In my new e-book, “Hunting with Muzzleloading Revolvers,” I explore the possibilities of using muzzleloading revolvers to take small and large game in guns that range from .22 to .45-caliber. One adaptation that these guns underwent was the conversion of the cap-and-ball operating system to cartridges which mostly occurred in the 1860s and 1870s. The cartridge conversions allowed more rapid reloading, better weatherproofing of the arm, and were generally less expensive that buying the new cartridge-shooting Single Action Army Peacemaker revolver from Colt or the top-breaking Remington revolvers.
Because I was more interested in improving the hunting characteristics of this class of arms than in historic authenticity, I had no reservations about modifying the guns to make them more effective. These sometimes included a black non-reflective nitride finish, optical sights, and using the longest-barreled versions of the guns, whether they were authentic or not. I had the good fortune to have purchased a Ruger Old Army stainless revolver years ago. During the writing of the book I learned that Master Gunsmith Dykes Reber in North Little Rock Arkansas could install a 14-inch barrel on my gun and fit it with rails so that I could mount it with a scope sight. To me these were obvious improvements, and I had them done to my Old Army. In the meantime I developed improved loads for the gun using Hodgdon’s Triple7even powder and Kaido Ojamaa’s Keith-style elongate bullets. I successfully used this modified gun to take deer which supplied an appropriate chapter for the book.
It seemed logical to conclude the book with a hunt using a conversion cylinder in .45 Long Colt. Although I had reloaded the .45 ACP since the late 1960s, I had never reloaded the rimmed Colt cartridge. I shortly after also started reloading for the .44 Remington Magnum, and since guns in that cartridge were readily available in both single shot and revolver versions, I saw no need to own any .45 Colt revolvers. Yes, they were authentic, moderately powerful, etc. etc., but as I already was working with more powerful cartridges such as the .44 Magnum and lessor ones like the .44 Special and Russian, I had no need for guns chambered for the .45 revolver cartridges (the Colt .45 was not, and is not, the only one).
Among Kaido Ojamaa’s new bullets was a 255-grain version that was sized properly for the Ruger Old Army’s percussion cylinder which could also be used in .45 L.C. Since I now had access to new powders and more effective bullets, that made my purchase of a conversion cylinder almost inevitable. The heavy, strong components of the Old Army also supplied the best available platform for testing these cylinders, and my improved pistol with its better sights and longer barrel was obviously an appropriate platform. I already knew that the Ruger Old Army with its 7 1/2-inch barrel would hunt, because I had already taken alligators and deer with it, so there was no reason to suspect that the gun with a .45 L.C. conversion cylinder would not do as well. Consequently an old Hurter’s single-stage reloading press and dies were purchased along with some new brass, to reload for the cartridge.
As the black-powder editor for Gun Digest for the previous ten years, I had gotten out of practice for reloading pistol cartridges, and many of my powders were decades old. My Unique and 700X still worked, as did the newer black powder substitutes like Hodgdon’s Triple7even. I quickly found that I could not exactly replicate my Triple7even load in the percussion cylinder which propelled the 255-grain bullet at about 900 fps. in the cartridge cases, because the cases would not hold sufficient powder. However, I did approximately match those ballistics with 700X which meant that I did not have to re-zero my gun for the cartridge loads. Both loads shot close enough to the point of aim to be ethically used on game.
Shooting to the point of aim is a significant factor, because I find that in the rush of making a shot on a moving piece of game, it is difficult to remember that you must hold seven inches low and four-inches to the right as might be necessary on the fixed-sight Colt percussion revolvers. Some percussion revolvers, although they functioned, were given up on in the past because I could never get them to shoot close enough to my target to be useful on small animals like squirrels. If I could not reliably squirrel hunt with the guns, I saw no need to own them.
If I write about something, I believe in “proof of concept.” Rather than present as an absolute fact ballistic and drop figures and say that this load can do thus and such, I prefer to actually test the loads on game animals. The hunt on Ossabaw Island, Georgia, provided a suitable opportunity, which with the unexpected assistance of an alligator, led to me successfully taking a wild hog with the .45 L.C. cartridge load shot from the conversion cylinder in the Old Army. This even provided an appropriate ending chapter for the book and enabled me to wrap-up a project that was started in 2013 in January of 2020. You can see a video of this hunt at: https://youtu.be/rDfiTYgrCSM.
This book will only be available as an e-book and advanced orders may now be placed on Amazon.com. for delivery on January 15. It will also shortly be available on other e-publication platforms worldwide including B&N, Gardner’s, Apple, etc. The price of the e-book is $4.99. Although perhaps not immediately, this book will also be available as an e-book check-out from your local libraries. No softcover or hardcover versions of this title is likely because of the small numbers of black-powder revolver hunting enthusiasts. If you wish a paper copy, print out the e-book.