Book Review: Percussion Pistols And Revolvers by Mike Cumpston and Johnny Bates


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn

August 14th, 2005




I have recently been reading an excellent and in-depth book about the history and use of percussion pistols and revolvers. When received, I started to give it a quick thumb-through and keep it nearby to finish later. It did not work out that way. I have now finished reading the book, and re-read parts of it. The book, titled Percussion Pistols And Revolvers, was written by Mike Cumpston and Johnny Bates. 

 know very little about Mr. Bates, but Cumpston is a very well-known gun writer, and is an occasional Gunblast contributor. Mike Cumpston has also written for many of the major gun magazines, but hey, we’ve all done things that we’re ashamed of. No one can turn a phrase quite like Mike Cumpston. He is one of the most interesting conversationalists that you might ever meet, and his expertise with the English language shows in this book. While the book is very informative, it is also entertaining, and holds the attention of the reader very well. The subject matter covers just about every example of the better percussion handguns in history, and follows through with instructions on the loading, firing, cleaning, and maintenance of the weapons.  

The book is laced with black and white photos throughout to illustrate the writer’s points, and also contains loading tables with ballistic results for most of the arms reviewed, to fully illustrate the power of these weapons. The subject matter ranges from the earliest single shot pistols through the great old Colts and Remingtons,  and includes replicas and modern cap and ball sixguns, such as the Ruger Old Army. The illustrations in the book show the relationship of the internal parts, and the authors explain a few easy modifications to keep the guns running and make them easier to shoot well. While many shooters are not really into cap and ball revolvers or percussion pistols, the book still contains a wealth of knowledge relating to the history, function, and heritage of modern weapons. For shooters who do shoot these old guns and their replicas, this book is a goldmine of good information. For those who are thinking about getting their first cap and ball revolver, this will be the best money that you could ever spend. Shooting these types of handguns is a whole different shooting experience, and this book makes understanding the history, principles, and methods simple.

One thing that I dearly love about percussion handguns is that, in the free parts of the United States, buying one of these guns requires the same amount of paperwork and hassle as does buying a sack of potatoes. You pay your money and take the gun. Simple. Now, before some of you start squirming around in your Momma’s panties and send the email flying my way, gather up the statistics showing me how many crimes were committed with cap-and-ball sixguns within the last fifty years. You will be hard-pressed to find any. Punk "gangstas" prefer to shoot guns in their drive-bys that don’t throw sparks all over the furry dice and shag upholstery. Most of them also lack the dexterity to load one of these revolvers one-handed while holding their crotch with the other. These handguns are purchased and used by shooters who, for whatever reason, want a connection to the past. Shooting a cap-and-ball sixgun is feeling history in your hand. Also, it is a whole lot of fun.

Percussion Pistols And Revolvers is a great asset towards the understanding of how these guns work. A copy should be included with every new cap and ball revolver sold, and every history buff, whether interested in firearms or not, should own a copy. Firearms manufacture was a huge driving force in bringing the United States to the forefront of the industrial revolution of the late nineteenth century, and this book covers that part of our history very well. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and informative book, well-written and illustrated, and should serve as a valuable reference book for shooters of such nineteenth century firearms as not only a historical reference, but as a basic repair and maintenance manual for percussion firearms. I have never seen so much good information on the subject gathered into one reference book. I highly recommend it. It is currently available from for the paltry sum of only $16.95. That’s less than a decent pizza, and a whole lot healthier.

To order or for more information, click here!

Jeff Quinn

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