The first replicas, the Great Westerns, were totally American-made and are not to be confused with the Hawes Single Actions, which came later. Hy Hunter was an early distributor of Great Westerns, as was EMF, and he also later brought in the German made J.P.Sauer & Sohn Hawes versions. Unlike the Great Western, which was Colt Single Action size, the Hawes Western Marshall was larger, more with the strength and size of Ruger. They are normally found in .45 Colt and .357 Magnum and can still be picked up at bargain prices. J.P Sauer also produced the Herter’s line of PowerMag sixguns chambered in .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, and .401 Herter’s PowerMag. Herter’s sold their PowerMag sixguns for $62 for the two magnums, and only $47 for the .401. A mail order firm, they were basically put out of business by the Gun Control Act of 1968. Herter’s sixguns have an extremely large grip frame, however they are good solid, very strong sixguns and they also can still be found at a bargain prices.
The German made Hawes and Herters sixguns may be gone, however, Germany still sends us very strong and exceptionally reasonably priced sixguns through European American Armory (EAA). My trip to Germany to visit the manufacturing facilities is one that will never be forgotten. Arriving in Germany shortly after the Berlin Wall came down and the country was unified was again, it was my good fortune to stand at the top of an abandoned guard tower on the East German border on our 4th of July. I do not think I really appreciated this country and the freedoms we have until that moment. At that moment I also realized more deeply than ever many of our freedoms are slowly but surely disappearing and we must continue to fight for our Second Amendment rights if our children and grandchildren are to live free.
I was in Germany to visit the Weihrauch factory in the Bavarian area of Germany and to see EAA’s Single Action Bounty Hunter being made. The Weihrauch family had been forced to flee East Germany when the Russians erected the wall leaving their factory and home and coming to the Western side to start all over again. Now the second generation of Weihrauchs are producing single action sixguns. The old Weihrauch plant in what was formerly East Germany is still an abandoned building and stands as the perfect monument to the failure of Communism.
The Bounty Hunter is a traditionally styled single action sixgun with a sight set-up consisting of a hog wallow through the top of the frame and a blade front sight. This set-up is easier for me to see than that found on most Colt Single Actions as a square sight picture is afforded. As one of the modern styled single actions, the Bounty Hunter is safe to carry with six shots as an agreement with Ruger allows the use of a transfer bar although this sixgun maintains the typical Colt and Old Model Ruger style half-cock loading/unloading notch.
While I was in Mellrichstadt arrangements were made to build a special German single action sixgun. An order was placed with the Weihrauch factory for a Bounty Hunter in the original single action caliber, .45 Colt, with an all blue finish, an easy packin' 5 1/2” barrel, and one piece walnut stocks. Hans Weihrauch suggested the special serial number JOHN 001 to commemorate my pleasurable trip to Germany. The 5 1/2" .45 Colt Bounty Hunter weighs in at two pounds seven ounces and since it is built on a .44 Magnum frame is much stronger than a Colt Single Action. It is in fact in some measurements larger than the Ruger Vaquero. In addition to a .44 Magnum sized cylinder and frame, the Bounty Hunter has a Colt-style top strap. It is a quality single action sixgun at a very reasonable price.
Sometime after the demise of the Great Western sixgun and before the price of the Colt Single Action Army really began to escalate, Italian made replicas began to arrive in this country. Those early examples where normally poorly finished, had brass grip frames, and only from a distance resembled the original Colt Single Action Army. They were found in many spaghetti Westerns made in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it always bothered me to see those brass grip frames on sixguns, which were supposedly Colt Single Actions.
Many of the replica sixguns have already been covered in previous chapters. This includes the Navy Arms Model #3 Russian and Schofield (chapters 2 and 3) and their percussion sixguns in chapter 28, the Remington 1875 and 1890 (chapter 4), and in chapter 5, the Cartridge Conversions. All of these replicas came about because of an increased interest in Western history brought about mainly due to the tremendous rise in popularity of Cowboy Action Shooting, resulting in a demand for more authentically styled replicas. Companies such as Cimarron, EMF, and Navy Arms worked to convince the Italian gunmakers to turn out a more authentic replica. These and other importers today bring us truly authentic replicas.
