Best Black Powder Revolvers Reviewed and Rated

Do you prefer the lure of muzzleloader hunting above all else? Or it’s the rich history of the Wild West that fascinates you? Well, if you’re looking to recreate a little history of your own, the conventional cap and ball revolvers are a great place to start with. Black powder revolvers have been around for centuries and today, we help you pick the best black powder revolvers available on the market.

There are an insane number of models – from the mass-produced guns to the specially-crafted to the unique pieces commissioned for the rich or nobility. Doesn’t matter if they are too common or rare, they all help you get in touch with history and are FUN to shoot. If you’re an avid shooter who knows his muzzleloader pretty well would certainly relate to what makes black powder muzzleloader hunting one of the fastest growing shooting sports in America.

Black Powder Shooting Back in the Good Old Days

best black powder revolvers

When most Americans think of single-action revolvers, they see scenes of the Wild West and the deadly shootouts at the Ok Corral. But the history of the revolver has its roots trace back to 1836, when Colt filed a patent for the first revolving firearm back in the day. Some believed that Colt was a bit ahead of its game, for the 1836 model failed to prove its worth, and by 1842 Colt’s Patents Arm Manufacturing was out of business. But as the Civil War broke the world started to fell apart and with the Western Expansion, a gun that could fire several rounds without reloading was needed. So by 1847, Colt was back in business and the rest, as they say, is history.

Everything has changed since then and we have learned a lot since those days and now you never get a chain fire, our bullets hit the target where you intend them to time after time, the outside of your revolvers isn’t greasy, and you can shoot round after round without the pistol fouling up. Today, black powder shooting is much more enjoyable and satisfying than it was back in the good old days. They’re inherently interesting devices that represent important historical periods, and you can see them in a lot of movies you love.

The Ultimate Hunting Experience

revolver1

The basics of muzzleloaders have not changed over time. There are two basic types of muzzleloaders used for hunting today – traditional and in-line. Both are based on the premise that you have to pour powder down the end of the gun barrel, and then ram a slug or ball down on top of it to load the gun. Another great reason for the booming black powder business is that most states have special muzzleloader-only hunts. So picking up the smokepole can extend your season by weeks. Plus there’s the lure of history as well.

You know the best thing about muzzleloaders – you can be mountain man with a Hawken caplock, or a pro hunter with a scoped, super-accurate rifle using a nearly flawless ignition system. Or you can be both, taking advantage of the modern-day conveniences while still embracing the primitive challenge of the hunt. Traditional muzzleloaders include reproductions of sidelock, flintlock, and percussion long guns. The in-line was invented by gunsmith Tony knight in the 1980’s and leverage modern advances such as closed breach, sealed primer, and fast rifling for utmost accuracy at long ranges.

While some may view muzzleloaders as inefficient devices with many limitations such as single shot, limited range, and reduced velocity, for many seasoned hunters, these are attributes that make black powder hunting a unique experience. Hunters know they can easily bag their limit with a modern weapon and they relish the challenge of having to get close  without being detected, ultimately bringing home the trophy with a single, precise shot. They know exactly how to master the limitations to make the hunting experience more fun and rewarding than using a conventional weapon.

Choosing the Best Black Powder Revolver

revolver

They are fun, they spit fire and smoke, and make big, loud sound. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of shooting a black powder pistol, but how do you find the right one? Well, with so many different styles and models to choose from, selecting the right muzzleloader can be a daunting task. You cannot just buy muzzleloader guns on the basis of specifications or efficiency alone. There’s a reasonable path of selection, but at the end of the day, personal preference prevails. Below are the few points to consider to get started along the muzzleloader path.

Styles – The muzzleloaders basically fall under two main styles – the Colt and the Remington. These two manufacturers accounted for almost 90% of the period revolvers back in the 1800’s and widely influenced modern revolver design. Each style can be recognized by the top strap (the portion over the cylinder) or lack thereof. The Colts do not have a top strap, while the Remingtons do. Due to this difference, the disassembly and loading can be slightly different for each style. Aside from the design differences, the Remington has a fairly superior frame design and a better sight & barrel alignment. The modern replicas are also offered in different frame materials ranging from case-color hardened steel to the modern stainless steel.

Projectiles – A muzzleloader fires lead round balls. They are generally several thousandths of an inch oversized and are used without a patch. When they are pressed into the cylinder they are swaged to the exact size. While balls are the primary fodder, in some cases, conical bullets are used for greater knock-down power. Inherently, conical bullets are not as accurate as round balls primarily because loading they become canted and eventually enter the bore at an angle. However, for the sheer ease of loading and inexpensive shooting, lead round balls make up the bulk of projectiles for black powder enthusiasts.

