Past in the Present
September 23, 2010
New replicas that will transport you back to the Old West.
The Yellowboy was one of A. Uberti's first forays into the replica long-gun market.
Imagine walking into a room and being able to pick up a replica of practically every cartridge rifle that ever threw lead in the Old West. That was exactly what happened to me last February when I visited the firearms industry's annual trade show. In a way, it was like walking into Wright, Beverley & Company's dry goods emporium in 1880s Dodge City--only much bigger and better stocked.
One of the largest displays at the show was the sprawling Benelli exhibit, which encompasses A. Uberti, the well-known Italian firm that actually launched the 19th century replica firearms industry in 1959 with its "Reb" and "Yank" cap-and-ball revolvers. It quickly expanded into the world of lever actions and then single-shots.
Although Aldo "Renato" Uberti passed away in 1998, his spirit and love of the western frontier lives on through his company's 19th century replica firearms. Having fired and hunted with both originals and replicas of the same centerfire guns, I can unequivocally say that A. Uberti's firearms are better than the originals, due to closer machining tolerances and improved metallurgy.
Going through the A. Uberti display is like taking a chronological tour through the development of frontier firearms, starting with the 1860 Henry rifle that gave Oliver Winchester his start, then evolving to the brass framed Model 1866, which the Indians called "Yellowboy," and on to the most famous rifle of all, the 1873, "The Gun That Won The West."
A. Uberti's newest lever action was unveiled last year after years of anticipation. The Model 1876 Centennial, so named because the original Winchester 1876 made its appearance during our nation's Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, was available in only one of the four original calibers, the popular .45-60. But this year the rifle is available in the other three chamberings: .40-60, .45-75 and .50-90 Express.
Of course, none of these cartridges have been factory loaded since 1935, but thankfully, Ten-X Ammunition is filling the gap with limited runs of both black powder and low pressure smokeless loads. However, don't expect to find Uberti's Centennial 76 on every gun dealer's shelf, as delivery is sometimes slow. Still, at last there is a complete family of the early, pre-Browning designed Winchester replicas, and a reason to find out for yourself why Theodore Roosevelt took not just one, but three Model 1876 lever actions with him to the badlands of Dakota in the 1880s.
For single-shot fans with a fondness for the buffalo guns of yore, A. Uberti is now selling the hand-engraved 1874 Sharps Extra Deluxe through all Uberti dealers; it was formerly available only at select dealers. Chambered to .45-70, the rifle is exquisitely engraved with side view of a bison and a bison's head, and it's stocked in AAA walnut.
Over at the colorful, frontier-themed Cimarron Fire Arms display, racks of replicas were set against a brightly painted backdrop reminiscent of Buffalo Bill and his Congress of Rough Riders show. I spoke to head honcho Mike Harvey, and he was elated. "At last I'm finally getting the guns I was promised three years ago!" he told me.
Prominently displayed in its leather case was Cimarron's exclusive USA Shooting Team Creedmoor Sharps, a replica of the rifle that helped win the match for American competitors against the Irish at the Creedmoor range at Long Island, New York, on September 26, 1874.
Cimarron's USA Shooting Team Creedmoor Sharps is a replica of the rifle used by the American team at the Creedmoor range in 1874. A portion of each sale will be donated to the USA Shooting Team.
Above:A. Uberti's 1874 Deluxe Sharps is now available through all that company's dealers, not just select ones.
Below: The Taurus Thunderbolt, a stainless steel version of the Lightning, is chambered in .45 Colt and .357 Magnum.
Made in Italy by Chiappa, the 34-inch long round barrel is topped off with a hooded aperture front sight and a finely adjustable vernier tang sight. Extra fancy, hand-checkered walnut stocks are accented by an authentic Victorian-styled pistol grip and an ebony fore-end tip. A USA Shooting team logo is etched into the case hardened receiver. Cimarron is donating a portion of the proceeds from each sale to the U.S. shooting team so it may continue the marksmanship legacy of Creedmoor.
Another Cimarron single-shot worthy of notice--and with a unique Teddy Roosevelt tie-in--is the new Deluxe Model 1885 High Wall Sporting Rifle chambered in .405 Winchester. While none of the original Winchester High Walls were ever chambered for TR's "big medicine" cartridge, that doesn't stop this from being an admirable big game rifle. With its European-looking finger rest on the trigger guard, hand-checkered pistol grip stock (and optional double set trigger), it is uniquely distinctive in both caliber and appearance.
Cimarron also has a new long-range, big game variation of its Centennial 76, a .50-95 Model 76 outfitted with a Leatherwood Hi-Lux 3/4-inch Malcolm 3X riflescope. William Malcom originally produced these scopes in 1855, but Leatherwood's replica, although strictly 19th century on the outside, has been updated internally with multicoated optics and nitrogen-filled fog proofing.
Cimarron has also come out with the El Dorado, a loop-levered Model 92 replica carbine looking every bit like the one tucked under John Wayne's arm as he strode down the street in "Rio Bravo" and other westerns of the 50s and 60s. Depending on your preference, Pilgrim, it is chambered in .44-40 or .357 Magnum.
