Uberti 1851 Navy Cap and Ball Revolver (April 17th, 2015)

I've had my Pietta stainless 1858 New Army Remington pattern cap and ball revolver for about two years now, and I've wanted to get a stainless Colt pattern revolver as well. However, there just aren't many stainless Colts out there. Colt made a run of cap and ball revolvers in the 1980's called the Second Generation and some of them were stainless, but they can fetch $1,200 which is a tad steep. Uberti made an even smaller run of stainless Colts from 1983 to 1987 and I've heard estimates of probably less than 7,000 were made. Those are the only two sources for stainless Colts that I know of.

Every week or so I go through a few online gun auctions and look for stainless cap and ball revolvers. There's usually a bunch of Ruger Old Army's, a handfull of 1858 Remingtons, and a few Colt Second Generations. But recently I saw a Uberti prototype 1851 Navy listed that was in excellent shape. The price, while a fair amount, was considerably less than what I've seen the Second Generations go for. So I snapped it up because I intend to shoot this gun a lot which would really decrease the value of a mint Second Generation.

It's in the correct .36 caliber and has a 7.5" barrel. The frame is brass and is the oval trigger guard version as opposed to the earlier square back version. The cylinder has the typical engraving of the Naval Battle of Campeche. Engraved along the top of the barrel is: - Address Col. Saml Colt New-York U.S. America - Under the barrel hidden by the loading lever are two proof marks and an AD date code. AD stands for 1978, so this gun was made 5 years before production started.

Below are the first two groups out of the gun from 10 yards. 20 grains Goex FFFg, .375" roundball, #10 caps. The first group I've highlighted blue, and I aimed at the center of the target. The flyer at 8 o'clock just inside the black was the first shot out of the gun and I chalk that up to gunk left in the bore from the previous owner. I could tell this gun had been shot a little before and I didn't do a full blown cleaning on it. The second group I held at the bottom of the black and it was a bit better. Three of the six shots are in one ragged hole.

Discounting the first shot flyer, the gun appears to shoot about 3" high and 1.25" to the left. Period correct sights on cap and ball revolvers are typically pretty poor, but the Colt's are even worse than the Remington pattern revolvers. At least the Remingtons have a tall, sharp post front sight and deep V groove along the top strap. Colt revolvers have a shallow V notch in the hammer and a short stubby brass bead on the front. I find it really hard to consistently place the roundish bead in the hammer notch. The trigger, however, is very nice with a lock time of around 16ms which is very fast for a single action revolver. It's even faster than my 1858 New Army and I did a lot of polishing on the inside to get it down to 20ms.

The main issue with Colts regarding accuracy is how the barrel is attached to the frame. On Remington pattern guns (along with Starr, Rogers and Spencer, Spiller & Burr, Beaumont Adams, etc.) the frame wraps around the top and bottom of the cylinder. Then the barrel screws onto the front making it one solid unit. On Colt pattern revolvers there is no top strap to make a solid frame design. The cylinder pin is an integral part of the frame and the barrel is held onto the cylinder pin via a crosswise wedge. As you shoot, vibration loosens this wedge causing the cylinder gap to grow which reduces shot consistency. Some of the better cap and ball target shooters keep a wooden mallet handy to seat the wedge back in after every cylinder.

One final note on accuracy is I think this gun will shoot better with .380" round balls rather than .375". When I ram the balls into the chambers, quite often it doesn't shave a thin ring of lead off. This means the balls are a tad undersize and might rattle down the bore a bit when fired. Ideally the chambers should be slightly oversized to the bore so the forcing cone will swage down the ball to the right size for a better seal. Unfortunately, .380" round balls are hard to find, so I might need to order some.

Second Range Trip (May 10th, 2015)

Here's a few groups at 10 yards from my second range trip. Again, I was shooting 20 grains Goex FFFg, .375 roundball, and #10 caps. The first group in blue I aimed at the center, the second group in red I aimed at the bottom of the black, and the third group in green I aimed at the black spot at the bottom. The third group was the best yet out of this gun. It measures right at 1.5" center to center of the two farthest shots.

This target is from 25 yards with the same load as above. I aimed at the bottom of the black. It looks like the center of the group is about 6.5" high at 25 yards. From top to bottom it measures 5.75". Not really target shooting or even hunting caliber, but it is certainly center of mass size and would get the job done during the Civil War.

And here's a video of me shooting at 7" diameter steel plates at 25 yards. The best I've been able to do is hit 4 out of 6.