When the state of Texas seceded from the United States in February 1861, it was a time of both celebration and of trepidation. After secession the United States army withdrew from the forts in western Texas that had been providing frontier defense, leaving settlements from the Red River to the Rio Grande on their own against Comanche, Kiowa and Apache raiders.
The confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope recognized the problem and he asked the famous former Texas Ranger captain Ben McCollough to raise a regiment of Texas Rangers for border defense. Ben McCollough declined because he wanted a command east of the Mississippi, but his brother Henry stepped up to command the regiment.
Big Brother Ben helped out with recruiting and arming the regiment. He approached Sam Colt and ordered 1,000 of the then new .44 caliber 1860 Army revolvers. He assured Colt that these guns would be used only for frontier defense, and would not be used against Northern troops. He could have saved his breath, because it is unlikely that Colt cared one way or another. A sale was a sale.
Colt wasn’t much concerned with which side bought his wares. Before the start of actual hostilities Colt sold pistols to every Southern State that placed an order. In fact he seriously thought about warehousing his arms in a facility in either Virginia or Georgia, so he could continue to sell them after the south was blockaded. But he didn’t get the facility set up before the war began.
Colt filled the Texas order for one thousand 1860 Army revolvers, but only 500 of them successfully slipped through the Union blockade. Those were issued to Henry McCollough’s Ranger regiment and they were used on frontier duty during the war.
These have become known as McCollough Colts. They are distinctive looking revolvers. Out of the first 8,000 1860 revolvers produced, half of them had fully fluted cylinders. These cylinders developed bursting problems so Colt went to what we now consider the standard 1860 cylinder, which is un-fluted and roll engraved with the naval battle scene. The McCollough Colts had the fully fluted early cylinders.
In addition to running Cimarron Firearms, Mike Harvey is also a student of Texas and old west history, and he is a collector of historical firearms. Mike owns a rare original McCollough 1860 Colt, and he approached the Italian arms maker A. Uberti to recreate it for American enthusiasts. The resulting replica is nearly indistinguishable from the original in Mike’s collection.
All 1860 Colts look great with their long sleek lines, but the Cimarron McCollough Colt is distinctive looking. The barrel is the eight-inch long, streamlined, round barrel, with the rack and pinion loading lever, that made its debut on the 1860 Army before later appearing on the 1861 Navy model and the 1862 Police model.
The cylinder of the McCollough Colt is fully fluted with deep flutes that run from the front face of the cylinder all the way to the rear face.. This looks odd to modern shooters who are used to the short, shallow flutes on most sixguns, but it is a look that really grows on you. As with all 1860 Colts, the cylinder on the McCollough Colt steps up for the forward two-thirds of its length to accommodate the .44 caliber rounds, but the flutes make that step-up less obvious than it would be on an un-fluted cylinder.
The recoil shield of the frame is cut for a shoulder stock. Though rarely used today, shoulder stocks on Colt pistols were actually pretty popular during the Civil War. The grips assembly is the classic long 1860 Army configuration with a steel back strap and a brass trigger guard. The grips themselves are one-piece walnut.
In 1861 the actual 1860 Colts ordered by Ben McCollough would have had blued barrels and back straps and a brass trigger guard. The balance of the metal would have been color case hardened. And Cimarron sells a full-fluted 1860 Army with that factory-fresh finish. But the original McCollough Colt in Mike Harvey’s collection has seen 150 years of history pass by, and during that time the original finish has worn away to a faded gray patina. This is the look that Mike wanted Uberti to impart to the Cimarron reproduction of the McCollough 1860 Colt.
Cimarron calls this their “original finish”, and it really looks good. I have to be honest; I like my cap and ball revolvers to look like they would have looked the day the original was made in the nineteenth century. I like to impart my own wear on a gun by using it. But Cimarron’s original finish has won me over. I would gladly own this gun.
My test gun was one of Cimarron’s show guns. These are guns that Cimarron takes as part of their display to events like the SHOT Show or End of Trail. A lot of those shows require all display guns to have their firing pins removed. So the McCollough Colt came to me with no nipples. That gave me the opportunity to try out a set of the newest nipple on the market.
They are called Slix-Shot nipples. These are made by TK4B Enterprises in Gresham, Oregon, and several black powder supplies distributors sell them. Slix Shot nipples are machined from stainless steel, and they are a bit longer than the Uberti stock nipples. The most obvious features of these nipples are the two small holes drilled into the cone itself.
Any old time muzzleloaders will remember that Uncle Mike’s Hotshot nipples used a similar design. The purpose of the holes is to relieve backpressure on the fired caps. That is designed to minimize the tendency of Colt replicas to pull fired caps off the nipples and drop them into the action. The additional length on the Slix Shot caps is to allow cowboy action competitors to use lower power mainsprings and still get reliable ignition.
I have these nipples on several of my C&B sixguns now, and they do what they are supposed to do. The McCollough Colt was my first foray with the Slix Shot nipples, and they worked flawlessly. I had no failures to fire and no cap jams while using them.
I tested Cimarron’s 1860 McCollough Colt with both round balls and with conical bullets. Both projectiles were cast by me, and both were seated over 30 grains of Goex 3Fg black powder, and were ignited by Remington #10 percussion caps.
The 148-grain round balls moved along at an average velocity of 883 feet per second. Accuracy was decent with this load. Groups averaged three and a half inches in diameter, with several sub-two-inch groups in the mix. This is the load I used to break racked clay birds from 12 yards, so it is more than accurate enough for CAS match shooting or general plinking.
The 220-grain conical, pushed by the same 30-grain powder charge, averaged 718 feet per second over my F1 Chrony. Accuracy was excellent with this bullet. My average group was only two and a quarter inches in diameter, and several groups were just an inch across. This load printed about seven inches above POA from 15 yards, which is four inches higher than the round ball. In the nineteenth century, conicals would have been the more common projectile in these guns, and it is easy to see why they were favored.
I like matching historical handguns to period appropriate holsters. My choice for the McCollough Colt is Dave Carrico’s civilian half flap holster. Dave Carrico really knows his stuff. He has made the horse leather and gun leather for most of the Hollywood Westerns going back to “Ride with the Devil”. Most recently he made the Leather for the re-makes of “True Grit” and “3:10 to Yuma”.
The civilian half-flap was a popular design in the 1860’s. This is a very secure holster that protects the sixguns from the elements, as well as secures it firmly in the holster on horseback. But, if action is immanent, just un-secure the flap, and the big pistol draws very quickly and cleanly. And it just looks right with the McCollough Colt’s original finish.
Shooting these old cap and ball guns really brings history alive for me, and Cimarron’s McCollough Colt is one of the most evocative replicas I’ve ever fired. Because it is one of their display pieces, Cimarron, made me promise to return it to them after the test, but, you know…I’m not sure I can…
Cimarron McCollough Colt 1860
Caliber: .44 Cap & Ball
Barrel: 8 inches
OA length: 13.5 inches
Weight: 2 lb 12 oz
Grips: One-piece walnut
Action: Single action revolver
Finish: Cimarron’s “original” finish
Capacity: 6 shots
Points of contact:
Cimarron Firearms Co. Inc.
105 Winding Oak Road
Fredericksburg, TX 78624
811 5000 Road
Edna, KS 67342
TK4B Enterprises LLC
755 Sw Norman Ct
Gresham, OR 97080
No phone or website