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Just how popular is the Lightning?


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Bear with me, this may take a while.

I remember when the reproduction Lightnings first started to appear on the market.   There was some speculation that they might become the dominate rifle in the sport, because they could theoretically be run faster than any lever gun.

Obviously, once it became clear that some of the Lightnings had problems, some bad, some minor, they started to gain an overall reputation for not being a good choice.

But, at the same time, a few folks pointed out that this or that specific one worked just fine.   It has been pointed out how even the worst of the lot can be made to work properly by someone who knows what they are doing.

More recently however, I have noticed that a lot more pards seem to be asking questions about the rifle, and there are a few of us here who seem to really enjoy the gun.

And that's got me wondering, just how popular is the durn thing?   Here in New England, I don't see them very often, but a few folks I shoot with have commented on how my AWAs seem to run just fine.  Considering that I am a lower third of the pack at best shooter, that people think I do well with them says a lot, I think.

I've heard it said that in other parts of the country you'll see more of them.

 

So here's some questions...

How often do you see other people using them?  Normally I am the only one with one at shoots around here.  I'll see another one maybe two or three times a year, but I've never seen more than one other person besides myself using one.  [In New England.  I've seen more in other places]

I wonder if it would be possible to organize an informal Lightning lovers group.

 

I wonder if a special shoot that would somehow encourage, but not require, a Lightning would generate enough interest to make it worth the effort.

 

I wonder if I'm over thinking this.

Edited by H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619
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H.K. 

Interesting post and I don'r think you're over thinking it. Clearly the Lightning is gaining popularity and more and more folks are shooting them. I think a Lightning lovers group would be interesting, valuable for information exchange, and much fun (although I'd urge a different name). Count me in. Maybe you and I should grab some phone time?

RR

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4 minutes ago, Roger Rapid said:

H.K. 

Interesting post and I don'r think you're over thinking it. Clearly the Lightning is gaining popularity and more and more folks are shooting them. I think a Lightning lovers group would be interesting, valuable for information exchange, and much fun (although I'd urge a different name). Count me in. Maybe you and I should grab some phone time?

RR

Curious - what makes you think that the Lightning is gain popularity...I assume you mean in SASS.

 

Phantom

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Phantom...

 

Thx... yes, gaining interest in SASS.

 

R

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49 minutes ago, Roger Rapid said:

Phantom...

 

Thx... yes, gaining interest in SASS.

 

R

Maybe it's a Regional thing, but I haven't seen any uptick in Lightning use in Texas, Colorado...didn't notice any at the Regional in OK a couple months ago.

 

Phantom

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I have seen one in use while at a match at Tombstone. The woman shooting it cleaned my clock. I tried one. It seems if you have a hard time chewing bubble gum and patting your head at the same time, shooting a lightning may not be for you.

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Around here we only see a couple a year. And those have been new shooters so my guess would be they bought what was available, without knowing what worked well and what often did not.

my$.02

 

Imis

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Your post might have a little more impact if the spelling of the featured rifle is spelled correctly in the title. The only cowboy rifles I have are Lightnings but I learned early on that the stigma that’s attached to them will always be there and threads like this one won’t change many minds, JMHO, of course.

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I don't see many of them up here in the Northeast. We have one pard at a local club that shoots one once in awhile. I stopped in at Taylor & Co. once on my way by Winchester, VA and handled one they had on their rack. They seem to be a nice rifle, but I just don't think they would be right for me.

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It helps that there are smiths that can make them run as intended.  Lassiter can make them run.  Boaz can flat out fly on multiple shot targets.  Like in the 2 second range for ten shots.  Yes, they are becoming more popular in Ohio and surrounding areas.   I’ve even been looking for one

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9 hours ago, Phantom, SASS #54973 said:

Maybe it's a Regional thing, but I haven't seen any uptick in Lightning use in Texas, Colorado...didn't notice any at the Regional in OK a couple months ago.

 

Phantom

I think your correct about it being a regional thing. They are becoming more popular here in the Midwest. I think this is primarily because of Lassiter and his willingness and experience on getting them to run consistently in competition. I was in his shop about a month ago and he had several in that he was doing action work on and even some he was putting on custom barrels. 

Will they ever replace the lever gun?  I doubt that, but the way our game has changed over the years with closer targets and multiple taps, it plays toward them. 

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I've been playing with one more and more lately.  When I do my part I'm faster than with my 73s but I tend to short stroke more.

  I've seen an uptick here as well with use of them 

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I have an AWA in 44-40 and it will run fine. . .If the "Loose nut" holding it will do his part.  I have not shot it for a couple of years and had decided to shoot it last weekend. . . well I will be shooting my 94 next time. 

Here is my take, it is a different motion and requires a POSITIVE back and forward motion to operate.  It requires dedication and practice so that when you step up to the firing line you are not concentrating on operating the rifle but concentrating on shooting the sweep.  One more safety minder keep your pinky finger on your left hand off the back of the fore stock or suffer the consequences you will(I did Sunday).  

