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“We’d go out to Brady Meltzer’s farm and shoot all day long.

We shot original guns because they didn’t make replicas back then.

I never really figured him out.” In 1959, Tingle decided to put his talents to use manufacturing black-powder guns.

According to Erwin Fagel, one of his shooting buddies, it seemed the thing to do at the time.

“Bob and I were shooting black powder in the early 50s, long before it became popular,” Erwin said.

One of these unheralded craftsmen, Bob Tingle of Shelbyville, Ind., lays claim to several firsts, including the first 20th-century American percussion target pistol, the first American percussion arm using coil springs, and the first American percussion pistol featuring a frame-mounted firing pin. Predating Ruger’s Old Army .44 by more than a decade, the Tingle .44 Blackpowder Magnum Revolver is all but forgotten today.

But Tingle’s most ambitious achievement was the mighty Tingle .44 Blackpowder Magnum Revolver. Only 25 of these massive single-action revolvers were built. Tingle was a cranky World War II veteran who set up an all-purpose blacksmith and welding shop just outside the smallish town of Shelbyville in east central Indiana.

What is most odd about them, though, is not that so few were built, but that they were built at all. According to Jim Guy, Tingle’s sole full-time paid worker, Tingle was an unpredictable eccentric with a knack for shaping metal.“Bob was a mechanical genius,” Guy said, “and he could out-cuss anyone I ever met.As you fire the Tingle, you’re amazed at what can be accomplished with a surplus milling machine, a set of hand files, a drill press and raw talent.The enormous Tingle .44 revolver might not look like much, but it’s a shooter.On the eve of the great American muzzleloading revival of the early 1960s, before Italy had emerged to dominate the traditional muzzleloader market, a handful of American gunmakers toiled away on designs.Some, such as Royal Southgate and Hacker Martin, became famous in their sooty sphere; some did not.


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