Archive for June, 2011

George Lawrence Gunslinger Vintage Holster and Belt

Posted on June 30th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Featured, Holster

Take a look at this Vintage George Lawrence Gunslinger Holster and Belt. This George Lawrence Company Gun Slinger II holster and belt set is model # 79 and the holster is model #557. This holster fits a Ruger Blackhawk .357 magnum 6 1/2″ barrel, and may also fit other similar size models. The belt is a size medium, 38″ waist, and has 25 cartridge loops that fit .357 magnums . Both are in great condition for their age, and show normal wear, and scuffs from carrying a firearm. This holster and belt set is available on eBay for $249.

Take a look at some more vintage holsters.

Defending the Pig House

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Scenarios

You are asleep in your bunk inside the Pig House when your favorite piglet lets out a squeal. You dash to the nearest window and discover that Red Dawg, the nefarious pig rustler, is sneaking up on your pig pen with his herd of wild range hogs…

Scenario Procedure

Shooter starts lying in bunk inside the Pig House, holding a stuffed pig. At the buzzer, shooter says, “Don’t worry,Little Darlin’, I’ll save you!” Shooter must keep stuffed pig on his or her body at all times. (We had shooters holdthe pig in their hand, between their legs, balanced on their hat, inside their suspenders, in their teeth, and oneinnovative lass stuffed the piggie in a cup of her bra, declaring, “I’m breast feeding! “) Shooter goes into theadjacent room and retrieves his/her rifle. Shooter returns to the left window and engages the single rifle targetswinging back and forth on a pendulum-nine times. Shooter then goes outside to the pig pen to engage pigpistol targets (mounted on springs to bounce around when hit), alternating right to left. A cowboy target isbetween the two pig targets and is a no-hot target. Once both pistols are emptied, shooter places stuffed pig withwooden pigs in pig pen, grabs shotgun, and engages two swingers left to right.


Misses: 5 seconds
Dropping the pig: 10 seconds

The Guns:

Rifle:loaded with nine, chamber empty, staged beside right window inside Pig House.Pistols: two holstered, loaded with five rounds each, hammers on empty chambers.Shotgun: empty, leaning against fence in pig pence beside feed trough.Safety is the first consideration regarding all scenarios.  The scenario may need to be modified based upon shooters or range capabilities.  Shoot! Magazine does not accept liability for any accidents,injuries or other difficulties arising out of the use of its scenarios.Range officers and participants should always check out their scenarios for safe conditions before proceeding to shoot.

Silver Spurs Makes the West Come Alive

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Gear

SPURS – The jingle-jangle of silver spurs makes the West come alive

By: Cactus Tubbs

Circa 1880. As the warm wind rolls across the Great Plains, it pays a visit on the cowtown of Dodge City, Kansas. The aroma of the longhorn cattle rides piggyback in the wind. Late at night one lone man methodically checks store and shop doors as he walks across the echoing boards of the town’s boardwalks. Glimpses of his badge of office reflect in the glow of oil street lamps and the Kansas moon. The sound of each of his steps drowns out the howl of the wind. Each time a boot heel meets the wooden planks, a sharp “jingle” immediately follows. As he lifts the next foot for another step, a crisp “jangle” is clearly heard. This distinctive “jingle-jangle” can only mean one thing; Festus Hagin from “Gunsmoke” is filling my TV screen.

SpursI will forever remember Ken Curtis’s character, “Festus” and his trademark “jingle-jangle” sound with each step. As a young lad growing up in West Texas, I would suspend after-school activities until after “Gunsmoke”. Dad and I would sit like two bumps on logs glued to the screen, waiting for Matt Dillon to nab the outlaw, or for Doc and Festus to have one of their famous and usually hilarious arguments. But I noticed early on that Festus had to have the loudest set of spurs north, south, east, and west of the Pecos. I get amused now when I watch an episode (EVERY Sunday thanks to satellite TV!) and Festus is “jingle-jangling” trying to sneak up on a bad guy. Somehow, even with those amplified spurs he manages to surprise his opponent.

While I have no recollection of ever getting a good view of the spurs he wore in the series, had his spurs been “authentic” they likely would have been the “OK” style of spur. This type of spur was a very simplistic design and widely used throughout the West from 1880 through the 1930’s, inexpensive and practical to use and very functional. Literally thousands of these spurs were manufactured by one of the two large manufacturing companies; August Buermann of Newark, New Jersey, and North & Judd of New Britain, Connecticut. However, by the 1880’s a spur became an indicator of a cowboy’s status or a measure of his experience. Cowboys began seeking out more stylized spurs and the mass-produced spur began to give way to the custom-made set. The “OK” spur eventually became a sign of bad luck or inexperience.

“Buzz Saws,” “Gut Hooks,” “Cowboy Steel,” “Persuaders,” these are some of the colorful descriptions sometimes given to the cowboy’s spurs. But the spur dates back much farther than the 1880’s. In fact, some of the earliest spurs date back to 700 BC. By the 15th Century, spurs identified rank for Old World cavaliers, knights, and caballeros. Kings even awarded a horseman the “right” to wear spurs. The Spanish conquistadors introduced spurs to the New World by the 16th Century.

The early conquistador spurs were made of iron and had narrow heel bands, drooping shanks, and sizable rowels, six, eight and even up to ten inches in diameter. The spokes were long, narrow, and blunt.

As time passed, the sizeable large rowels began to diminish, and early metal artisans often replaced the spiky rowels with more of a serrated disk. The shanks also got shorter, and of course, engraving began to show up, as well as inlay of silver, brass, gold, and sometimes semi-precious stones. Often a “jingle-bob” or “dangler” was hung from the rowel, enhancing the “jingle-jangle” sound. I’m certain Festus had jingle-bobs on his spurs! But the fancy spurs were the exception, not the rule. Most early vaqueros and cowboys wore very simple spurs. The fancier the spur, the more it cost, although later a set of spurs often became a rather important part of the cowboy’s overall appearance.

While American cowboys initially wore Mexican spurs, it didn’t take long for specific styles to emerge distinguished by region. Texas-style spurs, made in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma, were generally cruder than the California-style spurs from California, Nevada, and Oregon.

“In a general way, the latter were a trifle larger and silver-mounted, while the former lacked much of the ornament,” wrote Jo More in his book Trail Dust and Saddle Leather. Spurs that were developed in the Northern Plains often combined the styles.Spurs

California vaqueros were partial to their fancy spurs, which were generally of two-piece construction consisting of the shank and the heel band. The spurs were usually full-mounted with silver inlay on both sides of the heel band and shank. The engraved designs were intricate, the metal blued, and the edges of the heel bands often beveled. Often they featured fancy chap guards decorated with engraved spirals. Toward the later part of the 1800’s, G.S. Garcia was one of the most renowned of the California-style spur makers. He established his saddle shop in Elko, Nevada, in 1894. Mr. Garcia employed some of the most distinguished spur makers of the time. Garcia is best known for his Dandy patterns, which were advertised in his 1901 catalog as the “finest spur ever made with 100 different inlays.” It was double-mounted with the distinctive patterns of a pinwheel on one side and a diamond on the other and embellished with a 1¼ inlaid rowel. The most common marking on his spurs was the name “G.S. Garcia” inside the heel band of one spur and “Elko, Nev.” inside the other.

