Video Series Started on the Modern Percussion Revolver

A selection of modern percussion revolvers from .22 to .44-caliber was available to illustrate a reasonable range of guns.

 My interest in black-powder guns is usually along the lines of,  “Will this gun hunt?” Even when I purchased my first percussion revolver  in 1959,  I was most interested if I could shoot squirrels with my replica .36-caliber brass-framed import. The answer was that although it was more than sufficiently powerful to take a squirrel, it was so ill-sighted that it was almost impossible to hit a squirrel, except at ranges of a few feet. The gun not only shot high, it also shot considerably to the left.

  As more, and better quality, replicas appeared in the market I tried those too. These included the Colt Walker, which were fun to shoot, relatively powerful (more so than factory loads of the .45 Long Colt), but weak guns that lacked a top strap over the cylinder, were just as poorly sighted as the old .36 and a S.O.B. to clean. I shot NMLRA competition for a time, and I used a Thompson/Center Patriot single-shot pistol for target shooting.

  Bill Ruger decided he could make a better percussion revolver somewhat based on  his Blackhawk centerfire single-action design.  He used the stronger top-strap frame, as had the historic 1858 Remington, and considerably improved the gun by installing some excellent adjustable sights.  Because it would have the Ruger name, he did not cheapen the gun by using inexpensive materials. Initially, the gun was to be offered in both .36 and .44 calibers. I suppose a few .36s were made, but I have never seen one. This revolver, once introduced, became the finest percussion revolver ever made, so far as its design, materials and functionality were concerned.

The Ruger Old Army and a broom are both employed in alligator hunting.

The Ruger was a gun that I thought that I could hunt with, and I did. I used it to take squirrels, small game and as my preferred pistol for delivering close range shots into the brains of alligators  after I have an arrowed them and drug them to the boat.  In my writings I took the line  that this and similar percussion revolvers had too little powder capacity to really be effective on deer-size game, except as back-up pistols. 

 I started to receive kick-backs on this statement from several correspondents who said that they had successfully used these pistols on deer and hogs. They convinced me that this was worth trying in a couple of guns that had adjustable sights and other qualities that make them more suitable for general hunting. The two guns that I selected to try on deer and hogs for the 2011-12 hunting season was a stainless version of the Ruger Old Army, which I already owned, and a stainless Pietta 1858 New Army Buffalo revolver from Cabela’s with a 12-inch barrel.

  Because I now had a reasonable sampling of modern percussion revolvers, I decided to produce seven YouTube videos as I took these guns through the steps of  getting them ready for small and big game hunting.  The first, ” Modern Percussion Revolvers. Part 1. The Pistols.,” appears below.  As the rest of the series is produced, I will append their  U.R.Ls. to this post. If you have trouble viewing “Part 1” here you can go directly to YouTube and see it at:

Part 2. “Prepping the Percussion Revolver” may be seen at: I removed the shipping oil from the gun, widened the rear sight and ground a little metal from one side of the hammer nose which was losing impact velocity by  rubbing against the gun’s frame.  When I clean the gun after shooting, I will take a little more metal from the hammer nose and polish it bright. 

Part 3. “Loading” may now be viewed on YouTube at: Two guns, the .22-caliber North American Arms’ and Traditions’ .44-caliber Peacemaker-style revolvers are loaded using external tools, while the Ruger Old Army is loaded in a more conventional manner using an attached  loading lever. I have posted a separate blog to more clearly identify the components used during the loading and shooting videos. 

Part 4. “Shooting” Take 2 is on YouTube at: I did not crimp the caps on one of the guns which caused them to fall from the nipples, and I had an unexplained double-fire with another gun when two chambers fired at once.  I reshot this video as “Take 2,” but instead of one double-fire got two triple-fires using a different load in the gun. This event yielded some good information and stop-action shots of the event that are in the video.

Part 5. “Cleaning.”  may be seen at: This includes  CVA’s brass-framed “Confederate” revolver, Traditions’ 1873 percussion pistol, Cabela’s 1858 Remington Buffalo, Ruger’s Old Army and North American Arms’ .22 caliber percussion revolvers.  Unlike modern cartridge guns and loads, these must be disassembled, cleaned with soap and water, dried and oiled to prevent corrosion from black powder and most substitute propellants.

3 thoughts on “Video Series Started on the Modern Percussion Revolver

  1. Great to see a serious look at Cap & Ball six-shooters! Thank you for your efforts.

    I feel these guns have been overlooked far too long as serous hunting weapons. Elmer Keith in SIXGUNS, tells of grizzly and buffalo kills with Colt Dragoons. In THE PRAIRIE TRAVELER (1859), author Captain Randolph Marcy tells of a grizzly, wounded 10 or 12 times, being dropped with 2 shots from a Colt Dragoon. I’m not sure where the major misconception of C&B revolver impotence came from, but it is a MAJOR misconception. Possibly the misconception originated with the same “experts” that tell us with a straight face that the 30-30 is inadequate for deer, and a 300 Winchester Magnum is needed!

    The Ruger Old Army, Uberti’s new “Forged-frame” Remington Army .44, the Pietta Remington Army replicas are weapons capable of serious power approaching 250 grain 950 fps loadings of the 45 Colt with maximum charges. Although the Colt 1860 Army .44 replicas can achieve the same power, its navy-sized frame and cylinder arbor will not withstand such constant heavy loads so I keep my 1860’s at 45 ACP power levels of 780-850fps when using 255-200 grain conicals, and feel it is best to keep 1860 round ball loads at 1000 fps maximum. The Ruger/Remingtons are strong and 1100+ fps round ball loads are no problem.

