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Remington 1858 Percussion Revolvers Hunt GA’s Ossabaw and Cumberland Islands

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These two Pietta 1858 Remington replica .44 revolvers were used to kill deer and hogs on two hunts on Georgia’s coastal islands. The top gun is a 5 1/2-inch Sheriff’s Model sold by Traditions and the bottom a stainless steel Buffalo Revolver sold by Cabelas which now has a black matt nitride finish done by H&M Metal Processing of Akron, Ohio. 

Two Pietta-made 1858 percussion revolvers imported by Traditions and Cabelas killed deer and two hogs on recent hunts on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island WMA and the National Park Service’s Cumberland Island National Seashore. Both hunts are among the annual hunts held on these islands to control hog and deer populations. Hogs are destructive and will eat everything living under the forest canopy. In past times, hogs  have left parts of Ossabaw looking as if it had been freshly plowed. Aggressive hog control programs on both islands have improved the habitat for all other species and helped prevent the loss of  the eggs of endangered sea turtles.

Ossabaw deer taken with CVA Optima pistol and Traditions' Sheriff's Model 1858 Remington percussion revolver by Pietta.

Ossabaw deer taken with CVA Optima pistol and Traditions’ Sheriff’s Model 1858 Remington percussion revolver by Pietta.

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Pietta makes a variety of replica Remington-pattern 1858 pistols. This year I carried the 5 1/2-inch barreled Sheriff’s Model that was imported by Traditions as a back-up gun on my Ossabaw Island hunt. After my blunderbuss failed because the unpatched ball rolled out of the barrel (I now use an over-ball wad.), I used a CVA Optima pistol to shoot a doe at 50 yards. The deer fell at the shot. This was a spine shot. As  the deer attempted to rise and run off, I fired five shots with the revolver. Three shots struck. One hit was far back in the flank, another clipped the rear spine and the third passed through both lungs, the edge of the off-side shoulder and was recovered from beneath the skin. This shot killed the deer which had a dressed weight of 53 pounds.

Although this was a mature island deer, its small size is caused by restricted food resources. When some of these deer were used to re-stock the mainland they grew to 200 pounds. The load used in the revolver was 30-grains of FFFg black powder, a felt over powder wad and a wax over-powder wad. This is a “standard” black powder load for this gun. Although it did kill this tiny deer, I can’t get excited about using this load as a primary hunting load or shooting a unwounded amimal with it. However, it did perform its use as a back-up pistol that did the job required of it when it was needed. At the outset, my plans were to use it to finish game at ranges of  more like 7 yards than 50. The pistol worked fine, both in testing and in the field. I sewed up a nylon-strap reinforced cloth holster for it to allow for convenient carry. To see a video about my hunt with blunderbuss and pistol on Ossabaw go to:  http://youtu.be/bp6rQ-VGg-M.

One of my preferred revolvers for hunting smallish deer and hogs is the 12-inch barreled stainless steel Cabela’s Buffalo revolver, which is also made by Pietta. This gun has adjustable sights and allowed a load of  40-grains of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder to produce some 500 ft.lbs. of muzzle energy. Last year I took a doe with this hunting on my farm and this year took it, along with the blunderbuss, to Cumberland Island.  An interesting modification to the gun was to have it given a matt-black nitride finish by H&M Metal Processing of Akron, Ohio. Not only did this provide a non-reflective finish, it also proved to protect the gun from black-powder corrosion.  Again, the blunderbuss failed due to mechanical problems (Loose screw this time.), and the next shot up was with the revolver.

Hogs taken by Cabela's Buffalo Hunter stainless by Pietta.

Hogs taken by Cabela’s Buffalo Hunter stainless by Pietta.