One individual who has toiled for authentically styled replicas is Cimarron’s Mike Harvey. I have been using and testing and reviewing Cimarron products since the very beginning and it is quite satisfying to track the improvement from the very first replicas. When visiting Cimarron in November 2002 to pick up the pair of Open-Tops, we also spent some time with Mike Harvey. At that time he talked about a stainless steel Model P and I felt it would certainly be welcomed as a large number of devotees to the Single Action Army would very much like to have their favorite sixgun in stainless steel.
Stainless steel, artistically speaking, will not take the place of beautiful case colors and deep blue, however it still remains very attractive and even more practical than nickel-plating, which can flake off. If stainless steel is scratched, it can easily be polished. Secondly, as an outdoor finish it is pretty hard to beat stainless steel. If the weather is bad, one worries about a blued sixgun; if the finish is stainless, simply wipe it off when returning home. The third reason is the most important to me. I like to shoot black powder loads, and although cleanup is not as tedious as some would have us believe, it still requires more care than when using smokeless powder loads. Stainless steel is not only easier to clean, it also makes it easier to see the places that remain to be cleaned.
Cimarron is now importing Uberti manufactured stainless steel Model Ps in both .357 Magnum and .45 Colt in the three standard Single Action Army barrel lengths of 4 3/4”, 5 1/2”, and 7 1/2”. Not only are they being made in stainless steel it is also a very nicely polished stainless steel imparting almost a nickel finish look. By now the Italians know how to make single actions and they have pretty much captured the proper look and feel of the Single Action Army and the stainless steel versions are just about the best work they have ever done.
I have been shooting a pair of 7 1/2” .45s the past several months. The grips on the stainless Model P are just about perfect as to shape and size, they are well fitted to the frame, however the color and finish is just not quite right for my taste. This has become a moot point with me as most of my using sixguns are fitted with custom stocks. For this pair of 7 1/2” stainless steel Cimarrons I selected antique faux ivory stocks from Buffalo Brothers. Sixgun #57 has been fitted with stocks with a Longhorn steer skull on both sides, while a double Mexican Eagle decorates both panels of #58. The combination of polished stainless steel and antique ivory is most pleasing to the eye and the carving on the grips provides a comfortable non-slip surface for the hands.
I have am fortunate to have an original Colt Frontier Six-Shooter, as the early Colts chambered in .44-40 were called, circa 1879, with one-piece stocks and a 7 1/2” barrel. The well-worn original finish of this Colt Frontier Six-Shooter was earned with over 100 years of service, however the Original Finish offered on the Cimarron Model P, although brand-new, is a dead ringer for what little finish is left on the old Colt Six-Shooter. Cimarron's finish is not simply an in the white sixgun with no bluing. Instead it has age marks, blemishes, and even a small spot or to with a brownish patina look. The one-piece stocks are also appropriately stressed. The only two obvious things signifying the Cimarron Model P as anything other than an old Colt from the 1880s is the barrel marking of “44 W.C.F.” instead of “COLT FRONTIER SIX-SHOOTER” and the fact that the stocks still have plenty of varnish in tact. One other great difference is the condition of the barrel. If only the old Colt could match the pristine barrel of the Cimarron Model P.
This antiqued .44-40 raise images of its own. Horses tied at the hitching posts all along Main Street, a crowded saloon on Saturday night packed with cowboys from the neighboring ranches, above the loud talking a piano can be heard, round tables packed with those who think they can actually beat the man dressed in black who shuffles the cards oh so effortlessly. A shot rings out, and all other noise stops, “Somebody better get the Marshal!”…………..
Without actually counting I would guess I have tested no less than 100 replica single actions over the past decade. I have yet to find one that could be called a poor shooter, in fact the vast majority of them are well above average, and this particular sixgun is about as good as it gets. It shoots to point of aim with most loads as far as windage is concerned and about an inch low. A few file strokes will take care of the latter. Cimarron’s Original Finish is offered in all calibers and barrel lengths.
