T S E S W E C D E L O TERPI ld S ofie h A c S M hn Pease S&W quero 1 Jo ger Va u R m sto SAA t l o 1 Cu C t sevel o o R 1
BASS OUTLAW’S FIREPOWER Hero Turned Villain!
WILD BUNCH GEAR Own The Range
Adams & Adams Theodore Roosevelt Colt SAA .45
10 BOWIE KNIVES Chiappa 1887 12 GA
John Pease Custom S&W Schofield .45
RIDE WITH PANCHO VILLA! And His Rem 1875 .44
DAVY CROCKETT’S FIRST RIFLE WWW.GUNSOFTHEOLDWEST.COM
Display until August 17, 2015
Printed In U.S.A.
Reviving Old Betsy
Adams & Adams Custom Ruger Vaquero .45
Taylor’s Remington 1875 .44
Gun Tests EAA Bounty Hunter .357 Mag 1 Baikal MP-43KH 12 GA 1 Springfield Model 1866 .50-70 Gov’t 1 Baikal MP-43 12 GA 1 Chiappa Model 1887 12 GA Ruger New Bearcat .22 LR 1 Umarex Colt Peacemaker .177
2007 SASS Gun of the Year
Cartridge Revolvers & hand guns
Fancy Checkered Walnut Grip 5 ½” .45LC or .357 Mag., Blue Color Case-Hardened. Manufactured with forged frame.
Exclusively from Taylor’s & Co., The Smoke Wagon is a second-generation, stagecoach-style, singleaction revolver. It boasts a low-proﬁle hammer and widerstyle sights, which allow the user to acquire sighting faster, without cocking the pistol. It also features a blue ﬁnish with a case-hardened frame and a thin, richly detailed, checkered grip for comfort and improved aim. All of the previous features are available on both standard and deluxe edition models. The deluxe edition model also includes custom tuning; custom hammer and base pin springs; trigger pull at three pounds; jig-cut, positive angles on all triggers and sears for crisp, reliable action; a coil-loaded hand; and wire bolt spring. Manufactured with forged frame.
Checkered White PVC Grip 5 ½” .45LC or .357 Mag, Blue Color Case-Hardened. Manufactured with forged frame.
Features a larger Army-sized grip. Choice of smooth walnut grips, or laser checkered grips. Manufactured with forged frame. Custom Deluxe Tuning available by request
Visit our new website! www.taylorsﬁrearms.com Contact us! [email protected]ﬁrearms.com Friend Fr us on Facebook! 540-722-2017 40-7 0-72 72 Send $5.00 for our 2014 Catalog 304 Lenoir Drive, Winchester VA 22603 54
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AMERICAN GUNSMITHING INSTITUTE
OF T H E OL D WEST 10
BASS OUTLAW’S ARSENAL
BY FRANK JARDIM
Examining the lawman-turned-villain’s extremely fast Colt 1873 revolver!
COWBOY ACTION SHOOTING AMMO B Y “ L A V I S TA” B I L L B E L L
6 factory sixgun and carbine loads to test your Old West mettle through competition!
BY DENNIS ADLER
UMAREX COLT PEACEMAKER
BY JORGE AMSELLE
The Single Action Army returns as a high-quality, BB-firing replica!
Kalashnikov USA 12 gauges built for taming the Old West badlands!
36 RUGER NEW BEARCAT .22 LR
VESTS OF THE WEST
BY PHIL SPANGENBERGER
How cowhands and other gents buttoned up before hitting the trail! :
BY DENIS PRISBREY
c o l u m n s
Smaller, lighter single-action rimfire has adjustable sights for better plinking and practice!
6 Western Words
BY DENNIS ADLER
8 Gear & Garb WESTERN STAR LEATHER
10 Guns of the Gunfighters
Recreating classic American revolvers is only half the story!
EAA BOUNTY HUNTER .357 MAG
TEN BOWIE KNIVES
B Y S C O T T W. W A G N E R
WILD BUNCH GEAR
An affordable SAA replica you can actually use in the backcountry!
SPRINGFIELD MODEL 1866
BY TODD G. LOFGREN
BY JIM DICKSON
BY DENNIS ADLER
10 GREAT ENGRAVED WESTERN GUNS
DAVY CROCKETT’S FIRST RIFLE “Old Betsy,” America’s most famous rifle, helped him become a legend!
BAIKAL SIDE-BY-SIDE SHOTGUNS
From double barrels to pump actions, Winchester and John M. Browning helped settle the frontier!
Trapdoor infantry rifle paved the way for future U.S. military arms!
14 Western Edge 16 Cowboy Stuff
81 Book Reviews BOOKS THAT HIT THE BULLSEYE
82 New Products GUNS AND GEAR THAT CAUGHT OUR EYE
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
• Western Words •
Celebrating the Old West’s great diversity of guns! BY DENNIS ADLER
From Chiappa's own Winchester Model 1887 replica (left) to the life and times of Pancho Villa (below), this issue is packed with Old West essentials.
n the mid-19th century, there was a greater diversity of handguns and long arms than there was by the early 20th century. The attrition among arms-makers after the turn of the century (and for a decade or more before) was due to the end of the Civil War, the loss of Southern arms-makers whose factories had been destroyed by Union forces and the termination of government contracts in the postwar North. This left many smaller companies unable to compete for civilian sales against longer-established makers like Colt, Winchester, Smith & Wesson and Remington, which itself fell on hard times in 1888 and had to be saved from bankruptcy. Other 19th century arms-makers like Spencer, Starr and even Merwin, Hulbert, & Company were less fortunate over time. But in the post-CivilWar era and well into the 1880s, there was a diversity of arms that is almost unrivaled. In this issue, we examine a handful of the true American frontier success
6 GUNS OF THE OLD WEST
stories, beginning with the history of the famed 1866 Springfield Trapdoor infantry rifle reviewed by author Todd G. Lofgren, while writer Jim Dickson looks back at Davy Crockett’s legendary Kentucky long rifle known as “Old Betsy.” On the other side of the long arm coin are shotguns, and I take a long personal look back at one of my favorite subjects, the history of Winchester shotguns from the late 1870s to the early
20th century, followed by a review of the latest Winchester Model 1887 reproduction from Chiappa. Also reviewed are two side-by-side models from famous Russian arms-maker Baikal that recreate the 1880s-style double-barrel shotguns made famous in the hands of sportsmen and lawmen alike. Bringing it all back to the campfire, author Frank Jardim recounts the tale of Texas Ranger Bass Outlaw and his famous snub-nose Colt single action, I look back at the guns of Pancho Villa, Phil Spangenberger weaves a tale of the Western vest, writer Scott W. Wagner tests the latest single-action Bounty Hunter model from EAA, Denis Prisbrey shoots the latest .22 LR Ruger New Bearcat and Jorge Amselle puts lead through Umarex’s new Colt Peacemaker BB revolver. Wrapping it all up is my review of 10 great engraved single actions. So sit back in the saddle—there’s a long ride ahead! ✪
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Publisher • Stanley R. Harris Executive Publisher • Virginia Commander Group Publisher • Shirley Steffen Associate Publisher • Karin Levine Managing Editor • Linas Cernauskas Copy Editor • Greg Lickenbrock Art Director • James Allocca Advertising Sales • Leticia Henry Contributors Dennis Adler, Bob “Jayhawker” Arganbright, Jorge Amselle, “La Vista” Bill Bell, Jim Dickson, Frank Jardim, Todd G. Lofgren, Denis Prisbrey, Robert A. Sadowski, Phil Spangenberger, Scott W. Wagner, Sean Utley Production Director • Spiro Maroulis Circulation Director • Tim Hannon Production Manager • Danielle Correa Director Digital and Mobile Publishing • Kim Shay Social Media Director • Claudia Bircu Advertising Offices: Harris Publications, Inc. 1115 Broadway, New York, NY 10010 Harris Tactical Group can be reached at: Phone: (212) 807-7100; Fax: (212) 463-9958 gunsoftheoldwest.com harrs-pub.com [email protected] For subscriptions, single copies, back issues or gift orders, please call us at 800-866-2886.
Cover Photography By Dennis Adler To the Readers: Be advised that there may be products represented in this magazine as to which the sale, possession or interstate transportation thereof may be restricted, prohibited or subject to special licensing requirements. Prospective purchasers should consult the local law enforcement authorities in their area. All of the information in this magazine is based upon the personal experience of individuals who may be using specific tools, products, equipment and components under particular conditions and circumstances, some or all of which may not be reported in the particular article and which this magazine has not otherwise verified. Nothing herein is intended to constitute a manual for the use of any product or the carrying out of any procedure or process. This magazine and its officers and employees accept no responsibility for any liability, injuries or damages arising out of any person’s attempt to rely upon any information contained herein.
WESTERN STAR LEATHER Essential leather goods for your next Cowboy Action outing! BY TODD G. LOFGREN
able in black, brown, chestnut or natural here’s an old adage that finishes to match the rest of your rig. goes “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong—and usually does at the Belt Pouch most inopportune time.” That If you’ve got some other essentials to would be Murphy’s Law, and if pack with you, Western Star Leather offers there ever were a real Murphy, another version of the badge holder that’s research reveals that his identity incorporated into the face of a handy is lost to history. belt pouch that’s capable of toting emerWhen I first started shooting gency stuff like screwdrivers, matches, in Cowboy Action events, I wore toothpicks, Chapstick and the like. Made much more elaborate costuming to fit belts up to 3 inches in width, the than I do now. For Christmas soft-gusseted BP102 Belt Pouch measures one year, my mother bought about 4.25 to 4.5 inches to easily accommy father and I vintage pocket modate one’s essentials. Tightly stitched watches to add to our cowboy and riveted and well finished, this pouch personas. I attached mine to a is available in several finishes to compleheavy watch chain and wore it ment the rest of your gear. draped from vest button to vest pocket. I did, anyway, until I Cartridge Strip Nicely executed, Western Star Leather’s SASS Badge Holder is both simple and elegant. caught that chain on the hamIn earlier years I often came to the mer of one of my Colts during loading table with my match ammo a presentation. Being able to tell the time duces all manner of custom leather goods housed in one of those 100-round, plasdidn’t seem that important anymore. I for the horseman and cowboy shoot- tic, flip-lid cases. Invariably, I’d walk off had a similar experience while wearing a er. Western Star Leather’s BH115 SASS to the next stage leaving that ammo box beautiful pair of Mexican roweled spurs. Badge Holder is made I just loved how those spurs looked and from a strip of quality, sounded with their dangling jingle bobs. heavyweight, vegetableLoved them, that is, until one particular tanned leather folded at stage where I tried to move into a kneel- the top and fastened at ing position. I’ll leave the rest up to your the bottom via two silimagination, but I can report that that ver-colored snaps, formwas the last time I wore spurs at a cowboy ing a sleeve or loop that shoot. Although I still dress thorough- fits over gun belts up to ly cowboy, I’ve pretty much eliminated 3 inches in width. The those items that Murphy would have snaps eliminate the need to remove the holster picked for me to wear. and other allied equipment to install the holdBadge Holder One accoutrement that’s always a part er. A leather ring sewn of my cowboy costuming is my SASS to the face of the holder badge. There are a couple of nifty ways to frames the badge, helpdisplay yours and keep it out of the way in ing to protect it and keep The BP102 Belt Pouch is another way to display one’s the process. Both come by way of Western it in place. Well executed, badge and pack some essential stuff at the same time. Star Leather, a one-man shop that pro- the badge holder is avail-
8 GUNS OF THE OLD WEST
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on the loading table, necessitating a mad dash back to get it. On more than one occasion I’d later discovered that I’d left that ammo box at the range at the completion of a day’s shooting, donating whatever rounds were left to that cowboy called Murphy. Well, Western Star Leather has an answer for that, too—the CART1 Cartridge Strip. Like the badge holder, Western Star Leather uses a separate belt loop that slips or snaps over one’s
The Cartridge Strip from Western Star Leather is a handy way to pack just the right amount of ammo to and from the loading bench.
gun belt that has a chromed D-ring attached that accepts a heavy-duty rein strap affixed to the two-sided cartridge strip. The strip has 10 sewn-on cartridge loops on each side sized to accommodate any rimmed cowboy pistol cartridge. Unsnap the strip to load up your shootin’ irons, and then snap the empty strip back in place, leaving nothing at the loading table. The CART1 is made from the same high-quality leather of Western Star’s other products and is available in the same four colors. For more information, call 702-293-3397 or visit westernstarleather.com. ✪
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
• Guns Of The GunfiGhTers •
Ride with Mexico’s revolutionary and his Remington 1875 revolvers! BY DENNIS ADLER
ancho Villa had the reputation of being one of Mexico’s best gunfighters. “For Villa,” one of his subordinates later said, “his gun was more important to him than eating and sleeping. It was a part of his person, indispensable to him wherever he was…it was only very rarely that he did not have the gun ready to be drawn or placed in his gun belt.” Villa had many guns, but he preferred revolvers. The Remington Model 1875 was one of his favorites; he even had an engraved and goldwashed 1875 with his real name, Doroteo Arango, engraved on the right side of the barrel and “Chich1914” on the left, for the year he captured the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Mostly, he was photographed, and he was photographed a lot, with a blued Remington single action in one of several holster and belt rigs he wore during the Mexican Revolution. He was also photographed on one occasion with a Merwin-Hulbert, and he was known to have carried double-action S&W revolvers as well. Villa, like his contemporary Emiliano Zapata, and Villa’s right hand man, the feared and murderous Rodolfo Fierro, were all well-armed and capable shootists. The Mexican Revolution, or better put, Revolutions, from 1910 to 1920, made them all legendary. Zapata and Villa, however, were the most revered among the Mexican people, the people that they stood up for, the downtrodden laborers, the peons who worked the land for the wealthy hacendados.
Early Life Many of the Mexican land barons treated their workers as slaves, and the parallel between the American Civil War and the fight against slavery was not lost
10 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
on young Doroteo Arango, the son of a sharecropper on a hacienda. Born on June 5, 1877, in San Juan del Río, Durango, Mexico, by the age of 16, Doroteo had
As one story is told, Doroteo returned from the fields to find the hacienda’s owner, Agustin Lopez Negrete, threatening his mother and 12-year old sister, and in their defense he took a rifle and shot Negrete, not fatally, but still making the boy a criminal for taking up arms against one of northern Mexico’s wealthiest hacendados. Fearing for his life, Doroteo hid in the mountains, where he would spend the rest of his teenage years running from the rurales. He joined a group of bandits who taught him to fight, steal cattle, rob payrolls and commit crimes against Mexico’s wealthy elite, even rob a bank or two. By stealing from the rich and at times giving his ill-gotten gains to those less fortunate, the young man, who had adopted the name Francisco “Pancho” Villa, was becoming a modern-day Robin Hood.
A wooden billboard for Pancho Villa’s 1915 campaign used the image of him leading the charge from the 1914 silent movie The Life of General Villa. The carved piteado holster was handcrafted by Alan and Donna Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail and is based on a rig worn by Villa during the Mexican Revolution.
become the head of his family’s household after the death of his father. He had grown up bearing witness to and experiencing the harshness of peasant life under wealthy landowners in late 19th century Mexico. It was such an event in 1894 that changed the illiterate son of a sharecropper working the fields into a notorious bandit.
But, as Alex Mares, manager of the Pancho Villa State Park, in Columbus, New Mexico, says, “You can’t judge a historical figure based on contemporary values. You judge them in the context of their time.” Villa was also a ruthless killer and was occasionally as cruel to those of wealth and power as they were to the working
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Pancho Villa shown with bandoliers (center left) and wearing the piteado rig (right). The leather-crafting skills of Mexican saddlers in the late 19th century (and even today) remains exceptional, and the white embroidery made from plant fibers is still used by saddle-makers and artisan leather goods workers. (Remington Model 1875 courtesy Taylor’s & Company; antique cartridges and boxes courtesy of Allegheny Trade Co.)
The Soellners of Chisholm’s Trail copied the hand carving typical of Mexican holsters of the period in making the Pancho Villa holster and cartridge belt. Note the belt’s scalloped border.
class Villa swore to defend. Throughout the Mexican Revolution, Villa sought to improve the life of the common man, provide a higher standard of living and a chance for greater prosperity. Those who opposed that often found themselves on the wrong side of Villa’s guns. The Remington Model 1875 was one of his favorites, and at the time they were fairly plentiful
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in Mexico. The Remington single action was only a modest competitor to Colt’s Peacemaker, since Remington had come late to the game. The company had been almost four years ahead of Colt in introducing cartridge conversions of blackpowder revolvers, but Remington did not build its first all-new cartridge model until 1875, by which time Colt had already secured major contracts with the U.S. military. Remington was never able to match Colt when it came to government procurements. Remington’s other markets, aside from civilian sales, were to the Indian police and the Mexican government, the latter circa 1880. Between 1875 and 1888, Remington manufactured between 30,000 and 40,000 Model 1875 single-action revolvers chambered in .44 Remington, .44-40 and .45 Colt. The 1875 was replaced by the short-lived Model 1888, and then the Model 1890, which only remained in production until 1894. So Pancho Villa’s firearms were already old when he joined the Mexican Revolution in 1909.
Villa’s First Revolution In photos for the Life of General Villa movie, Villa made the bandolier famous as a trademark of the revolutionary fighter.
By the early 1900s, civil unrest was spreading across Mexico as great opposition arose to the
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
Pancho Villa country’s president, Porfirio Diaz, who had been in power since 1876, and put into place many of the great haciendas under whose control Mexico’s lower class toiled. All too knowledgeable of the truths, in 1909 Villa joined Francisco Madero in his fight to drive Diaz from power. Overnight, Pancho Villa went from wanted bandit to wanted revolutionary. Because of the fighting skills he’d learned as a bandit and an uncanny ability to inspire and lead men, Madero made the 32-yead-old Villa a colonel in the army. In 1910, Madero tried a more peaceful approach by running for president against Diaz, who was seeking an eighth term. When the time came for the election, Diaz had him jailed and then declared himself as the winner. The massive election fraud fueled the revolution, and Madero’s army, led by Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa, went on the attack. Their victory at the first Battle of Ciudad Juárez (across the border from El Paso) in 1911, combined with Emiliano Zapata’s victories in the south of Mexico, convinced Diaz he could not survive the revolution. On May 31, 1911, he resigned and went into exile, and Madero was elected president. Villa’s job appeared done, but the complexities of life and the changing politics of Mexico were about to confront him once more. Madero was immediately faced with a new rebellion, this one led by none other than one of his own generals, Pascual Orozco, who believed he had not been given a sufficient political position in the new government. General Victoriano Huerta and Colonel Pancho Villa were tasked with defending Madero against his former ally, but even they could not get along. Huerta ordered Villa’s execution after accusing him of stealing his horse, and Madero had to step in and save Villa from a firing squad. He did not pardon Villa, which would have further infuriated Huerta, but instead sentenced him to prison in June 1912. It was a well-orchestrated incarceration from which Villa miraculously escaped that December, disappearing across the border into El Paso, Texas. Two months later, on February 22, 1913, Francisco Madero was
12 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
While Villa preferred to dress simply, Zapata was flamboyant in his clothing, saddles, holsters and guns. Based on various designs of the period, this hand-carved holster and gun belt with silver conchos and concho buckle was handcrafted by Chisholm’s Trail.
assassinated, not by Orozco, but by his own commanding general, Victoriano Huerta, who assumed the presidency of Mexico.
Villa’s Second Revolution Infuriated by the assassination of his friend, Villa returned with a vengeance, gathering his old forces and joining with Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza to overthrow Huerta. At the time, Zapata was leading forces from southern Mexico, and Villa controlled much of northern Mexico’s military. General Villa’s army, known as the División del Norte, or Division of the North, was the largest revolutionary force ever amassed and numbered in the thousands. Villa’s army was not only comprised of cavalry and horse-mounted infantry, but it was also equipped with machine guns and even an artillery unit.
