Being a traditionalist where single-action revolvers are concerned, I always look with a jaundiced eye at modern "improvements." Most of those improvements denote design changes for speed or economy of manufacture, and quite often those improvements mean disaster for the consumer, like the 1964 Winchester rifles. This does not mean, however, that I can't be won over if the changes really are for the better. My Ruger Vaqueros get a great deal more range time than my Colt, for example. And, I have no problem with stainless steel for single-action revolvers. Stainless provides one of those best-of-both-worlds options. Either it is highly polished, like the Vaquero, and looks like nickel-plating, or it's matte finished and looks like the older revolvers with the blue worn off. Whichever appearance, stainless is more corrosion resistant and much easier to clean than blued carbon steel.
When I asked Marie Uberti of Uberti USA for a stainless Remington 1858 reproduction for evaluation, I expected a quality firearm made of rust-resistant materials that would be an easy beginning revolver for the new percussion shooter and a valuable ally for the hunter who carried a percussion sidearm. I had some very pleasant surprises awaiting me.
First, let's talk about this '58 Remington pattern. One thing the Old West buff should know is that this revolver is misnamed. The Remington New Model Army became available in 1863 as an improvement over the Remington Army Model and the Remington-Beals Model. The originals had the date of the Beals patent, "September 14 1858," engraved on the barrel. From that date, collectors in modern times began referring to the revolver as the 1858. Like most things in popular culture, the truth has failed to alter the perception, so the revolver is still known as the '58.
The Remington pattern revolver differs from the Colt mainly in having a top strap over the cylinder. This allows a rear sight v-notch cut into the channel in the top strap, which is a great improvement over the notch in the Colt's hammer. The Remington hammer nose is also smaller than Colt's, and when firing, it slips through a slot cut in the frame that is narrow enough to keep most percussion cap parts from falling into the lockwork, a major cause of jams in the Colt-type action.
Though ostensibly stronger, due to the top strap, either Colt or Remington styles are strong enough for the loads they were designed to handle. Because the cylinder is not rebated, as in the New Model Army Colt (the 1860), those seeking cartridge conversions have the option of using .44 or .45 calibers. Another major difference is that the Remington reproductions usually come sighted pretty close to point of aim. Most Colt copies, following the pattern of Colt's originals, are sighted for 100 yards, which means for normal shooting distances, they hit high. Sometimes they are close enough that a little filing on the hammer brings points of impact and aim together, often, however, a gunsmith must add material to the front sight.
For a safety device, Colt used little pins machined on the rear of the cylinder between the nipples and a corresponding hole in the hammer nose. The hammer was lowered onto one of the pins, and the pin in the hole was supposed to keep the cylinder from slipping and keep the hammer from contacting a percussion cap. Remington improved on this idea by machining deep grooves on the cylinder between the nipples. The Remington's hammer nose could rest in one of those grooves, making it safe to carry all six chambers loaded.
The first surprise of the stainless Uberti USA 1858 New Army was in the sights. The normal narrow channel in the rear is cut much wider, making it easier and faster to use. There's a great deal of air on both sides of the front sight, and the sight picture can be picked up quickly. The front sight is a work of genius. Normally, the Remington pattern front sight is a round piece of metal, soldered or screwed into the top of the barrel. The sides are then are ground down, giving a blade appearance. If the sight is too high, filing will take care of that. If it's too low, it can be replaced or material can be welded on. However, if the windage is off, you're stuck. The design does not lend itself to bending. I tried that on one of my old (non-Uberti) '58 copies and snapped the sight off. Uberti manufactures a round-post-to-blade sight just like original Remingtons, but instead of screwing or soldering it to the barrel, they dovetail it. Simple and incredibly effective. The sight is made too high on purpose, so that the shooter can choose his favorite load and file it down to match, and the dovetail allows for easily shifting the sight to the side to correct windage problems. By the way, since we're talking about moving the front sight, move the sight opposite the direction you want the bullet impact to move. If you're hitting to the left, for example, move the sight to the left. When you take the sight picture again, you'll automatically hold the barrel right of where it was before, correcting the impact for windage.
