Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

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Bill in Oregon
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Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#1 Post by Bill in Oregon » Sat May 12, 2018 8:36 am

The Walker has an almost irresistible allure of its own, but as I consider the weight and the issues with the rammer falling down (I know, judicious filing of the retainer spring can alleviate if not eliminate this) I am looking over the three Dragoon models, which saw and gave a lot of hard service from the Oregon Trail and the California goldfields through the Civil War and well beyond. Would love to hear from owners/shooters of any of these big, beautiful Colts.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#2 Post by jeepnik » Sat May 12, 2018 12:17 pm

Pattersons, Walkers and Dragoons have never really held much appeal. Perhaps it's the shear size, or the clumsy feel (for me at least). My two favorite BP revolvers are 1858 Remington and 1860 Colt. The Remington really seems to have a perfect heft and balance in my hand. But, I seem to gravitate to the more brutish look and feel of the 1860.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#3 Post by Ray Newman » Sat May 12, 2018 1:00 pm

I had a few of those ol' Colt reproductions. Then I bought a Ruger Old Army and never looked back.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#4 Post by Bill in Oregon » Sat May 12, 2018 1:30 pm

I have played with the awkward Patterson and handled the Walkers. The lever-dropping habit of the latter is discouraging, in addition to its sheer size.
The thing that keeps my interest in the Walker alive is this, from the first volume of "Firearms of the American West":

The rangers probably had a full complement of the guns (Colt Walkers) before the year was out. General Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who saw them in Mexico City in early December of 1847 wrote that "Hays's rangers have come -- their appearance never to be forgotten. Not in any sort of uniform but well mounted and doubly well armed: each man has one or two Colt's revolvers besides ordinary pistols, a sword, and every man his rifle."

Attached is the enlistment document for my great-great grandfather, James Wayland, Company D (Highsmith's) of Hays's First Regiment, Texas Mounted Volunteers. He may well have actually carried a Walker in combat.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#5 Post by Sixgun » Sat May 12, 2018 1:31 pm

I'd love to be able to say I have owned/shot the real Colt Dragoons.....well, I've handled many (about a dozen) (one first) second and third model dragoons of which several were inscribed to officers including one engraved English made Dragoon inscribed to a general. Wow! I'll never forget th feeling but I did not want to trade our house for a handgun.

I've shot a fair amount of '51's and '60's but my personal favorite is the 1862 Police of which I have one example which left the factory in 1873...yea...late one.

Ahhhh...unless your determined , my guess is you will get bored of the big ones very fast. To me, it would be like shooting a blacksmiths anvil that has a barrel and a nipple.----6


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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#6 Post by Bill in Oregon » Sat May 12, 2018 1:36 pm

Six, my first handgun was a brass-framed 1851 imported by Hawes that Dad let me buy when I was 17 -- in 1970. Since that time I must have owned a baker's dozen Colt 51s, 60s, a 61 and several Remington 1858s. I agree they are very practical, as well as elegant handguns. I wish the Remington fit me better, but they always bruise my knuckle on the back of the trigger guard.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#7 Post by M. M. Wright » Sat May 12, 2018 2:34 pm

My first cap and ball Colt was a '49 pocket model. I then bought a '58 Remington and shot it for many years. I was lucky enough to score a set of NOS nipples from Numrich. This was circa 1955 so no repros. My buddy had a '62 Police with the long barrel. Best shooter I've ever tried though I have several '60 model Armies and really like them. A couple of years ago I bought a 2nd gen '62 Colt and it is so sweet. I need to shoot it more. Yes, I am green for sixes '62 but he gets a lot of use from it which makes me glad. I suppose it's easy to tell I'm emotionally attached to old Colt revolvers, '62 Police models especially.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#8 Post by Stevie » Sat May 12, 2018 2:52 pm

I have an Uberti third model Dragoon. Things I've learned is that it needs .457" balls...the lever-drop issue was prevelant on my Dragoon with any but the lightest loads...the spring in the lever latch(front latch like a Navy) was too short for any real retention...I put a spacer in the hole behind the spring and mine latches good now..no more lever drop. The Walkers have some sort of leafspring arrangement at the back of the loading lever.

My .44 Dragoon seems to be sighted for something on the order of 80 or 100 yards. At normal pistol ranges you have to shoot fairly low.

