Thoughts on Black Powder Revolvers for Self-Defense
[Everything you need to fire an 1858 Sheriff's Model Remington]
First, take a deep breath and read this closely. I AM NOT advocating that you chuck you Glunk, Sig, Baretta, Taurus….ad nauseum…. in favor of a BP revolver!! Nor am I suggesting that BP is in any way superior to modern powder/ammunition/design - pick yer thang. What I am saying is that there are those who MAY be able to LEGALLY carry a BP firearm who cannot do the same with modern, smokeless, cartridge pistols/revolvers. OK? Having said that…
Why carry a BP revolver? First, many states permit persons 18 years old to buy “antique” firearms (See the GCA of 1968 for a full description of “antique”). These same states often do not restrict carrying BP sidearms, as the same GCA ‘69 does not consider them to be “firearms.” Thus, in many cases, those too young to possess or carry a modern CCW can still defend themselves legally even before turning 21.
Secondly, although the GCA ‘68 prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from owning or possessing a firearm, it does not include “antique” firearms. In general, an “antique” is an original or reproduction using matchlock, flintlock or caplock ignition and loose black powder or a BP substitute. (Yes, I know it’s much more detailed.) Here I’m thinking of the 18 to 21 year old who was busted 30 years ago for selling an ounce of weed to his buddy or hacked the school computer to change a grade, not Jeffrey Dahmer or Charlie Manson. Many things that were illegal in the 70s or 80s are now so minor they’re ignored and the person in question hasn’t even gotten a parking violation since then. BP COULD be a legal way for them to defend themselves and their families as well.
[A conversion cylinder to allow a BP revolver to fire cartridges. In some states, this makes your pistol a modern firearm! Know your state law.]
What, then, are the pros and cons of carrying BP - if you can do it legally? Many of the cons are obvious. These revolvers must be loaded from the front of the cylinder one chamber at a time. One a good day, with everything handy and the stars aligned properly, I could reload my 1860 Colt repo in just over 2 minutes. Probably wouldn’t work well during a real fight.
Another problem is the smoke. BP makes a lot of it and, especially indoors, it can become very difficult to see even after a single shot. Follow-ups and spotting additional bad guys could be challenging. Also, because of the nature of these revolvers, they have a slow rate of fire. All the repos I know of are single action (Some originals were both SA/DA) and, except for the LeMat, would be limited to 5 shots. The only safe way to carry a BP revolver is with the hammer down on an empty chamber.
[The original speed loader - swap cylinders]
On the flip side, if this is what you have, you are not necessarily a second-class citizen. The Remington style revolvers can use spare cylinders as speed loaders. While definitely not as fast as swapping mags in Ruger, its light speed ahead of reloading the cylinder - not much different than a speed stick in J frame. The smoke, too, can be an advantage, masking you from the BG and distracting him. Never underestimate psychological advantages.
[No bigger than a 4" Model 19 and hits like a .44 Special]
So, what options do you have if you want or need to go this route? Both Colt and Remington repos are available in a number of models. I prefer the Remington with the closed top and easily changeable cylinder, but Colts look cooler and fit my hand better. Pick what you like, as both come in .31 (modern .32), .36 (modern .38) and .44 (modern 45) calibers. Most come in a variety of barrel lengths, too. From these, my favorite is the .44 Remington Sheriff’s model, with 4 or 5 inch barrel. Of course, the Lemat has 9 shots in the cylinder AND a 20 ga shotgun barrel!! But like our Hi Points, it's big, heavy and ugly.
Hi Point Firearms Forums, and its owner, encourages all readers to know the Federal, State, and Local laws and to abide by them.