Shooting Modern Percussion Revolvers Takes 1 and 2

Although there were functional problems caused by loose-fitting caps, Cabela's Buffalo revolver shot a respectable group the first time it was fired. The North American Arms .22 functioned well, but was challenging to shoot because of its small size and harsh trigger pull.

  Sometimes I get carried away with all of the myriad details of a project that I forget what I know very well that I know. In the video “Modern Percussion Revolvers. Part 4. Shooting.” I forgot the rather obvious step of crimping the bases of the percussion caps to make sure they were tight fits on the nipples. In practically, this crimping process presents some problems and inherent dangers – more about those later.  

  Two unexpected events happened in the first video. The first, and most spectacular, was when the 6 O’clock chamber of the cylinder of  Traditions’ 1873 Peacemaker percussion revolver fired when I shot the gun. Two loads went off at once with much smoke and noise. One bullet went out the barrel and the other impacted the bottom of the frame to form a flattened fused lead mass that prevented the cylinder from rotating.

Flame can be seen at the gun's muzzle and also at the bottom chamber as a result of a double-fire when the first version of this video was shot.

  This was not the usual chain-fire event where flame jumps from chamber to chamber, gets around the ball into an adjoining chamber and ignites more than one propellant charge. I had  wax wads over the top of the balls and  felt wads beneath them to prevent this type of occurrence. What apparently happened was that the recoil from the first charge was sufficient to slam a cap into the back plate with sufficient force to fire the cap and discharge the bottom chamber.  On “Take 2,” I crimped the caps on the nipples, and this time three chambers  fired simultaneously.

 The number 11 caps were a somewhat better fit on the Traditions gun than on Cabela’s Pietta Buffalo revolver. On this Pietta, moving the gun was sufficient for the caps to fall from the nipples. Crimping these caps on the nipples solved this problem, and on “Take 2” the gun fired all six chambers without any difficulties.

 With percussion revolvers the only  practical way to put a crimped cap onto a nipple is with the fingers, rather than using a capping device.  This is very difficult to do when the cylinder is in the gun.  First use the fingers to press the bottom of the cap slightly with the fingers and then push them onto the nipples. Then, you place the capped cylinder into the gun. Should this cylinder fall onto a hard surface and one of the caps hits, that chamber is very likely to fire with the ball going in a random direction and perhaps into a leg, foot or the lower body.

 I cover my shooting table with carpet. Not only does this provide a non-scratching surface for the guns, it also prevents events like inadvertent cylinder discharges.

  I did not understand why there was such a difference in sound in the Traditions revolver when the other five rounds were fired in the first of the two videos.  The pellet in the next shot did fire, but very weakly, as if the charge had been spoiled by being wetted. The four other charges had a much more normal response. I had used these pistol pellets  for reloading .44 Magnum pistol cartridges, and they had performed very well.  The pellets that I used were from an old partial container, and perhaps one of them had somehow become contaminated. I have since received reports of other people having inconsistent results with these pellets, including one who lost a deer because the pellet was a squib load. This sort of performance might be O.K. with plinking cans, but not when hunting.

 Although they only fired a cylinder-full of loads in this video, the other revolvers worked fine during the first video. The North American Arms .22 was the most challenging to shoot because of its light weight, primitive sights and relatively hard trigger pull. It grouped about 2 1/2 inches below and left of its point of aim. The point of impact can be raised by filing down the front sight, but lateral errors can only be compensated for by aiming to the right of the target.

  When looking back over the first video I did not like it because it gave too much of a negative impression of the guns, and I decided to do another version of this video as “Take 2” using four of the five guns. The gun I omitted, the brass- frame CVA Confederate Revolver,  is now featured on a separate video, “Shooting Replica Civil War Revolvers” at: .

  Modern Percussion Revolvers. Part 4. Shooting. Take 2. may now be seen on YouTube at:  Except for the Traditions 1873, all of the other guns worked perfectly. The new Cabela’s Buffalo 1858 Remington-pattern revolver shot a very good first group at 10 yards with a mixed set of loads.

 It took only two shots with the Traditions to empty all six chambers. Both the Pyrodex pellet and 30-grain load of FFFg were too much for the gun. Pressure is not the problem. It is that the recoil generated by the load is causing the nipples to slam against the recoil shield and fire their respective chambers.