I got a .31 Baby Dragoon .31 lst winter(Cimarron/Uberti) last winter. Have not shot it very much...doesn't have a lever...shoots a bit high too. My Cimarron/Uberti Navy .36 is a great shooter.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#9 Post by Malamute » Sat May 12, 2018 4:25 pm

I rather like the Dragoons, the Walkers never really caught my fancy.

Ive owned a couple modern versions, I shot an Uberti/Allen Arms 2nd or 3rd Dragoon some, it was a LOT of fun to shoot. The echo of the shots off the nearby mountains was absolutely awesome, and I dont say that lightly. Deep booming echos rolling across the face of the mountains. Better than the best imagination of any movie special effects. I think I was shooting 50 grs 3f with round ball. It just make me grin hugely and say "Wow!". It seemed good out to about 75 to 100 or so yards without holding over, only a little hold under closer in, but I mostly shot it at farther distances. If I had to use a percussion pistol for any serious use, it would be a Dragoon, and Id just deal with the weight.

The Dragoon is one gun that fired up my interest to hunt with one. Id like to shoot a deer, and maybe a buffalo with one one day. Just because. History, reputation and all that.... And just because.


I borrowed this from 4V5Gary where he posted it elsewhere. Ive read this account before.

From a reprint of The Prairie Traveler by Capt. Randolph B. Marcy, US Army. Capt. Marcy's book was published back in 1859 and was used as a guidebook by those seek to blaze westward across the prairie. It was in print for about 40 years and sold for a $1 a copy. No small sum in those days. On pages 139-141 he discusses guns and in particular, the advantage of the heavier caliber Army Colt revolver over the lighter Navy Colt revolver:

"Notwithstanding Colt's Army (Dragoon) and Navy sized revolvers have been in use for a long time in our army, officers are by no means of one mind as to their relative merits for frontier service. The Navy pistol, being more light and portable, is more convenient for the belt, but it is very questionable in my mind whether these qualities counterbalance the advantages derived from the greater weight of powder and lead that can be fired from the larger pistol, and the consequent increased projectile force.

"This point is illustrated by an incident which fell under my own observation. In passing near the 'Medicine-Bow Butte' during the spring of 1858, I most unexpectedly encountered and fired at a full-grown grizzly bear; but, as my horse had become somewhat blown by a previous gallop, his breathing so much disturbed my aim that I missed the animal at the short distance of about fifty yards, and he ran off. Fearful, if I stopped to reload my rifle, the bear would make his escape, I resolved to drive him back to the advanced guard of our escort, which I could see approaching in the distance; this I succeeded in doing, when several mounted men, armed with Navy revolvers, set off in pursuit. They approached within a few paces, and discharged ten or twelve shots, the most of which entered the animal, but he still kept on, and his progress did not seem materially impeded by the wounds. After these men had exhausted their charges, another man rode up armed with the Army revolver, and fired two shots, which brought the stalwart beast to the ground. Upon skinning him and making an examination of the wounds, it was discovered that none of the balls from the small pistols had, after passing through his thick and tough hide, penetrated deeper than about an inch into the flesh, but that the two balls from the large pistol had gone into the vitals and killed him. This test was to my mind a decisive one as to the relative efficiency of the two arms for frontier service, and I resolved thenceforth to carry the larger size."
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#10 Post by Bill in Oregon » Sat May 12, 2018 5:50 pm

Malamute, thank you for refreshing me on Marcy. I had a copy of his book some years ago and found it most edifying. I believe he also championed the Colt Revolving Rifle for Plains use.
The .36-caliber Colts are a joy to carry, but one feels as though he is shooting a .380 upon dishcarge, certainly nothing suitable for engaging the likes of a grizz.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#11 Post by Ray » Sat May 12, 2018 7:00 pm

Everybody needs the cumpston - bates book on percussion pistols.....

First thing about the walker and its dropping rammer....take a deep breath and slow down and enjoy the shooting experience, reseating the rammer as necessary.....you're not going to suffer a knife, club, arrow, or lance wound or lose your scalp if it droops.....

Or just double-up a humble rubber band and secure it in place....