The Northern Plains and Great Plains spurs, which essentially combined elements from the California and Texas styles, were generally of one-piece construction and decorated with inlay or overlay, as well as silver conchos used on both the shanks and heel bands. Many of these spurs featured beautifully engraved surfaces and fine workmanship.

In the late 1800’s, Texas-style spurs were forged of one piece and were constructed with either swinging or stationary buttons, usually on turned-up heel bands. Often they were only half-mounted, featuring overlaid decorations on the outside of the band. Because these spurs were generally plainer and more utilitarian than the California spurs, they rarely featured chains or chap guards.

By the 1880’s, several Texas craftsmen started making fancier spurs, which in some collectors’ eyes surpassed the dashing style of the California spur. Two of the most distinctive spurs were the gal-leg and gooseneck. Considered the granddaddy of the Texas-style spur and the first in Texas to market a handmade spur, John Robert McChesney hammered his first spur out of forged iron in 1887. He ultimately opened the McChesney Bit & Spur Company in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma after working in Gainesville, Texas. His company became a respected leader in the business nationwide. Some credit him for the gal-leg design, but

others believe R.L. Causey or Tom Johnson of Texas made this sensuous shank. Some historians are yet undecided. There is no doubt, however, that McChesney was famous for this style.

Not every set of cowboy spurs was made by a commercial manufacturer or skilled craftsman. Western penitentiaries started arts and crafts programs for inmates that ranged from saddles to furniture to hitched-horsehair bridles. A popular prison-made item was spurs. Many of the Western inmates had often worked on ranches and were therefore familiar with spurs. From the turn of the century to 1930, many fine spurs were produced at the Colorado State Prison in Canon City. Prison spurs are typically stout with bold silver inlays and engraving. Other productive spur making prisons included the Arizona Territorial Prison, Utah State Prison, Wyoming State Prison, and Washington State Prison at Walla Walla. And, of course, inmates serving time in the Lone Star State of Texas were adept at making spurs.

Many a set of spurs were often made on a ranch by the local blacksmith and sometimes even by cowboys themselves when time permitted. Needless to say, these ranch-made spurs ranged widely in quality. Sometimes very crude spurs were fashioned from scrap iron, buggy axles, or barn hinges. Often, they were not exactly works of art. But from time to time the more skilled hand was able to copy the latest fashions and produced spurs to be proud of.

Spurs can be, and often are, works of functional art. A necessary tool for the horseman, cowboy, vaquero, knights, the mounted soldier, and the Western shooter of today. In what has turned out to be the never-ending quest in my household for “cowboy stuff” and “cowboy clothing,” I am always impressed by a handsome set of spurs. I was once the proud owner of an original set of Spanish Colonial spurs. Some enterprising thief relieved me of that treasured item years ago. The welcome interest across the country in the Old West (and earlier) might someday

cause another set to make its way to me. If not, I’m content to enjoy visiting the vendors at shooting matches selling a wonderfully wide variety of spurs, and viewing the wide variety of spurs being worn by fellow shooters.

Obtaining more information about cowboy spurs:

I could easily take up a few pages listing reference material available for someone interested in learning a great deal more about cowboy spurs. Since space won’t permit that, I can mention a couple of folks and some publications that I highly recommend. In upcoming issues in our book review section, we will be taking a detailed look at these and other cowboy-related publications.

Some of the information and photos for this article were obtained from an article from the New England Antiques Journal™ entitled “Collecting Cowboy Spurs” by Joice Overton. Joice is also the author of the book “Cowboy Bits and Spurs” published by Schniffer Publishing. Joice and her husband, Bill, are collectors, and her knowledge on the subject of cowboy spurs is quite complete. She has earned the title “expert.” She has truly spent her life living the cowboy way and knows cowboy gear.

Other photographs and a significant amount of the information for this article were obtained from the book, “Cowboys & The Trappings of the Old West” published by Zon International Publishing Company. This publication is practically a “must” for the cowboy enthusiast, historian, or shooter. William Manns and Elizabeth Clair Flood composed an absolutely spectacular book that has and will continue to give me hours of fun and educational reading on the cowboy and his accessories. I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Bill Manns, and as my ole’ daddy would have said, “…Now that’s a feller who is welcome to ride with me!” “Cowboys & The Trappings of the Old West” has an honored place on my cowboy bookshelf, right next to my pair of gal-leg spurs.

Safety Tips for the New Shooter

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Getting Started

Getting Started – Safety Tips for the New Shooter

By:  Smith n’ Jones

Are you just getting started in cowboy action shooting?  If you are, here are some safety tips that are definitely important for a new shooter, as well as a friendly reminder for the experienced shooter:

·     It is advisable to use the same caliber for both your rifle and your sixgun.  This ensures that you don’t load the wrong caliber in your firearm.  You may not think this could happen, but it has, even to experienced shooters, and usually with the rifle.

·     Make sure the safety glasses you wear have sides so back splatter does not get into your eyes.

·     Keep the barrels of your rifles and shotguns pointed up at all times, except at the loading and unloading table.  If you do not have a gun cart and have your firearms cased, then take the cases to the loading table to remove them and recase the firearms at the unloading table.

·     Refrain from talking at the loading table while you are loading.  If you don’t concentrate on the job of loading, it is easy to load the incorrect number of rounds for the stage, or slip the cylinder on your sixgun so that the empty chamber is not under the firing pin.

·     When shooting the sixgun, hold it tightly.  This doesn’t mean that one should squeeze it so hard that it is shaking, but tight enough to have a solid hold on the grip.  This tighter grip will improve your accuracy and will also give you more control.

·     Move through each stage slowly, concentrating on where you put your feet and hands, and how the rifle and shotgun are picked up and restaged, as well as how you draw and holster your sixgun.  Don’t worry about speed, for this will come as the process of shooting the stage becomes smoother and more comfortable.

·     Always keep the thumb off the hammer when drawing your sixgun, regardless of what class you are shooting in.  The hammer should not be pulled back until the firearm is pointed safely downrange.

