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Seldom Seen #16162

How did cowboys carry blackpowder in the real West?

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Partially as result of the Banic of 2013, 2014, 2015 (wait I digress) and my quest to become the lowest shooter in a match I have been acquiring period correct holsters and accessories for C&B revolvers. (Actually I will not achieve that goal until I get a Spenser 56-50 carbine). -_-

 

I have added a leather pouch on my gun belt to hold my caps, wads and balls but in doing so I am left trying to figure out how a cowboy would have carried BP for reloading. :mellow:

 

Following the end of the Civil War until well into the 1870's and longer C&B revolvers were in common use. When the great cattle drives started C&B revolvers were most certainly carried by the cowhands. So if the cowhand was carrying extra caps, wads and balls in a pouch on his belt how and where did he carry some BP? :huh:

 

That Bull Durham tobacco pouch in his pocket sure would have made things interesting when it came time to light up a smoke. :o

 

If it was in his saddlebags or back in camp then he was up a creek if he lost his horse and was stranded somewhere or surrounded by hostiles. :blink:

 

I don't ever recall seeing this discussed in the history books I have.

 

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Partially as result of the Banic of 2013, 2014, 2015 (wait I digress) and my quest to become the lowest shooter in a match I have been acquiring period correct holsters and accessories for C&B revolvers. (Actually I will not achieve that goal until I get a Spenser 56-50 carbine). -_-

 

I have added a leather pouch on my gun belt to hold my caps, wads and balls but in doing so I am left trying to figure out how a cowboy would have carried BP for reloading. :mellow:

 

Following the end of the Civil War until well into the 1870's and longer C&B revolvers were in common use. When the great cattle drives started C&B revolvers were most certainly carried by the cowhands. So if the cowhand was carrying extra caps, wads and balls in a pouch on his belt how and where did he carry some BP? :huh:

 

That Bull Durham tobacco pouch in his pocket sure would have made things interesting when it came time to light up a smoke. :o

 

If it was in his saddlebags or back in camp then he was up a creek if he lost his horse and was stranded somewhere or surrounded by hostiles. :blink:

 

I don't ever recall seeing this discussed in the history books I have.

By this time, the already rolled, combustable paper cartridge was in widespread use. They were sold in cardboard boxes, ready to be loaded into the cyl chambers. All else needed was the percussion caps, which were carried in a leather "cap box". No big mystery here. I doubt an ordinary cowpoke would have worried about needing a reload anyway. (Only in the movies!!)

There is a wealth of info on this sorta' stuff on Google.

Enjoy

Al

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I would bet they carried a powder flask in their saddlebags, or bedroll most of the time, maybe in a little possibles bag if they expected to do a lot of shooting. I don't think they shot much for fun, like we do.

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:huh:

 

I would assume , and we all knows what that will get ya . :o

 

in the saddle bags , or , if, on a trail drive it would probley have been with the chuck wagon

 

Not sure but that be my guess :unsure:

 

CB

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By this time, the already rolled, combustable paper cartridge was in widespread use. They were sold in cardboard boxes, ready to be loaded into the cyl chambers. All else needed was the percussion caps, which were carried in a leather "cap box". No big mystery here. I doubt an ordinary cowpoke would have worried about needing a reload anyway. (Only in the movies!!)

There is a wealth of info on this sorta' stuff on Google.

Enjoy

Al

Yup. There were probably some old timers who carried loose powder but the paper cartridges were much more convenient. As far as reloads, Rangers carried more than one Colt but they expected to run into trouble. I expect most cowboys would fire the pistoldry and then run like hell.

A Henry would have been avery handy item.

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We are talking about 1865 - 1880. Paper cartridges were fragile and unlikely to survive long in field conditions. Of course misfires were common so it may well have been cowboys rarely fired and reloaded their revolvers in which case my belt pouch would have held more useful items like matches, folding knife, etc.

 

Al, how about some links on this topic?

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Powder flasks seem the logical choice for cap & ball revolvers. I have seen a leather powder flask "holster" which attaches to the belt, but don't know how common they were back then.

 

As for bulk powder, I would imagine the powder cask was carried in a wagon, either to the bunkhouse, to a range shack, or on the trail drive.

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Powder flasks seem the logical choice for cap & ball revolvers. I have seen a leather powder flask "holster" which attaches to the belt, but don't know how common they were back then.

 

As for bulk powder, I would imagine the powder cask was carried in a wagon, either to the bunkhouse, to a range shack, or on the trail drive.