  Exactly how this is happening I do not yet know. I had used the gun previously with FFg black powder and round ball loads without any problem. Changing percussion caps, powders or even shortening the tops of the nipples might help. For now the most expedient solution is to drop back to a lower recoil-generating load of 20-25 grains of  FFg black powder  for this gun. STICK TO LOW PRESSURE LOADS WITH THIS GUN for best functionality.

 I extracted some stills from the video showing the multiple-fire events and spliced these stop-action shots into the Take 2 video. This was just one of those interesting and unexpected events that take place when you shoot  black-powder guns.  The only damage to the gun was the end of the cylinder pin retaining plunger assembly was torn off the gun. This complicated  removing the cylinder, but I managed to extract the broken plunger parts and pull the cylinder pin. This allowed me to clean and inspect the gun’s frame to make sure it was not damaged by being slammed into by three pistol balls.


5 thoughts on “Shooting Modern Percussion Revolvers Takes 1 and 2

  1. Hovey, this was actually really good as all these things can and will happen to first time cap and ball shooters. On my 1858 12 in stainless Pietta I changed the nipples to Tresco Ampco nipples and I always crimp my caps. I use 777 between 37 to 40gr, a lubricated wad and a .454 ball, no need to lube top of ball. I get an average of 1250fps with 37gr and this combo and as you can see by the pics I sent you it does take big game, works absolutely flawlessly and super accurate. I applaud your efforts as not only are these videos well thought out and put together professionally but serve as a tremendous learning tool to demystify the cordite communities thinking that these weapons are toys and unsuitable for big game. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this series. _Rudy

  2. A friend of mine actually shot a small hog with a brass framed 44 calibre 1851 like the one in your civil war commemorative video years ago. His gun deteriorated real quick after repeated use of heavy loads, the whole thing just got loose due to the frame stretching and the arbor pin became loose. I believe he used to use about 35gr of Swiss in his gun all the time. If you are serious about hunting with your cap and ball revolver stick to the steel frame designs and don’t get into the brass models. Brass is OK if light target loads are used but you will destroy it if stout charges of holy black is used and more so if Swiss or 777.


  3. Great video, “Take 2” is awesome and shows the accuracy potential of these weapons, you can make them even better. The Buffalo I own has a definite preference of 3fg 777, a wad and a .454 ball. She is a tack driver and has brought down plenty of hogs and deer. The Ruger is the best build percussion revolver ever built but the Buffalo will have more down range energy and accuracy due to its increased muzzle velocity and longer sight radius. The 1873 Traditions Peacemaker is just an over glorified paper weight in cap and ball form and has always been plagued with problems as a percussion revolver, but is a great cartridge gun.

    Keep up the good work

  4. Rudy, thanks for the additional information. I think that I will sell the Traditions 1873 to a nearby film-making group for use as a prop for some of their Western features. When I first received the gun, I was loading FFg and did not have any problems with round-ball loads, and took some small game with it. Going to 30 grains of FFFg or Pyrodex pellets was obviously too much for it, although 30-grains of FFFg was in the range of loads suggested by the literature that came with the gun.

    The .44-caliber CVA Confederate revolver was always a functionally reliable gun, but for “limited use and light duty.” If there is someone who wants one for his collection and talkes it out and shoots a cylinder or two full for demonstration purposes a couple of times a year, it is an inexpensive platform to use for that purpose. They just need to be content with loads of 20 to 25 grains of FFg (preferred), FFFg (will work) or Pyrodex P and a round-ball load or blank charges. For discharging more than one cylinder full, use heavy grease on the cylinder pin or the gun will very quickly bind up. If the cylinder becomes difficult to rotate, use the fingers to help it to prevent putting too much strain on the action parts. Once the gun is empty, then put it away until you have a chance to clean it.

  5. pietta’s use a number 10 cap you won’t have to “crimp them like using #11 caps .you can make shot loads with over shot cards made from flat lead sheet flashing made from roofing pipe flanges Home depot .after putting shot charge in over over powder card “lay a strip of flat lead sheet over chamber with the bb’s in it and ram the bullet seater down it will paper punch a piece of lead over bb’s and stays there till you shoot it down the barrel with the bb’s makes a bigger hole in the snake or rabbit.

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