Caliber – If you intend on killing paper, the caliber of a handgun hardly matters. However, the projectile type has great bearing on what gun you select. Conicals moderately require fast twist barrels. The rule of thumb has always been better too fast of a twist rate than too slow. Although deer hunting is a big force in muzzleloader hunting, it’s better to enjoy target shooting with a patch and ball. In that case, considering slower twist rate barrels may be wise for you. Regardless of what you choose, a little understanding of your own needs and requirements can save you a great deal of time and money.

Barrel – Most hunters would prefer stainless steel barrels because they are easier to clean and you could easily say when they are clean. It certainly costs more and is brighter in the woods, unless you go for an aftermarket black Teflon or other darker coating, adding yet more cost.

revolver4

Loading – Many people would shy away from the traditional muzzleloader handguns simple because they are quite hard to load – actually nothing could be further from the truth. Loading is obviously a time-consuming process, but it’s not that much complicated to master. Place a percussion cap on each empty cylinder and discharge in a safe direction – this will hopefully prevent the chances of oil contaminating the powder or cap. Pour the powder in each cylinder. Then place a ball on the cylinder mouth and depress the loading lever, which is mostly located under the barrel. Once the balls are firmly seated on the powder, cover the mouth of each cylinder with some heavy coating which will help lube the bullet on its way down the barrel, which eventually results in increased accuracy and reduced fouling. After the cylinders are fully loaded, you’re all set for some action.

Rate of Twist – Today’s black powder enthusiast has three categories of a rifle to choose from, based on the type of rifling in the barrel. The rate of twist refers to the distance the rifling takes to complete one full revolution such as “1 turn in 10 inches” (1:10 inches) or “1 turn in 254mm” (1:254mm). A shorter distance indicates a faster twist, which means for a given velocity the projectile will be rotating at a higher spin rate. For the best performance, the barrel should have a twist rate sufficient to spin stabilize any bullet. Large diameter bullets provide more stability, while long bullets are harder to stabilize. The slower twist rates are found in muzzleloader firearms meant to fire a round ball.

Accuracy – With a little load development and attention to detail, black powder revolvers are capable of incredible accuracy. Round balls were used for a bit better accuracy potential for small and medium sized game, but for most hunting situations there wasn’t enough accuracy advantage with round balls to counter the tremendous energy advantage of the conicals. The easier is to load a bullet, the better the accuracy, as long as the bullet is the right caliber. Choose a conical that loads easily, choose a weight of the conical that is appropriate for the game you’re hunting, develop the most consistent load, and at practice at appropriate ranges and voila!

revolver2

Ignition System – The first of the two ignition systems is the flintlock that produces flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the gun’s main powder charge. Flintlock ignitions systems were in use from the 1600’s to the early 1800’s. They were prone to misfire in wet weather, and many flintlock firearms were later converted to the more reliable percussion system. The percussion system was a major overhaul over the flintlock systems that enabled muzzleloading firearms to fire reliably in any weather.

The percussion cap is a small cylinder of copper or brass with one closed end, inside of which is a small amount of shock-sensitive explosive material such as fulminate of mercury. The cap is set on a hollow tube, or nipple, and is detonated by the impact of a falling hammer. The flame travels through the hollow nipple to ignite the main powder charge. Percussion caps are still made in small sizes for pistols and larger sizes for rifles and muskets.

Cleaning and Maintenance – Cleaning a black powder revolver is relatively a simple task. First, make sure the gun is unloaded and then remove the cylinder. You have to remove the nipples and drop them in a cleaning solution while the rest of the revolver is being cleaned. Each chamber in the cylinder needs to be swabbed out with a patch, soaked in a quality cleaning solution. The barrel needs to receive the same treatment. All exposed metals parts such as the inside of the frame, the exterior of the barrel and the cylinder also need to be rubbed down carefully with a solvent-soaked rag.

Improper nipple maintenance is number one cause of ignition failure, so make sure to use a naturally seasoning compound to lubricate and protect the rifle bore and internal working parts. These compounds eventually help reduce loading difficulty and form a protective layer on the rifling and working parts. Once everything is done, cover the nipples with a light coat of oil and insert them back into the cylinder.

