Writing the Successful Gun-Hunt Story: Part 2. The Edit

In Part I I wrote a long form version of a recent deer hunt with my custom Ruger Old Army percussion revolver where I killed a deer with my cast bullets and reloads using a Taylor and Co. conversion cylinder in .45 Colt.  This story has some commercial appeal because:  A. I am using a percussion pistol to shoot a powerful hunting load. B. The Ruger Old Army had a long production run and many Ruger collectors and users know of the pistol. C. I had some modifications made to the gun to allow it to mount a scope sight and also outfitted it with a 14-inch barrel. B. My handloads moved advanced the pistol’s capabilities to successfully use a powerful, but conservative, hunting load that functions well in my revolver.

The story as first written ran about 2,817 words which is suitable for a chapter in a book, but not for a magazine-length article which most editors of outdoor magazines trim down to 1,800 to 1,500 words. The exercise that I would like you to do is to take the present story and trim it down to 1,800 words. Ultimately I will want you to do this with one of your own stories. I am giving you this one to practice on. In the next exercise I will discuss where and how to use photos.


Thanksgiving Deer with a 14-inch Ruger Old Army using the .45 Colt Taylor & Company’s Conversion Cylinder 

Preparing for  the 17th Annual Minnesota Governor’s Opener in 2018, I converted a percussion Ruger Old Army percussion pistol into a scoped .45 L.C. revolver with a 14-inch barrel to have a firearm that would be unquestionably legal for the hunt. Outdoor writers from all over the country are invited to these events,  which is held in a different location in the state each year. This year we were billeted in the Grand Casino in Hinckley, and this is the first time in my life that I had a Jacuzzi in hunt camp.

I first considered going to the Opener in 2017. Then the regulations stated that percussion revolvers were not legal firearms for deer.  Before the next year’s hunt I ordered a .45 Colt conversion cylinder from Taylor & Co. to allow me to use cartridges in the Ruger Old Army percussion revolver.  I also sent the gun to Master Gunsmith Dykes Reber in North Little Rock, Arkansas, to put a 14-inch barrel on the Old Army and install a sight base to take full advantage of the gun’s capabilities.

This conversion cylinder has a removable back plate that contains the firing pins that allow the flat-faced percussion hammer to strike the pins and drive them into the primers and fire the cartridges.  This back plate and the use of a metallic cartridge markedly reduced the amount of powder that I could use in the cartridge. I tried a series of black-powder substitutes, but was not generating the velocities that I wanted  using Kaido Ojamma’s 255 grain flat-nosed bullet.

Hornady’s reloading manual recognizes two types of .45 Colt reloads. The first are for ordinary 1873 Peacemaker revolvers and their replicas. Then they have a section on loads intended for the stronger Ruger Blackhawk revolvers and Thompson/Center single shot pistols. The lowest category of these was a load of 18 grains of Aliant 700X which registered a velocity of 1262 fps. from my modified Old Army with its 14-inch barrel.  I weighed each bullet and sorted them to provide reloads that would give the best shot-to-shot accuracy in the new Starline cases.

Loads for the .45 L.C. in the Ruger Old Army with the Taylor & Co. Conversion Cylinder

Gun           Powder         Bullet         Velocity     Group

Ruger Old Army .45 L.C. Alliant 700X

5.6 gr. wt.

K. Ojamaa’s 255 gr. 718.7 ft/sec 1 ½-in. 25 yards
Alliant Black MZ 913.9 ft/sec 2-in group
Hodgdon 777

25 gr. wt.

No record 3-in group
25.6 gr. wt.

Old Eynsford FFFg

865.1 ft/sec 3.5-in group
Black Mag 3 1006 ft/sec 7-inch group
Alliant 700X

18 gr. wt.

1262 ft/sec 1 ½-in group
Ruger Old Army Percussion Cylinder Hodgdon 777 35 gr. wt. 1039 ft/sec 2-in group


I found that the 18 grain Alliant 700X loads shot accurately from the pistol and that the fired cases dropped freely from the conversion cylinder indicating that the gun was handling these higher pressure reloads without any problems. The hard lead bullets were cast from mainly wheel-weight metal and gave no leading in the barrel. This is a load that I thought could punch through muscle and bone for even the largest deer and hogs although it is not a .44 Remington Magnum load, and never can be.

