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Conical or round ball ?

StradivariusStradivarius Member Posts: 51 ✭✭
Hello again guys [:)] I have a very important SAFTY QUESTION i need help with. Heavy conial bullit or lighter round ball ? - I was just reading on the internet about the stopping power of the hevier and slower .452 (Lee 90358 - 255 grains RF = Round Flat) for home defence in an ORIGINAL 1858 Remington New Model Army.

As far as i remember i had diffuculty in seating my conical bullits in my old ( sold it ) ORIGINAL 1858 Remington New Model Army. I know that the round balls are much easier to seat that conical, but i also read somewhere that the conical bullits put a much bigger strain on the revolver.

Is there a risk that the conical bullit can couse the revolver to explode ? - Is it dangerously much harder for the burning gases to push/force the heavy conical bullit down the barrel.

The bottom line .... Is it safe or unwise to shoot the .452 (Lee 90358 - 255 grains RF = Round Flat) in my ORIGINAL 1858 Remington New Model Army.

Thank you all in advance for your answers/help.


  • flyingcollieflyingcollie Member Posts: 197 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I hope you get some qualified, knowledgeable answers, as I'm interested as well.

    Offhand, I'd say any load that is 100% original should be safe in a firearm that's proven sound enough to shoot at all.

    It's my understanding that there's a considerable difference between black powder and modern smokeless powders in the way pressures develop. ??

    Those who shoot percussion revolvers for target accuracy claim round balls and reduced powder loads yield better results than conical balls.
  • 44caliberkid44caliberkid Member Posts: 925 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I'd go with the round ball. As far as stopping power, round balls have killed a lot of people throughout history. I doubt anyone you shoot in self defense could tell you the difference between a 44 round ball or conical. Self defense scenarios usually take place at close quarters, I believe the average is about 7 feet. Measure the longest straight shot you could take in your home and it's going to be less than 20 feet. So a round ball is fine. I've shot deer with 45 cal. round balls, one shot kills with proper shot placement. The Lee conical loads best with the cylinder out of the pistol using a cylinder loading stand. For ease of use, a round ball is going to work better. In an original gun, the round ball is going to be safer as far as pressure. The conicals used in original pistols were no where near 255 grains. The Lee is a modern conical for use in modern pistols.
    Put simply, black powder pressure spikes immediately upon ignition, then falls off rapidly. Smokeless powders can maintain higher pressure longer as the bullet travels down the barrel. That's why black powder shotguns, fired with smokeless rounds, tend to blow out the barrel about 12 inches ahead of the chamber, where the barrel walls start to thin out.
  • allen griggsallen griggs Member Posts: 35,149 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I would be interested in what you are reading about the stopping power of the 255 grain conical. I also use cap and ball revolvers for home defense.

    In the Civil War troopers were issued cartridges that had the conical bullets. Knowledgable troopers would load their guns with round balls because they had better stopping power than the conical. They reported that one torso shot would knock an enemy troop out of the saddle, and out of the fight with the round ball. They did prefer the conical for foraging, they said it performed better on cattle.

    I am just now reading a book about the battles between the Texas Rangers and the Comanches. The Rangers put an * whipping on the fierce Comanches that the Spanish had never achieved in 200 years of incessant warfare.
    The secret of the Texas Rangers was the Colt revolver. In the first few years of fantastic battles with mounted Comanches, the Rangers were using the .36 Colt with round balls. Here again, I read many accounts of the Rangers knocking the Comanche warrior out of the saddle, and out of the fight with a single shot.

    Wild Bill Hickok used the .36 Navy with round ball, and he famously killed an opponent in a duel at 76 yards with a single shot, hit the guy in the heart.

    Of course, anything the .36 round ball will do, the .44 will do better.

    I have hunted extensively with my rifles with patched round ball. I killed over a dozen wild hogs and deer with the .490 round ball and always got a one shot kill with the lung shot. Never had a deer run over 50 yards when hit with the round ball.

