Pale Horse Revelations #4: Weapons of the Old West - Colt Army Model 1860
Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations where we explore the historical elements of my debut novel "Behold a Pale Horse: The Legend of the Pale Rider Part I." As the title suggests, the focus of this entry will be one of the weapons featured in the novel. I chose this topic because weapons play such a large part in the story. Let's face it, you can't have a gunfighter story without the guns. In order to keep each entry relatively short, we'll be breaking this topic into several bite-size pieces over the next couple of weeks.
It seems only fitting that we start with the weapon featured most heavily in the story. That would, of course, be the Colt Army Model 1860. It is Garrison's primary weapon; he carries four of them on his person and another two in his saddle. It is also the weapon used by almost every adversary he encounters during the course of his adventures.
I imagine that at least some readers found themselves wondering why the protagonist carries so many weapons. The simple answer is for the sake of historical accuracy. I knew from the outset that Garrison would find himself in situations that would require more ammunition than two pistols would hold. Because these are cap and ball revolvers (we'll explore that in a bit), they are not easy to reload. In fact, it would be almost impossible to stop and reload in the middle of a gunfight. Thus, he would have to carry enough weapons to see him through most encounters.
As mentioned above, the Colt Army Model 1860 was a cap and ball style revolver. What does this mean. It means that it was nothing like the modern revolver that you may be more familiar with. It fired a 0.454-inch-diameter (11.5 mm) lead ball, propelled by a 30-grain charge of black powder. The powder was ignited by the hammer striking a copper percussion cap that contained a volatile charge of mercury or fulminate. As described near the end of the novel, these caps must be placed on a nipple located on the back side of each chamber on the cylinder.
I've already stated that reloading this weapon was a laborious process. Here's what was involved. This particular weapon had to be loaded from the front, or muzzle end. One first had to pour a measured amount of black powder into the chamber. They would then place a lead ball at the opening of the chamber and seat it by pressing it in with the loading lever located beneath the barrel. As you can imagine such a process simply wouldn't be feasible during a gun battle.
The process could be sped up by using premade paper cartridges. Here's an excerpt from the novel that describes how these cartridges are used:
"Garrison had a satchel slung over his neck and left shoulder. Inside, the satchel was divided into two sections. One was filled with paper cartridges for his Colt revolvers. Each cartridge contained a pre-measured load of black powder and a ball, wrapped in nitrated paper. Using these cartridges significantly reduced the time it took to reload. Even five pistols might not be enough to do what was needed without reloading, so Garrison had come prepared. With the cartridges, all he had to do was slip the cartridge into the front of the chamber and seat the ball with the loading lever ram, located right under the barrel. The last step was to place a cap on the nipple at the back end of the chamber. The second pocket in the satchel was filled with these caps. "
This was the primary revolver used by Union troops during the Civil War. Over 200,000 were produced between 1860 and 1873. With a muzzle velocity of 900 feet per second it certainly packed a punch. It was also accurate up to 75-100 yards. In addition to our legendary protagonist this was the weapon of choice for such historical figures as Frank and Jesse James, John Wesely Hardin, and Sam Bass.
That brings us to the end of this edition of Pale Horse Revelations. Check back next week when we look at some of the other weapons featured in "Behold a Pale Horse: The Legend of the Pale Rider Part I." Also, please be sure to like and subscribe.
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