Sights – There are essentially two types of sights on black powder revolvers: fixed sights and adjustable sights. Fixed sights usually employ a rounded blade front and a notch in the rear, while adjustable sights may have a rounded blade or a partridge style target blade on the front and an adjustable sight on the rear. Fixed sights are more rugged for the simple fact that they have no moving parts to come loose, and are more cost-effective as they are cheaper to produce. They work great when it comes to small game hunting. However, for target shooting, adjustable sights are a great alternative and have the advantage of being adjusted for precise shot placement.

Best Black Powder Revolvers Reviewed in 2016

Cap and ball revolvers seem to bring history alive – whether it’s the Civil War or the Western Expansion, simply shooting these timeless replicas take us back into a different era. Regardless of what black powder you choose, you’re going to have fun using it. Let’s take a look at few of those timeless pieces included in our best black powder revolvers list.

1. Pietta Model 1858 New Army .44 Caliber Black Powder Revolver

 

The Pietta Model 1858 delivers that same power with its blued steel construction, polished brass trigger guard, octagonal barrel, and eye-catching walnut grips. The 1858 was one of the major side arms of the Civil War and was the last of the Remington percussion revolvers to be manufactured.

They are very accurate and capable of considerable power with muzzle velocities in the range of 550 to 1286+ feet per second, depending upon the charge loaded by the shooter. Another great feature was “safety slots” milled between chambers on the cylinder which makes it ideal for safe carry by preventing accidental cylinder rotation.

The Pietta Model 1858 delivers that same power with its blued steel construction, polished brass trigger guard, octagonal barrel, and eye-catching walnut grips. The 1858 was one of the major side arms of the Civil War and was the last of the Remington percussion revolvers to be manufactured.

When war broke out, LeMat received Confederate contracts for the production of five thousand revolvers and plans were laid to manufacture the gun abroad and then import them into the Confederacy, which lacked the necessary facilities to produce the weapon locally. The LeMat revolver was manufactured from 1856 to 1865, with approximately 2,900 being produced. The original revolver was not considered to be a very accurate weapon although it was deadly at close range.

Check It Out On Cabela’s

2. Uberti Model 1847 Walker .44-Caliber Revolver

 

This massive 4+ pound, steel frame, the .44-caliber revolver is often referred to as the grand-daddy of all percussion revolvers. It was designed in collaboration with Capt. Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers in 1847 and became one of the most feared weapons of the West.

Its 60-grain charge was more than double that of any other revolver, granting the 1847 Walker enough stopping power to take down a horse. This authentic reproduction features a 9-inch barrel, fixed sights, one-piece walnut grip, steel back strap, and brass trigger guard. The 6-shot cylinder is engraved with the scene “Fighting Dragons.”

Only about 1,000 of the originals were produced, making the .44-caliber Walker one of the most sought-after firearms by collectors. The revolver was enthusiastically received by the Rangers of the newly independent Republic of Texas. This is the biggest and the most powerful of the percussion replicas. In 1844, Colt’s pistol made history when sixteen Rangers held off 80 Comanche warriors with their new revolvers. The Walker’s massive firepower needed a much stronger frame and larger overall gun design than earlier models. The Walker’s reputation assured Colt’s future success.

Check It Out On Cabela’s

3. Pietta Model 1851 Confederate Navy .44 Caliber Black Powder Revolver

Designed by Samuel Colt, the Colt 1851 Confederate Navy Revolver was much lighter than the contemporary Colt Dragoon Revolvers developed from the .44 Walker Colt revolvers of 1847, which, given their size, were generally carried in saddle holsters.

It’s an enlarged version of the .31 caliber Colt Pocket Percussion Revolvers that evolved from the earlier Baby Dragoon and is a mechanically improved descendant of the 1836 Paterson revolver. The 1851 saw heavy use among army officers who favored .44-caliber firepower. The revolver was suitably sized for carrying in a belt holster. It became very popular in North America at the time of Western Expansion.

The Model 1851 Confederate Navy Revolver is constructed with a brass frame to conserve the South’s limited supply of steel. Patterned after the original, it features a brass trigger guard and frame, blued octagonal barrel, and eye-catching walnut grips.

Spare cylinder provides quick reloads plus the barrel makes it easier to handle and holster. The six-round cylinder makes this revolver ideal for re-enactments and fast-draw competition. Sighting consists of a tapered brass cone front sight pressed into the muzzle end of the top barrel flat with a notch in the top of the hammer, as with most Colt percussion revolvers.

