Backyard deer hunting

Inexpensive food from the outdoors

Archive for January 2015

Deer Hunting with the Colt Super Walker Percussion Revolver

with 3 comments

Colt Super Walker with the rack from its Ossabaw Island deer.

Colt Super Walker with the rack from its Ossabaw Island deer.

The conception that the standard Colt Walker pistol might be turned into a Super Walker with the addition of a new loading lever and modern sights was some decades in the making. I owned my first Walker replica pistol in the 1970s and gave up on it because not only did it not shoot to the point of aim, but the loading lever fell with almost every shot, tying up the gun. About 20 years later I tried a second pistol with the result that I could get the gun to group fairly well at close range, but the shots ranged high and left – too far from the point of aim to insure a good killing shot on a deer-sized animal. This gun seemed to be more likely to make a hit in the animal’s paunch or liver that the lungs or heart.

Buffalo revolver in loading stand on Island hunt.

Buffalo revolver in loading stand on Island hunt.

Historical authenticity means little to me in a hunting handgun as I consider the ability of a pistol to deliver a powerful load with sufficient accuracy to make a killing shot to be its most important attribute.  My experiences with the Walkers made me give up on percussion revolvers as potential big-game-capable guns, and I expressed this sentiment at the time. There were those who disagreed with me and said that they had killed numerous deer and hogs with percussion revolvers including the less powerful Civil War Era Colt and Remington guns.  I found their experiences compelling, and I ordered a stainless steel Buffalo revolver from Cabela’s. This Pietta-made gun had a 12-inch barrel and adjustable sights. With a load of Hodgon’s granular Triple7even powder and a round ball it killed three hogs with four shots and a deer. This was convincing evidence that well sighted percussion revolvers would kill medium-sized deer and hogs. My thoughts again turned to the  more powerful Walker with the idea of modifying the gun to cure its loading lever problem and mounting a scope or Red Dot sight.

As it turned out, I was not the only person who had had such thoughts. Gunsmith Dykes Reber of North Little Rock, Arkansas, had been modifying Walker revolvers for years by fitting them with an updated loading lever with a positive spring front latch (like on Colt’s later Dragoon) and fitting a Weaver base on the barrel’s octagonal flats so that the user could mount a scope or Red Dot sight. At about that time it also came to my attention that H&M Metal Processing of Akron, Ohio, could put a corrosion resistant black matt nitride finish on the pistol to hide the shine of bright-polished pistols.  H&M applied a matt finish on my mirror-bright stainless Pietta revolver, and I decided that my Super Walker should have the same treatment.

I ordered a Uberti Walker kit from Dixie Gun Works.  I was very pleased to find that all of the internal work had been completed, and although the gun came with a rough inlet walnut block for the grips and with no external finish, the action functioned smoothly.  After finishing the grips, I sent the pistol to Reber for a new loading lever and sight base. The pistol was returned in about two weeks, and it got shipped to H&M to finish its external parts. The results was a spectacular percussion revolver that only needed a scope or Red Dot sight and an effective load to take to the woods. After trying a pistol scope on the gun, I opted to install an AIM Red Dot site to provide more rapid target acquisition for close range deer and hog hunting.

Walker Kit Gun (top) with matt nitride-finished Buffalo, Remington 1858 Sheriff's model, and North American Arms' .22 percussion pistol.

Walker Kit Gun (top) with matt nitride-finished Buffalo, Remington 1858 Sheriff’s model, and North American Arms’ .22 percussion pistol.

Although I found that the Pietta Buffalo shot round balls more accurately than Kaido Ojamaa’s Keith-style flat-nosed bullets, the Super Walker performed well with his 220-grained flat-nosed projectiles and a load of 37-grains of Hodgdon’s Triple7even powder. This load definitively crossed the 500 ft./lb. threshold that many consider as the minimum value for  loads to be used on deer-sized game. One thing remained. That was to put some leather on this outsized hog leg so that I could reasonably carry it in the woods. The best solution was a Badlands leather shoulder holster from the Newell, South Dakota, firm. I sent the gun with the sight mounted on it, and the gun was used as a pattern to custom fit a shoulder holster with an attached leather pouch for carrying an extra cylinder. I later discovered that this pouch provided an easy, and safe, way to carry a loaded capped cylinder when I had to unload the gun before bringing it back to public hunting camps.

