The Hobby Gunsmith


AWA Lightning

Last month we showed how to modify the ejector bar on the AWA Lightning to correct the bullet feed problem we were having.  This month we provide a quick report on how well the gun has performed in subsequent range testing and competition.

   The Lightning has had its share of detractors, but most of the criticism has come from people who do not shoot one of these fine guns.  There are a lot of excellent reports on the Internet that are coming from those of us who are using these guns in competition.

   My Lightening is a test gun provided to me by American Western Arms, so I am reluctant to make any modifications without the approval of AWA.  I have put about two-thousand round through my Lightning after adding the adjustable setscrew to allow me to take the play out of the right ejector bar and have experienced no problems.

   With over two-thousand rounds of 45 Colt fired through the gun, it is still performing as I would expect .  No other problems have surfaced since making the correction so I decided to push the gun a little by shooting in a manner that would allow it to be used in a blackpowder category.

   I loaded about a  thousand rounds of 45 Colt casings with thirty grains of American Pioneer Powder and 200 grain lead bullets made that were cast in my Lee mould from wheel weights . 

   After successfully shooting the Lightning in two matches, I found that my rifle performance was faster than any rifle shooting I had done with lever guns.  I took the gun to the range to see if it could handle a blackpowder substitute.

   I had heard the Lightning could not handle the fouling of blackpowder, but some of the new substitutes claim to provide their own lubricant as they burn.  This might be just the ticket for shooting the Lightning in the blackpowder categories.

   I headed to the range with five-hundred cartridges to see how far the gun would go before experiencing problems.  I started feeling the dragging of the bolt and slight slowing of ejection at around fifty rounds, but the situation did not start to become a problem until I had shot around 120 rounds.  A quick cleaning with water and it went another 120 rounds.

  My conclusion was that the gun should easily handle the rigors of shooting American Pioneer Powder loads through the typical cowboy action match with six to ten stages of ten rounds per stage.

   Armed with the confidence that the gun can handle a blackpowder substitute, I entered in a six-stage match with the Two Rivers Posse in Manteca, CA. 

  The rifle performed flawlessly, but introduced a new problem for me in shooting in blackpowder categories.  This gun can be fired so fast that it quickly obscures the target on a still day and it becomes necessary to slow the shooting pace.

  I also took the gun to Jamestown for some smoky shooting and it performed flawlessly for a second full match.  Overall, I believe this gun to be a good one for shooting in the smoky categories.