Cimarron’s Thunderer & Lightning Sixguns


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

August 17th, 2003




Cimarron Firearms Company of Fredericksburg, Texas is one of the most innovative firearms companies in existence………. when it comes to nineteenth century firearms. Calling a company that deals only in antique designs "innovative" might seem a bit strange, but Cimarron takes a different approach to their antique replicas than do most other purveyors of such firearms. A couple of Cimarron’s better design ideas are the subject of this article.

Cimarron has taken the basic and time tested Colt Single Action Army design, which is perhaps the greatest revolver ever devised, and changed the grip frame to emulate that of the Colt double action Thunderer. The result is a single action revolver with the best-feeling modified "bird’s head" type of grip available, at least to my hand.

In addition to the full size Thunderer, Cimarron has a scaled down version of the same gun which they call the Lightning. The Lightning is roughly twenty percent smaller than the Thunderer or any other Colt Single Action replica, and also has a very nice feel and balance to the weapon.

We received for review and testing one each of the Thunderer and Lightning revolvers, both with the blued and case-hardened finish. Both guns were also equipped with the one-piece checkered walnut grips, which were perfectly fitted to their respective grip frames. I wish that every revolver maker would take the time to fit their grips as well as are these Cimarrons. Overall fit and finish on these two Cimarrons were what I have come to expect from that company…..excellent. All parts were fitted well, and the finish was an even, deep, polished blue-black with no flaws or tool marks, and the case colors were beautifully done.

The two revolvers are quite similar except for size, with a few distinct differences.  The Lightning has a frame-mounted firing pin, while the Thunderer has the traditional hammer-mounted pin. While both sixguns have two-position cylinder base pins, with a safety notch, the method of retaining the base pin is different in each gun. The Lightning has the more familiar crossbolt base pin latch, while the Thunderer has an old style frame with a thumb screw in place of the standard base pin screw. The Thunderer tested was chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge, and the smaller Lightning for the .38 Colt or .38 Special cartridge. The barrel lengths on the Thunderer and Lightning as tested were four and three-quarters inches and three and one-half inches, respectively.  Both sixguns are also available with longer barrels. The Thunderer weighs just over thirty-six ounces and its baby brother weighs thirty and one-half ounces.

While shooting the two revolvers, we experienced a problem with the base pin jumping its latch in the Lightning. It would be an easy fix with a few strokes of a file, but these guns were on loan, so no action was taken to correct the problem. This was the only problem encountered with either of the sixguns, and is a minor and frequent problem with single action revolvers. Trigger pulls were measured with a Lyman digital gauge and measured four pounds and two ounces on the Thunderer. The little Lightning had a wonderful trigger pull of just under two pounds. It felt like a custom trigger right out of the box. Firing several different types of factory ammunition resulted in accuracy which averaged in the two and one-half to three inch range for both guns, at a distance of twenty-five yards.  No attempt to custom tailor handloads to each gun was attempted, as both guns did well for their intended purpose. With their short barrels and fixed sights, either of these two guns would be ideal for the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting, and the Thunderer in particular would serve well as a single action carry gun in a good holster, such as the superb Mernickle PS6-SA concealment rig. In addition, both guns are just plain fun to shoot!

For a good, well-built, and beautifully finished single action that is a bit different from any other, check out the Thunderer and Lightning from Cimarron. They are good shooting and great handling sixguns, that offer quality at a fair price. Both guns are available with a variety of finish options and barrel lengths, and the Thunderer is offered chambered for a few other popular cartridges.

Check out these and other Cimarron products online at:

Jeff Quinn

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The Thunderer .45 revolver (top) and Lightning .38 revolver (bottom) are the latest examples of the fine quality we have come to expect from Cimarron.



The full-sized Thunderer .45 features a hammer-mounted firing pin and "old style" frame with a thumb screw in place of the standard base pin screw. The thumb screw is a nice touch, making removal of the cylinder a quick and tool-less task.



The supremely handy little Lightning .38 features a frame-mounted firing pin and a crossbolt base pin latch as seen on modern SA revolvers.



Both guns feature a beautiful and comfortable "bird's head" grip design with very nicely-executed one-piece checkered walnut grips. Wood-to-metal and metal-to-metal fit was absolutely flawless, as was the blue / case-hardened finish.



Author and Webmaster found the Thunderer and Lightning very fun to shoot, with the grip design adding a great deal to the exceptional handling qualities of these sixguns. A Cowboy Action Shooter who is looking for something a bit different would have to go a long way to find the equal of Cimarron's Thunderer and Lightning. With quality and beauty the equal of guns costing several times their price, they represent a great bargain in today's sixgun market.