Super Walker in its K.-J. (Badlands) shoulder holster made for a convenient carry for this large pistol.

Super Walker in its K.-J. (Badlands) shoulder holster made for a convenient carry for this large pistol.

My experiences with each of these three firms was excellent, and I would not hesitate to recommend them or their products.

Now fully outfitted, the Super Walker’s first opportunity to take a deer came on my own property in Central Georgia. I was up a pine tree in my Tom Cat climbing stand and a small doe passed to my left, some 20 yards from the stand. The way I was facing, I had the opportunity to make a one-handed unsupported shot when it walked abreast of the stand. Shooting the 5-pound Walker pistol with one hand  is possible, but I would have much preferred to have used a two-handed hold braced against the tree or my stand. However, this was not the shot that was offered, and the deer certainly seemed close enough to make a killing shot. When I first saw the deer I had dialed up the Red Dot sight to the No. 1 position, found the crosshairs and waited as the doe made its closest approach. When the red illuminated crosshair settled behind the shoulder, I squeezed off the shot. The doe ran to the right and quickly passed behind me. I could not turn around in the stand sufficiently to watch its progress, but I did hear a crash behind me.

Standing up and turning around, I saw a long form lying in the pines about 40-yards away. From a distance I could not be absolutely sure that this was my deer or a log. Because it was still early in the day, I stayed on my stand. When I climbed down, I found the deer. When I cleaned the small doe. I found that the bullet had penetrated the heart and exited the animal.  I was a little embarrassed that this was a small yearling, but with only a little of last year’s deer remaining in my freezer, I was happy to have some fresh meat. We may shoot 10 does a year in Georgia, so I could potentially get more deer, although the month of December was a buck-only month during the 2014-2015 deer season.

I enjoy hunting Georgia’s coastal islands, and was fortunate enough to be drawn for a hunt on Ossabaw Island WMA. The island is overpopulated with small whitetail deer and hogs, and periodic hunts are held in an attempt to keep the population in check. On Ossabaw, hunters are allowed to select an exclusive area for their three-day hunt. The block that I would have preferred was already taken, but I selected an adjacent parcel that I had hunted before.  The first two days did not provide any shooting opportunities. After busting some hogs on my walk in before dawn on the last day, I decided to hunt on foot to see if I could find them. The area I hunted was a triangular parcel with one point extending to form a thin strip of dry land with marsh on both sides. I still hunted over to the other side of the triangle’s point. As I approached the marsh, the vegetation changed from a mixed oak-pine forest to palms to 6-foot tall brush at the marsh’s edge. Wanting to see if anything was feeding in the marsh, I walked through the brush to where I would have a better view.

Super Walker's Ossabaw Island buck.

Super Walker’s Ossabaw Island buck.

Because I was stalking, I had the Walker in my left hand with the barrel reversed and resting over the top of my forearm. This way, I do not have to take the time, or make the noise, of drawing the pistol. All I have to do is to use my right hand to turn on the sight, grasp the pistol, cock it, aim and shoot. When I walked clear of the brushy border of the marsh, I saw an eight-point buck walking in the water about 15-yards away. I very quickly readied the gun, aimed and fired.  This time I was able to make a double-handed shot. When the smoke cleared, I could not see the deer or hear it run. It was as if the earth had swallowed it up. In fact, it very nearly had. The deer, spine shot, was down in its tracks. I gave it another shot to finish it, but the first one was sufficient. A video of the Ossabaw Island hunt may be seen at:  http://youtu.be/2PwgPwPkSdQ .

Neither of these deer provided quite the shot that I was looking for. What I was hoping for was to be able to take a braced aimed shot at a deer to allow me to make a precision hit with the pistol. In my haste, I had pulled the shot on the second deer to the right. Although it worked out well because the shot dropped the deer, I was aiming at the upper chest and not the neck.

