Hornady .451 Lead Round Balls in Clear Ballistics Gel

Test Gun: Colt 1860 Army (replica) by Pietta.
Barrel length: 8 inches.
Ammunition: Hornady .451 138 grain Round Balls, 30 grains Pyrodex P, CCI #10 caps.
Test media: 10% Clear Ballistics Gel
Distance: 10 feet.
Chronograph: Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph G2.
Six shot velocity average: 807fps.

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I bought this pistol around 18 or so years ago and took it out to shoot once or twice and it’s been sitting around ever since. I would pick it up and work the action and say to myself how I should take it out and shoot it and I finally did just that. Since it hasn’t been shot in years I needed to gather the necessary supplies.

Pietta recommends a .454 round ball but my local gun store only had .451 but it would work just fine. They did carry black powder so some Pyrodex P was used and of course, don’t forget some CCI #10 percussion caps.

The 1860 revolver was one of the many sidearms used in the civil war and wile the 1860 was considered a Union sidearm it was also used by the Confederacy when captured from Union soldiers and supply convoys. The standard load, if there was one, was a round ball loaded atop 30 grains of black powder but many if not most were loaded with a paper cartridge of which there was no real standard. Some were loaded with round balls and others with conical bullets.

So with that I decided to “replicate” what a Union Officer may have loaded his revolver with and loaded 30 grains of Pyrodex by volume and run it through its paces.

I got a six-shot average velocity of 807fps with a high of 877fps and a low of 776fps. For an extreme spread of 101fps. The sights are pretty crude and the pistol shot high at 10 yards. The target is a reduced size silhouette with a 2.5-inch dot.

Five rounds at 10 yards off hand.

The smoke from the shots was giving errors and so no velocity was recorded for the gel shots. The first round exited the block at the 26-inch mark and was found on the table next to the gel. Its recovered weight was 135.8 grains and a recovered diameter of .443 inches. The second round penetrated to 25.75 inches with a recovered weight of 136.3 grains and .442 inch in diameter.

Not having any Confederate uniforms I decided to use my standard heavy clothing for testing. Round one penetrated to 25.5 inches and had a recovered weight of 137.4 grains a diameter of .448 inches. Round two penetrated to 26.5 inches and its weight was 136.9 grains and a diameter of .447 inches. You can see the impression the denim left on the ball when it impacted.

One comment

  1. Thanks for posting this interesting test. Having used cap & ball revolvers for years to hunt small game, your results agree with what I would expect. I was told many years ago that the energy and penetration of the .44 round ball from a cap & ball revolver approximated that of a .38 Special firing old school lead, round-nosed ammunition and you have validated that. I have a modern Pietta .36 Remington replica with Howell conversion for .38 Special. Firing 148-grain wadcutter ammunition it gave 738 fps with 30 inches of penetration in water jugs, which give about 1/3 more penetration than gel. In my case I had to cut down the front sight to raise point of impact, but the revolver is accurate and shoots well.


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