Leather flasks were almost always used for shot rather than powder. Brass was the common material for powder or silver for the aristocracy.

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Leather flasks were almost always used for shot rather than powder. Brass was the common material for powder or silver for the aristocracy.

 

I think he meant a leather "holster" for a metal flask:

 

FlaskHolder.jpg" />

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Leather flasks were almost always used for shot rather than powder. Brass was the common material for powder or silver for the aristocracy.

 

UB, perhaps I was unclear. The item to which I referred was a leather "holster" which was used to carry the brass powder flask.

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Most working Cowboys didn't carry a "Belt Pistol" day to day while working. It got in the way. Really a nuisance. Most pistols were stowed in the Chuck Wagon unless a "need" became apparent. Powder flask was the common method of carrying powder, stuffed in a pocket or a belt pouch.

Working cowboys didn't "play" with their guns as we do. Theirs was a possession of necessity. I'd doubt most could hit a stump from close up. A lot of misplaced romance has been attached to a mostly boring dirty job.

 

Coffinmaker

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Coffinmaker,

 

I agree with your observations of day to day carry use of handguns but it doesn't do much to address my question.

 

Clearly the development of self-contained cartridges made the carry of extra ammo in belt loops practical and I know starting around 1870 +/- Conversions came on the scene. None the less the need for belt pistols for self-defense was needed with certain groups in the field. Maybe cowboys are a poor example. Shoot your five (maybe) and take your chances.

 

Do you have any examples of actual powder flask pouches that were carried on the body?

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I would agree that most cowboys probably did not pack loose powder on his person for cap & ball pistols. Of course, there could always be exceptions. If they anticipated needing more than six shots for anything (stampede, Indian attack, jayhawkers, etc.), they would probably have arranged to have a second pistol...perhaps a small caliber metallic rimfire revolver, like a S&W #1, #1-1/2 in .22 Short rimfire or a #3 in .32 Rimfire. Someone travelling alone in hostile country might pack two guns and possibly paper cartridge packets. If they elected to pack loose powder at all, or if they were hunting with a muzzleloading rifle, they might pack a flask. As to how they packed the flask is another question. I have made little "holsters" for pistol-sized flasks or larger ones for rifle/Walker/Dragoon flasks that would hang on the belt. I will admit, however, I have never seen a documented reference to such an accoutrement. Does not mean it wasn't done! Form follows function, and undoubtedly, someone, sometime made a little pouch for a powder flask. Some flasks have a pair of rings to which can be attached a leather strap or thong that can be looped over one shoulder.

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Well let's backtrack a bit. Since this is in the time period immediately after the Civil War it is a fair statement that gear issued to soldiers found it's way home with them.

 

That being the case how did soldiers carry extra powder going into combat? I say this because there would be little need back in camp.

 

For pony soldiers saddle bags probably most often but going into combat where did they hang it?

 

p.s. Hardpan who made the flask pouch?

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Well let's backtrack a bit. Since this is in the time period immediately after the Civil War it is a fair statement that gear issued to soldiers found it's way home with them.

 

That being the case how did soldiers carry extra powder going into combat? I say this because there would be little need back in camp.

 

For pony soldiers saddle bags probably most often but going into combat where did they hang it?

 

p.s. Hardpan who made the flask pouch?

CW cavalrymen had cartridge boxes on their belts with linen cartridges. Only the occasional poorly equipped militia unit would have used loose powder.

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Good article here. I found it while searching Google images for "black powder flask" which has lots of images of flasks of various materials and had leather straps.

 

The article shows many variations. I would assume that a flask could be carried in any type of pouch or bag.

 

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/the-metal-flask-successor-to-the-powder-horn/

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I thought about a leather carrying cord but think I got to thinking that it would get old in hurry with the dang thing bouncing around and slapping you in ribs while riding a horse.

 

(You quickly learn to avoid anything that can beat you or your horse when riding).

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Colt and Remington cased pistol sets from 1866 to 1875 typically had a cap-n-ball cylinder and a two-piece cylinder for metallic cartridges. The case also typically had pre-made lien cartridges. Photos of that period show cowboys with a plain belt and holster and sometime a small pouch for extra caps. I suspect that changing an empty cylinder for a pre-loaded cylinder was much more common than loading from a powder flask and loose projectiles.

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Tom,

 

Possible but if so won't there be some old surviving pouches from the era?

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A box of combustible envelope cartridges from Colt's Cartridge Company in his vest pocket would be my guess.

