Over the past few days, I’ve seen references to The Dark Tower and firearms popping up in my social media feeds. They’ve been talking about the epic reload of a cartridge conversion Remington New Model Army/ Screenshots from the trailer and official promotional stills show how Idris Elba (a.k.a., The Gunslinger) reloads his handgun.
An up-close screenshot of the reload shows six speedloaders on Elba’s belt, in addition to six cartridge loops on his belt. The gun is a solid frame revolver with a swing-out cylinder.
As the revolver in question is a .44 caliber Army, the cartridges in view are most likely to be .44 Magnum centerfire rounds. By swinging out the cylinder and running the gun along the tips of the bullets, he’s able to magically release the cartridges from their loops and reload in the blink of an eye.
It makes for an awesome movie magic moment, but let’s explore the reality of what’s happening. Or rather, the lack of reality. (This is where being a gun guy and a history buff gets in the way of enjoying a work of fiction.)
Historically, Remington did indeed offer cartridge conversions of their percussion cap-and-ball revolvers. A bored-through cylinder – the use of which they licensed from Smith & Wesson, who held the Rollin White patent on the design – replaced the percussion cylinder. This changed the gun from a six-shot .44 caliber revolver to a five-shot .46 Short rimfire revolver. Loading and unloading were accomplished by a cut-out modification on the recoil shield’s right side.
Back to Elba’s guns . . .
First off, if the guns were traditional .46 Short conversions, then he’s carrying the wrong ammo and the wrong speedloaders. His cartridges are clearly centerfire, and each speedloader holds six rounds instead of five.
An official promotional photo shows Elba with a pair of pistols. Conveniently enough, the image gives us a look at both sides of the guns. It’s obvious that there’s no break in the frame to allow the cylinder to swing out to the side. Yet it clearly does in the video clip above.
Examination of the recoil shield on the gun’s right side shows no alteration to allow the insertion and extraction of self-contained metallic cartridges. It retains the original percussion-based profile. Because of the solid frame and lack of recoil shield alteration, it’s a physical impossibility to both load and unload the gun — unless you know the magic words that allow the cylinder to swing out of a solid frame.
Now let’s talk about the cartridges themselves . . .
It would be really cool if you could reload from belt loops like Elba does. But then that would defeat the concept of the loop. Because the cartridges are rimmed, they cannot pass through the loop completely. The rim holds the cartridge in place. Unless the loops temporarily expand for a fraction of a second, the cartridges cannot pass through and fall into the chambers.
So, there you have it: the Gunslinger’s Remington New Model Army cartridge conversion revolver is pure Hollywood fantasy. It shoots six .44 Magnum centerfire cartridges from a cylinder designed to hold five .46 Short rimfire cartridges, that can be loaded and unloaded from a swing-out cylinder mounted in a solid frame with a percussion-based recoil shield profile, using a cartridge loop belt that is designed to prevent pass-through of the cartridges.
On a more serious note: the movie looks good and I plan on seeing it with the hopes that the overall production is enough to allow me to overlook the glaring firearm errors.
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.