5.9 Thoughts about Ammo

Chapter 5 – Centaure Conversions the Next Level of the Evolution?

5.9 Thoughts about Ammo














Thoughts about Ammo

Ammo for Colt Army Conversions, the 1871/72 Open Top and their Modern Clones

Chamber and Rifling Groove Diameter
Modern .44 Colt Cartridge




Ammo for Colt Army Conversions, the 1871/72 Open Top and their Modern Clones


Let’s talk about ammo for a minute! The diameter of the rebate segment of an original Colt 1860 Army cylinder or one of her clones is smaller than its forward area. We know this is due to the Army’s lineage from the 1851 Navy. That being the case how can you load 6 cartridges of .44 cal. into the chambers of an Army conversion cylinder?


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5.9.1_1 Repro cartridge box used for .44 Colt rounds loaded with 200 gr inside lubed bullets over smokeless powder


The simple truth during the second half of the 1860s, the 1870s and 1880s, and today is this: If you objective is to stick to the original dimensions of a Colt 860 Army pattern conversion you need a .44 cal. cartridge with a rim that is smaller than what we are used today from the .44 Russian, the .44 Special or the mighty .44 Magnum, and surely smaller than the .44-40 or various .45 cal. revolver ammunitions available like .45 S&W or .45 Colt.


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5.9.1_2 Comparative size of modern cowboy rounds (from left) .44 Colt vs. .45 Colt


This consideration led to the development and eventually the introduction of the good old .44 Colt centerfire (CF) cartridge. The round was officially adopted by the U.S. military between 1871 and 1873 for the Colt Army breech loading conversions. Later the more powerful .45 Colt of the Colt Single Action Army was phased in. However, at the western and southwestern frontier of the United States of A. the old .44 Colt round was a trusted and respected revolver cartridge for decades not only with the military, but also farmers, cowboys and the men of both sides of the law.


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5.9.1_3 From left: Notably smaller rim size of .44 Colt compared to .45. Colt


During the early decades of the 20th century Colt breech loading 1860 Army conversions and the .44 Colt cartridge were widely used again. They saw action in the skirmishes and battles of the Mexican revolution between 1910 and 1929. The cartridge was manufactured until WW2 with black powder as well as smokeless loads.

Colt 1860 Army factory breech loading conversions and most of their field conversions altered at the frontier were chambered for this .44 Colt centerfire rounds.

The Long Cylinder Conversion (LCCs) of the Colt 1860 Army allegedly fabricated sometime after the end of the Civil War south of the Border (or in Texas) and the Colt 1871/72 Open Tops (OTs) were chambered for another .44 cal. round. These two breechloaders were chambered for the battle proven .44 Henry rim fire cartridge and its successor the Stetson .44 Henry. Back in the days this round was very popular and readily available ammo thanks to the 1860 Henry rifle and its successor, the Winchester 66. Colt 1860 Army type Long Cylinder Conversions and Open Tops could accommodate this ammo because they came with a specially made cylinder without the typical Army rebate. Their cylinders were straight, with an identical diameter at the front and breech side. The respective measurements are 41.2 mm/1.622 inch of the LCC and 40.1-40.5 mm/1.577-1.596 inch of the OT.


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5.9.1_4 Outside lubed Western cartridge cut-aways (from left): .44 Henry RF vs. .44 Colt CF


Compared to the .44 Colt CF the .44 Henry RF were the more powerful round of the two rounds when launched from a revolver with proper sized 7,5” or 8” tube. Which was not the case back then. (see text further below) The .44 Henry deserves to be remembered for another important aspect only rarely mentioned in gun literature or books on the Wild West! Since you could load this round in the afore mentioned pistols and rifles the concept one type of ammo fits all was reality almost 10 years before the famous combo of Colt SAA Frontier Six-Shooter and Winchester 73 in .44-40 cal. hit the market in 1878!

As you can see on above picture these two traditional Western cartridges use outside lubed bullets of heel type. Case and visible bullet diameter are about the same. Consequently, boring-through a C&B cylinder for such cartridges was a simple and cheap affair since no special chamber had to be cut.


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