Author Topic: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon  (Read 7596 times)

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Offline Mac4444

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Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« on: December 22, 2013, 11:31:51 AM »
I teach business at a small college and one of my students used the 1851 Navy and the 1858 Remington in a historical analysis of "improvement" dictated by battlefield conditions.  His conclusions were legitimate in many ways, especially in the context of the desire for a heavier caliber weapon, the 1860 Army being case in point.  He cites, correctly I must add, secondary sources about soldiers preferring the Remington in either caliber(.36, .44) to the Colt due to easier reloading and less of the notorious "cap" problem with Colt.  He also notes that the Remington was generally in short supply.

That being said, do you know of any primary sources(letters would be best) that at some level address the pistol preference.  I assume most of said letters would be in museum achieves or perhaps University achieves.

Many thanks for your responses.  This is a wonderful forum and I'm very glad to have found it.

Offline DD4lifeusmc

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2013, 09:27:44 AM »
except both Colt and Remington were available in 44 caliber several years before the war started.
Business principles were a driving force.
"Build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door"
Actually the 1858 Remington was a little late actually getting into the war, based on prior contracts with
other manufacturers and the resolution of patents and such. But once it got there was widely accepted as a formidable and reliable weapon.
You as the instructor should of done your own indepth research into both revolvers.
Part of the reason why the revolvers evolved into 44 cal vs 36. The US was in a major expansion mode across the west.
And partly for the same reason that the Hawkins and later the Sharps became prevalent over the older 32, 36, 45 kentucky and Pennsylvania long rifles, was a new NEED.
They were traveling longer distances they needed a lighter but more powerful rifle as they were running into bigger and heavier game.
They were shooting longer distances. A slightly heavier projectile traveling slightly faster in a better built rifle tended to be accurate farther out.
Besides game they were running into bands and tribes of hostile Indians. These Indians once riled were not easily pacified.
They learned to stay just outside the range of the older weapons. And learned the rifles were slow and clumsy to reload and took advantage of this.
Along comes the shorter barreled Hawken (and others). More nimble quicker and easier to reload even from a kneeling or prone position.
Later the smith and Sharps breach load rifles and carbines that increased the rate of fire.
Same with the revolver over the single shot.  higher sustained rate of fire in any situation. 6 shots before reloading vs 1.
The revolver was mainly a close in self defense weapon. But it was also used as  hunting weapon for smaller game.
In the case of an Indian attack (or others) it was theoretically quite accurate and deadly out to 75 yards. This supplemented the rifles.
As a man stopper.
Yes it had quite a bit more power as compared to the "navy" acceptance of the 36. caliber.
But it's evolution and acceptance was primarily, "Necessity as the mother of invention", but go to the mousetrap--MONEY and the survival of the company.
Colt went out of business several times before they became the stable company we know today.
Remington became involved in other products, revolvers, pistols, rifles, shotguns, typewriters, razors, sewing machines, during those early years to survive,
As a side note. yes in many cases the Navy used 36 cal.
But in those days the navy personnel didn't do much of the hand to hand fighting. Their primary role was to maneuver the ship.
The Marines on board were the ships main fighting force.
They would be armed with whatever was the weapon of the day, from the single shot 32, 45 to the revolver and the rifle and of course the cutlass and Sword. You should read the history of them too.
Then as now, the military was slow to adopt new weapons, were skeptical, demanded proof of reliability,and finances limited them to providing for a few troops at a time. Special weapons were provided to special troops.
Revolvers primarily went to the Officers and the higher ranking NCO's of the time, and to canoneers.
As the Sharps were sent to special sniper type units.
There weren't enough weapons or the money to buy them to outfit all of the troops with the newest and the best.
Unfortunately I don't possess or have access to letters preferring one over the other.
However as you said, Colleges and universities probably do, and I'm sure the various factories do, as would various firearms museums such as the NRA, or Bufflo Bill or Wyatt Earp and such museums.
But along these lines check out the links at this website
http://www.antiqueguns.com/places.htm
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Offline Wolfgang

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2013, 09:43:40 AM »
A few days ago I was assisting a novice shooter with his Colt Walker Revolver . . . . actually using a Colt pistol as compared to using a Remington it is EASY to see how much improved the Remington design was.

( ie. with a top strap and frame that enclosed the cylinder as compared to the Colt construction with the arbor and the barrel assembly that was held on by the wedge. )   

Colt did not go to a "top strap" design until it was required by the army in 1873.   The army's requirement is also was why Colt went to a center-fire cartridge rather than the rim-fire that was used in it's 1872 open top cartridge revolver. 

Beware the man with one gun,.... he probably knows  how to use it.

Offline Mac4444

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2013, 12:38:40 PM »
DD4

Thanks for advice on how to teach my class and for ignoring the point of my question.  Your grade is a C.  :)

Offline Classanr

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2013, 01:03:48 PM »
A search on google for "civil war letters" shows extensive archives of actual letters.