Remember that nobody shot percussion revolvers fast like eastwood in the spaghetti peliculas or griff winning a prize at s.a.s.s. Slow and deliberate cocking was necessary then as is now to avoid spent cap jamming.....
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#12 Post by octagon » Sat May 12, 2018 7:20 pm

Bill that is sure cool about your grandpa and his service, wow!
I've been eyeballing Remington's and dragoons lately thinking they might be some real fun for a turkey hunt. I've hunted turkeys with revolvers many times but a black powder kill would be nice. Dang turkeys can carry a ton of lead if you don't hit em right.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#13 Post by Ray » Sat May 12, 2018 7:30 pm

By the way Bill, in a walker there is plenty of room for two .454" balls over a reduced powder charge, something like normal army colt load.....I use a spent .44 special case for a measure.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#14 Post by Ysabel Kid » Sat May 12, 2018 7:49 pm

Hmmm... I think I qualify (see picture below). :D

I have a reproduction of each: the Walker, the Whitneyville transition, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Model Dragoons (the picture is the 2nd Model, my personal favorite - probably due to my handle here :wink: ). Just gave Y2K his own 3rd Model for Christmas.

I love these big cap & ball revolvers. Colonel Colt's favorite was the 3rd Model. As far as "shoot-ability" goes, for these, the 3rd Model would indeed be the best choice.

Uberti makes wonderful reproductions. I have those and a couple Armi San Marco's (no longer made) - plus Pietta's for other cap & ball revolvers. As OldNo7 likes to point out, I have a real sorority going (think about it :wink: ).
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#15 Post by Bill in Oregon » Sun May 13, 2018 6:18 am

Kid, I was hoping you might drop by. Have you had success dealing with rammer issues in the Walker and its progeny? I have heard it can be somewhat of an issue (but fixable) even with the dragoons if the catch is not precisely fitted.
Ray, you are right about taking a breath here. To shooters today, this falling rammer seems like a dreadful bar to effective use of the firearm. But it is possible that in 1847, in the heat of battle in the Mexican War, a dragoon or ranger gladly accepted that he might have to slap that rammer on his thigh or saddle to re-seat it in return for the tremendous horse-killing power the Walker provided. I'd sure take a Walker over a Paterson in that kind of combat.
And by the way, my great-great-grandfather did something that has been repeated over and over through human history by young men eager to get into the fight. When he enlisted, he lied about his age. As you can see by his headstone, he was not 21, but 17 1/2 on May 1, 1847.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/324 ... es-wayland

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#16 Post by piller » Sun May 13, 2018 8:22 am

I have heard that the Walker Colt was often carried on the saddle in a holster attached to it. As heavy as they are, it makes sense to me. They were a powerful pistol.

Having never shot one, they are a bucket list item.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#17 Post by Malamute » Sun May 13, 2018 9:19 am

Ray wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 7:00 pm
...Remember that nobody shot percussion revolvers fast like eastwood in the spaghetti peliculas or griff winning a prize at s.a.s.s. Slow and deliberate cocking was necessary then as is now to avoid spent cap jamming.....
I dont believe they had the same level of problems with caps as we have today. Caps were made specific for different guns, Eley made caps specifically for Colts, and no doubt others did as well. Im not where the book is so cant quote it, but the gist was a quote from an officer to the quartermaster in the 1860s regarding pistols used by Union spies. They were describing the problems of supplying them with Colts and Starr pistols, and carrying ammunition suitable for both. Roughly paraphrased, the caps suitable for Starrs pistols would break apart on firing and jam Colts pistols, and caps suitable for Colts pistols wouldnt reliably fire in the Starr pistols. The quote mentioned I believe which Ely caps they were referring to. Looking at the book 10 Old Gun Catalogs, a reprint from various catalogs from the 1860s through 70s, its often shown in the product listings caps suitable for Colts pistols, and other caps. very definitely NOT a "one size fits all purposes" thing, as we have today.

Its too bad nobody today will pick up the ball and make Colt specific caps.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#18 Post by Malamute » Sun May 13, 2018 9:21 am

piller wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 8:22 am
I have heard that the Walker Colt was often carried on the saddle in a holster attached to it. As heavy as they are, it makes sense to me. They were a powerful pistol.