Hope this helps all you shooters, both new and experienced. Lock up you guns in a gun safe when not in use. Here are a few to choose from:

New Zealand Shootout

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Shooting Events

New Zealand Shootout
WASS 3rd Annual Cowboy Championship & New Zealand End of Trail

By:  The Hangman Will Lynch, SASS #7623, WASS #15

The Western Action Shooting Society, Inc. (WASS), New Zealand (NZ) 3rd Annual Cowboy Championship and New Zealand End of Trail was held October 22-25, 1999. WASS is the organizing body in New Zealand for Western Action Shooting and, as such, assists clubs throughout the country to run CAS style events. This year the Rifle Rod and Gun Club, in Palmerston North, was the chosen club and the WASS County Rangers organized a fair dinkum, full on, cowboy weekend.

Out of about 2,500 total pistol shooters, New Zealand has about 300 dedicated cowboys. Forty-five of these arrived at the range Friday evening for a Bar-B-Q and drinks social night.

Saturday was a magnificent morning with brilliant sunshine. The bacon beans and eggs were sending out the required message and soon all shooters were in the dining hall, fed and rearing to go.

The group was formed into three posses of fifteen and, although initial thoughts were they were too big, the numbers proved to be an asset when chores were needed to be done. Every competitor did their job and not one person shirked the responsibility of scoring, resetting targets, picking up brass or the other countless tasks that require teamwork to ensure the day ran smoothly.

The courses of fire followed a theme. Saturday, the scenario involved Ralph Sutton, a one-time gunfighter who had long since hung up his guns. Each competitor took on this persona and was challenged by present day gunfighters and desperado gangs.

The first stage was the Shoot up at the Saloon. The shooter began in the doorway rolling a candy imitation cigarette. It was then placed in the mouth, and a knife was thrown into a gunfighter before all hell broke loose.

The second stage, Outhouse Blues, involved being occupied on the dunny (down-under terminology for outhouse) and through the cracks, Red Thomas and his gang were seen approaching the house. Ten pistol shots, six shotgun rounds-while on the run, and nine rifle shots saw to it that Red and his boys didn’t bother you again.

After lunch it was onto the third stage, Hang Tough Gus. Gus was sitting on his horse about to be lynched. The shootist surprised four bad guys with his/her shotgun and Gus was left swinging after his horse bolted. A well-aimed rifle shot cut the rope to let Gus drop. The rest of the shots, including the handgun, were directed at the swinging target in the doorway, which was activated as Gus fell.

As if that weren’t enough, Seth Harris had kidnapped Jamie in the last stage of the day and had held him in the local jail. Ten pistol shots through the windows saw those inside dispatched. Grabbing the necessary key, shooters were to race around the corner and unlock the jail door (which, I might add, came from a genuine jail). Six shotgun rounds were sent into approaching baddies and then Jamie had to be dragged into the street and thrown over the horse. Using the nearby wagon as a rest, ten rifle shots made sure nobody dared to follow.

On Saturday afternoon, the ultimate challenge took place. The man-on-man pistol event set shootists up against Flash Conover: the slickest gunfighter of them all. The man-on-man is a regular part of all competition in New Zealand and involves shooters who stand side by side each facing four targets. On the signal, each shooter has the five rounds in their pistol with which to drop all plates. Only one miss is afforded. Payden Kash proved the deadliest and after eliminating all of the shooters, went on to become “Gunslinger of the Year”.

For the first time, man-on-man shotgun was included as a championship event. This is almost identical to the pistol stage, except shooters have one more target and six rounds. This is a pure adrenalin rush with two reloads against another competitor as well as the clock. The spectator appeal is outstanding. For crowd participation, this event could have been run constantly over the weekend and nobody would have stopped shouting for their own champion at the line.

After the Gunslinger Competition on Saturday, Ralph Sutton was eliminated and the story took a novel twist. The scenario now told us that Ralph’s younger brother, Jamie, was the lead character. Flash Conover had

gunned Ralph down and Jamie’s mission was to hunt him down and put an end to his killing. Each stage had Jamie confronting Flash in a different situation and each time it appeared that he escaped by the skin of his teeth.

Sunday brought the shooters out in droves even though it was a miserable and overcast day, the complete opposite from the day before. Doc Cavendish and Goldie got up early to put breakfast on. Coats, blankets, and the closest canopy were the most sought after items on the agenda. Loading and unloading tables were brought under cover and for a while it looked like the only action was going to be defending the bar from an early opening.

The new day began with A Pair of Colts Beat Four Aces, which was set inside the saloon. Moving through, you needed to alternate between ten pistol and ten shotgun rounds to deal to the card-playing desperadoes.

The Ambush hardly seemed fair when shooters had to fire into a group of Pinkertons with a rifle and a pistol, then mount a horse, and shotgun the rest during the wild ride downhill.

When lunch arrived, there were forty five cold and wet shooters intent on an indoor gunfight which may well have happened had it not suddenly brightened up outside.

The third stage was Heads You Lose, but that was only if you had a good arm. Shooters began behind the wagon and threw a full bottle of rum at a snoozing guard (we could see this being a popular stage, so we substituted the rum for a bowling pin). Many variations of the throw existed and many different expletives came out as the bottle whistled within inches of the target. I think hitting the guard was more important to some than the following pistol, shotgun, and rifle shots.

As the event came to a close, observers watched Jamie chase Flash all over town in the final stage, Purgatory. What began outside the saloon and shooting over the batwing doors moved along quickly to the Drapery next door. As Flash disappeared out the back, so did Jamie, shooting all the way. With his shotgun in hand, he chased and shot down the alleys as he went. Unable to catch him, Jamie used his rifle on Flash as he rode out of town. Cutting his horse from beneath him, he could only take careful aim and hope to get Flash as he fled into the abandoned mine never to emerge.

The cloudy afternoon skies cleared up by dinnertime, and people turned up in all their finery confident that another night of revelry was not going to be dampened by the earlier bad weather. Maybe it was something in the water, but by now, half the gang thought they were rattlers. Some even began to look like them and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

As if we lived in some Jekyll and Hyde land, Monday was as clear and warm as anybody could hope for. The competition had finished and all that was left was the enjoyment of fun pot shoots, the suspense of the event results, and the anticipation of the team event.

New Zealand is a two-island country divided into the North and the South Islands (there are a couple of other small ones, but they don’t count in a situation such as this.) The sad thing is that us Northerners believe we are a better breed of folk than our Southern countrymen. This is fine until you have a North versus South log chop and them Southerners are there in person. With dozens of steel chickens, bowling pins and the like littering the grass, a huge log buried in the ground with a smaller one on top, the two teams of twenty or so set off to annihilate everything in sight. The teams had identical targets and the ground huggers had to be cleared with shotguns and pistols until nothing remained standing. The top log, which was ten inches in diameter and three feet tall, had to be knocked to the ground before any shooting was allowed on the main trunk. For several minutes I thought we had gone overboard on the logs. They were 16 inches thick and stood six feet tall about 25 yards away from the bunch. What we didn’t see initially, and it was only picked up by the eagle eye of the video camera, was that the South had two rifle shooters ‘stitch’ a line across the log at the beginning for the rest to aim at. They cut the top off a good three minutes ahead of the North. I estimate that between 2,000 – 3,000 rounds went downrange in the space of about 12 minutes. It was certainly an impressive sight made even more so by the fact at least half the shooters were using black powder. Barrels glowed and so did the smiles of satisfaction.

