Old West Firearm question

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TeeDee

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Nov 6, 2008
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Just watching " 3:10 to Yuma" on Netflix

So an Old West period movie.

My question is more specific to the energy of the Firearm rounds had back in this day?

Modern day firearm rounds have fungible predictable 'power' or energy released that can obviously be measured with modern technology and the loading of each round is a known quantity.


So 9 mm Parabellum , a fairly ubiquitous round has an energy output of 567 to 676 Joules.






So does anyone know what a typical energy / joule output would be of revolver round back in the days of the Wild West?

I'm assuming the quality and refinement of the gunpowder was variable and due to tooling manufacture margins and tolerances within the handgun themselves were not as accurate meaning less energy transmitted.



So anyone have any knowledge on this?
 
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Mowmow

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Jul 6, 2016
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I don't know about the west but you can bet its a bit all over the place. I do know ammo used in the first and even the second world wars was very sub par compared to modern day ammunition.
The 9mm parabellum for example that the germans used in their pistols and mp40s.
Im sure ive seen a lot of people comparing that to modern day 9mm. Might be worth starting there for a rough idea?

Old ammo was also very corrosive!

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TeeDee

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The 9mm parabellum for example that the germans used in their pistols and mp40s.
Im sure ive seen a lot of people comparing that to modern day 9mm. Might be worth starting there for a rough idea?

Old ammo was also very corrosive!

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I get what you are saying but even by those standards mass production and large scale industrialization were in play.

I'm wondering if many of the gunshot wounds in the Old west that were not at very close quarters were more detrimental due to dangers of wound infection and obviously organ damage , ( lack of medical assistance ) if surviving the gun fight.
 
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Mowmow

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Sounds like a good rabbit hole to dive into tonight and do some reading. I like this sort of stuff, thanks mate

Moved in with a friend whos got a games console and red dead redemption 2.
Ive not played games since being a teenager but been getting into it on my days off when i dont have much to do.
Its a wild west shooter with slight roleplaying and survival and hunting elements. Quite fun!
Go around breaking in horses and fighting bears. Stalking small game, bar fights, gang shootouts, train robberies, all that good stuff.

Its becoming a bit of a bad habit!


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TLM

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Nov 16, 2019
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The effects of a bullet are a fairly complicated function of several things: speed and following energy and momentum are the easiest to measure and calculate. The effects of bullet construction are not nearly as clear cut. As black powder did not easily produce high velocities period gun compensated with higher caliber heavier bullets that resulted to higher momentum instead of energy.
 

TeeDee

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Nov 6, 2008
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Sounds like a good rabbit hole to dive into tonight and do some reading. I like this sort of stuff, thanks mate

Moved in with a friend whos got a games console and red dead redemption 2.
Ive not played games since being a teenager but been getting into it on my days off when i dont have much to do.
Its a wild west shooter with slight roleplaying and survival and hunting elements. Quite fun!
Go around breaking in horses and fighting bears. Stalking small game, bar fights, gang shootouts, train robberies, all that good stuff.

Its becoming a bit of a bad habit!


Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

Lol!!
I also have RDR and have put off playing it as I can see what a time blackhole it will be.!!

I have a Marlin 1894 chambered in .38//357 mag and its an impressive shooter - with modern rounds.

When you see the old wild west stuff and its pre dual action revolvers where they are fanning the cocking handle with their other hand I wonder how much Oomph!! was actually being emitted.

Hollywood is never a good judge of reality but the question arose in my head due to the Peter Fonda character in 3:10 gets shot at very close range in the gut - and lives. Now , not reality but I wonder exactly how much energy was being produced and if its increased from days of the flintlock days.
 

TeeDee

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The effects of a bullet are a fairly complicated function of several things: speed and following energy and momentum are the easiest to measure and calculate. The effects of bullet construction are not nearly as clear cut. As black powder did not easily produce high velocities period gun compensated with higher caliber heavier bullets that resulted to higher momentum instead of energy.
Yes , we know that.
 

