Johnny Ringo’s revolver was a nine-shot .44 with a shotgun barrel underneath, and the studio’s armorer didn’t even have to make it up as a gimmick for the show. Dr. Jean Alexander Francois LeMat, a New Orleans physician and firearms inventor, had done it for them just before the Civil War. Of course, it made no sense for Ringo to be carrying a LeMat in the 1880s, or for anyone with a sense of preservation to carry one of the heavy-handed pistols into a quick-draw shootout, but this was television, and the LeMat was nothing if not as eye-catching as Josh Randall’s Mare’s Leg.
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In some of the show’s publicity photos, Durant is holding a percussion pistol, but for the series, in order to speed takes along and not have to reload a cap-and-ball gun over and over, the LeMat was modified with a blank-firing cylinder. That didn’t make it any easier to shoot, but Arvo Ojala made it easier for Durant to draw quickly by modifying one of his holsters into a skeletonized rig with two suede-covered spring-steel clips holding the gun by its cylinder and shotgun barrel muzzle. Durant could strip it out lightning quick and make it look easy, even fast-cocking the altered nine-shooter. Although the show only lasted for 38 episodes, the gun and holster have never been forgotten.
To recreate Johnny Ringo’s quick-draw LeMat rig, holster-maker Bob Mernickle found the original design by Ojala and copied it in exacting detail for this article, right down to the rough-out-suede finish and double leg tie-downs. (mernickleholsters.com; 800-497-3166)
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This article originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.