Having never shot one, they are a bucket list item.
Yes, the issue holsters were intended to be carried on a saddle, like the holsters for the heavy single shot horse pistols before them. It became the habit to carry the pistols on the belt when not mounted, the men didnt want to be separated from their guns when in camp or on foot. Holsters developed to help facilitate that change in carry of the big guns.
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt-

Isnt it amazing how many people post without reading the thread?

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#19 Post by 2ndovc » Sun May 13, 2018 10:06 am

Bill,

I had a Uberti 3rd Model Dragoon that got caught up in "the purge" that I don't ever remember it having an issue with the lever dropping. My Dad's Walker did it all the time and the reason I'd bought the Dragoon. I've been looking at them quite a bit lately since someone was nice enough to sell me a sweet Enfield Musketoon! :D

I still have an Italian 1851 Navy that was the first handgun I ever bought. I think I was 12 or thirteen and it was $40! Still miss that great big Dragoon, though. I think I'll wander over to gunbroker. :D

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#20 Post by Sixgun » Sun May 13, 2018 11:56 am

Bill in Oregon wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 6:18 am
And by the way, my great-great-grandfather did something that has been repeated over and over through human history by young men eager to get into the fight. When he enlisted, he lied about his age. As you can see by his headstone, he was not 21, but 17 1/2 on May 1, 1847.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/324 ... es-wayland
Pretty cool Bill.....I see your family history goes way far back in our nation. That was a time when men were real men.----6
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#21 Post by Bill in Oregon » Sun May 13, 2018 3:34 pm

Malamute: Very interesting idea about Colt-specific caps. There should be enough of the originals around for someone to undertake a careful microscopic analysis.
Jason, I mention rammer problems with Dragoons after watching several Youtubes in which Dragoon rammers came unlatched with some frequency. Colt redesigned the latch again for the 1851 Navy and solved the problem for good.
Six, I feel called to make a pilgrimage to that peaceful grave someday. It is about a seven-hour drive one way from here in Alamogordo to Junction, Texas.
The year after GGGF died, his two oldest boys, Millard and James Wayland, drove the family's cattle and horses from Buffalo Gap, Texas, to here -- meaning La Luz, New Mexico. Millard stopped at Hueco Tanks outside El Paso and carved his name. Great-great-grandmother Mary and the rest of her kids followed in 1885 by wagon.
I visited Hueco Tanks State Park a few weeks ago and took a picture of Uncle Millard's handiwork. Gotta love family history.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#22 Post by Sixgun » Sun May 13, 2018 4:13 pm

Bill,
Now, that.....is super super cool....love history....how did you get to know about the carved stone? ------6
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#23 Post by Bill in Oregon » Sun May 13, 2018 6:21 pm

Six, a friend told me she had seen it when at Hueco Tanks -- and wondered if it was one of my Waylands. Millard had just turned 28 years old a couple of weeks earlier when he carved that. I am sure he felt the weight of being the "man of the family" on his shoulders, and that maybe carving his name took his mind off his burden for a brief time.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#24 Post by DarryH » Sun May 13, 2018 6:42 pm

I love my Walker repro! A couple times if filled the cylinder to the brim with 3F, and packed a ball on top. Recoil is more than normal, but not serious. I rubber band the rammer. very accurate gun. I have quite a few repo's, and my least favorite is the 1860 Army. That grip angle is just not comfortable for me. The .31 and .36 cal guns are some of my favorites.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#25 Post by 6pt-sika » Mon May 14, 2018 2:44 pm

Gotta say the Walker and Dragoon’s never caught my intrest suppose it the heavy aspect . I do however like the 1860 Army quite a bit and have an original or two . I’m also quite taken with the 1849 Pocket Model think I have eight or so of them all originals . I always though the 1849 would make a nice sidearm during ML deer season in case I needed to take a finisher shot on a downed deer . But it ain’t legal in Virginia.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#26 Post by Nate Kiowa Jones » Tue May 15, 2018 12:34 am

I have both the Dragoon and the Walker.


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The Walker lever is a fairly easy fix. The lever latch has a rounded detent or retainer. All you need to do is file it so it has a step or ledge for the lever to catch on.

