How to Choose a Black Powder Revolver

Have you ever considered owning a black powder revolver but don’t know where to start? Well, we’re here to help. In this video, YouTuber Dustin with Guns of the West talks about these historical guns and how to choose one for yourself.

Guns of the West talks about how to choose your first black powder revolver.
Guns of the West talks about how to choose your first black powder revolver. (Photo credit: Guns of the West)

What is a Black Powder Revolver?

Black powder revolvers date back to the 1800s and are one of the firearms that played a key role in gun history and changing technology. Although it is possible to find antiques, it’s easier, more affordable, and safer to get a reproduction model. Manufacturers including Uberti, Pietta, and Traditions make a variety of reproduction black powder revolvers. The most common models you’ll see from those manufacturers are made after historical Colt and Remington revolvers.

These can be a challenge to shoot if you’re inexperienced with revolvers in general, let alone if you’re brand new to black powder. Dustin suggests something like the 1860 Army as a solid choice for new black powder revolver shooters. These are 44 caliber reproductions of the old Colt design. Another one he recommends is the 1851 Navy design. A big pro of the 1851 Navy is less felt recoil which means it’s also easier to shoot accurately.

1860 Army reproduction from Uberti. (Image source: Uberti)
1860 Army reproduction from Uberti. (Image source: Uberti)

To learn more about how the various revolvers work and which might be best for you as a new black powder shooter, watch the Guns of the West video:

Things to Remember About Your Black Powder Revolver

You’ll have an easier time running your revolver if you remember to do these things:

    • Keep it clean. These guns get dirtier faster than modern handguns.
    • Consider the caliber. As with any gun, larger calibers create more felt recoil.
  • Remember that saving money now on a less expensive reproduction could translate to the gun having a shorter lifespan or needing more repairs. It isn’t always the case, but sometimes it does play out that way.
  • Learn to load it properly. When in doubt, find an experienced black powder shooter to help you.
  • Use black powder. This might seem obvious, but modern guns run on smokeless powder, and it’s important you pay attention to the type of powder you use in your black powder revolver. Smokeless powder cannot be used.
Uberti and Pietta reproduction black powder revolvers
A lineup of Uberti and Pietta reproduction revolvers. (Photo credit: Guns of the West)

Advice from Guns of the West Viewers

There’s some advice and wisdom in the comments section of this video. We’ve chosen a few gems for you:

Black powder is a tinkering man’s game. Pietta is an awesome introduction to the concept. Don’t be afraid to take a brand new, fresh out of the box gun apart and hit it with Emery board or valve seat paste to smooth out the action. -YouTuber eljuano

I own a Pietta 1851 Colt Navy in 36 caliber. Some folks think 36 caliber is underpowered. LOL. Twenty grains of powder in that thing and you can put a hole clean through and out the other side of a green (and empty) propane canister. That is fairly heavy steel, and the 36 Navy is far from underpowered. Trust me on this. -YouTuber Robert Blevins

My first thought was the 1851 and the 1860 as they’re two easy to load, fire and clean guns. They don’t weigh or cost a bunch, you can fire reasonable loads that’ll give you a good show without breaking your wrist and most importantly, they don’t have any of the problems like you see with the Walker and LeMat (as much as I love the LeMat). Note – the 1851 does come in .44 as that’s what I got when I purchased mine back in the 90s. -YouTuber Sean Foltz

What do you think?

Is a black powder revolver going to be the next addition to your gun collection? Tell us in the comments below.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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