Reproduction Revolvers as Self-Defense Guns? Yes You Can!

by Sam Hoober
Sam weighs the pros and cons of using today's quality reproduction revolvers as self defense guns.

Taylor's & Co. factory tuned 1873 Cattleman Gunfighter
Taylor's & Co. factory tuned 1873 Cattleman Gunfighter
Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Alien Gear Holsters' Sam Hoober ponders if a reproduction revolver would make a decent defensive pistol. [repop revolvers are modern rebuilds of classic gun models]

Could a person carry or use a reproduction revolver for self-defense? It's an interesting idea.

It shouldn't be too much a problem in all likelihood; these pistols were carried and issued for defensive purposes for decades and on a global basis, too.

That and they are just cool. The classic revolvers of the “Old West” have some great designs and they're fantastic collector's pieces.

But can they still be functional as well?

The Popular Reproduction Revolvers Are Usually The Better Examples

Most of the designs that have attained new life as reproduction revolvers were very popular models in their day. Typically, these aren't boutique guns that are still being made just for their novelty; they were working firearms that were widely issued by police and military and widely purchased by civilians for purposes of self-defense.

Taylor & Co Le Mat Cavalry Revolver
Taylor's & Co Le Mat Cavalry Revolver

For instance, there are repro Le Mat Cavalry revolvers, but they're rarer and far more expensive than, say, Colt Single Action Army (aka Peacemaker) reproductions or Remington New Model Army revolvers. In it's day, the LeMat revolver was also rare (and expensive) but also wasn't too widely carried because of the expense and also because it didn't work as well as other pistols.

Therefore, a well-made reproduction could be relied on if need be, because people did just that. Granted, it's not like you're going to be able to get a concealed carry holster for one. You're better off with a J-frame anyway if a concealed carry revolver is your goal.

Also, be aware that these guns lack a transfer bar, so drop fires are a distinct possibility. That's why a lot of people carried with the hammer over an empty chamber back in the day.

19th Century Ammunition Underpowered Today, But Serviceable

Hornady Critical Defense Ammo 45 Long Colt 185Gr FTX
Hornady Critical Defense Ammo 45 Long Colt 185Gr FTX will work with a repro revolver with no issues

By today's standards, popular rounds from the 19th century are underpowered but serviceable. Take note, however, that reproduction revolvers have lower chamber pressure tolerances than today's modern revolvers. As a result, these tolerances must be adhered to. Most makers of reproduction revolvers state that only black powder or cowboy loads are safe to use.

Most common, of course, is .45 Colt. Today's .45 Colt loadings are wildly different than those of the late 19th century but also fantastically diverse. There are low-pressure black powder and cowboy loads, moderate pressure and moderate velocity (for a big bore revolver) loadings that are perfectly suited for self-defense. Since the .45 Colt has a very long case, handloaders have been making hot loads of .45 Colt for a long time, and the high-power .45 Colt loadings are every bit the equal of .44 Magnum.

However, reproduction revolvers can't tolerate the full-house loads.

That said, reproduction revolvers can handle the more pedestrian .45 Colt loads, which are pretty similar much like .45 ACP, as the latter was designed to offer the same performance as the former in a shorter case. Plenty of ammunition including good defensive loads is available that will work with a repro revolver with no issues.

Cimarron Firearms Model No. 3 Schofield in .38 Special
Cimarron Firearms Model No. 3 Schofield in .38 Special

A number of reproduction revolvers are chambered for .38 Special, and some in .357 Magnum. The capabilities of these rounds for defensive purposes are well-known, though the .38 Special +P and certainly +P+ loadings shouldn't be used if not within chamber pressure tolerances – and likewise with .357 Magnum.

Two more common chamberings in older revolvers are .44-40 (aka .44 WCF) and .44 Russian. These chamberings are a little rarer as more repros tend to be offered in .45 Colt, but they are out there. In both cases, performance from factory loadings are about on par with the standard loads of .44 Special, meaning big, slow bullets – fans of .45 ACP should find them to their liking.

That said, hollowpoint or wadcutter rounds may not be available for these calibers, so the kind of defensive ammunition that is easily available for modern calibers is not as easily had. However, soft-point bullets – or projectiles made totally out of lead – do expand on impact.

So…you absolutely could use a repro revolver as a defensive pistol. Many Reproduction Revolvers would definitely make a good open carry or nightstand guns.

Alien Gear Revolver Holster Draw Concealed Carry, Reproduction Revolvers
Granted, it's not like you're going to be able to get a concealed carry holster for Reproduction Revolvers. You're better off with a J-frame anyway if a concealed carry revolver is your goal. but they “Will Kill”.

About Sam Hoober

Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at aliengearholsters.com, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.

  • 5 thoughts on “Reproduction Revolvers as Self-Defense Guns? Yes You Can!

    1. “Most makers of reproduction revolvers state that only black powder or cowboy loads are safe to use.” Not true. S.A.A.M.I. specifications for .45 Colt and other older loadings keep the older revolvers in mind. Any off the shelf load will be perfectly safe in any gun for which it’s chambered, barring any OTHER defect in the gun itself. Modern The steel in modern repros is in fact superior to the steel in a 150 year old gun, and so will withstand the load. repros in .357 are very common, and can handle any modern load that is within S.A.M.M.I. standards, again providing the gun is in good condition.
      I personally carry CCI Blazers in my everyday .45 Colt.

    2. That’s a bit of dangerous advice to put out there. My repro Remington .45LC specifically warns against using any jacketed bullets as the forcing cone’s design is not designed to deal with anything other than regular lead bullets – chamber pressure isn’t the key issue, nor is the merit of modern metallurgy. Better advice would be to read the manual that comes with any particular weapon and load/shoot it accordingly.

      1. I have never seen that on any of my Uberti’s, (none are Remington repros) but If yours says that, then by all means I stand corrected. I have shot several of mine, both .45 and .357 with modern JHPs, though not extensively.
        Just to be completely candid, my EDC IS a Ruger Vaquero, though I have carried my Uberti’s.

        1. No worries sir. Mine is, as noted in a comment below, a reproduction of the 1858 Remington .44 cap and ball revolver with a Taylor’s 45LC conversion cylinder in it. As far as I have been able to find, none of the cap and ball types with conversion cylinders should fire modern jacketed bullets or +P type hard cast lead (like Buffalo Bore loads which otherwise I’d LOVE to be able to use in it). I’ve looked at the metallurgy and design and I would think it should be okay to do, but all the manuals and manufacturer info specifically says not to.
          Not a problem though, as Federal are kind enough to produce a 255g SWC-HP lead bullet in the 900-925fps range that is at the high end of what good 45ACP can do ballistics-wise, but won’t damage me or my revolver. Hammer down on an empty chamber, five in the wheel, on the nightstand ready to go to work. 🙂

    3. keep in mind a number of repros are cap and ball not cased ammo. sure they can injure or kill someone after all they were used for over a years and multiple wars.

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