Another surprise was the trigger pull. Uberti has recently attacked the hard trigger pull problem everyone has complained about in every manufacturer's firearms. Of the three revolvers sent by Uberti USA, the '58 New Army had the hardest trigger pull, four pounds even. There was a burr on the trigger or the sear, making the pull grate a little. That disappeared after the first 50 rounds were fired, and the pull then measured 3 pounds 8 ounces with a tiny bit of creep.
The last surprise happened at the range. This revolver is the most accurate percussion revolver I have ever fired. It was prepared by cleaning the barrel and chambers of oil then coating the cylinder pin liberally with Bore Butter. Using the standard load of 30 grains by volume of 3F Goex black powder or the equivalent of Pyrodex P, I covered the powder with an Ox Yoke Originals Wonder Wad impregnated with Lube 1000 or an Uncle Mike's Hot Shot Wad, followed by a .454" ball of dead-soft lead from Hornady. A word of preference here. If much shooting is to be done, the lube-impregnated styles of wads like these are my choice. Their lube keeps powder fouling softer. If I am going to leave the revolver loaded for a time, like carrying it for a week deer hunting during primitive season, I prefer the Wonder Wads Dry. I have had no experience of the lubed wads contaminating powder, but it sometimes gets rather hot during our primitive season, so I don't take the chance. Loaded with the dry wads and 3F black powder, I stored one of my Remington revolvers in my safe for 13 months, and it fired perfectly. (I had four of them at the time and wanted to know.) Back to this test, RWS #10 caps were used throughout, and all charges were measured with Ox Yoke Originals' All Brass Powder Measure (Stock #1000) to keep things consistent. This handy gadget needs a better name. It is much more than just a powder measure made of 100 percent brass. It has a nipple pick screwed into one end, and the adjustable powder measure is topped by a funnel that slides over the powder chamber. If you over-fill, sliding the funnel into place sweeps away the excess powder. I fired five, five-shot groups with each combination, and the results are in the accompanying box. The Goex load gave me one 2.1" group and another that put 4 shots into 2" before I pulled the last shot to the right, opening it up to 4". All this while averaging 933 fps over the chronograph. Measure Pyrodex by setting your powder measure for the weight of black powder you would throw. Do not weigh Pyrodex. It's lighter by volume, and if you match the weight to the weight of black powder, you're asking for trouble. The safest course is to pay no attention to what Pyrodex actually weighs, measure the charge by volume with a black powder measure like the Ox Yoke Originals All Brass Powder Measure used in these tests. Pyrodex P, as it usually does, gave a faster speed with the identical (by volume) charge. The 30 grains by volume shoved the Hornady ball across the chronograph at 981 fps. The best group at 25 yards was 2.25 inches. In fact, the first two groups were identical, 2.25". The worst group was 4.5", and for a black powder revolver at 25 yards, 4.5" is usually pretty good. I had no misfires and no hangfires during this day's shooting. The Uberti USA 1858 New Army functioned as reliably as any modern handgun. It grouped tighter than my modern semi-autos (other than those modified by gunsmiths) and tighter than any other black powder revolver I have ever fired. Due to some really stupid laws being passed recently, shooters in England and some in the US, even some lawmen in the US, can no longer own cartridge handguns. They can, however, own percussion handguns. Placed in those circumstances, I would without hesitation buy a brace of Uberti stainless steel 1858 New Army reproductions from Uberti USA. I would load them with 3F black powder, Wonder Wads Dry, and Hornady balls, cap them, and feel totally confident about protecting my life, the lives of my loved ones, and my property.
Five consecutive five-shot groups were fired over sandbags at 25 yards. All loads used Hornady swaged .454" round balls and Ox Yoke Originals Wonder Wads with Lube 1000. Velocities were measured in feet per second with a PACT Model 1 Chronograph at 10 feet from the muzzle.
|30 gr Goex 3F||933 fps||2"||4"||3.24"||37.6|
|30 gr Pyrodex P||1010 fps||2.25"||4.5"||3.0"||42.7|
average extreme group spread 3.12"