However, further research on my part indicates that none of these archives are cross referenced by pistol preference.  Of those letters that do reference the use of pistols, seldom is a brand, model, date of manufacture, or caliber given.  Based on correspondence context that I observed, the writer presumed the recipient to already have that knowledge, the afformentioned pistol having been a gift or an weapon brought from home upon enlistment.

Possibly there will be letters of complaint to the upper echelons of both fighting forces, which might present the information you are seeking.  I was unable to locate any such archive, however, and would recommend contacting the US Library of Congress and the Smithonion to pursue those possibilities.

Likewise, I would expand my search (if this were a question that interested me) to the British War Museum, and what ever similar functionary institution might be found in France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Denmark.  Those countries competed in the arms market, and would have done some research and/or chest-beating about suitability (or lack thereof) of various pistols.  The use of pistols in the Civil War extend far beyond Colt and Remington.

Possibly, you are at the cusp of a totally new research opportunity for the Civil War period.  People have been awarded doctorates on far less useful endeavors.

Classanr

I am adding post script.
The Diary of Edwin B. Weist, his complete notes for his participation in the Civil War
http://www.civilwarhome.com/weistdiary.htm
does not, in all those pages, even employ the words "pistol", nor "remington", nor "colt."

Further, in my opinion, what few references that might be found, short of formal letters from officers reporting to superiors, would be subjective and "tossed out of court" as statistically falling short of any actual testing results.  Many many failures in firearms were operator error, not design deficiencies.  In business, the letters for which you appear to be searching would be called "anectdotal evidence, not replicatable" and "not statistically significant."

I would be interested in reading the cites from your student's presentation.  Possibly your student found some that the community at large would enjoy reading for ourselves.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 06:37:39 PM by Classanr »
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Offline ssb73q

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2013, 01:18:21 PM »
I teach business at a small college and one of my students used the 1851 Navy and the 1858 Remington in a historical analysis of "improvement" dictated by battlefield conditions.  His conclusions were legitimate in many ways, especially in the context of the desire for a heavier caliber weapon, the 1860 Army being case in point.  He cites, correctly I must add, secondary sources about soldiers preferring the Remington in either caliber(.36, .44) to the Colt due to easier reloading and less of the notorious "cap" problem with Colt.  He also notes that the Remington was generally in short supply.

That being said, do you know of any primary sources(letters would be best) that at some level address the pistol preference.  I assume most of said letters would be in museum achieves or perhaps University achieves.

Many thanks for your responses.  This is a wonderful forum and I'm very glad to have found it.

Hi Mac, you could try private messaging one of our members, duelist who is one of the editors of Guns of the Old West magazine and ask him your question:
http://1858remington.com/discuss/index.php?action=profile;u=4855

You may also want to try and contact the curator of the NRA museum, I don't have a contact, but you could start here:


Please don't grade me, I'm just auditing this class.  ;) ;) ;)

Regards,
Richard
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 02:41:25 PM by ssb73q »
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Offline Wolfgang

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2013, 06:23:05 PM »
A few days ago I was assisting a novice shooter with his Colt Walker Revolver . . . . actually using a Colt pistol as compared to using a Remington it is EASY to see how much improved the Remington design was.

( ie. with a top strap and frame that enclosed the cylinder as compared to the Colt construction with the arbor and the barrel assembly that was held on by the wedge. )   

Colt did not go to a "top strap" design until it was required by the army in 1873.   The army's requirement is also was why Colt went to a center-fire cartridge rather than the rim-fire that was used in it's 1872 open top cartridge revolver.

I am referring to the ability of the weapon to function reliably.   The power of the .44 Colts or .44 Remingtons was the same.  Even in a modern day pistol shooting range situation it is obvious how much easier it is to have reliable function with the Remington design as compared to the Colt.   In war / battlefield conditions the difference would be greatly magnified.  Remingtons were not as numerous during the "war of northern aggression" as were Colts and other similar pistols.  But just about anyone that could get ahold of a Remington preferred them.   :)
Beware the man with one gun,.... he probably knows  how to use it.

Offline DD4lifeusmc

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2013, 10:23:25 PM »
DD4

Thanks for advice on how to teach my class and for ignoring the point of my question.  Your grade is a C.  :)
You're welcome, and
If I'd known I was being graded I would of proof read my answer.
You raised two basic points.
the soldiers preference of one over the other and the letters to support,  and #2 BATTLE FIELD conditions dictated the improvement.
My answer was pretty much on point..
Battlefield conditions did NOT dictate the improvement of the Remington design over the colt, nor the 44 vs the 36.
Both the Remington top strap design vs Colt open top design AND the 44 caliber vs the 36 caliber existed at least three
years before the Civil war began. So no the Battlefields of the Civil War did NOT dictate that improvement.
Colt brought out the basic revolver design in the 1840's and the basic Remington Design was patented in 1858.
I believe history teaches us the civil war did NOT start till 1861!