Over at the Browning booth I got a pleasant surprise when I saw two limited edition Model 95 Winchester lever actions. Both were Teddy Roosevelt 150th Anniversary commemoratives, honoring TR as the father of conservation and produced for the 150th anniversary of his birthday, which was October 27, 1858.
The first version is a highly polished and deeply blued Custom Grade rifle with fancy grade walnut stocks, a matted barrel top like TR's original, and a scrolled, gold-etched big game commemor
ative design with TR's portrait and game animals on the receiver, along with his signature on the flat-top bolt. Only 250 Custom Grades will be produced.
There is also a slightly less expensive High Grade rifle with gold-enhanced French grayed receiver and fancy walnut stocks. The first 250 of these rifles will have serial numbers that match those of the Custom Grade; both rifles can be purchased as a set. There will be also be an additional 1,000 High Grades that will be sold individually.
All rifles will feature a commemorative medallion inset in the buttstock, and their receivers will be gold etched with a banner with the 1858-2008 dates. Both the Custom Grade and High Grade rifles will come with a commemorative brochure, owner's manual and a special hang tag. Naturally, the guns will be chambered for TR's favorite cartridge, the .405 Winchester.
The Taylor's & Company booth showcased its Little Sharps, a three-quarter scale reduction of the full-size buffalo rifle. It weighs only 5.9 pounds and comes chambered for .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum and .22 Hornet for small game hunting and plinking. There are 30-30 and .38-55 hunting-capable versions as well, plus chamberings in .44-40 and .45 Colt for the Cowboy Action crowd.
Made by Chiappa, it features double set triggers, case hardened receiver and a slender blued octagon barrel. It would be just the thing for a boy's first rifle or for those shooters who are smaller in stature.
Above: The Winchester 95 Theodore Roosevelt High Grade Model 95 features gold-enhanced French grayed receiver and fancy walnut stocks.
Below: Taylor's Little Sharps is a three-quarter scale version of the full-size buffalo rifle for smaller shooters or those who want to carry a lighter gun.
Taylor's also has a John Wayne-inspired loop lever Model 92 made by Uberti, only this one is called the Rio Bravo. In addition to .357 Magnum and .44-40, it is available in .45 Colt. I also discovered a rack full of Chiappa-made Sharps and Uberti Model 92 replicas that were embellished with excellent Victorian-styled engraving and gold inlays.
Last year, after many delays, reproductions of the Colt Lightning slide action rifle from Pedersoli, Uberti and Taurus finally made their debuts. Finishes were blued or blued with case hardened frames.
Also, this year Taurus has brought out a new version of its Lightning--which it calls the Thunderbolt--in stainless steel. Chambered in either .45 Colt or new this year in .357 Magnum, it should be noted that Taurus is the only manufacturer that does not put a trigger detent on these guns. That means you can hold the trigger back and keep pumping out shot after shot, just like I used to do decades ago in Arizona with an original, before I realized that it was a collectible.
Oh yes, there is also a hammer-mounted button that permits decocking the hammer without having to hold the hammer back with your thumb while depressing the trigger--a safer system and a decided improvement over the original.
Davide Pedersoli, a company that makes some of the most accurate replica rifles on the market today, has come out with a long-range target version of the High Wall, featuring single set trigger, case-hardened frame with "DP" oval logo, checkered walnut stock with pistol grip and cheek piece and Schnabel fore-end. An extremely handsome rifle for target shooting or hunting, it is chambered in .45-70 and .38-55 calibers.
Pedersoli has also introduced a new Mississippi Rolling Block strictly designed for the hunter, featuring a fiber-optic front sight, detachable sling swivels and a takedown barrel for ease of transportation.
As another variation on a theme, Pedersoli has teamed up with Kevin Cherry--one of the foremost commemorative authorities in this country--to produce the Engraved Lightning series. These limited-edition Pedersoli Lightning replicas have been handsomely upgraded with fancy, hand-checkered walnut stocks and case-hardened engraved receivers.
The engraving pattern is a modified grape vine design from the Victorian era, and owners can opt to have a deer, bear, wolf or cougar head engraved on the left side of the receiver. The engraving itself is laser-etched, then finished by hand to give it a hand-chiseled look. Calibers are .44-40 and .45 Colt.
Another offshoot of an already existing model is Chaparral's 1876 Saddle Ring Northwest Mounted Police Carbine, featuring a 22-inch barrel, full length stock and serial numbers in the same range as the original NWMP carbines.
In case the Chaparral name is not familiar to you, it is a relative newcomer to the replica world, having started in Europe. It is now assembling guns in the Charter Arms plant in Connecticut.
Although only a prototype of the Mountie carbine was on display at the show, it was indicative of the continuing allure and lore of the replica long rifle market. Indeed, judging from the variety of new guns coming out this year, it seems that there is no better time to discover our country's shooting history.