While some argue that Sturm, Ruger’s Old Army cap-and-ball revolver is a modernization of the Civil War-era Remington New Army, they aren’t totally wrong.
The Original “New” Army
In all, the Federal government contracted for no less than 18 different revolver types during the Civil War with the two most numerous being the six-shot Colt Army .44 (129,730 purchased) followed by Remington’s New Army (125,314) in the same caliber. This impressive number doesn’t take into account the thousands of handguns purchased by private soldiers and officers. The iconic Remington wheel gun had an 8-inch barrel and, unlike the Colt, a solid top strap, making it one of the most powerful and rugged performers of its day.
Firing a 260-grain projectile over a 30-grain black powder charge, it remained popular on the commercial market well into the mid-1870s when cartridge revolvers became all the rage. Still, other copies were sold to purchasing agents working for the armies of the Tsar, the Mikado of old Japan, the King of England, and the Republic of Mexico.
The Rebooted “Old” Army
Building on the success of his line of single-action cowboy guns, such as the Blackhawk — which in itself was a revamped clone of the Colt 1873, Bill Ruger took the proven Blackhawk action and rolled it into the company’s first black powder revolver. Dubbed the Old Army, the updated hogleg looks a lot like the common Civil War-era .44 smoke wagon but internally is very different. Even looking past the cosmetic similarities between the Old Army and its New Army predecessor, the modern Ruger ditched Remington’s brass trigger guard and wonky mid-19th Century ironwork metallurgy for an all-steel construction. This makes the Ruger perhaps one of the strongest black powder revolvers to ever make it into production.
Other safety enhancements on the Old Army included the ability to be carried safely with six rounds in the chamber as the Ruger has safety recesses between each chamber for resting the hammer. Further, as the hammer nose is designed to clear the uncapped nipples, it can be dry fired.
While the author’s Old Army is blued, among the most common models are stainless examples which shrug off the soap-and-water cleanup required by black power guns much better. Odds are, if stainless models would have been made available to Gen. Grant in 1863, he would have chosen them.
Ruger kept the Old Army in steady production from 1972 through 2008, a 36-year run. This makes those big Ruger smoke generators increasingly collectible — another trait shared with the more vintage New Army series.
We currently have a selection of certified used stainless Ruger Old Army models in the Guns.com Vault, all with 7.5-inch barrels and adjustable sights.
No matter which Old Army you choose, know that you are getting one of the most superb black powder cap-and-ball revolvers ever made. Also, if you have one to sell, we are always looking.