Loading Revolver Cylinders off the Gun

The most common reason to load cylinders off of the gun is because Johnson & Dow bullet from Eras Gone Bullets does not fit many popular revolvers.

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One of the things I really rail about when it comes to writing about guns are the dogmas that seemingly came from nowhere. Cylinder loading devices are one of those things. Nearly everyone in the black powder world at least has one, but I question whether they are used very much.

The subject of my current condemnation is the cylinder loader from powderinc.com. I had resisted buying one for years, largely because of the price. But for this new Black Powder Project, I figured it would be a nice interlude . I generally buy my powder in bulk from Powder Inc. And they have been around forever. So I figured it was a good product that many of you would like to find out about.

And it is a good product, that’s the funny thing. You could not ask for it to be better built, made of solid stainless steel, with inserts for all the common revolver calibers and a robust linkage at the top, connected to a solid ball at the end.

I had intended to review this product from Powder Inc. But it just didn’t work.

The problem is, it doesn’t work at all on what I would say are the most common reason to need one of these things in the first place, the Johnson & Dow bullet from Eras Gone bullet molds. That mold just became available again, so this would be a great time to buy one and gear up for shooting it.

Turns you that you should save your money.

I developed my own method for loading revolver cylinders off the gun back in the 90s. I was an early member of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS#19811), and before they went nuts with all of their nanny rules, they allowed you to shoot Paterson Colts, which are five shot guns.

Since I’m one of those guys who never shuts up, and can talk and talk and talk between stages, I often found myself due to visit the loading table in two minutes, with no guns loaded. So I had to rush to load my guns.

Well the Paterson has a separate loading lever. It is not mounted on the gun. So you have to take the gun apart, then painstakingly line up the lever with each cylinder, using the cylinder pin for leverage.

So to make a short story long, I figured out that I could just tap the balls in with a hammer, then use a brass pin to seat them down in the chamber, and that no loading lever was ever needed.

mneSo i decided to share with you my method from shooting Patersons in the early days of SASS. Works great.

The key is to be gentle. Just ring the bullet as it swages into the chamber. Remove the lead ring, and use a thin brass rod or punch for the rest. Brass won’t scratch your guns.

With the Johnson & Dow, which absolutely does not fit the 1851 Navy at all, and that does not clear the loading lever on all modern Pietta 58 Remmies, this is the most efficient way to use the cool and historically correct conical.

I have some new bullet projects that are more fitting for defense loads than the historic bullets. And they fit more guns. But these J&D molds are very reasonable, and they make great bullets. So I would grab one if you are a BP revolver enthusiast already, or just getting into this awesome and extremely rich corner of the shooting world.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Paul August 23, 2021, 2:56 pm

    You should talk about proper black powder storage in the next installment.

  • Todd August 23, 2021, 2:55 pm

    Seems like a shame to go through the issue and expense to provide one’s self with the Johnson & Dow bullet and then queer the single greatest feature (the tip) by forcing it into a size which is not directly compatible.

    This *after* photos of the tips are a horror.

    Seems the cylinder should be reamed to a dedicated diameter or the bullets should be sized to the chambers to save the noses.

    I use one of the cheap presses available everywhere.

    I really only use it when loading multiple cylinders for the same gun or in a relaxation mode to not have to fumble with the revolvers. Also, for teaching the principals of BP loading to newcomers.

    I turn separate pieces for particular projectiles to spare deforming them when necessary.


    • Paul Helinski August 23, 2021, 7:12 pm

      The nose has nothing to do with the positives of it. Accuracy in a bullet comes from the base, not the nose. The most accurate, and devastating bullets of that caliber range are completely flat wadcutters.

    • Ej harbet August 30, 2021, 9:07 pm

      You win me at the last 3 lines.
      Use a punch that fits the nose and doesn’t booger it up
      I do this for seating does and hp bullets. You need a good machinist to turn the puch on a metal lathe but it’s worth it if you find a favorite projectile

  • Paul August 23, 2021, 2:55 pm

    You should write an article about proper black powder storage, or at least touch on it in the next installment.

  • mike August 23, 2021, 9:35 am

    It is always interesting/ funny to see the contortions some reviewers go through to not say anything bad about a POS product. I just can’t remember when I last heard someone say in a review not to buy the widget thing-a-ma-bob, good job Paul.

    • Mike V August 27, 2021, 8:30 am

      Remember the review Clay did on the Remington pistol?

  • Frank S. August 23, 2021, 7:19 am

    I’m not a BP revolver shooter… not yet anyway. It seems unfair to criticize the loading device from Powder Inc. for not working well with a bullet that “just became available again”. It apparently works well with commonly available bullets – the most popular being round ball ammo (for revolvers). I’m assuming it would be good for the common round nose conical bullets as well. The Eras Gone By bullets are pointed — I’m assuming that’s why the loader doesn’t work with them…

    • Paul Helinski August 23, 2021, 9:38 am

      Yea that’s the plague we face of internet commentators with no experience whatsoever just blabbering whatever comes to mind. The video explains that it works on roundballs, but that you don’t need it for roundballs. It has nothing to do with being pointy. They have a .460 ring at their widest point, which is at least .006 beyond the cylinder diameter, usually more. It is a lot of lead to shave.

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