    I killed over 50 deer and a few hogs with my 30-06 and found the round ball, to my surprise, to be a better killer than the modern rifle.
    The deer would usually run 100 yards when hit with the .30-06
  • v35v35 Member Posts: 12,710 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    The 250 grain bullet wont give you much room for powder in an Army.
    I've altered several Colts and a Remington in the loading port area
    to allow loading 45ACP SWC conicals and larger 36 conicals.
    Accuracy was at least equal to an SAA. I doubt you'd be able to fit a 255 grainer in the port.However, if I had a Dragoon, Walker or smaller, I'd Dremel the port to take heavy bullets.
    In actual combat, Walker told Maj Ripley and Colts, the round ball over a 60 grain powder charge out of the Walker Dragoon, would readily kill either a Mexican or his horse equal to a carbine.
    The round ball creates more turbulence in a wound than a conical, while
    conicals may retain velocity better.
  • GatofeoGatofeo Member Posts: 230 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I would NOT use a 255 gr. conical bullet in your old Remington. The original Remington bullet, as produced by moulds sold by Remington, created a short, stubby conical bullet of about 180 grs.
    You're talking about using a bullet that is 42% heavier than the bullet originally designed for it.
    Granted, the heavier and longer bullet will mandate a reduced powder charge, but the gun will still be strained trying to expel that heavy bullet with such a small powder charge.
    It's not worth risking your old gun.
    Contrary to popular belief, there was NO standard powder charge and conical bullet weight when paper cartridges were assembled for use with cap and ball revolvers. The contractors who assembled the ammunition apparently decided what was proper.
    The Feburary 1975 issue of the American Rifleman has a fascinating article on this. Vintage paper cartridges were dissected and the weight of their powder charges and bullets determined.

    COLT ARMY .44
    Hazard Powder Co. - 211 gr. conical / 36 grs. powder
    Bartholow's - 260 gr. conical / 19 grs. powder

    Johnston & Dow - 242 gr. conical / 35 grs. Powder
    (Gatofeo notes: Though the article states this cartridge is for the Colt Army .44, I suspect it's actually for the Colt Dragoon with its higher-capacity chambers. I can't imagine trying to get 35 grs. of powder AND a 242 gr. bullet into my reproduction Colt 1860 Army!)

    Unknown - 257 gr. conical / 17 grs. powder
    Unknown - 207 gr. conical / 22 grs. powder
    Hotchkiss - 207 gr. conical / 22 grs. Powder

    COLT NAVY .36
    Hazard Powder Co. - 141 gr. conical / 21 grs. powder
    Bartholow's - 139 gr. conical / 14 grs. powder
    Johnston & Dow - 150 gr. conical / 17 grs. powder
    Unknown - 155 gr. conical / 12 grs. powder
    Unknown - 149 gr. conical / 13 grs. powder

    Both armies during the Civil War did not specify "use in Remington" or "use in Colt." Cartridges for the larger revolvers were issued based on caliber, not manufacturer. What worked in the Colt also worked in the Remington.

    Now, you'll note that some bullets are very heavy, and have very light powder charges. This was probably more expedient during the war, when lead was easier to obtain than powder, but I don't suggest you strain your old Remington with heavy bullets over light charges.
  • GatofeoGatofeo Member Posts: 230 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Just a few more notes:

    Archaeological digs at Civil War campsites and battlefields have revealed very few lead balls intended for revolvers. I'm certain that troopers used what they were issued, with only a few bothering to cast balls from scrap lead.

    The late gun writer Elmer Keith (1898 - 1984) wrote a book, "Sixguns" in 1955 that includes a chapter on cap and ball revolvers. This book is still in print.
    Keith learned how to load and shoot these revolvers from Civil War veterans when he grew up in Helena, Montana. In 1912, at the age of 14, he began carrying a Colt 1851 Navy in .36 caliber.