My loading techniques with these percussion pistols have evolved over the past two years. I built a heavy wooden loading stand that now has three positions to allow me to load cylinders for the Walker, Remington 1858 and Colt 1851 revolvers by merely changing the position of the plunger on the operating lever. When I prep these revolvers, I lubricate them sparingly with Thompson/Center’s Bore Butter by whipping the warmed parts with a lubricated cloth. After I drop in a weighed charge of powder, I put a cut Styrofoam wad between the powder and bullet to prevent any bullet lube from spoiling the powder.  Following bullet seating, I top the load with tacky melted beeswax-based bullet lube to provide a hard wax plug. Thus loaded and caped with a crimped No. 10 percussion cap, the gun can be loaded for weeks or months, and the charge will retain its potency as long as powder and caps  remain dry. If I were hunting in wet weather and could not protect the gun, I would reload the gun on a daily basis.

Revolver loading stands. A small commercial stand is shown with the author's multi-station stand.

Revolver loading stands. A small commercial stand is shown with the author’s multi-station stand.

Using the loading stand allows the Walker’s loading lever to be removed while hunting. With six hot .44 Special equivalent loads in the cylinder most deer hunters would have little need to reload in the field. On hunts when I shoot only one or two chambers, I clean the barrel, the fired chambers and reload them with my loading stand. Once the hunt is over, I fire off all of the chambers, completely field strip the gun and action, clean and re-lubricate prior to reloading for the next hunt.

With the lack of a top strap, Walker pistols typically fail because the loads pull the cylinder pin and deform the locking wedge. This can be cured by replacing the small retaining pin for the cylinder pin and refitting another wedge. This type of failure occurs after about 1,000 rounds of black-powder loads or fewer of the higher pressure Triple7even charges shooting heavier bullets. A remaining problem with the Walker, and some other replica Colt pistols, is that the hammer tends to pluck the caps when it is cocked. These spent caps often fall between the hammer and frame to prevent the next strike of the hammer from hitting the percussion cap on the nipple.  The solution to this problem is to put a tiny pin on the front of the hammer channel and make a notch in the hammer so that the pin prevents the cap from sticking to the hammer nose. These two additional changes will complete my efforts to make the Super Walker an effective, reliable hunting handgun.

Written by hoveysmith

January 14, 2015 at 9:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Muzzleloading Classics: Knight’s Rolling Block Muzzleloader

leave a comment »

The Author with a Knight Rolling Block muzzleloading rifle and a Georgia doe.

The Author with a Knight Rolling Block muzzleloading rifle and a Georgia doe.

C5 1 Tony Knight (2)

A composite series of photos of the late Tony Knight.

Over a period of years I came to know Tony Knight, the founder of Knight Rifles. There were several aspects that Tony wanted in all of his rifles. One was that they be what he considered “real rifles” made of steel and wood. He compromised on the wood part and fairly soon substituted synthetic stocks to allow his guns to be more affordable and weather resistant. Another feature of all of his guns was maybe a Midwestern attitude that the guns be as safe as it was reasonably possible for a firearm to be, while still maintaining functionality. All of Knight’s designs that I have seen incorporated two safeties. His rifles were made so that they might fall from a deer stand and not fire when they hit the ground, provided that both safeties were engaged. Partly as a marketing strategy to always keep something new before the public and allow him to continue to have the enjoyment of coming up with new designs, Tony attempted to introduce a new design every year. Some, such as Knight’s T-Bolt,  were not successful because black-powder fouling quickly gummed up the action. The Revolution rifle from which the Knight Rolling block was descended was a falling block design that looked something like a Winchester 1885 falling block, with an action assembly that could be easily detached for cleaning. The year this rifle was introduced I was invited by Tony to hunt with him in Missouri, and I took the largest deer that I have ever killed with a Revolution.

The author's Missouri deer taken on a hunt with the Knight Revolution.

The author’s Missouri deer taken on a hunt with the Knight Revolution.