Leading this new revolution not only made Villa more famous, but also an unlikely film star! In America, the public’s perception of Mexico was that presidents, or dictators posing as presidents, came and went, but Pancho Villa remained a symbol of the Mexican Revolution. The period from 1910 to 1920 produced numerous political leaders, each with their own approach to governing and with different affiliations, some to the hacienda owners, others to the church, but few, with the exception of Madero, had favored the betterment of the Mexican people above all. Villa, on the other hand, remained a constant; he represented the people, the poor, the farmers and the working class. Many of Villa’s major battles also took place on the northern border across from the United States, putting him in the spotlight with American journalists covering the revolution. Over time, the man who once hid in the mountains and changed his name to avoid capture realized he loved being in front of the camera and in the newsreels. He even signed a contract with the Mutual Film Company in 1913 to have several of his battles filmed! And as the second revolution progressed, Villa had not only an army of soldiers, but also an army of filmmakers, cameramen and reporters in tow. The nowfamous picture of Villa leading the charge on horseback was actually a publicity shot from the Mutual Film Company production of D.W. Griffith’s The Life of General Villa. The film premiered in New York in
In this 1913 photograph, Villa stands fourth from left. To his right is the feared General Rodolfo Fierro, while General Ortega and Colonel Medina stand at his left.
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Villa loved to be on horseback. He even assured as many of his infantry as possible had horses so they could move quickly along with the cavalry.
May 1914 and turned out to be a typical melodrama of the period interspersed with war footage shot during a few battles, set pieces filmed with Villa and his men, and a great deal of editing and additional studio footage added for dramatic effect. Villa’s war against Huerta ended in 1914 with General Venustiano Carranza rising to power as Mexico’s new president. Villa, who had no political aspirations, quickly grew disenchanted with Carranza’s governing of the country, as did Zapata. Carranza was as corrupt as his predecessor. So Villa and Zapata declared a new revolution to unseat Carranza. At first, even U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was in favor of it, but as Carranza’s political views began to favor U.S. interests in Mexico, Wilson withdrew his support of Villa’s new revolution. And this is where Panco Villa “the legend” and Pancho Villa “the man” went their separate ways.
American Invasion After suffering significant defeats in battles against Alvaro Obregón’s forces in 1915, and feeling betrayed by the U.S. which now supported Carranza’s government, on March 9, 1916, Villa and a small army of 400 men crossed over the border into New Mexico and attacked the city of Columbus, ravaging the small town and killing 19 Americans. The local U.S. Army garrison responded, but Villa’s losses were insignificant and the political damage was done. The U.S. retaliated by sending General John J. Pershing and his expeditionary force into Mexico to
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capture Villa. In two separate missions, the first in 1916, the Punitive Expedition, and a second in 1919, both sanctioned by the Carranza government, Pancho Villa was never apprehended. And a year later, Venustiano Carranza was assassinated. Mexico’s new interim president, Adolfo de la Huerta, wanted to bring an end to all the bloodshed and negotiated a deal with Villa for his withdrawal from the battlefield in exchange for money and a large tract of land. Villa accepted. In 1920, the boy who had known nothing but contempt for Mexico’s elite his entire life became a hacendado. But that was not the end of Pancho Villa. Within the confines of his hacienda and the surrounding area in the state of Chihuahua, he created the Mexico he had envisioned. The children who occupied Villa’s land were provided with a school. He founded a bank that readily made loans to farmers at very low interest rates. Without great debts hanging over their heads as in the past, farmers could work their own land, make a profit and repay their loans. For one brief period in one small corner of Mexico, Doroteo Arango lived the life he only dreamed of, but like all dreams, there is an awakening. Adolfo de la Huerta only served as Mexico’s president from June to November 1920, when he was replaced by General Alvaro Obregón. Three years later, on July 20, 1923, Pancho Villa was gunned down on the streets of Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico. The revolution was over. ✪
SOURCES The Personal History of Pancho Villa and Its Effects on Mexican History by Brad Rath Pancho Villa: A Biography by Jean Rouverol The Life and Times of Pancho Villa and The Face of Pancho Villa by Freidrich Katz Mexican History by Joe Cummings Pancho Villa, Smithsonian Biography of Pancho Villa by Jennifer Rosenberg
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
• Western edge •
10 BOWIE KNIVES
Modern Bowie blades forged from decades of tradition! BY ROBERT A. SADOWSKI
ames Black is the knife-maker credited with building the first Bowie knife. Under Jim Bowie’s direction, Black created a fighting knife with a heavy blade about 9 inches long and about an inch and a half wide with a clip point. The clip point provides a sharp stabbing point for the knife. The design also incorporated a crossguard to protect the user’s hand. Legend has it that the Bowie knife was built in 1830 in Black’s blacksmith shop in Washington, Arkansas, and the design evolved over the years with improvements suggested by Jim Bowie. In essence, the Bowie is a large sheath knife made for fighting, but it also quite useful as a hunting knife for butchering and skinning game. The Bowie knife has influenced fighting knife designs ever since. Many modern knives, like the U.S. Marine Corps KA-BAR knife used in WWII, are based on the Bowie. Here are some excellent examples of fighting knives where the Bowie knife design lives on.
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Condor Jungle Bowie II
Idaho Knife Works Carrigan
The Jungle Bowie II from Condor features a 6.3-inch, 1075 highcarbon steel, clip-point blade with a sharpened upper edge. The blade has a black epoxy powder-coat finish. The handles are made of hardwood and contoured for a sure grip. A brass-lined lanyard hole is positioned at the end of the handle. Condor knives have great flexibility and strength, and the Jungle Bowie II is a no-nonsense working knife. (condortk. com; 407-354-3488)
The Carrigan knife is a version of the Bowie originally made by James Black in the 19th century. An original is on display at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock. Idaho Knife Works reproduces the Carrigan true to the original with a coffin-shaped handle without a crossguard. The Carrigan knife deviates from the traditional Bowie knife not only with the handle style but also in the tang, which tapers towards the blade, from the back to the edge side. The 6-inch blade is made of 5160 high-carbon steel. (idahoknifeworks.com; 509-994-9394)
OKC P4 Combat Knife
The Venecia is an elegant knife with a 7.1-inch, clip-point blade made from 420H steel. The guard and pommel are finished in silver and feature ornate engraving. The grip material is made of rich Pakkawood with a beautiful figured grain. The Venecia’s grip is riveted to the full tang and has finger grooves for an enhanced grip. It’s a beautiful yet functional knife. (mmuela.com)
Ontario Knife Company (OKC) has been making knifes for over 125 years. In fact, the company has been supplying the U.S. military with knives since WWII. The P4 Combat knife is a classic Bowie-style knife with a 7-inch, clip-point blade with a flat grind. Features include a brass crossguard and a grooved, brown leather handle. This is a rugged knife with a modern take on the Bowie design. Ontario's quality knives are made in New York. (ontarioknife.com; 800-222-5233)
S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
Bowie knives were very popular on the frontier because of their strength and versatility. They served well on the battlefield and in the backwoods.
Idaho Knife Works San Francisco
Muela Bowie BW-22
The 6-inch blade on this classic Bowie is forged from 5160 steel that is hardened and tempered to hold an edge and sharpen easily. The San Francisco Bowie is handmade in Idaho by Mike Mann, and it’s a great example of a cowboy-era Bowie. The elk-horn handle is attached to the full tang with decorative brass rivets. It is as functional as it is beautiful. (509-994-9394; idahoknifeworks.com)
Muela of Spain produces a number of Bowie-style knives with different blade lengths. The Bowie BW-22 has an 8.6inch, clip-point blade and a brass pommel and crossguard. Coral Pakkawood is used for the handle, with finger grooves and an inset medallion. The Bowie BW-22 lives up to its namesake’s reputation as a large, ruggedly constructed fighting knife. (mmuela.com)
SOG Bowie 2.0
The Puma Bowie is handmade in Germany using 440C stainless steel. Featuring fulltang construction with natural dropped antler handles, the Puma Bowie is a beauty built for hard use. The 6.1inch blade has a hollow ground edge with a drop point. A brasslined hole in the handle allows users to attach a lanyard. This Bowie also comes with a lifetime warranty. (pumaknives.us; 866-469-3080)
Just as the original Bowie evolved, so too has the SOG Bowie 2.0. The Bowie 2.0 combines the traditional Bowie with modern materials and technology. The 6.4-inch, clip-point, hardcased black TiNi-coated blade uses a concave cutout toward the tip that moves the tip closer to the centerline of the blade for better piercing. The traditionalstyle handle uses stacked leather washers with an epoxy coating. (sogknives. com; 888-405-6433) (Please turn to page 53)
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
• C ow b oy S t u f f •
WILD BUNCH GEAR
Own the SASS range with these 1911 accessories and a high-quality Bowie knife. BY BOB “JAYHAWKER” ARGANBRIGHT
he originators of Cowboy Action Shooting (CAS) got the idea for shooting their next local IPSC match using their favorite single-action centerfire revolvers after seeing the classic Sam Peckinpah Western The Wild Bunch. This lead to today’s Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and its latest “Wild Bunch” category, which allows shooters to use Colt M1911 pistols in .45 ACP as well as the Winchester 1897 pump shotgun. The latest change to Wild Bunch rules allows the use of Winchester Model 12 pump shotguns, as at least one of the movie’s Wild Bunch members was using a Model 12 during the aborted bank robbery. So let us take a look at a holster, custom Colt 1911 grips and a terrific new Cold Steel Bowie knife that are all perfect for Wild Bunch competitions.
Old West Reproductions Rick Bachman of Florence, Montana, lost his job approximately 38 years ago. A collector of original Western frontier leather, he decided to produce top-quality copies of a few of his holsters and gun belts. The demand for his exacting copies was such that he never went back to another job. His leather goods are made of top-grade cowhide from the Herman Oak Tannery in St. Louis, Missouri. Bachman’s company, Old West Reproductions, takes pride in producing the same quality gun leather as would have been available from an early frontier saddle-maker. For Wild Bunch competitions, I chose Bachman’s 1911 Jock Strap holster with the optional safety strap. The Jock Strap holster has its pouch secured to a full skirt via a T-shaped piece of leather attached to the skirt with four rivets. The holster accommodates belts up to 2½ inches wide, with the holster riding vertically with no cant. The pouch is of the traditional wraparound style with a seam along the trailing
16 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
for Wild Bunch competitions. Bachman also produces traditional double magazine pouches, either open top or with flaps.
Buffalo Brothers Grips
The author updated his Wilson Combat .45 ACP with high-quality Buffalo Brothers’ Floral Carved grip panels, and the 1911 Jock Strap holster from Old West Reproductions is a perfect complement.
edge and a closed toe. The top edge of the holster pouch is S-shaped, enclosing the triggerguard, with a deep cut exposing the pistol’s trigger. The optional safety strap, which snaps to the face of the pouch, is easily folded back and tucked behind the gun belt so as not to be in the way of a fast draw. The pouch has attractive border tooling and is finished in a reddish brown with all edges neatly burnished. An unusual feature is a small leather strap looped through the back of the pouch and skirt and tied off with a bleed knot to prevent any movement of the pouch in the strap. The Bachman 1911 Jock Strap holster is a superior period-correct holster
I decided to dress my Wilson Combat .45 ACP pistol up a bit for Wild Bunch matches by replacing the grips. After studying the Buffalo Brothers Cowboy Store’s website, I ordered a pair of the company’s cast poly-ivory 1911 Floral Carved grips in old ivory color. Buffalo Brothers produces an extensive line of polyurethane grips for Colt, Ruger and Remington single-action revolvers, S&W Schofield revolvers and Colt 1911 autopistols. They are available in several traditional carving patterns, such as American eagle, Mexican eagle, snake and steer head, and in four colors. The colors available are white, ivory, old ivory and black. One may also order grips with simulated cracks to appear old. The grips are shipped polished and shaped, but the customer must drill any holes required. As received, my old ivory finish Floral Carved grips appear to be made of very old elephant ivory with full floral carving coverage. The carving is similar to that on hand-carved leatherwork. I easily marked the location for the screw holes on the grips and drilled them with a 7/32-inch drill bit. These grips are noticeably thinner than the factory grips and should be perfect for those with smaller hands. These Buffalo Brothers faux-ivory grips add the perfect look to my Wilson Combat .45 for Wild Bunch competitions.
Cold Steel Bowie Cold Steel’s 1917 Frontier Bowie knife is massive, measuring 17-5/8 inches overall, and it comes with an exceptional, blued-steel-reinforced sheath.
Cold Steel has built and maintained an enviable reputation for producing top-quality knives of all types. In looking for an appropriate knife (Please turn to page 61)
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For nearly three decades, Frederic Remington traveled the American West and, through firsthand experiences, documented the pioneering spirit of this new frontier and its people. A skilled illustrator, painter and author, Remington was best known for masterful bronze sculptures of the Old West. Now his classic 1909 “Bronco Buster” has been captured in a ﬁne jewelry tribute honoring the legacy of this remarkable artist.
Superbly Crafted in an Exclusive Design Crafted of solid sterling silver, the “Frederic Remington Legacy” Commemorative Ring features a sculpted portrait of Remington’s famous “Bronco Buster,” captured in the same bronze that the master used. Here in stunning detail, we’ve recreated all the power and energy in the battle between the bucking horse and the determined cowboy. The bronze medallion is framed by a twisted rope design, and each side of the band is embellished with a bronzedplated horseshoe. Further adding to the meaning and value, the ring is engraved with “AN AMERICAN LEGACY” and Frederic Remington’s signature. Each hand-crafted ring comes with a custom case, Certiﬁcate of Authenticity and a Frederic Remington American Legacy fact card.
A Remarkable Value... Available for a Limited Time Available in men’s whole and half sizes from 8-15, this custom-designed ring is a superb value at $199*, and you can pay for it in 5 easy installments of just $39.80. To reserve yours, backed by our 120-day unconditional guarantee, let us hear from you as soon as possible... as this is a limited-time offer! www.bradfordexchange.com/14330
Crafted in Solid Sterling Silver Sculpted “Bronco Buster” Bronze Medallion Engraved with AN AMERICAN LEGACY and Artist’s Signature
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CHOOSE LIMITED-TIME OFFER CORRECT
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SATISFACTION GUARANTEED To assure a proper ft, a ring sizer will be sent to you after your reservation has been accepted.
*Plus $9.98 shipping and service. Please allow 4-6 weeks after initial payment for shipment of your jewelry. Sales subject to product availability and order acceptance.
Bass Outlaw s 9999999999999 ’
ARSEN Examining the lawman-turned-villain’s extremely
The Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, exhibits one of the world’s finest collections of firearms spanning from medieval times to the mid-20th century, including guns of several heroes and villains of the Old West. Among them are the .44-40 WCF, nickel-plated Winchester 1873 saddle-ring carbine and Colt 1873 Single Action Army revolver, modified to be used as a “belly gun,” that belonged to lawman Bass L. Outlaw, who was both a hero and villain. He killed at least six men in gunfights, and at least three with the weapons on display in the museum. After serving in the Arkansas State Guard, Outlaw joined the Texas Rangers in 1885. In his late 20s, his service began in Captain James T. Gillespie’s Company E. He stayed there for 20 months before transferring to Captain Frank Jones’ Company D. He served under Captain Jones for 25 months before he resigned (along with two other Rangers) to take a more lucrative job guarding silver mines in Mexico for $60 a month in the spring of 1889. That kind of pay was double his Ranger salary, so south of the border he went. While working 18 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
in Mexico, he made an impression on fellow Rangerturned-mine-guard Walter Durban, who would describe him as “the worst and toughest man I’d ever seen.” What Outlaw did during the course of that work isn’t documented, but the mine’s losses to robbers dropped off dramatically and four months later, in September of 1889, he left Mexico and rejoined Company D. Captain Jones thought enough of Outlaw to eventually promote him to first sergeant. Walter Durban also rejoined the Rangers, and it is from him that we learn Outlaw killed three men during the first year he returned.
Outlaw’s Origins Outlaw was born in Georgia between 1855 and 1859 to a respectable family and was described as a man of intelligence and good education who could display the genteel manners of a true Southern gentleman. Based on his recruitment documents and the one photograph that survives of him with fellow Company D Rangers, Outlaw was not physically imposing. He was weak chinned, of average to thin build, and no taller than 5’9”. He was known as an excellent shot among men who were expected to be excellent shots, and he was very effective in the dangerous work of running down violent criminals. Captain Jones described him as possessing “unusual
S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
ENAL fast COLT 1873 REVOLVER!
BY FRANK JARDIM
73 slip d a Colt 18 ter ie rr a c w a tl Ou ches ll as a Win kely e w s a n u g e—most li 1873 carbin olding in this ’s h the one he mpany D Texas Co h it photo w ond . He is sec w. rs e g Ran the back ro from left in
w — Texa s Ra nger s GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
BAS S O UT LAW ’ S A R S E N A L
Bass Outlaw’s revolver features a larger Colt 1872 grip, and the back of the triggerguard was left intact for grasping.
courage and coolness” under fire and that, “In a close place, he is worth two or three ordinary men.” Bear in mind that Jones was referring to ordinary Texas Rangers. Outlaw must have been truly outstanding in a fight to earn that kind of praise. Unfortunately, Outlaw suffered from a weakness for liquor that brought out an unpredictable, confrontational and violent side of him that ultimately led to his forced resignation from the Texas Rangers in September of 1892. His drinking notwithstanding, Outlaw possessed talents of value in West Texas and was hired as a deputy U.S. marshall. His drinking worsened and ultimately cost him his life and reputation. He came to his end on April 5, 1894, in a gunfight with El Paso Constable (and future killer of John Wesley Hardin) John Selman moments after killing fellow Ranger Joe McKidrict in a drunken rage in the backyard of a brothel. The best insight we have into Outlaw came from the diary of his friend, Texas Ranger Lon Oden, who wrote, “Bass Outlaw is dead. Bass my friend is gone. Before he died he killed Joe McKidrict. Maybe all knew something like this would come to Bass—Bass, who was so brave and so kind: who could laugh louder, ride longer and cuss stronger than the rest of us; and who could be more sympathetic, more 20 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
tender, more patient than all of us when necessary. Bass could not leave liquor alone, and when Bass was drunk, he was a maniac, none of us could handle him, none of us could reason with him. We just stayed with him until he sobered up.”
Modified Weapons Unlike many Wild West guns of dubious provenance, the pieces I examined at the Frazier History Museum are solidly linked to Outlaw. On May 8, 1894, the County Court of El Paso ordered the weapons turned over to the undertaker who prepared Outlaw’s body for burial as payment for his services. The order listed the guns specifically by serial number. Outlaw’s Winchester 1873 carbine has serial number 98460A, and it was shipped from the factory on August 19, 1882. Long arms, rather than pistols, were the primary weapons of the Rangers, and Outlaw is believed to have used this carbine in 1889 to kill Alvin and Will Odle in the line of duty
on Christmas Day at the Rio Grande River around Vance, Texas. The other Outlaw firearm in the Frazier History Museum exhibit is a concealable belly gun fashioned from a Colt 1873 with serial number 42870 and made in 1878. It was used in one documented killing but bears notches carved into the front of the frame that suggest three more. The term “belly gun” was the Old West nickname for any concealable handgun intended for pointblank use. Colonel Charles Askins, reflecting in 1955 on a career of gunfights as a border patrolman before World War II, explained the origin of the name as “a kind of hardware you jam against another man’s naval and trigger off a burst.” The chopped-down, single-action Colts of Outlaw’s time were usually unrefined in appearance. However, it was never about looks. It was about life or death. Outlaw’s belly gun has the customary shortened barrel, 3 inches long in this case, for easy concealability and a fast draw. The ejector mechanism would be useless on such a short barrel, so the entire assembly is removed. This lightens the pistol slightly and further reduces the chances of snagging on the draw. On Outlaw’s pistol, the gunsmith went a step further step to save weight and also removed the portion of the frame on the right side that supported the ejector shroud. He fitted the pistol with an extra-long cylinder pin with an enlarged knurled gripping surface that could be used to knock the empty cases from the cylinder. The gunsmith replaced the tiny cylinder-pin locking screw typical of first-generation Colt 1873s with a larger thumbscrew that could be manipulated easily without tools. Also common is the lack of a front sight. A front sight isn’t needed and can get snagged and slow down the draw. The front of the triggerguard was also removed, a modification rarely seen on Old West belly guns but quite common in the double-action era. The front of Four notches cut into the revolver’s frame, just ahead of the serial number, signify four men that Bass Outlaw killed. S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
The part of the frame that supported the ejector housing was carefully removed. Also note the frame’s “B.L. OUTLAW” stamping.
the triggerguard is just something else to get in the way of your finger finding the trigger, and removing it simplifies and speeds up that all-important first shot. This is where Outlaw’s belly gun gets really interesting. A double-action belly gun was needed to fire the “burst” of two or three shots that Askins recommended in mortal combat. Quick follow-up shots were more challenging with single-action guns, so Outlaw had his further modified. It is no accident that
� “ � It is no accident that
THE TRIGGER IS MISSING... …It was removed so that the pistol would fire SIMPLY BY WORKING THE HAMMER.
