Gone Outdoors

How to Load Old Navy Black Powder

by Chris Stevenson

The old Colt Navy black powder revolver came into production in 1851 and lasted until 1873. As many as 250,000 Navy models were produced, with most of them manufactured in Hartford, Connecticut, and the remainder produced in England. Following its release, the 1851 Colt became the most popular revolver made and fired. The Colt Navy revolver came in .36- and .44-caliber ball shot, and used black powder. Loading a Colt Navy revolver requires some attention to detail and precision, as well as preparation and an attitude toward safety.

1. Check your firearm for functionality. Ensure that your Colt Navy firearm is in good enough condition for firing, with no loose or missing parts, or any residual material in the barrel. Make sure it is properly lubricated. Pull the hammer back in the half-cock position -- the safety mode. Place one No. 11 percussion cap on a cylinder nipple. Shred some copy paper up into small pieces and scatter it on the ground.

2. Point the barrel down at the paper, bring the hammer back to full cock and pull the trigger. This cap-fire-only mode will blow out any residual oil or grease from the barrel, and also verify that enough pressure has left the barrel to disturb the paper. Use a ramrod and soft dry patch from a gun-cleaning kit to swab the barrel clean.

3. Bring the hammer to the half-cock position again. Point the barrel skyward. Use your measuring tube to pour the precise amount of black powder into each cylinder, one at a time. Refer to you black powder chart for the proper type and quantity of grains. For instance, the .36-caliber revolver will require 15 to 22 grains of FFFg powder, while the .44-caliber revolver will require 20 to 30 grains of FFFg powder. Press the powder into each chamber with the loading lever on the firearm.

4. Place the correct caliber ball on the cylinder head, and use the loading lever to press it down into the cylinder bore until the ball compacts against the powder. The .36-caliber ball measures precisely 0.375 inches, and the .44-caliber ball measures 0.451 inches. A small sliver of lead should shave off as you press each ball into the cylinder -- this is normal and denotes the correct ball ammunition.

5. Fill the remaining top part of the cylinders, about one-eighth inch, with either vegetable oil or bullet lubricant. This will individually seal off each cylinder, avoiding a chain fire that could ignite all the cylinders at once. Make sure the hammer rests on half cock, then point the revolver toward the ground at a slight angle away from you. Place a percussion cap on each of the cylinder nipples, making certain they properly seat.

6. Raise the revolver at the intended target and bring the hammer back to full cock. Fire at will.

Items you will need
  • Percussion caps (No. 11)
  • Copy paper
  • Black powder loading chart
  • Gun cleaning kit
  • Black powder (FFFg-type)
  • Ball ammunition
  • Vegetable oil (optional)
  • Bullet grease

Warnings

  • Never bring the hammer back to full cock unless you intend to immediately fire the weapon. If you wish to postpone firing a loaded weapon, bring the hammer pin in between two fire caps and let it rest there. Or, load only five cylinder chambers and let the hammer pin rest on the empty chamber.
  • Do not load the firearm in proximity to combustible materials or heat sources.

About the Author

Chris Stevenson has been writing since 1988. His automotive vocation has spanned more than 35 years and he authored the auto repair manual "Auto Repair Shams and Scams" in 1990. Stevenson holds a P.D.S Toyota certificate, ASE brake certification, Clean Air Act certification and a California smog license.

Photo Credits

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