 

In my opinion there are a select few that can run one and be competitive, but they are the exception to the rule.  The average shooter will have better results with a lever action with less practice.  Would I sell mine? No.  Will I shoot it next month? No.

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My wife has shot an AWA since the first SASS convention and I recently picked up a Pedersoli. We've not shot up north in a while, but rarely see another in Tombstone monthly matches. 

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Nice run, Doc!  

And don't belittle the speed or compare it to anyone - it shows great functionality and use of the Lightning.

What make and caliber?

Nice job!!!!

RR

 

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2 minutes ago, Roger Rapid said:

Nice run, Doc!  

And don't belittle the speed or compare it to anyone - it shows great functionality and use of the Lightning.

What make and caliber?

Nice job!!!!

RR

 

It’s a pedersoli 357 that has been tuned by Lassiter to run 38 special and has the ability to slam fire. 

I think the biggest problem people have with any of the so called lightning model rifles, is not taking the time to experiment with bullets and OAL cartridge length to make them run smoothly. They are much more finicky to work with, as are most ramp fed firearms than the 73 or 66 style carrier guns. 

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I had a AWA I 44-40. It shot just fine. I wound up selling it to fund another gun. They are kinda fun to shoot, but, and this is probably due to more lack of practice than the rifles fault, if you do have a problem it’s a bit harder to clear. I’ve seen a few people shoot them fairly well. 

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I have a .44 WCF USFA that I got to run with my .44 WCF USFA pistols that my son took.  :blink:  I use it most matches but it has to have rounds made just for it as the chambers are tight.  My 73 runs any .44 WCF but not the Rossi 92's, they are like the USFA.  You have to learn how it runs as it is not forgiving.

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4 hours ago, Yul Lose said:

Your post might have a little more impact if the spelling of the featured rifle is spelled correctly in the title. The only cowboy rifles I have are Lightnings but I learned early on that the stigma that’s attached to them will always be there and threads like this one won’t change many minds, JMHO, of course.

 

Oops....  Made a typo.  Fixed it.

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As to why I think the gun may be growing in popularity, I see a lot more thread about them being started of late.   That may not mean much more than a small handful of pards are trying/curious about them, or it may mean that enough people are using them to have enough of a "percentage" to start showing up on the Wire more frequently.

And said thread seem to always run for a good duration of posts, with not just the same people responding all the time.

All speculative, of course, but it all has added up to make me wonder.

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I'm brand new to CAS and I bought a Miroku 73 to get started, but I am very interested in picking up a Lightning some day.  I will probably never be a super fast shooter and they sure look like a lot of fun.

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2 hours ago, H. K. Uriah, SASS #74619 said:

 

As to why I think the gun may be growing in popularity, I see a lot more thread about them being started of late.   That may not mean much more than a small handful of pards are trying/curious about them, or it may mean that enough people are using them to have enough of a "percentage" to start showing up on the Wire more frequently.

And said thread seem to always run for a good duration of posts, with not just the same people responding all the time.

All speculative, of course, but it all has added up to make me wonder.

Whether or not the new found Lightning interest lasts or not we’ll just have to wait and see. In my opinion people give up on them way to soon. Most times the problems aren’t the rifle itself but either the ammunition or the operator is at fault. If I don’t shoot for a month or more I have issues on the first stage or two until I get what I call my Lightning rhythm back. Once you’ve found out what it takes to run one and do so for awhile it all comes together. I gave up on my first slam fire Lightning and sold it to someone here on the Wire and they in turn sold it but I bought another from someone local and spent some time on the range getting used to the pumping technique for the action and that helped a lot. Many time after I’ve shot a stage I’ll get compliments on how fast and smooth the rifle was but they don’t say that about my shotgun work or gunfighter ability. 
 

I’ve found that on nearly every 44-40 Lightning that I’ve owned the chambers were not cut long enough and once that was addressed most of my problems went away and then I experimented with ammo overall cartridge length and got that dialed in and it’s smooth sailing. If a stage calls for a rifle reload or if I jack out a live round loading another in the top is an easy reload. Loading two is also quite easy, one in the top and one through the gate, close the action and bang, bang.

 

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17 minutes ago, Yul Lose said:

 

I’ve found that on nearly every 44-40 Lightning that I’ve owned the chambers were not cut long enough and once that was addressed most of my problems went away

 

My second Lightning was an AWA in .44-40.   The chambers were so tight that it was very difficult to get rounds to chamber.   Has  local gunsmith polish the chambers, and that problem went away.

I have found this difficulty was .44-40 in general.   Now, my antique revolvers in this caliber have no problem chambering anything.   Nor does did my Uberti.   But it seems that ALL of my Colts had one or two chambers in the cylinder that would not chamber ammo when the rest of them did.

