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Loading and Shooting
Uberti’s Third Model Colt Dragoon


By Warren Mayes


When I was twelve years old I purchased my first cap and ball revolver, a brass framed 1851 Colt Navy.  I’d ride my bike a few miles out of town and walk the sage brush hills in pursuit of the mighty jack rabbit.  To a twelve-year-old those jacks where as big as a house and could jump 20 feet high.  More often than not I’d empty my Colt Navy without even so much a loosening a tuft of hair.  But every so often I’d get one - the good old days.  Thirty years have passed and several Colt reproductions have slipped through my hands.  I’ve always liked the lines of Colt’s Third Model Dragoon and when the opportunity to purchase one came – I did.


A Uberti copy of Colt’s Third Model Dragoon
7½ barrel, 44 caliber, a few ounces more than 4 pounds.


Browsing through the Possible Shop’s web pages I found exactly what I was looking for. I also found all the necessary accessories to include a Walker flask, an original Ted Cash Universal Capper, Hornady round balls, Eastern Maine lube and cleaning supplies. Eight days after placing my order with The Possible Shop’s friendly and knowledgeable staff the package arrived. All content was securely packaged, of the correct quantity and nomenclature – perfect.
I learned several important things my first trip to the range with the Dragoon. The Walker flask works very well but there’s a definite technique to throwing a consistent charge. Weighing each charge with a digital scale I discovered my charge weights varied by 5 – 6 grains depending on how I used the flask. If I tipped the flask back upright and then down again and gave a light tap on the side each time, charge weights varied by only 1 or 2 grains.
The big Dragoon’s chambers will hold a full fifty grains of Goex 3f and a round ball but requires a considerable amount of force to seat the ball below the cylinder chamber mouth. Seventy two shots later without a single malfunction, I settled on a forty grain load (42.5 grains by weight). To set the Walker flask to throw a forty grain charge (volume) use a jeweler’s flat tip screw driver, loosen the set screw on the adjustable measure, slide the measure to the fourth detent and tighten – be careful, these are small brass screws and are easily damaged if over torqued. Adjust the threaded powder plug so it sets down .125 inch. With a round ball, this load compresses the powder charge .160 inch and seats the ball to a depth of .130 inches below the cylinder chamber mouth and allows for ample lube cover, generates less fouling and most importantly – improved accuracy.

Left. Hard to see the powder in the cylinder but its there, 40 grains of Goex 3f .425 inches below the cylinder chamber mouth. Note the setting on the Walker flask.
Right. With a 40 grain charge, ball seats .130 below cylinder chamber mouth with .160 inch powder charge compression.
I tried .451, .454 and .457 round balls. The .451 ball is too small as there is an incomplete ring of lead shaved from ball when seated. The .457 ball requires a great deal of effort to seat with an excessive amount of lead removed during the seating process. The Hornady .454 ball seats with minimal effort with a complete ring of lead removed during seating.
Loaded cylinder ready for lube.
 Lubed and ready.

The Uberti Dragoon is a quality piece of work, finish is good, metal to metal fit is good, and the grip is a nice piece of hard wood. Overall - an excellent product. I was a little stuck on which capper would work best. The Possible Shop recommended an original Ted Cash Universal Capper - good advice. After using the Ted Cash capper I’m quite fond of it for several reasons: It’s well made – in Wisconsin – positively feeds one and only one cap at a time, fits my hand well, is easy to fill and is durable enough to firmly seat a cap on the nipple.


Walker flask, Ted Cash universal capper and Hornady round balls.


At 25 yards, with 40 - 50 grains of Goex 3f and a very generous 6 o’clock hold I could not keep shots in a 12 inch bull– every shot went high. I moved to 50 yards and discovered the ball was still gaining altitude. From the bench I found the sights worked well at 100 yards. The front blade was too short.
This revolver shot good enough to spend the $60 to replace the front blade with a .220 inch dot blade. I also rounded the hammer notch to match the dot. The sight picture looks like an open top peep sight with a rear sight aperture just big enough to hold the front sight dot with a slight halo. I also had a bit of trouble with the factory nipples. The Dragoon comes with a set of nipples that are too small for #11 caps and too big for #10 caps. During initial testing, I settled on the #11s and found they stayed on fairly well if I tacked them in pace with a little lube. I replaced the nipples with a set of AMPCO Uberti Walker/Dragoon nipples, also available from The Possible Shop. Number 11 caps fit and function perfectly. Spent caps slipped easily from the nipple and did not fall off during recoil. There are few things more irritating than a jammed revolver caused by a spent cap falling into the action.

Shows rounded rear sight notch
Shows .220 inch dot blade front sight.
 The second time out, 21 degrees with a 5 -10 mph quartering tail wind, all worked well. This revolver likes forty grains of Goex 3f, a Hornady .454 round ball seated .130 inches below the cylinder chamber mouth, a generous amount of lube over ball and #11 caps on the new AMPCO nipples. I’ve long believed ample lube is the key to accuracy when shooting black powder. When shooting a Sharps Rifle ample lube makes all the difference in the world. I believe (check out the pictures) the same holds true for a cap and ball revolver. I topped each ball with a generous amount of Eastern Maine Premium Lube. The Eastern Maine Lube and their many other quality products are as good or better than most I’ve used. Even at an ambient 21 degrees F the Eastern Maine lube was easy to apply. This powder, ball, cap and lube combination shoots pretty good in this revolver and is a pleasure to shoot.

Same target, twelve shoot group, 25 yards, off hand.  I love these 200 yard targets, they have an orange bull on the back and plenty big enough to see.
The newly installed .220 inch blade allows for a dead center hold at 25 - 50 yards. Point of impact is about 1 inch high at 25 and about 3 inches low at fifty yards.  I like a dead on hold and consider this perfect for action shooting.
  In 60 rounds, I experienced only one technical problem - a fallen loading lever during cylinder four.  The screw connecting the loading lever to the ram had loosened
changing the geometry between pivot and latch. I tightened the screw and I was back in business - you should periodically check all the screws to ensure they are still tight. For best accuracy I found it necessary to remove the barrel and run a dry brush down the bore a few times after each 12 shoots.


After 12 shots – a dry .45 bristle brush easily removed the fouling. Note the bead on the top of the front sight.
Even after 60 rounds, cleaning the revolver with hot soapy (dish soup) water was a snap. The Eastern Maine lube kept the fouling soft with no leading.
Shooting this revolver is a great deal of fun, it’s a little on the heavy side, 4 lbs and few ounces, hits where you hold and never fails to attract a few onlookers.
Incidentally, all of the items mentioned are available from The Possible Shop.

Warren’s unique technical approach to black powder firearms is a compilation of 30 years shooting black powder firearms, 15 years on the leading edge of firearms development as a United States Air Force Aircraft, Missile and Munitions Maintenance Officer, a Master of Science Degree, a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a steady diet of current firearms industry readings.
The Possible Shop aims to put to word and picture Warren’s technical expertise and provide answers to your questions regarding loading, shooting and cleaning muzzle loading rifles and pistols, assembling, loading and shooting black powder paper and metallic cartridges, exterior ballistics and a host of additional topics. In so doing The Possible Shop hopes to improve your shooting skills and scores and most importantly enhance the pleasure you and your family derive from owning and shooting the firearms of yesteryear.