Most single-action revolvers are the large-frame Single-Action Army type. Then there are the smaller frame .22s. The Cimarron Lightning is a neat bridge between the two.
It is called the Lightning after Colt’s 1877 Lightning. The Lightning was offered in both .38 Colt and .41 Colt. The double-action trigger was a sensation in the day.
It did not prove robust in use and few are found with the action still working. They are also terribly difficult to repair. However, they are an important footnote in history.
The new Lightning is a single-action using proven lockwork, but it is very close in size to the original. My example sports a bird’s head grip, others have a square-butt grip.
Handling the Cimarron Lightning
I like my neat little 4¾-inch barrel single-action. The grip fits most hands well and allows a good, natural point. Control is good if you want to play cowboy and fire a few rounds quickly.
The Lightning revolver loads through a gate one at a time and unloads the same way, using an ejector rod to bump spent cases out of the cylinder.
Some of us love this type of revolver, and that is the joy of a single-action cowboy gun. I like the bird’s head grip. If you have a large hand, you may wish to keep the small finger locked under the grip.
The revolver balances well, no question about that. It is light on the hip if you wish to use the revolver for a field gun. My revolver rides in a Rocking K Saddlery “Threepersons” holster.
It doesn’t get any better. While it is primarily a recreational shooter, the Cimarron Lightning is a neat small-game and trail gun.
For the person with experience in single-action revolvers, it could serve for personal defense, although there are better choices.
Cimarron Lightning Features
A note: this revolver doesn’t feature a transfer-bar safety. The chamber under the hammer must be kept empty for safety.
Load a cartridge, skip a cylinder, load four cartridges and then cock the hammer and lower it on an empty chamber. For fun shooting, this isn’t any drawback.
The Lightning is a well finished and fit revolver. The blued and case-hardened appearance is pleasing. The grips fit the frame well, with no hint of overlap.
The trigger action is crisp and clean, breaking at 3.1 pounds. The sights are simple, with a groove cut in the top strap and a half-moon front sight.
The revolver fires to the point of aim with 110 and 125-grain bullets, and a bit high with 158-grain lead bullets. The sights are not large, but are precise when properly lined up.
The .38 Special is a versatile cartridge. Everything from 148-grain target wadcutters to heavy, jacketed hollow points have been tested in the Cimarron.
Shooting the Lightning
I have several favorite .38 Special handloads, mostly using cast bullets from Mattsbullets.com.
A classic 148-grain wadcutter/Titegroup powder combination at 650 fps is a pleasant choice that may be fired all day without discomfort. Moving up a bit, I also used a hard-cast 173-grain SWC at 800 fps.
This is a fine all-around field load, useful for small game and for defense against coyote and feral dogs. Firing from a solid benchrest, I have fired five-shot groups of less than two inches at 15 yards.
In factory loads, I have used the Hornady 125-grain XTP and the Hornady 110-grain Critical Defense.
The Critical Defense load at just over 1,000 fps is also quite accurate, sending five shots into less than 2.0 inches at 15 yards.
I have also fired a number of combinations that I have used over the years for various purposes. The .38 Special suits this revolver well and there are very few single-action revolvers this size in a centerfire caliber.
I had the occasion to fire a few shots at a long 50 yards at range debris, including dirt clods and discarded pop cans. The Cimarron is accurate enough to make hits well past conversational range.
The Cimarron Lightning is a fun gun that is well worth its price. Pride of ownership is high and the revolver is useful in several roles.
Have you tried out a Cimarron Lightning revolver? How did you like it? Let us know in the comments section below!