Laurentius

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 13, 2009
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There is a lot of information on Youtube regarding this sort of thing from shooters of old weapons, everything you want to know is out there somewhere including the effect of musket balls on French cuirasseurs or modern rounds on medieval armour, because someone somewhere has done it.
 

santaman2000

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Jan 15, 2011
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Right now I’m looking over the loading data in my reloaders’ manual, an older one put out by Speer (1979) Picking a typical caliber from the old West, the 45LC, yields the most useful comparisons for a reason I’ll mention further on.

It doesn’t give the energy itself but you can take the data (bullet weight and muzzle velocity) and compute the energy yourself.

The first load is with a simple 141 grain round ball. There re 8 different powder loadings for it with 8 different powders’ they vary in muzzle velocity from 544fps to 632fps with most of them falling in the mid 500s.

The second loading is with a 200 grain semi-wad cutter. There are 11 loadings for unit varying in muzzle velocity from 804FPS to 908fps with most of them falling in the 840s.

The third load is for a 250 grain semi-wad cutter with 10 different powder loadings varying from in muzzle velocity from 769fps to 837fps With a fairly even spread.

The fourth load is for a 200 grain hollow point with 11 different powder loadings with muzzle velocities varying from 863fps to 976fps with a fairly even spread.

The fifth load is for a 225 grain hollow point with 11 different powder loadings and muzzle velocities varying from 781fps to 941fps with a fairly even spread.

The sixth and final load is for a 260 grain hollow point 10 different powder loadings with muzzle velocities varying from 755fps to 851fps: again, with a fairly even spread fro lowest to highest.

Yes these loadings are using modern components but the important thing to remember is that the book was published with safety in mind; meaning that the loads they publish will not exceed pressures considered in guns in general public ownership. Since there are a great many old west Colt 45s still in general circulation (indeed Colt still manufactures and sells the original 1860s model) that were originally designed for black powder it’s reasonable to assume these loads aren’t very much more powerful than the originals.
 

TeeDee

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Right now I’m looking over the loading data in my reloaders’ manual, an older one put out by Speer (1979) Picking a typical caliber from the old West, the 45LC, yields the most useful comparisons for a reason I’ll mention further on.

It doesn’t give the energy itself but you can take the data (bullet weight and muzzle velocity) and compute the energy yourself.

The first load is with a simple 141 grain round ball. There re 8 different powder loadings for it with 8 different powders’ they vary in muzzle velocity from 544fps to 632fps with most of them falling in the mid 500s.

The second loading is with a 200 grain semi-wad cutter. There are 11 loadings for unit varying in muzzle velocity from 804FPS to 908fps with most of them falling in the 840s.

The third load is for a 250 grain semi-wad cutter with 10 different powder loadings varying from in muzzle velocity from 769fps to 837fps With a fairly even spread.

The fourth load is for a 200 grain hollow point with 11 different powder loadings with muzzle velocities varying from 863fps to 976fps with a fairly even spread.

The fifth load is for a 225 grain hollow point with 11 different powder loadings and muzzle velocities varying from 781fps to 941fps with a fairly even spread.

The sixth and final load is for a 260 grain hollow point 10 different powder loadings with muzzle velocities varying from 755fps to 851fps: again, with a fairly even spread fro lowest to highest.

Yes these loadings are using modern components but the important thing to remember is that the book was published with safety in mind; meaning that the loads they publish will not exceed pressures considered in guns in general public ownership. Since there are a great many old west Colt 45s still in general circulation (indeed Colt still manufactures and sells the original 1860s model) that were originally designed for black powder it’s reasonable to assume these loads aren’t very much more powerful than the originals.


Thank you Santaman. Appreciated.
 