The results were the only thing left to analyze and trophies were duly given out. The winner of the Third Annual Cowboy Championship was Payden Kash. Payden is a relatively new cowboy shooter from the Golden Downs Rangers who shoot out of the Nelson Pistol Club and we all congratulate him on a fine effort and consistent shooting.

2004 American Federation of Old West Re-enactors

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Shooting Events

The 2004 American Federation of Old West Re-enactors (AFOWR) Grand National Championships

More than 3,000 people watched as the country’s top Old West gunfighters performed for the Grand National Championship titles at the Old Cowtown Museum during Labor Day weekend 2004 inWichita , Kan. The outdoor living history museum was the location and co-sponsor of this year’s national gunfighter and living history championships of the American Federation of Old West Re-enactors, a group dedicated to education through entertainment.

Over 150 re-enactors were on hand to compete and perform throughout the weekend. Competitors were judged on historical accuracy in clothing, accouterments, and information regarding the people and events of the frontier of the 19th century. Old West gunfighter groups were also required to compete in and amass points at various competitions throughout the year.

The AFOWR Grand National Championship titles for 2004 were awarded in two categories: Gunfight Re-enactment and Living History. In the Gunfight Re-enactment division, first place was awarded to Guns of Timber Creek from Gainsville ,Texas . Second place was awarded to Cowtown Cowboys of Wichita, Kan. And in third place was Gunsmoke & Petticoats of Shawnee , Kan. Living History awards were earned by Michael Gaskins, first place; Sheri Gaskins, second place; and David Wright, third place.

In addition to the National Awards, competition awards were presented in several categories. The Cowtown Gunfight Re-enactment first place award was presented to Wild & Wooly West from Wichita Falls , Texas . Second place went to Gunsmoke & Petticoats, and third place went to Guns of Timber Creek. Honorable Mention was earned by the Cowtown Cowboys.

Living History awards were presented to Kirk Shapland, first place; Mike Gaskins, second place; and Marc Ferguson, third place. Best Actor award was presented to Dickey Stanley of Wild & Wooly West. Linda Sayre of Gunsmoke & Petticoats was named Best Actress. The judges declared that Wild & Wooly West performed the Best Stunt, Gunsmoke & Petticoats presented the Best Drama, and Guns of Timber Creek demonstrated the Best Comedy. Ron Sayre was declared the Fastest Gun in Town and Kirk Shapland was residing in the Best Historical Encampment.

The American Federation of Old West Reenactors (AFOWR) is a non-profit fraternity of dedicated historical enthusiasts who adhere to the proposition that the representation of our American Old West history be accurately portrayed in the clothing, accouterments, and information regarding the people and events of the frontier of the 19th century in accordance with the respect our forefathers deserve.

Hornady’s Lock-n-Load AP Press

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Ammunition

Cowboy Reloading with Hornady’s Lock-n-Load AP Press

By: Jesse Edward

If you have been reloading with a single-stage press, you will find that usage of the Lock-N-Load AP will improve your reloading time significantly.  You might ask, “Why is that necessary.”  The answer depends on how you value your time.  Being able to load 200+ cartridges in an hour is valuable to me.

The Lock-N-Load AP is a multi-stage press that can accommodate up to five operations simultaneously.  Your usage of the five will depend upon what you are loading and additional accessories you may want to take advantage of.  Additionally, the “AP” nomenclature refers to the “Automatic Progressive” feature of automatically indexing (turning) the shell plate to the next stage at the end of each pull of the handle.  This “indexing” feature provides two benefits that I like: I can insert the next case without having to manually index the shell plate, and the odds of doubly charging a case are significantly reduced.  I also installed the optional “Powder Cop” that indicates powder level after the powder is dispensed, and before the bullet is inserted.  This gives an additional measure of safety.

Another useful feature of the Lock-N-Load is its Die Bushing usage.  This allows you to remove and reinstall a die from the press without changing its setting.  This is most valuable, for example, when you decide to load a different cartridge size, merely remove the installed die set and install the new set.  The Lock-N-Load comes with enough bushings for one die set, so you will need to purchase additional ones for other die usage.  Bushings are required for installing dies in the press, unlike some other presses that the dies screw into.

Installation of the Lock-N-Load AP was simply a matter of following the directions for the most part.  It took me about four hours from start to finish.  Some of this time was due to not thoroughly reading the instructions and then having to back up and follow directions!  This was my first reloading press so I was very excited to load my cowboy action ammunition on my own press.

The first task was to mount the press on my bench.  This press is loaded from the left side, and so I mounted it on the right side of the bench (Figure 1).  This is contrary to the picture shown in the manual that shows it mounted on the left side.

Once the press is mounted, it’s time to insert the proper size primer slide, shell plate for the selected cartridge size, and the various dies, and then to make adjustments.  I first laid them all out on the bench to make sure I had everything and that I knew what each was (Figure 2).

My primary usage to date has been to load .45LC.  I use all five stages for this load.  The primer is removed and the shell casing is sized within the sizing die at stage 1.  An expander die is used at stage 2 that bells the mouth of the case out slightly to allow placement of the bullet.  A powder measure is installed on stage 3 that has been adjusted to the correct amount of powder for your load and drops into the case.  Stage 4 has the Powder Cop. The bullet is seated to the proper depth using a bullet-seating die at stage 5, which also crimps the casing so that the bullet will not push in or come out under recoil.    Note that the new primer is inserted in between stage 1 and 2 when the handle is raised to its up-most position.

The first die I installed was the sizing die, which also removes the old primer.  This was followed by the expander die, which puts a slight “bell” or flare on the case mouth.  I set it for a very slight flare to where a bullet could be positioned and not fall off.  To initially set the seating die, I placed a known loaded cartridge in the seating position (Figure 3) and raised the ram to its full height and adjusted the die until it was firm against the cartridge.  I then took an empty case and sized it (removing the old primer), skipped the primer insertion, expanded it, and then cycled it to the seating position, placed a bullet on it, and seated it.  I checked the bullet position in the case and adjusted the die until the seating was comparable to the known loaded cartridge.  I then set the seating die to also crimp the case. This took me about a half dozen cartridges to get right (note: I was not loading primers at this time, the primer tube was empty).  I then “locked” each of the dies so their settings would not inadvertently change.  This is accomplished with a lock ring on the die (Figure 4) that tightens against the die bushing.  The Hornady die wrench is handy for this and for removing dies with the bushing.  I loaded a half dozen cartridges without any primer or powder and checked their fit and function in my .45 pistols and my .45 rifle.  Everything was ok!  This is an important step to take.  Some firearms can be rather persnickety about cartridge sizing.  This is often more true with some of the old cartridge types (e.g. .44-40, .38-40, .32-20).  It’s not too useful to load a large number of cartridges and then find they won’t work in your firearm!

