Home' The Backwoodsman Magazine : Jan-Feb 2019 Contents next six rounds. Unfortunately, Thompson Bore Butter
was not available during the Civil War. So how did the
old timers keep the cylinder running smoothly—perhaps
using a lard concoction to lubricate the cylinder pin?
I’m still trying to evaluate which predicament would
have the better outcome: staring at the enemy through
the sites of a gun that is jammed, owing to a dislocated
spent percussion cap or staring down the sites of a gun
with a cylinder that won’t rotate because of powder
fouling. At this exasperating point, the guns can only be
used as short clubs for defense. And for at least the third
time during this evaluation, I’m grateful
that I’m not in a situation where my life
depends on either of these guns.
Now on to cleaning these two cap
and ball revolvers lest they quickly begin
to corrode. I’m perhaps overly anal
about cleaning black powder firearms.
It seems that after firing a dozen rounds
or so powder residue finds its way into
all areas of the cocking and rotating
mechanisms. And on the basis of several
articles I’ve read, the potassium salts
that are left behind after shooting are
highly hygroscopic, meaning they attract
moisture. What’s more, I’ve also read
that some of the residue is slightly acidic;
so acid plus moisture leads to nasty
corrosion. But even if the “acidic residue
theory” turns out to be an urban myth, merely the
hygroscopic nature of the residue is sufficient to initiate
corrosion especially in humid climates.
So to help ensure my cap and ball revolvers enjoy
a long corrosion-free life, I thoroughly clean each
component after shooting which requires complete
disassembly of the firearm.
As for the Remington, it practically falls apart
like a dead grasshopper after the removal of just six
screws. A thorough cleaning requires about an hour
including disassembly and reassembly, but I find it to be
a satisfying element of the black powder experience and
it also makes me feel confident that I’ve done all I can to
When it comes to the Colt there are thirteen screws,
not counting the two shoulder-stock screws which must
be removed in order to completely disassemble the
revolver. And the fiddliest part of the disassembly process
centers around the removal of the grip and mainspring.
There are three screws that must first be removed in
order to access the mainspring, which is secured to the
brass trigger guard with a single screw. The mainspring
screw is removed and reinstalled under spring tension,
which in my mind causes unnecessary wear on the soft
brass threads. Then there are three screws that must be
removed in order to remove the brass portion of the grip,
whereas just one screw does it all when removing the
two-piece grips and mainspring on the Remington.
Once disassembled, the cleaning process for the
Colt is virtually identical to the Remington. But the
Remington gets the edge when it comes to disassembly
and reassembly, as there are considerably fewer fasteners
and none are required for the mainspring. Fewer fasten-
ers means less opportunity for losing one in the field,
less chance for cross-threading during reassembly and
less chance of a fastener becoming loose, especially the
ones that secure the grip.
Circling back to the original question – which would
you rather have in your hand during the Gettysburg
campaign? My pick is the Remington. The Remington
is easier to clean which translates into greater reliability.
Also, notwithstanding the propensity for the Remington’s
cylinder to stick, due to powder fouling it’s at least a
predictable problem and a sticky cylinder can often be
coaxed to the next chamber with a quick but forceful
twist of your left hand.
In contrast, the hammer on the Colt has a tendency
to jam due to a spent cap falling into the gap created
when cocking. And to make matters worse, this type
of failure is totally random and often requires time-
consuming shaking and poking in order to dislodge
the cap. By the time you finally get the action working
properly, the enemy has had enough time to fire all six
shots at you.
So, when anxiously aiming a Colt Army at the
enemy you may find yourself asking the famous Clint
Eastwood question: “Do you feel lucky?”
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