It followed from my publication of an E-book series on muzzleloading guns that I needed to revisit the Colt Walker pistol for my forthcoming title Hunting with Muzzleloading Revolvers. I had owned two previous Walker revolvers and had not been impressed with them because of their poor sights and the fact that when the gun was shot the loading lever very often fell and tied up the gun by jamming the rammer into a chamber. At that time only black powder was available, and as I considered that 85-grains of black powder and a round ball to be a minimal deer-killing load, I gave up on the gun as a potential tool for hunting big game. This load from a rifle recently downed a 180 lb. buck after penetrating both shoulders and blowing nearly a 1-inch hole through the backbone.
I got some flack from readers who said that they had been killing deer and hogs with a variety of muzzleloading revolvers for years and that these guns would do the job. With the advent of Hodgdon’s TripleSeven powder, which develops more energy than black powder, and heavier elongate bullets from Kaido Ojamma, I decided to revisit muzzleloading revolvers as hunting guns. The most readily available gun was Cabela’s .45-caliber Buffalo Revolver with a 12-inch barrel and adjustable sights. This gun was produced for Cabela’s by the Italian firm of Pietta. Ultimately I killed a small deer and three hogs (the largest 150 lbs.) with this gun and a TripleSeven-round-ball load and killed a 150-lb. buck with the Ruger Old Army using one of Ojamma’s bullets. These five animals were killed with seven shots. These experiences indicated to me that these guns would work on smallish deer and hogs, provided that that the bullets were well placed.
I also did a save on a deer with a Sheriff’s model 1858 with a black-powder and round-ball load. Unlike the other pistols, this one does not have adjustable sights. It shoots about 2-inches left of the point of aim, but I was able to file down the front sight sufficiently so that it was on target vertically, even if I had to hold off a little to put bullets into the bulls-eye. The deer was spine shot with another pistol at 50 yards, but struggled to its feet and started to run. I fired five shots at the deer. Three struck and the fatal bullet penetrated both lungs, but lodged just under the skin of the off-side leg. This doe weighed about 90 pounds. The load worked, but illustrated the relatively poor performance of the round ball and black-powder load from this short-barreled pistol.
During this period another friend reported having shot a large log with a black-powder-round-ball load from his percussion revolver. The ball failed to penetrate the gristle shield and shoulder to disable the animal. This hog was ultimately killed with a shotgun slug. In contrast to his hunting on the ground, I often shoot my animals from tree stands and am able to make better shot placements with the guns’ iron sights. As with anything, precision shooting will trump raw power; but there must be a minimal amount of available energy (and hardened bullets) to make fatal double-lung shots at huge hogs. This is not an theoretical concern, as 600-pound boars are shot in Georgia every year. These animals take some serious killing.
The Colt Walker revolver’s chambers will hold 60 grains of FFg black powder with a round ball load. This enhanced chamber capacity appealed to me as being able to hold a significant charge of TripleSeven for improved performance with the added asset of having 9-inches of barrel to allow more effective use of the powder charge. My thoughts were that if I could put a better loading lever retaining latch on the barrel and install a Weaver scope base on the barrel flat, I could cure the gun’s previous problems and make a Super Walker. An additional refinement could also be giving the gun a matt black-nitride finish to make it non-reflective and corrosion resistant.
Because of my aging eyes, which will likely get worse, I also wanted the option of putting optical sights on the revamped Walker pistol. I had bad memories of these sights-on-hammer-and-front-pin Colt revolvers shooting wretchedly far from where I aimed. If I have a mean, big hog in front of me, I want that bullet to go where I point the gun; not some 7-inches high and left. I am not sure if a red dot, laser or scope will work best, but having the Weaver bases on the pistols gives me all of these options. State regulations may permit only certain types of sights on muzzleloading guns or prohibit the use of muzzleloading revolvers altogether. These regulations often change from year to year, so be sure and check before you use these pistols for hunting.
As it turned out, I was not the first to come up with this concept, even though I derived it independently. Master Gunsmith Dykes Reber of North Little Rock, Arkansas, has been doing this type of conversion for years. I found this out from Kaido Ojamaa who recently received his modified gun from Reber and posted a video at: http://youtu.be/JwYsvZg-miE. Ojamma calls his gun, “A Boar and Bear Percussion Revolver,” and he hopes to be able to try it out on both species in coming years. Currently he cannot use percussion revolvers to hunt big game in New York state where he lives, although equivalent power cartridge handguns shooting the .45 L.C. are allowed.
Because I planned to have the gun nitride coated, I ordered a Uberti Walker Kit from Dixie Gun Works of Union City, Tennessee. I removed the grips and brass trigger guard for me to refinish and sent the action, barrel and attached loading lever to Reber for him to modify the loading lever, install a new front latch, open the frame so that Ojamaa’s bullets would be easier to load and install his Weaver bases on the barrel. I was pleased with the Uberti kit. I had expected to get the internal parts in a bag to be individually fitted, but the gun came assembled and functioned smoothly. It had an excellent trigger pull, which saved several hours of meticulous work. The metal was unfinished and there were some external scratches. I ignored these blemishes and did not bother polishing what was to become a matt-finished gun. I have a video of this part-removal process at: http://youtu.be/mS333R2CrQI as Part 1 of Building a Super Walker. I will post additional videos as more work on the gun is completed.
When the gun is returned, I will send it to H&M Metal Processing of Akron, Ohio, to do the matt black nitride surface treatment. This treatment may also be modified to yield a brightly polished finish. Before I send it to H&M, I will need to disassemble the gun and remove any springs as these will lose their temper if subjected to the nitride treatment process. Unlike plating, which changes the dimensions of the part, the nitride processing does not. Many military and civilian guns now have components that are nitride finished for improved functionality and corrosion resistance.
If you wish to contact Mr. Dykes Reber at The Muzzleloader Shop in North Little Rock, you can give him a call at (501) 758-2222. H&M Metal processing has a website explaining their process and giving contact information at http://www.blacknitride.com. Currently their price for a Matt Black Nitride Finish is $200 a gun, provided that the gun is shipped to them completely disassembled except for the springs which will lose their temper if subjected to the finishing process.