Hunting Small Game with Percussion Revolvers


The Ruger Old Army at work, in this case killing a Georgia alligator after proving itself squirrel hunting.

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  Hunting small game with pistols is a challenge and doing it with cap and ball revolvers is even more interesting. I started this process with almost no success back in the 1950s with a replica .36-caliber Colt-pattern revolver. This gun was so ill sighted and shot so high that hitting an animal the size of a squirrel required aiming six inches below and two inches to the right. Only at practically end-of- the -muzzle range, could I reliably hit small game.

  Over the years I owned a variety of .22 L.R. and centerfire handguns and used these successfully. With pistol hunting for squirrels I found that I was using over twice as much ammunition as I would with a .22 rifle, even shooting at sitting animals.  Using handguns I hunted  rabbits,  ptarmigan and some Western grouse (in states where this is legal), and I often fed myself with pistol-taken small game in Alaska and elsewhere.

Sometimes during the early 1970s, I purchased a replica Colt .31 pocket pistol. As much by accident as design, this one shot to about the point of aim. I was able to take rabbits with this revolver and a few grouse. I later sold it and have regretted it ever since. What all of these guns needed was adjustable sights so that I did not have to worry about “Kentucky windage” when I was trying to kill something. Having repeat shots was an advantage, but could not overcome the fact that the original replica patterns were so ill-sighted.

  The Ruger Old Army, now discontinued, used many of the Blackhawk cartridge revolver’s components, including an excellent set of sights. I immediately latched onto one of these and was pleased to discover that this gun worked on squirrels, other small game and was also useful for alligator hunting. More recently I have been working with Cabela’s .44-caliber Buffalo revolver which also has adjustable sights. My gun is made of stainless steel, has a 12-inch barrel and can take loads capable of  killing deer-sized game at close range.

  Using this gun I found that I might see a dozen squirrels, find five  in safe places to shoot (where a tree or the ground will take the ball after it penetrates the animal), and actually kill two of them. Something like this is how my pistol hunting for squirrels usually progresses.  At nearly 70 years old, my eyes are not as good as they were when I was 17.  I must take off my glasses to see the pistol sights clearly and then my view of the animal becomes indistinct.

  Could a younger guy with better vision do better?  I would hope so.  Nonetheless, using a .44-caliber percussion pistol to take small animals like squirrels is a wasteful expenditure of powder and lead. Why do it?

The results of a hunt with the Cabela's Buffalo .44.

It is fun. It does work in the gun as many more shots will be fired at small game that the few fired at deer and hogs each year.  It also gives the user the confidence that if he can take animals as small as squirrels with pistols like the Ruger and Pietta revolvers using maximum-level loads of  Triple Seven, then he can likely take larger game with precise bullet placement.   

 I have a 7-part video series on “The Modern Percussion Revolver” on YouTube at the wmhoveysmith channel  that shows  my use of  these guns. Video 7 A, below, covers small game hunting with Cabela’s Buffalo revolver. If you have trouble viewing it here it is also available on YouTube at: The pistol was provided by Cabelas and the components by Dixie Gun Works.

 After I did the video several people reported that Cabelas does offer an open-top leather holster for the Buffalo revolver. The current price (2011) is less than $30.00 which is good for that large piece of  leatherwork. If you have the gun and not the holster, get the holster now, because that price is going nowhere but up.  

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3 thoughts on “Hunting Small Game with Percussion Revolvers

  1. Hovey,

    Out Standing Hunting and videography You are doing this right, taking the proper steps, 1st the small step (Small Game) and 2nd the Big Step, (Big Game) I also am looking forward to Hunting Small game Rabbits, Grouse etc, Medium Game Coyote and Big game, Deer Bear and Boar. Wishing You, Weidmansheil! Good Safe Sucessfull and Fun Hunting. Kaido

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