Colt Walker revolver
Derek Landers takes a look at Uberti’s reproduction of the Colt Walker revolver
Probably brought to most peoples’ attention by the movies – The Outlaw Josie Wales, True Grit and Lonesome Dove spring immediately to mind – the Walker revolver was the pistol that finally sealed the fortunes of Sam Colt and his dream of a firearms empire. Uberti’s recreation of this mammoth pistol is both faithful to the original and fun to shoot.
When Sam Colt persuaded friends and family to back his manufacturing venture in Paterson, New Jersey he must have thought he had it made. After years of trying to convince people that his new fangled guns were the way forward, the prospect of owning his own firearms factory was finally within reach. But the venture was short lived. Through a combination of unreliability, particularly with the long arms, a lack of large military orders and Sam’s wastefulness and squandering of the firm’s money, the Paterson factory closed its doors in 1842. Many a lesser man would have said they gave it their best shot and moved on to pastures new. But Sam never lost sight of his dream and fortune came knocking in 1847. The US was about to go to war with Mexico and a young Captain in the Dragoons, Samuel Walker, remembered the advantages of Colt’s five-shot revolver when he was a Texas Ranger. Fate brought the two men together and, with the Ordnance department’s requirements for a .44 calibre revolver, the mighty Walker was born. It was not perfect but had a distinct advantage - in firepower at least - over anything in the field at that time. The Army gave Colt an order for one thousand pistols and he sub-contracted the work out to Eli Whitney, with the proviso that he, Colt, kept the machinery involved in the manufacture at the end of the contract. Sam was on his way.
Large but manageable
No-one can deny that the Colt Walker is a large handgun. Tipping the scales at over four and a half pounds empty, and with an overall length of 15½ inches, this is a real handful. The size and weight are contributing factors in taming the recoil of this giant and it can be shot offhand reasonably comfortably. Originals were said to be capable of holding sixty grains of black powder, comparable to a musket charge of the day, in each chamber but the best I could do in the Uberti was around fifty five grains of Henry Krank’s fine powder, and this without any wad or grease. I tried this load one chamber at a time – the idea of a chain fire didn’t bear thinking about! I finally settled on around 42 grains of powder, separated from the ball by a 2mm grease cookie. For anyone looking for style points in a CAS competition this load gave copious amounts of smoke, and allowing the pistol to rise unchecked under the recoil took it above head height, making it look a lot more vicious than it really is. Combined with this, putting the shots on to an A5 piece of paper at twenty five metres, duellist style, was not too much of a challenge. As with any firearm, those willing to put in the time and effort to develop a load, accustom themselves with the sighting set-up, and in this case the physical size of the piece, will be able to turn it into a respectable performer. But this pistol isn’t about bullseye or precision target shooting. This is a FUN gun to shoot.
As with all of their Colt percussion clones, Uberti’s Walker is an excellent reproduction of the original, apart from the red/brown varnish on the grips. The barrel, cylinder and backstrap are a nice gloss black while the loading lever and rammer, frame and hammer are case coloured. The colours on the lever and hammer are quite nice but the frame is mostly grey on this example, although I assume no two are alike. The trigger guard is polished brass. The oval locking bolt notches in the cylinder periphery look very shallow at first glance but when cocked this pistol locked up like a bank vault. The barrel/cylinder gap was almost non-existent, which may have contributed to the lack of fouling around the cylinder face and on the cylinder arbour, a common malady with many percussion revolvers. The cylinder arbour is made from 14mm steel rod. All of the edges were nice and sharp and the fit of the various parts, metal and wood, is first class.
The rudimentary sights consisted of a tapered blade front (this one looked to be case coloured) and a ‘v’ notch cut into the top of the hammer, more than adequate for the intended use of the pistol. Like the originals the large cylinder – 58mm long and 45mm in diameter – is rolled with a representation of the actual fight between sixteen Texas Rangers, armed with Colt Paterson revolvers, and a group of eighty or so Comanche Indians, a fight in which the Rangers were victorious. The ‘safety’ on this revolver is achieved through a single pin on the rear face of the cylinder, between two of the nipples, locating in a notch in the hammer face when the hammer is at rest. Later Colt percussion revolvers were provided with six of these pins between the nipples.
A bug well and truly ironed out
In my previous encounter with a reproduction Walker – from another manufacturer - I found that one of the drawbacks in the original design was still very much in evidence. The loading lever is held in place by a small retaining spring dovetailed into the bottom of the barrel. This engages a slot in the upper face of the lever. Every time that the pistol was fired the lever would dislodge and drop down, and the rammer would enter the lower chamber of the cylinder, effectively preventing the pistol from being cocked until the lever was pushed back onto place. Even before firing, the spring on this pistol felt much better, and so it proved to be. Not once during the test did the lever drop when the gun was fired – full marks to the guys at Uberti. Colt solved the problem on later models by fitting a latch on the front of the lever which was held in place by a catch under the barrel.
The strong mainspring meant that the pistol needed a little more effort than usual to cock it, but on the plus side there was not one misfire with the Remington No. 10 percussion caps. Neither did I see any cap fragments fall into the hammer channel as often happens with the open-top designs. This is a well made, beautifully finished, strong revolver that should give many years of sterling and enjoyable service.
Whether or not you presently shoot black powder, if you are even mildly interested in handguns or Western history you owe it to yourself to try this pistol. Said to be the most powerful handgun available up to the advent of the .357 magnum in 1935, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face. Go ahead, make your day!
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