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I haven't been able to find a credible historical reference that answers the OP. Therefore, the only credible answer I can come up with is; TA da; Dats a really good question <};-)

 

Coffinmaker

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I haven't been able to find a credible historical reference that answers the OP. Therefore, the only credible answer I can come up with is; TA da; Dats a really good question <};-)

 

Coffinmaker

Eggzackly. We can only speculate and give opinions that may be completely inaccurate.

Oh Lord. Have we become the news media??

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Well let's backtrack a bit. Since this is in the time period immediately after the Civil War it is a fair statement that gear issued to soldiers found it's way home with them.

 

That being the case how did soldiers carry extra powder going into combat? I say this because there would be little need back in camp.

 

For pony soldiers saddle bags probably most often but going into combat where did they hang it?

 

p.s. Hardpan who made the flask pouch?

 

Here ya go, SS: http://rockingksaddlery.com/index.php?pg=shoot

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I haven't been able to find a credible historical reference that answers the OP. Therefore, the only credible answer I can come up with is; TA da; Dats a really good question <};-)

 

Coffinmaker

 

Sometimes the most obvious questions are the most difficult to answer. I thought sure one of the SASS old timers that were around back then would have answered my question. :lol:

 

Hardpan thanks for the link.

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Sometimes the most obvious questions are the most difficult to answer. I thought sure one of the SASS old timers that were around back then would have answered my question. :lol:

 

Hardpan thanks for the link.

 

At a reenactment I had a person ask about the buckets on the gun and limber. Well, one is a water bucket, the other a grease bucket. Person then asked, "What kind of grease did they use on the axles?"

 

"Uh.....Ya know, that's a really good question! I have no idea. I suspect lard, or other animal fat, but I don't know for sure." And we had a nice discussion about it for maybe 20 minutes. We all agreed that it likely wasn't a petroleum product, since the oil industry was just starting out. Whale oil/grease was too expensive to use. So, chicken fat, beef fat, or pork fat...but which one? Got home and asked on several fora and someone pointed me towards an online 1863 Ordnance Dept. manual...yep! LARD! Right there in the regulations.

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That's something I had not considered.

 

John Wayne movie. Three Godfathers. They have this newborn baby, and Dobe Carey is reading a "So you're gonna have a baby" book, and announces that the book says you should coat the baby with grease. Why grease? Heck if I know. They did not say "WHY", just that "THE BOOK" said to. So these three guys are sitting there, scratching their heads. "Grease? Where we gonna get grease?"

 

Then Pedro points to the can of axle grease hanging underneath the wagon. And they greased the kid up.

 

I thought, when I saw it, of wheel-bearing-grease, having repacked a few bearings in my time, and thought, "Ewww. Yuck".

 

But, as you say, the petroleum industry had not taken off, so it most likely was lard.

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At a reenactment I had a person ask about the buckets on the gun and limber. Well, one is a water bucket, the other a grease bucket. Person then asked, "What kind of grease did they use on the axles?"

"Uh.....Ya know, that's a really good question! I have no idea. I suspect lard, or other animal fat, but I don't know for sure." And we had a nice discussion about it for maybe 20 minutes. We all agreed that it likely wasn't a petroleum product, since the oil industry was just starting out. Whale oil/grease was too expensive to use. So, chicken fat, beef fat, or pork fat...but which one? Got home and asked on several fora and someone pointed me towards an online 1863 Ordnance Dept. manual...yep! LARD! Right there in the regulations.

That would explain the flies around the artillerymen. :D

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In the movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales" the main character (Wales) carries extra gunpowder already loaded into guns. During the final shootout Wales carries 11 cap n ball pistols. No reloading. This is most likely the way they did it during the Civil War.

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Where?

 

One on each hip. One under each arm. Possibly #5 in his waistband, but I believe that was one of the shoulder-holstered guns he put there stuck there after it was shot dry.

 

Pommel holsters would give two more, but that's still 4 or 5 short.

 

Where did he have eleven guns?

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Most common type of grease in the old west was tallow (beef or sheep). Next would have been some an oil of some kind mixed with soap and, perhaps, wax.

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Ok, lemmee see if I recall: 2 on the saddle pommel, 2 in hip holsters, 2 in the pistol belt, 1 in a shoulder holster, and 2 in each saddle bag, total - 11. next time you see the movie, watch carefully and count.

 

The O'Meara Himself.

 

PS - I could be off by a couple either way. There are three kinds of people, those who can count and those who can't.

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Huh. 2+2=5 seven out a 9 tries..

 

Coffinmaker

 

What ever happened to the OP??

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