A Pair of Sixes to Draw To

Note the unique pattern formed by the hand grinder cuts…

Note the unique pattern formed by the hand grinder cuts executed by Joe Bowman.

This is a story about two special Colt SAAs I salvaged for use in CAS and Fast Draw.

1882 Colt Details

I found the first one while surfing the Internet. While checking for first generation Colt SAAs on www.gunsamerica.com, I found a fascinating customized .44-40 Frontier in the 74000 serial number range, one of 12000 Colt SAAs manufactured in 1882. The old Colt was modified to a Sheriff’s Model configuration by cutting the barrel back to 2-1/8 inches. The ejector assembly was discarded, and the ejector boss was left unmodified on the frame. The entire grip frame and grips were replaced with a polished brass grip frame from an original Colt 1851 Navy revolver with a one-piece walnut grip. The barrel was professionally crowned and a proper blade front sight was installed. The barrel and cylinder still have the last four digits of the serial number stamped on them, so all parts except the grip assembly and grips are original. While this is the type of SAA revolver that I find most interesting, the “kicker” was the special Berns-Martin open front Speed holster that was custom made just for this short barrel Colt Frontier.

The Berns-Martin Speed holster was designed in the 1930s and is an open front pouch holster that encloses the triggerguard and secures the revolver with a “C” shaped flat spring that clasps the cylinder. To draw the gun, one rocks the revolver forward to clear the triggerguard, and the frame and barrel pop out the front of the holster. The FBI was very partial to the Berns-Martin. Both Elmer Keith and master handgun exhibition shooter Ed McGivern illustrate and recommend the Berns-Martin Speed holster in their classic handgunning books, Sixguns and Fast And Fancy Revolver Shooting, respectively.
With this fascinating old Colt made for black powder cartridges, and with the cylinder locking notches being well worn, I did not feel it is safe to shoot with live ammunition. Going to my spare parts box, I found an EMF .44-40 Colt clone cylinder which only required a few minutes of fitting to function perfectly, yet is safe for use with modern smokeless powder CAS loads.

While unverifiable, this interesting Colt SAA belly gun and custom speed holster was reported to have come from Las Vegas, Nevada, where it was carried by a security guard some 50 plus years ago. This is quite possible, as more than a few shot smokeless powder loads in black powder model Colt SAAs up until WWII. Also, a security guard carrying a custom sixgun in a custom speed rig might very possibly want a flashy pistol grip showing at his hip, explaining the brass 1851 Navy grip assembly. I consider myself very fortunate in having the opportunity to provide this unique antique Colt SAA with a new home and to shoot it in CAS.

46-47a-848
The shadow box Colt is right at home in this Roy Rogers style silver mounted Hollywood holster made by Joe Bowman. The Hollywood style spur straps on the vintage Garcia spurs are by Alfonso’s of Hollywood.

1903 Colt Details

The second Colt SAA came to me through a friend. He purchased it with the highest bid at an auction. In the 239000 serial number range, it was manufactured in 1903 and was also one of 12000 produced that year. When purchased at auction, it was mounted in a shadow box for wall display. Sadly, after purchasing the Colt, my friend found that whoever mounted it had deactivated it, for display only. The 5.5-inch barrel had been threaded inside the muzzle for a muzzle plug. The breech face of the cylinder had been hogged out with a grinder so that cartridges would not chamber correctly, seating too deeply. This made the barrel and cylinder throwaways. But even worse, a 3/8 of an inch diameter hole had been drilled through the triggerguard flat just in front of the triggerguard bow, continuing up through the frame and through the outside wall of the cylinder. This hole in the frame was threaded, and a plug was screwed into it and extended into the cylinder, permanently locking the cylinder from turning. This totally deactivated the old Colt, as the hammer could not be cocked. My friend offered it to me at his cost. After checking it over, I found that the hammer and trigger were sound, and the major parts had matching serial numbers, so I decided it was worth trying to save, so I purchased it.

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