Recently we have looked at the iconic Hollywood Western gun leather used by Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and by Richard Boone as Paladin on TV’s Have Gun, Will Travel Western series. But there were other Hollywood Western rigs identified with their superstar users. Two that come to mind were from the North Hollywood Gunfighter holster shop of Andy Anderson. These were the Walk and Draw Standard rig used by Steve McQueen in the classic 1960 Western movie The Magnificent Seven and the custom Walk & Draw Western rig used by Clint Eastwood in his “Spaghetti Western” movies.
To put things in context, we need to look at a bit of Hollywood Western gun leather history. Until the mid-1950s, the floppy, low-slung Buscadero rigs as used by the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and the “King of the Cowboys,” Roy Rogers, ruled the Hollywood range. But Arvo Ojala changed that with his Hollywood Fast Draw holster, which was a low-slung Buscadero cut for speed with a patented steel insert. This steel insert provided a rigid holster that did not contact the SA revolver’s cylinder, allowing it to turn freely while in the holster. Using his patented holster, Arvo Ojala taught the new crop of TV’s Western gunfighters to perform a super-fast draw by cocking their Colt SAAs and Great Westerns with first hand contact, while the revolver was still in the holster. Fast Draw speeds unimagined before the creation of this holster were easy to achieve. This emphasis on the fast draw speed of such TV Western stars as James Arness, who shot down Ojala in the opening scene of Gunsmoke every week, Hugh O’Brian as Wyatt Earp and John Russel and Peter Brown as the town marshal and his trusty deputy on Lawman, soon led to the popular new shooting sport of Fast Draw.
By the late 1950s, the most popular Fast Draw event was the Walk & Draw, as seen in many Western movies. The elimination competition had two shooters facing each other at a distance of 100 feet with their sixguns loaded with blank cartridges. Upon command they walked toward each other, hands a minimum of 6 inches from their guns, and after a visual signal, they drew and fired. An electronic timer indicated who fired first, with times recorded in hundredths of a second. Colt sponsored the National Walk & Draw Championship held at the Las Vegas Sahara Casino from 1959 through 1962, with approximately 200 competitors vying for the title of “Fastest Gun.”
In 1959, the most popular quick-draw rig at the National Championships was the Ojala rig. But without the holster tied securely to the shooter’s leg with a tie-down thong, it was difficult to consistently cock that SA for a fast draw, as the gun swung back and forth with the shooter’s leg. Enter Andy Anderson with his newly designed Walk & Draw rig, with what he called a “built-in tie-down.”
The original Anderson Walk & Draw rig had a long drop shank that passed over the top of the gun belt rather than hanging from a slot in the bottom edge of the belt. The backside of the belt loop had wings extending to each side to form a steel-lined hip plate. When this hip plate—the “built-in tie-down,” which was shaped to fit one’s hip—was pulled tightly into the hollow of the hip by the gun belt, it locked the holster in place without the need for a tie-down thong. This allowed one to walk without the holster and sixgun swinging back and forth with one’s leg, making it much easier to consistently execute a fast draw while walking.
Steve McQueen’s breakout movie role was as Vin Tanner in The Magnificent Seven. Wanting to stand out and be noticed, he chose to use a very early version of the new Anderson Walk & Draw rig. With the introduction of the Walk & Draw rig, Anderson replaced the common full-bullet loops with decorative stitching, which is correctly called the Gunfighter stitch for his Gunfighter holster shop. The original Walk & Draw rig, cataloged as the “Walk & Draw Standard,” came with a 2½-inch-wide gun belt with six bullet loops, Gunfighter stitching, and it was tapered at the ends for a 1½-inch, solid brass, horseshoe-shaped buckle. The holster mounted on the belt with a 20-degree, muzzle-forward angle (muzzle rake). McQueen chose to have full Gun-fighter stitching on his gun belt with no bullet loops, and a holster sized for a 5½-inch-barreled Colt SAA while he used a Colt with a 7½-inch barrel hanging out the bottom of the holster. This had the desired effect, as McQueen’s Anderson Walk & Draw rig was very noticeably different than those used by the other actors.
The very early version used by McQueen had a V-shaped holster shank. Anderson soon rounded the top edges of the “V” at the fold over the belt for a more pleasing appearance. The Anderson Walk & Draw Standard rig was popular with actors, with Peter Brown using one as Deputy Johnny on Lawman and on the first season of Laredo. James Drury, star of the series The Virginian, used a rough-out version of the Anderson Walk & Draw rig for the entire run. Copies of the correct version of McQueen’s Magnificent Seven rig are available from Spaghetti Western Replicas and from Chisholm’s Trail Leather.
The Anderson Walk & Draw Standard rig was soon popular with competition shooters, but many users wanted to attach a deflector plate to the holster for safety. The lack of a skirt on the Walk & Draw holster made it difficult to attach the deflector, so Anderson added a full skirt and called it the “Walk & Draw Western” with the original holster, as used by McQueen, cataloged as the “Walk & Draw Standard.”
The Man With No Name
Newcomer Clint Eastwood, appearing weekly on Rawhide as Rowdy Yates, liked the Walk & Draw Western rig but preferred a vertical holster rather than the 20-degree muzzle rake, so he ordered a custom Walk & Draw Western rig from Anderson with a vertical holster. Rather than the plain, smooth leather finish, Clint ordered his custom rig in a two-tone, rough-side-out finish with full .45 caliber bullet loops and full Gunfighter stitching. Rather than the brass horseshoe buckle used on the early McQueen rig, Eastwood’s rig had a 1½-inch, rectangular, solid brass, “hand hammered” buckle. This anchor-brand buckle was unique to the Gunfighter shop. Starting with a mirror polish, it was then hammered almost flat on Anderson’s shop vise, giving it an unusual finish similar to jewelling. The full bullet loops, the face of the holster shank and the strap encircling the holster pouch were also smooth-side-out. When the rig was finished by being dipped in Neatsfoot oil, the rough-out and smooth surfaces absorbed different amounts of oil and gave the attractive two-tone color.
Robert Horton, appearing on Wagon Train as scout Flint McCullogh, used a similar rig but with the usual all-smooth-leather finish. The original Anderson pattern that I saw many years ago was marked “1959 Clint Eastwood Robert Horton.” Horton’s rig had a handmade rectangular buckle of giant proportions and was very noticeable.
Clint liked his custom Anderson rig, known today as the “Eastwood” rig, and used it in all of his Western movies until The Outlaw Josey Wales, when he chose to use period-correct gun leather custom made by Anderson.
Today, those wanting a correct Eastwood rig may obtain one from Alfonso’s of Hollywood or from Spaghetti Western Replicas. The only difference being the hand-hammered buckle is a casting made using an original as a pattern. Thanks to one of our readers who contacted me, I now have a new-condition Anderson Eastwood rig made in 1979. I will treasure it forever.
This article originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.