I am a fan of the European American Armory’s Big Bore Bounty Hunter line of sixguns. That is partly due to an emotional attachment that goes back to when I was a teenager buying my first handgun. It was a Hawes Western Marshal chambered for .357 Mag. I loved that gun, and I soon followed it up with the same model in .44 Mag. Eventually I traded those pistols off, but I missed them so much that I bought a well-used .44 Mag Western Marshall about 20 years ago, and that one is not getting away from me.
Today’s EAA Big Bore Bounty Hunters are the lineal descendants of my old Hawes Western Marshal. The German firm of J.P. Sauer made the Western Marshal before they joined forces with Swiss Arms AG, better known as SIG. In the early 1980s Sauer acquired SIG and concentrated on producing and marketing their line of autopistols worldwide. About that time, Sauer sold their revolver operation and tooling to Herman Weihrauch Waffenfabrik in the Bavarian town of Mellrichstadt. The firm is abbreviated to HWM.
Over the years HWM has made a few design changes to the original J.P Sauer single action. The most notable modification was to establish a licensing agreement with Ruger for use of their transfer bar safety system to comply with the United States’ post-GCA’68 import rules. The resulting pistol is very much like a combination of a Colt and a Ruger, with a few unique touches thrown in.
The lock work on a Bounty Hunter is pure Colt with the addition of the transfer bar. The grip assembly is much closer to a Colt’s than it is to a Ruger. But, because it is available in .44 Mag, the cylinder is sized like the old style Ruger Vaqueros. The chambers are also countersunk in the cylinder. This is a nice touch for strength and safety, but it makes it tough for the loading table officer to verify that the hammer is down on an empty chamber.
I’ve had a .45 Colt Big Bore Bounty Hunter with a 4.5-inch barrel since 1998. In the 13 years that I’ve owned it I’ve never had a problem with it. Because it is so strongly built, it has served as my test bed for testing .45 Colt ammunition, both new factory fodder and all manner of handloads. It has served admirably in that role for over a decade. But, I didn’t feel that the short, 4.5–inch barrel was providing enough of a test. So, I decided I needed a second .45 Colt, Big Bore Bounty Hunter, but this one would have a 7.5-inch barrel.
I also decided that the new Bounty Hunter would have a nickel-plated finish. I started getting interested in nickel-plated guns a couple of years ago. The finish is attractive and durable, especially for a black powder shooter because it resists corrosion. So far I only have a couple of nickel-plated sixguns in the cabinet, and I decided that the Bounty Hunter would augment that tribe.
With its 7.5-inch barrel, the Big Bore Bounty Hunter is an impressive mass of nickel-plated steel. But, it still only tips the scales at 48 ounces; which is just two ounces heavier than my 7.5-inch barreled Colt SAA. All the major exterior surfaces of the Bounty Hunter are finished in nickel-plate. The base pin, action screws, trigger and back of the hammer are blued to provide a visual counterpoint to the shiny metal.
As far as looks go, I have only one bone to pick with the Bounty Hunter…the grips. For some reason HWM thinks that all of their 7.5-inch barreled single-actions require oversized grips. If your hands are the size of coal shovels, these grips may be just what you’re looking for. Luckily the normal Bounty Hunter grips, as you’d find them on a 4.5-inch Bounty Hunter, fit the 7.5-inch guns perfectly. So you can request that EAA send you a pair when you order your long barrel Bounty Hunter. I took a different approach.
I sent my Bounty Hunter off to Eagle Grips where Raj Singh’s team fitted it with a set of their ultra imitation black pearl grips. These grips are beautiful—I don’t know how they achieve it, but the grip material has a three dimensional depth and luster that photographs just can’t capture. It is almost like looking at a hologram. The black grips look spectacular against the polished nickel.
Raj also sent along a pair of checkered buffalo horn grips in his gunfighter configuration. Eagle Grips proprietary gunfighter grip design is a favorite among Cowboy Action Shooting competitors. Gunfighter grips have very thin grip panels that swell out to full size at the tops of the grips, where they meet the frame. This design provides a very secure grip that resists moving in your hand under recoil. I tested the Eagle gunfighter grips using black powder cartridges loaded with 255-grain bullets over a highly compressed 40-grain charge of 2Fg Goex powder. Calling this a full-house load barely does it justice, but the gunfighter grips kept the gun glued to my hand. I could really feel the checkering doing its job. But, as attractive as the buffalo horn grips are, the black pearl grips are still my favorite. The combination of nickel and black pearl make the Bounty Hunter look good.