� SUMMER 2015
� GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
B A S S O UT L AW ’ S A R S E N A L
Outlaw had both his carbine and revolver nickel plated. He had another nickel-plated Colt when he died, but it has been lost to history.
the trigger is missing. It wasn’t lost or broken during the course of this 125-year-old antique’s journey to the Frazier History Museum. It was removed so that the pistol would fire simply by working the hammer. This is a fast as a single-action can be, and it’s sometimes referred to as a “slip gun.” In light of this, the abbreviated rear triggerguard serves to stabilize and point the pistol. It is also fitted with the larger grip frame of a Colt 1872 revolver, presumably for the same reason. A snub-nosed .44-40 is a handful to hang onto under recoil. The hole for the trigger was plugged and soldered over, and the gun was nickel-plated. Holding it in my hand, it was apparent that it was thoughtfully and skillfully crafted for a man in the business of gunfighting. I removed the trigger from one of my own single actions to explore the implication of the slip-gun modification. Take away the trigger and the Colt 1873 loses its half- and full-cock notches. To load and unload, you have to hold the hammer back while you line up the
cylinder chambers with the loading gate. You have to hold the cylinder in alignment, too, or else it will turn. Isn’t that dangerous? Not as dangerous as a gunfight, but you better be pretty careful not to let the hammer slip from your grip during these operations. Personally, I will never do this experiment again. Historic curiosity is not worth a bullet wound. The result of the modification is that the Colt 1873 can be discharged shockingly fast. For reflexive shooting at point-blank range,
Outlaw’s belly gun would have given him a split-second edge. In light of his intemperate character, the four notches on the frame could easily be from his close encounters. I had to wonder if the one notch cut into the frame that was separated from the others represented the Mexican mineworker Outlaw killed over a card game in 1889.
On the last day of his life, a particularly disgruntled Deputy U.S. Marshall Bass Outlaw tucked this pistol into his belt, as was his practice before he began his circuit of El Paso’s saloons and brothels. By the time he got to Tillie Howard’s sporting house to visit his favorite prostitute, he was very drunk and became angry when she was not available. Somehow his pistol discharged, perhaps accidentally, and the madam began blowing her police whistle for help. Outlaw went into the yard where he encountered Ranger Joe McKidrict, who had come running to investigate and asked why he had fired a shot. Outlaw’s answer was to draw his belly gun and fire, instantly killing the young Ranger with a shot to the head and shooting him again in the back as he fell. When El Paso Constable The extra-large cylinder pin was intended to help eject spent cases, John Selman came on the scene and the large, knurled thumbscew below the pin facilitated its removal.
22 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
a moment later, Outlaw thumbed off another round, narrowly missing Selman’s head. They were so close that the muzzle blast burned Selman’s eyes, but the 56-year-old gunfighter drew and fired a single round from his own 1873 Colt .45, which traveled through Outlaw’s right lung, mortally wounding him. Outlaw fired twice more, hitting Selman in the thigh and hip before withdrawing from the fracas by jumping the backyard fence. He collapsed into the arms of Ranger Frank McMahon and surrendered. He died within hours. Selman lived but walked with a cane for the rest of his life, which wasn’t very long. He died two years later in a gunfight with Deputy U.S. Marshall George Scarborough. ✪ AUTHOR’S NOTE: I want to reiterate the dangers of a slip gun. I noticed that if the hammer was released before it was drawn back through the full range of movement needed to completely rotate the cylinder, the cylinder wouldn’t rotate all the way around and the hammer would fall on the side of
Outlaw’s Winchester 1873 carbine, serial number 98460A, was shipped from the factory on August 19, 1882. Like his pistol, the carbine was also rather un-artfully marked with his name, as the bottom of the receiver (below) shows.
the primer. At best, that is a formula for a misfire. At worst, you might find a 255-grain bullet missing the forcing cone and crashing with full force into the junction of barrel and frame. That might lead to a blown-up gun and injury to the shooter or bystanders. In Bass Outlaw’s dangerous world, the slip gun made sense. However, to modify a pistol like this today is just plain crazy, so don’t do it.
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
R A E X M U COLT
The Single Action Army returns as a high-quality, BB-firing replica! BY JORGE AMSELLE
VERY MANUFACTURER STRIVES TO MAKE THAT
side-by-side shotguns to lever-action rifles and, of course, single-
ONE GREAT PRODUCT THAT WILL FOREVER AND
action revolvers is now easily available to the Western enthusiast.
INDELIBLY EARN THEM A PLACE AS AN ICON
The prices, too, have come down as Italian and other overseas
AND MAKE THEIR NAME SYNONYMOUS WITH IT.
manufacturers are producing high-quality reproductions of these
Few are fortunate enough to achieve this, let alone do
classic firearms. Shooting original and highly collectible guns comes
it twice, but one company that has is Colt. While Colt certainly
with a lot of risk, as damaging one of these can destroy its value, and
became synonymous with the 1911, the first big success that
they must be fired with original blackpowder loads. The modern
branded the company was the Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army
variants provide a far more economical and safer alternative.
(SAA) revolver, otherwise known as the Peacemaker.
Regardless, when it comes to single-action revolvers for many,
The SAA, chambered in .45 Colt, was the standard sidearm of
if it doesn’t say “Colt” on the side, you may as well be throwing
the U.S. military for two decades. It can be argued that its replace-
rocks at the bad guys. Colt stopped producing the SAA for a bit
ment by a smaller .38 caliber revolver is what led directly to the
during and after World War II, but they are in production now,
advent of the .45 ACP 1911 pistol. However, the SAA didn’t just
although not in huge quantities.
see military service—it became incredibly popular as a civilian
However, Colt SAA fans and shooters do have some options
gun and was used extensively in the post-Civil-War period of
that will satisfy. Umarex of Germany is producing, under license
Western expansion and settlement. It is today far better known as
from Colt, a very accurate reproduction of the classic Peacemaker.
a “cowboy” gun than anything else.
What makes this more impressive is that this reproduction is a
A resurgence of interest in the Old West, thanks in part to Hollywood, as well as the use of original and modern reproduction
CO2-powered airgun firing .177 caliber steel BBs, and it operates and functions identically to the original cartridge-firing gun.
guns in Cowboy Action Shooting, has led to many more of these
One of the main advantages of using airgun replicas is that you
types of guns being produced. Everything from exposed-hammer,
can train at home in your basement (using a reasonable backstop
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
U M A R E X C O LT P E A C E M A K E R
The faux-ivory grips neatly contain the CO2 cartridge, and a built-in key secures it while keeping the grips close to the original size.
The grip panel itself includes a permanent and handy key to tighten and activate the CO2 canister. Placing the hammer on the half-cock position acts as a safety and allows the cylinder to turn, not freely like a real SAA, but easily enough. Open the right-side loading gate and the brass cartridges easily drop out. You can use the fully functional ejector rod, but since the cartridge cases never expand, this is not necessary. The brass cartridges themselves are actually .38 caliber and feature a rubber O-ring on the bottom. You load one individual BB by placing it flush at the bottom of the cartridge case. The loaded cartridges can then be loaded individually into the cylinder. To fire the replica, simply cock the hammer back completely and squeeze the single-
that will catch the BBs) or in your backyard without making a bunch of noise or requiring a bullet-stopping berm, and much more safely than with live ammunition.
Gun Details The Umarex Colt Peacemaker is available in blued steel or satin nickel, both with white ivory (plastic) grips. I like the satin nickel model myself for two reasons: This is a true single-action with allmetal construction. Note the realistic It just looks more like the real deal, and it loading gate and brass cartridges. makes me feel like Patton. These are not cheap imitations, either, but all-steel, fullsized handguns. but are not actually functional. The The attention to detail is superb. The replica’s operation is also nearly identical to action trigger. The airgun may also be fan gun has the popular 5½-inch barrel, and the real single-action revolver’s. fired like a real SAA by holding the trigger there is actual rifling at the .40 caliber To load it, you first remove the left-side back and fanning the hammer. Once all six muzzle for about half an inch so that the grip panel to access the CO2 compartment. shots have been fired, you can again place the real BB barrel cannot be hammer in the half-cock seen. The all-metal cylposition and open the SPECIFICATIONS loading gate to remove inder is properly fluted, each cartridge case and and a fully functional, full-length ejector rod then load each with a is included. fresh BB. Caliber: .177 The markings, while Umarex has added Barrel: 5½ inches not engraved, are etched one thing that does not OA Length: 11 inches and appropriate for a .45 appear on an original Weight: 32 ounces (empty) • Grips: Synthetic caliber Colt SAA, includColt SAA, a safety lever. This safety is very unobing the patent informaSights: Fixed • Action: Single-action, CO2 tion and logos. All of trusive and does not Finish: Blued or nickel • Capacity: 6-shot • MSRP: $150 the gun screws are in the affect the original look right places and look real and feel of the revolver.
Umarex Colt Peacemaker
26 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
It is located underneath the receiver, just in front of the triggerguard. It can only be activated when the hammer is either in the down (forward) or fully cocked position, and it completely blocks any movement of the trigger, cylinder or hammer. This is a nice extra safety feature to have.
From a training perspective, the realism and use of real cartridge cases makes this an ideal partner to your actual revolver. It is especially handy for beginners and allows you to train using all of the actual functions of your real single-action revolver in a safer environment. The full size and weight of the gun also allows for the use of your traditional cowboy rig or holster so that you can practice your fast draw. This airgun has a velocity of 410 fps with a fully charged CO2 cartridge, and that should last you for well over 100 rounds. If
LEVER ACTION No cowboy’s set of shooting irons is ever complete without a matching lever action rifle, and here Walther delivers with an authentic replica of what appears to be a Winchester Model 1894. This .177 caliber pellet-firing airgun has an eight-round internal rotary magazine, all-metal construction and a real hardwood stock in a straight style. There is a saddle ring on the left side of the receiver, and it is truly lever operated with a 15-inch length of pull and 3-pound, single-action trigger. An 88g CO2 cartridge neatly stored inside the stock powers the rifle and fires pellets 630 fps. The rifle features a hooded front sight and an adjustable rear sight as well as an exposed and functional hammer. There is also the more modern concession of a crossbolt safety, but the operation strives to be as close to original as possible. Pressing on the loading gate mounted on the right side of the receiver reveals the rifle’s hidden eight-round rotary magazine for actual loading. The lever action looks and feels original and functions almost the same, with the “bolt” cocking the hammer as well. There is also a trigger safety on the receiver that requires the lever to be fully closed to engage it. Anyone who wishes to complete their Cowboy Action Shooting airgun set will want to include the Walther Lever Action air rifle. It is available in blued and nickel finishes with a rifled barrel for accuracy. For more information, visit umarexusa.com. —Jorge Amselle
Walther Lever Action Caliber: .177 • Barrel: 18.9 inches • OA Length: 39.3 inches Weight: 6.17 pounds (empty) • Stock: Wood Sights: Adjustable • Action: Lever, CO2 Finish: Blued or nickel • Capacity: 8+1 • MSRP: $553-$661
The ejector rod on the Umarex Colt Peacemaker works just like that on the original and is an effective training aid. SUMMER 2015
you are going to fire the Umarex indoors, make sure of your backstop and always remember to wear safety glasses, as round steel BBs have a great affection for ricocheting, as the chief protagonist in the film A Christmas Story can attest. For indoor use, I highly recommend a cardboard box as a suitable backstop, preferably filled with newspaper. One will receive far more enjoyment, however, training outdoors with this handy airgun. Again,
I would avoid shooting at trees or rocks, but aluminum and tin cans make for excellent reactive targets, as do plastic bottles. Shooting off-hand into a standard cardboard IPSC silhouette from 7 yards, BBs easily perforated the cardboard and stayed within a 6-inch group without much effort. The revolver has no recoil, and the noise level is extremely low. The lack of recoil helps train shooters in not anticipating the shot and trying to compensate for it, which GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
U M A R E X C O LT P E A C E M A K E R
helps avoid jerking the trigger and leads to improved accuracy when firing a real revolver live on the range. The lack of noise or recoil also makes this a great training tool for the beginner or junior shooter and helps to build familiarity and comfort while encouraging realistic and safe training. The hammer cocks with a comfortable and authoritative double click, and the trigger is crisp and light. The fixed sights are also true to the original and rather rudimentary. Over a full-day range session,
As on the original, the Umarex Colt Peacemaker features a simple front sight blade that pairs with the rear notch.
The real size and weight of this CO2 replica make it easy to practice and find a good holster.
during which several CO2 cartridges met their end, there were zero malfunctions.
Final Notes One external difference between the Umarex Peacemaker and a real SAA is the safety tab just ahead of the triggerguard.
Umarex took this project to heart and worked closely with the U.S. Marshals Museum of Fort Smith, Arkansas, to produce an accurate replica of the Colt Peacemaker. The company also produced a commemo-
rative airgun specifically for the Marshals Museum with the museum’s emblem on the grip and limited to only 500 guns. Any fan of the Cowboy era, or anyone who wants a fun and easy way to train with a Colt SAA for their next Cowboy Action Shooting match, is sure to be pleased with this outstanding airgun. For more informa✪ tion, visit umarexusa.com.
“ Umarex took this project to heart and worked closely with the U.S. Marshals Museum of Fort Smith, Arkansas, to produce an accurate replica of the Colt Peacemaker.
“ 28 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
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man ier law arrel t n o r f A wise d a double-b A ha nd. always n close at ha , but shotgu s threatening rn tu wa pistol ergun would els. t t h a sca n on their e e most m
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BAIKAL SIDE BY SIDE
SHOTGUNS� Kalashnikov USA 12 gauges built for taming the OLD WEST BADLANDS! BY DENNIS ADLER
might not have been as glamorous as a shiny Colt single action or a Winchester lever action,
but there was nothing on the American frontier that could disperse a mob or settle an argument faster. It was the most practical and deadliest firearm you could lay your hands on, and at close range just about anyone could hit their target. That’s one reason frontier lawmen were rarely without a shotgun close at hand. Even Wyatt Earp favored a double gun over a revolver when making a stand against a bunch of liquored-up cowhands or an unruly mob bent on taking justice into their own hands. Earp allegedly carried a 10 gauge Stevens “three trigger” side-by-side. The third front trigger was pulled to release and break open the action. By the 1870s, self-contained brass shotshells were in common use, as were double-barrel, break-action guns. Shotguns had been among the earliest self-defense firearms. From a purely fundamental perspective, any smoothbore musket could have been loaded with birdshot and
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
BAIKAL SIDE-BY-SIDE SHOTGUNS
as side-by-sides manufactured throughout Europe. Winchester’s first double guns were imported from England from 1879 to 1884, and Winchester would not begin making its own side-by-side shotguns until the introduction of the hammerless Model 21 in 1929.
Doubling Down From the 1870s until the turn of the century, the market for double guns in the U.S. flourished with models from Colt and Remington in addition to a wide variety of high-quality shotguns from Parker Brothers, L.C. Smith, Ithaca and, of course, the legendary Lefever, America’s first hammerless double-barrel shotgun patented by Baikal’s double guns are ruggedly built with solid break actions. The hammer ears on the MP-43KH (bottom) are nicely checkered. In the “safe” position, the tang-mounted safety exposes a steel ball bearing.
Daniel M. Lefever in 1880. So, lest we think the hammerless double gun is a 20th cenThe double-barrel shotgun was an essential tury invention, it is very much a part of the tool of the Western lawman from the time of the Civil War and throughout the remainder American West. of the 19th century. By the mid-1880s, there The Baikal double guns imported by were two types, the double hammer gun and Kalashnikov USA are not new to the marketthe hammerless shotgun, both reproduced place. In fact, Baikal (Izhevsky Mekhanichesky here by Baikal. (Holster by John Bianchi, Zavod) in Izhevsk, Russia, has been making brass shotshells courtesy Allegheny Trade Co.) shotguns since the 1940s. Both the doublebarrel hammer gun, the MP-43KH, which is actually the newer of the two, and the MP-43, used as a shotgun—many were—and those the company’s classic hammerless double dedicated for that use were generally referred gun, are ruggedly built, if not aesthetically to as fowling pieces. Flintlock double-barrel equal to finer (read: more expensive) double shotguns were developed in the 1700s, and guns in appearance. As one British reviewer by the early 1800s were being produced wrote of the MP-43, “The gun has quite a with percussion locks. Their use by U.S. and Baikal produces both the MP-43KH (left) modernistic appearance, the utilitarian look Confederate cavalry during the Civil War and MP-43 (right) with walnut or beech Baikal is famous for, but it is not ugly, just not made the shotgun an almost indispensable stocks and forends. The checkering on especially refined. Baikals may not be Purdeys military arm, and furthered its developtheir wrists and forends is nicely done. ment in the post-Civilor Hollands, but they War era. Both Colt, in have always had a good SPECIFICATIONS Hartford, Connecticut, reputation for reliability and its closest comand strength as well as petitor, E. Remington & offering great value.” Sons, in Ilion, New York, The MP-43KH, which offered double-barrel is based off of the MP-43, hammer guns beginwas added due to the ning in the 1870s, and demand for an authenGauge: 12 (2¾ -inch chamber) there were numerous tic Old West side-byBarrels: 20 inches • OA Length: 36 inches • Weight: 6.5 pounds (empty) imports from England side hammer gun, and Stock: Walnut or beech • Sights: Front bead • Action: Boxlock (where some of the finit’s the only Russian Finish: Blued • Capacity: 2-shot • MSRP: $539 est double guns in the quantity-produced sideworld were and are still by-side hammer gun on manufactured), as well the market. Baikal’s first
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hammerless model was one of the armsmaker’s great achievements in the postWWII era, when the company went from manufacturing military arms, including the famous Nagant revolver and TT pistol, to commercial arms. Exceptionally popular in Great Britain, Baikal’s hammerless double guns have been sold throughout Europe for more than 60 years. While using many of the same parts as the hammerless model, the MP-43KH’s exposed hammers not only recreate the look of a classic Old West shotgun but actually strike the firing pins instead of just activating an internal set of hammers. In this one respect, the MP-43 and MP-43KH are totally different guns. From the Old West point of view, the hammerless was late to the game but certainly was still a player in the last two decades of the 19th century. The Baikal hammer gun is only offered in 12 gauge, but the hammerless can be ordered in 12 or 20 gauge, the latter the chambering of choice for many bird hunters. Perhaps not so much here in the U.S., but in Europe, Baikals are known for reliability as “working guns,” so durability is not at question in either of these models. The Baikal shotguns use a rugged boxlock action based on the Anson and Deeley design, with
Exceptionally popular in Great Britain, Baikal’s hammerless double guns have been sold throughout Europe for more than 60 years.
