Ballistics of the 44 Remington 1858 New Model Army with Conicals and Roundballs

By far the most usable cap and ball revolver for self defense is the Remington New Model Army. I used this stainless Pietta for my tests. I am shooting premade paper cartridges created with the paper cartridge forming kit at cartridgekits.com, which is the primary sponsor of this Black Powder Project.

It is one thing to look at black powder firearms through the eyes of history, but it is entirely another to look at them as valid self defense weapons that require no FFL transfer.

My approach has always been the latter. Black powder pistols are nothing to be trifled with, and they meet or exceed many common pistol calibers when it comes to actual muzzle kinetic energy.

The problem is, as nearly always is the case these days, INTERNET MISINFORMATION. Bootlicking safety nannies share their dumbass advice far too easily online, and it is nothing short of incorrect and stupid. When you copy Civil War loads, regrettably you end up with little more than lame mouse farts. It doesn’t have to be that way.

So to start, I am not giving you loading advice for these guns. I am merely sharing my experience, and I will explain that my experience I feel reflects the reality of these guns. Metallurgy has come a long way since 1858. I do not feel that the cylinders of any modern cap and ball revolver will be ill affected by any black powder or BP substitute that fills up the cylinder. Therefore I fill them as close to the top as possible.

I never ever ever ever ever do anything like what are called “duplex” loads of a small amount of smokeless powder covered with black powder. And any nanny story you hear of a guy they saw at the range blow his gun up most likely involved something like that.

As I showed in my article and video on the paper cartridge former kit at cartridgekits.com, my approach is to figure out a load that under full compression raises the bullet to the top of the chamber mouth.

For self defence, I personally always load my bullets to the top of the cylinder, or close to it. In this Pietta, that is about 30 grains for conicals, and 35 for roundballs. The measurements for all of the formers is found at the cartidgekits.com FAQ.

For this first article, I figured that I would start with the most common BP revolver caliber, 44, and the most easy to use BP revolver, the 1858 Remington New Model Army. The original Remmie has a long 8″ barrel, slightly longer than the Colts, and this gives you a hair more velocity, because more powder gets to burn inside the barrel before the bullet leaves. At some point I will compare the different length barrels and how they increase and decrease velocity. For this one, we stick with the original length.

Calculating Ballistics

Now I need to stop a bit and explain ballistic calculations, for those who are new to all of this stuff.

We measure the speed of a bullet generally in “feet per second” using a device known as a chronograph. These days you can get a cheap chrono on Amazon or AliExpress that works just as well as the name brand ones. The standard machine clocks the shadow of the bullet as it passes over sensors, and they may or may not need things called skyscreens to diffuse the sunlight.

I absolutely loath standard chronographs, so I invested in the orange contraption you see in the videos. It is call a Labradar, and it goes for north of $500. Theoretically the Labradar is the ultimate chrono, but the execution is so poor that I cannot recommend it. I have successfully resisted smashing it to pieces, so at some point I will most liklely make a video of the quirks I have had to overcome with its pisspoor engineering and usability.

Bullets we measure in “grains.” There are 7,000 grains in a pound, so it is a small measurement that makes it easy to delineate between bullets of similar design.

We measure energy for firearms in “foot pounds,” and there are lots of online calculators (like this one and this one) to easily figure out a comparative foot pounds for the different rounds that we shoot.

The only caveat is in the calculation, you square the velocity, so a lighter faster bullet tends to reflect a disproportionately high number. The actual stopping power of a round or a bullet or a cartridge or a BP revolver is outside of the purview of what I am covering here right now. Foot pounds gives us an apples to apples with popular cartridges using a similar bullet weight.

The formula used by most online calculators is to multiply the weight of the bullet (in grains) the velocity (in feet per second), squared (times itself), then multiply that times 0.000002218.

Ballistics of the Johnson & Dow Bullet

I wanted to start this first of my ballistics articles with the most common conical out there. It is the Eras Gone Bullets cast bullet that replicates the Civil War Johnson & Dow design. It drops at about 220 grains out of pure lead, or lead with a tiny bit of tin as I’ve explained in my recent article on casting.

With FFFG Goex black powder, This bullet travels at about 850 feet per second with a mostly full cylinder. This equates to about 30 grains. Technically you can get a little more, but that is as far as my experimentation has gone with my guns, using the dipper for the 44 paper cartirdge at cartridgekits.com. As I explained in my video before, that’s about the measure of the dipper when you can just see the edges of it, and it is not overflowed at all.

My baseline is always going to be FFFG Goex real black powder. The average velocity of the Johnson & Dow bullet is 850 fps.

If you were making cartridges for the most accurate loads, you would weigh your charges to match. Historically black powder is measured in volumetric grains, and there is much more room for inconsistency there, but there is no rule that you can’t weigh black powder. Usually your most accurate load is going to mouse fart. These are self defense loads.