I was then ready to set the powder measure.  I used a clean used case with the old primer still installed.  I didn’t want to use a case with a live primer at this time.  One thing you will need in order to properly set the powder measure is a powder scale for measuring the amount of powder being dumped so you know whether to increase or decrease the setting.  This is primarily a trial and error process until you get it right.  The powder measure has a micro adjustment and it takes some getting used to (Figure 5).  After you gain some experience, you will be able to adjust it with fewer trials.  Since the powder measure is used for all cartridges, it must be adjusted each time you make a change, unless you decide to get another powder measure for each load you use.  In that case, you can remove one and install another just as fast as dies.

I was now ready to “load” some ammo!  I loaded a small number to assure myself that the press was working correctly.  Figure 6 shows the press with cases in all five positions, with the fifth being the seating and crimping stage. Figure 7 shows the Powder Cop.  The pin in the center with the white band rises when the powder-loaded case is raised in the position.  It is not a powder measure indication, but makes it easy to determine if no powder, the correct amount of powder, or a double load is in the cartridge.  I loaded the primer tube with a 100 primers and proceeded to load up 50 rounds. I then headed to the range to verify everything worked, and it did!!!

It was then back to the loading bench to load cartridges for the next shoot. I was loading away and suddenly I noticed powder on the press.  Yep, I had loaded another 50 plus cartridges and had run out of primers.  Powder was being placed in cartridges with an empty primer hole.  This press does not have a low primer feed sensor that some other manufacturers provide and that I had used before.  Thus, I found it necessary to keep track of how many rounds I had loaded in order to know when I was getting low on primers.  To do this I always start with a full load of primers (100) and an empty ammo box (100 rounds).  When I get to about 95 loaded rounds, I check the last five rounds for primer insertion before powder loading.  So far, that has worked just fine.  I have loaded about 1500 rounds of .45 with no problems.

My second type of cartridge to load was the .32-20.  I was glad that I could simply remove the .45 dies and keep their settings.  The .32-20 load gave me some problems with the standard Hornady .32-20 die set.  The problem was that the standard two-die set did not expand the cartridge neck sufficiently to insert a lead cast bullet, so that when seated it did not “shave” off some lead from the bullet.  This was solved through the use of a .32 S&W expander die to put a slight flare in the case.  The folks at Hornady technical support came up with this solution. One should always remember that the necks on bottle-necked cartridges are not as strong as straight-walled cartridges and the mouth of the case should only be expanded to allow the very base of the bullet to seat firmly, no more.  The 32-20’s are loading okay now.  My next cartridge to load is the 38-40 for my original 1889 Marlin.

It’s worthwhile to mention a few of the accessories that Hornady offers that I have used.  The Cam-Lock bullet puller (Figure 8) works with the press to easily remove bullets.  I used it to remove the bullets from the cases I had loaded in the setting up process.  The Case Trimmer (Figure 9) is used to restore cases to the correct length.  The Case Care Kit contains case neck brushes, a deburring tool, and primer pocket cleaning heads, along with a case lube pad and loading tray (some components shown in Figure 10).  There are a number of additional accessories available to make your reloading easier and to produce higher quality results.

I can’t end this article without stressing SAFETY.  Reloading can be an extremely rewarding aspect of shooting. However, just like shooting, it must be done within certain parameters to assure that it is done safely.  Like shooting, you will be better off to initially work with someone that’s experienced at reloading, a mentor.  There is plenty of literature about reloading as well.  Hornady, for example, has books and videos.


Antique Cartridges Part 1

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Ammunition

Antique Cartridges Part 1 – From the Shanty

By:  Dr. J (Photos by: George Warnick, aka Lone Gunman)

Editor’s Introduction:  We will be publishing a continuing series on Antique cartridges by Dr. J. for some time to come.  This first article is an introduction from Dr. J providing some insight into his expertise on historical items of interest, including the battle of the Big Horn.  In the next article we will be covering the Paper and Skin Combustible .44 Caliber “Army” Colt Cartridge.

At times, it is difficult to introduce one’s self and to tell everyone what you want them to know about yourself.  I was born in St. Louis, MO in 1940, a “half-breed” by bloodline with a keen interest in cartridges as early as 1944-45 while the Great War was going on.  Dad was a Navy Commander, and he and his friends brought home ammunition samples and specimens for me.  I was selling extras of those cartridges at shows as early as 1945, though I always managed to keep one of each for my collection.  My father was a well-known funeral director in St. Louis by the name of Jay B. Smith, and he went hunting in Africa every year giving me “Big Bore British” ammunition specimens.  In those years, a Spencer cartridge was worth 25 cents, a .54 Burnside could be bought with a 50-cent piece, and a .600 Nitro could cost as much as $4.00.

I was not going to collect a “reload” or altered cartridge of any form; factory originals were what I wanted.  Headstamps could even be the same if a different primer or a bullet variation was found. It did not take a very long time to discover endless variations of bullets, primers, cases, and headstamps in the same caliber.  An empty case was okay until a better specimen was found.  I soon had a line-up of shotshells that were all alike but all with different shot sizes marked on the top wad.  At the tender age of seven, Mother found me in the basement due to a new smell in the house.  I had a ruler taped to the wall and had discovered the flame height was different in a green Remington 12-gauge shell than in a measured thimble-full of powder from a red-paper Winchester 12-gauge shotshell, and still a different height from a Federal shotshell.  Mom let me know before bed I’d be killed by Dad due to my trying to “burn the whole house down.”

Dad and I had a talk about gunpowder, and how each had its own burning rate.  He knew of black powder from the big navy guns and went on to tell me about it having the same burn rate inside of a gun, as it also would have when laying out on the open ground.   He went on to say that all of the early shotshells (and other early ammo) were loaded with this very volatile black powder.  He clearly did not wish me to get hurt.  I was to be careful and not get hurt by any more “flame testing” or cutting into ammunition I knew nothing about.  He suggested that I check with him first.  From this point on, the “tests” came to Dad’s attention, or supervision, or we’d wait until we had a better idea of what we were doing.  Smokeless powder was a fairly safe item until it was inside a closed-up chamber.  Dad had friends he knew in law enforcement and a crime lab that I could make calls to.  In those years they did not just come to the house and take ammo from you.  They knew I was a cartridge collector and was very serious about it, so they took the time to provide me with detailed answers.