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GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
BAIKAL SIDE-BY-SIDE SHOTGUNS
the hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrels using a monobloc and traditional Purdey double lumps beneath their flats. In terms of handling, the top-lever thumb-piece is a little small for my liking, as are the rabbit-ear-shaped hammers on the hammer gun, but they are easy enough to cock. The safety, which is also small in size and a little stiff, is otherwise positive in action and automatically sets when the top lever is moved. This engagement takes place whether or not the action is broken open to load or unload. The gun can be put on “safe” by simply moving the top lever slightly to the right. When in “safe,” a small steel ball bearing is revealed at the front; when pushed up to the “fire” position, a red dot shows at the base. The stock and splinter-type forend on The Baikal MP-43KH has an authentic feel and balance, and it was reasonably accurate during testing.
The double-barrel shotgun was fast to load. The Baikal MP-43KH’s action opens with modest effort, which should lessen with more use, and closes easily.
both guns have nicely figured walnut or beech of reasonable quality. My test MP-43KH hammer gun had dark brown walnut while the hammerless MP-43 had reddish blonde beech, both with satisfactorily applied machine checkering at the wrist and undersides of the forend. The MP-43KH has rebounding-type hammers with a half-cock setting. The one big advantage of the hammer gun is that it can be cocked or decocked without having to break open the action or dry firing. The receivers in both versions have blocking frames that restrict the forward movement of the firing pins until
the triggers are pulled, thus preventing an accidental discharge if the gun is dropped. The hammerless MP-43 came with 20inch, cylinder-bore barrels. The MP-43KH, also with 20-inch barrels, came with two sets of chokes, and I fired it with the full choke in the left and an improved modified in the right. Both shotguns can be had with fixed cylinder chokes or with the MC-3 interchangeable choke tube system. Both guns are chambered for 2¾-inch shells (3-inch shells for the 20 gauge) and have a length of pull that averages 14½ inches.
Range Time To get a feel for their points of aim and see how well their barrels were regulated, I S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
used Federal Truball low-recoil rifled slugs for my first test shots. The rest of the test was done firing Winchester Super-X No. 4 buckshot (27 pellets). Since we are talking Old West—more than hunting upland game birds—I fired both shotguns with the No. 4 buckshot at the recommended SASS maximum distance of 16 yards. The shotguns shoulder quickly, the front bead sight on the center rib is easy to pick up and, despite the hammer gun’s small hammer spurs, they cock easily; the hammerless, of course, does it for you, which is on the plus side for that design. In all other respects, the guns are pretty much equal, and it comes down to a matter of preference. Their trigger pulls were both heavy, with more effort required to trip the front trigger (right barrel) than the rear trigger on the hammerless model. Another point is the automatic safety. Personally, I prefer a manual safety, as having to reset the safety to fire on every reload slows you down. And, again, the safety is also small and requires extra effort to be pushed into the “fire” position. This was more bothersome on the hammer gun, since you can carry it loaded and decocked. While this is a safer design, it is an extra step every time you reload, and in competition it would
(Left) Daniel M. Lefever developed the hammerless design in 1880, and in 1949 Baikal released its hammerless double gun.
The Baikals are all the gun you would expect for the price, and just a bit more.
� “ � SUMMER 2015
(Above) Both models are boxlock designs. The MP-43KH’s exposed hammers recreate the look of a classic Old West shotgun and actually hit the firing pins instead of activating an internal set of hammers.
The greatest concentration of pellets (about 40 percent of those going downrange) hit within a 9-inch circumference. With these modern loads, the guns have a man-sized kick, but with lighter cowboy loads they would be a tad more peaceable. It is obvious why the hammerless 12 gauge (and certainly the 20 gauge) are so popular in Europe. The Baikals are all the gun you would expect for the price, and just a bit more. definitely cost you time. Both of the actions broke open and closed with moderate effort that would undoubtedly lessen over time with use. For new, out-of-the-box guns, the degree of effort was not remarkable. The barrel regulation and sighting test with slugs showed the guns hitting about 5 inches above the point of aim on a 36-inchdiameter target board at 16 yards. The right and left barrels struck an average of 6.95 inches apart at the point of impact. Switching to No. 4 buckshot, on average all 54 pellets (27 in each shell) struck within a 20-inch circumference just slightly left of the point of aim—and I probably caused that.
Final Notes With the MP-43KH and MP-43 priced at around at $539, they are a far cry from pricier British and Italian double guns and in line with the majority of other imported makes from China, about equal to the Stoeger doubles and several hundred less than the CZ Hammer Coach models made in Turkey. Overall, for the price, you can’t find a more ruggedly built side-by-side and with the hammerless version, a gun with a long and respectable history of its own to boot. For more information, visit kalashnikov-usa.com or call 215-949-9944. ✪ GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
T A C R A E B .22LR NEW
Smaller, lighter single-action rimfire has adjustable sights for better plinking and practice! BY DENIS PRISBREY
marketer extraordinaire, was a very astute businessman who fully understood the value of satisfying his customers. While his first attempt at producing a repeating handgun for the mass market failed, we all know the results of perseverance and the influence his single actions had on the Old West. Besides the innovation offered in a multi-shot handgun concept, a major part of his success was based on looking at what potential buyers needed and then meeting those needs. The famous Peacemaker wasn’t the keystone to Colt’s success as a company—it was all the smaller-caliber revolvers that preceded it. All sorts of gunners carried all sorts of gun sizes, and the .31s and .36s were highly regarded from the streets of New York through the riverboats of the Mississippi to the gold camps of California, even aside from military roles later on when the Civil War opened up. Colt’s reputation was solidly founded long before the big-bore .45 Colt came along; Sam gave his varied clientele a varied range of sizes and options, and they then bought by the wagonload. Why are we discussing Samuel Colt in a Ruger review? The single-action revolver is alive and well today due almost entirely to the two greatest names in the single-action game: Samuel Colt and William B. Ruger. Colt laid the foundation and Ruger modernized it. Bill Ruger was an equally savvy businessman and a very talented design engineer who, like Colt, also knew how important it was to understand his market. The company Ruger built on that idea is still riding the track he laid down, and there’s no question that a substantial part of the reason Sturm, Ruger & 36 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
Company is around today is the line of single actions developed in the 1950s to fill in the void left when Colt dropped production of its iconic hogleg. Those single-actions make up a sizable percentage of current Ruger production even in a modern era where the trends are so heavily skewed toward plastic, high-capacity, shoot-today-reload-tomorrow designs. Single actions are very much alive. That’s not merely tradition or because they look so natural riding under a Western hat. It’s because they’re strong and reliable guns that get the job done. Ruger’s catalog offers more single-action options today than Colt ever did during Samuel Colt’s heyday, and Ruger has not been at all shy about trying new variations on existing themes. One of the more interesting recent introductions came about because Lipsey’s worked with Ruger, again, and the result is a peachy little distributor-special New Bearcat in a long-overdue, adjustable-sighted package that boots Ruger’s smallest-framed single-action rimfire into entirely new territory as a shooter.
Bearcat Series One of Bill Ruger’s pet projects relatively early on in the company’s history, the Bearcat was announced in 1958, and since then the small-framed thumb-buster’s gone through several production phases and design changes, running from alloy frames in the first series, from 1958 to 1971, through steel frames in the second series as the Super Bearcat from 1971 to 1973, to the reintroduction in 1993 as the New Bearcat, with upgraded transfer-bar
S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
and ght, handy li , m ri T ) (1 ts, stable sigh ju d a g in rt spo earcat, uger New B LR, R t s te la e 2 th rounds of .2 packing six perfect trail gun. ea should mak lver features a o (2) The rev ont sight and a ams fr el. large Willi .2-inch barr stainless, 4 me rosewood dso (3) The han uger medallion. the R rear grips bear e adjustable nd th te o N ) (4 a ading gate right, the lo d cylinder. e the engrav
R UGER N EW B E A R CAT . 22 L R
the firing pin resting on a case rim or primer and without that transfer bar, common sense would dictate carrying the gun with only five rounds loaded and an empty chamber in front of the hammer. In that situation it’s convenient to be able to see at a sideways glance where the empty chamber is if you’ve lost track while loading, but it’s not necessary here. With the New Bearcat, it’s perfectly safe to carry the gun with six rounds in the cylinder, and you load by drawing the hammer to half-cock, opening the gate (which is not connected to the hammer or trigger operation in this gun), rotating the cylinder to line up a chamber in the gate While Ruger’s other New Bearcat models have fixed sights, this Lipsey’s exclusive has large, fully adjustable sights that make it easy to hit what you’re aiming at.
The wide hammer spur makes it easy to cock the Bearcat revolver, and Ruger’s transfer bar helps prevent accidental discharges.
lockwork and stainless steel as an alternative to Ruger managed to not only adapt the lockbluing for the first time. work to the transfer-bar safety system, but the All the way along, the idea was to create a company did it while retaining the traditional trim six-shooter in .22 LR for compact carry as half-cock loading process lost in all of the other a kit gun for times and places where anything single-action cartridge models in 1973. This bigger might be too big. The 4-inch barrel should help those who miss the older Ruger length was long a standard for regular-produc- action style feel a lot happier with the new one. tion Bearcats, along with a fixed front blade and the time-honored topstrap groove serving New Bearcat as the rear sight. While it never hit as many The New Bearcat is a 24-ounce six-shooter holsters as its bigger kin, the Single-Six rimfire with either a blued or stainless finish and a single actions, the Bearcat was always a fairly 4.2-inch barrel and Altamont hardwood grip steady seller while it was in production, and panels. It features the traditional bear and the reason it was dropped from Ruger’s lineup cat roll engraving on its cylinder, which has in 1973 wasn’t lack of interest—it was the new counter-sunk chambers and a raised “wall” cutout, closing the gate when you’ve got the transfer-bar lockwork introduced that year around the outside rim of the rear end. This chambers filled, drawing the hammer back among all of Ruger’s single-action cartridge- means there’s virtually zero chance of blowing fully and lowering it to rest. firing models. In an emerging era of personal debris out either side near the shooting hand A short note on that: This Bearcat uses a litigation blaming the maker for the buyer’s if you manage somehow to rupture a case on modified version of the old Colt action that’s a misuse, the transfer-bar design was devel- firing, which is a good thing, but it also means hybrid of the modern Ruger action, and even oped to reduce the likelihood of an accidental you can’t tell which chambers are loaded by with the transfer bar you need to watch what discharge, and while the redesign was fairly looking through the frame from the side. If you’re doing while loading it. If you load all easy to incorporate into the bigger models, it this gun was the traditional older design, with six on half-cock, you can lower the hammer wasn’t considered practifrom that half-cock posiSPECIFICATIONS tion by drawing it back cal in the little Bearcat, with its scaled-down inslightly, pulling the trigger ternals. There’s only so and guiding the hammer much room to tweak and down to rest. If you do twiddle in there. it that way, the cylinder won’t lock up—you’ll Fortunately, wishes, cards, letters, emails and have to rotate it by hand internet forums all kept until it does—and the up interest and demand cylinder latch will enthuCaliber: .22 LR • Barrel: 4.2 inches siastically engrave a drag over the next 20 years, and OA Length: 9 inches • Weight: 24 ounces line around the cylinder. when the New Bearcat was Doing it “Colt style,” by released in 1993, we got a Grips: Hardwood • Sights: Front blade, adjustable rear drawing the hammer fully choice of finishes and the Action: SA • Finish: Stainless • Capacity: 6-shot • MSRP: $619 back, pulling the trigger new upgraded lockwork, with your thumb controlwhich was a double bonus.
Ruger New Bearcat
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ling the hammer and the PERFORMANCE muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and lowering the hammer to rest, leaves the cylinder locked and Load Velocity Accuracy less likely to leave a deep drag line. Federal 40 Game-Shok 960 2.31 The Bearcat’s always Remington 36 Golden Bullet HP 940 2.31 had its own character, and Remington 40 Target 850 2.50 the wide hammer spur Winchester 36 Super-X 895 2.50 and offset Colt-style narrow trigger combine with Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by a Remington-style grip chronograph, and accuracy in inches for best frame arch to keep that five-shot groups at 25 yards. character going. Unlike the bigger single actions, the Bearcat doesn’t use a main frame with a separate bolt-on grip that transfer bar inside such a small envelope. For 2015, Lipsey’s has worked with Ruger frame; the frame is a one-piece unit that extends all the way from the front to the bot- to produce an actual adjustable-sighted vertom of the grip panels as a single unit, with sion, and for me, this is where the little blaster just the triggerguard dropping out of the gets truly interesting. Until now, for all of its bottom for internal access. Besides drawing 57-year history, the Bearcat used fixed sights the obvious “Aw, ain’t it cute!” commentary, dating back to the early 1800s in configurathere’s a hell of a lot of impressive engineering tion, and while those were rugged, they were in this little package, to fit a full six rounds and neither the most visible nor the most practi-
cal in matching up with various rimfire loads. The collaboration between the two companies combines a tall black Williams front blade made for this gun with the fully adjustable rear sight of the recent SP101 series of revolvers, and that makes it easy to zero with everything from .22 Short rounds to your favorite high-velocity .22 LR loads. According to Ruger, the company had gotten steady requests for adjustable sights on the Bearcat over the years, but it was the development of the SP101 rear sight assembly that could easily translate over without requiring a substantial redesign or parts inventory that made it practical, and Ruger’s designers were able to use the same existing frame casting molds of the fixedsight Bearcat by creating an insert inside the molds to adapt the casting dimensions
Ruger New Bearcat .22 LR
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
R U G E R NE W B E A RC AT . 2 2 L R
The single-action New Bearcat features a narrow, Colt-style, offset trigger to enhance its downrange precision.
in the sight area, and cutting the resulting raw frame casting differently. By using an existing sight already in inventory, and not having to order expensive new molds just for this model, Ruger’s engineers were able to make the Lipsey’s exclusive practical in terms of development costs, and the result is even more impressive engineering in this model.
Range Time Adding adjustable sights to the little New Bearcat turns it into a fully viable trail gun for hunting and camp use, and a near-perfect plinker and learning tool for introducing smaller hands to rimfire shooting for either recreation in itself or as a base for moving on up into the bigger calibers. The dimensions are ideal for young hands, the hammer’s easy for small thumbs to cock, and it can still grow up right along with its owner. Out of the box, at 25 yards, the trigger broke at a consistent 4.75 pounds and the action was a little rough initially before smoothing up with wear, but the New Bearcat was already sighted in well enough to just get to work as it came, and that black-on-black sight picture was much clearer than stainless-on-stainless. Three solids and one hollow point later, the gun had produced an unusual number of five-shot best groups at exactly 2.31 inches with two of those loads, and it punched best groups of 2.5 inches each with the other two. I couldn’t manage that with the last fixedsight New Bearcat I worked with, and while the new sights do clutter up the graceful lines of the standard New Bearcat, if you want to hit what you point at, this Lipsey’s version is well worth the tradeoff. I can see this one going into Ruger’s regular catalog before too long, but I’d pick one up now just in case. For more information, visit ruger.com. ✪ 40 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
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GREAT ENGRAVED WESTERN
Recreating classic American revolvers is only half the story!
BY DENNIS ADLER AS FAR BACK as the late 1580s, engravers were embellishing firearms.
Wheellock pistols and muskets were among the very first, each unique to the craftsman who engraved them. But by the mid to late 1600s, engravers were beginning to record their work in pattern books. As noted by historian R.L. Wilson in Steel Canvas, “In 1684 French engraver Claude Simonin published a book of his engraving patterns comprised of designs that could be adapted to deluxe flintlock firearms, thus allowing engravers the advantage of sources to copy.” The pattern books of 19th century engravers, particularly the works of Gustave Young and Louis Daniel Nimschke, have long been the source of designs for 20th and 21st century engravers, as have the guns themselves. Within the world of firearms engraving, there are some constants in the established patterns used by the vast majority of engravers: foliate designs, scrollwork of various sizes, the popular banknote scroll, the classic French fleur de lis motif, barrel bands (also referred to S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
For enthusia sts of engrav ed 19th centu Remington a ry Colt, nd S&W revo lvers, these the most pop a re ular: (from le ft to right) Co among generation 1 lt s 860 Army an d Colt 1851 N econdto bottom) Te a vy; (top d S&W Schofie dy Roosevelt’s Colt 1873 ld, Colt Nims SAA, chke-style S Vaquero don AA, Ruger e in the Colt engra Dassa Cattle brand; and (l ving style, Pietta e Remington A rmy and Colt ft to right) Uberti Third Model Dragoon.
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Tiffany & Company and other prominent 19th century retailers. The Nimschke pattern books are regarded as among the most influential today.
Modern Interpretations All of the guns pictured in this article are recent—“recent” meaning within the last quarter century. They are reproductions of classic Colt, Remington and Smith & Wesson revolvers that have been period
Engraved by John J. Adams, Sr., this is a Colt SAA in .45 Colt done in the exact style and two-tone gold and nickel finish of an original engraved by L.D. Nimschke in the 1870s.
by engravers as “wedding bands”) and, of course, the use of animal heads and animals, often hunting dogs, which can be traced back to the 1600s. Though many of these design motifs were well established in the 1700s, it was Gustave Young, Samuel Colt’s first master factory engraver, who brought so much of it together in his early presentation Colt revolvers. Young remained at Colt from 1852 to 1871, when he left to establish his own shop in Springfield, Massachusetts. His replacement was Cuno A. Helfricht, the son of Colt stock-maker and engraver Charles J. Helfricht. His work advanced the designs forged by Young, and along with his own variations and patterns, he remained in
charge of Colt’s engraving department for a remarkable 50 years! There are more Helfricht-engraved Colts today than any other. Of course, neither Young nor Helfricht worked alone; they had family members. Young had his sons, Eugene and Oscar, along with a staff of journeyman engravers and assistants. Colt, along with other arms-makers like Smith & Wesson, Remington and Winchester (which had its own in-house engraving department run by the Ulrich family), also used the services of independent engravers like New York’s renowned Louis Daniel Nimschke. The Nimschke shop established what is known as the New York style of engraving, which was famously sold through Schulyer, Hartley & Graham,
Among the most famous of Colt Single Action Army models was the gun carried by Theodore Roosevelt during his days on the American frontier. The original gun was engraved by L.D. Nimschke through Hartley & Graham in 1888. It is accurately reproduced here by John J. Adams, Sr., while 45 Maker made the Roosevelt holster replica. 44 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
This trio of Colt second-generation capand-ball models represents the work of four legendary engravers: A.A. White, Andrew Bourbon, John J. Adams, Sr., and Ken Hurst. From top to bottom: a Third Model Dragoon engraved by White in 1997 in the Gustave Young style, an 1860 Army by Adams, Sr., based on the Colt presentation revolver given to General Grant, and a Robert E. Lee tribute second-generation Colt 1851 Navy engraved by Ken Hurst.
engraved in the styles of Young, Nimschke and Helfricht. Original guns bearing their work have increased so much in value over the last 150 years that today most can only be found in the collections of major firearms museums like the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles, California, the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and in private S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
Created by John J. Adams, Jr., for this article, the new 4-5/8-inchbarreled Ruger Vaquero is done in the Nimschke and Helfricht engraving styles with a two-tone gold and nickel finish and gold-plated, steer-head, cast-metal grips. This is a one-of-a-kind Ruger Vaquero with a tuned action custom fitted by Adams & Adams. (Holster by Chisholm’s Trail.)
collections. Every year, a handful come up at auctions and disappear again into private collections. For the rest of the world, owning a fine quality reproduction of these legendary engraved arms, some costing from $5,000 to $10,000 or more, can be no finer compliment to the works of the 19th century masters. Over the past 18 years, many of the finest reproductions of famous Colt, Remington
and S&W revolvers have been engraved by a small circle of craftsmen specializing in the classic styles, including John J. Adams, Sr., and John J. Adams, Jr., of Adams & Adams; Andrew Bourbon and his mentor, the late Alvin A. White of A.A. White Engraving; the legendary Ken Hurst; and respected craftsmen like Conrad Anderson (famous for the Happy Tails Children’s Foundation’s Silver Screen Legend series of guns) and noted Massachusetts engraver John K. Pease, among others. Adams & Adams, Hurst and Bourbon have also all worked at various times for the Colt Custom Shop, producing some of the finest work to
While Colt single actions presented one of the finest canvases for the engraver’s art, the S&W Schofield (this set from the limited edition produced by S&W) provided more flat surfaces for engravers to work on. This matched pair by master engraver John K. Pease was done for collector Ricky Biagi and represents one of the finest Schofield sets done on the modern S&W copies. SUMMER 2015
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
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Remington Army and Navy models were also popularly engraved in the period of the Civil War. Here Conrad Anderson has duplicated several well-known patterns specific to Remington models of the 1860s.
