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Deer Hunting with the Colt Super Walker Percussion Revolver

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: .

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.