Powders of unknown origin were dealt with by using a longer fuse to light them.  Firecracker fuse in Missouri was available all year long.  Soon, the crime labs were giving me ammo specimens and I was giving them anything I had an extra of.  Many times, I had to buy a whole box of ammo to get one for my collection, but having leftovers, the balance of the box was used to sell or to trade to another collector.  In 1984, I was called by the U.S. National Park Service to help identify the last and largest of all the “digs” at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, a dig headed up by Dr. Doug Scott and Dick Harmon of Lincoln, Nebraska.  The dig was done by a number of University students from all over the U.S.A. and had many other volunteers involved with the project.

I found it most interesting that a total of 117 different calibers were dug up.  Oddly enough, the last I knew, Custer carried a new .44-40 Winchester Model ’73 and a pair of .44s that some folks say were of British origin, other records say French.  But no cartridge cases were ever found, or the bullets from either of the calibers Custer used.  It makes one wonder if he was “taken out” very early on.  Some books indicate he was one of the very first killed.

It’s not my role here to debate or argue either way, but rather to introduce a study of the many calibers and cartridges of the early west.  I also saw many .45-70 empty cases badly swollen from being fired in the chamber of .50-70 rifles the Indians had left over from the Civil War.  The .45-70 ammunition was probably stolen or traded to the Indians.  The recovered lead bullets only showed rifling marks on one side.  The body of the .45-70 case was swollen larger than the rim due to firing it in the .50-70 size chamber.  .44 Henry cartridge cases also out-numbered all the other calibers found from the dig.  Dr. Doug Scott also said, “Many people think the Indians may have had over a thousand Henry rifles in use that day!”  There were a lot of unfired cartridges that were dug up from being dropped in the heat of battle.  I also saw flat and square lead that Dr. Scott said was from Indians hammering lead bullets into shot for the shotshells they used.  Dr. Scott also told me that he had data and records from Fort Lincoln which showed that Custer may have shaved his head or cut his long hair very short before he left the Fort.  It was (some think) three years later before the Indians knew that they had, indeed, killed “ole yellow hair.”  This is debated, however, by the history books that tell us that Custer’s body was not cut up as almost all the others were.  The Indians did know him and who he was by the number of the bodies found.  I am only stating what I was told here.

I raised two children of my own as well as over 60 foster kids and worked most of my years with problem kids. In the early years, I worked with the “Scared Straight” program where kids were taken into the maximum-security prison to get to know the “cons.”  One kid I recall the most, Bernie, had over 300 prior law violations.  After six months of Scared Straight, he was never in court again, and today is a productive employee – – a changed life.  I retired in April, 1996, but some of you may remember me from the many gun shows with up to ten tables of original ammo and over 4,000 different kinds of ammunition laid out in one display — none of it made after World War II. Most folks told me it was the largest display of old ammunition they had ever seen anywhere.

I am now done with shows and all I want to be doing is cutting firewood, fishing, and shooting.  Most of my time is spent at what I call the “Shanty.”  It took over a year to make it happen, but it is a steel grain bin made secure with all an ‘ol rifle shooter needs in life to have fun — an antique wood stove for cold months, a 26,000 BTU Air-conditioner for the summer heat, a cement shooting bench, a window to shoot from with the shortest range being 205 yards, a huge backstop at 520 yards, and plans for dirt to be moved this summer so I can shoot out to 1,200 yards, all from the same shooting bench.  A full size iron buffalo sits waiting to be hung.

I own a three-digit serial number Shiloh-Sharps .45-.70, have over 58 die sets for reloading, and have bench rest guns made by Wally Hart of Nescopeck, PA.  No more having to pack the car up to go shooting and drive 20 miles to discover I forgot the ammo!  What I write about comes from the shanty’s desk, 57 years of books in front of me, and a fair size cartridge collection that’s never been shown to the general public.  It now can be shown with the wizard-like camera skills of George “The Lone Gunman” Warnick, who is able to produce some very interesting material.  All photo credit belongs to George alone.

I have always felt bad that the public never sees the “good stuff”; it’s out-of-sight in homes or locked up safe. Those who have it never show it for fear of loss.  Most museums lack it as well, or they lack the data on it to ever display it in a proper manner or identify it correctly.  This material remains in private collections and stays there forever, never to be seen and seldom ever available for resale. My hope now is to show it, present any data available, and have it available for study.

Many times over the years, I have been called an “expert” and have never felt comfortable with the term or such a title.  “Dr. Jay” was bad enough.   It came from years of shooting, the gun show years, and the ability to provide a few answers to the questions that some folks asked of me.  Fact is, I do not think there is such a thing as a person that has all the answers to every question he or she is asked.  Nobody has all of the cartridges ever made either, or the many answers for them.  I wish to make it very clear that I am only a “student” and learning (like you) each day if I pay attention!  The best example I can recall took place a few years ago when a 10-year-old came to me at a show with his entire cartridge collection inside a cigar box.  This kid had a couple of specimens in the box I had looked all my life to find, but had never seen in other collections.  He had dug most of his collection out of a 25-cent junk box.  One of his specimens was a .52 Sharps-Gardiner Explosive bullet of 1863 (Patent 40468) with a fuse nozzle projecting from its base.  These bullets were made of pewter, not lead.  It was a rare item worth $1,500 or more.  Only one such item is known in all the rest of the world of cartridges.  The kid bought it for 25 cents, the seller not having any clue as to what it was.  I then told the young man what I knew of it and it’s in his collection to this day.  I have given free ammunition to kids for many yeas to help and encourage the young collector, remembering how tough it was as a little kid to find different cartridge specimens for my collection.  How else can we make a mark, for the very short time we are here, to provide care and safety to the few old cartridges left?  In other terms, how can we pass on a piece of history and save it for the next generation?

One of the great mistakes many people make is to polish a cartridge.  A real collector will have no interest in it when this has been done.  Never put a cartridge into a drawer made of cedar or redwood, or have cartridges near these woods.  The wood contains tannic acid and will either promote corrosion to the cartridge or more oxidation to the lead bullet.  The old dry paper on old paper shotshells should never be touched due to moisture and oils in our skin.  Many paper items need a plastic cover or zip lock bag, glass vile, or something to protect it like a old golf bag.

A good buddy of mine lost his finger when inserting a steel-case 20mm Vulcan round.  He had drilled hundreds of brass-cased 20mm (live rounds) and had no trouble with it in the past.  This time, however, the steel-case round sent static electricity to the powder and it blew up as the drill press drilled into the powder.  To make a “cut-a-way” cartridge is very desirable, but it is very risky business, indeed, if you have no idea what you are doing.  I will have more of this in future articles.  That is enough for this introduction.

