Despite what one may read in most “gun” magazines, in this part of the country anyway, revolvers are still quite popular for backcountry carry and social work. Consider the old saw, “Six for certain,” and you’ll understand our attachment.
They’re reliable, strong, intuitively easy to operate and come in a variety of assorted powerful chambering. Plus, in most cases, they’re less expensive than the magazine-fed, semi-automatics currently in vogue. But, like anything else, you get what you pay for and there are less expensive models in the dealer’s showcase that a person can purchase if that’s what they want.
I’ve owned several different models of semi-automatic pistols and even double-action-only revolvers over my lifetime, but for serious work like hunting or self-defense in the backcountry from rogue critters, I still favor the single-action, Old-West-style revolvers. I prefer Rugers for heavy-duty work and only in tank-busting calibers at that. As noted in a recent column, my current carry is a .480 Ruger single-action Bisley model modified by Dustin Linebaugh and converted into a .475 Linebaugh.
Serious loads run a 425 grain slug out the barrel at around 1,350 feet per second, or about the same as the old government trapdoor infantry rifle’s .45-70 loads. Recreational practice and plinking rounds sail a 335-grain chunk of lead at around 950-1,000 fps. Most hot-loaded .44-magnum handguns can only muster around 1,400 fps with a 240-grain bullet.
My sources relate the old trapdoor loads in .45-70 were designed to penetrate a horse at 500 yards. This due to the native warriors’ propensity of using their horses for a shield and firing from under the horse’s neck when engaging enemies, just like you’ve seen in the old-time westerns on late night TV. The Army wanted a round capable of shooting through the horse and taking out the rider on the opposite side. They got it in the .45-70.
Anyway, in the last several years arthritis has gained serious inroads in my hands and limited my practicing with heavy-duty loads to the occasional, which is why, on days the cannon is locked up, I carry a small, double-action, lightweight .357-caliber Smith & Wesson. Yes, a revolver. With standard loads I can keep my shots clustered fairly close; seriously heavy loads are another matter entirely. However, if serious social loads are called for out of the little revolver, I don’t think I’ll need very many. Still, for most recreational shooting, like slapping rocks out in the big empty, I prefer the big bores, but they don’t always have to be loaded to the max.
For example, in the .475 Linebaugh, a 425-grain bullet seated over 10-12 grains of Trail Boss powder will kick the slug downrange at between 900 and 1,000 fps and still raise holy heck when it gets there. It’s a lighter load and the recoil is about like shooting a mid-level .44 magnum. For a bit more spunk, 24 grains of H-110 under a 350-grain slug will warp the paint on the barn and still only recoil about like a 300-grain slug in a warmed-up .45 Colt cartridge. Or, for the adherents of the semi-auto, about like a warmed-up 10mm in a 1911-style shooter, with the original wood grips.
Understand that, although lighter than usual, these aren’t loads for popping prairie dogs or tree squirrels. Hit a jackrabbit with one of those loads and there’ll be hair, teeth and eyeballs all over the place. Rocks simply explode and fade away in a small cloud of rock dust. For serious carry in the woods, I upgrade both the size of the slugs and the powder charge. In theory, it’s a lot like my thoughts on carrying the little .357 S&W loaded hot for social work. In bear country, carrying one of these hand cannons loaded with a lot more thump than a hot .44 magnum can provide gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling, OK?
A few days past, on one of those beautiful sunny and windless days we get on rare occasion, our triad of rock rollers assembled at a favorite shooting spot out in the big empty and unlimbered the artillery with the intent of stopping the infiltration of probable virus carrying, rogue rocks attempting to illegally penetrate the borders of Park County. We figured that since the state wouldn’t stop them at the border, it was up to us to serve and protect. Drawing a line in the sand at a bit over 600 yards away, we went to work.
The downside of the day was that there was so much sun out there that I wound up with my face fairly well sunburned. That hasn’t happened since I capsized the canoe in Lily Lake a couple of years ago and had to go diving to recover my fishing gear. Never did find my hat though. Probably why I wound up sunburned.
Regardless, the Italian Stallion, Captain Happy and I proceeded to unlimber our personal artillery, which for me usually consists of a pair of revolvers and a couple of older, well-worn, military surplus rifles. During the course of which exercise we alleviated our angst by puncturing assorted targets at various ranges. The only way the day would have been better was if we’d been chasing feral hogs down in south Texas or bigfoots up in Washington state.
Also, it’s not true that the concussions from excessive firing of high-power pistol rounds can actually cause memory loss. I read that somewhere and can’t remember exactly where, but it’s probably not true. Right?