The Colt Lightning was made in 3 frame sizes. The smallest was for the .22 rimfire, there was a medium sized frame for the .44-40 and .38-40 and a large size frame for the .45-70 and similar sized cartridges. Various reasons that the gun didn't compete better with the Winchester leverguns have been mentioned. I believe the extractor had a tendency to break, also, the action has to be open to load. Thinking was that the pump action wasn't traditional enough (although the Spencer and Burgess pump shotguns had a following).
Now, with the rise of NCOWS and the SASS all sorts of older, obselescent firearms have had renewed popularity to the point that they are being reproduced for shooting in the timed matches and used by the NCOWS personas. Among those are the Colt Lightning which has had reproductions, some with modifications, produced by AWA, Beretta, Taurus and USFA. All of these are the medium frame size variety. There are .357 Mags (Taurus), .45 Colt, .44-40 and .38-40. There are rifles and carbines, high grade engraved guns and everyday plain blued guns. Prices range from $370 something to well north of $2000.
American Western Arms (AWA) has the Lightning Rifle. Their MSRP starts at $850 and goes up.
Beretta has the Gold Rush. The prices for the Gold Rush are $1450 and up.
Taurus has the Thunderbolt. Taurus MSRP is about $500 but I've seen the guns in shops for $399 and a little less.
USFA has their Lightning in several models this Special Baby Carbine being one. Prices for these start at $1995.
Dixie Gun Works' Lightning in several models such as this carbine are Pedersoli made. Prices for these are in the range of $1100-1300.
You pay your money and take your pick. For me, the only cartridge I'd want in my Lightning would be the .44-40 (aka .44 WCF). The tapered case and more than adequate rim, designed for rifles, unlike the .45 Colt, would likely function best in these truly old style rifles and carbines. Not all of these guns are so chambered. I'd also mount a tang peep as shown on the original above. This would make a fun, functional, even practical firearm. However, not all the copies come in .44-40 so that limits my choices...
Steve Young of Steve's Gunz has this to say about the Taurus,
Over the years I have worked on several of the USFA Lightning pump rifles, and several of the AWA's. AWA was the first to get them out and they did have many problems with their early guns, but both the USFA and the current AWA-USA are good guns, but they are not cheap. That said, when Taurus came out with the "T" Bolt folks that knew I had experience with the puimp guns begain to send people to me that had bought the "T" Bolts. I would say I have had about 20 to 25 of them here for work. Of that number I just couldn't make 5 of them run right. They would double feed from the mag jamming the gun. This was because the poor fit of the action slide to the lower frame. It was so loose the cartridge stop never came up to the same place. I could get it to stop the double feeding but then the cartridge stop wouldn't always allow a fresh round in. Bottom line is I sent them back to Taurus and they did manage to fix most of them but some required more than one trip back to Taurus. I have one gun here now that not only double fed but wouldn't chamber from the carrier. That gun has been back three time and still doesn't work. The really sad part is the quality of the workmanship,too. This was a new gun when it first went to them but now it's beat up, the wood is bruised and scratched up, the screws are buggered and still doesn't work. The last time I talked to them they tell me there is nothing else they can do. So much for their lifetime warranty.
The folks at EMF bought some and have since dropped them from their line. The original Customer service person with Taurus Ron Vogel has left them and the "T" bolt will probably never be mad by them again.
Tycer, think about this. All the other pump rifles start at $800. The Taurus gun is still under $500. I'm betting that's because the quality just isn't there.
Steve Young, 23 August 2007