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Least one think that all we gun writers have to do is to step out our back door and pop a deer with whatever hunting tools we happen to fancy at the moment, that is not quite how it works for me. After so many trips in the field that I lost count and one trip out of state to a hunting preserve, I finally managed to get a smallish doe with two shots fired from Cabela’s .44-caliber Buffalo Revolver.
This is an interesting gun as it has the strong topstrap of the 1858 Remington design, adjustable sights, a 12-inch barrel and my version is all stainless steel. There is a less expensive brass-framed model which is not recommended for the load I used. This load consist of of 40 grains of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven Powder (FFFg)(10 percent more powerful that black powder), an Ox-Yoke Wonder Wad (lubricated felt), round ball and topped off by Ox-Yoke’s wax Revolver Wonder Seals. This is a powerful load in this gun and approaches 500 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. I had previously condemed all percussion revolvers as being suitable only for small game or for point-black kill shots on deer, but this load has big-game killing potential on the smallish deer and hogs that I mostly shoot.
I attempted to use heavier elongate bullets in this revolver, but found that they shot less well than round balls at 50 yards. These efforts are documented in a series of seven YouTube videos on the wmhoveysmith channel. “Part 1. The Pistols” may be seen at: http://youtu.be/PB0SYhonsqM. As this work progressed I received correspondence from other pistol shooters, notably Florida hunter Rudy Betancourt, telling of their experiences with this gun and load. Betancourt has killed hogs weighing up to 170 pounds with this load and several smaller hogs and deer.
I tried one shot at a deer, but the ball was deflected by an intervening branch and did not touch the animal. My next opportunity was when I was sitting on the ground and a deer walked past at about 30-yards across the valley. My first shot hit a bit high on the spine and knocked it down. My second shot penetrated the heart and finished the animal. Both bullets passed through the small deer with the heart shot penetrating about 10-inches of fur, hide, bone and flesh.
This experience illustrated the chief advantage of using a revolver – having the possibility of a rapid second shot. This is particularly important to me as my aging eyes no longer see iron sights well, and I must now shoot without my glasses to use them at all. Disadvantages of this revolver for hunting are the loud cocking noises (three distinct clicks as the mechanical parts function) and its shiny finish. On previous attempts I spooked deer on both accounts. On this hunt I did the particularly dangerous practice of precocking the revolver and laying it in my lap so that I only had to raise the gun and fire as the deer approached. (I do not recommend this practice as it is an easy way to shoot oneself in the foot, leg or somewhere else. If anything, it is even more dangerous to have a cocked revolver in a tree stand because should the gun fall it will frequently fire, and because of revolver’s weight distribution, the butt will hit first with the barrel pointing upwards – towards YOU. I say this because pre-cocking the gun is such an obvious solution to the problem of close-range deer being spooked by the noise of operating the gun.) With many single-shot muzzelloading hunting pistols it is possible to silent cock the gun by pulling back the trigger, pulling back the hammer and then releasing the trigger and slowly lowering the hammer to to allow the sear to catch on the hammer’s full-cock notch. Such an action is not possible with the revolver. Even if the gun was on half-cock and the hammer “silent cocked” from there, there is still the harsh metallic sound of the spring-powered pall locking up in the cylinder notch. Starting from half-cock would eliminate two of the three “clicks,” but still be quite loud. Although, working from half-cock might be only marginally safer as falling half-cock guns will often fire too.
If I were to design the ideal muzzleloading revolver for hunting I would employ a dull matt or black finish, make the gun of stainless steel, give it a longer cylinder, adjustable sights (and a scope rail for us older hunters), 12-inches or more barrel, a fast twist barrels for elongate bullets, a hammer-blocking quiet safety and a larger grip, while retaining the loading lever style of the Remington 1858 or Ruger Old Army (better). Will there ever be such a gun? There could be. However, for something that a person can purchase today, the Cabela’s Buffalo stainless revolver is the best available, now that the Old Army is no longer in production.
The Ruger can shoot elongate bullets better and run over 500-foot pounds of muzzle energy with a newly designed 240-grained bulled designed by Kaido Ojamaa which works both in percussion revolvers and in cartridges such as the .45 L.C. He also has a similar bullet that weighs 255-grains. I am now deer hunting with the Old Army. I passed on a spike this morning. More on my hunting experiences with the Old Army as they happen.
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