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I'm trying to create an accurate display of a 1902 Colt Bisley revolver (Peacemaker family) and need some technical help with cartridges of the era. I'm selecting cartridges to be displayed along with the gun and want to get it right. This question concerns bullet propellant types and the backward compatability of black powder in smokless powder guns.

My research indicates that Colt pistols manufactured after 1900 (s/n 192,000, give or take) are certified for smokeless powder. The subject to be displayed, being a 1902 model, is certified for use with smokless powder. I have an opportunity to purchase six black powder cartridges and am curious to know if they would have been used in a "smokeless" gun.

My question:
Was it common for shooters of the era use black powder cartridges in "smokeless" guns and would my display of the 1902 gun and six black powder cartridges be an accurate representation of what would be found on ranches of the Rocky Mountain/Western Plains region after 1900?

  • What caliber (they weren't all 45LC)? – justCal Apr 24 '17 at 11:57
  • .41 Colt. There were something like 18 caliber options at the time. – acpilot Apr 24 '17 at 13:45
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Since the chambering is 41 Colt, I would agree that the black powder cartridges would be appropriate. The 41 Colt was created in 1877, and as such the original specifications called for black powder loads.

The book The Modern American Pistol and Revolver, published in 1888, lists several loads for 41s:

  • 41 calibre powder 20 lead 130
  • 41 calibre Colt's DA powder 14 lead 160
  • 41 calibre DA powder 21 lead 200

where the 'powder' listing is grains of black powder.

Since the firearm came out right at the time of the earliest smokeless powder production, which was originally used in military weapons, it is likely the first rounds fired through it were black powder rounds.
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