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Lightning Rifle Makers

J. Frank Norfleet

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I've only shot a couple AWA lightning rifles. I really liked them except for the fact what I shot had 20" barrels and I got a lot of "whip" effect as I ran them. So I've begun to look for one in 45 Colt with a 24 or 26 octagon barrel thinking it would be more stable.

I see a lot of you shoot Pedersoli, so I assume it is a real good brand.

What are the differences between AWA and Pedersoli?

I also came across a Uberti, were they made by Pedersoli?

I've been told that the Taurus is junk, and to not even consider one.



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I shoot a 45C Beretta Gold Rush which was made by Uberti.  After Uberti became part of the Beretta family of co's the Gold Rush was dropped from the Beretta catalog.  In 2012 when I bought it I couldn't find a LGS (within 70 miles of home) that had a Pederosoli  lightning rifle; so, I tried the Taurus & Beretta at a sporting goods store with firing range in the basement.  I bought the Beretta even though it was $450 more.  There is a reason the Thunderbolt was only in the Taurus catalog for a short time.  The Uberti & Pederosoli Lightnings have different actions.  The Uberti has a transfer bar which means if you get a fail to fire you can't just manually cock the hammer.  You either have to jack the round out or do what I can't the Uberti Lightning dance.  With trigger pulled manually cock the hammer & reset the trigger, aim & fire.  There reason for the FTF is even though you run the rifle like you stole it very occasionally the bolt stops just before it is in battery.  When the hammer hits the transfer bar you feel the bolt move a few thousands of a inch forward.  Firing factory cowboy 45C and my 200 grain over mid range TrailBoss charge the muzzle stays on the target.  The blow buy soils the action because 45C's thick strait wall cases don't seal with cowboy loads.  Word of caution don't use Remoil to clean a color case hardened receiver with a clearcoat finish nor get it on the stock.

Note: The Lightning is no longer in the Pederosoli catalog.  You will have to find a NIB or used rifle.

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What do you mean by "whip?"

I shoot an AWA in both .45 and .44-40.   The .45 is my favorite main match rifle, and as long as I keep it clean, it never gives me any trouble.  I also have 2 Colts in .32-20 and .44-40.   The AWA seems to be very similar to the Colt.   It will slam fire, for example, and you don't have to do the above mentioned "dance."

The .45 does have a bit of blowback, which means you have to clean it after every match to keep it working.  Especially the firing pin channel.

The .44-40s and the .32-20 don't have the blowback problem, for all the oft stated reasons.  

Based on my personal experience, I would not hesitate to recommend the AWA.   A real Colt I would recommend cautiously, in that they are old guns, and may need some work to overcome any problems caused by age.   When I was first in the market for a Lightning, to have one just to have one, I was able to compare the AWA, Beretta and Taurus.   Based on that comparison, I bought the AWA and have never regretted it.   I was just not interested in the other two.

That being said, I am in the process of having a Taurus worked over by Lassiter and converted to .44 Special.    But he can make them work.  If you wanna go the Taurus route, which is not recommended, you will have to have worked on to make it function properly.

Everyone says the Pedersoli is great out of the box, but I have never handled one.

It was once pointed out to me that when people buy a new Uberti lever gun that most folks don't even think twice about immediately having some work done to them, and yet, when they hear you have to have work done to a new Lighting, people balk at that requirement.   

Makes you think, doesn't it?

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My wife shoots an AWA and I shoot a Pedersoli. Both have been worked on by Lassiter and are as reliable as any lever gun out there. Inside they are slightly different but basic tear down and cleaning is pretty much the same. I shot with a cowboy a couple weeks ago with a brand new Pedersoli in 45 colt. Although they don’t slam fire out of the box, the rifle ran smooth the whole match for him without a hitch. I would recommend that you get one with a 24-26” barrel unless you can find a 20” full octagon like mine, as they stay on target when you slam fire better. 

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Any pump action requires keeping the elbow of the cocking arm tucked in toward the barrel. I wouldn't buy a longer barrel to work around that. My Uberti Lightning is in .357 and was prepared by Longhunter. It requires 357 brass and truncated cone bullets with no leading band. Once past that, it works great. If I go too fast, my trigger action will get out of time and cause slam fires. That might be true of a light action lever gun, which I haven't shot.


I go slow enough as a Cattle Baron for this gun to work well for me, always fun for me and a novelty for the posse to watch in action.


The gun does not shoot dirty in this caliber and with full length cartridges. I don't expect it would run at all with 38s. What it needs is lubrication on the sliding parts. I have had it gall and lock up a couple times, finally learning the lesson. I go over it as carefully as I can after each shoot but never tear it down on my own (yes, I have the instructions). I am not going to fix what isn't broken. It will go back to Texas in the off season for a tune up.


In 45 Colt there is the option of softening the brass for cowboy loads. I use 45 Cowboy Special in pistols (the set that includes a 45 Colt JM Marlin) with Starline brass. Wouldn't it be cool if Starline offered thin wall 45 Colt (with reloaders perhaps adjusting loads slightly for more internal volume)?

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I shoot faster with my Lighting than I do with any lever gun.   To be honest, I've never really noticed this "whip" problem and I find that the gun gets onto the next target a little more quickly than my levers do.   Then again, I am a back of the pack shooter.  If I get under 45 seconds, I think I've done well.  Only ever done it with a Lightning though.   Maybe that's just me?

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