Will Braddock’s Army Colt 44

Will Braddock ran away from his boyhood home in Burlington, Iowa, in late May 1867 carrying his father’s old Army Colt Model 1860 .44-caliber revolver. The first year of the fourteen-year-old orphan’s quest to determine his own destiny fills the pages of Eagle Talons, The Iron Horse Chronicles–Book One. In my post of July 21, 2014, I wrote about Will’s desire to take the family rifle musket with him, but as described in Chapter 1 of Eagle Talons, he settled on the handgun his father had used in the Civil War.

Army Colt 44The Army Colt 44 that Will Braddock carries with him throughout The Iron Horse Chronicles used paper cartridges that contained both the black powder and the bullet. Each chamber has to be loaded separately by inserting the cartridge into the front of the chamber, then seating the cartridge by ramming it firmly into the cylinder with the loading lever ram affixed beneath the barrel. Finally, a percussion cap has to be placed onto a nipple, located at the back of the chamber beneath the point where the hammer falls. The percussion cap explodes first, sending flame into the cylinder to ignite the black powder in the cartridge.

This YouTube presentation shows the process of loading and firing this type revolver. (You can close the ads that appear, if you desire.)

In Will Braddock’s time, the terms revolver and pistol were used interchangeably. Now, a pistol refers to a handgun that fires semi-automatically and is usually loaded with a clip of ammunition inserted into the butt of the weapon. The modern pistol, however, was still years in the future in the 1860s. Even though metal bullets were used in rifles and carbines when Will headed west, it would be a half-dozen years after he commenced his quest before a revolver would be available that used the self-contained metallic cartridge.

Five Star Publishing released Eagle Talons, the first book in The Iron Horse Chronicles trilogy on October 22, 2014. It is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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2 Responses to Will Braddock’s Army Colt 44

  1. Robert Turtle says:

    Many readers will be curious about Will’s revolver. I’m puzzled why the “open top” frame was used. Could it have had some advantage that escapes the eye of the beholder? It’s interesting that the metallic cartridge caught on rather slowly considering the benefits of being able to fire faster and being able to load in wet weather. I’ve read that quality control was sometimes a concern, and I would have wondered whether my brand of ammunition could be purchased when needed. Also, I have no idea how fouling affected the use of fixed ammunition in the days of black powder.

    • Will Braddock had access to plentiful ammunition for his revolver after he became engaged with the Union Pacific Railroad. The UP was noted for keeping an “arsenal” on hand in their continuing confrontation with the Indians. Had Will wandered far from the railroad’s construction activity, he would have found it necessary to carry an adequate supply with him. The Colt .44 was one of the most popular revolvers, so sutlers at Army posts and traders elsewhere would have stocked the ammunition. The best answer to your question about the advantage of the “open-top” frame on the Colt .44 appears to be that the revolver could be turned upside down to quickly knock off spent percussion caps without having them hang up under a closed frame.

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