MartiniDave

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Aug 29, 2003
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I seem to remember reading a comparison of old west "muzzle loading" revolvers, what most shooters refer to today as cap & ball. A .44 Colt Dragoon came out about the same muzzle energy as a .38 Special +P. Having fired all sorts of these back in my pistol shooting days, I wouldn't doubt their effectiveness.

Dave
 

abilou

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Jan 5, 2010
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Projectile design has a lot to do with results. Lead is fairly crude in terms of expansion depending on how hard or soft it is. ( look up Stephen Waldorf Shooting) At close range jacketed projectile may pass through the intended target and if low velocity may not cause much cavitation resulting in tissue damage. Hit bone and deflection is an issue or with high velocity the bone becomes lots of new projectiles!. I think outcomes are non predictable, but you could easily survive a chest shot that does not compromise the circulatory system if the trauma care is swift but a 45 lead bullet in the abdomen will probable cause you lots of infection.
Once the projectile has left the barrel you cannot really be sure!
 
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Athos

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Mar 12, 2021
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I have a .44 Uberti Walker, next time I’m down the range I’ll fire a few rounds through the LabRadar and see what readings I get out of her.

I’ve read that with 60gr of powder it’s similar in performance to a .357 Mag from a 4” barrel. Recoil on the Walker is more gentle than on my .357 Buntline, but she’s a big ol’ girl. Definitely merits a comparison to see what muzzle velocity I can get.
 
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TeeDee

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I have a .44 Uberti Walker, next time I’m down the range I’ll fire a few rounds through the LabRadar and see what readings I get out of her.

I’ve read that with 60gr of powder it’s similar in performance to a .357 Mag from a 4” barrel. Recoil on the Walker is more gentle than on my .357 Buntline, but she’s a big ol’ girl. Definitely merits a comparison to see what muzzle velocity I can get.

How much margin of reduction do you think it would be fair to consider for ammunition made NOW as opposed to ammunition made THEN? I'm thinking about the purity of the gunpowder , how well each round was assembled etc.

Thanks for reading - will be interesting to see what the objective results are.
 

Athos

Full Member
Mar 12, 2021
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Fag packet maths comparing black powder to modern .357 Mag... I’m loading 60gr of a modern black powder to get performance that can be achieved with less than 10gr of a modern gunpowder. By the nature of their construction, a modern cartridge is far more efficient than cap and ball. But it gives an indication of the quantities needed to achieve similar performance.

I think more than anything else the limiting factor in loading ammunition was the strength of the action of the rifle/pistol. Modern metallurgy is better, so actions can handle greater pressure.
 
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the famous Colt "peacemaker" was available for many different cartridges. one of them was the 44-40, which has also been used in the Winchester 1873 model.iirc both Colt and Smith& Wesson both produced handguns for the 44-40 cartridge as most folks would buy a rifle first and a revolver later which meant having to buy only one type of ammo for both...

the Colt 1911 was chambered for .45ACP as the .38 long colt didn't have enough stopping power against local guerrillas during the Moro rebellion (slightly after the old wild West but the .38 long colt was already in existence during that period)
 
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TeeDee

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the famous Colt "peacemaker" was available for many different cartridges. one of them was the 44-40, which has also been used in the Winchester 1873 model.iirc both Colt and Smith& Wesson both produced handguns for the 44-40 as most folks would buy a rifle first and a revolver later which meant having to buy only one type of ammo for both...


And ?? Do you know how this relates to muzzle energy ?
 
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santaman2000

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means you had a sidearm available in a rifle calibre
the 44-40 seems to have been pretty popular as a deer hunting cartridge; Google tells me muzzle velocity of 379 m/s and 933J are possible....(which is more than a 9mm parabellum)
Actually it was the opposite: you had a rifle available in a sidearm caliber. Still a,popular concept today as there are many rifles chambered for 44Magnum, 9mm, 357/38, etc. Likewise those calibers are quite popular for deer hunting with both the rifle or the handgun. At least all of them except the 9mm.
 

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