Thursday, July 24, 2008

Colt Revolvers

Colt double action in 41 Long Colt

Shooting the 41 Long Colt
The 41 was brought out in 1877 for the Colt Lightening model and later introduced in the New Navy and Bisley models. It was brought out as a self defense round and with the relatively blunt 200 grain bullet it was considered adequate. Many old west characters liked it due to ease of carrying. It was said that Billy the Kid favored it. Just for the record there is a 41 Short Colt round which is a shortened version of the long with a lighter bullet. It is very obscure and was underpowered and would qualify as one of the 3 most useless cartridges in existence. I have tested the 41 short and it is pathetic. If you shoot someone with it you better be able to whip or out run them as it will only make them angry. The original load was black powder propelling an outside lubricated bullet at about 730 feet per second producing 230 lbs of energy. Later on they used a 386 diameter inside lubricated slug at about the same velocity. Because of varying dimensions it wasn’t accounted very accurate. However I have found in a solid gun with good ammo it shoots pretty decent. It did win the 1908 Palma match so I have to believe even then they knew how to wring out good accuracy. After about 1910 popularity started to wane giving way to the 38 special which was more accurate and versatile. In recoil the 41 feels similar to a full size 38 with the police load which means that it’s not hard on the hand. Like many of the double action revolvers of the period the trigger pull is a beast. In the single action mode it is serviceable. It has fixed sights as was common in the day. They are ok and close on with factory equivalent loads in both of the revolvers shot. If they are off for you it would be a good time to learn Kentucky windage.

41 Long Colt Ammo

There are some 41 Colts out there so it’s worth while to develop some load data. A few years ago brass was very hard to get. The only supplier was Bertram and unfortunately the brass was expensive and of poor quality. I had a lot of problems with it from no flash holes in the primer pockets to the rim coming off when attempting to prime it. Since the maker is in Australia it was hard to return it. The only other way to get cases was to size down a 41 magnum and cut its rim. Not only was that labor intensive but they weren’t the best cases either. Anyway happily Starline now sells quality brass at an affordable price. The bullets were a problem but a call to N.E Molds solved that. It is the 2 diameter bullet being 386 and 401 up front. Also Huntington Die sells a hollow base version which shoots fine. Both bullets shot to the same point of impact at 10 yards. At 15 they shot into a silver dollar size group which I don’t consider too bad for an old gun and shooter. Both bullets are soft which without a doubt contributed to the accuracy. Even at 75 yards I was able to hit the iron pig as long as I did my part. We noticed that the gun has a split at the rear of the barrel. Continued shooting didn’t hurt the gun or the accuracy. I also have a Colt Police Positive in 32-20 that also has a split. I guess they are getting old.

41 Short Colt Ammo

I worked up a few loads for it and here they are. They were chronographed 10 shots at 10 feet from the muzzle. A chrony was used for these tests. If you use these loads approach the max from below. There is nothing to be gained by using max type loads and will wear out the gun faster. Since I have no control of how this data is used I take no responsibility in its use.

4 X Unique 192 grain cast 630 mild
4.2 X Unique192 grain cast 639 accurate
4.2 X Unique197 grain 674 accurate
4.4 X Unique 192 grain 643 ok
4.4 X Unique 197 grain 662 accurate
4.6 X Unique 192 grain 730 near factory
14.5 X Pyrodex 192 grain cast 676 accurate
3.8 X 231 197 grain 685 mild
4 X 231 197 grain 687 most accurate
4.2 X 231 197 grain 707 clean
4.4 X 231 197 744 max
4 X Red Dot 197 814 accurate
4.2 X Red Dot 197 853 not for old gun
4.4 X Red Dot 197 875 too hot!
10.5 X Blackhorn 209 200 grain HB 642 accurate

Bullets suitable for 41 Colt

The 192 grain is hard cast as opposed to the softer 197. Overall the 197 was slightly more accurate due to the lead upsetting in the bore. There are not a lot of bullet weights or styles available as there are in other calibers. However I don’t consider that a major problem. The bullet sold by Huntington is hollow based and soft which allows the base to expand upon firing. I have obtained another 41 Colt revolver with a 6” barrel that I have tested with various loads. Unlike the other one there is no split at the forcing cone and it is pretty tight.
Bob Shell
Closeup of 41 Colt cylinder

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