The often-quoted assertion that “History is written by the victors” is attributed to Winston Churchill, and while others have used it, and even reworded it, no matter how it’s phrased, it isn’t necessarily true. Sometimes, those on the losing side write their own stories. This certainly applies to the Civil War, which concludes its sesquicentennial celebration in 2015. Over the past four years, Guns of the Old West has examined various firearms used throughout the war, and from the standpoint of weapons built between 1861 and 1865, the South did a remarkable job of writing its own chapter. In this issue we review “Civil War Classics,” a dozen 150 year-old weapons that have been faithfully reproduced today. Look Inside »


In this issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST, two of the most defining characteristics of the American cowboy are front and center, the handgun and the cartridge belts and holsters that held them. The gun-maker’s craft, as well as that of the gun engraver and holster-maker, excelled in the post-Civil War 1870s and 1880s. Capturing the essence of this remarkable period in the American West are several guns and gun rigs featured in this issue’s Guns of the Gunfighters and Classic Gunleather articles. The unique Colt Sheriff’s Model in the Gunfighters column was handcrafted and engraved by Conrad Anderson of Rocktree Ranch (208-682-4334) in a period-correct vine scroll and punch-dot pattern used by master engravers like Helfricht and Nimschke. These heavily modified belly or backup guns played a significant role in many a confrontation. Backup guns remained a necessity for lawmen as well as those on the other side of the badge, and among famous western hideaway guns was the British Webley Bulldog, detailed by author Leroy Thompson. Look Inside »

FALL 2014

Two hundred years ago, on July 19, 1814, Samuel Colt was born. This past July the City of Hartford, Connecticut, celebrated Colt’s legacy with a 200th Anniversary gala. But we should all be celebrating Colt’s birthday, for without him the world would probably be a different place today. Rarely does one man leave behind such a permanent and history-altering legacy. For better or worse, Samuel Colt built an empire based on a single design that evolved into the greatest arms-making concern in American history, one that provided frontiersmen, explorers, lawmen and ordinary folks the capability to better defend themselves, the U.S. military to better arm its soldiers with the firepower to bring the fight to the enemy as never before, even when we turned those very guns upon ourselves during the Civil War. Today, there would be far fewer stories to tell about the American West had Samuel Colt not invented the revolver. Look Inside »


A lot of people do not believe in coincidence. I’m not one of them because it happens all the time. Case in point, the book pictured here arrived the other day from the Autry Museum courtesy of Colt. In this issue, there is a story about the last days of John Wesley Hardin and the parallels between his murder and that of Wild Bill Hickok, and another about cattle-brand engraving that mentions guns that were made for famed Texas Ranger Captain “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas. Those guns, along with Hickok’s 1851 Navy and John Wesley Hardin’s Colt 1877 double-action revolver are all pictured in this book and on display at the Autry Museum. Look Inside »

Winter 2014

From the first time I saw Tombstone on the big screen in 1993, I have believed that it is just about the perfect Western. Not that there haven’t been better Westerns. Unforgiven, Lone-some Dove, Shane, High Noon and The Searchers all come to mind as being superior films in many ways, but all of them share a common thread—memorable characters. Tombstone was the one those rare films so populated with unforgettable characters that they keep you coming back to watch the movie over and over. Look Inside »


There are few words that better describe the Old West than cattle and cattlemen. Cows and cowboys were the quintessential elements around which so much of mid to late 19th century lore is based. Our cover guns this month, a striking pair of cattlebrand-engraved Ruger New Vaquero and New Vaquero Bisley single actions, are indicative of the importance cattle and cattle ranching played in the post Civil War Western Expansion and settling of the American Southwest. The style of engraving on both guns is one of the more dramatic tributes to the cattle ranches of the late 19th century that flourished from the Texas Panhandle to California. A look at the history of cattlebrand guns and legendary engraver Cole Agee begins on page 18 along with the story of the Vaqueros, which is not just about the guns, but also the Spanish cattlemen who became the first American cowboys in the early 19th century. Look Inside »