I am the fella on the left in the photo of the huge brass shell case.  The guy on the right is a good friend, collector H. Rogers Hopkins of Crossville, Tennessee, and we were on our way to the Atlanta, Georgia arms show – a thousand-table show.  The brass case weight is 135 pounds and was made in Germany in 1915.  It stands 36″ inches tall and the inside mouth diameter is 16-1/4 inches.  History says that the black powder charge was 600 lbs. and was stacked in wafer form past the case mouth up to the base of the 2200 lb. projectile.  Each projectile was serial numbered and a bit larger in diameter to allow for wear to the bore. “Wanna put this into your shell belt?”

I do promise that all other cartridges I write about will be of smaller caliber than the one in the photo shown, but I thought it appropriate as an icebreaker for the introduction.

Lastly, I do welcome “feedback” and/or questions and while I don’t make claim to have the answers to what may be asked, I will do my best.

Editor’s Note:  Questions may be sent in via e-mail to  Please include “Attn:  Dr. J.” in the subject line.

Cowboy Smithin’ Part III – Cylinders

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Firearms

Cowboy Smithin’ Part III – Cylinders

By: Captain Eagle, aka Dave Sample

It is time for another issue and another task on our Cowboy Smithin’ six-shooter series.  We have looked at some of the things that we do to these sixgun cylinders, and there is one last task that can help a great deal when loading and unloading your hog leg. As a rule, honing the chambers can help most of these old timers. As you know, I like to chamfer the chamber entry way, but after that we use a hone from Brownells and add some special oil to it, it makes the inside of the chambers as smooth as this old gunfighter’s head!  These hones are not too expensive, and if you order the special oil when you purchase the hone, you will have a lifetime supply for you and your saddle pals.  I always tape up the cylinder with some 2-inch masking tape to keep it from being scratched, and then I use the rubber conveyor belt inserts in my smithin’ vice.  I clamp the cylinder in the vice, and then get out the variable speed, portable electric drill and install the hone in the chuck.  First, I dunk the hone in the oil, and then run the hone in and out of each chamber to get the inside oiled up.  Then, with an up and down movement, I get the drill up to full speed while moving the hone in and out of the chambers.  I use about a slow 15 count on each chamber, and when I am done, I flush out the chambers with any kind of cleaner I have on hand. Next, I take the tape off.  Remember to keep the chambers oiled with lightweight, non-invasive gun oil.  I like the spray cans of Rem-Oil.  Well, good job cowboy!  Those cartridges should go in great now, just as if they were greased!  They will also come out a lot easier, too.

Now for the question asked by our good friend and cowboy shooter, Chucky: Why do cartridges sometimes show a dent in the primer, but don’t go “bang” like they should, sounding like a baseball hitting a bat?  This question has come up on several occasions and like most gun-related problems, there is usually more than one reason.  For example, if the hammer is not all the way back and set in the full-cock notch and is released, the tiny hole that the firing pin has to go through in the frame will not line up with the center of the primer.  This causes the firing pin to strike at a glancing blow, therefore not having the force needed to give that primer a sharp rap.  Another problem could be a bad action job that has left the mainspring without enough force to ignite the primer.  The mainspring has to be heavy enough to do the job, which is why I use new Wolff Springs throughout the whole gun.  The old leather washer trick is a very dumb one and seldom works for very long.  A third reason could be that some WD40 has gotten near the ammo and has deadened the primers.  This stuff has no business being used around any kind of ammunition.  It is very invasive and spells sudden death to primers.

That’s all for this issue.  Remember to drink upstream from the herd, and never ask a barber if you need a haircut. I’ll be seeing you down the trail.


The First Modern Replicas

Posted on June 4th, 2011 by Admin | Posted in Firearms

Great Western Single Actions – The First Modern Replicas

By: John Taffin, aka Sixgunner

The 1950’s had to be just about the greatest time ever for growing up.  We were not disadvantaged with 150-channel TVs, cell phones, VCRs, computers, electronic games, or adults who thought they had to coach us so we could play football and baseball.  Outside was for continuous activity; inside was for eating and sleeping.  Mom still stayed home and cooked three meals a day, seven days a week.  We never had to go out to eat.  Until McDonalds restaurants started, I didn’t know of anyone that ever went “out to eat.”

We did have one great disadvantage, and it is the only one I can think of, which was a lack of information available on firearms.  There were no gun magazines in the early 1950’s.  The outdoor magazines rarely published anything about handguns; in fact, the only magazine that did, and certainly not often enough, was the American Rifleman.  Paperback books started to show up from publishers such as Trend, and for 75 cents one could have “The Complete Book of Handguns.”  And even though it was complete, a new copy came out every year.

Then it happened.  It was the dead of winter, late December, 1954, and I had gone downtown to see a movie, a western of course, and stopped in at the newsstand.  There it was.  I had to blink to make sure it was real.  I know my heart skipped a beat, maybe two.  There on the rack was a new magazine called GUNS, and it was dated January 1955. I was a junior in high school and reading every book I could find about guns and hunting, and I made frequent trips to town just to check out the newsstands for any gun publications.  My search for knowledge had been rewarded.  GUNS was only the first magazine, and over the next few years it would be followed by Guns & Ammo (which began as a quarterly), Gun World, and Shooting Times (which began life as a newspaper).

During the first year of publication, GUNS carried an article entitled “A Six-Shooter For TV Cowboys.”  Westerns on TV were the rage in the 1950’s, starting with old B Westerns, which evolved into made-for-TV Westerns.  This created a demand for single-actions, not only to be used by the actors, but by shooters as well.  Colt had ceased production of the Single Action Army in 1941.  Since they had publicly declared that they had no plans to ever resurrect the old Peacemaker, the prices on pre-war Single Action Colts started to rise.

Now that Westerns had created a demand for single-actions (as much as Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry would do 20 years later for Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums), someone had to fill it.  First came the Single-Six.  Bill Ruger had been very successful with his relatively inexpensively priced semi-automatic .22 in 1949, and in 1953 he came back with a .22 single-action.  Everything but the grip frame, which was nearly identical to the old Colt Single Action Army, was scaled-down to make it an easy-handling, virtually unbreakable single-action chambered in a caliber that everyone could afford to shoot.  As with just about every other kid at that time, my first handgun was a Ruger Single-Six.  What wonderful times we had shooting .22 Marlin leverguns and Ruger Single-Sixes.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, another gun company was founded, Great Western Arms Co. of Los Angeles.  Shooters wanted real Colts and they couldn’t get them, but Great Western stepped in to fill the void.  That article in GUNS was about Great Westerns.  The Great Western looked so much like a Colt Single Action Army that they actuallyused real Colts in the early advertising.  I’m not sure exactly when Great Western began, but I think I saw the first ads in 1954 when I was a junior in high school.  They were smart enough to present John Wayne with an early matched pair, fully-engraved with ivory grips.  One of the owners of the company was Audie Murphy. Young Murphy lied about his age to get into World War II, became the most decorated hero of that conflict, and then went on to make Western movies.  Some thought that he wasn’t much of an actor, but we didn’t care.  He was a real genuine hero who could definitely handle a Colt Single Action .45 on the silver screen.