November, 2018, was a busy month. I started on the 3rd with my opening day hunt in Hinckley.  I had taken two guns. My primary one was a Davide Pedersoli Mortimer flintlock fowler which I had loaded with a patched round ball and 100 grains of Olde Eynsford FFg black powder. Being a flintlock, its ignition was problematic in wet weather, so I was glad to have the Old Army with its water-proof cartridges as a back-up.

At almost last light there were close shots in a pasture next to the property I was hunting.  A large deer, it was too dark to see if it was a buck or doe, briefly walked into the edge of my shooting area and stood for a few seconds. Before I could put my fowler down and pick up my scope-sighted pistol, it bounded away into the woods. That ended the Governor’s Opener for me, and I went home empty-trucked.

Once home, I had a few days to get ready for my drive down to the Miami Book Fair which is an annual event held by Miami-Dade College at the Wolfston Campus in downtown Miami. After four days in Florida I drove back in time to cook turnips, a sweet potato soufflé and make dill deer potato salad to contribute to Thanksgiving Dinner at my sisters (see my softcover books for recipes).  Even though this was a somewhat rushed-up meal, there was certainly enough to eat and we had many of our traditional foods on the table.

Full, but not stuffed, I took a power nap to help keep me sharp on the stand.  At about 3:00 P.M.  I grabbed my Old Army and walked down my trail to my food plot, some 400 yards from my house. If it were not for the trees now growing in the old cotton fields, you would be able to see my house from the stand. My plan was to sit until dark to see if anything came out.

This was my 12th deer hunt and 8th with the pistol this season. This had been a grim season for me. It was not that I was refusing deer waiting for a trophy buck; I was just not seeing any deer within range of my short-range shooting equipment. With an ideal shot I could reliably take a deer at 75 or perhaps even at 100 yards with the scoped revolver, but the few deer I had seen were beyond my self-imposed range limit.

It was nearly dusk and a buck stepped out into the food plot to my left. This was a small buck, about a 2-year-old and was sporting four points on one side and three on the other.  The buck nibbled on some of the emerging oats and winter peas that were sprouting in the plot, but made steadily for the some corn I had put out in front of the blind.  I had time to consider if I would take that deer or not.  I was down to the last few packages of deer and wild hog in my freezer, and I needed some meat.

Another consideration was that although we may take a dozen deer in Georgia only two can be bucks, and I know that I have at least two much better bucks on the property. If I took this small deer now, that would preclude me from perhaps shooting a trophy deer later in the season. Nonetheless, I had made my decision. If the deer approached close enough I would take it.

I put down the Mortimer Fowler and picked up the Old Army. The highest percentage shot that I would have with the pistol was for the spine which would drop the deer and allow me to make an easy retrieve in the fading daylight. I silent cocked the gun moving the cylinder from an empty chamber to a live round and carefully rested the barrel on the shooting rail of the stand. This steadied the gun. I now had to wait until the deer was lined up for a spine shot.

Ultimately the deer, at 40-yards, moved into the desired position, and I found the crosshairs in my scope. Even with the dimming light I could align the vertical crosshair parallel to the buck’s backbone. There is always a temptation for me to shoot too quickly at a piece or game, and I had to purposefully calm myself down. All the factors were in my favor, and it was time to take the shot.

The hammer fell and the .45 L.C. round fired sending Kaido Ojamaa’s 255 grain hard-cast bullet on its way.  I could not tell exactly where the round hit, but the deer was down in its tracks.  It was still moving its legs, and I quickly gave it a finishing shot through its lungs which killed it seconds later. I was happy and relieved that this deed was done.

What did this experience show that was not already well-known to most people? A. the Ruger Old Army is a strong capable percussion revolver whose usefulness can be enhanced by using a conversion cylinder to enable it to shoot .45 Colt Keith-type loads. B. The addition of a scope base and long-eye-relief pistol scope not only enhanced better target acquisition, but also enabled a precision shot to be taken on dimly lit subjects. C. The added weight caused by the addition of the scope and the 14-inch barrel made the gun comfortable to shoot, even with powerful hunting loads. D. The use of cartridges in the revolver enabled it to be reliably used in damp or wet weather, which might hinder a percussion pistol because of water contaminating the priming powder in the cap. E. The long barrel without a front sight allows this gun to be carried with the barrel thrusts through a belt or sash, removing the immediate necessity of having a holster rig custom-made for the pistol.

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