Italian engravers rarely work in the American style, but the Dassa Brothers are the exception. This is their latest tribute to the Old West, a single action done in the Cole Agee Cattlebrand motif with 100-percent coverage and a punch-dot background.
come from that historic institution. Adams & Adams and John Pease have also worked for Smith & Wesson, Pease being an inhouse engraver in 2005 as well as doing work for S&W since 1995. Several of the guns pictured in this article have also been featured in books. The second-generation Colt Third Model Dragoon
engraved by A.A. White was shown in R.L. Wilson’s The Colt Engraving Book Vol. 2 (2003). The John J. Adams, Sr., 7½-inch-barreled Colt SAA was on the cover of my book, Colt: 175 Years (2012), and the Tiffany & Co. 1860 Army pair by Andrew Bourbon has been in R.L. Wilson’s Fine Colts (1999) as well as my own Colt Single Action: From Patersons
to Peacemakers (2007). Why these guns and so many others have become noteworthy is not for the guns themselves, though they are significant in their own right, but rather for the men who engraved them and turned cold steel into an artistic masterpiece. Over the decades since Colt began remanufacturing models from the 19th century and continuing its production of the 1873 Peacemaker, thousands of extraordinary hand-engraved guns have been produced. Many of the finest were done by contemporary artisans such as Alvin A. White, Andrew Bourbon, Winston Churchill, Howard Dove, John J. Adams, Sr. (who first started to work full time for Colt as a freelance engraver in 1976), Ken Hurst, George Spring, Denise Thirion, Leonard Francolini and K.C. Hunt, among others. Today, their early works can command almost as much as some 19th and early 20th century originals!
Unique Arms There is one other constant to be mentioned in the history of firearms en(Far left) The late Alvin A. White was considered the Gustave Young of the 20th century. He began working in the late 1940s and continued to engrave well into his 80s. In this Colt Dragoon barrel lug engraved by White, you can seen the traditional vine scrolls used by Young and a wolf’s head characteristic of Young’s finest work. (Left) This second-generation 1851 Navy was a one-off project by Ken Hurst in 2004 with intricate vine-scroll engraving based on Lee’s own gun, thin 24-karat gold wire outlines of the frame and cylinder, and a casehardened frame, hammer and loading lever by Turnbull. The final feature was the 24-karat gold bust of Lee created by Andrew Bourbon and inset into the left recoil shield.
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To honor the Civil War Sesquicentennial from 2011 to 2015, John J. Adams created a limited edition of Colt 1860 Army revolvers to engrave in dual patterns for the North and South, with the engraving and grips on each side of the gun reflecting the Union and Confederacy. Commissioned under the Tiffany & Company name in 1992 and designed by Tom Watts, this pair of handcrafted Colt 1860 Army revolvers took master engraver Andrew Bourbon six months to complete. The intricate design incorporated the use of engraving, casting and ceramitation to create the flags draping over the top of the guns.
graving: the timeless desire of collectors and arms enthusiasts to own something unique. Call it functional fine art, and no other implement of mankind better fits that description than an engraved gun. In the 21st century, 19th century Colts, Remingtons and other historic American
arms are still being engraved in the same styles and in the same way as they were more than 150 years ago. When it comes to hand engraving, very little has changed since Gustave Young and L.D. Nimschke picked up their tools and began carving into metal. Thanks to the artisans who continue this time-honored practice, the guns of the Old West, the famous men who created them and the historic figures who put them to use remain a truly American heritage. ✪
FOR MORE j
CONTACT: Adams & Adams
208-682-4334 Andrew Bourbon
508-896-5159 Colt Custom Shop
John K. Pease Engraving
EAA BOUNTY ------------B Y S C O T T W. W A G N E R
An affordable SAA replica
The Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army, also known as the Peacemaker, and its myriad of modern-day clones, is the most enduring handgun design anywhere. It is the gun that helped “win the West” and made “all men equal.” Now in its 142nd year of existence, an original Colt SAA—or even a currently manufactured Colt SAA—is still a highly sought after handgun by enthusiasts who enjoy of this timeless combat firearm. However, it’s not often you’ll see the new-production Colts in a gun shop, and when you do, their prices range anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 or more. Once a working gun for working people, Colt SAA revolvers are now the purview of collectors and are too valuable to see the service that they were originally designed for. Fortunately, due in large part to the continuing popularity of classic Western dramas still being shown on cable 48 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
offers the EAA Corp. uted Bounty nicely-exec le-action in Hunter sing .357 Mag R, .22 LR/WM 4 Mag (shown), .4 lt. and .45 Co S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
HUNTER --------------. 357 MAG
you can actually use IN THE BACKCOUNTRY!
and satellite TV, and of course the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS), there are a large number of Colt SAA clones available, including those made by Ruger. These replicas of the SAA allow enthusiasts to own a mostly historically accurate (or at least functionally similar) handgun at an affordable price and actually use it for many of the tasks that the original Colt was designed for. The Bounty Hunter from European American Armory (EAA) Corporation is one of those replicas. While Italy has been the leader in supplying replica Western arms, they are not the only source. Weihrauch of Germany makes the Bounty Hunter revolvers for EAA, and together they have done a pretty fine job of providing the market with good-quality, affordable clones that are just begging to be taken out and shot.
Gun Details EAA sent me a blued, 4½-inch-barreled, .357 Mag Bounty Hunter to evaluate. Other models are available in .44 Mag and .45 Colt, and the company also offers versions in .22 LR and .22 WMR built on the same full-sized frame. Depending on caliber, barrels are available in 4½-, 4¾-, 6¾- and 7½-inch lengths. SUMMER 2015
While my test revolver had all blued steel, EAA also offers Bounty Hunters with blued barrels and color-casehardened frames as well as those with a bright nickel finish. The blued Bounty Hunter is well executed. It features traditional fixed sights, oil-finished walnut grips and, important for modern users, a transfer bar safety system. The transfer bar system prevents a round from being discharged unless the trigger is held to the rear as the hammer strikes the transfer bar. This means that the Bounty Hunter, unlike original Colt SAAs or certain clones, can be safely carried with the cylinder loaded with six rounds. There is no need to keep an empty round under the hammer. There is a “resting notch” position that the hammer must be drawn back to when loading and unloading. It allows the cylinder to rotate to the proper position for loading or ejecting. When in this position, the cylinder charge holes rotate to a position in the center of the charging gate recess. To carry the Bounty Hunter, I used an El Paso Saddlery Crosshair open-top concealment belt holster. The Crosshair features a tension screw for adjusting the fit and retention as well as 1½-inch belt slots, which work well with heavy-lined trouser GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
EAA BOUNTY HUNTER .357 MAG
The Bounty Hunter utilizes a transfer-bar safety system with a floating firing pin that is visible at full-cock (left). At half-cock (right), the revolver is ready for loading.
belts. The holster’s flat-back construction helps hold the bulk of the gun away from the body. Hand boning, part of the retention system, assures the gun fits properly. Available in plain black or russet, with floral, basket, border or fishtale stamping as additional options, the Crosshair carried the Bounty Hunter comfortably and in a position that allows easy concealment under a jacket or coat.
jacketed-soft-point (JSP) flat-nose bullet. If you have never handled an SAA-type revolver, I think you are in for a nice surprise. While SAAs are slow to load and unload by modern double-action revolver standards, and certainly by semi-auto pistol standards, there is still some fight left in the old girl. The Bounty Hunter’s weight of 43.2 ounces, combined with its “plow-handle” Colt-style grip, allows the gun to roll gently upward with recoil, all the while staying under control. I started out by shooting the .38 Special load first. Rated at 770 fps, my chronograph
Firing revealed a positive and properly timed cylinder lockup, with no evidence of cylinder drag etching a line in the bluing. When cocked, the cylinder locks up tightly, with little perceptible wobble. I picked two representative loads in .357 Mag and .38 Special from Federal American Eagle. SPECIFICATIONS Both loads are capped with 158-grain bullets, the original weight used in both calibers, and it’s Caliber: .357 Mag the weight most likely to Barrel: 4½ inches shoot closest to the point OA Length: 10½ inches of aim. The .38 Special Weight: 43.2 pounds (empty) used the original-style Grips: Walnut • Sights: Fixed • Action: SA lead round-nose (LRN) bullet. The .357 Mag Finish: Blued • Capacity: 6-shot • MSRP: $480 load was topped with a more modern 158-grain
EAA Bounty Hunter
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showed the actual velocity from the 4½-inch barrel running between 734 and 748 fps. At the top end, this yields 196 fpe at the muzzle—still powerful enough for self-defense (yes, I know the round-nose slug is less than ideal). There was no recoil. It was like shooting a .22, but with more noise. The rounds easily stayed on target even when shooting rapidly. At 30 feet, my groups averaged close to 1.5 inches, centered slightly low and to the left of the point of aim. All rounds ejected easily or simply fell clear when the gun was held directly vertical. I then moved up to the .357 Mag rounds. Federal’s ballistics tables rate this load as having a velocity of 1,240 fps. This time the tables were a bit short of the velocities
The revolver is outfitted with walnut grips that match the shape and size of the original Colt Single Action Army’s.
shown on my chronograph, which ranged from 1,245 fps to 1,257 fps and yielded 554 fpe at the top end. While the muzzle rise was noticeable along with the muzzle blast, the natural roll and gun weight kept the experience from being painful at all. With the .357 Mag load, I was able to produce a 2.5-inch average group size at 30 feet. Again, this group was slightly low and to the left of the point of aim. While I knew I was shooting a round generating almost three times the energy of the 158S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
Like the original SAA, the Bounty Hunter uses fixed sights, including a notch cut into the topstrap that serves as a rear sight.
grain .38 Special, it just didn’t feel like it, and the Bounty Hunter was still reasonably controllable. The testing caused me to think. It’s too bad for the frontiersmen of the 1870s that smokeless powder and modern metallurgy skills didn’t allow the .357 Mag to be available in those days. What a great combo that cartridge would have been back then. Flatter shooting with more kinetic energy than other pistol rounds available in the day, it would have given folks in the Old West extended range and power when facing large, angry animals or large, angry men. It’s nice that today’s “frontiersmen” and shooting enthusiasts can take advantage of this combo today by matching up a handgun like the EAA Bounty Hunter and a great leveraction carbine like the Henry Big Boy .357. If the .357 doesn’t provide enough oomph
The barrel of the .357 Magnum Bounty Hunter is nicely finished and crowned. Note the revolver’s large front sight blade and full-length ejector rod assembly.
for you, especially if you live in some place like Alaska, where those large, angry animals also tend to be hungry, then bump up to the .44 Magnum version if you wish, and consider nickel plating for protection against the weather. (One tip about nickel plating: It is a great finish when done properly, with much more eye appeal than stainless steel, and provides excellent rust resistance. Do not, however, let a nickel-finished gun soak for a long period in Hoppe’s No. 9 or a similar solvent. Hoppe’s can peel the finish away after long-term exposure. You can use it; just wipe it off the nickel surfaces when done.)
The Bounty Hunter’s weight of 43.2 ounces, combined with its ‘plow-handle’ Colt-style grip, allows the gun to roll gently upward with recoil, all the while staying under control.
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
EAA BOUNTY HUNTER .357 MAG
The only other issues are cosmetic. With an MSRP of $480, the Bounty Hunter is inexpensive but not exactly cheap. For that price, I felt that the walnut grips could match up better with the frame. There were portions that stood proud above the frame near the base of the grip. Other cosmetic issues deal with informative markings on the gun itself. German law may require these marks, but they still slightly affect
The EAA Bounty Hunter’s metal components have a durable blued finish that should stand up well to backwoods trail use. Note the “.357 Mag” stamping on the cylinder.
Final Notes Any downsides to the EAA Bounty Hunter? Yes, there are a few that are relatively minor. The first is the issue with the sights. All SAA-type revolvers are prone to this issue. If I were to keep this piece, I would either find a competent gunsmith to bend the sight slightly to fix the windage issue or simply use “Kentucky windage” and hold the gun slightly to the right of the point of aim. There are three fixes for elevation. The easiest fix is to find a load whose velocity matches up with the sights and stick with that particular round for important uses. Or you can have the gunsmith file the front sight down a bit, or apply “Kentucky elevation” and hold the sights a bit high. In any event, the sights were only slightly off. Shots fired without Kentucky assistance would likely still be effective.
The author printed this tight 1.5-inch cluster at 30 feet with the 158-grain, .38 Special Federal American Eagle LRN load.
El Paso Saddlery’s Crosshair Concealment holster turned out to be an excellent companion for the EAA Bounty Hunter.
EAA Bounty Hunter .38 Special Federal American Eagle 158 LRN
.357 Mag Federal American Eagle 158 JSP
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph, and accuracy in inches for five-shot groups at 30 feet.
52 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
the overall appearance. The cylinder has the markings “.357 Mag” and “Weihrauch” stamped in, which detracts from the nice bluing on the cylinder. The barrel also contains the “Ruger warning” about reading the instruction manual first in a font that could be smaller. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s noticeable. Also, there is some mismatching of the blue color between the triggerguard and grip frame (which is made from a nonferrous alloy), and the steel of the rest of the frame, barrel and cylinder. Even with these minor issues, the Bounty Hunter is a good buy for those looking for a Colt clone to actually shoot and wear outdoors. It is a fun shooter to take to the range, and it has enough solid utility to wear around the ranch or in the backwoods. If you are looking for a single action like that, take a look at the EAA Bounty Hunter line. For more information, visit eaacorp. com or call 321-639-4842. ✪ S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
10 Bowie Knives (continued from page 15)
TOPS Longhorn Bowie The Longhorn Bowie from TOPS can handle any camp chore and more. The full-tang, 6.8-inch blade features a classic clip point. The top of the tang has thumb grooves for a sure grip. The finger choil allows you to choke up on the handle to get small work done when needed. The handle is made of linen Micarta, with a grooved Rocky Mountain tread texture for extra grip when getting through heavy work. (topsknives.com; 208-542-0113)
W.R. Case & Sons Bowie W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery offers several Bowie knives with 9.5-inch, clip-point blades that you can almost shave with, including the #2000 model shown. The taper-ground blade is rugged and holds an edge. The polished brass guard and white polymer handle, which looks like ivory, gives this Bowie a distinctly classic look. The Case Bowie comes with a leather sheath and, like all Case knives, this Bowie is manufactured in Pennsylvania. (wrcase.com; 800-523-6350) ✪
The Case #2000 Bowie features a taper-ground blade, a polished brass crossguard and a faux-ivory handle.
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
PRINGFIELD S MODEL
BY TODD G. LOFGREN
OST MAJOR ADVANCEMENTS IN WEAPONRY OWE THEIR EXISTENCE TO WAR. The American Civil War, fought primarily with single-shot, muzzle-loading muskets, ended with the U.S. government’s desire to equip its future military with a more efficient and technologically advanced breech-loading arm utilizing the evolutionary, fully self-contained metallic cartridge. Although as many as 19 different types of breech-loading arms were utilized by both sides during this conflict, most were found lacking in reliability and power under combat
conditions. This—coupled with the fact that the U.S. government found itself at war’s end in possession of over a million perfectly serviceable, but militarily obsolete, .58 caliber Springfield muzzleloading rifle-muskets—led the chief of ordnance in mid-1865 to direct the master armorer at
The S was a t pringfield Mo r firearm ansitional bre del 1866 ec m from th ade for the U h-loading . e S. mili remn rifle-m uskets ants of .58 ca tary used in li the Civ ber il War.
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Trapdoor infantry rifle paved the way for future U.S. military arms!
the Springfield Armory, Erskine S. Allin, to devise a method for turning these rifle-muskets into breech-loading weapons capable of firing a self-contained metallic cartridge approximating the power of the original Springfield arm. The intent was not only to upgrade and modernize the government’s weaponry, but also to standardize it in terms of weapon type and caliber for use by both infantry and mounted troops alike.
Photos courtesy of Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY, USA; Museum Purchase, 1998.2.1
By late 1865, Allin had developed and patented his system for converting the front-loading Springfield to a breechloader by use of a hinged breechblock that fit into a milled-out recess at the musket’s breech and was held in place initially with a single screw and solder. This hinged breechblock was designed to tip up and forward upon opening, exposing the chamber for loading and unloading, and it was held closed for firing by a thumb-operated cam latch located at the rear and right side of the block. Because of the way it looked and operated, this system became known as the “Trapdoor” Springfield. This conversion, designated the “U.S. Rifle Model 1865,” used a newly developed, copper-cased, rimfire cartridge designed to
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S PR I N GF I EL D M O D E L 18 6 6
accurate than its predecessor, but also one capable of a much flatter trajectory as well.