In the late 1950’s, I bought my first Great Western Single Action.  I had great luck with the Single-Six .22, so I purchased a Great Western .22.  That turned out to be a mistake.  The 5-½” .22 proved to be a really poor shooting sixgun, and was definitely out of time.  Thirty-five years later, I picked up two more 5-½” Great Western .22s, which have proven to be excellent shooters and are also favorites with the grandkids.  In fact, the grandkids and I were just out yesterday morning shooting the guns, and we saved enough money shooting the .22s that I was able to fill them up with a late breakfast at The Cracker Barrel after we finished shooting.

Elmer Keith, in the first chapter of his book Sixguns by Keith (1955), commented that the test Great Western Single Action that he had received was “…very poorly timed, fitted, and showed a total lack of final inspection.  The hand was a trifle short, the bolt spring did not have enough bend to lock the bolt with any certainty, the mainspring was twice as strong as necessary, and the trigger pull was about three times as heavy as needed.”

I think the same guy made his test gun and my .22.  Later in his book, Elmer was able to say, “We are happy to report that Great Western has really gotten on the ball, and is now cooking on all four burners.  They overhauled their designed and inspection departments, put in some gunsmiths who knew the score, and are now turning out first-class single-action copies.  We have one in 4-¾” .44 Special, and it is a very fine single action in every way, perfectly timed, sighted, and very accurate.  It has performed perfectly with factory loads and our heavy hand loads, and is very accurate at extreme ranges, the real test of any sixgun.”

The Great Western Company was originally owned by a man named Bill Wilson.  These guns were totally American-made, and are not to be confused with the Hawes Single Actions, which came later.  Hy Hunter was an early distributor of Great Westerns, as was EMF, and he also later brought in the German-made J.P. Sauer & Sohn Hawes versions.  I have no idea how many Great Western Single Actions were manufactured in the less than 10 years they were in business.  It was not unusual to find them at bargain prices 10 years ago, however the prices have tripled and even quadrupled since then.  They are also not all that commonly found at gun shows.

At first glance, Great Western Single Actions look identical to Colt Single Actions with subtle differences in the hammer profile and shape of the trigger guard.  They show up on many TV Westerns, and are easy to spot when the hammer is cocked.  Colts have the firing pin on the hammer, while Great Westerns have a frame-mounted firing pin, such as that introduced by the old Christy Gun Works and picked up by Bill Ruger for use in all of his single-actions.  Unlike the Rugers, the Great Westerns have sort of an upside-down L-shaped hammer.

Great Westerns were made in the three standard barrel lengths:  4-¾”, 5-½”, and 7-½,” plus a 12-½” Buntline Special.  The standard model was a 5-½” .45 Colt that sold for $99.50 in 1960.  There was a slight additional charge for other calibers and barrel lengths.  In addition to .45 Colt and .22, the Great Western was offered in .38 Special, .44 Special, .357 Magnum, .357 Atomic, and .44 Magnum.  The “Atomic” was simply a heavily-loaded .357 Magnum and, believe it or not, the .44 Magnum was on the standard Colt-sized mainframe.  I have heard rumors to the effect that a .44-40 was also offered, and I do know that they did make some examples chambered in a .22 Hornet.

Great Western also offered both pearl and ivory grips, engraving, nickel-plating, and even the installation of adjustable target sights.  The Deputy Model was a 4″ barreled version with a full-length barrel rib, adjustable sights, deluxe blue finish, and walnut stocks instead of the standard issue B-Western-type imitation stags. The Deputy was offered in .22, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum, and also rumored to be in .44 Special.

The Great Western not only arrived at the time that the TV Western was king, but it also profited by the fast draw sport that arose.  For those that participated, Great Western offered a specially-tuned 4-¾” barrel .45 with a brass backstrap and trigger guard.  It was popular enough that they soon offered a “Professional Fast Draw Model” in all calibers and barrel lengths.  A copy of the Remington Double-Barrel Derringer was also offered, chambered in either .38 S&W or .38 Special.  The Great Western Cap-n-Ball Revolver looked much like the Old Army that came from Ruger in the early 70’s, but without the top strap.

Most of the parts of the Great Western Single Action are interchangeable with the Colt Single Action Army, except for the hammer, and the hammer, trigger, and bolt screws. The threads on these three screws were changed to help prevent them from loosening as the gun was fired.  Two years after the Great Western was introduced, Colt brought back the Single Action Army and, no matter how good the quality had become, Great Western’s fate was sealed.  In their advertising, Great Western gave 14 reasons for selecting their single-action instead of another:

1) Great Westerns are made of 4130 Chrome Molybdenum steel, the same as used for stress parts in aircraft and guided missiles.

2) Barrels are made of medium carbon steel of the finest quality overseen by the man formerly in charge of manufacturing Weatherby barrels.

3) Cylinders are made of SAE 4140 Chrome Molybdenum steel heat-treated to a tensile strength of 185,000 pounds per square inch. We have run .45 overloads at 100,000 pounds per square inch.

4) Both the bolt and trigger have been improved over the original and are guaranteed for 20 years, and a frame-mounted firing pin is used.

5) Stocks are imitations stag and are warp-resistant.

6) Late model actions are carefully fitted and assembled with the smoothest and softest actions ever incorporated into a single-action revolver.

7) Mainsprings have been designed for easier cocking.

8) The sear-and-bolt spring, which often failed in original guns, has been specially heat-treated and guaranteed for 50,000 movements.

9) There are no aluminum cast parts.

10) We offer a larger variety of finish including mirror blue, case-hardened frame, chrome, nickel, gold, silver, or combinations thereof.

11) Great Westerns are the only single-actions offered in a variety of barrel lengths.

12) Great Westerns are the only single-actions offered in all popular calibers.

13) Front sights are purposely tall to allow for individual sighting in, and adjustable sights are also available.

14) The hammer is made of SAE 6150 Chrome Vanadium steel, giving greater strength and wear resistance than any other.

Of course, much of the above is advertising hype, however, I have shot approximately one dozen Great Westerns over the past 40 years, and I have never had a spring fail or a part break.  I cannot say that about Colt Single Actions or current replicas.  I have purchased Great Westerns with broken parts, whether this was from use or abuse I do not know, but one .44 Magnum had a broken firing pin (cost $7.50 to fix) and a chrome 4-¾” barrel .45 Colt was found with a split forcing cone.  I replaced the barrel with a Colt barrel.  Even though the price has gone up on Great Westerns, they can still usually be picked up for less than the retail price of an Italian-made replica.  The problem, of course, is locating one.

John Taffin, aka Sixgunner, SASS #7517, NCOWS #177, The Shootists #1