Percussion revolvers are very mild in recoil. A .44 has no more recoil than an honest .38 special. Many folks like the Colt 1860 and 1851. I find them frustrating. Aiming is difficult for me. The trigger is the rear sight and they shoot very high. I do not have the mechanical aptitude to reliably set the cylinder gap after each cleaning. My recommendation would be a steel frame Remington 1858 replica. Point of aim is pretty much dead on and the barrel is fixed to the frame. There are many folks who love the Colt so don't let my lack of mechanical abilities count for too much. During the life of the single action revolver in the 19th century most of the period was ruled by the percussion revolver. I recommend it to any cowpoke out there.
If you see yourself being true to the period as well as true to the game, the frontier was won with Col. Colt's equalizer. However, if you think you might want to go in the direction of cap and ball, the Remington New Army .44's are probably a more durable sporting gun with their top strap as opposed to the Colt's variations, that is they are less likely to stretch in the frame and will probably last longer as a safe shootin' iron. But, on the frontier, Colts outnumbered Remingtons about 10 to 1, just a point to ponder. BUT...If you now shoot smokeless and want something that sort of resembles what you already are banging with, the BOOM of B.P. compared to the pop of smokeless will no doubt remind you that you are shooting two very different guns. The least damaging approach might be to find a Ruger .38 (plentiful @ $200 in Coastal Texas) or a Ruger in .44mag (they're out there, but for a Few Dollars More (pardon the pun)). I again warn you...once you head down the Black Powder trail, you'll soon see the error of your youthful ways and then you'll have to get a MEC 600 Jr. for making B.P. shotshells, wad punches, in general, the whole enchilada. But, you only go around once so why not have fun? Personally, I enjoy Black Powder loads in .45 Colt and I was able, without too much sweat (and pesos) to switch from smokeless to B.P. So, hope you find this food for thought and not just the ramblings of a died in the wool Black Powder fan(atic).
Q1. Is there anything that is important that, being this new, I may not be aware of?
A1. Plan on spending some time at the range. Develop a routine for loading. The routine may be powder every chamber then wad every chamber then ball or load each chamber completely one at a time, what ever works for you but develop an ingrained habit. This will help keep you from ramming a ball home on an empty chamber or double charging a chamber (easy to see but it can happen).
A1. At the safety meeting during a shoot ask about percussion loading procedures. Some places with let you do powder and shot away from the loading table. Others that do not, need to make sure you have enough time to load between stages. A percussion pistol is not loaded until the nipples are capped. A cap-n-ball with powder and ball but no caps is not loaded according the saftey rules and most state laws.
A1. During cleaning, do not over oil. A sure way to get a misfire is oil in the chamber. Most of all have fun. The Ruger is a great gun and a fine choice.
A1. If it goes "pop" and is not followed by a "Bang", keep it pointed down range at least a minute before trying to fix the problem. Remember that there may be a time lapse between the pop and the bang every time you pull the trigger.
A1: Be careful with BP: keep away from sparks and open flames, as they say. Don't smoke anywhere near it! Use only pure lead balls: a harder alloy will not obturate properly, and you need as much of that "equator" engaging the rifling as possible.