Guide to Buying a Single Shot Muzzle Loading Pistol

For serious competition target shooting, or just recreational shooting, few muzzle loading black powder guns offer the variety and performance of a muzzle loading single shot pistol. With a wide variety of choice, including manufacturer, style, calibre, sights, smoothbore or rifled, percussion or flintlock, price, there is certainly a number of options for each shooter to consider for his own needs.

Flintlock Pistol

Which Make of Muzzle Loading Pistol Is the Best?

There have been a number of different manufacturers of muzzle loading pistol throughout the last 60 or so years, mainly of Italian or Spanish origin. Today, the most popular makes are Ardesa of Spain, Pedersoli of Italy, and our range of Indian manufactured guns.

Both Ardesa and Pedersoli are makers of quality and long standing. Ardesa's range, whilst more limited than Pedersoli's, are more affordable, but no less capable. Spares are available, the pistols are reliable and (as evidenced by the number of second hand pistols available), can more than stand the test of time.

For the more historically minded shooter, or those looking for serious precision, Pedersoli are likely to fit the bill better. The build quality on Pedersoli pistols (Pedersoli guns in general), is second to none.

Indian guns are somewhat in a class of their own; they are not machine produced like the European offerings, but are hand built, and therefore replicate the styles of gun they produce, arguably with more realism than the pricier options.

Uberti also produce the 'Siber' pistol, which is an excellent pistol, and outside of Uberti's usual range but made with the same care and attention as their revolvers and rifles.

What Variation Do I Need for a Black Powder Muzzle Loading Pistol?

Muzzle loading Black Powder pistols, be they smoothbore or rifled, are held on a Firearms Certificate as a Section 1 Firearm. When applying for a variation, the correct wording is crucial, as the gun you are buying must match the permission given on your certificate.

As with any variation, the calibre must be listed, so this will usually be either .36, .44, .45, or .50. Then it must be described as a 'muzzle loading pistol', there is no need to specify flintlock or percussion, and omitting this will give you the widest breadth of choice if you are undecided prior to putting in a variation.

For Indian made guns, the calibre of the gun must be measured exactly prior to applying, so it is best to come and view, and reserve a gun prior to applying for a variation, so there can be no mix ups when it comes to purchase. Alternatively, if you are unable to come and view, we are happy to measure the calibre of the gun for you, we will then reserve the gun free of charge until your variation is granted.

Which Calibre of Muzzle Loading Pistol Should I Buy?

There is no strictly correct answer to this question, this depends on the individual shooter. Original single shot percussion and flintlock pistols were a variety of different calibres, from very small European target calibres to much larger holster or horse pistols.

The only use of muzzle loading pistols today is for target use, so the calibres on offer from the manufacturers tend to stick to the smaller side, with .50 generally being the largest on offer, and .36 being the smallest. .44/.45 is the most popular, as with revolvers.

In terms of shootability, there is not a great deal of difference, other than the recoil. With the best quality pistols, such as the Pedersoli Le Page, there is little difference in the gun between .36-.44 in terms of accuracy and shootability. The .36 is better suited to indoor shooting, simply as it is a lighter charge and projectile, and the .44 better suited to outside due to a greater muzzle report, however this is not set in stone. If a good range can be found, relatively free of weather effects, any calibre will perform well.

What Style of Sight Would Be Most Suited to My Needs?

The styles of sighting available are as varied as the selection of single shot muzzle loading pistols to choose from. Many shooters use single shot muzzle loading pistols for competition use, of which several styles are available. Pistols such as the Ardesa Kentucky pistol, have largely fixed sights, which are adjustable only by drifting the front sight left or right.

On the one hand, these may seem basic, but they take little effort to use, and once they are set for a particular distance or charge, they will retain their point of aim. As the Kentucky is a reproduction of a relatively common and inexpensive pistol, it lacks the finer adjustments as may be made on the Pedersoli Mortimer, for example. The sights on this pistol are easier to read than the Kentucky, and also features some elevation adjustment on the rear sight, along with windage on the front.

Which Style of Muzzle Loading Pistol Would I Most Enjoy?

This depends on each shooter's preference. Many may prefer more target and competition oriented pistols, such as the Pedersoli Charles Moore, whilst historically accurate, this pistol also offers excellent ergonomics and handling, making it a popular choice for competition shooters, and those who enjoy the more luxurious pistols of the era.

Competition shooters would most likely prefer a percussion to a flintlock, but this is still open to personal choice.

For re-enactors, or those more interested in historical shooting, the Indian guns are a sure bet, and guns such as the English Sea Service pistol are perfect for Napoleonic era re enactors, for example.

Sea Service Pistol

Which Percussion Caps, Ball and Powder Are Most Suited to a Single Shot Muzzle Loading Pistol?

Fortunately, this is a fairly easy question to answer. All single shot percussion pistols will take either no.10 or 11 caps, some may fit one size better, but given how these pistols are used, there is no danger of them falling off. I would always recommend RWS 1075 caps, I find these give the most consistent detonation, and are of consistently good quality.

As for powder, while I would always recommend black powder where possible, Single shot muzzle loading pistols are more at home with Pyrodex and such, than revolvers. There is no delicate mechanism for Pyrodex to damage, and the thick barrels mean there is no danger of damage if used within tolerances. Both powders, are therefore equally suited. If using a flintlock pistol, black powder is the firm favourite. Pyrodex is more difficult to ignite than Black Powder, so Henry Krank Fine Black Powder or Swiss OB Special grade Black Powder should be used for priming the pan.

The correct size lead balls naturally depend on the calibre of the gun, and the manufacturers generally publish their own data on the best ball to use, and usually powder charge too. That said, a ball .010 narrower in diameter of the true bore size, with the difference made up with a patch (either oiled or dry, oiled for softening the fouling, useful when using black powder) of the same thickness. So, a pistol with a bore diameter of .450 will take a .440 ball and .010 patch.

Is a Smoothbore, or Rifled Single Shot Percussion Pistol Better?

This again depends on the shooter's preferences. A rifled barrel will naturally propel the ball more precisely, though is harder to load, particularly when fouled. For competition shooters, it would be counterproductive to suggest anything other than a rifled barrel, as the shooter will need every advantage in order to be placed first.

For recreational shooting, or when shooting a great quantity in a session, smoothbore is perfectly practical. Over short distances, a smoothbore barrel will do just as well as a rifled barrel for general shooting. The great advantage is in fouling. Even when using oiled patches, a rifled barrel will soon foul to the extent where it may be difficult to load, and may require cleaning before continuing shooting.

Buying a Black Powder Muzzle Loading Pistol

If you have made up your mind, or would like more information, then feel free to give us a call at your leisure. Alternatively, we have our full range of single shot muzzle loading pistols available to view and handle in our shop. If you have a particular model you would like to view, please call us in advance.