October 27, 2010
The market for reproductions of Old West rifles is stronger than ever.
Taylor's Comanchero is a specially tuned rifle that will help cowboy action shooters shave seconds off their times.
According to an oft-told legend, in 1899 Charles H. Duell, who was Commissioner of Patents, suggested that President McKinley close the patent office because "everything that could be invented has been invented." In that context, there are some today who feel that every 19th century replica rifle that could be replicated has been replicated. For example, we have creditable copies of the Winchester Models 1873, '76, '86, '92 and '95, and more recently the Model 94. In addition, we have excellent Italian and American clones of the 1874 Sharps and High Wall and Low Wall single-shots. So what's left?
Well, plenty. After a sufficient period of mourning, the Model 94 has been brought back by Winchester Repeating Arms. Made in Japan by Miroku and created in honor of the 200th anniversary of Oliver Winchester's birth (1910-2010), it's limited to 500 Model 1894 Custom Grade and 500 Model 1894 High Grade rifles, each chambered in .30-30 and with features reminiscent of special-order options at the turn of the 19th century.
These include scroll-engraved receivers, half-round/half-octagon barrels and upgraded wood. The Custom Grade, priced at $1,959, will feature Grade IV/V fancy walnut checkered stocks, and its richly blued engraved receiver will sport gold accents depicting a portrait of Oliver Winchester and a banner reading, "1810-2010--Two Hundred Years--Oliver F. Winchester." The engraved left side of the receiver features a gold 1890s-style "WRA" logo with scrollwork, and the top of the bolt sports Oliver Winchester's signature in gold. The 24-inch barrel is gold-inscribed, "One of Five Hundred."
The High Grade, selling for $1,469, has high-gloss Grade II/III checkered stocks and the same engraving patterns as the Custom Grade, but the receiver is finished in silver nitrate "French gray."
Five hundred two-rifle Oliver F. Winchester sets, consisting of a Custom Grade and High Grade, will be offered with matching serial numbers. In addition, a small number of High Grade rifles will be available for individual sale.
The Custom Grade blued version of the Oliver F. Winchester Model 94 features gold accents and 19th century-pattern engraving.
Interestingly, another iconic lever action, the Marlin 336 (which began life as the Model 1893) is now being replicated by Rossi as the Rio Grande. Chambered in .30-30 and featuring Marlin-style side ejection, the rifle sports a rubber recoil pad, and in addition to hardwood stocks and blued finish, it's available with Realtree camo stocks and in stainless steel. All models are equipped with crossbolt safety, a separate lever-activated safety and the Taurus Security System lockable action. Prices run $449 to $499.
Lever fans will also appreciate the new Winchester 1892 Short Rifle in .44 Remington and .357 Magnum, with its butter-smooth action, 20-inch round barrel, and priced at $1,069. Even handier is the Winchester 1892 Trapper Takedown in .45 Colt, .44 Remington Magnum and .357 Magnum, with checkered, pistol grip stock and featuring a 16-inch barrel.
Its fast-pointing short barrel and .45 Colt chambering make the Trapper a serious contender for cowboy action competition. For hunters, the 61„2-pound 1892 Trapper's takedown feature makes it extremely compact, as it breaks down into a two-piece package less than 24 inches long. It has a suggested retail price of $1,549.
And lest we not forget the 1892's bigger brother, the beefy Model '86, this year Chiappa offers a 26-inch barrel rifle and a 22-inch barrel saddle-ring carbine, with chamberings in .45-70, .45-90 and .444 Marlin. Legacy Sports International also carries the Chiappa Model 1886 rifle and carbine under its Puma brand, but only in .45-70. Both rifles and carbines are priced at $1,399.
A predecessor to the Model 1886 was the Model 1876. Cimarron is bringing out a 22-inch barreled saddle-ring carbine of this lever-action behemoth. Two variations are offered. The Crossfire features a case-colored hammer, lever and receiver inspired by the '76 carbine carried by Tom Selleck in the 2001 movie "Crossfire Trail." Just like the original Model 1876, it is chambered in .45-60, .45-75, .40-60 and .50-95.
The 1883 Burgess is a Uberti replica of a rare rifle that was made only from 1883 until 1885.
The all-blued Canadian North West Mounted Police carbine--a re-creation of the rifles ordered by the Mounties and used so effectively to tame the whisky-running troubles of the Northwest Territories--is chambered only in .45-75 and features the distinctive "R.C.M.P." crest stamped on the right side of the stock. At $1,766 for either version, this 81„2-pound carbine is a lot of gun for the money.
Compared with the 1876, the Model 1873 is far more ubiquitous, and now Taylor's & Co. has come to the rescue of every cowboy action shooter seeking to shave a few more nanoseconds off his or her time. The 1873 Comanchero is a '73 short rifle with a super-slicked-up action combined with a short-throw lever that reduces the arc by 15 degrees.
Fans of "The Rifleman" can now own a copy of his loop-levered Model 92 in .44-40.
