Backyard deer hunting

Inexpensive food from the outdoors

Posts Tagged ‘Colt Walker

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 ,

Building a Super Walker Revolver for Hunting Big Game

with 2 comments

The Uberti Colt Walker Kit as received from Dixie Gun Works.

The Uberti Colt Walker Kit as received from Dixie Gun Works.

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.

Walker and other revolvers.

Walker and other revolvers.

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.

Written by hoveysmith

November 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm