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Guns of the Old West Spring 2021

Guns of the Old West is for the tens of thousands of Americans involved in our fastest growing shooting sport, Cowboy Action Shooting, the Old West is as alive today as it ever was, and especially so in any number of competition shooting matches East and West,

United States
Athlon Media Group
4 Issues

in this issue

3 min
heroes, guns & legends

We like to hold our Western heroes to a high standard, one that was established more by writers of the day than by historians looking back at all the facts. Most of those writers were sensationalists like Ned Buntline and Stewart Lake, who made their characters larger than life in order to sell books, or they were newspapermen who favored a good story over the facts. This wasn’t always the case, of course, but it was often enough for legends to be born, for the facts to suit the times, or as newspaperman Maxwell Scott says to Ransom Stoddard in the Jimmy Stewart western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the West, Sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Jimmy Stewart built his own western legend…

15 min
a patent solution

The fact that Remington built the first breech-loading metallic cartridge conversion revolver after the Civil War has always been a burr under the saddle of the Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Mfg. Co. More to the point, Samuel Colt’s saddle, had he known, but Colt passed away in January of 1862. Back in 1855 he had unknowingly set into motion events that would hamper the company’s manufacturing future a little over a decade later. By overlooking a promising new patent he had allowed the design for a breech-loading cartridge revolver to fall into the hands of Smith & Wesson. By 1869, when the patent Smith & Wesson had for cartridge loading revolvers was about to expire, it appeared that Colt’s would not be far behind in jumping on the breech-loading cartridge revolver…

5 min
leather, steel and gunsmoke

John Wayne’s signature Duke six-gun rig using a high-ride FBI rake half skirt holster riding on a 3-inch wide fake money belt was first used by him in the classic Western movie Hondo . Perhaps the rig most closely duplicating this one was the John Bianchi John Wayne Commemorative rig, which was an exact duplicate of one that Bianchi had made for Wayne. Bianchi’s Frontier Gunleather still makes a close copy of this rig. Recently, I obtained a version of the Duke rig made by Kirkpatrick Leather Company and cataloged as the Big Jake rig. Let us take a close look at the Big Jake. In a bow to the CAS market, the usual FBI-raked holster is a vertical (neutral cant) half-breed holster. It rides high on the gun belt with…

12 min
new model no. 3 frontier

WHILE Colt Patent Firearms may have produced the first really practical revolvers with their percussion models, it was Smith & Wesson (S&W) that achieved true wheelgun practicality by introducing revolvers incorporating the bored-through cylinder that enabled them to use self-contained metallic cartridges. In short order, S&W went from making a small 7-shot, tip-up .22 rimfire, single-action (SA) revolver in 1852 to a .32 rimfire of similar design in 1861 to a top-break, hinged-frame, SA .44 centerfire No. 3 “American” revolver in 1870. This revolver was offered by Messrs. Smith & Wesson to the U.S. Military, who purchased 1000; then to the Russian military, with a contract for 20,000. This order initiated a new cartridge design, the .44 Russian, a very accurate load that became a mainstay in the S&W line.…

8 min
ultimate six-shooters

IT'S NOT A MYTH; MEN WITH ENGRAVED GUNS felt a special bond with the gun that made it more than just a gun. Some men were emboldened by it, a few, perhaps, more than others, like the Dalton Gang. However, outlaws packing finely engraved handguns were few and far between. The same goes for most lawmen, though there are some very famous exceptions, and you can fill in the blanks on that one starting with Wild Bill Hickok, Bill Tilghman, Bat Masterson, and a good deal of Texas Rangers from the 1870s to the early 20th century. More likely though, an engraved gun was actually to be found in the holster, or perhaps on the desk of a wealthy rancher or a ranking military officer. Custer, for example, had a number…

8 min
trick shooters favorite steel

When talk turns to accuracy or speed shooting today, many people brag about fast “splits,” or of ringing steel at 1,000 yards or more. They’ll tell you that modern-day equipment has lent them the ability to hit targets they could never have considered hitting in the past. Or that the semi-automatic pistol made shooting very quickly possible. Yet, great shooting isn’t a new thing at all, and a few special shooters of yesteryear performed feats of accuracy and speed that still stand to this day. In fact, the truly great shots—those rare individuals who could wow crowds as professional trick shootersdidn’t need the modern-day equipment we all seem to believe is required nowadays. Instead, their incredible hand-eye coordination allowed them to perform spectacular feats of shooting prowess with what we now…