Knight Rolling Block

Knight Rolling Block

Again, under market pressures and his desire to make something new, he introduced the Knight Rolling Block, which was among his last designs, and arguably the most advanced of these single-shot-cartridge-action-derived guns. True to his instincts, the rolling block action components were steel. The 209 primer holder was a movable piece that slid back-and-forth to seat the primer into the screwed-in breech plug when the “block” of the rolling block was rotated to the rear. The second component of the rolling block system, the hammer, acted as the “lock” on the original system, but now mostly served to fire the gun and mount a second pivoting safely inserted on top of the hammer. This safety rotated the hammer nose that struck the firing pin up and out of battery as the gun was cocked and had to be flipped down again to fire the gun. If this action sounds complicated, it is. There was also a conventional trigger safety activated by a button on the trigger guard and both had to be in the fire position to successfully shoot the gun. This double-safety system once cost me a deer when I was using one of his bolt-action guns and did again this year with the Rolling Block. Several factors are at work. The first is that as a gun writer I shoot almost every deer with a different gun. Unlike the hunter who uses one gun year after year, I seldom use a gun  long enough to train the brain to automatically go through all the pre-firing steps. The second factor is when a deer is moving at a rapid pace by my stand, I get a little excited. What my instincts tell me to do is to cock the hammer, get on the deer and pull the trigger – not worry about the detailed operational characteristics of the gun. Tony sold the company, and by 2009 Knight Rifles was offered for sale by its new owners.  Its assets were purchased by  PI, Inc., and its manufacturing base was moved to Athens, Tennessee. PI, Inc. decided to concentrate on Knight’s striker-fired and bolt-action guns , which were always the company’s best sellers, and their reps told me at subsequent Shot Shows that they had no plans to offer the expensive and relatively slow selling Revolution and Rolling Block rifles – an understandable business decision. Taking advantage of a distressed price sale of a Rolling Block at a gun shop, I purchased one and readied it to go on a hunt in South Carolina. Unfortunately, no deer were seen. The gun languished in my gun rack for several years until this year when I prepped it for an early November hunt on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island and one on Cumberland Island a month later. Although I killed a deer on Ossabaw Island with my Super Walker, no game presented itself before the Rolling Block. Returning home to Central Georgia, the gun’s first opportunity came when a big doe trotted by and I pulled on it, cocked the hammer and CLICK. Before I could re-cock the gun and flip off the safety, it was out of sight.  On a subsequent hunt a week later in early January, I was walking out at dusk and spotted another doe standing in one of my  farm  roads at about 100 yards.  This time I cocked the hammer, flipped the safety into fire position and centered the front member of the fiber-optic sight on the front quarter of the deer.  Although this was an off-hand shot, the gun was stable, the front sight was hanging steady on the deer and exactly in the middle of the two rear fiber-optic elements. I squeezed the trigger, the gun fired and the deer was gone. The load of two pellets of Hodgdon’s Triple7even Powder and a 295 grain Power Belt bullet had been in the gun since November, but the ignition was normal and the shot felt and sounded good. Had the gun been exposed to wet weather I would have changed out the charge, although I had changed primers. I found cut hair in the road,  and I started to look in the vine overgrown cut-over for blood. I did not see any blood on the leaves in the failing light. I also did not find a bullet strike on the road beyond where the deer was standing.  I suspected that the bullet never exited the deer, as is common with Power Belt bullets. The weather was nearly freezing, and I decided to look for the deer the next day. The next morning I returned with my dogs and recovered the deer.  You can see a video of this at: http://youtu.be/a7n4-PFa_dI . The Author with a Knight Rolling Block muzzleloading rifle and a Georgia doe. The  295-grain Power Belt bullet penetrated both shoulders, both lungs and was recovered under the hide on the far side of the deer. It had expanded to nearly a 1-inch diameter. Nonetheless, the deer had run about 40-yards before going down. Although there was massive internal bleeding, there was very little blood seen in the first 20 yards and only small amounts thereafter. The weight of the gun’s barrel contributed to my making the equivalent of a “10-ring” offhand shot with the fiber optic sights. The Knight Rolling Block finally had a chance to prove itself and had done well. I dropped out the action’s operating components and took out the breech plug for a through cleaning of the gun before I put it away. Considering the complexity of this muzzleloading rifle, clean-up was very easy.  If you are interested in a high-tech muzzleloader that is a little bit different, the Knight Rolling Block is worthy of consideration.

The Knight Rolling Block made the equivalent of a 10-ring hit on this Georgia doe.

The Knight Rolling Block made the equivalent of a 10-ring hit on this Georgia doe.

. T .

As suspected the Power Belt bullet remained in the deer and was recovered from under the skin after expanding to about an inch in diameter.

As suspected the Power Belt bullet remained in the deer and was recovered from under the skin after expanding to about an inch in diameter.