    The Uberti replica Walkers and Dragoons can approach 250 grain 1100 fps 45 Colt loadings in power using conicals with maximum charges. Dragoon round ball loads can hit 1200+fps and the Walker 1300+fps. I would use such heavy loads ONLY for testing and hunting, UNLESS the cylinder arbor had been removed and thoroughly casehardened by a gunsmith competent in that procedure so that it would not stretch with continuous use of heavy loads. Original Colt Dragoon cylinder arbors were properly casehardened after barrel/cylinder/frame fitting. Modern replicas often fit the barrel/cylinder/frame, leaving the wedge slot soft after fitting, and only the outside of the cylinder arbor is casehardened. Best technique is to thoroughly caseharden the cylinder arbor after all fitting is done.

    Many shooters fire only round balls and overlook the considerable range and power increase that conical bullets give the C&B revolver. Bullet molds are available that turn the C&B revolver into a surprisingly powerful weapon. Molds such as the Lee 450-200-1R conical for original and replica Army/Dragoon .44’s and the Lee 456-220-1R conical for the Ruger Old Army. Another advantage of the 2-grooved Lee conicals, is that by being pre-greased in melted beeswax, loading speed is much faster as the pre-greased bullet eliminates the messy greasing step of loading. I have also made powder tubes from gift-wrapping tissue, so that field loading a C & B revolver is “drop in 6 powder tubes, ram in 6 Lee conicals, cap the revolver and place hammer in safety slot. It takes longer to write about loading in this manner than it does to perform the actual loading!

    Check out the percussion revolver yahoo group listed in my web site. The is much information and a small group (150+ shooters) very interested in historic as well as practical, serious use of the C&B revolver. We have recently had some custom molds made of 255gr round nose and flat nose conical bullets for 44 revolvers. The round nose conical is close to the 255 grain conical found in 3rd Model Dragoon molds circa
    1855. The 255 gr flat nose conical is adapted from the Lee 452-255-RF intended for the 45 Colt, with dimensions to fit either the Ruger Old Army or the Uberti/Pietta .44 Army/Dragoon/Walker.

    Greg Nelson
    The Percussion Revolver Yahoo Group

    • Thanks for your interesting and valuable comments. I do not disagree with the approach that you have taken about being very careful about your loads, paying attention to your guns and limiting the use of your higher-powered loads.
      Readers following these remarks should keep in mind that this correspondent is talking about the those percussion revolvers that are the highest quality yet manufactured. Do not attempt anything other than “standard” loads with black powder (or substitutes) with any brass-framed guns. The Colt open-topped brass-framed imports are particularly weak. Even with use of “standard” loads they will loosen over time. The wedges can be peened to expand them a bit for a little more use and/or hardened, but this is only a temporary solution.
      If you are going to seriously shoot these guns, even strict replicas for Army-Navy and NMLRA revolver matches, save your money and don’t even bother with the brass-framed versions. Wait. Purchase the best guns when you can afford them, load them moderately and they will last a very long time if they are properly cleaned after each use. Outside of gross overloading of weakly-designed guns with smokeless powders, more of these guns have been ruined by poor disassembly methods, lack of (or incorrect, cleaning) and poor storage than are ever worn-out through use.

  2. Hovey,

    I agree whole heartedly with Greg, loads should be worked up slowly and cautiously, the 45 cal percussion revolvers such as the Ruger Old Army can be loaded to respectable levels and is the most durable of all. The 1858 Buffalo will produce the most velocity and striking energy that can be achieved in a cap and ball revolver due to it’s strength, generous powder capacity, the 12inch barrel and can be super accurate beyond 50 yards due to the longer sighting radius and modern adjustable sights if the shooter does his part. I own several percussion revolvers but this one is my favourite and I routinely load 37-40gr of 777, a wad and a .454 ball and have chronograhed this particular load in excess of 1250fps/450 ftlbs. I have been quite successful with this revolver in the field and have taken several wild hogs and deer with this combo with devastating and very dramatic impact shots. I have used conical projectiles in the past but prefer the ball load, my experience in the field has found that it is more accurate and produces much larger wound channels than the bullets due to rapid expansion causing in massive tissue destruction. I would opt for the heavy bullet loads if hunting in heavy brush where the chances of an accidental encounter with a wild hog sow with piglets within spitting distance may occur and I may be forced to shoot thru heavy cover to stop a charge. Models such as the case hardened or forged framed 1858s and the Rogers and Spencer models can be stoutly loaded and will reach 41 magnum paper ballistics with ease. The 1851,1860, and the Dance Brothers revolvers may be loaded pretty stiff but not on a regular basis, the Dragoon and the Walker can be loaded to phenomenal power levels but lack the proper sights to really consider them for hunting purposes. The only exception would be the 3rd Model Dragoon version with the on-board flip up sights on the barrel which work very well and generally are quite accurate. Brass framed revolvers will not last very long if loaded to the aforementioned power levels and are not recommended for hunting purposes. These models serve you better as occasional plinkers. And please avoid the percussion version of the 1873 Peacemaker. This model is notorious for chain fires if heavily loaded and is best lightly loaded to be used for plinking or small game hunting.

    Hovey, keep up the good work!


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