"- Alvin York

    "They're ain't many troubles that a man can't fix with seven hundred dollars and a thirty ought six"- Jeff Cooper

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    Good job Josh - that was it then - old pics not available.

    Anyways these pics do help flesh out your post very nicely - thx for that.
    Chris - P95
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    "To own a gun and assume that you are armed
    is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."


    http://www.rkba-2a.com/ - a portal for 2A links, articles and some videos.

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    VIP Member Array Redneck Repairs's Avatar
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    Great info thanks

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    Senior Member Array BlueLion's Avatar
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    Josh, I agree carry what you feel good with and practice and you should be fine.
    Listen, Think and React.....Nuff Said.....

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    Senior Member Array TonyW's Avatar
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    Nice article and the pics definitely help. Thanks!
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    VIP Member Array sixgun's Avatar
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    Definatly an interesting piece on the old caliber debate. Thanks for posting the article. Have a great day sixgun:

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    True or False?

    Seem to recall reading somewhere that the .44 Walker was the most powerful hangun until the 357Magnum came along?

  14. #14
    Senior Member Array Joshua M. Smith's Avatar
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    Hi Scratchy,

    I really don't know... but it would be most interesting to look into. I think that the .45 Colt would have been more powerful however. Original loading was 250gr@ ~1000fps, later reduced for the military to 800fps or so.

    Josh <><

  15. #15
    OD*
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    Hmm, I've been into Colt's for some little time now and a past member of the Colt Collector's Association, I've never heard of a .40 cal Patterson. I have heard of them in .28, .31, .34, and .36 caliber.
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

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