Gun Details I was recently fortunate to loan a really nice Model 1866 for this article. According to all of the literature I’ve consulted, this rifle is in “as-issued” condition, having all of the characteristics of this limited-production arm. Like the Model 1865, the Model 1866 was unserialized, yet I was able to pinpoint its date of manufacture as being within a two-year period due to the fact that it was only made during 1866 and 1867 when, based on additional changes, it morphed into the Model 1868. Trapdoor conversions from the Model 1868 on were serialized. My loaner rifle is in remarkably good shape for its age. Its barrel measures exactly 40 inches overall when the portion occuThe author loaned a Model 1866 with a Civil War-era bayonet, a period leather cartridge box, a box of early .50-70 blackpowder cartridges and the reloads used for testing.
utilize the musket’s original bore size of 0.58 inches, firing a 480-grain, conical-shaped bullet propelled by a 60-grain charge of black powder. This resulted in a muzzle velocity out of the Springfield’s original 40-inch barrel of some 1,150 fps. A trial lot of 5,000 Allin conversions were built, but subsequent field-testing revealed several deficiencies in both arm and ammo. Based on the recommendations from Allin conversions used Civil War locks (left). With the “trapdoor” open (right), you can see the its testing in the field, several modifications breechblock’s underside, which is blue/black from being casehardened and quenched in oil. were undertaken on the Model 1865 and introduced a year later, resulting in the 2nd the length of the original Civil War barrels pied by its new breechblock is included in Model Allin conversion, or the Model 1866. from which they were made—the actual its measurement, or right at 36-5/8 inches Most notably was its caliber change from .58 barrel length, when properly measured from when a tape is dropped down its muzzle rimfire to .50 centerfire. To accommodate the muzzle to the new breech face in the until it contacts the face of its new breech. this smaller caliber, original .58 caliber 1863 Model 1866, was 36-5/8 inches. This change A close look of the muzzle of this arm conmusket barrels were drilled out to accept a in caliber resulted in an arm not only more firms the presence of the liner that was used steel or iron tube, which to reduce the size of its was brazed in place and original bore from .58 SPECIFICATIONS then rifled. This new cento .50 caliber. The inside of the barrel on this parterfire cartridge fired a ticular rifle is in amaz450-grain lead projectile ingly good shape, showpropelled by 70 grains ing strong three-land of black powder to a and three-groove rifling, velocity of around 1,240 Caliber: .50-70 Government and there are only a few fps. It became known as Barrel: 36-5/8 inches • OA Length: 55-7/8 inches • Weight: 9.4 pounds (empty) areas of light pitting in the .50-70 Government. Stock: American walnut • Sights: Front blade, folding leaf rear • Action: Trapdoor an otherwise shiny bore. Although both the 1st Finish: National Armory bright/casehardened • Capacity: 1 As is common to and 2nd Model Allins this model, the barrel were often recorded as is secured to the stock having 40-inch barrels—
Springfield Model 1866
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using three oval barrel bands held in place by band springs. A sling swivel is attached to the center band and is used in conjunction with a second swivel affixed to the front of the triggerguard bow. The finish on all mountings and other metal parts, save for its new breechblock, lock and hammer, remain “National Armory bright” (brightly polished), as found on the original 1863 musket. Its new breechblock, although now shiny, retains little of its original black finish caused by its casehardening and quenching in oil. Much of this black finish, however, remains on the underside of the block. The lockplate and hammer originally wore bright, colorful casehardening, created by its quenching in water, but this has long disappeared due to use and the passage of time. Markings on the 1866’s breechblock include the year 1866 and an eagle’s head located just behind the hinge. The front part of the hinge is fastened to the barrel using two screws as well as soft soldering. The 2nd Model Allin’s lockplate retains its standard Civil War markings of an eagle and “U.S. Springfield” in front of the hammer and the year 1864 stamped to the rear of its hammer. The Model 1866 wears a two-piece triggerguard assembly—typical for this vintage Springfield—and its trigger is smooth-faced. A screw-in, metal-slotted ramrod rides in a trough in the stock below the barrel. The American walnut stock on the Model 1866 (donor wood from earlier arms) is of the full-length military pattern, coming to within about 3 inches of the muzzle and ending
in an iron forend cap. A cartouche bearing the initials of Erskine S. Allin is still readable on the left side of the stock, just behind the rear lockplate screw. The buttstock ends in a U.S.-marked iron buttplate. The wood on my loaner rifle is still quite sound and devoid of any cracks or major dings. The sights on the Model 1866 consist of a rear folding leaf, with both open notches and
apertures, paired to a front blade on a stud that also serves as the anchor for a triangular Civil War-pattern bayonet. The overall length of the Model 1866 measured 55-7/8 inches, and it weighed in at 9.4 pounds unloaded. The trigger broke with just a little creep at a manageable 5 pounds. This is a nicely preserved example of a Model 1866, and I was looking forward to shooting it.
The Model 1866 featured a two-position rear sight with an aperture blade that was easy to raise (bottom) and lower (top).
Developed in 1866 at the Frankford Arsenal especially for the 2nd Model Allin conversion, the .50-70 Government was the first centerfire cartridge to be put in general use by the U.S. military, and it remained the official U.S. chambering from its introduction in 1866 until it was superseded in 1873 by the .45-70 cartridge. In its original form, the .50-70 fired a 450-grain lead bullet powered by 70 grains of black powder, producing a velocity of around 1,240 fps from the long barrel of the Model 1866. Fortunate for me, the owner of my loaner rifle also provided me with loading dies, cast bullets, a wad punch and some recently manufactured, unprimed .50-70 brass cases. Although this round has been technically obsolete since the turn of the 20th century, reloadable, boxer-primed cases are currently available from several sources like Dixie Gun Works and Starline. With cases sized and belled, and primed with Winchester Magnum large rifle primers, I added 63 grains (by weight) of Goex FFG black powder to each case using a
The intent was not only to upgrade and modernize the government’s weaponry, but also to standardize it in terms of weapon type and caliber for use by both infantry and mounted troops alike.
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S PR I N GF I EL D M O D E L 18 6 6
The .45-70 cartridge (left, with bullet) replaced the Model 1866’s .50-70 (right) in U.S. military service in 1873.
30-inch drop tube. I then placed a 0.028-inch cardboard-over-powder wad, punched from writing tablet backing, in each case, over the powder followed by one of the unsized cast bullets I’d been provided. These were cast from a Lyman #509133 mold from a 1-to-
sion of the powder charge, ensuring that all airspace was eliminated within the case.
Range Time With a couple of colorful 12-inch bullseye targets set out at 50 yards and the rifle settled into a sandbagged rest, I aligned the sights on my left-sided target. Expecting this rifle to shoot high at this distance, I took a 6 o’clock hold on the bullseye. At the rifle’s report, a big cloud of smoke obscured the target for a few seconds (there was no wind—the blackpowder shooter’s bane), but when the smoke cleared, I could see a rather
The year “1866” and a bird are stamped on top of the rifle’s breechblock, just ahead of the trapdoor’s hinge.
20 mixture of lead and tin and weighed 438 grains, measuring 0.512 inches as they came from the mold. Prior to seating, I handlubed each bullet with a liberal smearing of SPG bullet lube, ensuring that all three lube grooves were filled. The bullets were then seated to a depth that covered all of the lube grooves and provided for a slight compres58 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
The 1866’s front sling swivel is attached to the center barrel band, which has a polished “National Armory bright” finish.
big hole almost dead-center in my target. Two more rounds formed a most satisfying, perfectly centered 1.4-inch group. A second three-shot group at this same distance measured 1.43 inches. Impressive! The recoil was nothing more than a modest shove, and the velocities of these first six rounds measured a very consistent 1,227 to 1,242 fps. Using this same 6 o’clock hold, I was able to put three of the 438-grain slugs into a group measuring 4.25 inches at the 100-yard mark. Pretty impressive accuracy for a 149-year-old rifle! During the seven years it was officially issued by the U.S. Army, the .50-70 cartridge proved to be an effective round. Used during the Indian Wars and by many buffalo hunters, it was also chambered by Remington in its Rolling Block rifles and by Sharps in the conversion of its earlier percussion carbines and later in its sporting rifles. General George Custer and Buffalo Bill Cody were two of its fans. Although produced for only two years, nonetheless some 25,000 Model 1866s were made. Further improvements on this design led to the Models of 1868 and 1870, and to the introduction of arms configured as carbines and cadet models. It was the platform that introduced the .50-70 cartridge, and it was another step in the evolutionary process that led to the famous Springfield Model 1873 and the .45-70 cartridge it chambered. These remained the official U.S. military long arm and cartridge from 1873 until 1892, when both were replaced by the Krag-Jorgensen bolt action chambered for the .30 Army (.30-40 Krag), the first ever small-caliber, smokeless-powder cartridge ever adopted by the U.S. ✪ S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
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14. How do you rate yourself as a shooter? Experienced Active Novice 15. How many handguns do you own? None 5 – 9 1 10 – 19 2 20 – 49 3 – 4 50 or more 16. Have you had any custom work performed on any handguns you currently own? Yes No 17.Do you plan on customizing any of your handguns? Yes No 18.Which manufacturer and caliber of handguns do you currently own or plan to purchase. Manufacturer Caliber Currently Plan Autopistol own to buy __________ __________ __________ __________ __________
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Wild Bunch Gear (continued from page 16)
to hang on my Wild Bunch rig, I discovered the company’s new 1917 Frontier Bowie knife. This is a massive knife, measuring 17-5/8 inches overall with a 12¼inch blade made of ¼-inch 1055 carbon steel and weighing in at 23.8 ounces. The blued blade has a deeply curved clip point and a long, wide blood groove, and it’s hand sharpened to a razor-sharp edge. The 5-3/8-inch handle is made of Rosewood with a slim and flat shape to prevent twisting in the hand and to provide instant blade orientation. Cold Steel describes the handle shape as a “modified pistol grip” that tends to lock one’s hand in place. The user’s hand is protected by a large, blued steel, S-shaped double guard. As a leather worker, if I was asked to construct a sheath similar to the one supplied by Cold Steel, I would charge close to the total cost of the 1917 Frontier Bowie and its sheath. All fittings are blued steel, with the lip being steel reinforced and the tip encased in steel. The sheathed Bowie may be carried tucked through one’s waist belt or attached to the traditional frog. The frog attaches with a heavy-duty swivel to a belt loop that will accept up to a 3-inch gun belt. An interesting feature of this Cold Steel Bowie is the British proof test certificate that accompanies it, indicating it has passed the proof tests for a British sword or saber. I cannot imagine a knife that would be better to compliment my Wild Bunch outfit than Cold Steel’s 1917 Frontier Bowie knife. ✪ i
FOR MORE j
CONTACT: Buffalo Brothers Cowboy Store
Old West Reproductions
S U M ME R 2 0 1 4
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
COWBOY ACTION SHOOTING
AMMO 6 factory sixgun and carbine loads to test your Old West mettle through COMPETITION! B Y “ L A V I S TA” B I L L B E L L
OST FOLKS I KNOW “ROLL THEIR OWN” HANDGUN AND RIFLE CARTRIDGES FOR COWBOY ACTION SHOOTING (CAS) MATCHES OR PRACTICE. However, for the occasional competitor or those who don’t have the time or inclination to handload, there are a number of manufacturers out there big and small that make cartridges tailored just for CAS events. Hopefully this tome will enlighten you. Cowboy cartridges feature lead bullets at moderate velocities to help prevent damage to steel targets used in most main match stages. My goal is not to pit one manufacturer against another, but to list several makers and their products. To give you an example of the performance potential of their wares, I will use the same caliber cartridge for each maker—the .45 Colt. I did some target shooting with each load, plus I took the ammo and guns to a CAS match that consisted of six stages, and I used a different brand for each stage in my Colt SAA revolver and Winchester 1892 carbine.
Black Hills Ammo One of the bigger and more prolific producers is Black Hills, which is located in the “Dakota Territory.” Besides ammunition for target shooting, hunting and law enforcement, Black Hills makes cowboy loads for many 19th and some 20th century cartridges used in CAS. The list includes .32 H&R, .32-20, .38 Long Colt, .38 Special, .357 Mag, .38-40, .44-40, .44 Russian, .44 Special, .44 Colt, .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, .38-55 and .45-70 calibers. The handgun/ 62 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
pistol-caliber rifle (PCR) loads come in 50-round boxes, and the rifle loads come in 20-round boxes. The boxes have a distinctive Old West look, and a plastic tray inside holds the rounds and makes the boxes good for reuse. Black Hills’ .45 Colt cartridge has a 250-grain, round-nose, flat-point (RNFP) bullet loaded into new Starline brass. Factory figures show a velocity of 725 fps. (black-hills.com; 605-348-5150)
Hunting Shack Munitions Hunting Shack Munitions (HSM) hails from the Big Sky Country of Montana, and though a smaller outfit, it makes lots of ammo and doesn’t leave out the CAS crowd. Its offerings include the .32-20, .38 Special, .38-40, .44 Russian, .44 Special, .44-40, .44 Mag, .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, .38-55 and .45-70 cartridges. HSM’s wood-crate-style box has a plastic tray that holds 50 rounds for handgun/PRC ammo or 20 rounds of rifle ammo. In .45 Colt, HSM has a 200-grain RNFP at 750 fps and a 250-grain RNFP at 860 fps, both of which are loaded with Starline brass. I chose the 200-grain load to test out. (thehuntingshack.com; 800-856-2857)
ProGrade Ammo Another ammo maker from the Big Sky, ProGrade Ammo creates some 250 variations of pistol, rifle and rimfire ammunition in nine “grades.” The company has a line of CAS cartridges that it has dubbed “Cowboy Grade.” ProGrade’s list of loadings covers the more popular cowboy calibers like the .38 Special, .357 Mag, .38-40, .44-40, .44 Special, .45 Colt and .45-70. The company’s black and gold boxes are also good for reuse and have a plastic cartridge tray inside. Handgun/PCR loads come in 50 rounds per box, and the .45-70 is 20 per box. ProGrade’s .45 Colt load comes in new Starline brass with a 250-grain RNFP bullet rated at 650 fps by the factory. (progradeammo.com; 406-777-5670)
Ten-X Ammo Mark Quigley photo
Ten-X Ammunition is about cowboy cartridges—you can tell from its logo and the design on its boxes. This California-based outfit makes some 85 loads that are suitable for CAS main matches and side matches, like Pocket Pistol and Long-Range Rifle. The GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
C O W B OY A C T I O N S H O O T I N G A M M O
40, .44 Mag, .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, .45-70, .45-90 and even a down-loaded, lead bullet load for the .30-30. Again Starline brass is used, and the handgun/PCR loads come in 50-round boxes with plastic trays inside and 20-rounders for the rifle loads. Some calibers have two loads available, and the .45 Colt cartridges I used had a 200-grain RNFP bullet with a factory velocity figure of 700 fps. (ultramaxammunition.com; 800-345-5852) company even makes some of its caliber variations loaded with black powder in case you are a fan of the smoky-smelly stuff. You can get .32 S&W for your “Lemon Squeezer” or .45-110 for your Sharps buffalo rifle and everything in between. I won’t even try to list all the calibers and variations available, but if you have a cowboy gun, they undoubtedly have the cartridge; who else offers a .56 Spencer load? And there’s a .45 ACP load if you’re into the Wild Bunch game like me. The cartridge count per box varies; some of the small rifle loads like the .25-20 have 50-round counts, but its mostly 20 rifle rounds per box, while handgun/ PCR ammo comes in 50 rounds per box. There are plastic trays inside the boxes, and the big rifle rounds come in all-plastic boxes. Ten-X will also do the reloading for you. For .45 Colt ammo, I used Ten-X’s blackpowder load with Starline brass and a 250-grain RNFP bullet clocking in at 828 fps. (tenxammo.com; 909-946-8369)
Ultramax Ammo My favorite box is from Ultramax—it’s a lot like the antique ammo boxes I’ve seen from back in the day, plus it has that distressed look and comes in several colors. Another Dakota Territory company, Ultramax has an extensive line of rifle and handgun ammo that includes its Cowboy Ammunition. In this section, the company lists the .32 H&R, .32-20, .38 Long Colt, .38 Special, .357 Mag, .38-40, .41 Long Colt, .44 Long Colt, .44 Russian, .44 Special, .44-
64 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
Winchester Ammo The oldest outfit in the bunch is Winchester, headquartered in Illinois. It’s been around since the days of the Old West and has a select group of Cowboy Action loads that include the .38 Special, .44 Special, .44 WCF (.44-40) and .45 Colt. The new box is silver-colored, has an Old West street scene on the top and bottom and
contains 50 rounds in a Styrofoam tray. Their .45 Colt load naturally uses Winchester brass and has a 250-grain RNFP, which the company’s ballistics table shows has a velocity of 750 fps. (winchester.com)
Rounds Downrange Now for my favorite part—burning powder! I took all of the aforementioned .45 Colt cowboy cartridges to the range to punch holes in paper and to give you an idea of the practical accuracy of the ammunition, plus see where it was hitting in regards to point of aim (POA) with my handgun and carbine. For a sixgun, I selected one of my favorite Colt SAA clones, the EMF Hartford. It has all the features of the original blackpowder frame with a screw holding in the cylinder pin and a “bullseye” head on the ejector rod. Its fit and finish are first class, and my gun has a 4¾-inch barrel, favored by gunfighters like Bat Masterson. Carved faux-ivory grips grace this six-shooter, and its action is as smooth as silk from lots of use. For a long gun, I used my Rossi Winchester Model 1892
carbine replica. It’s fast to get into action with a 20-inch, round barrel, and mine has a step-adjustable rear sight that is flat across the top—a feature I prefer on a rifle or carbine for CAS. It, too, is smooth from much use over the years and will take 10 cartridges in its tubular magazine, the usual number of cartridges used in main-match CAS stages. For the handgun shooting I selected a target similar in size to those used at the club where I shoot in CAS events. Most of the handgun shooting part of a stage is done at ranges of 7 to 10 yards, so I placed my targets out at the 10-yard line. Since 10 rounds are normally used with the handgun in Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) matches, I elected to shoot 10 rounds at each target with each brand of .45 Colt ammo. The aiming point was the orange oval in the center of the target, and even though I was shooting from the bench with a sandbag rest, I didn’t waste time and fired rather rapidly, shooting as soon as I could reacquire a good sight picture. For the carbine, I used a smaller round target placed out at 25 yards—again a usual distance in CAS for rifle targets—and fired 10 rounds from the bench at a fairly rapid pace. First, I noticed that the sights on my EMF Hartford were shooting a little over 3 inches below the POA using a 6 o’clock hold on the orange oval of the target. This point of impact (POI) stayed the same no matter the bullet weight, and all the 10-shot groups were fairly consistent in size, opening up a bit when I didn’t do my part. Like I said, I’m not doing any comparisons, but the average 10-shot group figure came to 2.97 inches, and that ain’t half bad in my opinion! I started out with the Ten-X blackpowder .45 Colt load, and with its higher velocity, there was a bit more “pushback” when I fired. An added bonus was a puff of white smoke at each shot, and it gave a good account of itself. All the loads were pretty mild-mannered, making accurate, rapid-fire shooting possible. This was also a good clue to me that I need to either take a file to the sixgun’s front sight or aim a little higher! I’ve never changed the sight setting on my Rossi Model 1892 carbine, and at 25 yards, using a 6 o’clock hold on the red dot in the center of the round bullseye target, my 10-shot groups were about 1.5 inches low and slightly left of center. A few shots strayed into the X-ring of the targets, but most were scattered down into the nine and 10 rings. S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
The author shot in the “Working Cowboy” category that required only one handgun and one rifle. The rifle targets varied from small knockdown targets at fairly close range to larger targets on a hillside 40 to 50 yards away.
Groups ran from 2.54 to 4.33 inches; the latter figure I think was due more to me than the gun or ammo. The overall average came to 3.21 inches, which is all the accuracy you need for CAS competition. Once again, I felt the carbine’s steel buttplate more with the Ten-X load than the other brands of .45 Colt cartridges, but shooting quickly was not a problem. I think I’ll just continue to leave the sights alone on the Rossi.
CAS Event For a final evaluation of the .45 Colt cowboy cartridges I took my test firearms and ammunition to a CAS event. This was with an National Congress of Old West Shootists club I belong to, and things worked out just perfectly as I shot in a category called “Working Cowboy” that only requires one handgun and one rifle/carbine. It also happened that the match consisted of six stages and I had six brands of ammo, so I used a different manufacturer’s load on each stage. It was still pretty chilly on that late March day, and cold hands certainly didn’t help in the accuracy department. That said, it was not one of my stellar days; being my first match of the season, this was not altogether unexpected. No fault could be attributed to the guns or ammo—when I did my part, they held up their part of the bargain. The stages were fun and challenging, with some small knockdown rifle targets and other larger rifle targets out to 40 or 50 yards. Handgun targets were fairly close, but some of them were on the small side, too. I didn’t really note any difference in the impacts between heavier and lighter bullet loads—all dinged steel when I was on my game. We won’t talk about where I placed in the match, but it did give my factory .45 Colt cowboy loads a good trial, and they performed flawlessly! ✪ SUMMER 2015
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
WINCHESTER From double barrels to pump actions, Winchester and John M.
nyone with a lick of self-preservation had to think twice when facing a lawman (or an outlaw) with a shotgun. And the odds got progressively worse for those on the receiving end after John Moses Browning and the Winchester 66 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
Repeating Arms Company joined forces in 1887. That was the dawn of the Winchester repeating shotgun. As far back as the late 1830s, Samuel Colt had been manufacturing revolving percussion shotguns, and during the Civil War, revolving shotguns using brass pinfire shotshells were imported from
Europe. By the early 1870s, the brasscased centerfire shotshell was in general use, making all of the aforementioned revolving scatterguns obsolete, even with only double-barrel shotguns to chamber them. A break-action shotgun was quick to reload, and a manufactured shotshell (in various loads, including buckshot) S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
SHOTGUNS IIII Browning helped SETTLE THE FRONTIER!