Cimarron has another unique offering in their Wyatt Earp Model. The Cimarron Model P Buntline being offered is a duplicate of the Buntline Special used by Kurt Russell in his memorable (both he and Val Kilmer deserved Oscars) performance as Wyatt Earp in the 1990 movie, Tombstone. Watching the movie closely, it is apparent that the Buntline Special used has a 10” barrel, not the standard 12” length of the 2nd Generation sixguns. Also when Russell as Wyatt removes his special Colt from its presentation box we see the medallion that is inlaid in the right hand stock. This is also carried out in Cimarron's version as the badge- shaped shield contains the inscription, "WYATT EARP PEACEMAKER, From the Grateful People of Dodge City, Apr 8th 1878." Notice there is no mention of Ned Buntline.
Balance wise, the 12” sixguns are a little muzzle heavy, however, I find that feeling lacking with 10” less barrel. It just seems to hang on target. The Wyatt Earp Peacemaker, as the above mentioned .44-40 Model P, is offered in the antique looking Original Finish, or the traditional blued barrel, ejector housing, cylinder, and grip frame, mated with a case-colored frame and hammer. Screws are furnished in the bright nitre blue finish rather than the traditional blue-black finish.
Shooters, be they Cowboy Action participants or simply those who appreciate 19th Century single action sixguns now have a nearly full menu of sixguns to pick from. The Colt Cartridge Conversion, Open-Top, Model P, Bisley, and Flat-Top Target Model are all now replicated. Add in the Remington 1875 and 1890, S&W Schofield and Model #3 Russias, even “replicas” of single actions that never existed such as the Lightning and New Thunderer with their Colt 1877 Double Action style grip frame. The only sixguns missing are the S&W New Model #3 and the Merwin Hulbert. Dare we hope?
Cimarron’s Model P Jr. has the same size grip frame as the Model P, however just about everything else is scaled-down. The balance of the gun is about the same size as a Ruger Single-Six, and actually it has same size frame as the Lightning. Unlike the Model P, the junior version has a frame-mounted firing pin. Although the cylinder is smaller, the Jr. is a true six-shooter. For younger shooters, or those that cannot handle much felt recoil, a Model P Jr. in .38 would be an excellent choice, and if one wishes to remain authentic, instead of .38 Specials simply load with .38 Long Colts which arrived originally in the 1870s as opposed to the 1899 arrival of the first .38 Special. The Model P Jr. is also available with a 3 1/2” barrel and makes a fine little sixgun when this version is chambered in .32-20.
The Lightning is a replica of a single action sixgun that never existed as is the New Thunderer. Colt’s original Lightning and Thunderer were double action sixguns chambered in .38 Long Colt and .41 Long Colt respectively. Available with either a 4 3/4" or 3 1/2" barrel length and in blue/case colored or nickel finish, the New Thunderer mates a standard grip frame with a back strap that is a copy of the style found on the old Lightning and Thunderer Colt double action sixguns of the 1870's. This back strap carries a pronounced double action style hump that fares very well with the relatively low recoiling cartridges, such as the .45 Colt and .44 Special chamberings of that the New Thunderer . Grips are one-piece walnut either smooth or fine-line checkered.
Replicas have come a long way since the days of the spaghetti western. The late Val Forgett started the importation of percussion revolver replicas and worked several decades to provide shooters with many varied and authentically-styled 19th Century sixguns. Both Navy Arms and Cimarron; along with such other firms as Early& Modern Firearms and Taylor’s & Co., continue to fill the needs and wants of shooters when it comes to 19th Century firearms.
Although not replicas strictly speaking, two other lines of quality sixguns need to be mentioned. At one time the Swiss manufacturer, Hammerli offered very high-quality single action sixguns known as the Virginian. These were offered in both .357 Magnum and .45 Colt with three finishes on the same revolver, a chrome plated grip frame, a blue/case colored main frame, and the balance of the gun blued; and they were the first single action revolvers to use a longer than normal base pin with two locking notches. Known as the Swissafe, the use of the front notch caused the base pin to protrude far enough beyond the back to the frame to prevent the hammer from contacting the cartridge. It is still used on many replica sixguns.
These revolvers were imported by Interarms, and when their manufacture was switched to Interarms in Virginia, they became the Virginian Dragoons offered with both fixed and adjustable sights, and either stainless-steel or blue/case colored finish. The Dragoons were exceptionally strong revolvers, the last of which were produced in 1984.