If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just want to watch a good old “shoot-’em-up” Western. It doesn’t have to be based on any real event or person(s), such as the case in the movie Silverado. And some liberties can be taken, and a little “Hollywood” inserted, as long as it’s not too far-fetched. Of course, I get riled up if the firearms portrayed are way out of whack. I don’t even want to see a Model 92 Winchester being used in a Civil War–era movie.
The Silverado Movie and the Leather Rig it Inspired
One of my favorite “escape-from-reality” films is Silverado, produced in 1985. It’s set somewhere in the West, and I’d say sometime in the period from 1875 to 1885. Filmed in New Mexico, Silverado portrays a mythical high desert town, the destination for several hard men who’ve come to town for different reasons.
The flick features a stellar cast, showcasing early career efforts by Kevin Costner (Jake) and Jeff Goldblum (Calvin “Slick” Stanhope). Scott Glenn plays Emmett, while Kevin Kline is Paden. Other central characters include Danny Glover as “Mal” Johnson, Brian Dennehy as Sheriff Cobb, Rosanna Arquette as Hannah, and Linda Hunt as Stella.
The film generally did quite well at the box office. Likewise, it received two Oscar nominations at the 58th Annual Academy Awards.
The Good, the Bad & the Ornery
Emmett is startled out of sleep by noises outside the shack where he’s been sleeping. He’s propelled into action as three assailants pump bullets and buckshot into the shack. In a brief but deadly gun battle, he prevails. Emmett is traveling to the town of Silverado but makes a detour to Turley, where he plans to reunite with his younger brother.
Leading an extra horse, Emmett encounters Paden on a desert trail. Paden, dressed only in his long johns, has been robbed and left to die. He decides to ride with Emmett and mounts the extra horse.
In Turley, Emmett discovers that his somewhat reckless brother Jake is in jail, and the sheriff—a transplanted Englishman packing an Enfield Model 1880 Mk 1 revolver—plans to hang him the next day.
Once In town, Paden encounters one of the hombres who robbed him. In a shootout, Paden survives, only to be thrown in jail with Jake. The two men contrive an escape plan and break out, assisted by Emmett, and ride for Silverado with a posse in pursuit.
They evade the posse with the assistance of sharp-shooting “Mal” Johnson, who comes to their defense. Next, they encounter a small wagon train heading to Silverado and help the settlers recover a strongbox containing all their money, which had been stolen by a gang of outlaws. Back at the wagon train, Paden stays with the settlers. Mal goes to locate his aged father, while Emmett and Jake go to visit their sister.
The Plot Thickens in Silverado
Their sister Hannah lives in the Silverado land office with her husband, who is the agent, and their young son. Emmett learns that nemesis Ethan McKendrick, a local rancher with a huge spread, is running off anyone who tries to settle on the open range.
He’s assisted by Silverado’s corrupt Sheriff Cobb, who once rode with Paden. Emmett had just spent five years in prison for killing McKendrick’s father. And it was Ethan who had Emmett ambushed at the shack.
In the meantime, Mal finds his father, Ezra, whose house has been burned and his land overrun with McKendrick’s cattle. Mal’s sister has fled to Silverado and taken to prostitution, staying with dubious gambler “Slick” Stanhope, who is in league with Cobb.
In town, Paden has discovered the Midnight Star saloon and its proprietor, Stella. As a purveyor of fine saloons, he is given the job of supervising the gambling operation by Cobb. However, Cobb, knowing Paden’s ways, warns him against interfering with McKendrick, making a veiled threat against Stella, who has become Paden’s new friend.
McKendrick’s men return to Ezra’s land and kill him. They then ride to the land office, burn it and take Emmett’s nephew hostage. Stella tells Paden that she knows of Cobb’s threat but wants him to join with Emmett, Jake, and Mal to right all the wrongs that are taking place in Silverado.
The youthful and reckless Jake is prone to hyperactivity but is also a skilled gunman. He wears a two-gun holster rig, carrying a pair of matching pearl-handled, nickel-plated Colt six-guns. He’s more than ready to take on the bad guys.
The Silverado Colorado Jake
Modeled after Jake’s two-gun holster and belt rig seen in Silverado, this ornate yet handsome outfit is the creation of Chisholm’s Trail Old West Leather. It’s one of the products listed in the buscadero section of their Hollywood Holsters Collection. This collection encompasses re-creations of many of the holster and belt combinations seen in classic Western films and TV programs.
