Tingle’s Creation Still Amazes

The massive Tingle .44 dwarfs a .45 Ruger Vaquero.

The massive Tingle .44 dwarfs a .45 Ruger Vaquero.

Proven Performance

Unloaded, it weighs almost 4 3/4 pounds. Lacking investment casting or heavy forging equipment, Tingle resorted to a three-layer laminated steel frame that is pinned and bolted together. Silver-soldered to the frame are two bulky recoil shields. The topstrap is joined to the rear of the frame with a 3/16-inch slotted machine bolt. The 7-inch octagonal barrel, a Winchester cut-down, is threaded into the frame for a full inch, prefiguring the Ruger Super Redhawk by a quarter-century. The gun is topped with a ventilated rib bearing the simple, hand-stamped attribution: “TINGLE MFG. CO. SHELBYVILLE IND. U.S.A.”

The hammer nose is flat, and the rebounding firing pin is frame-mounted. A blade front sight is slotted lengthwise into the barrel rib, and the rear sight is a simple U-notched blade mortised into the frame. The hammer and loading lever are case-hardened, and the rest of the gun is rather casually finished in a thin blue-black.

The big Tingle .44 revolver won’t win a beauty contest, but it shoots like a barn on fire. Each chamber can accommodate 60 grains of FFG black powder, which is just about redline for a revolver. But when loaded with a modest charge of 25 grains of triple-F and a 124-grain .435-inch roundball, the Tingle will shoot 3-inch groups at 25 yards off sandbags. Firing for groups isn’t particularly challenging; the massive, brooding handgun sits squarely in your hand with all the solidity of a pool table in a basement. The trigger pull is fairly light and crisp at about 3 pounds.

As you fire the gun, you’re amazed at what can be accomplished with a surplus milling machine, a set of hand files, a drill press and raw talent. Granted, some of the gun’s eccentricities would make Sam Colt come roaring out of his grave. The edges of the frame are sharp enough to peel the hide off an unwary knuckle. The chamber mouths mike at anywhere from .427-inch and .431-inch. The grips are a bland species of cast-off walnut.
Still, the darn thing shoots well.

End of the Magnum

Abandoning the concept of his mammoth .44 revolver after the first run of 25, Tingle concentrated on building his single-shot .40-caliber target pistol, a single-barrel mules-ear, or “sideslapper,” shotgun, and a side-hammer .45 percussion rifle with a concave cheekpiece.

Many of Tingle’s early guns are marked “Tingle Blackpowder Magnum.” One day in 1965, however, Tingle found a letter in his mailbox. It was from Smith & Wesson, and it politely informed Tingle that Magnum was an S&W trademark dating back to 1935.

Not wanting to tangle with a 900-pound gorilla, Tingle cease-and-desisted. The single-shot target pistol became the Model of 1960, the .45 percussion rifle the Model of 1962 and the mule’s-ear shotgun the Model of 1965.
Of these, the most successful was the 40-caliber single-shot Model of 1960. Unpatented, it likely inspired Thompson-Center’s later Scout pistol and carbine. Examples of the Model of 1960 occasionally appear on firearms auction Web sites, where they rarely fail to attract a winning bid.

The unpredictable Tingle died unpredictably Jan. 26, 1978, during a whiteout Hoosiers still call “The Big Blizzard.” Leaving his house in the early morning, he slogged through thigh-deep snowdrifts to his shop at Shelbyville’s Smithland Pike. Halfway there, he sat on a tree stump to catch his breath and died of a crushing heart attack at 52. The Tingle Manufacturing Co. died there with him in the swirling, indifferent snow.


In the two-and-a-half decades since Tingle’s death, time has provided perspective on his work. Some of it is ungainly and rough around the edges. But still, you somehow get the impression that Tingle’s guns will still be banging away when other contemporary muzzleloaders have rotted into clumps of red rust.

As for Tingle, his fame endures only among the relatively few folks who have owned or read about his firearms, the most intriguing of which was the mighty Tingle .44 Blackpowder Magnum Revolver.

Recommended books for gun collectors:

2012 Standard Catalog of Firearms

Gun Digest 2012, 66th Edition

The Official Gun Digest Book of Guns & Prices 2011

Sign up for the FREE Gun Digest eNewsletter »