BY DENNIS ADLER
Winchester n ot only corne red the repe shotgun mark ating et in the late 19 the company redefined it tw th century, but ice, first with (from top to bottom) Mod the e l 1887 and Mo 1901 lever a del ctions,and th e pump actio Models 1893 n and 1897. (A n ti que shot she courtesy Alle lls gheny Trade Co. collectio n)
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
WI N C HES T E R S H O T G U N S
The Winchester Model 1887 changed the entire concept of shotguns with a six-shot, lever action design created by John Moses Browning.
was a formidable round capable of taking small game, birds and anything on two or four legs that was threatening to the individual holding the gun. For Winchester, however, lever action rifles had consumed its brief history into the 1870s. There were no Winchester shotguns until 1879, and only then did the New Haven arms-maker begin importing side-by-side double guns of exceptional quality built in Birmingham, England.
Winchester’s First Shotguns The British-built doubles were marked atop the barrel rib, “Winchester Repeating Arms Co. New Haven Conn U.S.A.” The receivers were also marked “Winchester” and further noted the grade of the model ranging from “Class A” through “Class D” and “Match Gun,” the latter being the top of the line. This same inscription was also included within the address on the barrel rib. The “Class B” was one of the most popular, and those found today in very good condition sell for several thousands of dollars. The 1879 models had beautiful Damascus barrels, color-casehardened receivers, hammers, break locks and triggerguards as well
as select walnut stocks and forearms. The elegant and highly detailed hand engraving on the Class B, Class A and Match Gun made the Winchester doubles popular among sportsmen, while the lesser grades found their way into the hands of settlers, lawmen and shopkeepers. Known makers of the Winchester double guns were W.C. Scott & Sons (later acquired by the prestigious firm of Holland & Holland), C.G. Bonehill, W.C. McEntree & Co. and Richard Rodman. It is not known which manufacturer made the various guns, as there are no maker’s marks; all, however, bore English proof marks. Between 1879 and 1884, when Winchester discontinued its importation, it is estimated that 10,000 examples of varying grades were ordered by Winchester agent P.G. Sanford and sold through the compa-
An overhead view of the 1893 (left) and 1897 (right) clearly shows the distinctive change in the design and the cutaway portion at the top rear of the 1893’s receiver. The 1897 is a much stronger gun built to withstand the higher pressures of smokeless-powder shotshells.
ny’s New York City sales branch, which was the exclusive retailer. The Winchester 1879 catalog included an insert describing the five grades of “Double Barrel Breech Loading Shotguns.” The 1880 catalog listed the retail prices as $85 for the Winchester Match Gun, $70 for Class A, $60 for Class B, $50 for Class C, and $40 for the basic Class D model. In addition to the five grades, barrels could be selected in 26-, 30- and 32-inch lengths and chambered in 10, 12, 16 or 20 gauge.
Bennett & Browning Almost five years had passed since Oliver Winchester’s death on December 10, 1880, and the company was now under the direction of Winchester’s son-in-law, Thomas Gray “T.G.” Bennett. And it was Bennett who decided that Winchester would not intro-
Three of Winchester’s pump action variations: the Model 1893 (bottom), the Model 1897 (center) and the Model 97 (top), which is distinguished by the flat bottom forend put into production in 1947, half a century after the gun was introduced. Also note the change over time from the rounded pistol grip, copied from the 1887 lever action, to the half-pistol grip introduced during Model 1897 production. 68 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
Photo Courtesy Dave Riffle Collection
The Winchester Model 1887 was originally intended to be a sportsman’s shotgun with its long, elegant 30¼-inch 12 gauge and 32¼-inch 10 gauge barrels.
Changes in the 1897’s design (bottom) to keep up with smokeless shotshells and rationalize production costs led to the Model 1901 (top), which was built stronger, only in 10 gauge, with a blued receiver and an improved, two-piece action lever.
lengths of 30¼ inches in 12 gauge and 32¼ inches in 10 gauge. Custom barrel lengths were also offered, and short-barreled versions were soon made available for lawmen, prison guards and messengers requiring a lighter, more maneuverable shotgun. Most guard guns had a 22¼-inch barrel. Late in 1897, Winchester added another variation listed as a “Riot Gun.” According to the company, “The Winchester lever action ‘Riot’ gun is made with a 20-inch, rolled-steel barrel, a cylinder-bore barrel, bored expressly to shoot buckshot…They are far superior to a revolver for shooting in the dark, where aim is uncertain, as a buckshot cartridge contains nine bullets to one contained by a revolver cartridge.” The point was well taken.
Pump Actions While Browning generally gets the credit for inventing the pump action shotgun, it wasn’t an original idea, but he did manage to make it his own by designing a pump action shotgun that eclipsed the notoriety and, for the most part, the memory of earlier pump action designs. Browning’s model was actually the third pump action shotgun put into production. The first had been introduced in 1882 by celebrated rifle-maker Christopher M. Spencer and his partner, Sylvester Roper, and originally sold by the newly organized Spencer Arms Company of Windsor, Connecticut. The Spencer may have “inspired” John Browning, but it did
Factory drawing shows the inner workings of the Model 1901.
not influence him, nor did an 1892 patent by Andrew Burgess and the Burgess Gun Company of Buffalo, New York. The Burgess also took a completely different approach. Neither were successful, while Browning built what remains the prototypical pump shotgun for the ages—the basis for the Model 1912 and modern-day versions. Since Winchester did not discontinue the 1887 lever action shotguns when the new 1893 pump action was introduced, the company had two entirely different models in production simultaneously and would continue to do so well into the early 20th century with the 1883’s replacement, the improved Model 1897, and the Model 1887’s successor, the Model 1901. GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
Photo Courtesy Winchester
duce its own double-barrel models to compete with Colt and Remington, but rather build on the established success of its rifles by introducing a lever action shotgun. Of course, it had to be invented first, and that took the genius of Utah gun-maker John Moses Browning. The Model 1887 was designed by John and his brother, Matthew S. Browning, and patented by Winchester on February 16 and July 20, 1886. Winchester had actually purchased the design rights, along with a handbuilt model of the Browning lever action shotgun, two years earlier after the Browning brothers designed a prototype specifically at the request of T.G. Bennett. Ironically, when Bennett asked Browning to design a lever action shotgun, the latter was actually more interested in developing a pump action model. Of course, Browning got his way six years later when Winchester added the Model 1893 pump action shotgun to its lineup. The 1887 lever action was initially available only as a 12 gauge, but after serial number 22148, an even more powerful 10 gauge version was added. Intended for sportsmen and bird hunters (not necessarily lawmen or outlaws), Winchester’s 1888 sales catalog described the new lever action shotgun as follows: “Sportsmen will find this a strong, serviceable arm. The system contains but 16 parts in all, and can be readily understood from sectional cuts. The breech block and finger lever form one piece, and move together in opening and closing. The hammer, placed in the breech block, is automatically cocked during the closing motion; but can also be cocked or set at half cock by hand. “The trigger and finger lever are so adjusted that the trigger cannot be pulled prematurely, and the gun cannot be discharged until closed. The barrel can be examined and cleaned from the breech. The magazine and carrier hold five cartridges, which with one in the chamber, make six at the command of the shooter.” The 1887 models had beautifully colorcasehardened receivers and levers, and barrel
WI N C HES T E R S H O T G U N S
The pump guns were, in a word, handsome, if such physical attributes can be applied to a firearm. Like Winchester’s Model 1890 pump action rifle, the 1893 and 1897 shotguns had exposed hammers. They utilized side ejection, the stock had a trim wrist and a bold, rounded pistol grip, and the shotguns had very clean lines through the receiver, barrel, magazine and forearm. They had the look of a fine sporting arm. The general specifications were for a plain wood stock with a pistol grip and a choice of either 30- or 32-inch, full-choke, rolled-steel barrels. The tubular magazine held five rounds and, with one chambered, the pump gun, like the lever action, was a shotgun six-shooter. The wellspring for the modern pump shotgun, the Model 1893 introduced the horizontal-sliding breech bolt with an extractor attached. It used an opening at the
This well-preserved 12 gauge Class B double-barrel shotgun (from the Winchester factory collection) is representative of the quality of construction and high level of embellishment the imported British models offered. Between 1879 and 1884, Winchester imported approximately 10,000 examples of varying grades.
Recreating the fabled Winchester Model 1887 in its own image, Chiappa spent several years developing its replica to ensure that the integrity, fit and finish of the original design were not compromised.
70 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
Winchester’s lever action shotguns were incredibly imposing weapons more than 125 years ago, and they are again today with strikingly authentic, high-quality reproductions from Chiappa. Aside from special versions like the sawed-off model (based on cut-down lever action models carried by a handful of frontier lawmen), there are three standard versions: one with a 22-inch barrel, another with a 24-inch barrel and the 28-inch-barreled Sporting model (shown). The reproductions are so well done that a description illustrating the handling of an original 1887 can still be used! The top-of-the-line Sporting model is so exact in details all it is missing is a Winchester logo on the receiver. The Chiappa uses the later (second version) forend design with two screws and later magazine retainer with a steel band, partially encircling
the barrel, secured by a screw, with a second screw passing completely through the end of the magazine. In designing a reproduction of the fabled Model 1887, Chiappa wanted to recreate the lever action shotgun in its exact form, and that meant following the John Browning design as closely as possible, right down to the original one-piece action lever and color-casehardened frame, hammer, lever and tangs. The only notable external differences between the Chiappa 1887 and an original 1887 are the Winchester name and the rise of the comb, which is 0.75 inches higher. (The change in height was to make the Chiappa easier to shoulder in competition and a bit more “user friendly” to one’s face. The most important difference, however, is the optional competition lifter, which can stage a shell while one is loaded in the chamber, thus increasing the overall capacity to 5+2.) RANGE TIME: The Chiappa 1887 shoulders easily, and the higher comb
S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
bottom of the receiver to load the magazine but also permitted loading with the action closed, thereby allowing a shooter to reload while the gun was kept at the ready. The 1893 pump gun, like the 1887 lever action, was designed for blackpowder shotshells, and the advent of smokeless powder brought about the 1897 and 1901 versions designed for the new, more powerful rounds, which, when fired in the earlier guns, often led to fractures in the receivers and damage to the action. With a slightly longer receiver ruggedly built to withstand the pressures generated by smokeless powder, the Model 1897 could chamber both the old 2-5/8-inch blackpowder and the new 2¾-inch smokeless shells. Aside from the new receiver design, the Model 1897 had the same general appearances as its predecessor. While initially only solid-frame models were available, in 1898 Winchester
added a 12 gauge takedown model, the world’s first takedown pump shotgun, followed in 1900 by a 16 gauge version. Throughout the Model 1897’s long production history, continual improvements were made with resulting visual differences in later designs. In The Winchester Book, author George Madis noted that during its first 12 years of production, Winchester made 37 major and 52 minor changes to the Model 1897’s design. The Model 1897 was offered in a variety of grades in 12 and 16 gauges, in short-barreled “Riot Guns” and military “Trench Gun” variations used in WWI and WWII. The 1897, later known as the “Model 97,” remained in production for a remarkable 70 years with more than 1 million manufactured! The Model 1901 lever action remained in production until 1920 and the last days of the Old West. ✪
WEB DIRECTORY ALFONSO’S OF HOLLYWOOD alfonsosgunleather.com AMERICAN GUNSMITHING INSTITUTE americangunsmith.com BLACK HILLS AMMO; black-hills.com BOB MERNICKLE’S CUSTOM HOLSTERS mernickleholsters.com BRADFORD EXCHANGE bradfordexchange.com BUFFALO ARMS; buffaloarms.com CHIAPPA FIREARMS; chiappafirearms.com CIMARRON ARMS; cimmaron-firearms.com COWBOY FAST DRAW; cowboyfastdraw.com DIXIE GUN WORKS; dixiegun.com
MODEL 1887 provides a solid cheekrest. Mechanically, it handles just about anything you feed it. To test the shotgun, I used Ten-X’s 12 gauge, 1-ounce, No. 7½ shotshells. Firing from the shoulder at a silhouette 50 feet away, the average shot hit 85 percent of the upper torso. Aiming at the dead center of the target, my best shots hit 95 percent in the torso, with approximately 75 percent filling the central body mass from the X to the 8 rings. With the Old West in mind, I con-
cluded with 1.5-ounce 00 buckshot—the lawman’s great equalizer. This put five 00 pellets in the upper 9 and 8 rings, six pellets just below the shoulder blades in the arc of the 7 ring, and one in the neck. Needless to say, once warned by an 1887, few outlaws would have stood their ground against a Winchester lever action shotgun or the man wielding it. The same can also be said for the Chiappa 1887. For more information, visit chiappafirearms.com. —Dennis Adler
EL PASO SADDLERY; epsaddlery.com GUNS OF THE OLD WEST gunsoftheoldwest.com HENRY RIFLES; henryrifles.com HERITAGE MFG; heritagemfg.com IDAHO KNIFE WORKS; idahoknifeworks.com JOHN BIANCHI’S FRONTIER GUNLEATHER frontiergunleather.com KIRKPATRICK LEATHER kirkpatrickleather.com LYMAN; lymanproducts.com MAXSELL; collectorsarmory.com NAVY ARMS; navyarms.com OLD WEST REPRODUCTIONS oldwestreproductions.com PANTEAO PRODUCTIONS; makeready.tv PIETTA; pietta.it ROSSI; rossiusa.com
Chiappa Model 1887 Gauge: 12 • Barrel: 28 inches
SINGLE ACTION SHOOTING SOCIETY sassnet.com
OA Length: 45 inches
TAYLOR’S & CO; taylorsfirearms.com
Weight: 9 pounds (empty)
UMAREX USA; umarexusa.com
Stock: Walnut • Sights: Brass bead front Finish: Blued, casehardened
WESTERN STAR LEATHER westernstarleather.com
Capacity: 5+2 • MSRP: $1,289
★ SUMMER 2015
★ GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
DAVY CROCKETT’S FIRST RIFLE “Old Betsy,” America’s most famous rifle, helped him become a legend! BY JIM DICKSON
No other gun’s name is as famous as Davy Crockett’s “Old Betsy,” and no other gun has had so many rifles named after it.
So many that one gun writer even wrote that he hoped he never saw another gun by that name. Crockett named all of his rifles after his favorite sister, Betsy. There is no record, however, of what the young girl thought of having the term “old” added to her name. Of the three existing rifles attributed to
Davy Crockett, his first rifle has the best provenance, followed by his Philadelphia presentation rifle, which he named “Pretty Betsy,” and the rifle at the Alamo museum. We’ll examine his first rifle here.
First Rifle It was 1803 and young Davy was just 17 when he acquired it. As he put it, “I had by this time got to be very fond of the rifle and had bought a capitol one. I most generally carried her wherever I went, and though I had got back to the old Quaker to live, who was a most particular man, I would sometimes slip out and attend shooting matches where they shoot for beef.”
He described one of these thus, “Just now I heard of a shooting match in the neighborhood right between where I lived and my girl’s house; and I determined to kill two birds with one stone, and go to the shooting match first and then go and see her. I therefore made the Quaker believe that I was going to hunt for deer, as there were pretty plenty about in those parts; but, instead of hunting them, I went straight to the shooting match where I joined in with a partner, and we put in several shots for the beef. I was mighty lucky, and when the match was over I had won the whole beef. This was on a Saturday, and my success had put me in the finest
Davy Cro ck an Amer ett was ic on the fr an hero ontier an d force to be recko a ned with in C on a repres gress as en Tennesse tative for e. H died in th e later eB of the Ala attle mo.
humor in the world. So I sold my part of the beef for five dollars in the real grit.” This rifle was a top-of-the-line model that appears to have been made in York County, Pennsylvania, of a type that falls between 1780 and 1800. This particular example was made in 1792. The German gun-makers centered in Lancaster and York, Pennsylvania, were the ones that started with the classic German jaeger rifle and developed and perfected the long rifle for the conditions in the New World. The final form was as much a work of art as a weapon featuring delicate lines, swamped barrels, relief carving and the lithe grace of a ballerina. This beautiful, .488 caliber example
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
DAVY CROCKETT’S FIRST RIFLE
Crockett’s death in the heroic defense of the Alamo established his place forever in American history. Robert Jenkins Onderdonk’s painting “The Fall of the Alamo” depicts Davy Crockett swinging his rifle at Mexican troops who have breached the south gate of the mission.
weighs in at 10.1 pounds and has sevengroove rifling. It has a swamped barrel that has been shortened 2 inches at some point in the past, leaving it with a 60-inch overall length. At 14 inches, the length of pull is unusually long for these guns. This would be quite welcome, for Crockett was tall. This classic Pennsylvania rifle, of the finest quality, did not come cheaply. Crockett was making about $6.67 per month, and a gun like this went for $18—quite a financial sacrifice, but a wise one because a rifle was your ticket to survival on the frontier and scrimping on it was narrowing your chances of living. The rifle was often the only really nice thing a pioneer owned, and the only possession he could really take pride in. Davy Crockett was always a man of ambition determined to make the most of himself. He knew the statement a fine gun made about its owner. In those days, quality in the gun reflected quality in the man. When Davy decided to marry Polly Finley in 1806, he traded this fine rifle and at least 3 months’ work back to the man that he had bought it from in exchange for a low74 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
priced horse worth about $50. This “courting horse,” the first horse he had ever had, established him as a viable farmer, for now he had something to plow with. After he and Polly were married, they rented a farm and put that horse to work. At the time of the marriage, Davy had a rifle he named “Long Bess” made by Colonel Henry Bradford. Bradford was not only an excellent gunsmith, but he was also the justice of the peace that performed the marriage ceremony for the Crocketts. Crockett went on to use other rifles, but this first rifle established his reputation as a marksman and began his fame. Its sacrifice even helped procure him the great love of his life, Polly Finley, who bore him children. Despite its short tenure as his gun, its contribution to his life and legend was enormous.
Restored To Glory After Davy parted with it, Old Betsy remained in the same county throughout the 19th century as a local celebrity that was regularly exhibited, with its transfers well documented. When the current own-
ers, Joe and Art Swann, bought it in 1978, it was in need of serious repairs, being broken through at the lock mortise and missing the lock and a portion of the forend where the ramrod channel enters the last pipe. The gun was turned over to Herschel House of Morgantown, Kentucky, for restoration in 1980. He did a masterful job replacing the missing lock with one of the correct Germanic types for this rifle, rejoining the stock at the lock mortise and adding the missing section to the forend with such perfectly matching grain to the wood that it is almost impossible to see the repair. Restoration like this is vital for the preservation of historical objects because condition often dictates how much importance is attached to preserving an object, no matter how significant its history. One only has to spend time at the European museums, with their concentration on gold-embellished nobleman’s weapons, to the exclusion of the day-to-day weapons that history was actually written with, to see the importance of eye appeal to a museum curator. Too many damaged pieces of great historical interest have S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
Old Betsy is a one-of-a-kind, masterfully handcrafted Kentucky rifle. Note the finely sculpted details of triggerguard and stock.
been junked over the years because of their incomplete, damaged and poor condition. Joe Swann’s commissioning the restoration of Old Betsy was the best thing he could have done to ensure it’s long-term survival. Joe is a leading Davy Crockett historian and a fine gentleman who Davy would be proud to see taking such good care of his first rifle. In 1988, gun-maker Houston Morris decided to make an exact handmade replica of Old Betsy as she would have been when new. Over 100 photographs and 108 hours of study and mechanical drawings later, he was ready to start. The results were so good that the gun was the cover story of the January 1989 issue of Muzzle Blasts, the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association’s magazine. Years later, he assisted Danny Caywood, a gun-maker who wanted to make handmade duplicates on a regular basis. Danny also made drawings and photos of the original gun as well as adding notations to the copy of Houston Morris’ blueprints that he had. Beginning around 2001, Danny began turning out the highest-quality reproductions of Old Betsy, as can be seen from the photographs. Handmade guns are expensive, and this is no exception at $15,500 a copy. Still, that pales in comparison to the price of a modern handmade British double shotgun or double rifle. The bottom line is that you get what you pay for, and Danny Caywood delivers the quality you are paying for. Old Betsy was a top-of-the-line, handmade gun in 1792, and she cannot be duplicated as a cheap, mass-produced gun today. For anyone who has ever dreamed of owning the fabled Old Betsy, visit caywoodguns.com or call 870-423-4741. ✪ SUMMER 2015
The barrel and the stock flow gracefully and seamlessly into the action. The set triggers contributed to the fine shooting for which Old Betsy and Davy Crockett were famous.
