Evaluating Used Replica Black Powder Revolvers

A quick primer on what to look for when buying used black powder Revolvers.
By Hovey Smith

Brass-framed Confederates replica revolvers
Brass-framed “Confederates” are the most common replica revolvers seen on the used gun market.
Hovey Smith
Hovey Smith

Central Georgia –-(Ammoland.com)- The complete disassemble of a revolver is something that is not likely to be allowed in a gun shop, so the buyer of a used gun needs to develop a feel for what a smoothly operating percussion revolver is like.

If a gun has not been lubricated for a long time, or is new, it may be a little stiff, but it should still cycle through easily without having to manually turn the cylinder.

There may be some visual indication of how well the previous owner maintained his gun. Examine all the screws on the frame. These should have some indications of being removed and replaced for regular cleaning, this will be shown by a slight widening of the notches. If they have never been removed and it takes a hard pull to cock the hammer, then pass on that gun.

If some screw slots are really wallowed out, these can be replaced with new screws, provided that the gun is from an importer who supplies spare parts. If not, replacement screws for most replica Pietta and Uberti revolvers may be ordered from Dixie Gun Works.

Similarly, the nipples may be slightly battered. These many also be replaced, and this is not a fatal flaw, provided that they have been removed and cleaned after each shooting session. If they show signs of heavy fouling and/or are rust-cemented around their bases, select another gun.

In general, the least expensive brass- framed revolvers will have not been as well cared for as the more expensive models. These are not as desirable for any but occasional use because the brass frames will ultimately stretch and the guns will loosen up with prolonged use of service-level loads.

Brass-framed revolvers are not recommended for heavy hunting loads. However, if this is all that you can afford, and/or the gun is at an irresistible price, they can get you started and will make attractive wall- hangers after you have bought a better pistol.

Because of their attractive price and flashy appearance, there are likely more brass-framed 1851-Colt pattern percussion revolvers on the used gun market than any other type. They have been commonly sold by Cabela’s, CVA and Traditions, among many other companies. In as-new condition these have a value of between $90-$125.

Although some Griswold & Gunnison replicas are made in .36-caliber, most of the brass-framed Colts are .44-caliber and use the 1851 Colt style ramrod with notch-in-the- hammer and barrel pin sights.

Outside of having no sights at all, this is about the worst combination of sights ever put on a handgun. These sights can only be adjusted by grinding down the hammer to lower the strike of the bullet or by replacing both sights.

X-Treme Muzzleloading: Fur, Fowl and Dangerous Game With Muzzleloading Rifles, Smoothbores and Pistols
X-Treme Muzzleloading: Fur, Fowl and Dangerous Game With Muzzleloading Rifles, Smoothbores and Pistols

On one gun, I had an adjustable rear sight installed on the barrel along with a higher front sight, but gave up on this brass- framed gun when it started to shoot loose.

Remington pattern 1858 revolvers have also been given the brass-frame treatment. Between the two, the Remingtons are the stronger guns because of their heavier frames and top straps, compared to the Colt’s open- top design.

They are more expensive than the Colt pattern brass-frame guns as either new as new guns, and are worth the extra money. On the Remington replicas, the front sight is tall enough so that it can be filed down to raise the strike of the bullets.

This is a useful modification, as these guns typically shoot low out of the box. On a used gun, check and see if this alteration has been done. You can tell because the originals had rounded-top front sights.

Brass-framed guns will corrode overnight if the gun is not cleaned. A uniform discoloration of the brass from bright yellow to brown is fine, but heavy splotches of green and white growths that look like fungi are not.

If your a fan of hunting with your muzzle loader be sure and purchase a copy of Hovey's book “X-Treme Muzzleloading: Fur, Fowl and Dangerous Game” found on Amazon: http://tiny.cc/2zyauw .

About William Hovey Smith:
As a Professional Geologist and an Outdoor Writer, Hovey has had the opportunity to live and hunt over most of North America. He was always interested in outdoor writing and sold his first articles in the 1970s and have continued with newspaper, magazine and book writing every since. Hovey has done beat reporting for regional newspapers, been published in more than 80 different publications and has produced 15 books and most recently both screen and stage plays. Visit: www.hoveysmith.com

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