  So on that point alone I give you and your student a D-

On the point of the soldiers preference of one over the other.
Again my answer covered that.
The common foot soldier as a whole was not issued a revolver.
The revolvers were primarily issued to officers and higher ranking NCO's and to the cannoneers and a few other specialized groups.Then as now, the governments of both sides did not have enough finances to provide one for each soldier, nor did the factories have the capability to mass produce that many at the time.
Much like the medics and pilots of today. They are normally issued sidearms not rifles. a few get carbines
The average foot soldier is normally issued a rifle. Many units are developed around a "fire team". Most get rifles, some get side arms and or rifle, some get the heavy machine gun, some get the LAW or similar. They are combined into a fire team that may be as few as 5 members or as large as a 10 to 12 man squad.
The same basic principle applied in the civil war also.
And while one soldier or several may have preferred one design over another, the other it may have been subjective.
Both were reliable weapons of the designs of the times.
Wyatt Earp Used a Remington    Buffalo Bill's claimed favorite was 1851 colt 36 cal   Wild bill was carrying a Smith and Wesson when he was shot.
As to the letters to support his thesis. I gave you a couple links to those as well that may have documents available.
But you enjoy your day, or evening as it is now.
Not trying to be argumentative, but in my first response I was trying to show you in a round about way that the battlefield conditions did NOT dictate the improvements.
Necessity of the overall frontier needs, and typical business principles dictated the improvements, long before the weapons were tested in combat on the battlefields of the civil war.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 10:44:16 PM by DD4lifeusmc »
The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps.
General Alexander A. Vandergrift, USMC
to the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, 5 May 1946
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USA birthday  7/4/1776

Offline Omnivore

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2014, 09:26:27 PM »
Colt's was making enclosed-frame revolvers in 1855.  If that particular feature had been considered a super-duper important one at the time, surely Colt's could have scaled up their Root pistol and made a martial arm out of it.

They did make a rather large revolving carbine out it though.

Marketing practices, production capacity and economy of scale probably had more influence on what pistols ended up in the field than anything else.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2014, 09:43:10 PM by Omnivore »

Offline Classanr

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2014, 12:18:56 AM »
... surely Colt's could have scaled up their Root pistol and made a martial arm out of it.

They did make a rather large revolving carbine out it though....

Although the OP vanished from this board the day after he showed up when a match was lit to his set of dubious claims, the rebuttals have been of sufficient interest to merit the thread's rest for posterity.  In accordance, please expand on the history of making a rather large revolving carbine scaled up from the Root pistol.  From the economic point of view, with an eye for warfare, of course. M__

I bet I'm not the only one so interested.
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Offline Omnivore

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2014, 12:49:54 AM »
You can start here;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt_revolving_rifle
From the article;
"Colt revolving rifles were the first repeating rifles adopted by the U.S. Government..."

This guy (Cap and Ball Channel) has done more than a few informative videos.  Here's one on the Colt 1855 revolving carbine. Civilian and military versions are mentioned, as are revolving shotguns of the same basic design;


Not saying it's all 100% true for sure and for certain! but there it is.

Offline Classanr

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2014, 01:37:18 AM »
Excellent start.  Fun reads.  Interesting vids.  #3 in the series shot the Colt and the Uberti.  Thank you.

Donchajustloveit when you come across wikibits like the following:

"The weapon performed superbly in combat, seeing action with the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Union forces at Snodgrass Hill during the Battle of Chickamauga during the American Civil War.  The volume of fire from this weapon proved to be so useful that the Confederate forces were convinced that they were attacking an entire division, not just a single regiment, but still, the Ohioans ran out of ammunition, and surrendered."

That is to say, the rifles performed superbly, but the soldiers surrendered anyway because the rifles superbly shot up all the ammunition before the battle was over.  A higher miss rate.

Do college professors write papers about supply-and-demand economics on the battlefront, and how modern designs of war affect said economics?
« Last Edit: February 28, 2014, 01:58:49 AM by Classanr »
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Offline DD4lifeusmc

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2014, 07:55:40 AM »
The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps.
General Alexander A. Vandergrift, USMC
to the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, 5 May 1946
------------
Marines Birthday  11/10/1775
USA birthday  7/4/1776

Offline Omnivore

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2014, 01:31:28 PM »
Quote
That is to say, the rifles performed superbly, but the soldiers surrendered anyway because the rifles superbly shot up all the ammunition before the battle was over.

I would take that to mean that, having possibly just then discovered mass suppressive fire, they failed to bring enough ammunition.  Logistics not keeping up with teachnology.  Tactics not keeping up with either technology or logistics.  Something like that.

It has been reported that commanders aschewed early repeaters, a) because they encouraged the "waste" of ammunition, and/or b) because ammunition supply already included enough different calibers to be ordered, supplied, sorted out and sent to the right places at the right times, that they didn't want to add yet another one (in the case of the Henry, specifically).  This set of arguments persisted well into the 20th century, and I suppose some issues are ever-present.

Offline BartSr

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Re: Colt versus Remington as battlefield weapon
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2014, 02:01:20 PM »
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