March 2006

Taurus, AWA, and Beretta Rifles Meet at the Not-Quite-OK Corral

You can get a slide-action Taurus Thunderbolt for $475, and it’s Our Pick. The AWA Lightning, $850, is also worth a look, but we wouldn’t buy the Beretta Gold Rush .45 LC carbine for $1429.

There’s a new breed of action rifle in Cowtown. Instead of the diehard lever gun of old, many Cowboy Action shooters looking to shave the last seconds off their time will soon be using a pump rifle. In the quest for speed in that game, top shooters are posting winning scores with the old Colt Lightning design, or clones thereof. Because top shooters use them, that means everybody wants one, whether or not they work better than the ol’ lever action mainstay. Variety is, of course, what drives the gun industry, and we’re surely not complaining, but we confess we had no idea how well these corn-shuckers would perform. The original Colt Lightning was made in three sizes, the smaller two being more popular. The medium frame, first of the series, was made from 1884 to 1902, and was offered in .32-20, .38-40, or .44-40 to match popular revolver calibers of the day. Total quantity made was around 90,000 in the medium frame, which today’s guns copy. Original guns in shootable condition are scarce and costly, but today you can buy a decent copy of the Lightning from several sources, including Taurus, American Western Arms (AWA), USFA, Beretta, and one or two others, and at least one of them is totally affordable. Calibers now include .45 LC and .38/.357, but AWA still offers the original chamberings.

To immediately dispel several rumours making the rounds of the Internet, yes you can get Taurus Thunderbolts ($475), and no, AWA USA, which produces the $850 Lightning Carbine, is not out of business. We spoke with the heads of both companies and verified product availability, and ultimately acquired a sample of the guns of each, in .45 LC.

We also had the loan of a Beretta Gold Rush carbine ($1429) in the same caliber. We shot them over the machine rest and in simulated action shooting, and this is what we found.

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