850 feet per second equates to 353 foot pounds of kinetic energy. The closest easy comparison to that number is the venerable 45ACP. The classic bullet is a 230 grain round nose jacket bullet, and the standard velocity is generally the same, at 850 feet per second. That equates to 369 foot pounds of energy.

When you switch the powder to Hodgdon Triple Se7en, using the same volumetric measurement, the velocity jumps to 900 to 950 feet per second. At 950, the same bullet jumps to 441 foot pounds, which is comparable to the nastiest of the same bullet in a .45ACP +P.

Ballistics of Roundballs

By far most people shoot roundballs more than anything else in these guns, and I had some full snot roundball cartridges with me, so I decided to add them on. The only powder I had was FFFG Goex, so understand that Triple Se7en would be even more brutal based on the tests with the J&D bullet.

The key to my approach to roundballs is to use a longer paper cartridge. In my paper cartridge video I go over how to do this. About 35 grains brings the ball right to the top of the cartridge, and produces impressive velocity.

My average with a .454 roundball, which weighs about 145 grains, was just over 1,000 feet per second, so for calculations I’ll use the flat thousand. The equates to 322 foot pounds.

Compare that to the .38 Special, which was carried by our entire nation’s law enforcement for at least two generations.

The most snotty +P .38 Special in a 4″ barreled revolver is a light bullet, 125 grains, at 1050 feet per second. That equals 306 foot pounds.

There are also some good correlations in the 9mm data. There is a 147 grain bullet at 1,000 fps, yielding 326 foot pounds.

Trade in that Glock Dammit!

Now I’m not going to tell you that a Civil War era cap and ball revolver is as an effective weapon as a modern hi cap semi auto, or even a Ruger Security Six. The guns tend to break unexpectedly, caps can get caught in the action, bullets can shift forward and catch on the cylinder, and in general you will experience at least one problem every time you take them out to shoot.

Some of those issues I will teach you to mitigate as this Black Powder Project progresses. And certainly the paper cartridge system makes things head and shoulders easier, quicker and more consistent. But this is 19th century technology and should be thought of and treated as nothing but.

My intention is to share with you the extremely effective ballistics of these NO FFL guns. Unless things radically change, this is the end of the Republic we are facing. And you can bet that this will result in an end to the 2nd Amendment. The 1st is already long gone.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Giv Me Freedom June 18, 2021, 10:24 am

    Author stated this: “Unless things radically change, this is the end of the Republic we are facing. And you can bet that this will result in an end to the 2nd Amendment. The 1st is already long gone.”

    ——————————————————

    I agree that the rot of our liberties has been exposed but the 1st Amendment is not gone yet in this nation. We still have much of the 1st Amendment though American Marxists are attacking it viciously and continuously.

    The 2nd Amendment has mostly been taken away from the subjects of California, New Jersey and other States. Thankfully about thirty-eight States presently still recognize the 2nd Amendment.

  • Phil Derr June 14, 2021, 5:11 pm

    I totally agree that a BP revolver can do the job. I have most of the Civil war era. But….there is something going on here in the good ole US of A. There are absolutely no percussion caps available. There are youtube sites that show how to make percussion caps. Making your own is not for me. So…until Remington, etc. start producing PC’s again, well, BP shooters will need a backup with center fire autos or wheel guns. My opinion on the very best BP pistol is by far the Ruger Old Army. It is indeed the swiss watch of BP revolvers. I worry the PC issue will not be resolved for a very long time. Sad isn’t it?

    • Paul Helinski June 14, 2021, 7:54 pm

      This is not true at all. Caps have been available at all the regular retailers, mostly RWS which is the best of them. We also did an article and video on making your own two weeks ago and it is easy and works great.

      • Steve in Detroit June 26, 2021, 12:19 pm

        Name a retailer that has #11 percussion caps and black powder in stock, forget about in my area Detroit MI, on the web. There are shortages just like regular ammo. If they can take away bullets & powder, the guns are just clubs.

  • D. GIBBS June 14, 2021, 2:27 pm

    Nothin wrong with the 1858 for defense. The experts who think otherwise have never been shot with anything, let alone soft hot lead. One best not underestimate how deadly a round ball can be. I’ve taken several whitetail and all types of critters with an 8″ 1858. One thing I know is that if it’ll stop a buck, it’ll stop a man. We just ain’t that tough. I have a box full of various brands and models, but Pietta stainless target inox is the one I keep in reachin distance. I carry it in the cooler months when attire can keep it from sticking out.
    Gun commies and lefties get the vapors at the mere sight of ‘ole Silver. I stopped using goex long ago. 777 has been my go to after realizing pyrodex is just as nasty as BP. I do enjoy the smell of a fresh used boom stick. However, I like my better half a little more. As great as the stock 1858 is, the cartridge conversion makes it even more handy. I used to carry a spare loaded cylinder on my belt capped with beeswax. Now I carry 45 colt shells handloaded with 777 and flatnosed 255’s. Not quite as fast to reload, but way cleaner and more compact. Anyone who decides on carrying a bp wheel gun should consider this option.
    Great article btw. I’m happy to see someone writing about these old shootin irons.