As for caps falling off, the fix is to use quality nipples. The Nipples that come on these guns have flash hole that are usually too big or will end up too big as they wash out. Treso nipples have a small flash hole (.028”) to greatly reduce the amount of escaping powder gases back into the nipple to help prevent the cap from blowing off when fired.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#27 Post by Bill in Oregon » Tue May 15, 2018 7:40 am

So, Steve, has reshaping the Walker rammer detent worked well for you? I have heard this really can help, but doesn't always cure the problem entirely. I wonder if the Slix Shot nipples work as well or better than the Tresos.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#28 Post by Ysabel Kid » Tue May 15, 2018 8:19 pm

Bill in Oregon wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 6:18 am
Kid, I was hoping you might drop by. Have you had success dealing with rammer issues in the Walker and its progeny? I have heard it can be somewhat of an issue (but fixable) even with the dragoons if the catch is not precisely fitted.
Ray, you are right about taking a breath here. To shooters today, this falling rammer seems like a dreadful bar to effective use of the firearm. But it is possible that in 1847, in the heat of battle in the Mexican War, a dragoon or ranger gladly accepted that he might have to slap that rammer on his thigh or saddle to re-seat it in return for the tremendous horse-killing power the Walker provided. I'd sure take a Walker over a Paterson in that kind of combat.
And by the way, my great-great-grandfather did something that has been repeated over and over through human history by young men eager to get into the fight. When he enlisted, he lied about his age. As you can see by his headstone, he was not 21, but 17 1/2 on May 1, 1847.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/324 ... es-wayland
As others have noted, there are ways around the loading lever drop. A leather thong if you want to go period; a rubber band for convenience. The catches on all the Dragoons are not as robust as the 1851 Navy or the 1860 Army or subsequent models, but this also has to do with the charge in those compared to the Dragoons. The Walker latch... well, that was darn near useless.

I have not had an issue with my 2nd Model, which I shoot most frequently. I routinely, as in almost every shot, have it with my Walker. But sometimes you just need to shoot a Walker! :D
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#29 Post by Nate Kiowa Jones » Thu May 17, 2018 12:04 pm

Bill in Oregon wrote:
Tue May 15, 2018 7:40 am
So, Steve, has reshaping the Walker rammer detent worked well for you? I have heard this really can help, but doesn't always cure the problem entirely. I wonder if the Slix Shot nipples work as well or better than the Tresos.
Yes, but you want that step so the lever is fully up with no up and down slack. In other words don't try to center it on that rounded part. Start filing from the top tring it as you go.
The down side is you may have to use something to reach in there to release it.

As for the Slix nipples I haven't used them but I hear they do work well.
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#30 Post by Bill in Oregon » Thu May 17, 2018 1:14 pm

Gracias, amigos.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#31 Post by Ray » Thu May 17, 2018 6:26 pm

In my walker in addition to the double-ball load i mentioned I also use a 170 gr. rnfp cowboy action bullet loaded backwards over what is a full load to me 50 grains.....normally 40 to 45 gr. is considered max. with a conical but loading the thing nose-down the nose digs into the powder charge and it all fits without too much crunch and allows a generous smear of grease.....
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Bill in Oregon
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#32 Post by Bill in Oregon » Fri May 18, 2018 6:40 am

Ray, I'll bet that cuts a nice, clean hole in a target.

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Ray
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#33 Post by Ray » Fri May 18, 2018 6:54 am

Bill in Oregon wrote:
Fri May 18, 2018 6:40 am
Ray, I'll bet that cuts a nice, clean hole in a target.
Billy: left to right 170 gr. bullet described above, .454" ball, expanded backwards bullet recovered from tree stump backstop....

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Bill in Oregon
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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#34 Post by Bill in Oregon » Fri May 18, 2018 10:48 am

Ray, bet that load would make an impression on someone in the act of committing a felony, too.

8)

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#35 Post by magyars4 » Sat May 19, 2018 4:49 am

I recently pucked up a converted Uberti Dragoon with the Kirst conversion cylinder.
So far I have not loafed any BP loads but it has been an enjoyable experience.

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Re: Who here plays with Walkers and Dragoons?

#36 Post by Ray » Sun May 20, 2018 3:30 pm

I have gotten in the habit of going afield with the walker empty and loading only one chamber at a time....I can miss tree rats just as easy, slower and one at a time than with five or six loads and the lever dropping makes no difference.... :D
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