After missing the first hog at daylight with the blunderbuss, I had three hogs approach from the opposite direction at about 11:00 AM. These hogs were feeding on acorns dropped in the leaves and pine straw. As the largest sow approached to about 40-yards, I aimed behind the shoulder and started pulling the trigger. As I was aiming, the hog was  moving. When the shot broke and the smoke cleared away sufficiently for me to see, the sow was struggling on the ground. Another of the two hogs froze. I quickly re-cocked the gun, sighted in on the second hog and pulled the trigger. This hog also went down with the shot. Both hogs quickly expired. The larger hog had a dressed weight of 100 pounds and the smaller one 50 pounds. The ball passed through the head of the larger hog. The smaller one was hit in the forward part of the shoulder and the bullet ranged forward to cut the spine behind the head and exit through the skull. If you are trying to figure out the mechanics of the shot, it is well to remember that round balls very often deflect on bone when they are inside an animal. Only when they travel through soft tissue do they continue in a straight-line direction. I have a video of this hunt available on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/bp6rQ-VGg-M.

On the last day that I hunted the gun needed to be unloaded, and I also took a 2-pound piglet with the gun. To date, the stainless Buffalo has taken one deer and two hogs and a piglet with five shots. This is not a bad record for field shooting game with a handgun of any sort. The long-barreled Buffalo with its adjustable sights is accurate enough that I can shoot squirrels with it. Although I have reduced the height of the front sight and widened the back groove of the shorter barreled Sheriff’s Model revolver, it shoots a bit to the left which makes it more difficult to use on small game. It is a pleasure to carry in the field in my homemade holster, and I have it with me as I continue my quest to take a deer with  Traditions’ blunderbuss. This gun is available only as a kit gun from Sportsman’s Guide. From time to time, the Guide will contract with Traditions for special runs of muzzleloaders that are only available from the catalogue company. I have no idea of why they chose the blunderbuss for this year’s gun, but it does provide a chance for their customers to own and shoot a muzzleloader than many people have heard of but very few have shot.  I also have a series of videos on shooting and hunting with this gun with the first of the Blunderbuss Chronicles at: http://youtu.be/qdjAEE4QJqA .

Coincidently, these two hunts illustrate the advantages of using a percussion revolver as a back-up gun on muzzleloading hunts in states where it is allowed. These revolvers allow multiple back-up shots to finish crippled game. If I had not had this gun on Ossabaw Island, I would have faced a very difficult tracking job in thick brush as spine-shot deer do not drop much blood, and the deer would have been very difficult to trail. In case of hog hunting, the revolvers offer the opportunity to try for multiple targets as well as do repeat shots on the same hog. In any event, proper placement of the first shot has a more significant impact on the result than blasting away a cylinder full of loads at any target at any range. The more careful the aim the better the result. Take your time, place your shots well and kill your animal.

To improve the performance characteristics of the Sheriff’s Model, I am now using the same 40-grain load of Triple Seven that I use in the Buffalo version of the gun. This will increase its velocity and provide additional penetration. The short barrel and lack of adjustable sights prevent it from achieving the load’s full potential, but will somewhat improve its performance on game. The details of loads, ballistics, etc. will be reported in the Black Powder Review Section of the 2014 Edition of the Gun Digest Annual in an article “Self Defense Guns: Then and Now.”

"Buffalo" revolver with 60-lb. doe.

“Buffalo” revolver with 60-lb. doe taken before the gun was refinished matt black.

Handguns of any sort are more challenging to hunt with than rifles. The shots made with these pistols were from a tree stand with the guns fully supported by the stand’s frame, and/or tree, for the best sight alignment and trigger control possible. Even when shooting at the wounded deer, rapid shots were fired, but attention was still paid to sighting and trigger pull. Familiarity with the gun will result in an increase in skill and performance accuracy for rapid close-range shooting. There are people who can shoot these guns fast and well. Most of us, me included, do not spend this much time with our pistols. Braced shots, careful sighting and trigger control are the ways to get reasonable hits on game with these pistols at ranges of more than a few yards.

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Written by hoveysmith

December 14, 2012 at 7:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. Yeah, many of your hunting accomplishments are excellent and noteworthy. But actually using a .54 caliber blunderbuss on even tiny deer or feral pigs is a bit unsporting I think so myself. Get something or stop wounding game animals please?

    Joe

    August 17, 2014 at 10:19 am

    • I meant to say get something bigger.