    Keith knew two Civil War cavalrymen who had seen an enormous amount of battle in the Civil War. Major R. E. Stratton fought in the Confederacy's 1st Texas Regiment. Samuel H. Fletcher fought in the Union's 2nd Illinois Cavalry.
    "Both Maj. Stratton and Sam Fletcher told me the .36 Navy with full loads was a far better man killer than any .38 Special they had ever seen used in gun fights," Keith wrote.

    Remember, however, this was around World War I when the only factory bullet for the .38 Special was a pointed lead one. Today's hollowpoints and jacketed hollowpoints make .38 Special ammo much more lethal today.

    "Maj. Stratton said that for a man stopper he preferred the round ball with chamber full of FFG to the pointed conical bullet," Keith wrote. "Sam Fletcher also told me he preferred a pure lead round ball in his Navy Colts with chamber full of black powder, to the issued conical ball load.

    "Fletcher claimed the round ball dropped enemy cavalrymen much better and took all the fight out of them, whereas the pointed bullet at times would only wound and leave them fighting. Fletcher stated, however, that when foraging and shooting cattle for meat, the pointed bullet was the best for body shots that had to be taken where penetration was needed. But that on all frontal shots on beef, the old round ball was plenty good and would reach the brain --- even on bulls.

    A man may fall from his saddle, but the laws of physic make it impossible for him to blown out by a single bullet. Newton's observation, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" still holds true. To blow a 140-pound cavalryman out of the saddle (the weight limit for cavalrymen of that era), the recoil of the revolver would also have to be capable of blowing a 140-pound shooter out of the saddle.

    The Texas Rangers were armed with .36-caliber Paterson revolvers, the first model made by Colt. They did amazing work with this primitive revolver against the Commanches.
    The Paterson had a smaller capacity chamber than the 1851 Navy, so it's all the more remarkable.

    Historians cannot agree which revolver Wild Bill Hickock used when he shot Dave Tutt in July 1865 from about 75 yards in a public square in Springfield, Mo.
    Some say he was carrying a Dragoon, a powerful .44 caliber revolver. Others claim he was carrying an 1851 Navy in .36 caliber. I doubt we'll ever know for certain, unless the bullet is found in Tuttle's exhumed remains. That's unlikely, because Tutt's body was later moved to another cemetery. Unless the casket was intact, there might have been nothing but a few bones and the bullet in the former grave, somewhere.
    All this assumes that the bullet stayed in Tutt's body and didn't pass through. The Dragoon is a powerful revolver and fully capable of shooting through a human being.

    Round balls in rifles kill all out of proportion to what most people believe. Lewis & Clark shot numerous grizzly with a smoothbore musket or rifle somewhere between .52 and .69 caliber.
    There are no known surviving guns from the expedition. Claims have been made for three models, but the evidence is circumstantial.
    However, we can say with certainty that it fired a rather large lead ball, held snugly in a patch, ahead of a healthy dose of black powder.
    Grizzlies are hard to kill, and the expedition shot most multiple times, but that lead ball did the job. I have little doubt that a lead .490 ball puts deer down quickly.
  • Old hickoryOld hickory Member Posts: 1,368 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    gatofeo : Thanks for the informative, clearly written answer. BTW I live 20 miles from where Hickock spent his childhood (Troy Grove IL) I've always owned and been partial to 1851 Navies in .36 because of that!
  • BergtrefferBergtreffer Member Posts: 629 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Very interesting information, one and all. Thanks.
  • v35v35 Member Posts: 12,710 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    That Hickock carried a pair of 36 Navies into the cartridge period endorses both the gun and caliber to me.
    He also emptied both guns daily indicating he both wanted fresh loads and daily practice.
    Sam Colt did a lot of work on bullet design and Colt moulds had one each conical and round ball.
    I use .450 sized 45ACP 185 gr RNSWC bullets in two of my 45 cal pistols. They have .450 dia chambers, resulting in precision friction fits, concentric loading and very good accuracy.
    The only lube is Lyman bullet lube in bullet grooves.
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