Check It Out On Cabela’s

4. Pietta Griswold and Gunnison .36 Caliber Black Powder Revolver

Based on the original Colt Model 1851, this working replica of a Civil War-era single-action revolver sports a 7 1/2” Dragoon style barrel with six-groove rifling, one-piece walnut grip, blued barrel and cylinder, brass frame and back strap.

This percussion revolver had brass parts, because steel was more difficult to procure, owing to the supply problems caused by the war. What sets this gun apart from other brass framed Colt Model percussion revolvers is its un-notched back strap, and the plain cylinder, as on the original Griswold and Gunnison.

This percussion revolver is often confused with the 1860 Colt Army and Navy Colt revolvers. Once the Civil War broke out the CSA was in desperate need of small arms and most of the former nation’s firearms manufacturers were located in the Northern Union states.

The Union clearly had the advantage in manufacturing capacity and materials. This imbalance in production ability plagued the Confederacy to the very bitter end. Fortunately, Griswold and Gunnison turned out these firearms in their makeshift shop in “Griswoldville” under a contract from the CSA government.

Check It Out On Cabela’s

5. Pietta LeMat Cavalry .44-Cal. Black-Powder Revolver

Developed in New Orleans in 1856 by the infamous Dr. Jean Alexander LeMat, whose manufacturing effort was backed by Pierre G.T. Beauregard, who became a general in the Confederate Army – this cavalry version of the first model LeMat is a unique sidearm with a 9-shot cylinder which revolves around a separate central barrel of large caliber than the chambers in the cylinder proper.

A single .20 gauge shotgun barrel under the .44 caliber barrel makes the LeMat a great cap and ball firearm. Grips are checkered two piece European walnut, while the metal pieces are richly blued. The octagonal rifled barrel is 6 3/4″ long. It is rifled with 7 lands and groves. The hammer nose is rotated downward to strike a nipple for the smoothbore barrel. The loading lever is mounted on the left side.

When war broke out, LeMat received Confederate contracts for the production of five thousand revolvers and plans were laid to manufacture the gun abroad and then import them into the Confederacy, which lacked the necessary facilities to produce the weapon locally. The LeMat revolver was manufactured from 1856 to 1865, with approximately 2,900 being produced. The original revolver was not considered to be a very accurate weapon although it was deadly at close range.

Check It Out On Cabela’s

Black Powder Revolvers FAQs

Do I need a license to possess a muzzle loading cannon?

No, of course not! A muzzle loading cannon falls within the definition of a muzzle loading firearm in terms of Section 1 of the Firearms Control Act. A muzzle loading firearm is a device not considered as a firearm for the purpose of the Act. Therefore you don’t need a license for a muzzle loading cannon.

What’s required for a black powder permit?

Currently, you’ll need to possess a black powder firearm in order to apply for a black powder permit. Do take a note that black powder revolvers must be licensed, as they do not fall under the definition of muzzle loading firearms in the Firearms Control Act. You can only buy a black powder firearm legally if you are in possession of a valid black powder competency certificate.

What are the requirements for storing black powder?

Black powder firearms must be stored in a safe, lockable steel cabinet or sturdy cupboard and the original permit must be kept close all the time.

What maintenance do I need to do on my black powder revolver?

Black powder is hydrophilic, which means it attracts water, which accelerates the process of rust and corrosion formation. So it’s absolutely necessary that your revolver is thoroughly cleaned time to time and oiled after everyday’s use. The bore and exterior surfaces should be properly cleaned and oiled as well. You can find several black powder solvents in the market that do a pretty fine job of cleaning fouling, or you can also use hot soapy water. Make sure you take extra care while cleaning.

How do I care for the exterior metal parts of the revolver?

Like we said, the metal parts are more prone to rust and corrosion formation. To prevent rust on exposed steel surfaces, we recommend the application of a thin coating of a carnauba-base wax, followed by a thin coat of oil. When using your revolver in inclement weather, wipe it down thoroughly before storing it back in its case.

Decision Time

There is an unfortunate tendency to order guns without handling them first. Stock fit, balance, and other handling issues are unknowns unless you can hold one personally. So, a test drive or a test handle is always a good idea. You obviously want to know how well a gun feels on your hands, what the maintenance ritual actually involves, the crispness of the trigger, the ease of scope mounting, and the amount of blowback from the action. When choosing among the best black powder revolvers, your final decision should be based on the intended use and your judgment of such factors. In recent years, the in-lines have been the most popular weapon of choice for those interested in just hunting while conventional styles still appeal to hunters and those interested in competition and re-enacting.