Taurus USA is getting into the Cowboy
Action market in a big way. After the successful
introduction of their Gaucho
single action revolver a few months ago, they are
following up with their Thunderbolt, which is a replica of the
old Colt Lightning pump-action rifle.
I first saw a prototype of the Thunderbolt at
the 2005 SHOT Show, and
have been waiting somewhat impatiently ever since to get my
hands on a production gun for review. Finally, the guns are in
full production and are shipping to distributors and appearing
on dealer’s shelves. The one sent to me is chambered for the
.45 Colt cartridge, and the rifle is also chambered currently
for the .357 magnum, with perhaps .44 WCF and others to follow
Like the original Colt, the Taurus is a
short-stroke pump gun that feeds from a tubular magazine that
rides beneath the barrel. Loading the magazine is through a
loading gate on the right side of the receiver, and the .45 Colt
version holds fourteen cartridges. With one in the chamber, that
gives a total capacity of fifteen of the fat forty-fives. The
action must be opened to load the magazine. In practice, I
loaded the magazine fully, inserted a round into the chamber,
closed the action, and then lowered the hammer, leaving the
rifle ready to fire by simply cocking the hammer with my thumb.
The Thunderbolt has a button atop the hammer that allows the
hammer to be lowered to the safety notch without having to touch
the trigger. The Thunderbolt also has the Taurus Security
System lock, which is activated by a key inserted into the
back of the hammer. It is unobtrusive and easily ignored, if the
owner so chooses, but is there to use if the owner desires.
The sample rifle has a handsome wood buttstock
and forearm, with checkering on the latter. The bluing is a deep
black, with the metal well-polished. The fit and finish on the
rifle are excellent. The buttstock wears a very good-looking
curved steel buttplate. The front sight is drift adjustable, and
the rear is also drift adjustable and elevation adjustable using
the step ladder system. The rear sight notch on the sample rifle
is miniscule, but I like it that way. It leaves the shooter the
opportunity to fashion the notch to his own desires. I like a
good square notch, but many prefer a shallow "V"
style. Either can be quickly fashioned with a needle file, or
the shooter may choose to use the sight as-is.
The trim barrel measures twenty-six inches long,
and is just over five-eighths of an inch diameter at the muzzle.
The Taurus website lists the weight of the Thunderbolt at 130
ounces (eight and one-eighth pounds), but that is incorrect. The
.45 Colt Thunderbolt weighs in at six pounds and thirteen
ounces, and balances just ahead of the trim little receiver,
which is just over one inch wide. Overall length is
forty-three inches. I really like the way that the Thunderbolt
handles. It feels to me even lighter than it is, due to its
excellent balance. With the weight bias towards the muzzle, it
also swings on target easily, and hangs very well. It is an easy
rifle to shoot, and recoil is minimal.
I shot the Thunderbolt with a variety of
ammunition, from light Black
Hills Cowboy loads, to handloads using 200 grain .45 ACP
wadcutters, 250 grain Keith semi-cutters, and jacketed
hollowpoints. I also shot some Cor-Bon high
performance 200 grain hollowpoint ammo through the rifle. The
Thunderbolt handled them all very well, but the cartridge
overall length is critical. Normal .45 Colt ammo worked very
well, but blunt heavyweight stuff that was longer than normal
tried to hang up. This was no fault of the rifle, as it was not
designed to handle such ammo. It was just an attempt to test the
limits of cartridge length in this rifle. All of the normal .45
Colt ammo functioned perfectly, including the hollowpoints and
Accuracy was very good with all ammo tested.
Cowboy type loads grouped within two inches at twenty-five
yards; plenty accurate for Cowboy Action Shooting. Cor-Bon 200
grain jacketed hollowpoint ammo was very accurate in the
Thunderbolt, grouping into five-eighths of an inch at
twenty-five yards, all day long. It also turned in an impressive
chronograph reading of 1556 feet-per-second from the rifle. This
is standard pressure ammunition, advertised at 1100 feet per
second from a revolver. I intend to try this load on whitetail
deer before the season ends this year. It should work very well.
The groups shot with the Thunderbolt were using the unaltered
open sights. I am certain that I could make it group even better
with a little alteration to the rear sight, to allow my aging
eyes to better align the sights with the target. The
Taurus is easy to shoot quickly and accurately. It is a fun gun;
a big bore plinker, but it is also much more than that. It
should be a dandy deer rifle for ranges out to about 100 yards,
which is my self-imposed limit for shooting at game with open
sights. Others may do better, but for me, that is my limit.
Hunting in the woods, it should be just great, chambered for
either the .45 Colt or the .357 Magnum.
There are a couple or three replica Colt
Lightings on the market now. I have fired the USFA
Lightning, and it was just as accurate as the Taurus. However,
the basic USFA Lightning costs over one thousand dollars more
than the Thunderbolt. The USFA lists at $1480, and the
Taurus currently lists for just $475.
For the Cowboy Action shooters, the main
competition for the Thunderbolt will be the various lever action
rifles currently available. I love lever action rifles. However,
for a completive shooter, the pump does offer a couple of
advantages. The action stroke on the Thunderbolt is very short;
only two inches, straight back and straight forward. Also, the
shooter’s strong hand never leaves its position on the rifle
as it does with a levergun. The shooter’s trigger finger stays
inside the trigger guard, and the hand never releases its grip
on the rifle. Just like the original Colt, the Thunderbolt can
be fired by holding the trigger and pumping the action. A
shooter can very quickly empty the rifle this way. At close
range, it is a lot of fun!
While I intend to take this rifle hunting, and
it should prove very popular with the Cowboy Action crowd, the
Thunderbolt is a fun gun. A Cowboy Action shooter who wants
something a bit different than the other shooters are using
would be well-served by the Thunderbolt, whether or not he picks
up a little speed with the Taurus rifle. It would fit in very
well at any Cowboy Action match. It just reeks of nostalgia. The
Thunderbolt is also a solid choice for a center fire plinker,
and would serve well for a pistol-caliber defense gun around the
homestead, for predators of either the four-legged or two-legged
The Taurus Thunderbolt is well fitted, well
finished, reliable, and accurate. It is a beautiful rifle
that, like a good levergun, takes the shooter back into the past
to an era when times were simpler but tougher, back when rifles
were made of blued steel and real wood. Teamed up with a good
single action revolver, like the Taurus Gaucho .45 Colt pictured
to the right, it is a highly useful and fun combination, which
just might be the best reason of all to own one.
(Single Action Shooting Society, the "governing
body" of Cowboy Action Shooting) has just announced that
both the Thunderbolt and Gaucho have been approved for
Check out the extensive line of Taurus firearms
online at: www.taurususa.com.
For the location of a Taurus dealer near you,
click on the DEALER LOCATOR icon at: www.lipseys.com.
I just received a note from Cor-Bon stating
that the 200 grain JHP load is loaded to around 21,000 to 23,000
PSI, which does exceed industry specifications for the .45 Colt
pressures. However, it is not loaded as heavy as many Plus P
loads, and is safe to use in the Taurus, as well as newer Single
Action Army type revolvers.
December 22nd, 2005
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buy this gun, Click on the DEALER FINDER icon at:
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