Owners Alan and Donna Soellner can put together rigs from such famous “oaters” as Gunsmoke, Paladin, Tombstone, and The Shootist. These leather works of art are often made using the same patterns as the originals. The Soellners, besides being master leather-crafters, are also diligent researchers. Likewise, they only use the only the finest materials for their authentic products.
As mentioned earlier, the producers of Silverado took a little license with realism here and there. As far as the guns go, I have no complaints—there are plenty of Colt Single Action Army revolvers, double-barreled shotguns, and lever-action rifles. Most are authentic reproductions and are generally period correct. However, the belt and holster rigs are more reminiscent of those seen in Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Finer Details
The wide belts have a built-in drop, with a slot through which the holster is attached using the skirt. The holster itself is open-topped and exposes the triggerguard and hammer for ready access. Some have a leather thong to loop over the hammer for safety. Another thong is attached to the toe of the holster and is tied around the wearer’s leg to keep the holster secure.
The holster is made of stiff leather and molded to the shape of the gun—some have a hidden steel liner. This is to facilitate a fast draw, which is the hallmark of Hollywood cowboy shoot-’em-ups. This is the style that Jake and most of the other characters wear in the movie.
Known as buscadero rigs, these were few and far between in the Old West but came to be used in the 1920s by Texas lawmen and Hollywood property masters. They were also popular in fast-draw competition, a shooting sport that became widespread when Westerns ruled prime-time TV.
Jake’s rig is fashioned to hold a holster on each side, the gun butts facing to the rear. A second gun provided for a quick reload. Similarly, the double holsters make it easier to draw and shoot a gun with each hand.
As a gunfighter, Jake is proud of his leather, and the belt and holsters are ornately carved in a floral pattern. Leather loops attached to the skirt encircle the holster barrel about two-thirds down its length and have decorative conchos.
The wide belt has 21 cartridge loops and tapers at the tongue, and the buckle end to 1.75 inches. An oval buckle, also made by Chisholm’s Trail, sports a cast floral relief.
Both the belt and holsters are fully lined, and Alan confided in me that he feels this is the best Donna has ever done on this set. He remarked that she has spent many hours carving floral patterns by hand. She then color-stains the leather and applies a saddle finish with sheep’s fleece.
It certainly looks as though it has had lots of personal attention lavished on it. The molding and stitching are perfectly done, and the holsters do have leather thong tie-downs and hammer safety loops.
I tried two of my 5.5-inch barrel repro Colt Single Action Army revolvers in the holsters, and they fit to a tee. They were also quick to get out of the leather for a speedy presentation. This kind of quality and attention to detail ain’t cheap, so the holster and belt rig, as shown, runs $800.
Emmett and company come up with a plan to rescue his nephew and rouse the ranch’s cattle herd into a stampede toward the ranch house. In the melee and confusion, the boy is recovered, and most of the crooked ranch hands are gunned down. Ethan McKendrick, however, makes his escape to Silverado.
The four good guys ride into town, where Cobb and his henchmen are planning to waylay them. When they arrive, Jake is hunted by a couple of Cobb’s deputies, but he gets the drop on them. With his two-gun rig, he draws and shoots them both at the same time. Mal finds his sister and removes her from the clutches of “Slick,” killing him with his own knife.
Simultaneously, Emmett is having a riding and shooting duel with McKendrick. Emmett drops his gun but rides his horse into a livery stable barn and out the other side through the upper “hay” door.
He leaps out from there on his horse, the animal’s hooves striking McKendrick in the head and killing him. Now Paden has a mythical Old West face-off with Cobb and beats him to the draw.
In the end, Emmett and Jake say their goodbyes to their sister and family and ride off for California. Mal and his sister reunite and return to the family homestead. Paden, no doubt, still spends a lot of time at the Midnight Star. However, he has found a new calling as Silverado’s new sheriff.
Silverado Embraces Western Traditions
One movie critic, author Ian Freer, had this to say: Silverado gets four out of five stars and was the “. . . kind of picture that makes you want to play cowboys the moment it is over . . . Silverado offers a wholehearted embracing of Western traditions.”
I’ll second that motion about playing cowboy. And if you want to do it in style, Chisholm’s Trail Old West Leather can certainly fill the bill!
For more information, please visit WesternLeatherHolster.com.
This article was originally published in the Guns of the Old West Winter 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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