  • Robert Worthington June 14, 2021, 1:57 pm

    My Ubert .44 Remington 1858 is very accurate with a 22 grain load of 3f Goex under a .454 round ball, and has won its share of medals on the N-SSA skirmish line. Yeah, mouse farts, but tack driving mouse farts. I have the .45 Colt conversion cylinder, and find the same load in centerfire cartridge form works as well. Roundball is more accurate than conical. I haven’t put it through a chronograph, but I only kill clay pigeons and punch paper with it. The accuracy holds up at 50 yards, haven’t tried anything longer.
    One of our members shoots a Walker fully loaded, makes the whole firing line reverberate when it goes off, don’t know how accurate he is…

  • survivro50 June 14, 2021, 12:08 pm

    Nice Pistol. Glad someone took up the call.

    Still have a BOOT PRINT from when I didn’t pick up a nearly new stainless Ruger 44 Black Powder 1860 New Army when I had the chance…

    Hey RUGER… any chance ???

  • David Chamberlain June 14, 2021, 11:35 am

    Been shooting a 1858 for years. The common misconceptions on the net about the effectiveness of these pistols is laughable.
    Power is now than enough for man, and accuracy with some practice is minute of running rabbit.
    As for reliability every single issue can be negated with some prep work.
    I use a tiny bit of melted wax over the ball and fingernail polish on the nipple rim before adding the cap.
    Doing so keeps the balls from moving, keeps the caps from jamming the action and seals the pistol well enough that it can be soaked 30min in a bucket of water and still fire all 6 rounds.
    Don’t underestimate these old revolvers just takes some practice and experimenting to have a very effective firearm.

  • Edward M Pate June 14, 2021, 11:33 am

    Wish he had also tested a Walker Colt 44 caliber loaded full bore. If I recall you are up there and maybe above 357 Magnum power with it.

    • Paul Helinski June 14, 2021, 4:41 pm

      Don’t worry we will be getting to the Dragoon and Walker loads.

  • Robert D Floyd June 14, 2021, 10:32 am

    Well that was well stated…NOT! Except for the caps, everything that makes these weapons work can be made at home. If you move over to flintlock, and live in an area that has flint laying around, you do not need any store for resupply, except possibly two ingredients for the powder, potassium nitrate and sulphur. And potassium nitrate can be made at home and sulphur deposits can be found in nature. So my fine non Einstein friend, why don’t you name off a few on you alternative self defense list, lol. The shot that was heard around the world was not done with an AR, it was done with a single shot flintlock rifle.

    • Paul Helinski June 14, 2021, 11:11 am

      Except that it is thee who has thy head firmly implanted in said genius’s ass. We covered flintlocks in this column only a few short weeks ago, and if you click on the Black Powder Project tag, you will see it.

    • Edward M Pate June 14, 2021, 11:56 am

      Hey Captain Kirk shot the Gorn captain with him homemade cannon that way! LOL

  • Anna June 14, 2021, 10:00 am

    I see no problem using a BP pistol for self defense IF that is all that is available. Each person must assess their threat level daily. If yours is high enough to require a hi cap and four mags then it might be a good idea to consider moving. As for me a couple of 1873Colts or a BP revolver just seems natural.

  • Kane June 14, 2021, 8:48 am

    The articles and videos on BP arms are good but I wish gun stores that offer firearm classes would start including various levels of BP instruction.

  • OLTRAILRDR June 14, 2021, 7:47 am

    I have shot these black powder revolvers extensively. You get what you pay for. Quality revolvers are extremely reliable; the cheapos…not so much. The .44s with long barrels are wickedly efficient with a round ball that flattens to +.75 calibler on impact on anything hard. The .36s are easy to shoot. The .31s are like a .22 rimfire, but limited in range. Too bad Ruger dropped the Old Army…what a gun!

    • Kane June 14, 2021, 8:56 am

      I came across the Ruger Old Army at the gun show years ago and bought it, the dealer said he had for sale for many years. I took it to an outdoor range to load and shoot but in the process damaged the loading lever. I guess I did NOT turn a screw correctly. Ruger sent me a new lever even though I did NOT send the correct replacement cost. I have NOT tried since. I have many Italian manufactored BP guns but those are just for collecting.

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