Black Powder Pistol

Discerning Shooters’ Black Powder Pistol and Black Powder Revolver Depot

My thanks to Michael Shepherd of for permission
to reproduce the photo of an English Turnaround Percussion Black Powder Pistol

Dale Calder who hails originally from Whangarei, New Zealand has had an interest in handguns including black powder pistols over many years.
He has now reached a point in his life where he would like to indulge that interest further by participating in the firing of reproduction
black powder revolvers and pistols here in Auckland, the City of Sails, where he is currently residing.

Archive for August, 2008

Which Black Powder Pistol When Starting Out?

Posted by admin on August 25, 2008 under black powder colt, black powder pistol, black powder pistols

Firstly, let me respond to that by saying the flintlock black powder pistol is NOT the way to go. In due course you will want to get one for sure but as a beginning pistol shooter you are likely to experience a range of problems including; ignition problems, poor flint life, pan flash distraction, etc. Plus, the flintlock has a distinct distaste for the less corrosive black powder substitutes such as Pyrodex, due to their ignition temperature being too high to be reliably ignited.

Best you start to feel comfortable with something simpler, such as one of the single shot percussion Kentucky pattern pistols. You only need concern yourself with just the one cap and charge unlike the percussion cap black powder revolver for instance, thus making for easier clean-up and loading likewise presents few problems.

Having said that .. there will be those with a penchant for the revolvers of the Wild West. Understandable given the special mystique which has surrounded them to this day, no doubt because of the sense of personal empowerment they lent their owners.

If you choose to make a start with reproduction black powder revolvers then a little background knowledge before you charge our to buy the first one that takes your fancy, won’t go amiss. Mike Cumpston’s Percussion Pistols and Revolvers: History, Performance and Practical Use (Paperback) is chokka with a wealth of information and provides an honest assessment of the quality of many of the reproductions which are available.

With regards black powder revolvers my personal favourites are the 1861 Navy Steel .36 Cal Black Powder Revolver often touted as the most handsome revolver Colt ever built and for those looking to spend around the same price but looking for a little more “punch” then the .. 1858 New Army .44 Cal Black Powder Revolver must appeal. This rugged, solid framed revolver introduced by Remington with its screw-in barrel and quick-release cylinder, was to become very popular with the military. A slightly higher priced version is available in stainless steel.

Finally .. take the time to go visit your local black powder club. You will find that black powder shooters will make you at home, that you will learn heaps .. and that they can point you in the way of just what black powder pistol you should buy .. and which you should avoid.

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Flashover – A Real Danger With Your Black Powder Pistol

Posted by admin on August 22, 2008 under black powder revolvers

So .. why should you be concerned about flashover in your black powder pistol? And indeed, just what is flashover?

Flashover occurs (and we are here referring to black powder revolvers as opposed to single shot pistols) where the flash resulting from the discharge of one chamber causes the powder in other chambers to ignite .. with often devastating consequences. Injury or even death can result to the shooter .. or even any observers close by.

There are a number of ways that the problem of flashover can be addressed.

Using a greased or beeswax covered ball slightly larger than the bore so it is packed into the cylinder with the loading lever is a method that many of the old stalwarts will use, whereby some of the lead is actually shaved away. An added benefit of this is improved accuracy.

Crisco, a popular brand of shortening is also often used to top each cylinder and has the added effect of retarding black powder residue.

Wads are perhaps the most commonly used, however if you choose these it is important to ensure that these are resistant to high heat and compresssion and are water resistant. Vegetable fiber wads are excellent in that regard. Furthermore, wads will give your revolver a good seal thus minimizing blow by.

After measuring out your powder and pouring it into each cylinder it is also a good idea to pack a wad in on top .. just a memory jogger which should ensure that you don’t go load a second charge! This is in addition to the wad used to seal the cylinder.

In situations where you may be using a lesser charge in a black powder revolver it is a good idea to put some sort of filler such as cornmeal between the powder charge and the ball, because the chances are that if you don’t you will not be able to seat the ball far enough down so that it sits firmly on top of the powder. It is important that you don’t have any airspace in this area as this can blow out or bulge your cylinder or black powder pistol when it is fired .. and that could prove catastrophic!

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The Buried Percussion Black Powder Pistol

Posted by admin on August 18, 2008 under black powder pistol

After recounting an instance to my grandparents where an aged aunt had once allowed me a glimpse of a .32 calibre nickel-plated Smith and Wesson black powder revolver, she had kept for protection, I was in awe when my grand-dad came back on in to the room and presented me with the strangest black powder pistol I had ever seen. He then proceeded to tell me how he had discovered it.

As a young man he had farmed a block of land at Hukerenui, in the far north of New Zealand. One of the Maori boys he had engaged as farm help, in the course of ploughing up one of the paddocks had unearthed this quite remarkable find .. a cap and ball percussion black powder pistol. The pistol had to have been encased, although I am not sure in what, as it was in remarkably good condition and still remains in pretty good condition today .. although I’m not sure I’d want to try firing it. But whatever it was housed in has long since disappeared.

This box lock percussion pistol is a double-barrelled turn-over, and quite unusual in appearance. In fact, it is srangely similar to the English turnover pistol illustrated near the top of the page. The barrels are only of about two thirds the length though and are chamfered as opposed to round .. as one would find in an octagonal sided single barrel handgun. The side-plate assembly is strikingly similar though, even down to the engraving – and warrants further close inspection by me. There is a distinct possibility both guns were produced by the same manufacturer. The firearm though does not have a flat butt base as mine does, nor a butt plate.

On firing the one barrel, the shooter then twists the barrel mechanism around 180 degrees on a central pin so that the second barrel can then be discharged. The whole of the barrel assembly seems disproportionately heavy, indeed that is where the bulk of the pistol’s weight is focussed. The weapon is iron framed, and aside from the barrel looks rather delicate. The trigger guard, on top of the hammer and the butt plate (which appears to be silver) are also engraved. The butt is in walnut. Unfortunately to date the proof marks if there are any have not been located. One of the cap primers remains intact.

Nothing is known of the history of this pistol. Whether it was used as a protective side-arm, perhaps by a woman, or was one of a pair, is left for conjecture. I suspect that it is circa 1820-1840 and a local gun collector some years ago opined that it was likely of either English or French manufacture. I am also left to wonder whether this unusual black powder pistol saw service in the last battle of the north between the British forces and the defending Maori at nearby Ruapekapeka Pa .. but I guess that is something that none of us will ever know. I hope to insert a photo of the pistol here in the near future.

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