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 the ‘black powder pistol’ Category

Black Powder Pistol Fetches Record Price

Posted by admin on October 10, 2008 under black powder colt, black powder pistol, black powder revolver, Walker Colt

Black Powder Pistol collectors would dearly love to showcase this rare black powder revolver which sold for a record price at auction recently.

This news item in Outdoor Life’s News Hound with J. R. Absher quickly had my attention riveted.

“1847 Colt Walker .44 Fetches $920K at Auction

A pristine, corrosion-free Colt Walker .44 black powder revolver (ca. 1847) sold at auction in Fairfield, Maine to an unknown bidder yesterday for $800,000 (plus a 17 percent auction commission).

The sale reflected the most ever fetched for the model, of which fewer than 170 are believed to exist. It was also the highest price ever paid for any type of Colt firearm.

The black powder cartridge pistol was sold with the original powder flask, issued at Vera Cruz to Private Sam Wilson in 1847.

The gun’s owner, Montanan John McBride, 80, said he decided to sell it at auction because his family had no interest in historic firearms and wanted to use the proceeds to purchase property. The gun previously belonged to McBride’s great-great uncle.

“It was a painful decision,” McBride told the Kennebec (ME) Journal newspaper. “The family would rather have land than pistols. I can understand that. I don’t necessarily agree with it.”

A spokesman for the auction company’s firearms division said the price commanded for the pristine Colt was all about condition. There was not a spot of rust or oxidation on the massive, 9-inch barrel–or anywhere else on the gun.

“This is a military gun that normally is found in relic condition,” said Wes Dillon, “What we are seeing here is a unique opportunity in the gun-collecting world.”

Known as one of the most powerful handguns in history, the original Colt Walker had an overall length of 15.5 inches and weighed approximately 4.75 pounds. It held 50-to 60-grains of black powder and shot a conical 220-grain bullet or .44 cal. roundball.

By comparison, the original .45 Colt cartridge used a 250 grain bullet and 40 grains of powder. The Walker stood alone in repeating handgun ballistics superiority until the introduction of the .357 Magnum in 1935.

Only about 1,100 Walker pistols were made during a short production run in 1847. Its namesake, Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker, a war hero who fought in the Texas-Mexico wars, collaborated with gunmaker Samuel Colt to create a pistol suitable for the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Dragoons.

Capt. Walker wrote in 1847 that the gun was “as effective as a common rifle at 100 yards and superior to a musket even at 200.”

Besides the fact that relatively few of the pistols were manufactured in the first place, a contributing factor in the scarcity (and value) of the Walker Colt today is that many of the guns were damaged by mis-loading. When it was introduced, few men had ever seen a revolver–much less shot one–resulting in burst cylinders and the accidental firing of all six chambers at once”.

Sadly your chances of procuring another such revolver are virtually non existent, even if you had that sort of dosh to procure it. Not to say however, that you cannot acquire your own replica of this exceptional, historic black powder pistol.

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Black Powder Pistol – A Salute to the Ruger Old Army

Black powder pistol shooters will have been saddened to learn that Ruger have now apparently discontinued production of their range of black powder revolvers.

I had aspired to own a new Old Army .45 cal cap ‘n ball single action model with 7.5″ barrel, all resplendent in stainless steel, which had as its basis the three screw Blackhawk models. But such was not to be.

All of the reviews I had read on Ruger, pointed to it representing the very pinnacle of achievement in the evolution of the cap ‘n ball black powder revolver. So I have decided to examine some of the other marques of revolver which might go some way to removing the void left by the loss of this auspicious handgun. In the final analysis, I was left with really only two choices .. although that is not to say that other revolver makes don’t represent fine value, but it’s the old maxim of “what you pay for, is what you get”.

In recent years the Italian manufacturers Uberti and Pietta have come to the fore, producing a range of models, in a range of calibers. And you can choose between brass or steel frame, or go for the more expensive stainless steel option. No denying it, brass looks real pretty .. but one needs to avoid overloading the powder in these pistols or you will see stretch. Although cheaper, they will certainly shoot loose over time .. the more so if full loads are used. Not what you are looking for.

Rather than conventional black powder you might like to consider Pyrodex which seems to have an affinity with these guns .. but do check the maker’s recommendation first.

My inclination would be to go for either a steel model with brass trigger guard to lift the aesthetics .. or if dollars permit .. stainless steel. Given that black powder is highly acidic, (it sucks water out of the air while settling on your pride and joy) it is imperative that you clean your black powder revolver immediately after firing and before storing away, so as to avoid corrosion and pitting. If for this reason alone, stainless steel comes up trumps; it just makes the whole task of cleaning that much easier.

Ok .. so .. Uberti or Pietta? In the past Uberti was seen to have the better quality control with respect to the revolvers they were producing, but now if you were to match both brands of revolver, produced in the same year, you would find it hard to discern any appreciable difference, quality wise. The Pietta models seem to have reversed the trend of a few years back when they were substantially cheaper than Uberti. Now the opposite seems to be true with a beautifully crafted Uberti 1858 New Army Black Powder Revolver selling for about $100 less than its Pietta counterpart. So, of the two, I figure I would be leaning towards the Uberti – which at just over $300 in the stainless version represents excellent buying if you are seeking top quality matched by price, in your choice of black powder pistol.

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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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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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