Old Betsy’s elegantly sculpted stock, with its patchbox, is typical of the best Pennsylvania/ Kentucky rifles of the period. GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
S T � ES V
Photo courtesy Erich Baumann Collection
This early 1870s carte de visite shows someone’s “Uncle George,” a stern-faced gent with a holstered Colt 1860 Army revolver on his military belt and wearing his shawllapelled vest with just the bottom button closed.
This 1880s-era, four-pocket waistcoat shows what might have been worn by a working cowboy, including a small folding pocketknife, a pouch of tobacco, some silver dollars, a tally book, a pencil and a pocket watch with a horsehide fob. 76 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
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How and cowh and oth but s er g ton e H I T ed up nts T H T I N before
Photo courte sy
Peck Jr. Co llectio n
G RA IL!
k Jr. Collection
Photo courtesy Herb Pec
COULD MAKE A GOOD ARGUMENT that the single most versatile article of clothing worn by the old-time cowman was his vest. In many ways, this simple sleeveless garment could be called his headquarters or office. Since the 19th century cowhand spent most of his time out of doors on the open range, and in the saddle, he had to carry everything he needed with him. Even though his profession didn’t require much “paperwork,” it was still necessary that he pack a few essentials and personal comforts with him. For these purposes, his vest made for a perfect “office in the saddle.” Certainly, the modern Cowboy Action Shooter, Cowboy Mounted Shooter, horse-
� SUMMER 2015
back hunter, hiker or wilderness trekker has similar requirements and will undoubtedly find the multi-pocketed vest, also known as a “waistcoat” or “weskit,” as handy today as it would have been on the open ranges of the Old West.
Horseback HQ Besides serving its basic function of providing warmth for the cowboy’s torso, or for anyone who spent time in the great outdoors, such as hunters, railroad workers and other laborers, this sleeveless garment furnished handy pockets for the variety of items a cowpoke or outdoorsman might carry. In recalling his days riding with herds in the latter part of the 19th
BY PHIL SPANGENBERGER
(Above) Along with a passel of armaments, these Texas Rangers have donned vests as part of their wardrobe. The Ranger at left sports a waistcoat sans lapels of any kind, while his partner’s vest has the classic V-notch lapels of the late 19th century. (Center) This 1840s daguerreotype of what may be a ’49er on his way to the gold fields with his baby Colt Paterson revolver offers an excellent look at the early, rounded, shawl-style lapels found on many vests made up through the 1870s. (Right) Close inspection of this circa-1870s photograph reveals this Westerner has something in his heavy woolen vest’s upper right breast pocket, a pocket watch chain looped through the waistcoat’s button hole and an unidentifiable object that appears to be thrust into his waistband.
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
VES T S O F T H E W E S T
turn might be run through one of the button holes, and thus fastened securely to his vest. A vest could be worn buttoned completely, partially or, as was the case with many drovers, left open for a looser fit. As another Wyoming cattleman, E. Hough, remembered, “...a vest closely buttoned about the body will cause you to perspire, so that you will quickly chill upon ceasing your exercise. His own waistcoat, loose and open, admits the air freely, so that the perspiration evaporates as rapidly as it forms.” Hough went on to say that the advantage of wearing one’s vest unbuttoned was “If the wind be blowing keenly, when he dismounts to sit down upon the ground for dinner, he buttons up his waistcoat and is warm. If it be very cold, he buttons also his coat.” A townsman would also store similar personal items in his vest as well, although they would probably vary somewhat from what the man on the open range would opt for. In addition to any or all of the aforementioned items, a city fella might opt for any of a number of gentleman’s accessories. The well-dressed man about town would probably carry such personal grooming aids like a mustache comb or a retractable toothpick (quite the rage with the proper set in Victorian times). His pockets might also contain eyeglasses, keys, a fruit knife (a very small pocket knife used for cutting or peeling fruit), pocket change, folding “greenback” money or whatever else he deemed necessary—possibly including a derringer or a small dirk if his profession or lifestyle deemed the need for such protection.
(Above) Single-breasted vests generally had anywhere from five to seven buttons, and double-breasted vests kept the same general button pattern. These garments were most often cut straight across at the bottom and were waist length or cut just above the waist, as this famous photograph of Butch Cassidy (seated, right) and the Wild Bunch indicates. (Right) Many Native Americans took to the white man’s practice of wearing vests. Some garments were worn plain, as the Apache man posing with his family in this 1880s shows, while others added embellishments such as tacks or perhaps beadwork.
Practical Fashion century and the dawning years of the 20th century, Wyoming cowboy John K. Rollinson recalled, “Many of the riders wore vests, for a vest was most handy in that it had pockets for tobacco, matches and other knickknacks.” He went on to say, “The vest could be of any color or shade.” Often, vests were furnished with two to four pockets deep enough to hold most personal items, making them a form of headquarters on horseback. Such pocket goods might include a small folding knife, a cowman’s tally book (used for counting and keeping track of cattle), matches (stick matches called “Lucifers”), or a smoker’s “makin’s”—a bag of loose tobacco and paper for rolling “smokes,” because in the 1870s and 1880s, no self-respecting waddy 78 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
would resort to using a city fellow’s “tailormades” or packaged, pre-rolled cigarettes. Also, if he could afford one, his pocket watch would also be stashed there for safe keeping, attached to a fancy store-bought chain and watch fob (a small charm that hung from one end of the chain for decoration), or perhaps a decorative leather tab or maybe just a homemade braided leather thong, which in
For the outdoorsman in the years before the introduction of all of today’s modern and lightweight “miracle fibers,” heavy woolen or corduroy-fronted vests—often remnants from old suits—were ideal since they provided the most warmth without having to resort to a constricting and most likely very heavy coat. The townsman, who may or may not have spent more time indoors, also wore vests of these materials, but their wardrobe could also include lightweight linens, silks and velvets depending on the weather, situation or the wearer’s personal preference. For fashion, every imaginable pattern was used; stripes, plaids, checks, floral and geometric designs, oriental brocades and just about any decorative design were employed. While we generally tend to think of a gambler or anyone S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
Generally, however, only the vest’s fronts were made of these costlier fabrics, while the inner linings and vest backings were of a lighter polished cotton, glaze cloth or silken/ sateen material. Vest linings and backings were often simple solid colors like cream, black, dark blue or tan, but stripes, polka dots and other patterned fabrics can often be found on surviving original specimens. For adjusting the fit, a buckle and adjustable strap were most often sewn to the lower portion of the backing, or, on occasion, string lacing was used for proper fitting purposes.
Worn buttoned or open, the vest can provide both a practical and handsome addition to anyone’s (Above) Military vests were often cut neck high, without lapels, like the brass-buttoned uniform waistcoats worn by these Nez Perce Indian Police, from the Salmon, Idaho region, who posed proudly with their Remington 1875 revolvers for this 1880s photo. These garments were cut with two breast pockets as well as the standard two at the waist. (Left) This young Peacemakerpacking Cisco, Texas, tough sports a pair of plaid trousers and a matching vest, most likely from a three-piece suit. Like many Westerners, he’s decided to wear his waistcoat open and hanging loosely—a popular and casual way to wear such a garment. Photo courtesy Al Fleming Collection
of the sporting set in a fancy silken or velvet brocaded vest, it was not uncommon for such “gents” to wear a solid colored or plain black vest, perhaps sporting some braid trim along the outer edges of the lapels, pockets and perhaps the vest body. SUMMER 2015
Old West outfit.
“ Buttons on the fronts of suits or working vests could range from plain hard rubber, bone, vegetable ivory or cloth-covered versions, and in fancier dressy vests, buttons of metal (brass, silver and other attractive materials) or even jeweled finery such as mother of pearl, carved ivory or gemstudded examples might enhance the overall appearance of such apparel. As a rule, vests of the mid-to-late 19th century sported lapels, though some were made without such appendages. These lapels were usually either the earlier period’s rounded “shawl” style or the V-notch design that came into vogue somewhat after the Civil War. However, both styles remained popular into the 20th century. Some military waistcoats, as well as those of the clergy, sported small standup collars, and the vests were fabricated without lapels so they could be buttoned to the throat. With regard to the GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
VES T S O F T H E W E S T
Photo courtesy Herb Peck Jr. Collection
cut of the waistline, although a few examples of pointed-bottom vests have been noted in period photos, the greater majority of them were tailored with a flat bottom, reaching to, or about an inch below, the trouser waistline, which was considerably higher than that of modern trousers. They did not reach down as far as the groin area, as do some of today’s Old West replica offerings—which I think looks pretty silly. A word to the wise: When shopping for old-timey vests, check to see that they don’t extend too far down the torso, as they tend to look more like miniskirts than waistcoats! However, in fairness, these vests are probably cut longer to accommodate the low rise of modern jeans and other modern-style trousers. Another hint in obtaining an authentic period look is to make sure your vest fits you properly. Most Westerners now wear their vests as very loose-fitting garments, but the Victorian era (and even many well-dressed gentlemen of today) dictated that a closely fitted, sometimes even tight fitting, vest was
In warmer climes, many cowhands would wear their vests unbuttoned, as this circa-1880s cowboy is doing. A close look at the back of his vest reveals a portion of the adjustment buckle and strap that is attached to most vests for a closer fit when buttoned up.
Photo courtesy Herb Peck Jr. Collection
the proper way to don such apparel. In this way, the vest provides both warmth and a well-tailored look. When purchasing an Old West-type vest that will give the proper look, be sure to get a vest that fits comfortably snug—but definitely not floppy and loose! Further, as stated before, make sure it does not extend more than an inch below the beltline of your period-type trousers!
(Above) Here a very clean cut but businesslike pistoleer sports a double-breasted coat and a high-topped vest minus lapels. He’s finished his natty outfit off with a pocket watch and chain, and a shiny 7½-inchbarreled Colt Single Action Army revolver. (Right) In this circa-1870s image, two welldressed and well-armed Mexican vaqueros display two different vest styles that were popular in the mid-to-late 19th century. The standing man wears a single-breasted version that does not appear to have lapels, while his seated amigo sports a low-cut, doublebreasted weskit with shawl-type lapels. 80 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
Photo courtesy Herb Peck Jr. Collection
Although some frontiersman did wear vests made of buckskin, perhaps with embel-
lishments of embroidery, porcupine quill trim or beadwork, such garments were usually patterned after those commercially produced cloth examples of the era. For the most part, 19th century vests definitely did not look much like the slick “gunfighter” shiny or rough-out leather versions, adorned with conchos and other fofarraws, that has so often been seen in so many Hollywood films and in modern Western wear stores. Sorry, Duke, but we still love your Westerns! Worn buttoned or open, the vest can provide both a practical and handsome addition to anyone’s Old West outfit. In cooler climes, it provides warmth to the body while offering freedom to the arms. Also, the pockets are great for packing small personal knickknacks. To maintain an authentic look with your vest, study period photos and read up on the fashions of the Victorian times. Remember, much of what the Victorian-era frontiersman wore was simply eastern-manufactured clothing that had made its way west of the Mississippi. It wasn’t until well into the 20th century that modern “cowboy”-style vests and other clothing types were created. For further reading, I suggest the excellent book I See By Your Outfit: Historic Cowboy Gear of the Northern Plains by Tom Lindmier and Steve Mount, available at amazon.com and highplainspress.com. It is an interesting and informative work on the subject. ✪ S UM M ER 2 0 1 5
• Book Reviews•
BOOKS THAT HIT THE BULLSEYE BY DENNIS ADLER
Theodore Roosevelt: Hunter-Conservationist By R.L. Wilson This book is a lavishly illustrated and in-depth story of America’s 26th President, before he sat in the Oval Office. Roosevelt was first and foremost an outdoorsman as well as a hunter, adventurer and soldier whose social and environmental influences on America would be solidified as President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. Noted firearms and Roosevelt historian R.L. Wilson brings not only his knowledge of the Roosevelt family to life in this book, but layers it with greater depth from his long friendship with Teddy’s son, Archibald, and grandson, Tweed, along with insights from acclaimed film producer, director and screenwriter John Milius (who wrote and directed the 1997 film The Rough Riders starring Tom Berenger and Sam Elliott). Combining Teddy Roosevelt’s own writings about hunting and use of various firearms, along with a wealth of historical images and new photography of Rooseveltowned firearms and memorabilia, the book not only reminds the reader of Teddy’s unyielding commitment to conservation, but also his role as one of the great big-game hunters and naturalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the book’s foreword, Milius notes, “My father’s heroes were the Rough Riders, those other sons of the West that ‘TR’ drew upon when he started his own war. He was assistant secretary of the Navy. McKinley was President, but it was Roosevelt’s war. Like many to follow, it was a war against
the bully, the oppressor putting his boot on someone’s neck. It led to an unforeseen empire and a loss of innocence. ‘TR’ was forever losing innocence. He resigned his position and went to war, led his own regiment of cowboys, hunters, miners, outlaws, even one attorney. He won his war; he went up Kettle Hill, the only man on horseback. Not a good career move or photo op. The other side had machine guns. He got the Medal of Honor. We know the rest. Responsibility—it comes with self-reliance.” Wilson writes this book with that kind of self-reliance, searching out an entire life and putting it into words that ring true with the very essence of Teddy Roosevelt. Wilson examines Teddy’s remarkable journey westward as a young man in the late 19th century and his emergence as the quintessential American cowboy, hunter, firearms enthusiast, naturalist, soldier and politician. It is an uncanny mix that Wilson turns into 296 entertaining and illuminating pages. Whether you like hunting, guns, American history or just Teddy Roosevelt, this is one book worth owning. (booneandcrockettclub.com)
A Legacy in Arms: American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800-1900 By Richard C. Rattenbury This is one of those rare books that gun enthusiasts just can’t put down. It is the firearms equivalent of Rattenburry’s landmark holster book, Packing Iron. To say that I am a Rattenburry fan is an understatement. He is the current curator of history and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and one of the most respected authorities on Western firearms. With a foreword by
R.L. Wilson, this new book from the University of Oklahoma Press combines Rattenbury’s insights into American gunmaking with a stunning collection of vintage photographs and striking studio photography by Ed Muno of firearms from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum that traverses one of the most important centuries in the history of our nation. This is a hardbound book beautifully printed on heavy stock that makes its 226 pages and more than 200 images seem even greater in volume. Divided into three parts and 10 chapters, the book takes the reader from the early 1800s, when handguns and long arms were built by artisan gunsmiths, to the industrial age of Samuel Colt and the beginning of mass production and the assembly line. Part I is lavishly illustrated with examples of early American arms—flintlocks and percussion locks—and delves into the design and manufacturing techniques as well as the singular aesthetics of individual arms and early machinery used for barrel and stock making. Part II illustrates the innovations of Colt’s revolvers and their impact on arms making throughout the 19th century. The centerpiece of this digest is a portfolio of famed American arms-makers from Colt to Remington, Winchester and S&W, to Sharps and Marlin. It concludes with a collection of finely engraved arms to illustrate the art of the arms-maker. This book is educational, visually striking, and like Packing Iron, a reference you must ✪ add to your library. (oupress.com)
GUNS OF THE OLD W ES T
GUNS & GEAR that caught our eye
Products Desantis Swift Strip
DeSantis Gunhide has introduced the #T11 Swift Strip, a compact and handy device for loading revolvers. One strip will fit in most single mag/ knife pouches, trouser pockets and other places. It is injection molded from a flexible polymer material and holds six rounds of .38 Special/.357 Mag ammo. DeSantis also designed the Swift Strip so it will load two rounds into your revolver’s cylinder at a time for speedy reloads. Two Swift Strips come in a pack for $8. (desantisholster.com; 800-424-1236)
Altamont Aged Ivory Grips
Ruger’s Blackhawk and Vaquero are very popular modern versions of Colt’s classic SAA that are available in a wide variety of calibers. Altamont now is offering classic aged ivory grip panels for many of their lines including Ruger Blackhawk, Vaquero, and New Vaquero revolvers. Each panel can come with or without a Lone Star medallion for an added touch of class. Note that these grip panels will not fit oldstyle, three-screw XR3-framed Ruger Blackhawks. (altamontco.com; 800-626-5774)
Old West Reproductions Rig
The new #113 rig from Old West Reproductions is an exact reproduction of a 1920-1940 period holster originally made by H.H. Heiser of Denver and popular among Texas Rangers and other law enforcement entities during that era. The company offers this holster with a variety of features for most single- and double-action revolvers. Old West Reproductions offers the #113 so the gun hangs straight down, angled for a cross-draw or with the FBI cant. There are also several tooling options to choose from. (oldwestreproductions.com; 406-273-2615)
Kirst Cartridge Konverters
The new Kirst Cartridge Konverters from Buffalo Arms are designed to convert your reproduction percussion revolvers to fire blackpowder cartridges and cowboy ammunition. Each set comes with one breech ring and two cylinders. You can get either two .45 Colt cylinders or one .45 Colt and one .45 ACP cylinder. They fit either Uberti or Pietta 1858 blackpowder revolvers. Note that these cylinders may not be used with brass-framed revolvers. They are designed only for steel-framed revolvers. (buffaloarms.com; 208-263-6953)
Sweet Water 22
The Sweet Water 22 from Western Star Leather is a rig for your Colt Peacemaker .22, Colt New Frontier .22 or Ruger Single-Six .22. This rig really is “sweet” and includes a good-looking lined holster, a 2.5-inchwide Ranger-style belt without loops and a small belt pouch for your cartridges. Everything comes with #10 border stamping to make a nice matching rig. The Sweet Water 22 is available in black, brown, chestnut and natural colors. (westernstarleather. com; 702-293-3397)
C.M. Russell Henry Rifle
American Legacy Firearms has been crafting high-quality firearms since 2004. One of its newest additions, the C.M. Russell Henry Rifle, pays tribute to artist Charles Marion Russell. Although Russell was a great painter, he was also an avid sculptor, storyteller and photographer. By the time Russell died on Oct. 24, 1926, he produced more than 2,000 art pieces. Built on a fully functional Henry .30-30, the rifle is plated with 24-karat gold and has an American walnut stock. The engravings are of Russell’s greatest artworks, and his signature on the forend's left side. A portion of each sale is donated to the C.M. Russell Museum. (americanlegacyfirearms.com; 877-887-4867)
82 G U N S O F T H E O L D W E S T
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YOU TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR PROPERTY. PROTECT IT WITH A GUN YOU’LL BE PROUD TO CARRY. A BEAUTIFULLY-CRAFTED HARDWOOD STOCK, BLUED OR CASE-HARDENED ACTION WITH OVERSIZED LEVER LOOP, AND COMPACT 24-INCH LENGTH MAKE THE RANCH HAND YOUR PERFECT COMPANION FOR MENDING FENCES, PATROLLING PROPERTY OR SIMPLY PLINKING DOWN RANGE. VISIT YOUR ROSSI DEALER TODAY AND HIRE THE BEST RANCH HAND IN TOWN.
SAFETY NOTE: Always wear ear and eye protection when shooting frearms. (Images shown are for marketing purposes only and are not intended as safe frearm handling examples.)