Rather annoying quirk of the cartridge, it seems.


Anyway, at my next shoot, I'll probably be using my original Colt in .44-40, but I'll take the AWA along in case it has any troubles.  I've only run snap caps through it so far, no live ammo.    Recent experience has shown that while running dummies can work just fine, or even jacking out live ammo without firing it, sometimes the act of shooting will bring a problem to the fore.   

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This is an interesting thread. I have used pump shotguns for years, so I think that it would not be as hard a transition for a shooter like me. I think they are extremely fascinating and tempting, but from what I have seen so far, I will save up and just get a prepped one from Lassiter [unless I run across a Pedersoli or Colt one cheap!] and then will try it out. For you who are actually running one already, it sounds like the bottleneck rounds seem to run smoother, but is that with untuned guns only?

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19 minutes ago, DeaconKC said:

This is an interesting thread. I have used pump shotguns for years, so I think that it would not be as hard a transition for a shooter like me. I think they are extremely fascinating and tempting, but from what I have seen so far, I will save up and just get a prepped one from Lassiter [unless I run across a Pedersoli or Colt one cheap!] and then will try it out. For you who are actually running one already, it sounds like the bottleneck rounds seem to run smoother, but is that with untuned guns only?

My experience with Lightnings in .45 Colt were all problematic. The Pedersoli Lightning in 44-40 operated much better but 5 out of the 7 or 8 that I’ve had in that caliber had chambering problems but once that was taken care of they work flawlessly as long as I do my part. The slam firing Lightning is a lot of fun and if you get a Lightning have Lassiter do his slam fire mod, you’ll be glad that you did.

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I had an original in .32-20.  The guide screws limited how fast I could run the gun.  These screws, only in the original .32, did not give enough support to the cartridge to run fast.

Now that I shoot mostly B-Western, an original in .38-40 is one ,y short list of wanted guns.

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While I haven't been to the matches lately due to major health issues, I did see the Lightning Rifles growing in popularity when I went regularly to matches in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.  Lassiter has already been mentioned as one that can make one fly and is probably one of the best at making one shoot well.  In the right hands and working properly the Lightning can be very fast.  However, I have to question whether it is inherently faster than a well set up lever rifle.  It is a different skill set to be sure and the fact that one has to move the forearm of the rifle to cycle it would have to effect the sight picture and overall stability of the rifle to some degree.  I think that the two solid points of shoulder and forearm grip makes cycling and aiming a lever gun far more stable and at least for me that's a good thing.  I haven't checked recently, but there was a World Record speed rifle video of 10 shots in less than 2 seconds and that was done with a Marlin lever gun.  At that speed, I really don't think the rifle is the primary factor and it really boils down to what one gets used to using and what works well for them.  At least for me, the Lightning Rifles do get some cool points, but I'm not giving up my lever guns for one any time soon.  Good luck and good shooting to all.         

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34 minutes ago, Bison Bud said:

and the fact that one has to move the forearm of the rifle to cycle it would have to effect the sight picture and overall stability of the rifle to some degree.  I think that the two solid points of shoulder and forearm grip makes cycling and aiming a lever gun far more stable and at least for me that's a good thing.

This. And additionally, while you can grab a lever rifle anywhere on the forearm you like, you are quite limited with the Lightning. I guess taller people with long arms (who I do not belong to) may find the gripping distance on a Lightning to short, but as said, just a guess...

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It definitely takes a different mind set to make it stable. You have to pull the lightning into the shoulder by the wrist, whereas you pull the lever gun into the shoulder with the forearm. The really good shooters of them that I know say it takes several months of dedication to the lightning to do it right. I switch back and forth between a lightning and a lever gun so I have to think about my grip which doesn’t make me as fast and smooth as the guys that shoot them exclusively. Also, a longer heavier barrel gun stays on target much better than the short carbine style guns especially in the lightning platforms. 

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1 hour ago, Equanimous Phil said:

This. And additionally, while you can grab a lever rifle anywhere on the forearm you like, you are quite limited with the Lightning. I guess taller people with long arms (who I do not belong to) may find the gripping distance on a Lightning to short, but as said, just a guess...

You’ll never know until you try one. I’ve got really long arms and I adapt quite well to the Lightning. 

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Shooting the Lightning and getting used to working the action properly is no different from anything else we learn to do - as it is with chicken-winging a '97, loading and cocking a mule-ear double, slip-hammering our pistols, or working the lever on a '73. It just takes practice. And when you have it down, the Lightning will work just fine and won't let you down. I run a 26" oct-barrel* Pedersoli in .45LC and unless I have a senior moment, it never fails. (Now I wish I didn't underline that word!) :wacko:

 

There's the great story about the guy walking up to a lady in New York City and asking "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" and she answers "PRACTICE!"

RR

 

* For me, I like the stability of the heavier barrel over the carbine version.

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