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 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: http://youtu.be/PB0SYhonsqM.
Part 2. “Prepping the Percussion Revolver” may be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OnXc4sFJaE. 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: http://youtu.be/kzLfX1UfILA. 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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSWL6tCXDrU. 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: http://youtu.be/_unvG7iBY1w. 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.