Old West Firearm question

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Athos

Full Member
Mar 12, 2021
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East Sussex
Having a side arm and rifle of the same caliber, each has different muzzle velocities and performance, due to the length of the barrel.
A great example of this is the 38 special revolver and M1 carbine of WW2.

The M1 Carbine is chambered in .30 Carbine, not .38 Special. .30 Carbine is not a pistol calibre.

I think the OP is trying to find out about the differences in performance between old and modern cartridges. For example, how an early .45LC round compares to a modern .45LC round.
 

TeeDee

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Nov 6, 2008
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The M1 Carbine is chambered in .30 Carbine, not .38 Special. .30 Carbine is not a pistol calibre.

I think the OP is trying to find out about the differences in performance between old and modern cartridges. For example, how an early .45LC round compares to a modern .45LC round.

Thank You.

EXACTLY THIS.
 
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demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
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***, I've not seen the film so what rounds are we talking about in which guns?
Are we talking 50/90 Sharps buffalo rounds here or 44/40?

Pretty sure Google will throw up results about muzzle energies in foot pounds because...well... Americans.
 
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

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.
i stand corrected then...
my only personal experience with historic firearms was one shot from a .310 cavalry carbine belonging to a friend. in New Zealand i met a guy who had just picked up a beautiful old shotgun with Damascus barrels from the gunsmith but he told me he wasn't planning to use it as modern firearms produce higher pressure and would damage the barrels.
Ned Kelly's famous armour was bulletproof for the guns of his time but unfortunately that didn't help him, there's a "mythbusters" episode where they show that wild West guns weren't powerful enough to shoot through a hangman's noose --- i still wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one...
 
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TeeDee

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i stand corrected then...
my only personal experience with historic firearms was one shot from a .310 cavalry carbine belonging to a friend. in New Zealand i met a guy who had just picked up a beautiful old shotgun with Damascus barrels from the gunsmith but he told me he wasn't planning to use it as modern firearms produce higher pressure and would damage the barrels.
Ned Kelly's famous armour was bulletproof for the guns of his time but unfortunately that didn't help him, there's a "mythbusters" episode where they show that wild West guns weren't powerful enough to shoot through a hangman's noose --- i still wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one...

That would be an interesting watch.
 

fenix

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Jul 8, 2008
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Kent
i stand corrected then...
my only personal experience with historic firearms was one shot from a .310 cavalry carbine belonging to a friend. in New Zealand i met a guy who had just picked up a beautiful old shotgun with Damascus barrels from the gunsmith but he told me he wasn't planning to use it as modern firearms produce higher pressure and would damage the barrels.
Ned Kelly's famous armour was bulletproof for the guns of his time but unfortunately that didn't help him, there's a "mythbusters" episode where they show that wild West guns weren't powerful enough to shoot through a hangman's noose --- i still wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one...
2 of my shotguns are from the late 1800s, both have been reproofed for modern powders, although it is a risk. Blackpowder behaves differently to modern smokeless powders, and needs a very long barrel to extend the range.
I have shot alongside the MLAG (Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain) at Bisley, this was out at 1000 yards. Their competition groupings were as good as some of the modern rifle shooters, although the round did take a long time to get to the target.

The Whitworth (1860ish) is often said to be the first long range sniper rifle, targeted kills of high ranking officers were claimed at 800-1000 yards in the American civil war. There are quiet a few similarities between the Whitworth and modern rifles / calibres, including the move to a smaller / faster projectile, high spin rate, thats longer for stability and has boat tail (arguably).
There is some good info on it here.

and a good video, with some energy info.
the author has the round delivering 576 ft lb at 1300 yards! I think thats about the same as a 357 magnum at point blank. I think the main issue with a lot of these comparisons is that a blackpowder isn't great in handguns, the barrel is too short, but it can be extremely effective in rifles and carbines.

On the Ned Kelly armour front, some conjecture here that it would stop most modern pistol rounds, and possibly a lot of rifle calibres. But not anything designed to go through body armour.
 
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British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
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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 quantities


So anyone have any knowledge on this?
I do to some extent and there is a timely video too. I shoot cap and ball muzzle loading revolvers. Specifically I shoot a Ruger Old Army in .45. My Old Army on full charge of 40 grains FFF black powder over a hand cast 140 grain ball will develop c. 560 joules at the muzzle. A 30 grain charge is more normal and more typical of older guns and develops 425 joules. This load, its accuracy and the damage it inflicted on its intended target is excellently illustrated in this video by Paul Harrell

Hope that helps
 
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santaman2000

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Regarding the 45LC I think my original post explained (more or less) that modern loadings for the caliber normally don’t exceed the power of the originals. Primarily because of the danger of those rounds being used in older guns (or modern replicas made to the same specs) To be completely honest the ammo manufacturers do care about the public’s safety to an extent, but their more pressing concern is being sued in the event a gun fails using their products.

That said it’s certainly possible to load your own much, much more powerful but the more powerful loads should only be used in beefier guns such as the Rugers and various others. Even the Speer reloading manual I referenced in my first post gives another set of loads and data in a separate section along with a disclaimer that those loads only be used in modern guns such as cited above.
 
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santaman2000

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@British Red, are you able to get true black powder easily and affordabley? I prefer it simply for the authenticity but it’s expensive to get here and difficult when compared to the modern substitutes (Pyrodex, et al)
 
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slowworm

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May 8, 2008
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There are a few extra hoops to jump through but black powder isn't hard or that costly to get hold of.

Going back to the original question. In a cap and ball revolver I wonder if they always used a max load? I tend to find 20gr works well at 25m, the ball will pass cleanly through 1" of wood so would smart a bit if it hit you. Even if old powders had less energy I'm sure a 30gr charge would be effective.

I also wonder if some of the powders had more energy? Nowadays we make stuff to be safe and consistent, have a long shelf life and perhaps to reduce fowling.
 

British Red

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@British Red, are you able to get true black powder easily and affordabley? I prefer it simply for the authenticity but it’s expensive to get here and difficult when compared to the modern substitutes (Prodex, et al)
You need licence for black powder here (general explosives licence) but if you are a shooter there's no real issue getting one. Not all firearms dealers carry it, but I've always been able to source the normal grades okay
 
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British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
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There are a few extra hoops to jump through but black powder isn't hard or that costly to get hold of.

Going back to the original question. In a cap and ball revolver I wonder if they always used a max load? I tend to find 20gr works well at 25m, the ball will pass cleanly through 1" of wood so would smart a bit if it hit you. Even if old powders had less energy I'm sure a 30gr charge would be effective.

I also wonder if some of the powders had more energy? Nowadays we make stuff to be safe and consistent, have a long shelf life and perhaps to reduce fowling.
A lot of the loads were relatively light compared to modern cartridges but, as the Paul Harrell video shows, 30 grains of 3F will pass a ball right through a torso so more seems fairly redundant. Weight for weight black powder gives much less energy than nitro. I equate a stout 40 grain load of BP to a decent 38sp. 6.4 grains of some nitro powders is a decent .357 magnum load. .303 British is an interesting load to study for powder interest as it started as BP, worked through basic cordite and evolved into modern nitro loads
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
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@British Red, yeah when I said it’s difficult here that was also in reference to fewer dealers carrying it anymore. I suspect due to the cost I mentioned when compared to the modern substitutes. Black powder is classified as an explosive and as such it has to be shipped under more costly “hazardous material” procedures. Whereas the other powders are classified as “solid propellants.”

@British Red and @slowworm thanks for the info.
 

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