John Wesley Hardin is considered an American Old West outlaw, gunfighter, and controversial folk hero. Hardin often got into trouble with the law from an early age. He killed his first man at the age of 15, which he claimed to be in self-defense. By the age of 17, John Wesley Hardin had killed a dozen men and had a price on his head of $1,100. Uberti turns back the hands of time with this classic top-break revolver in homage to Hardin.
John Wesley Hardin and the Top-Break .44 Colt
Between the age of 17 and his capture in 1877 by Texas Ranger Lieutenant John B. Armstrong, who got close enough to crack Hardin over the head with the barrel of his revolver and knock him unconscious, many others on both sides of the law had faced Hardin’s Colts and came up short. By 1877, at age 24, the Texas Rangers claimed he had killed 40 men.
John Wesley Hardin was known to own several different types of firearms. By the time he was 17, he was carrying both an 1851 Navy and an 1860 Army. He is also known to have carried an ivory-gripped, nickel-plated Smith & Wesson No. 3 First Model Russian top-break.
Uberti pays tribute to this skilled gunfighter with an 1875 No. 3 2ndModel top-break. The pistol is part of the company’s Outlaw & Lawmen Series. This revolver follows the lines of the S&W Break-Top with which he prevailed in a shoot-out with Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb, who was killed in the shoot-out in Comanche, Texas, on May 26, 1874.
Uberti currently offers eight models to represent different famous and infamous Old West personalities. Personally, I feel the Hardin Top-Break is the most stunning of the whole series. Specifically due to its contrast of case-colored frame against the charcoal-blued barrel and cylinder along with simulated bison-horn grips.
That’s probably why it is the most expensive of the series, with a price of $1,699.
The Hardin Outlaw in Hand
It is a handful revolver and felt great in my hands. But there are a couple of things that weren’t so great. There were a couple of machine marks on the case-colored frame, and the blueing on the barrel had some blemishes. Overall, it is still a very striking top break.
The single-action trigger is charcoaled blued, like the barrel and cylinder. It had a very clean break. The case-color hammer was easy to cock back with two clicks. The simulated bison-horn grips filled the hand well. For a 2.6-pound steel handgun (empty), it balanced surprisingly well.
The front sight consisted of a fixed nickel half-moon post and a case-color v-notch rear. The hinge screw and two-piece latch assembly were also case-colored. Opening and closing the revolver took a bit of practice. However, in no time, I sent empty shells flying from the cylinder when cracking open this .45 Colt.
It took some time to get used to the grip and cocking the hammer. You learn very quickly that you can’t hold a Top-Break the same way you hold a SAA. I found a high hold with my thumb almost parallel to the hammer to work best for me. Just remember what works for me might not work for you. When you grip it, all bets are off.
I decided to test the Uberti for various duties, including performing at Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) matches. I fed it Aguila 200-grain Soft Point and Hornady 255-grain Cowboy loads for the competition side.
The .45 Hardin shot to the point of aim with the Hornady load but shot slightly high and to the left with the Aguila. However, both loads produced sub-2-inch groups all day long.
I tested the Uberti with CCI’s Big 4 shotshells in .45 Colt, which can easily take care of snakes and small varmints up close. Then, if you have to deal with varmints of the large, two-legged kind, CCI’s Blazer 200-grain JHPs are the perfect medicine.
After firing quite a few of these rounds in my testing, I retrieved some of the bullets, which had expanded very nicely. Just because it is an “Old West” revolver doesn’t mean it should be only limited to Cowboy Action Shooting matches.
Ejection of the spent cases was not a problem. All brass was sent flying through the air. Granted, as the day wore on and the revolver got dirtier, a couple of empties had to be pulled out by hand.
John Wesley Hardin lead a very interesting life. All who knew Hardin had known him to be a good man at heart but with a temper, a weakness for liquor, and a fast gun. He met his end at the Acme Saloon by Selman Sr., who opened fire on a tired and drunk Hardin.
If he was alive today, I am sure he would be a proud owner of the Uberti Hardin .45 Colt.
See it and the others in the series at Uberti.com.
Uberti Hardin Outlaw Specs
Caliber: .45 Colt
Barrel: 7 inches
Overall Length: 12.8 inches
Weight: 41.6 ounces (empty)
Grips: Simulated bison horn
Sights: Fixed front, v-notched rear
Finish: Charcoal blued and case color
This article was originally published in the Guns of the Old West Spring 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email email@example.com.
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