      Joe

      August 17, 2014 at 10:20 am

      • Joe,

        Three hogs dead with four shots from a powerful load from a .45 caliber revolver with adjustable sights is hardly “wounding game animals” guy. Nor is driving a .54 caliber ball completely through a deer as I have also done. Not all animals shots with anything results in instant kills. With proper loads these guns are efficient killers when used at close range and pointed in the right direction. Shot placement, more than power, has greater significance in killing game. This is not to say that just any load from a .45 caliber muzzleloader of any sort should be used. The charge, bullet and gun should be properly matched with the game. Then when the bullet is placed properly, the animal will be killed; although not instantly in most cases. With patched round balls from .45-caliber rifles, 85 gr. of FFg will do the job at 50 yards and less, with proper bullet placement. With handguns you cannot use this much powder, but with Triple7even a chamber full will work too, provided that the animals are close; and as always, the bullet is well placed. Sloppy shooting bang, bang, bang, etc. will get a lot of lead out there; and will sometimes be successful. In this case it was with my short-barreled Remington 1858 that I used as a back-up gun. This is not a gun that I recommend as a primary hunting gun, but was intended to be used as a finisher at point-blank range. This year I will be using my Super Walker .45 revolver as a primary hunting tool with 220 grain bullets and red dot sights. This modified gun has promise of improved functionality and performance. Stay tuned.

        hoveysmith

        August 17, 2014 at 12:32 pm

  2. Hovey, I was specifically referring to your attempt to harvest a wild poker with the .54 caliber blunderbuss. It ended with a zero net result in your own words and an animal that got away with a wounding only. No-one in their right mind chooses a smoothbore ‘long gun’ with a muzzle flare and no sights with a power equal to of less than 28 gauge. You have many notable successes and I salute them but just because you were given this mini-shotgun free does not mean you should endorse the product for big game hunting. Even if it is smaller big game.

    Joe

    October 10, 2014 at 8:20 am

    • Dear Joe,

      That particular failure was caused by a mechanical problem. Smoothbore muzzleloaders have killed all of the world’s game including the largest elephant ever, by a slave of the Sultan of Zanzibar who used a .75 caliber Brown Bess musket. A .54 gauge smoothbore with round ball and 85 gr. of black powder will reliably kill medium sized hogs and deer with no problem, provided the ball is placed correctly. It later demonstrated this by finishing off a 10 point deer that weighed 185 pounds by driving the ball completely through the animal from its back through the brisket. They were very often used in the 1700s in the U.S., although they had the lines of the famous Kentucky rifle, numbers of these guns had no rifling at all and were used to take any available game. This is not to say that smoothbores are somehow magical. They must be sighted in, even if they have no sights, proper loads must be used and the game taken at close range, typically 40 yards and under. Used as recommended no one who does his homework will have any problem taking average-sized close range hogs with this gun. Are they challenging to use? Yes they are. However, if you have done all of your homework, and have no compounding mechanical problems as I had in this case, they will get the job done – even as outrageous as they look.

      hoveysmith

      October 11, 2014 at 10:30 am

      • Finishing off an animal is hardly a fair comparison to hunting. You could end a downed animal with an icepick. Nor are your comparisons of the short barrel 54 to a Brown Bess with it’s long barrel and heavier powder charge very fair. Do not compare a Kentucky rifle to this trifle either. Have you ever chronographed this short blunderbuss and compared it to a Brown Bess or a Kentucky rifle of adequate caliber?

        Joe

        February 5, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      • I think that a ball penetrating more than 20 inches of bone and flesh from front to back is an adequate demonstration of killing power at close range. I have never maintained that the Blunderbuss was superior to the Brown Bess or any muzzleloading rifle of adequate caliber. What I have demonstrated is that when called upon at very close range, it could do the job; although almost any other smoothbore or rifle of adequate caliber would have been better. With 85 gr. of FFg and a .54 caliber round ball from a 12-inch barrel, the blunderbuss will kill my smallish close-range deer and hogs.

        hoveysmith

        February 17, 2015 at 8:35 pm


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