In addition to customized springs, short-throw lever links and resultant faster action, the Comanchero features a hand-sewn, nonslip elk skin-wrapped buttstock and deer skin-wrapped lever. (It should be noted that shooters with beefier paws could find their fingers cramped by the skin-wrapped lever.) Plus, the standard front sight has been swapped for an easier-to-see large gold bead and post. Calibers are .45 Colt or .357 Magnum; octagon barrel lengths are either 18 or 20 inches; and both straight or pistol grip stocks are offered at $1,415 and $1,495 respectively.
For those who want something other
than the oft-seen 1873 and 1892, both Taylor's & Co. and A. Uberti have introduced a gun that was a rarity even during its heyday in the Old West: the 1883 Burgess. This was Colt's attempt to enter the long arms market and was discontinued in 1885, with only 6,403 guns produced.
Slightly reminiscent of the Model 1873 but without side plates and with a spring-loaded sliding loading gate, the 1883 Burgess--with case-hardened receiver, lever and hammer--is graceful, well-balanced and handsome. Both companies are importing the Burgess in .45 Colt and .44-40 chamberings. A 20-inch round-barreled carbine and a rifle with 251„2-inch octagon barrel are offered. At $1,388 for the carbine and $1,426 for the rifle, the 1883 Burgess will no doubt attract as much attention as the originals did.
Legacy Sports is bringing out a limited-edition Chuck Connors Commemorative Rifle, a copy of the large-looped Winchester 92 carbine that Chuck so deftly spun on "The Rifleman," which aired from 1958 to 1963. The late Chuck Connors was a friend of mine, and up until his death at age 71 in 1992, he could still deftly twirl a large-looped carbine.
Unlike the gun that Connors used, the set screw that tripped the trigger every time the lever was closed is non-functioning on the replica. The rifle features a special medallion inlaid in the stock, along with Chuck's signature, a certificate of authenticity signed by Jeff Connors (one of Chuck's four sons) and a black-and-white illustration of Chuck Connors as the Rifleman. Only 1,000 sequentially numbered rifles will be available, at $1,299 each.
Another Model 92 carbine made famous during the golden age of the TV westerns was the Mare's Leg carried by the late Steve McQueen in his role as bounty hunter Josh Randall in the series "Wanted--Dead or Alive," which ran from 1958 until 1961. As implausible as it was fascinating, the Mare's Leg was a Model 1892 saddle-ring carbine with its barrel shortened to nine inches and its stock cut at the comb. Outfitted with a loop lever, it was chambered in .44-40, but the producer put .45-70s in McQueen's customized gun belt because they looked better on camera.
Uberti's 1871 Rolling Block Hunting Carbine is a slimmed-down version of one of the most popular rifles of the Old West.
There are no fewer than three versions of this unique TV western lever gun (which ATF has ruled is legal despite the short barrel). One comes from the first person to come up with the idea of creating the replica, Jim Buchanan of J.B. Custom. His gun is built by Chiappa and chambered in .44-40, .44 Magnum and .45 Colt. With a 12-inch barrel, it holds six rounds and sells for $1,295, with an octagon-barreled takedown version available for $1,695.
The Puma Bounty Hunter ($1,250) is also made by Chiappa but is imported by Legacy Sports. It, too, features a 12-inch barrel and is chambered for .44-40, .45 Colt and .44 Magnum. It can be ordered with two different drop-loop holsters and a shoulder/back scabbard.
Not to be outdone, Rossi has just brought out its version of Randall's sawed-off rifle, called the Ranch Hand, and chambered in either .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum or .45 Colt. It's priced at $536.
The Rossi Ranch Hand is the most economical version of the "Wanted — Dead or Alive" Mare's Leg replicas.
A number of single-shots are being brought out for hunting and cowboy action long-range silhouette shooting. Uberti's 1871 Rolling Block Hunting Carbine ($799) is a slimmed-down variation of one of the most popular rifles of the Old West. With a 22-inch octagon barrel, it's a third the size of the standard rolling block. Chambered for .45-70, .38-55 and .30-30, and weighing in at a svelte 41„2 pounds, I can tell you this baby kicks. Fortunately, a rubber recoil pad is standard equipment.
Speaking of recoil pads, a Pachmayr Decelerator comes on the 1885 High Wall 125th Anniversary rifle, which features open sights and is chambered in .45-70. Offered by Winchester Repeating Arms with a suggested retail price of $1,599, its 19th century WRA logo is engraved on the receiver, with a touch of scrollwork on the lever and "125th Anniversary" etched in gold on the octagon barrel.
And finally, Doug Turnbull Restoration and Marble Arms have teamed up to bring back the Marble's Game Getter, a popular two-shot tip-up rifle/shotgun combination produced from 1908 until 1942. As with the original, the top 181„2-inch barrel is chambered for .22 Long Rifle while the bottom tube is chambered for a .410 shell. The swing-away wire skeleton shoulder stock hinges to the backstrap, which also supports a tang peep sight. Originally produced as a handy plinker for bicyclists and campers, this collectible reproduction, priced at $1,995, comes in a pine case serial numbered to match the gun.
Whether re-creations of originals or versions of guns that never existed, these newest replica rifles enable us to experience both the real and imagined West. And just as President McKinley obviously knew that not everything had been invented, it looks like the replica renaissance is far from over.