Taurus Thunderbolt C45BR .45 LC


Many Cowboy Action shooters looking to shave the last seconds off their time use 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. Gun Tests Magazine recently tested the Taurus Thunderbolt C45BR .45 LC. Here’s what they said:

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 rumors 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.

Taurus Thunderbolt C45BR .45 LC, $475

This 26-inch-barrel rifle (also available in .357/.38 Spl.) had a hardwood stock that looked like birch, with a touch of figure to it to keep it from being plain. Very soon the Taurus Thunderbolt will be available with a case-colored receiver (Model C45BCHR) at the same price, or in stainless for $525.

Workmanship overall was very good, we thought. The bluing was exceptionally nice, and one of our favorite touches was the crescent-shaped steel butt plate, nicely fitted, and totally in keeping with the aura of cowboy guns. We found the metal polishing to be excellent, as was the overall fitting of the gun. The straight-hand butt stock was uncheckered, but the forend had some coarsely done checkering that helped traction, but could have been sharper. The sights were unusual and in need of attention by the dedicated shooter, we felt. The front blade resembled half a nickel with a bite taken out of the rear portion. As seen by the shooter, it tapered upward to an indefinite, rounded top. Windage was adjustable on either the front or rear unit by drifting, and the rear had a screw to hold it in place within its dovetail notch. The rear, a buckhorn with step adjustment, had a tiny notch in the center that we thought needed to be enlarged to a square notch. Then the owner could take a file to the top of the front blade, and end up with a decent sight picture. However, we shot the gun with the issue sights, with what we thought was the right amount of the front sight sticking up above the rear, and got as good results on target with this setup as with the best sights of the other two guns tested here. In other words, the sights worked but we didn’t much like ‘em as they were.

The hammer had an odd feature in the form of a button that permitted uncocking the rifle without touching the trigger. However, this button got the hammer to half cock, and the trigger needed to be used to get the hammer all the way down before the action could be opened. The action was locked in the firing position whenever the hammer was in either the half or fully cocked position. We could see little use for that button on the Taurus’ hammer, but it was not in the way, and it’s there if you want it. The action was quite slick for a new gun, we thought, and got slicker as we used it. It was easy to see how this type rifle could help someone shoot very quickly while still retaining accuracy. The trigger hand never breaks its grip, and that is the hand that controls the rifle. The forend did rattle a bit, but all three guns had that fault.

One distinct feature of the rifle-length Taurus was its ejection-port cover, which the two carbines lacked. But we noted the cut for the cover removed significant metal from the action, which may not be a good thing. The trigger pull was stout but clean at just over five pounds. At the range when we began loading the gun we found it to require a distinct knack. This was the same with all three guns, and we liked it about as much as loading a lever rifle. The action must be open to insert cartridges. Once with this Taurus we had a round slip back beneath the lifter as we loaded the magazine. This required two screwdrivers, holding the rifle in a padded vise. Once the gun was properly loaded (it held 14 rounds) it performed perfectly. We tested with Black Hills cowboy ammo, Ultramax cowboy ammo, and with Winchester cowboy ammo, all with 250-grain cast RNFP bullets. We knew this gun would not feed rounds that were over SAAMI specs for length, so avoided them. We tried a few Cor-Bon 300-grain jacketed soft-nose loads, and they came out at about 1450 fps. They might be useful in this interesting rifle for deer hunting, but it would have to be used as a single shot.

Grouping was disappointing. We fired at 50 yards from a machine rest and our best groups with the Thunderbolt were about three inches. We averaged about 4 inches for all five-shot groups at 50 yards from a machine rest. That’s probably adequate to hit the steel plates in action shooting, but we were not impressed. We’d do something serious to the sights before we used this rifle for any purpose other than having fun, but the issue sights worked well enough, we thought, for that use. Felt recoil was less with this rifle than with either carbine, but was never an issue with any of ‘em. Muzzle blast here was noticeably lower.

Gun Tests Recommends

Taurus Thunderbolt C45BR .45 LC, $475. Our Pick. If we wanted to be instantly competitive in Cowboy Action shooting today we’d grab a brace of six-shooters and a Taurus Thunderbolt, all in .45 LC, and be quite happy. We found no reason to spend more than the cost of this worthy Taurus for a Lightning-type rifle for cowboy fun. In fact, we’d probably buy Taurus Gauchos for the revolvers too. Yes, you can spend a whole lot more than the cost of this Taurus, but all you’d get, we felt, would be fancy wood and a prettier rifle. For action shooting, which can be downright dirty and mighty hard on the guns, we thought the Thunderbolt was the only way to go. We’ll pocket the extra $375 to $1000 that the others would set you back, thank you, and be mighty happy with this one.


  1. I had problems with my Thunderbolt until I though about just using inertia and cartridge weight to help it reset behind the Stop. So by shooting it from the hip and not on the shoulder or if I just leave the rifle slightly loose in the shoulder then the kick of firing moves rifle back and the Bullets in the mag don’t and thus resetting them on the stop. Yes I know this is not normal to “not” keep it against the shoulder tight but When I have tried it tight and I have the jamming problems due to the Mag tube allowing the next round to jump over the stop. and Now I have tried it through about 50 different styles of ammo loose with Zero Problems. Not one. With No modifications. Just food for thought until people can get the tube modified “Indented” done. Or maybe a Thick Padded Shoulder pad would do the trick or a Spring buttstock. There may be other issues at play but I stumbled onto this for the Next round Jumping the stop problem. These may have other issues but this one seems to be the Main one.


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