Ruger’s 5 ˝" Old Army Revolver
by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

November 25th, 2002



Since 1972, Sturm, Ruger, & Co. has been producing what has become known as the finest percussion revolver ever made: The Old Army.

Taking many styling details from the old Remington cap and ball sixguns, Ruger totally modernized the design with better materials and manufacturing techniques into a strong, accurate, and reliable percussion sixgun. Ruger combined their wonderful three-screw revolver action with a cap and ball cylinder to create a modern percussion sixgun that is still manufactured today.

Interestingly, when Ruger changed their single action revolver design to the New Model lockwork in 1973, they left the Old Army with the original three-screw lockwork that many sixgunners prefer. The Old Army has notches between each chamber of the cylinder to allow for safely resting the hammer out of contact with the percussion caps.

After thirty years of production, the Old Army has become the cap and ball sixgun to beat at Cowboy Action Shooting events, and is tops in both accuracy and reliability. The original Old Army revolvers were made of blue steel and wore Ruger’s excellent adjustable rear sight. In 1975 Ruger began offering the Old Army in stainless steel, and in 1994 they introduced the sixgun with their Vaquero style fixed sights, in both blued steel and stainless.

In its various model configurations, the Old Army had only been produced with a 7-˝ inch barrel length, until now. Ruger has just introduced the Old Army with a shorter, handier, 5-˝ inch barrel; which is the subject of this article.

The gun received here for testing is the stainless version with fixed sights and simulated ivory grip panels. Ruger’s fixed sight stainless single action revolvers are finished in a mirror-bright style that resembles a fine nickel finish for an authentic nineteenth century look, but with all of the advantages of modern stainless steel. With the Old Army, the bright stainless finish cleans up much easier than the satin stainless finish of the adjustable sight model, which is a real advantage after a day of shooting black powder or Pyrodex.

While I have always liked the Old Army revolvers, the fixed sight versions just seem to look better to me, and the test gun pictured here with the fixed sights and stainless finish is indeed one great looking sixgun. The balance and handling qualities of the 5-˝ inch barreled Old Army are excellent. It carries well on the hip and clears leather quickly, with the hammer falling naturally under the thumb for repeat shots, and the trigger pull on the test gun released at a comfortable four and one-half pounds.

Gathering the necessary materials for shooting a cap and ball sixgun, I carried the new Old Army to the shooting bench to see how she performed. In the past, I have had problems finding the proper size percussion caps to fit the nipples on an Old Army revolver. Number 10 caps were a bit too small, and would not properly seat on the nipple, resulting in an occasional misfire. Number 11 caps were a bit too large on some earlier Old Armies, having to be slightly pinched before placing on the nipple, to assure that the cap did not fall off. Evidently, Ruger has addressed this problem, as number 11 caps fit precisely on the nipples of this Old Army, resulting in positive ignition with caps that stayed in place until fired.

The Old Army was fired using  Goex black powder, Clean Shot,  and Pyrodex, and with cast round balls and Hornady swaged round balls, each of .457 inch diameter.  The .457 balls were a perfect fit in the chambers, leaving just a slight ring of shaved lead upon the seating of the ball over the powder. Between the powder and ball, I used an Ox Yoke Wonder Wad for lubrication and sealing of the chamber. No other lubricant or grease was used to seal the chambers. The Ox Yoke wads worked perfectly without the usual mess associated with a greasy over-the-bullet lube. Velocities from the 5-˝ inch barrel were slightly over 800 feet per second  with a full charge of either black powder or Pyrodex. The Old Army shot to point of aim at 25 yards, with a well-centered group which averaged just under four inches for five shots.  The sixgun functioned flawlessly throughout the testing, without any indication of a hang fire. The percussion caps split and fell off just as they should, and fouling proved to be no problem for proper functioning. As with any cap and ball sixgun, soap and hot water cleaning is needed, but was an easy five-minute job thanks to the easy disassembly and smooth stainless finish of the Old Army.

For Cowboy Action Shooters, I believe that the 5-˝ inch Old Army should prove to be very popular. It is a gun that has an enormous fun-factor, with the look and feel of the Old West.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

The new 5-˝ inch Old Army is a useful addition to Ruger's fine line of cap and ball sixguns.

Jeff Quinn

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Ruger's Old Army cap-and-ball sixguns are widely regarded as the finest ever made. Their latest version is this brightly-polished stainless steel 5-1/2" model.



The Old Army is supplied with Ruger's standard plastic box, cable lock, and a nipple wrench.



The new Old Army is one fine-looking sixgun, with ivory-colored grip panels and a brightly-polished stainless steel reminiscent of the nickel-plated revolvers of the 19th century.



With percussion caps, lead balls, wads and powder measure, the Old Army is ready for a fun day at the range.



.457" round balls were a perfect fit for the Old Army, as were standard #11 percussion caps. The gun performed flawlessly during testing, with no hang fires or failures of any kind.



Author fires the Old Army as brother Greg looks on. Jeff has long been an admirer of Ruger's Old Army revolvers, and this latest version is the best yet!